Autumn Days

Autumn has arrived – the season of Harvest. A time for gathering crops and storing them for the winter, a time for food festivals and harvest festivals, a time to give thanks for God’s good gifts all around us, gifts that help to feed us and to keep us healthy and alive.

In some senses it is easy for us to celebrate harvest in this country – perhaps too easy. With supermarket shelves laden with fruit and veg, fields full of cereal or other crops and water quite literally on tap there is hardly any fear or doubt about whether we will have food or drink on our tables. And if we can’t cook it ourselves then there is always a microwave meal or the local take-away to save us from starvation! As we know, this is not the reality for millions of people across the world whose harvests look quite a bit different to ours.

In recent weeks we have all witnessed the plight of hundreds of thousands of people fleeing from places such a Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan to find refuge and safety in European countries – some of which have been more welcoming than others. Migration is of course nothing new as threated populations have always sought safety, refuge and also food in order to survive.

It is the Syrian civil war that has been blamed for the mass migration of over 4 million people from that country – but something I read the other week suggested that the uprising in 2011 which eventually led to the war had its roots, not in religion or politics, but because of a severe drought which caused the harvests to fail over a number of years. With millions of Syrians facing starvation and little help from the Assad government civil unrest was inevitable and civil war followed. The rest, as they say, is history, currently in the making.

Experts attribute the drought to the effects of climate change, something that we in the developed world must take some responsibility for. It could be that this is just the tip of the iceberg and that over the next few decades, as the earth’s climate continues to change, and droughts, floods and other weather related events affect countries that are already politically volatile, we will see even more people displaced from their homelands seeking sanctuary and food. All of a sudden something that we once saw as somebody else’s problem becomes a global challenge for us all. We might even begin to take climate change and our own contribution to it more seriously.

One World Week at the end of October reminds us that whoever we are we all share this one world. When we really begin to understand what is happening across the world we might just find harvest a little more difficult to celebrate as we feel the pain of those for whom any kind of harvest would be a dream come true.