Irish Churches consider major ecumenical document on mission
Representatives of member- Churches within the Churches in Ireland Connecting in Christ (CICC) ecumenical grouping met last week, on Thursday 27th November, to deliberate together on the contents of the document recently issued by the World Council of Churches, Together Towards Life: Mission and Evangelism in Changing Landscapes.
Organized by CICC Executive Officer Mervyn McCullagh, the Inter-Church Meeting was jointly chaired by the President of the Irish Council of Churches, the Revd Dr Donald Watts (Presbyterian Church), and the Roman Catholic Bishop of Limerick, the Most Revd Brendan Leahy.
CHRISTIANS IN PAKISTAN
The Anglican Communion News Service has reported that Christians in Pakistan are anxious that the persecution they have experienced to date may be “just the tip of the iceberg”, adding that, in the latest newsletter from the Diocese of Peshawar, a list of 22 incidents of violence against Christians in the country since 2013 accompanied a warning that “things are likely to get worse” because of the possibility of the presence in Pakistan of the extremist group called ‘Daesh’ (also known as Islamic State/ISIS).
The ACNS report continued: “Along with the 2013 twin suicide bombing of All Saints’ Church, Peshawar – that killed 119 people and injured many more – the writer compiled other attacks on Christians in Pakistan from information provided by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.
These included an assassination attempt on a Christian lawyer in Lahore; a 58-year-old man killed for allegedly blaspheming Islam; shops belonging to Christians in Islamabad being burned down; several people being killed for converting to Christianity; and Christian girls raped and, in some instances, forced to convert to Islam. The most recent incident was the burning of a Christian couple, Shahzad and Shama Bibi, in a brick kiln following trumped up blasphemy charges.”
Notwithstanding this appalling record, Bishop Munawar Rumalshah, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Peshawar, told a press conference: “The Christians of Pakistan are law-abiding citizens, and they respect other people’s beliefs. Christians believe in peaceful co-existence of different religions and always play a proactive and positive role for interfaith harmony in the region.”
Earlier, the Church of Pakistan said that the beating and burning of the Christian couple in a brick kiln had been a crime motivated by revenge after a disagreement over a debt rather than any blasphemy against Islam on the part of the young parents. Raheel Sharoon, development officer of the Diocese of Raiwind, said: “The real story is that the owner of the brick kiln, Yousaf Gujjar, lent some money to the couple and when he asked for the money to be returned, there was a confrontation, since the majority of brick kiln workers cannot return their loans in cash but do it by working at the brick kiln. After which, he started spreading rumours of desecration of the Holy Qur’an.”
The presence of Daesh in Pakistan is particularly disturbing, given the well-documented atrocities of ISIS, as it is also known, over recent months. The Archbishop of Canterbury visited Pakistan in May and said he had been “appalled to hear and see evidence of the hatred, violence and persecution” that Christians faced across the country. In a statement issued last September, on the first anniversary of the Peshawar bombing, Archbishop Welby called for prayer “that those who suffer persecution will know relief; that those who do harm will know justice; and that all people – both our friends or our enemies – will know God’s peace and love in Jesus Christ”.
These are indeed priorities for prayer. We, who live in very different circumstances from those in distant Pakistan, must keep to the forefront of our thoughts those who suffer so unimaginably for their faith.
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Letters to the Editor
Select Committee on Human Sexuality listening process
May I, through The Church of Ireland Gazette, thank all who have contributed to the listening process undertaken by the Select Committee on Issues of Human Sexuality in the context of Christian Belief, following an advertisement earlier this year.
There have been written submissions made to the committee and more than 20 meetings have been held throughout Ireland, resulting in a considerable amount of valuable testimony.
All of this material will be available to the committee and a distillation is being prepared as part of the overall study guide that is in the process of production. That is the formal part of the specifically advertised listening programme completed.
However, and this is where I wish to add a personal comment that is shared by Helen McClenaghan, vice-chair of the Select Committee, as either one of us was present at all but three of the meetings, there is an even deeper sense of gratitude which we wish to express.
During the course of three months, individuals have generously shared with us part of their faith journey, in fact, part of their lives; different views have been expressed; varied backgrounds and experiences have been opened to us, and that has proven to be not only a rich and humbling source of personal testimony but has also revealed on many occasions a deep spiritual awareness and vibrant and outward-looking commitment, fostered devotionally and scripturally, to the needs of the society and world of which we are a part.
I have found this to be immensely encouraging and hopeful as a member of the Church of Ireland. As we continue to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ and seek to retain that unity for which he prayed, I will, as I am challenged to think through difficult issues, give thanks for those who have been prepared to be part of the listening process and have given me, personally, much to dwell on as the Select Committee continues its work.
