UK’s role in arms trade comes under spotlight as Christians are acquitted following protest Rowan Williams says ‘honest debate’ needed
Last week, at Stratford Magistrates’ Court in east London, five Christians – four men and one woman – were found not guilty of aggravated trespass in peacefully blocking an entrance to the Defence Security Equipment International Arms Fair at London’s ExCel Centre in September 2013. They had been arrested while blocking the entrance by kneeling in prayer.
The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, was reported by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade as saying: “We still badly need an honest debate about the arms trade – about the kinds of modern armaments that seem to contravene any defensible ethical framework, especially the refinements of anti-personnel weapons which cause most moral scandal.
ARCHBISHOP EAMON MARTIN IN BALLYMENA
Last week, the Roman Catholic Coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Revd Eamon Martin, told a meeting of the Ballymena Borough Church Members’ Forum that, in the wake of the collapse of the recent Haass talks on Northern Ireland problems, it would take “courageous and creative leadership to move things forward”.
Not long after the New Year’s Eve breakdown in the Haass process, Irish Church leaders issued a joint statement that encouraged further discussions but neither endorsed nor rejected the Haass draft proposals. While Archbishop Martin last week nonetheless asked the rhetorical question as to whether people really believed that “rejecting the proposals of a man of such international standing and integrity” did not damage Northern Ireland’s reputation, he said he lent his “full support” to the Church leaders’ statement and went on to make the very creative suggestion that the Churches might develop a “covenant of friendship” between themselves at leadership level and also offer support to parishes in developing similar local covenants.
However, perhaps the most striking aspect of Archbishop Martin’s words came when he recalled the papal visit to Ireland in 1979 and Pope John Paul II’s impassioned plea to all who were engaged in violence: “On my knees I beg you to turn away from the paths of violence and to return to the ways of peace.” Indeed, the Pope on that occasion said he prayed that “the moral sense and Christian conviction of Irish men and women may never become obscured and blunted by the lie of violence, that nobody may ever call murder by any other name than murder”.
Archbishop Martin last week also aptly warned against any misrepresentation of the past in Northern Ireland when he told his Ballymena audience that he welcomed the assertion in the final Haass document that everyone “was not equally to blame” for the violent conflict of the Troubles, stating: “We should not be afraid to question the creeping narrative that ‘we are all equally to blame’ and to challenge any attempts to ‘revise’ or ‘control’ the narrative about the past.
The vast majority of citizens across this island and on all sides of the community rejected paramilitary violence.”
Archbishop Martin has shown himself to be ready to speak out not only with imagination but also with utter moral clarity. Such leadership is wholeheartedly to be welcomed.
- ‘Black Santa’ donations shared among 200 charities and community groups
- Bishop of London to address clergy and laity in Dublin and Glendalough
- CPAS 2014 programme to focus on leadership themes
- Two new Lent publications
- Diocese of Armagh parishes establish Congo mission partnership link
- C. of I./Moravian talks continue
- Diverse perspectives on justice make for ‘stimulating’ discussion at Rubicon 2014
- Church groups say European Commission climate and energy proposals ‘woefully inadequate’
- Melbourne Cathedral banner to stay until asylum policies change
Letters to the Editor
Churches’ Community Work Alliance rural programme
The Churches ’ Community Work Alliance (CCWA) and Rural Community Network (RCN) are pleased to announce a new support programme to promote and enhance good community work in parishes and faith-based organisations across rural Northern Ireland.
Is your parish aware of increasing social needs in your area, as individuals and families struggle to cope with the pressures of everyday life? Are you interested in looking at practical ways in which your parish may be able to engage further with and support local people by helping to tackle issues of poverty and disadvantage?
Churches and faith-based organisations have a central role to play in promoting social inclusion, equality and cohesion on their doorsteps, especially in rural areas, where need is often hidden and parishes remain at the core of community life.
Faith-based organisations have significant expertise in dealing with local issues as and when they arise. Whilst each area will have differing needs and discussions, actions may include linking into existing community services, supporting food banks and dealing with debt, social contact for the elderly and vulnerable, etc.
The programme will also be promoting opportunities which arise within CCWA – such as access to Flourish, a Churches’ initiative on suicide – and within RCN, a range of seminars and events supporting rural community organisations.
Anne Donnelly and Neville Armstrong have recently taken up positions as Training and Development Officers within the programme and they are based in the offices of RCN in Cookstown.
The new programme will develop awareness, relationships and partnerships among Churches, faith-based organisations, government and other community voluntary sectors.
A priority will be to support the involvement of parishes and faith-based volunteers in social action projects which aim to alleviate poverty and improve the quality of life for people from all sections of the community living in disadvantaged rural areas.
