Scotland prides itself in being and open and welcoming country. Whilst other parts of the UK have been reticent in their welcome of others arriving as refugees, Scotland has been welcoming. One of the groups that best represents this is RefuWeeGee, a Glasgow based charity that supports asylum seekers and refuges in and around the city of Glasgow. The name of the group is a play on the nickname given to people from Glasgow i.e. weegies. Translated this is Glaswegian. RefuWeeGee are a friendly bunch who do just want to make people feel welcome. As they say ‘we are a fae somewhere’ (we are all from somewhere).
This week in Scotland we heard the shocking story of Scottish Health Minister family’s experience when applying for a nursery place for their two-year-old daughter. They were turned down for the second time. Something niggled with the health Minister’s wife, Nadia El-Nakla, and she asked her friend to make an application for her friend’s little one. Her friend’s application was successful. What was going on? Our Health Minister is called Humza Yousaf. His wife’s friend has a Scottish surname. And they were not alone in their experience. An investigative journalist made similar applications using Muslim sounding and Scottish sounding names- only the Scottish sounding child was accepted. A complaint has been made to the relevant body to find out why the children with Muslim sounding names were turned down. The nursery in question have denied any suggestion of discrimination. And have welcomed any investigation by the governing public body.
I was shocked when I heard this in the new yesterday. I could not believe that in 2021 this would be happening in our friendly wee nation. Surely this was a mistake. But no, as the day went on more details came out of what the Yousaf family had experienced. Some tried to excuse it by saying the nursery did not want the child of a high-profile politician on its roll. But it was clear that it was not as straightforward as that. The only explanation possible it seems is that some form of discrimination took place. And I am appalled. I thought we were better than that. It flies in the face of the welcoming nation we pride ourselves as being.
Racism is a blight on all of us. There should be no place for it in 2021. And yet here we are. I know that we look are guilty of looking at other countries and shaking our heads when we see racism taking place. Perhaps it is time to look closer to home. I have never understood the fear some have of those who look and sound different to them.
When Germany was split in two following the Second World War the first Chancellor of West Germany, Konrad Adenauer, said: “We all live under the same sky, but we don’t all have the same horizon”. I have held this quote close ever since I first heard it, as it resonated with me in the work I did for a while leading a local charity who supported refugees and sent clothes and other items to hots spots around the Aegean and Mediterranean seas. It is a helpful reminder that no matter who we are and where we are in the world, the sky is the same sky. As a minister in the Church of Scotland it is also a reminder that God is the God of everyone, whether or not they know it, and wherever we are. God has no side, God loves everyone, whoever and wherever they are from. As Christians there should be no place in our language for racism and discrimination.
To the daughter of Nadia and Humza, you will be unaware of any of what has happened this week, but I say sorry to you. As I said above, I thought Scotland was a welcoming accepting place. I thought we were better than you have experienced this week.
Rev Shuna Dicks serves a suburban Church of Scotland in Aberdeen. This is her second charge and she loves serving her congregation there. Her surname might not make it clear, but Shuna is as Scottish as they come! Born in Scotland her maiden name was McGregor and her first name is also the name of a Scottish island. And when she was younger her hair was naturally titian.
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