Archbishop of Dublin launches pulpit broadside against France over place of religion
Preaching at a service earlier this month in Oxford as part of the annual conference of the British-Irish Association (BIA), the Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Revd Michael Jackson, took the opportunity to launch a trenchant criticism of France.
Contrasting laïcité (the separation of religion and state) with religiosité, Dr Jackson said that “France today seems to have almost no comprehension of religiosité”, something which he said had come to the fore with almost every public articulation surrounding recent terror events in Paris, Nice and Saint-Etienne-du- Rouvray, near Rouen, where, on 26th July, Fr Jacques Hamel was murdered while celebrating the Eucharist.
Archbishop Jackson also said that in France there seemed to be “no official capacity or appetite to ‘get’ the narrative of any faith or religion as having an integrity or foothold”.
Referring further to the French authorities, Dr Jackson said that while “nobody is asking officialdom to agree with it [faith or religion] or to practise it”, the call to officialdom was “just to understand it and protect it”.
TTIP AND BIBLICAL REFLECTION
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – an EU-US trade agreement in process of negotiation – has been in the news recently, not least because of somewhat differing perspectives having been voiced by the German Vice-Chancellor and Economy Minister, Sigmar Gabriel, and the Chancellor herself, Angela Merkel. At the end of August, Mr Gabriel said that, in his assessment, the negotiations with the United States had failed, without anyone wishing to admit it, because “having had 14 rounds of negotiations made into 27 chapters there has not been a single joint statement”, adding: “We must not allow ourselves to submit ourselves to the American proposals.” However, for her part, Chancellor Merkel reportedly told President Obama during the recent G20 summit in China that the negotiations should continue.
The London-based War on Want charity has described TTIP as “a major new deal being negotiated behind closed doors” and has said that it would “cost at least one million jobs, undermine our most treasured public services, lead to a ‘race to the bottom’ in food, environmental and labour standards and, for the first time, allow US companies to sue the UK government in special courts”. War on Want quoted the official study commissioned at the start of the talks as having calculated the loss of jobs. The charity describes the three “pillars” of TTIP as deregulation, privatisation and corporate courts.
Church groups have also voiced concerns about TTIP. In a resource pack produced by Global Justice Now with the support of a range of concerned organisations, including Christian Aid and the Jubilee Debt Campaign, TTIP is set in the context of biblical reflections. Before engaging with Scriptural texts, the organisations behind the document, entitled TTIP and Trade Justice, set out their major economic concerns about the negotiations: “TTIP is a deal that aims to remove ‘non-tariff barriers to trade’. There’s very little obstacle to trade between the EU and the US at present – tariffs are at an all-time low. But corporations, on both sides of the Atlantic, want to remove other rules and regulations that might be stopping them from making even bigger profits. The prospects for countries in the global south are bleak. Many enjoy preferential access to the European Union market, but TTIP threatens to undermine the benefits of that access and make it more difficult to export to the EU. Worse will follow if the deal is agreed, as TTIP will become the global standard for trade deals in the future and more power will shift to corporations and away from elected governments.”
Reflecting on Amos 8: 4-8 in TTIP and Trade Justice, Amelia Sutcliffe, of the United Reformed Church’s Commitment for Life programme, highlights how at the time of Amos the nation of Israel had become very rich, leading to a diminishing of justice and moral trade practices, and pointing out that for that reason Amos was called to address issues of trade injustice. Then again, turning to Ezekiel 28: 11-19, Dr Susan Durber, theological adviser to Christian Aid, describes the ancient city state of Tyre at its peak as having been “something like an equivalent in the ancient world of Manhattan Island in today’s New York City – fashionable, wealthy, enviable”, but goes on to indicate how it had been regarded as “complacent about its own wealth, unseeing of the needs of others, exploitative of surrounding communities and peoples”, and that for those reasons Ezekiel had condemned Tyre and foretold its destruction.
Bringing biblical and theological critical reflection to such a major contemporary issue as TTIP is important. The Bible speaks for today – it is not simply about how things were in bygone times. From what we know of TTIP, it seems like a kind of ‘existential moment’ for Europeans in terms of adopting an economic culture that is more American than European in approach. TTIP surely sounds alarm bells in terms of economic justice not only in the EU and the US but also for the global community.
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Letters to the Editor
THANK YOU for your report on the Bethany Home case (Gazette, 9th September). I would add the following points:
1. I want the Irish State to apologise to the Protestant Bethany Home Survivors as that did not happen in 1999. The 1999 Commission and the 2002 Redress Act, section 4.1, were not set up to deal with the Protestant question. It is on the official Dail and public record that only the Catholic “18 Holy Orders” were at the secret meeting with the then Minister for Education Michael Woods. Protestants were excluded and entirely unrepresented.
2. I also want the Church of Ireland to apologise to us and indeed all of the Protestant Churches in Ireland to do the same.
3. The little bit of acknowledgement from the Archbishop of Dublin of the Church of Ireland is more than all the other Church of Ireland Archbishops put together ever did for our case, but if anyone thinks that that little bit would have got the Bethany Home included in any commission, that would tell you they had no idea of what they were on about.
