Author: Jonathan Ingleby, co-editor of Encounters and Postgraduate lecturer in mission, Redcliffe College.
Postcolonialism and migration
In many instances, migration is a postcolonial phenomenon, which continues to link the colonising and colonised nations. The presence in Europe, for example, of people whose not-too-distant origins were in Africa or Asia or Latin America reflects the bonds (in more than one sense) created by the Spanish, Portuguese, French, Dutch and British empires. Difficult postcolonial issues such as multiculturalism (ethnic differences), language barriers, uneven development, inter-generational strife, identity crises and the like stem from this movement of peoples. In the same way Europe has become the testing ground for a number of new missiological issues such as monoethnic churches in a multiethnic society and witness to the gospel in a post Christian society (often by Christians who have no experience of a post Christian society!). (See the article in this issue by Dan Clark.)
As a result, today we see societies which are ‘mixed-up’ in ways that are quite unique. Migration itself is not a recent phenomenon, of course. It has been going on for centuries. The United States, Australia, and Canada – just to make a selection – have experienced huge waves of immigration for two hundred years or more, indeed are nations largely made up of immigrants. But their initial approach, speaking generally, was to handle the situation by promoting a sense of new-found oneness among their people. They were greatly aided in this by the way that immigrants were able to forge a new life for themselves without the presence of a settled population. (Sometimes the land was genuinely unoccupied, sometimes the original inhabitants were eliminated.) Immigrants today, however, encounter centuries’ old civilisations and even more importantly, they remain the minority. On the whole, too, they form a diaspora, that is to say that retain strong links with their place of origin. (See below.) Another difference might be the relative isolation of past generations of immigrants. The original settlers of countries like the US and Australia had little opportunity to return to their homeland, even if they had wanted to. Partly this had to do with the fact that they were often escaping from the old to the new, and partly because transport systems were comparatively slower and more expensive – return to the homeland and regular visits were not easy to manage for people who had ‘sold up’ to make the move in the first place. I suspect that the vast majority of immigrants nowadays can afford the (relatively cheap) air fares to visit friends and relatives at home. People are ‘on the move’ more than ever before today and in all directions
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