June 24, 2011
Blogging has to take second place to endless work at the moment. But the work is brilliant. Meetings with different groups of people, committees, services, rural briefings, etc. are all great. I am loving it.
However, in what seemed like a good idea a couple of months ago, I and some hardy colleagues used the longest day (sunrise to sunset on Tuesday 21 June) to work our way through the Diocese of Bradford. The aim was threefold: (a) to help me orientate myself geographically and culturally, (b) enable me to meet people from across the urban/rural spread in quick time, and (c) allow those who wished to to meet me briefly en route. It also offered a great photo opportunity at every stage.
Unbelievably, this was questioned by one or two people who thought it gave out the wrong messages. I make no comment.
I got up at 3.30am after four hours sleep and set off with my Chaplain and the Archdeacon of Craven for the drive to one of Yorkshire’s three peaks, Pen-Y Ghent. Despite the forecast, the weather just got worse as we went north. We were met by 14 others at Horton in Ribblesdale and set off up the mountain. Within a hundred metres we were soaked through – and quickly reached the point where there was no point trying to stay dry. Anywhere. I’ve never had so much fun with my clothes on.
We got down three hours later with the rain still fluctuating between ‘lashing down’ and ‘hammering down’. Visibility was very limited and views non-existent. But it was a brilliant start to a great day with some wonderful people – especially the ones who met us at the top with coffee and cakes!
We went from there to a farm cafe (to get changed and have breakfast), then visited a farm to meet a great farmer and some surprisingly ugly sheep (with the greenest snot I have ever witnessed) and try dry-stone walling. We visited schools, tea shops, churches (Bolton Priory), traders in Haworth (Bronte country), an English language class for Asian women in Bradford (run through a church), a youth project on a large urban estate (inspiring), a seminar with theological students from Durham on interfaith matters, then a curry in Bradford.
Stimulating, enlightening, hilarious, inspiring and … er … wet.
I am now wondering whether I should do something similar on midsummer’s day every year. The suggestion that we should do this year’s itinerary in reverse is just silly: start at 4am with a curry and end on top of Pen-Y Ghent in the dark rain?
June 24, 2011
How do you tell a story in film in no more than three minutes and with a limit of six lines of ‘dialogue’?
Last summer Philips and director/producer Ridley Scott launched a global film-making competition called Tell It Your Way following its Cannes Lions
award-winning short-film project Parallel Lines. Entrants were given freedom of expression and could take up any theme they wanted. The following entry was a prize-winner, but all are worth looking at:
Like some of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation video shorts, these go to prove that you can tell alot with a little. Maybe preachers have something to learn about communication here – and that includes me.
June 24, 2011
Having been out of my office for the last week (in parishes and meetings – not skiving), I haven’t been able to update on what is happening in Northern Sudan or what we are doing in relation to it. So, the latest is as follows:
There is a very good interview with Bishop Andudu (Bishop of Kadugli) in Religion Dispatches (an online magazine based in San Fransisco).
Bishop Andudu also issued a call to prayer and fasting – a call being taken up in this country, too. He wrote on 18 June as follows:
On behalf of my people in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan we are asking all Sudanese Christians wherever they are, and the Church throughout the world to join with us in a day of prayer and fasting on June 26, 2011. Once again we are facing the nightmare of genocide of our people in a final attempt to erase our culture and society from the face of the earth. It is not a war between armies that is being fought in our land, but the utter destruction of our way of life and our history, as demonstrated by the genocide of our neighbors and relatives in Darfur. This is a war of domination and eradication, at its core it is a war of terror by the government of Sudan against their people. As we approach the July 9 day of independence for the New South Sudan, President Bashir has declared for all the world to hear that Sharia will be the law of the land for the North, refusing to recognize the legitimate presence of the Christian minority. It is a declaration of their determination to also end the remembrance of our Christian heritage that dates back two thousand years to the story of the Ethiopian eunuch (who was from modern day Sudan). At this moment, there is a meeting in Ethiopia with the different parties of Sudan, the African Union and other international parties seeking to find a true path of peace that recognizes our right to survive and thrive as a people, both Muslim and Christian alike, with equality and justice for all. Please pray and fast with us as you are able for a solution to this crisis.
On 21 June the Africa Minister in the UK Foreign Office, Henry Bellingham, welcomed the Interim Agreement brokered by the African Union, saying:
I welcome the news that the parties have signed the Abyei Interim Agreement, which should lead to swift withdrawal of Sudanese Armed Forces and the deployment of Ethiopian peacekeeping forces under a UN mandate. This is a positive step towards peace in Abyei, and towards full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. I urge the parties to redouble their efforts to reach agreement on all outstanding issues, including the status of Abyei, without delay. I reiterate my call for the parties to cease violence in Southern Kordofan and to grant and sustain full access to humanitarian aid.
