• Mark Palmer

Still No Room At The Inn

As we approach Christmas, many of us will have different traditions that we observe and celebrate. One of the Christmas traditions that have featured regularly in my life is the nativity play, where a cast, usually of children, act out the Christmas story, complete with shepherds, kings, angels and a donkey.

I have seen some memorable nativity plays over the years, some memorable for the right reasons, and others for all sorts of other reasons that are to be expected with young children involved!

What we believe about Christmas and the nativity story is, of course, a personal decision for each of us. But whatever we do or do not believe, there is one aspect of the story that seems to me to be particularly relevant to the world we live in today.

When Mary and Joseph complete their journey to Bethlehem, Mary - heavily pregnant, finds that there is no room at the inn and nowhere for them to stay. When I was growing up, it felt to me that this kind of injustice could never happen today. But now I know that it continues to happen to many, many people every single day.

Almost every day there seems to be a news story about refugees putting their lives at risk, simply in search of a better life. When they are told that “there is no room at the inn” in the country they seek to enter, they feel forced to take matters into their own hands. Tragedy frequently follows, and this situation is not OK. There are no easy answers, but that does not mean that we should not try to find a solution. There are enough rooms in the inn for everybody if we organise things properly.

But it is not just refugees fighting to be accepted. Anyone different still faces barriers in day-to-day life. Yes, we are making progress – ten years ago, the regular portrayal of same-sex couples in the media would have caused outrage, though it is still not universally welcomed. Disparities due to race have been highlighted like never before in recent years, yet there is still much to do to turn the fine-sounding words into real action.

Those of us who are disabled by the lack of provision for our needs, be they as a result of physical or mental impairment, or being neurodivergent, also still find that there is no room at many inns. Employment of autistic adults in the UK remains at a shameful 20%, not least because both recruitment processes and working environments often prevent autistic people from performing at anything close to their best.

It is easy to despair at the state of the world and pass the blame to leaders. They bear some of the responsibility of course, but we can all play our part. We all have a voice and more channels to make it heard are available than ever before. We must all stop accepting things that we know are not right, and never accept that nothing can be done to make things better. If every person experiencing discrimination were immediately backed up by a group of others at the time that it took place, things would be very different. We can all be influencers and influence important things, not just which brands of products people buy.

I believe that there is a lot to hope for and that the future will be better. The pandemic has shown that everything can change if people want or need it to. We must maintain that momentum to drive change for the better in every part of society.

But we must all play our part. I know that I could and should do more. I am not a big fan of new year’s resolutions, but the change in the year does tend to make us reflect on what we would like to do better in the future. Let us speak up, challenge injustice wherever we find it, and work towards the day when there is room at the inn for everybody, whoever they are.