Banner Image:   Baptist-Times-banner-2000x370-
Template Mode:   Baptist Times
    Post     Tweet

Stories of the Stranger 

Twenty stories of refugees spanning different cultures, languages and traditions, mostly written 3,000 years ago, but with resonance to contemporary matters of immigration and human rights

Stories of the StrangerStories of the Stranger - Encounters with Exiles and Outsiders
By Martin Palmer and Katriana Hazell (eds),
Bene Factum Publishing, London
ISBN: 978-1909657441
Reviewed by Alec Gilmore

Two common features undergird all religions and cultures. One, the importance of story-telling. Two, ‘the stranger’, to be protected and given a safe space in which to be welcomed.

Why? Because ‘the stranger’ can be a revealer of truth and often more likely to provide a divine encounter that traditional religious figures. This is the substance of this book along with the realisation that very many such stories contain an element of ‘exile’, sometimes dominant, sometimes tucked away to be discovered, though none of this was quite where the compilers started.

It began when Martin Palmer, Head of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation, received a request from the Norwegian Government to develop a programme with the major faiths to facilitate their response to the refugees and migrants arising from ecological collapse in their home countries.

The result is 20 stories spanning 4,000 miles from different cultures, languages and traditions, mostly written 3,000 years ago, from Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Daoist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and Zoroastrian sources, plus a couple from Africa (one traditional, one modern), classified in four sections (Holy Books, Historical, Folk and Modern), all different but all reflecting a similar approach to the divine.

Prior to publication Christian, Hindu and Muslim African leaders brought them to life in a Story-telling Evening in Nairobi, where the traditional African story of the Kikuyu had added poignancy. For the Kikuyu the God of Light is the God of Life and Plenty, with a deep concern for their neighbours backed up by a strong tradition of welcoming the stranger, thereby opening the door to the possibility of ‘entertaining strangers unaware’.

In practice this led to the construction of shelters by the roadside with basic food to ensure travellers had adequate refreshment, based on the conviction that if someone died of hunger (be it stranger, visitor or relative) a curse would ensue. Poor people in particular were to be received into the family and given a portion of land. In return the stranger was welcomed as one who brought news from the world outside. Why? Because you never knew what they had to offer or what one day you might need.

The book has a depth, bringing together unfamiliar material not found elsewhere. For preachers wanting to address contemporary matters of poverty, housing, immigration, human rights and the like, there is a wealth of material which alongside scripture could bring the issues to light in a new, lively and positive way and might be further enriched as a source for group study bridging Christmas to Easter.

Alec Gilmore is a Baptist minister




Baptist Times, 20/03/2015
    Post     Tweet
Lessons learned from and empathy for lesser known women in the Bible, whose stories can resonate with the lives of women today
Highlights five hidden themes our culture can’t stop talking about - and how to connect them to Christ
In socialising dinosaurs for a Christian audience, the Carrolls are making an important contribution and also raising deep questions
An excellent book about building children's emotional wellbeing for parents, family workers, teachers and preachers, thoroughly based on current research and advice by experts in the field
Excellent book for children with questions about the universe and what it means to be human, and interesting for adults too
Powerful study of Christian communities in Iraq, Gaza, Syria, and Egypt which goes far beyond mere statistics
    Posted: 24/06/2022
    Posted: 18/05/2022
    Posted: 21/01/2022
    Posted: 08/10/2021
    Posted: 17/09/2021