I congratulate former President Mbeki, Prime Minister Meles, the AU High Level Implementation Panel and the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) on this agreement. I am grateful to them for their hard work on facilitating interim security arrangements for Abyei that will enable IDPs to return in safety, and also for their ongoing efforts to find a negotiated outcome for Southern Kordofan.
I admire his optimism, but we will watch this space with a degree of caution and pray for our brothers and sisters whose lives lie in the hands of those who will make or break any agreement after partition. Regular updates form the Bradford perspective can be found on our website.
June 19, 2011
When I have sounded off about the media in the past, one of the journalists to respond with vigour has been Martin Beckford of the Daily Telegraph. Some of his responses have been illuminating and helpful – especially where he took time and trouble to address some of the charges I and others were levelling at journalists. So, despite thinking that the Telegraph has to be handled like a tabloid these days, I do respect Martin and I listen to what he says.
In this week’s Church of England Newspaper he asks why, when politicians and other public personalities don’t whinge about their treatment in the press, the church (or, let’s face it, bishops) does. It’s a reasonable question and, if I was in Martin’s position, one I would pose with a degree of frustration. I am one of the people who exasperates him, but at least I don’t stop getting stuck in with the media on their terms. So, what I am returning to here is a discussion we have had before about expectations of the media.
I think this point sets us off:
[George Pitcher] should know, as should everyone who reads newspapers, that the bottom line is that they are businesses and they sell copies by finding stories that are new and interesting. Of course that doesn’t mean making things up or distorting them, but at the same time they are within their rights to interpret what public figures say and highlight the parts that are new and controversial.
I couldn’t agree more. With every point. But, what Martin misses here is the perception of some of us on the receiving end that ‘making up’ and ‘distortion’ are precisely what has gone on. Hence, the story is not about the core substance, but about the journalist’s perception of or spin on it. That’s why I pointed out in this blog that justice should be done to the subject of the story even if the content of what he says then gets roasted on the spit of analysis. In this respect, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s views on politics are game for all the inflated and angry comment they provoke. But, the context in which his views were expressed must dictate the nature of theme addressed, the register of his language, and so on. An editorial that introduces a series of guest articles debating precisely the issues he opens up in his editorial surely has a certain status as interrogative or provocative; but, it can’t be seen in isolation from those later articles and their context. That is where – rightly or wrongly – some of us feel stitched up.
Martin goes on:
I don’t think the reason clerics [complain] more than politicians is because they are other-worldly or naive, I just think MPs are much more realistic about the nature of the press and appreciate that we are overall a good thing for democracy even if occasionally we go a bit too far. After all, reporting is not a science and there is never just one way to write a story.
The implication of this is that we must simply accept the nature of the press as it is, rather than express some desire that it should be better than it currently is. My personal issue with this is both ethical (the role that the media play in the democracy Martin wants to defend gives them enormous power and influence and, therefore, affects behaviour as well as discourse) and professional (as a former professional wordsmith I would have been very uncomfortable about putting a spin on a story in order to create a story when I knew I was distorting the original). Surely a democracy that needs a free and bold press is one in which its citizens have the right to demand that its journalists do justice in their role as ‘players’ and not just ‘observers’ of the democratic substance? Accountability works both ways.
Martin writes that he had originally intended to write his piece about how Rowan Williams “was the sole survivor of what was once a large group of outspoken figures in the C of E”. Is it not just possible that many of the current ‘figures’ see what happens to their outspoken counterparts and decide (a) you can’t win and (b) it isn’t worth the hassle? I am not defending that response, but I do think it is understandable.
Martin goes on to observe that the Archbishop “knows exactly how his words will be received; he just doesn’t crave positive headlines like most public figures.” He concludes:
For the sake of the church, as well as those who make their living reporting on it, I very much hope he will continue to speak his mind.
The journalist (rightly) is not responsible for dealing with the aftermath of what they write. But, they will get more outspokenness if those speaking can trust the intelligence and integrity of those doing the writing. Most people who have contacted me about the Archbishop’s views derived their understanding (and frustration with him) not from his original words, but from the Telegraph’s reporting on them. Having read the original, several were cross about the latter. And this mirrors my own experiences in similar (but less serious) circumstances.
The conversation will, no doubt, continue. However, if the written-about are to understand the nature and business of the writers, is it too much to ask the writers to understand the experience and perception of the written-about?