Such experiences affect us within and enrich our lives. Thank you.
John Mann (The Very Revd) The Deanery 5 Deramore Drive Belfast BT9 5JQ
Luyengo Farm project
The Gazette issue of 14th November, page 5, carried the story of the carrot washer, built in Tralee and destined for Luyengo Farm, Swaziland. This machine will be shipped to Swaziland early in the new year and the best method of shipping will be inside a container.
It seems wrong not to take advantage of whatever space remains inside that container.
As a one-off request, we are asking for donations of children’s story books (not text books) in new or excellent condition. Each book should be accompanied by €1 or £1, which will go towards the cost of shipping.
Also welcome will be donations of children’s new shoes, again with a contribution towards shipping. A generous donation of 200 pairs of new Wellington boots for the farm has already been received and they will go into the container.
The farm has a requirement for very specific pieces of farm machinery and we should be grateful to hear from anyone who feels they can assist with this.
I will be happy to provide more information if required.
Linda Chambers The United Society Egan House St Michan’s Church Church Street Dublin 7 tel. 086-858 6337 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
A Church family, Remembrance Day and the Prayer Book
Three brothers from Ballintoy, Co. Antrim, joined the Army to fight for their country in the First World War. One was the Revd John Donnelly from the parish of Innisrush near Portglenone. Of the other two brothers, one died in an accident in the Fleet Air Arm and one survived.
The Revd John Donnelly had two sessions at the Front, including fighting at the Battle of the Somme, from where he sent home letters written in pencil.
A happy outcome of his service in the war was that this young rector met and married a young girl from Jarrow in the North East of England and proudly brought her back to his parish in Ireland.
She came to a fairly remote and dangerous place in 1919, when Civil War was raging, but she was brave, cycled round the country on her bicycle and did her best to fit in.
The marriage brought a son in 1920 and a daughter in 1921. Then tragedy struck. This strong, young man was laid low by that scourge of the trenches, the poisonous vapours of enemy gas. He died leaving a widow and two infants of one and two years of age. In those days, this clergy widow had six weeks to vacate the rectory, with no relations nearby at a difficult political time.
I think that, until now, I didn’t really appreciate what she went through, but she found a simple cottage to live in – all she could afford – and successfully brought her children up, her son becoming a Church of Ireland rector himself.
I was lucky to marry him and we had three sons, but I know my husband often reflected on the father he never knew.
I have told here of the effects on one Church of Ireland family who fought in the Great War for what they believed in. Imagine this number magnified to thousands all over Ireland.
We justly remember them with love and gratitude. This was done in many Remembrance Day services and it was great to see the Republic of Ireland joining this year’s United Kingdom celebrations.
A report in the 14th November Gazette drew attention to the fact that, unlike the Alternative Prayer Book of 1984, the latest Prayer Book (2004) has left out any mention of Remembrance Day – and, indeed, the Commonwealth [also Letter, Gazette, 21st November].
The excuse given to the Gazette for omitting mention of Remembrance Day was that the committee compiling services did not have some research which was needed at the time, so the Prayer Book was printed without including it. However, could the existing mention in the APB not have been used?
We were told that Remembrance Day may be included in a reprint of the Prayer Book and hopefully whatever is agreed can be used before there is an actual reprinting – which clearly could be quite a while yet.
Maureen Donnelly Clough Co. Down
Importance of pastoral care in episcopal ministry
My heart took a small leap as I read the words, “… to underpin the support of bishops for their clergy”, in the ‘Standing Committee News’ (Gazette, 28th November).
I do not recall such a phrase in connection with the Commission on Episcopal Ministry and Structures, not even the time-honoured phrase, ‘Father in God’, which may be considered old fashioned, but, for my money, does what it says on the tin.
There is no more important ministry for bishops than pastoral care for “their” clergy and clergy families, even to the extent of candidly, gently, but firmly, discussing their possible movement to a different position within the diocese if that would be to the benefit of the parishes or positions concerned, to the diocese at large and would not be of disadvantage pastorally to the clergyperson(s) involved. I mean bishops taking the initiative in discussion, not coercion.
Of course, all of us clergy, never mind bishops, need to improve our managerial and leadership skills, but there is nobody else in a better or theologically more correct position than bishops to care for their clergy and clergy families. They are a bishop’s paramount concern – before all else.
This is not to deny a bishop, especially if weak in this ministry (in my experience, some have been) the opportunity to use trained and skilled people to assist with the pastoral task. However, the buck must stop with the bishop.
Please, please do not let the final report of the Commission fall short on this aspect of the Episcopate.
Colin Hall-Thompson (The Revd) Belmont Belfast BT4
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