By Tom Irwin
A friend told me a story of how he was sitting most nervously in a wheelchair dressed in one of those flimsy hospital gowns you tie at the back, and he was next in the line, at last, for theatre. He had been in The Royal cardiology ward since 7am that day, and now at last it was time for action.
After dismally failing a treadmill test a few days before, he was in for an angiogram where they send a tiny tube up through a vein in your arm and inject dye into your heart to see if you have any blockages in the arteries.
A friendly Northern Irish male nurse had been keeping him company and reassuring him that it would be quite painless and would all be over for him in no time at all as he found a suitable vein, and then he introduced James to the Registrar, a foreign gentleman whose first name was Mohammed.
James said if he was to be quite honest at that time his immediate reaction was, secretly, a bit negative, especially as he found he had to ask him a few times to repeat what he was telling him as he had some difficulty understanding his accent.
Strange that he should feel that way, just because the gentleman was from another country. In fact, as the nurse told him later: “Mohammed is a world leader in his field.”
Mohammed, together with the anaesthetist and the other theatre staff, soon put James totally at ease, carrying out his work with amazing skill and efficiency.
Negative feelings towards people from different countries, different faiths, indeed people from our own country with differing faiths can easily rise up in many of us from time to time, especially after recent events in parts of Europe and some Eastern countries. But the Lord Jesus (who was himself of middle-eastern descent) commands us to resist this. Our Lord chatted freely with a Samaritan woman at the well (John 4: 1-28) to the absolute consternation of his Jewish students, then He turned their prejudice on its head with His parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25-37).
In 21st century Northern Ireland “Love your neighbour” means “no matter what country your neighbour comes from or whatever faith he or she may practice” just as certainly as it meant “love your Samaritan neighbour” in 1st century Palestine.
People from other cultures, faiths, and ethnic groups are all made in God’s image - we should be grateful what they contribute, and celebrate our common humanity.