June 18, 2011
Today was my first Diocesan Synod in the Diocese of Bradford. This synod is comprised of lay people, clergy and bishop(s) from across the diocese and is the body that sets the direction of the diocese in terms of implementing policy decisions. Such synods can be strange bodies and I didn’t know what to expect. What I found was a well-organised, well-chaired, friendly, committed and interesting group of around 50 people from urban, suburban and rural parishes. I actually enjoyed it.
I had two roles today: to give my first Presidential Address (the Diocesan Bishop presides over the Synod) and to lead a final session about the nature and direction of the diocese. I’ll write more about the latter in due course – once I’ve thought about it more fully. But, I thought it might be useful to put up the basic text (minus funnies, asides and extra bits of explanation) here. What I was trying to do was bring together the local with the regional, the national and the international in order that we get our perspective right. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, but I do believe in saying it as I see it. It has to be read in its proper context – my opening lines to the Bradford Synod and not a general address to the national media (for example). Although running the risk of ‘doing a Rowan’, here it is:
Right at the beginning of my first Presidential Address to the Bradford Diocesan Synod I want to thank you for the extraordinary welcome given to me and Linda since our move north after eleven years of exile in the south. It is good to feel the pavements and grass of Yorkshire under our feet, allowing us to sniff the clear air and experience the warmth of people’s friendship. We are genuinely grateful for the welcome which has expressed itself in so many and varied ways.
I am further grateful for the generosity and creativity that made the Enthronement on 21 May such a splendid occasion for the diocese, its people and communities. The Cathedral has a very high reputation in and beyond Bradford and its reputation was enhanced even further by the service: it did what it set out to do (put me in) and didn’t attempt to do a PR job on the diocese or environment. I know of no other bishop who has been led by a Bavarian Oompah Band to the Cathedral to be greeted by a brilliant brass band as well as choir and organ. For myself I can say that I felt the huge responsibility on my shoulders when I entered the Cathedral and am grateful for your prayers and encouragement. I am very glad to be here and am honoured to be the Bishop of Bradford.
But, this leads me on to make an observation that should be a source of pride and gratitude to the diocese as a whole. Not so many years ago Bradford Cathedral was synonymous with all sorts of cynical negativity. As we know from parish experience, it can take a generation or more for the reputational damage to be repaired and the memories re-shaped. Under the leadership and faithful ministry of the Dean, Dr David Ison, Bradford Cathedral has become respected, valued and recognised as a key player in Metropolitan District, city and diocese. As a newcomer I have been struck by the very high regard in which David, his colleagues and the Cathedral itself are now held – and such a remarkable achievement should be articulated, recognised and celebrated. I am personally proud to be associated with the Cathedral and will give it my full support.
And, while we are it, we send our love and congratulations to Canon Sam Corley and Claire who gave birth to a son, Micah, in the early hours of Friday. It is one way of growing the Cathedral congregation…
Growing the church. This is a challenge and one to which we must commit ourselves with confidence and some creativity. As you know, I have begun two- or three-day visits to each of our eight deaneries. I spent three days recently in the Airedale Deanery. This was followed by a morning with Rural Deans and Lay Chairs in which they very helpfully briefed me, enabling me to build a picture not only of the diocese, but of how it is perceived by those of us on the inside. Two things emerge: we have some wonderful people and places, but we use a rhetoric of survival rather than ‘thrival’. In my Enthronement sermon I spoke of the need for confidence: in God and the Gospel, in the church and the Church of England, and in our contexts – the places, communities and people we are called to serve for the common good. I wasn’t joking. If we have no confidence in God, the Gospel, the church, the Church of England or our changing world, why should anyone else? We must build our confidence to an extent where the rumour about the church is a strong and positive one.
How we shall do this is not entirely clear to me. However, as I said at the Cathedral, we can choose whether to be shapers of our future or victims of someone else’s decisions. I believe we should engage fully in discussions about the future shape and life of the church – with vision, courage and determination. Not for our own sake or that of the church as an institution for its sake, but for the sake of the Kingdom of God in and for the world. Our agenda today drives us in this direction: the Dioceses Commission (about which I am happy to answer any questions), finance and budgets, and those things which concern us as responsible stewards of God’s resources. I firmly believe that money follows vision and not the other way round. The corollary of this is, however, that if we believe in it and want it, we will pay for it; if we don’t, we won’t… and we won’t have it.
We can discuss this further in the final session of today’s Synod.
