Relentlessly and often it would seem repeatedly. The rhetorical question of what history teaches us can be asked with some cynicism, yet the question makes a clear point. I have just finished the book Blood and Faith, the scapegoating, the xenophobia, the fear, the ‘alternative facts’ that were clearly at work then are alive today. The atrocities were moderated by those of good heart, and ironically through economic greed (and necessity) the treatment given to a people who were making a huge contribution to their land was both moderated (we need them to do what we can’t and won’t do) and also intensified (they are not us and they are robbing us culturally and economically). Sounds familiar?
Giles Tremlett (author of Ghosts of Spain) wrote today in the Guardian The absurd British-Spanish rivalry, from Henry VIII to Gibraktar. The first Brexit from Europe he suggests was with Henry VIII resulting from the divorce from Catherine of Aragon. He then tracks in broad brush strokes the British relationship to Spain through Gibraltar and Franco. The article concludes with
The suggestion that all this might now get out of hand and that gunboats should be used is a purely British one. Which seems as absurd now as Franco’s decisions to close the border did back then.
My first time in Spain – early 2000’s my prophetic input to a land I knew nothing of any depth about was that two major signs would take place when Spain was turning. Bull fighting would be banned and the British flag would not be flying over Gibraltar. I should have added and ‘pigs will fly’ but held back on that one. A few days ago article 50 was actioned. Negotiations regarding a ‘soft’ or a ‘hard’ Brexit will now unfold. The ramifications, the complications, and certainly the rhetoric will at times be soap operish. There will be some good reads to come from the pens of journalists.
History marches on. There will be resonances to past events. There will be enormous changes for individuals, but through it all the powers will seek to safeguard their economic interests, and that will determine the lines of who gets what, all confirmed by treaties (Gibraltar in history… and now?).
There are cycles to history. Not simply to let us learn that we have learnt nothing, but to give an opportunity for something fresh to occur. If the geography of the Samaritan well (Sychar, John 4) is the same geography as that of Genesis 34 (Succoth) the two passages make for interesting reading. Rape, unforgiveness resulting in anger and murder maybe locked into the land all kinds of issues that many centuries later were exposed in the noon-day sun and the conversation that took place. The xenphobia, objectivisation of the other, religious taboos were all confronted, and I suggest along with the history back to Genesis 34.
Cycles to history. The Brexit – right or wrong – is a sign that there could be incredible moves forward. Not a move forward because of ‘leaving the EU’, for at that level there will be winners and losers. Always are. But moves forward if we learn how to truly relate beyond our borders (and writing as an immigrant in an accepting culture I write as a privileged person).
Our prayer focus in Spain (and this is our year for Spain as the focus) will touch on the deepest aspects of the land historically. We will almost certainly this year have to visit Gibraltar. 711 the door in for what soon became the Moorish kingdom of Al Andalus, and 1000 years on with the Treaty of Utrecht (1713) confirmed which flag would fly over that piece of land. We focus as we believe that new futures can be found, if the past can be confronted and healing brought into it.
We could easily prophesy the changes that are right here now. 1517 + 500 years (95 theses and Martin Luther); 1492 – Granada, Columbus + Jewish expulsions. Yet all prophetic words are conditional. A new media… new ways of politics being done… and alternative economics… Possibilities right on the horizon. Changes that can take place will not simply be what we probably expect as sticking the label ‘moral’, ‘conservative’ or even ‘Christian’ on something does not necessarily mean it is Jesus-aligned. And changes will be resisted and challenged. History tells us that. And I consider that history has a living voice, as today sprang from yesterday, and tomorrow is connected to yesterday… unless we begin a new story.