This programme will also provide a platform to bring those experiences – as well as new, innovative solutions to emerging local poverty issues – to the relevant policy makers.
The programme has been funded by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development via the Department of Social Development.
For further information about this programme, please ring Anne or Neville on 028 8676 6670 or email anne. email@example.com or neville.armstrong@ccwa-ni. org.uk.
Neville Armstrong 38a Oldtown Street Cookstown Co. Tyrone BT80 1EF
The church of Ireland – An Illustrated History
I have just bought a newly published book, The Church of Ireland – An Illustrated History, from the arrival of Patrick and down the ages.
Section One comprises 107 pages, most of these written by Dr Kenneth Milne, historian, and other eminent experts covering nine different disciplines.
The rest of the book’s 400 pages examine in fascinating detail every diocese and just about every parish. Indeed, this book is so unique, so monumental, that it truly merits its own dedicated article within those early pages, explaining how it came into being and gradually evolved into what it is.
I believe this book to be of the greatest historical and anecdotal significance, extending far beyond church-going members of the Church of Ireland. Many of the inevitably potted histories recorded give tantalising glimpses, encouraging deeper delving into the dim or more recent past.
Further, the quality, the superb artwork and the photographs, all wonderfully interwoven from every corner of Ireland, are indeed inspiring – not too strong an adjective.
Oh, those photographs! After almost 80 years behind a lens, I find my admiration blended with a distinct shade of green with envy, not an appropriate Christian reaction, I know.
There can be no doubt that the book will be admired far and wide and huge credit is due to its initiator, Dr Claude Costecalde and Prof. Brian Walker (consultant editors) and to the many distinguished people who have in some way contributed to this remarkable work, especially its designer, Wendy Dunbar.
I am sure that, for generations to come, we in the Church of Ireland and the wider public at home and overseas will be eternally grateful to all of those involved in this most challenging task, finally accomplished just before Christmas.
Readers would not only be doing themselves, their families, the contributors and not least the publisher a favour if they were to buy a copy for a mere £25 – and what about copies for special friends? After all, £25 would only buy a fairly modest meal for two, then that is over, but this book … it is something to treasure and pass on to one’s heirs.
Thank you, everyone involved.
Alan Johnston 20 Kildare Street Strangford BT30 7LJ
Meat-free Lent proposal
As I’m sure readers will be aware, Lent begins in early March this year. For many Christians, this is a time of fasting and abstinence that traditionally includes not eating meat.
Coincidentally, March is also National Veggie Month and this year, Animal Aid is urging people to take part in the Big Veg Pledge, a project where people promise to go meat-free for the whole of March, whilst receiving all the help, support and information they need to do so.
If any readers would like to revive the Christian tradition of abstaining from meat during Lent, and save the lives of animals by doing so, they may wish to sign up for the Big Veg Pledge at www. veggiemonth.com or by calling 01732-364546, ext. 227.
Ben Martin Animal Aid The Old Chapel Bradford Street Tonbridge Kent TN9 1AW
CITI Staff Visit to Hong Kong
I am delighted to see that the contribution that Lynda Levis and Daphne Metcalfe make to the training and formation of future clergy has been recognised by an invitation for them to share their expertise abroad (Gazette, 7th February). Anyone who has attended the Institute in recent years knows well that Lynda and Daphne form the beating heart of the CITI (formerly CITC).
Academic staff and students come and go, but Lynda and Daphne remain, an unshakable bulwark of much-needed continuity. Indeed, I suspect many ordinands received invaluable practical training in pastoral ministry by way of the kindness shown to them by the sometimes gruff but always kind double act that they form. There are generations of clergy out there whom, I would suggest, owe where they are today at least as much, if not more, to this wonderful pair of women as to anyone else who was involved in their selection and training. God bless them both.
Patrick G. Burke (The Revd) The Rectory Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny
Columns & Features
- Insight 1 – Work for church and rectory restoration in Co. Armagh recognised
- Insight 2 – ‘The great adventure continues’ – celebrating 125 years of the Boys’ Brigade
- Soap – Down at St. David’s
- Musings – Alison Rooke – ‘Fish supper, please’
SAINT AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO – AN INTELLECTUAL BIOGRAPHY Author: Miles Hollingworth Publisher: Bloomsbury
Looking Through the Cross . The Archbishop of Canterbury ’s Lent Book 2014 Author: Graham Tomlin Publisher: Bloomsbury Price: £9.99
- Faith theme at Cork, Cloyne and Ross young leaders’ weekend
- New Presbyterian Moderator to ‘encourage’ Church and people in ministry