The church in any diocese has to be careful to see its mission and ministry in the context (or through the lens) of the wider context. I wish to shape that lens today with three different aspects:
- Firstly, our own preoccupations are set against the backdrop of Sudan. If ever the value or effectiveness of diocesan links were in question, events of the last couple of weeks provide a robust response. When violence broke out in our link dioceses of Northern Sudan, our response was only possible because of the years of patient relationship building that underpinned it. I am new to this particular link – I have had very close involvement in a strong link with Zimbabwe for the last decade or so – and am impressed with the strong support and affection for (and commitment to) our brothers and sisters in Northern Sudan. I am grateful for the initiative of the Sudan Group, the Archdeacon of Bradford for moving quickly in respect of the appeal (and its communication) and Alison Bogle and Chris Wright for getting stuff up and into the public sphere so effectively and quickly. As we pray for and support the church and people of Northern Sudan, let us also see how our own preoccupations look in the shadow of such life and death events.
- Second, the Church of England still has the ability to speak into the public discourse. It doesn’t always go according to plan, however. Last week’s furore over the Archbishop of Canterbury’s guest editorial of the New Statesman certainly hit the headlines and set off a public debate – but the debate was excruciatingly misplaced. Let’s be clear, the Archbishop of Canterbury has not only the right, but the obligation to speak into the public discourse on matters that concern the common good. Anyone reading the editorial he wrote will recognise that he was raising questions about our society and its governance – not attacking the government. Yet, here was the problem – and it is a problem we face as a church in what has been termed ‘the media holding context’: the furore was ignited not by what the Archbishop wrote, but what the Daily Telegraph said he’d written. Those who could be bothered to read the original article (recognising that it was designed to introduce a series of guest articles by people who wouldn’t necessarily agree with each other) discovered that the Telegraph report was deliberately mischievous.
Yet, this is the world we are in. I, too, have been on the receiving end of such reporting and it is not comfortable to receive the opprobrium of people who take the headline as gospel. However, it is not enough to moan about the media or their handling of ‘truth’. For them it is the story that matters. That’s reality and we have to get used to it. We also need to be creative in finding ways to shape our stories in and through the media – not simply complaining when things don’t quite go our way. To do this, we have first to learn about the media and how they (appropriate to their particular medium) operate. And – I would say this, wouldn’t I – we must learn to engage with the media confidently.
I am cross about the way a perfectly intelligent and important contribution to public debate was steered off-course by a newspaper. I only hope that the politicians and others who expressed their dismay in response to the Telegraph report have actually read the real thing. After all, public figures all know what it is like to be misrepresented or turned into a sort of entertainment football.
- Third, the anguished fate of the Greek economy reminds us that the financial crisis is not over. The interdependence of modern states in a global market means that – to distort John Donne – no land is an island. The challenge thrown up by the financial collapse of 2008 is only now beginning here in the UK and the severity of it has not fully dawned on us yet. And it is in this context that we are being asked to raise from our parishes a sum in excess of £4 million. Is this feasible? Yes, it is. In fact, it is essential.
The Church of England invented what is being called the Big Society, but should be called the Good Society. We founded hospitals and schools, cared for the poor, led communities, supported people through their living and dying. As children of our times, we often made mistakes or didn’t see as clearly as we might now do. But, there has never been a time when the church did not demand of its people a sacrificial commitment to its work for the sake of the common good. If we, driven by an experience of the generosity of God and rooted in his call for us to lay down our lives for the sake of the world, believe that the Gospel is good news for all people, then we must put our money where our heart is.
My heart is in the parishes and institutions of our diocese. The parish system is unique and shapes the unique vocation of the Church of England. It is the means by which we serve our communities: maintaining Christian presence and engagement, ensuring clergy ministry and leadership, equipping congregations to reach out in evangelism and service. That is what we are being asked to pay for – not a structure or an institution for its own sake. And, in that respect, we should acknowledge the excellent administration of this diocese’s support work under the guidance of Debbie Child.
The numbers of people entering ordination training in the Church of England are rising. However, the numbers of those retiring are considerably greater. It is not lack of money that compels our dioceses to re-shape ministry in the light of reductions in the number of stipendiary clergy; it is simply a factual demographic change. If my cursory calculations are correct, 31 clergy in the Diocese of Bradford will be eligible (or compelled) to retire by 2015.
This is OK. The world has always changed and so has the church changed to meet it. Nothing new there at all. But, we are challenged to face change with vision and courage, confident in the Gospel and the unique vocation of the Church of England to ‘be’ everywhere. I understand the challenges of our buildings and the apparent limitations of resources. But, I also believe that the God who has called us is faithful and will lead us into his future – if we are willing to go with him and one another.
