Anyone visiting the Old Vicarage of Kerava on Tuesday morning would have met with quite a cross-section of the world’s population. There were people from countries as familiar as China and as strange and exotic as Sweden, from toddlers to pensioners. All had moved to Finland to start a new life, and all were learning Finnish. Some spoke it quite well already, some hardly at all. Some spoke excellent English or German. Many were in multicultural relationships. Some were extrovert, others remained silent, but seemed to enjoy listening.
We had breakfast together, which included Shrove Tuesday buns and coffee. We spoke in simplified Finnish or English. Maps came in handy when we talked about where we were from and where we had been in Finland. The conversation varied from polite small talk to serious big talk about countries’ problems. It was the ideal place to practise a little Finnish and make friends too.
I left thinking what a lot we humans have in common with each other: such similar basic needs and desires as good company, the need to communicate, food and hot tea or coffee. I also thought about how hard it is to generalise about people. Not everyone there was sociable, but some were extremely outgoing; some clearly picked up languages easily, others not. I still cannot decide if any ”label” is suitable to describe the people I met. Did I meet immigrants, foreigners, persons of foreign origin, members of ethnic minorities ...? Some may even have had Finnish citizenship, so they were Finns (like me). Perhaps the best label is ”people”.
Anyone who wonders about how a Christian should behave towards foreigners / members of ethnic minorities etc. need look no further than Jesus’s most famous parable: the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke. 10:25-37.) Happy reading!