The few letters from the Archbishop to the Government, most of them not for any one else to see, did nothing to help the Bethany cause as we were included from the very beginning by virtue of my campaigning for 23 years and of my founding the Bethany Home Survivors group, writing two books, multiple Freedom of Information requests, blood, sweat, tears, and a Memorial for the 227 babies and children who died in Bethany, and plenty more besides.
This put our case on the political and public agenda. It may also be recalled that the issue highlighted by the Tuam 800 story in May 2014 was the issue of all Mother and Baby homes, including the Bethany Home; that was the issue that was on the public agenda and highlighted in the media. Had we not got our Memorial Stone erected, the very few letters sent by the Archbishop would not have done it. To be frank, what the Archbishop has done as far too little and far too late.
4. It is nothing short of a crime that the Government has included the Bethany Home in the current Inquiry into Mother and Baby homes while at the same time refusing to put the Bethany Home on a fast track to give the survivors the redress that they should have had in 2002. No country in Europe or the UK could have got away with it. We are a very, very small minority of no more than 1% and when the Inquiry is over, it will be able to tell us what we have already told them and the State.
It should be recalled that we were the only home to have the numerous Freedom of Information documents conclusively proving our case – the same F.O.I. documents that the Irish State claimed did not exist. The Irish State said that there were no records to do with the Protestant Bethany Home. They have been proved wrong. We were and still are being treated differently to Catholic survivors from Catholic Institutions.
The Government hoped that their endless time-wasting and stalling would see to it that we would all be dead before they had finally to face our case and before they finally got around to doing what they should have done in 2002. How many survivors have died during that time?
Impressions of one Gazette issue
NOT A week passes without my intention of writing to sing the praises of the Gazette but my life seems to be overloaded. However, your issue of 26th August is simply so packed with items that caught my eye – not least people whom I know – that at last I must put pen to paper.
I will top my comments by referring to Archbishop Clarke’s words of caution about Brexit, while all the time the cauldron bubbles.
The intricacies arising from the UK’s Brexit vote are so contorted that the English language and indeed just about every world language will no doubt be adding shorthand words to their lexicons for decades to come.
The Litany of the Church is likely to give rise to some new committees with sub- committees. The mind simply boggles at the job opportunities arising – politicians, legislators, even lexicographers and many other ‘-ographers’.
My 1952 (!) Concise Oxford Dictionary, when defining ‘lexicon’ gives this neat but rather restricted definition: “Dictionary, esp. of Greek, Hebrew, Syriac, or Arabic”.
This serendipitously brings us all full circle to world religions and thus to The Litany. I really do not know what’s next, nor can the Archbishop know – and not least for our cherished little island. However, the One
who does know is God. How comforting!
What did I see, but a Connor choir in “breathtaking” Chester Cathedral which I have visited on many occasions and attended services when visiting two of our children and their families. The entirety of the city and its environs are indeed breathtaking.
On the same page, I spotted at least one friendly familiar face, Bishop Ned Darling. Then, as I turn the page, I find the Revd Colin Hall-Thompson, a one-time neighbour in Belfast and now utterly immersed in the Mission to Seafarers.
This brings sharply into focus a long, happy family period when we six lived in Singapore, mainly in the 1960s. We used to attend the small Missions to Seamen chapel by the docks; the children loved to see the friendly retired sea captain with his parrot who lived in a caravan on the chapel forecourt.
On the facing page is the story of the Revd Robin Stockitt and his work with the families of those who have committed suicide when being smitten with dementia. Mention of this condition strikes through to my own heart.
The ‘Insight’ page about what Donald Trump has said about Muslims (et al.) rings many bells for me. In my almost 30 years working abroad, I have happily co-existed (mostly in their countries) with Muslims
and those of many other religions. They are just people like us, with families, whose route to God is not our route, be it by birth or by choice.
In particular, I grieve for the peoples of Lebanon and, above all, Syria, to virtually every corner in whose countries I travelled in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
Then I turned to page nine ‘Religion: Way of war or path to peace?’ – a WCC briefing.
This ties in so meaningfully with my last paragraph. Again, I am reminded of my postings to various parts of Africa, the Middle East and the Far East. What a series of utter messes to be righted …
Familiar faces appear elsewhere and in so many recent issues of the Gazette, like Dean Victor Griffin. Then, sadly, names of those who have died feature, such as Cecil Cooper (and Andy Willis) with both of whom I worked closely when I was Church of Ireland Press Officer 1972-1983 – also many wonderful bishops and archbishops and parish clergy whom it was my privilege to know.
I am now 90, just two months in age senior to the Queen. What an inspiration to all that lady is!
Alan S. Johnston Strangford Co. Down
MEDIEVAL ECCLESIASTICAL BUILDINGS IN IRELAND, 1789-1915: BUILDING ON THE PAST
Author: Niamh NicGhabhann Publisher: Four Courts Press
BEING DISCIPLES Author: Rowan Williams Publisher: SPCK
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