In the paperwork for the appointment of a new Bishop of Bradford you asked for a ‘bishop who speaks plainly’. I assume you meant it. One of the stranger experiences of living in the south of England has been the frequency with which immigrants from the north have said to me: “I’m a northerner and I speak plainly.” Of course, what they mean is: “I’m about to be rude to you and you’ll just have to accept it.” Well, I am a northerner and I don’t buy into this. My response down south was usually: “Well, don’t give it if you can’t take it.” Some of these conversations ended at that point. And why am I saying this today? Simply to make the point that we need to live in the real world and address that world clearly and confidently. I do not work with hidden agendas and what you see is what you’ll get – for better or for worse. But, it will all be rooted in a deep conviction that we are all called to be faithful to our vocation to be the church for others and never to confuse means (the church) with the ends (the Kingdom of God).
I commit myself to this diocese. I am undertaking a rather demanding programme of getting to know people and places, engage with civil society and media, learn the history and culture, pray for you all. Next Tuesday I will leave home at 4am in order to climb Pen-Y Ghent at sunrise, work our way through the diocese, and end with a curry in Bradford with ordination students from Durham. I hope to learn quickly. But, I must also ensure that the local is always checked by the perspective of the wider world – the rural by the urban and vice versa, the regional by the national, and the national by the international.
And all of this under the grace, mercy and love of a God who opens his arms on a cross, looks the world in the eye and doesn’t walk away. May God bless us on our journey of discipleship, ministry and evangelisation together in the months and years to come.
June 18, 2011
I’m getting my feet under table in Bradford, meeting loads of people and already feeling its warmth running through my bloodstream. I have been careful not to assume that because I was here as a student thrity years ago I still know the place. It has changed considerably – it would be weird if it hadn’t. But, given the reputation of the place both inside and outside, it might come as a bit of a shock to read the following ‘surprising facts’ (which I got from a briefing about the Positive Bradford campaign, driven by the community, supported by the Council, led by two priominent members of the business community here, and involving 150 Bradford organisations):
- Bradford is Britain’s fifth biggest city and metropolitan district;
- It is home to more than half a million people, of whom over 300,000 are of working age;
- Bradford has the UK’s third youngest population outside London – nearly 23 per cent are under 16;
- Its working age population of 311,000 is the largest of any major British city;
- The district’s economy, the third largest in the Yorkshire region, is the fastest growing in Yorkshire;
- Its total business output has been calculated at £7.8 billion;
- Bradford has more than 15,000 businesses, providing almost 200,000 jobs;
- More ‘Footsie 100’ companies have their headquarters located in Bradford than in Leeds;
- The National Media Museum, in the heart of Bradford, is the country’s second most visited museum out of London;
- Bradford was chosen by UNESCO as its first City of Film;
- The district has the third largest number of manufacturing businesses and the tenth largest concentration of ‘advanced manufacturing’ businesses in the UK;
- The University of Bradford Business School is ranked within the top five in Europe;
- World-leading research into improving treatment for cancer and other life-threatening diseases is carried out in Bradford;
- Saltaire, the industrial village which was way ahead of its time, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site;
- The world’s finest quality cloth, tailored to make the best suits you can buy, is still made in Bradford;
- Bradford has more than 5,700 Listed buildings – twice as many as Liverpool, European Capital of Culture in 2008;
- Little Germany, once the home of the world’s leading wool merchants, has Europe’s largest concentration of Listed buildings;
- The concept of ‘shopping from home’ was pioneered in Bradford by Empire Stores and the city remains the home of Britain’s biggest home shopping companies;
- Bradford Mela, a celebration of Asian music, dance, culture and food, is the biggest of its kind in Europe;
- With more than 400 Asian restaurants, Bradford is the curry capital of the country;
- More than 90 different languages are spoken in Bradford, though more than eight out of ten of its people only speak English;
- More new businesses are being set up in Bradford than anywhere else in Yorkshire, with first year survival rates higher than national or regional averages;
- Bradford’s established strengths include high-technology communications and manufacturing, plus business and financial services, cultural, creative, health and environmental industries.
That’s a pile of good news. I just wonder how much of it is recognised or celebrated outside of Bradford, let alone inside. 400 curry houses means that you could go out once a week for eight years and never repeat yourself. (I don’t mean that in terms of digestion, of course…)
Add to this the news today that an 18 year old Bradford lad (Lewis Murch, a freerunner from Buttershaw, no less) has been named Urban Hero of the Year 2011 at a ceremony in Manchester. Read the story and celebrate him. There are loads of similar stories around – but they don’t always dispel the negative myths. As the Positive Bradford people have commented:
The measure of a city is not how many department stores it has, but the value and contribution of its people . . . It’s a place where community cohesion isn’t just a fashionable term but a way of daily life.
Now, if we can just get the footie sorted, we’ll be made!
