Proverbs 31:8-10

Ali Johnson shares his recent experience of helping to halt the deportation of a friend.

Alistair Johnson
Alistair Johnson

I have recently been involved in a prominent immigration case of a friend called Opelo Kgari. She is a young lady who despite having lived in Britain for more than half of her life, Opelo and her mother Florence were taken to Heathrow Airport on Saturday night and told they were going to be deported on a flight.

With just moments to spare, their lawyer and several MPs succeeded in halting the deportation. It is understood that immigration minister Caroline Nokes' personal intervention was behind the U-turn, after she was contacted by the mother and daughter's MP Ruth Smeeth.

Opelo's story has been featured in newspapers, radio and on TV. I have played an unexpected role in her story and continue to fight for justice and fairness for Opelo and her mother. Opelo has been involved at our church since the very first day I arrived there. I consider Opelo an extremely close friend. Opelo is a wonderful young lady, caring, intelligent, strong and talented.

I want to tell you a secret, I am by no means a big campaigner or a freedom fighter. I am a reluctant advocate for immigration, but two things were given to me in the early days of this fight. The first comes from Proverbs 31:8-10 'Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.' The second is a quote from Martin Luther King, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

As I started on this journey I realised that God never calls the equipped, but instead he equips the called as we go. I realised no longer could I play my part in a society that fails to be fair and humane to those who come to our country and call it home.

Home is a transient term. That is the question people ask me about Opelo: where is her home? And I find myself saying this is her home; her church, her family and her life is here, this is her home.

Immigration is complicated and I'm by no means getting into a debate on the rights and wrongs of immigration. Instead I am addressing a single case that features a young lady and her mum who have made a home here and are being detained at an immigration centre with no end date.

I spent much of my life ducking the big issues for fear of rejection, fear of sounding stupid and fear of failure, but the Bible speaks clearly to a Church that stands up for those who cannot, and protects the most vulnerable in our society.

If God calls you into a fight that seems bigger than you can face, I trust that He will equip you as you go, as He has for me. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.