In 1972, Idi Amin, the infamous military President of Uganda, ordered all Asians to leave his country. He confiscated their homes and businesses and allowed them to take only £50 per family out of the country.
About 50,000 people were affected, and of these, 27,000 came to the UK. For weeks this was headline news, the papers carried many stories and pictures of the families as day after day they continued to arrive at Stansted Airport.
Not everyone was happy about their arrival, but my Bible tells me “When an alien lives with you in your land, do not ill treat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself” Leviticus Ch19 V33-34
I raised the subject with one of the Elders of my church, asking him what, as a church, should we be doing to help. “What are you waiting for?” he replied.
I then asked my friend Hubert, to accompany me to Stansted to assess the situation. It seemed there was little we could do except follow the buses, which were taking the incoming refugees to an ex RAF base at Stradishall, where they were fed, and registered, before being temporarily housed in disused RAF accommodation.
At Stradishall, we were walking prayerfully among the crowds, a pair of white faces among a sea of dark ones, when our eyes were drawn to an elderly man and his daughter walking dejectedly towards their allocated quarters. We approached them and asked if they understood English. The daughter replied in good English, “My name is Shirin and this is my father, Akberali”. Neither her father or mother could speak any English. She led us to their temporary home and introduced us to their mother, Roshan, and two younger daughters, Sakina and Fatima.
We reported back to the church, who made this family, the Vanats, a regular subject of prayer.
Almost immediately an empty three-bedroom house became available in Colchester, and a few weeks later the Lord had provided every single item needed to make that house into a comfortable home. We were overwhelmed by kindness and generosity of so many Christian friends.
We kept cuttings from the newspapers to help us, the church, to pray about needs of those unfortunate people arriving, and we stuck these into scrap books. Months later, after we had become firm friends of the family, we told them that Christians had been praying for them (remember they were Muslims), and we showed them the scrap books. As Sakina, turned the pages she suddenly exclaimed “Look, there is a picture of me”.
Coincident? Surely a God-incident. What do you think?
Many years later, in 2018, I was being assessed for a cochlear implant at Addenbrookes Hospital, the chief scientist responsible for my case was a Ugandan Refugee and she knew the Vanat family.
Also, the pharmacist who now provides all my medication is a lovely Christian Lady, you’ve guessed, was a Ugandan refugee!