June 18, 2011
The momentum on Northern Sudan is growing at last. This week (among other things) the following have been said or done:
The UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said:
I remind the Government of Sudan of their obligation to protect civilians and call on all parties to cease hostilities immediately… I am deeply concerned at the continuing violence in the Abyei and Southern Kordofan regions of Sudan. Reports of ongoing attacks on civilians and aerial bombardments are shocking and I condemn all such actions. Equally disturbing is the denial of access to humanitarian agencies. It is essential that these agencies are allowed to provide assistance to the thousands of people affected by the recent violence. I remind the Government of Sudan of their obligation to protect civilians and call on all parties to cease hostilities immediately.
The talks ongoing in Addis Ababa, facilitated by the AU High Level Implementation Panel, present an opportunity for all parties to deliver the peace that their people deserve. To squander this opportunity would put in danger the achievements of the last five years and further increase the suffering of civilians in Abyei and Southern Kordofan. I strongly urge all parties to work together to seek an early peaceful solution.
The Archbishop of Sudan, Daniel Deng issued a statement which included:
Without a doubt then, the most worrying aspect of this recent conflict is the way in which fighting that originated between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) has now transformed into what can only be described as a deliberate strategy to rid Kadugli of its indigenous African and Christian population by the SAF, in short a policy of ethnic cleansing. This is not the first time a government policy of ethnic cleansing has been applied in Sudan; the genocide in Western Darfur is very well known. Moreover, activities of a similar nature occurred just a few weeks ago when the Dinka Ngok, indigenous to Abyei, were slaughtered and displaced from their homes within Abyei Town in mass numbers.
We categorically condemn the use of force by the Government of Sudan towards its own people. We condemn the use of aerial bombardments on civilians and the arbitrary arrest of citizens in Southern Kordofan. No one is willing to return to war, therefore, we insist that the Government of Sudan releases those who have been arbitrarily arrested and return to the negotiating table with the Government of South Sudan on its consultation framework.
We appeal to the international community, particularly the signatories of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, to unite and do everything in their power to intervene quickly to stop the fighting and the killing of innocent people, and to protect those residents of Southern Kordofan and Abyei who are Christian and African and, as a result, are suffering persecution. Genocide is highly likely without international mediation. Therefore, we implore you all, especially the Troika (the United States of America, The United Kingdom and Norway), the African Union and the United Nations to endeavour to prevent genocide and the deliberate killing of certain groups by others before it is too late.
We appeal to both indigenous and international Non-Government Organisations who can assist with aid and relief to coordinate their efforts and work together with local and trusted organisations such as the churches, to address the physical needs of the sick and needy in Southern Kordofan. The ECS is ready to facilitate in the distribution of medicines, food and non-food items using our extensive network in Southern Kordofan and Abyei. We request for food and-non-items as well as donations to support their purchase. We strongly urge the United Nations Mission In Sudan and NGOs within Sudan to make use of the ECS as a well-placed partner to help with efficient distribution of relief items.
Finally, we appeal to members of the Anglican Communion around the world and those of other denominations to intercede on our behalf to Almighty God so that the people of Southern Kordofan and Abyei may be delivered from this trauma and distress.
As the Archbishop for all of Sudan, I write this statement with great sorrow and commiseration for my brothers and sisters in Southern Kordofan. Despite the country’s divide, the clergy and laity of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan believe they serve a living God unimpeded by political boundaries. We strive to remain one church, united in the Body of Christ and steadfast in the midst of this current tribulation.
Questions have also been asked in Parliament and answers can be found in Hansard.
The Diocese of Bradford is sending someone out this week who knows the territory and will bring back to us first-hand news and experience. So far the diocese has raised over £6,000 from our appeal.
South Kordofan must not be allowed to become another Darfur.
June 15, 2011
Following my post and the appeal we launched in Bradford for the Christians of Northern Sudan, at last the matter has hit the public radar.
Many in Bradford were bewildered why the UK media made no mention of the horrors in Northern Sudan, and some even doubted the veracity of the story on the grounds that ‘if it were true, it would be in the papers’. US media covered the story from the beginning.
The FCO issued a statement in response to a parliamentary question on 11 June. The Archbishop of Canterbury has made a statement and President Obama has gone big on it. The matter is now on the agenda. It wasn’t easy getting it there.
Archbishop of Canterbury’s statement on South Kordofan, Sudan
From Lambeth Palace
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has released the following statement regarding recent violence in South Kordofan, Sudan:
“Along with the Christian leaders represented in the Sudan Ecumenical Forum and Council of Churches and many more throughout the world, we deplore the mounting level of aggression and bloodshed in South Kordofan State and the indiscriminate violence on the part of government troops against civilians. Numerous villages have been bombed. More than 53,000 people have been driven from their homes. The new Anglican cathedral in Kadugli has been burned down. UN personnel in the capital, Kadugli, are confined to their compound and are unable to protect civilians; the city has been overrun by the army, and heavy force is being used by government troops to subdue militias in the area, with dire results for local people. Many brutal killings are being reported.
