Monday, September 30, 2013

Why do Muslim terrorists slaughter less devout Muslims?

Islamic terrorists are curious things. Not content with killing Christians and Jews, they also seem keen to slaughter their less-devout fellow Muslims.

We weep for our Christian brothers and sisters who had their lives tragically snuffed out in Pakistan and Kenya: we are commanded to pray for our fellow believers who are imprisoned or endure persecution. And yet there are many scriptures which exhort us to pray for all those who suffer, of whatever race or creed. They are all our neighbour.

The zealous Muslims of Boko Haram ("the Congregation of the People of Tradition for Proselytism and Jihad") in Nigeria deem their lukewarm brothers worthy of death, and so they assaulted an agricultural college and gunned down dozens of students, aged 18-22, as they slept in their dorms.

"They started gathering students into groups outside, then they opened fire and killed one group and then moved onto the next group and killed them. It was so terrible," one surviving student told Reuters.

"They attacked our students while they were sleeping in their hostels, they opened fire at them," Provost Molima Idi Mato of Yobe State College of Agriculture, told The Associated Press.

Almost all of those killed were Muslims. Those who had to identify the dead were Muslims. Those who now wail and mourn their loss are Muslims. Those who have to live their lives in the shadows of this horror are Muslims.

In the picture above, one student has his fists clenched to his chest, in seeming self-defence; another has his arms raised, apparently in surrender; yet another has his hands clasped under his chin, as if in prayer.

Boko Haram aims to establish an Islamic state in northern Nigeria. The Christian south needs to be 'cleansed', and the north encouraged to become more 'pure'; ie to adopt the precepts and practices of the Boko Haram sharia school of Islam. The group has developed something of a habit of attacking schools and colleges - where 'Western' educators of any faith are executed, and the youngest pupils often burned alive. It isn't only the churches - though these are also attacked and their priests and pastors tortured and killed.

“Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of (Islam), (even if they are) of the People of the Book (Christians)" (Sura 9:29).

There is not much 'Religion of Peace' for those whose vocation is to exterminate the non-believer. And for Boko Haram that includes those who are infected by the Western world (including anyone who agitates for democracy). And all assessment of that infection is carried out by Boko Haram. There is no trial, no judgment and no appeal. Punishment is summarily meted out - even if you're an imam.

Because some Muslims believe and some Islamic clerics teach that "Islam is known to be a religion of peace and does not accept violence and crime in any form." Ergo Boko Haram does not represent Islam.

Let us leave that debate today for the theologians and jurists of Islam. And let us Christians weep with those who weep, and pray for those all over the world who are persecuted, tortured and murdered for their faith (or lack of it).

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Margaret Thatcher "gave the Conservative Party intelligence and committed leadership"

What she would never have done would have been to use taxpayers' money to manipulate the property market. It is manifestly statist to devote £12 billion of other people's hard-earned cash to guarantee the mortgages of 200,000 in order to bypass the caution of lenders to stimulate house-buying. The doctrine of Thatcherism no more entertains this than it does spending taxpayers' money to create jobs. It is businesses, enterprise and innovation that create jobs: it is building societies and banks that lend money for people to buy houses, and they should exercise caution and lend wisely. When they throw caution to the wind, they go bust (or should).

Margaret Thatcher understood the value and force of the market. As Lord Flight said yesterday, this mortgage guarantee is "unwise" and will "end in tears". Eds Milliband and Balls haven't condemned it entirely because it is precisely the sort of state intervention that they see as having moral force. But many Conservatives will view this as a moral hazard zenith.

Or nadir.

It’s hard to tell if this unmitigated folly is a high or a low: His Grace is unsure of the unit of measurement or if a negative quantity is beneficial or detrimental. Either way, the proposal for the taxpayer to underwrite 95% mortgages is an offence against all that is moral, just and right. It amounts to the taxpayer-enforced insuring of the individual against incautious investment. No longer caveat emptor, but screwat taxpayor.

