Brexit and the Book of Ruth

Brexit and the Book of Ruth

by Glenn Jordan, Corrymeela Community member and Discussion Facilitator

It was an enormous privilege to facilitate a conversation on Brexit and the Book of Ruth in Christ Church on 12th March. And how extraordinary to be able to discuss the relationships between these islands, and with wider Europe, in company with the tomb of Strongbow!

The Book of Ruth is proving to be a useful lens through which to view Brexit, given that it involves complicated legal relationships across jurisdictions as well as the plight of refugees and foreign labourers. It also discusses trans-national prejudices and stereotyping against people groups.

Corrymeela is facilitating these conversations the length and breadth of the island to encourage people of faith to imagine the kind of society we aspire to on the far side of Brexit.

So on the evening in Dublin participants stressed that with the lack of certainty in the debate we are in serious need of some hope.  We were conscious that without a sense of hope the process could result in damage to the soul of the nations involved. There is an opportunity for faith groups not only to speak hope but to enact that hope as well.

There were several people in the group who were not born on the island of Ireland and who had therefore experienced some form of dislocation. This sparked a discussion about what it means to be grounded and to belong, to have a relationship with home. We felt that being rooted somewhere made it easier to embrace diversity in identity.

It requires a degree of generosity and faith to imagine new possibilities of being indebted to each other across our differences in the Brexit debate. Generosity is also required to engage in the Brexit debate in such a way as to make it work in the best way possible for all parties concerned.

One of the most intriguing elements of the book of Ruth is its liturgical use in the Jewish feast of Pentecost. Even today Ruth is read alongside the extraordinary Sinai events in Exodus 19 and 20. It represents the Hebrew attempt to hold together the great world-shaking events of the giving of the Law alongside the deeply personal small story of migrant workers and the domestic poor.

As both parts of this island walk forward into the deeply uncertain negotiations over Brexit, perhaps this book presents people of faith with an unusual and prophetic role. It challenges us to ensure that the small stories are held in companionable attention alongside the world-shaking and world-making debates over Europe.

In doing so we can ensure that generosity and kindness have a place in the changes that are coming, and therefore perhaps optimise the settlement for everyone. Corrymeela is delighted to be able to facilitate these conversations and is grateful to the Dean and to the cathedral staff making the space available to our conversation partners.