This violence is a major threat to the stability of Sudan just as the new state of South Sudan is coming into being. The humanitarian challenge is already great, and the risk of another Darfur situation, with civilian populations at the mercy of government-supported terror, is a real one.
International awareness of this situation is essential. The UN Security Council, the EU, the Arab League and the African Union need to co-operate in guaranteeing humanitarian access and safety for citizens, and we hope that our own government, which has declared its commitment to a peaceful future for Sudan, will play an important part in this.”
June 15, 2011
Life in Bradford is very full on and there is little time at the moment for blogging. But, one of the things I did a couple of days ago was welcome several chaplains to the University of Bradford. I licensed two Anglican ones, but the short welcome ceremony, led by the Vice Chancellor, also included a Muslim and a Quaker. It was a good ‘do’ and it was preceded by a personal re-introduction to the university where I did my first degree.
During the brief ceremony, the Vice Chancellor and I were asked to speak. I spoke about the university as a place for intellectual inquiry, rigorous exploration of the world views of others and the sort of ‘sorting out’ of the commitments deriving from our world views that a university provides the space to encourage. I also had a go at the myth of neutrality – that there is a level of opinion or discourse which is assumed to be neutral and, therefore, suitable for dominating the public discourse – and questioned the thinking behind this. My point was that chaplaincy is not simply about being available to accompany people through their spiritual (or other) crises or experiences, but is also about contributing (encouraging) the sort of intellectual discussion that compels people to look at the world through their own ‘world view lens behind the eyes’ and subject their own faith to scrutiny. Faith that doesn’t ‘work’ in the real world is not a faith worth having.
Contrast this, then, with the pile of nonsense written by very highly paid commentators following Rowan Williams’s guest editorial of the New Statesman. I am behind the game now, but the matter (not just the content of what he said) still raises questions worth articulating.
Several commentators tell the Archbishop that he has no right to comment on this (or, presumably, anything else. In the Sunday Times Minette Marin tells him to ‘go’. She would, wouldn’t she. But her thinking (if that is what it it; it seems to arise from a rather uncritical lack of thinking) appears rooted in the assumption that the Archbishop’s views are delegitimised by virtue of his office or role. What on earth does she think an archbishop’s role is? And does she seriously believe that his views should be dismissed – not on the basis of what they are and whether or not they hold water – simply because he shouldn’t have any?
Marin often assumes that she occupies neutral space along with others whom she assumes share her neutral views of the world. This isn’t only arrogant, it is nonsense. Is her assumed view to be privileged above that of someone who knows at first hand what he is talking about? Are Christian leaders living in a fantasy land of remote abstraction, confused by the luxury of their guarded palaces and enormous salaries? When commentators like this get upset by someone like Rowan arguing for a set of questions to get raised, I think he’s probably hit the mark. People like the idea of prophets, but hate the reality.
It is unbelievable that this degree of uncritically assumed ignorance should be rewarded with a huge salary – something the Archbishop is criticised for by Carol Malone of the News of the World – an organ famed for its serious analysis of current political, social and economic thinking. (For those unsure, that last statement is ironic.) Victoria Coren has demolished Malone’s case and doesn’t need further help from people like me. However, I will admit to having a prejudice here. When I was ‘stung’ on Christmas carols being ‘nonsense’ a couple of years ago, I did the Alan Titchmarsh Show on ITV. Malone and Ken Livingstone were on the set with me for this item. Ken Livingstone was fine. Carol Malone went for me big time – which was fine and was her job. I asked her if she had seen the book, let alone read it, or if her entire case was based on a Sunday Telegraph headline. Suffice to say, she hadn’t seen the book and hadn’t read a sentence from it.
I have no idea how huge the salaries of these commentators is. But, if I was their editor, I think I might be asking for a refund. Argue with what the Archbishop says, by all means – that’s important. Understand the status and context of his observations (guest editorial in a magazine in which other invited writers don’t necessarily agree with him). Explore where his views have come from and why they might be fundamentally wrong. But, please don’t assume that he has no right to say anything anywhere other than the privatised sphere of the religiously backward or that a case can be dismissed simply because he has made it.
The privatisation of religion is a nonsense stated by people who assume their own ‘neutrality’ to be self-evidently true (hardly a rational position). Neutrality is a myth and a distraction that offers an excuse for not addressing the arguments.