The proposal is aimed at first-time buyers. David Cameron wants to help 200,000 of them to get a foot on the first rung of the housing ladder by providing a mortgage indemnity scheme. At a time of increasing national debt and growing budget deficit (ie failing Coalition policy), the Government is intent on restoring 95% loan-to-value mortgages to improve affordability and inject some life into the housing market.

It is difficult to conceive of a more peccable policy than one which lures you into a state of maximum indebtedness at a punitive rate of interest, especially when debts of such gargantuan proportions built on the shifting sand of inflated property prices were largely responsible for the global credit crunch and the state we’re in. This time, instead of financial institutions selling on the risk of sub-prime mortgages to an ever-cascading carousel of private banks, the taxpayer will act as guarantor of last resort.

As with the bank bailouts, the shareholder (homeowner) takes the profit in times of plenty, but the poor taxpayer takes the hit in the lean years. It is even more invidious when you consider that those who take out these 95% loans will be subject to a higher rate of interest than those who are deemed to present less of a risk: the repayments will be arduous and the emotional costs very high. This is simply piling Pelion upon Ossa. At these thresholds, the ‘dream of home ownership’ can rapidly become a nightmare trap of negative equity and unsalability: the Englishman’s castle becomes his dungeon. House prices are not guaranteed to go on rising in perpetuity: the easier-credit bubble will surely burst, just as it has always done. It is as if we have learned nothing from Gordon Brown’s economic innumeracy.

Of course, Conservatives favour home ownership: Margaret Thatcher heralded a revolution in the property-owning democracy with the sale of council homes to tenants. But these were massively discounted in recognition of decades of paid rent: they were sold at significantly less than their market value, and so presented no financial risk to the buyer. She was, as ever, mindful of the market, famously noting that it cannot be bucked.

The Bishop of Manchester-designate, David Walker, said: “Help to Buy is like tackling a food shortage by issuing food vouchers rather than getting more crops planted”. And he is quite right. If any shift were needed, it is either in increasing the building of social housing or in dispelling the shame associated with renting. The Royal Family rents; the Archbishop of Canterbury rents. What is this Tory fixation with owning that which the market determines you cannot yet afford?

David Cameron is taking an enormous risk with this policy: he is not only gambling that current property prices will be sustained; he is attempting to ‘buck the market’ by encouraging would-be home owners to a level of indebtedness beyond what the market believes is advisable, desirable, sustainable or moral. Lenders are cautious because they have just learned (the hard way) that debts must be secured. When they are not, you enter into the Looking Glass economics of Wonderland. The Lady will be turning in her grave.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The ethical Church-Bank of England

The Church of England has acquired a bank. Well, the Vatican's got one, so why not?

The Church Commissioners for England confirmed that as part of a consortium of investors they will be partnering with Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) to create a leading challenger bank from 314 RBS branches across the UK.

Gosh. The Church of England is once again to become a 'leading challenger' in something.

The confirmation follows the decision of the board of RBS to favour the bid of a consortium which includes the Corsair Capital investment fund, Centerbridge Partners and the Commissioners to create a new bank with a focus on ethical standards and servicing the needs of retail and SME customers.

The new bank, to be called Williams and Glyn’s (W&G), will be a vigorous challenger in UK business and retail banking sector with a projected 5% market share of the small and medium sized enterprise (SME) and mid-corporate banking markets, and a 2% share of UK personal current accounts. Williams & Glyn's origins date back to 1753 and the name has been dormant for almost 30 years.

A bit like the Church of England.

Revival and resurrection are always welcome.

But His Grace would rather this new Lambeth Bank had been called Justin's & Glyn's, for the impetus for its foundation certainly came from the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Independent notes that he has become "a major figure in the struggle to reshape Britain's banking sector due to his position on the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards. He clashed with RBS's chief executive, Stephen Hester, last November in the role, asking: 'What is the duty of an enormous bank like yours – approaching 100 per cent of GDP, well into the hundreds of billions of pounds – what is your duty to society, and why didn't you mention it?'"

