Confronted With Christ (In a Full Dress Kilt)
Dan Cruickshank writes about how he was confronted with Christ - in the face of refugees - during the opening night of the SCM students gathering in Glasgow.
On a Friday night in October, Christ confronted me in a full Dress Kilt.
From 14-16 October, SCM Glasgow hosted the SCM Scotland gathering at Wellington Church in the heart of Glasgow’s West End and the University of Glasgow campus. On the Friday night we gathered for introductions before joining Wellington’s ‘International Welcome Club’ for the showing of a film created by refugees in Glasgow, funded by the Scottish Refugee Council. I thought I would find the film interesting when I heard it would explore the parallels between the modern refugee experience in the city and that of Belgian refugees who arrived after the outbreak of the First World War.
One of my strange hobbies and academic interests is the outbreak of the First World War, so I thought the evening would present an academically good time. What I didn’t expect was an emotional encounter with my Lord and my God. The organiser of the Welcome Club introduced the man who made the film. He stood there in a full dress kilt, Prince Charlie outfit. The smile on his face spread from ear to ear as he stood there proudly as the Scot he now felt he was. We were told his wife had produced a dish called Tabbouleh, a salad made from parsley, bulgur wheat, lemon juice, olive oil and a mixture of other delicious smelling herbs. The powerful aroma of the dish spread around the room as his wife worked her way around giving each person their portion, their children following round to hand out cutlery and plates.
I’ll admit now what might be obvious: I can’t remember these people’s names. They too easily became objects in my mind. Refugees, not people. A thing. And yet they have haunted me this week, their dress, their smiles, their kindness and their thankfulness. We were told that the wife and children had only arrived recently, after being stuck in Syria for a year whilst the man made his application for asylum status.
The film itself was powerful, an honest and brutal look at the experiences of a selection of refugees in Glasgow. Their hardships and harsh treatment by our system was contrasted with the warm welcome Belgians received 100 years ago. They were given jobs; now we stop people from working. They were cheered as they entered the country; now national newspapers run front-page hate campaigns when we let any refugees in. But the film ended with people being thankful that this city was welcoming and friendly, even as we refused to give them jobs, houses or much help. People whose names I can’t even remember thanked me for being part of a friendly, welcoming city.
Then the film ended with one of the refugees moving into a flat. I recognised the stairwell. The flat is in a building identical to mine that I walk past every day. And then I found myself before the judgement throne of God, and Christ was seated there with the face of these refugees asking me when He was hungry, did I feed Him, when He was homeless, did I give Him shelter, when He was naked, did I clothe Him. I can’t remember these refugees’ names, but God has stopped me from allowing them to become mere nameless objects in my mind. Instead He confronted me in these people. And so Christ in a full Dress Kilt haunts me still.
Written by Dan Cruickshank, SCM Glasgow memberTags: scotland gatheringglasgowrefugeesfaith in action