June 10, 2011
It is only 28 days until the partition of Sudan. On 9 July the country will be divided into two. Since the fate of the country was decided in a referendum, people have been moving either north or south, depending on their ethnic or religious allegiance. The referendum was part of the agreement to stop violence and find a way forward for the country after internal conflict of substantial violence.
Hopes for a peaceful transition are bleeding into the ground.
The Diocese of Bradford has very close links with Northern Sudan which is largely Islamic. The newest Anglican Bishop, Saman, came over here for my enthronement as Bishop of Bradford only a few weeks ago. In the last few days military assaults on Christian communities have left churches and homes destroyed, people dead and bishops hunted. This is what is happening on the ground, as reported in heartbreaking messages from Kadugli:
…the fighting took place in June between the Northern SPLA and government soldiers… people have fled and in my house alone there are more than 25 persons excluding my family. So I need urgent support to feed and transport some who would like to proceed to another city or who may like to return back if the situation becomes stable and that is my hope. hundreds are in El Obeid now and more are on the way to El Obeid…
Yesterday I reported Militia and SAF troops (of the ruling party in Sudan) burning the entire offices of the Diocese of Kadugli (Episcopal Church of the Sudan) plus Cyber Cafe building with all computer and equipment… also mentioned breaking into the Church House looting all property… With grief today I want inform you that new Cathedral which was build two years ago is burned down. By this we lost everything of the Church in Kadugli Town. The church was targeted. I was informed and warned that the Militia and NCP troops were looking for me as a head of the church, and Rev Luka to get rid of us after they destroyed all property of the church.
Many civilians took refuge in UN Compound at Shair. When the SAF troops came the UN handed the civilians to SAF and were killed. Now SAF are using UN base to fight SPLA troops. We do request urgent intervention of international community to stop the killings and restore peace in the region, and to review the mandate of the UN in Kadugli.
The Archdeacon of Bradford has summarised the position as follows:
Fighting has broken out in Kadugli which is the capital of South Kordofan – one of the states on the border of north and south Sudan. UN reports than ten thousand people have fled the city centre and many more have travelled to neighbouring states seeking safe refuge. Government tanks and soldiers entered Kadugli on Sunday after a police station was attacked by gunmen on Saturday night. The Government of Sudan has announced that it is ‘cleansing the town of armed rebels’ as it seeks to disarm groups who supported southern Sudan.
Tonight soldiers with guns are roaming round Kadugli stealing whatever they want and shooting can be heard day and night. An unknown number of civilians and troops have been killed. All UN agencies in Kadugli have suspended their activities and withdrawn to the secure UN compound near the airport. The airport has been seized by the government soldiers and is now closed. In the city, looting and fighting have reduced after the first clashes. The capital city Kadugli is now under military control and is still very dangerous; much of the city is deserted.
The fighting is spreading out into the state as the northern government uses tanks and aircraft to flush out armed militias. These groups had been ordered by the government in Khartoum to leave the state by June 1st as preparation for the split on 9 July. After 1 June, any who remain in South Kordofan ‘are legitimate targets’.
The Diocese of Kadugli has lost motorbikes when the Bishop’s house was broken into whilst Bishop Andudu is away on a visit to the United States. Diocesan office staff fled for safety. Many people have travelled west to El Obeid (where the next door Anglican Diocese of El Obeid is based) where Bishop Ismail is arranging to feed and help 700 people. The Diocese of Bradford has sent out £1,000 immediately and is raising more funds to send out early next week.
South Kordofan lies in the future North Sudan and is the only oil producing area which the north will retain. The border between North and South runs along the southern boundary of South Kordofan and is the home of as many as 60,000 former soldiers who fought for the south against the north. South Kordofan is close to Abyei where there is still no agreement of where the border will run and there has been a lot of fighting in recent months and many have died. This is a tense and volatile part of Sudan and could be a flashpoint in any future hostilities between north and south. The north wants to get rid of all subversive elements and has been increasing the presence of troops and tanks for months.
Bishop Ismail has asked for assistance to feed and help up to 700 displaced people in and around his home. The Diocese of Bradford has sent £1,000 immediately and is raising more funds. We wait to hear from Bishop Andudu what help we might offer for Kadugli Diocese.
I have issued an appeal this evening and called the churches of the Diocese of Bradford to prayer and generous support this weekend. Anyone else wishing to contribute can send cheques made payable to BDBF, marked ‘Kadugli Appeal’ and sent to: BDBF, Kadugli House, Elmsley Street, Steeton, Keighley BD20 6SE. Updates may be found on the diocesan website at www.bradford.anglican.org.
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