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Commit to compassion

Paddington Bear: the most famous refugee in Britain?

Photo: Dave Pearce

The weeks running up to Christmas are always a busy time for people wanting to do good in their communities.

It’s also the time of year for another - perhaps less established tradition: the Christmas advert. Adverts that try and capture our sense of Christmas, and no doubt try to capture our wallets too.

One famous bear is appearing on our TV screens this year: Paddington.

Famous from children’s books, 30 million of which have been sold worldwide, the subsequent film, a recent sequel and now, a supermarket commercial. But there’s another important part to the Paddington story. The late Michael Bond, author and creator of Paddington was quoted as saying "Paddington Bear was a refugee with a label - 'Please look after this bear. Thank you,' and he had a little suitcase."

Paddington is seen by many as one of Britain’s most beloved refugees, albeit a fictional one.

Published in 30 different languages, his story remains popular today because of the values it promotes. His is a story about helping someone from a faraway land, appreciating the difference that compassion makes and, crucially, acting upon it. Paddington is a great character, but it's the values that underpin his story that makes him so enduring.

It's never been more important to remember what those values are. This bear may be fictional, but in reality there are, right now, thousands of unaccompanied children who won’t have a home this Christmas.

The UK has both the love and the community spirit to give them a safe place to call home, but right now it’s a tradition that’s at risk.

Today, under UK legislation passed thanks to campaigners including Lord Alfred Dubs, 280 places are still available for unaccompanied children in the UK. Despite the government’s commitment to making them welcome under the Dubs scheme, we have failed to live up to that promise.    

Paddington Bear
Paddington Bear on display at Paddington Station, London. Photo: Martin Pettitt

The UK has a proud history of rescuing those in need.

Giving safety to 280 children - with the same hopes and dreams as our own - is a small contribution to make. The UK has both the love and the community spirit to give them a safe place to call home, but right now it’s a tradition that’s at risk.

It’s more important that than ever to stand up and fight for compassion, the values that our parents taught us, and that our grandparents fought for. Together, we are charitable, giving and welcoming.

This Christmas, when children across the country will be asking to go to the cinema to watch a film about a refugee bear, let’s consider whether or not it fits with our values to give these children safety, and a chance to be with their family.

So stand with us. Make your choice. Commit to compassion this Christmas. 

Photos: Martin Pettitt, Creative Commons and Dave Pearce, Creative Commons