The Archbishop of Canterbury is still a member of the Banking Standards Commission which was established to investigate the culture and performance of banking in the United Kingdom, and to make recommendations for a new banking act. With a background in business, he is perhaps uniquely placed to comments upon the behaviour of the financial markets. He observed last year in his Zurich speech to financiers:
In the case of the financial markets and infrastructure of the world, what has been obliterated is not physical, plant, property and equipment, but confidence. There is no longer confidence in banks as safe, in banks as virtuous, or in bankers as being part of the same world as the rest of us and with the same values and desires as the rest of us. That loss of confidence may be unfair, in many cases I would argue that it is, but it is a reality.
According to the bankers, the financial crash was brought on by 'an unfortunate moment of carelessness'. According to the people, the only response is 'à la lanterne' (a reference to the French revolutionary lynching of the nobility and the clergy from a lamp post). Whatever the reaction and wherever the truth, the Archbishop is of the view that 'too much effort is going into putting Humpty back together again, and it can't happen'. He expounded his own observation of the cause:
Activity without purpose is anarchy. It may not look like anarchy, it may in fact be very well organised anarchy but unless it has a serious and clear purpose activity is merely random. One of the biggest faults in the pre 2008 financial markets was essentially they were exponents of anarchy in this sense. They involved wild and frantic activity, often by exceptionally intelligent people, working very long hours, but they had no socially useful purpose. The industry was referred to as financial services, but in fact it served nothing. In the UK, where most of it was housed, SME's (small and medium-sized enterprises) still struggled to find finance, although they were based within close reach of the largest financial centre in the world. Martin Wolf, the Financial Times columnist, said in 2009 that the UK suffered from having a 'mono crop economy'. By that he meant, that like Nigeria with oil the UK had finance. Far from being the goose that laid the golden egg, it was in fact the cuckoo in the nest that pushed all the other fledgling industries out to die. The same can be said of much finance in other places around the world. Certainly, it was true of the hedge fund industry in the United States, and of much dealing activity across Europe and in the Far East. Finance had become a feature of its own, rather than anything with intrinsic value.
This new bank will be a serving bank. Andreas Whittam Smith, first estates commissioner, said: “The Church Commissioners are excited to have the opportunity to be involved in creating a U.K. challenger bank operating to the highest ethical standards and giving consumers more choice. We are delighted that the Royal Bank of Scotland recognised the strengths of our bid and the consortium’s vision, and have chosen the consortium as their preferred bidder.”

Andrew Brown, Secretary to the Church Commissioners, said: “This is a great opportunity for the Commissioners to invest in an exciting opportunity for the benefit of the serving and retired clergy, bishops, cathedrals and the wide work of the Church of England throughout the country especially in areas of need and opportunity.”

The Church Commissioners for England are responsible for managing a well-diversified investment portfolio with the aim of producing returns to support the Church of England’s work across the country. They manage an investment fund of some £5.5 billion, held mainly in a diversified portfolio including equities, real estate and alternative investment strategies. The Commissioners’ work today supports the Church of England as a Christian presence in every community.

The annual objectives of the Church Commissioners include:

• A return on investments of RPI +5%
• Supporting poorer dioceses with ministry costs
• Providing funds to support mission activities
• Paying for bishops’ ministry and some cathedral costs
• Administering the legal framework for pastoral reorganisation and settling the future of closed church buildings
• Paying clergy pensions for service prior to 1998
• Running the national payroll for serving and retired clergy

Might things go wrong? Of course they may, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. There will be those who will pore over every investment made and the handling of every private account to ensure that they reflects their reading of a 'biblical worldview'. His Grace will now look into transferring his meagre stipend from the unethical sharks to ++Justin's "new bank with a focus on ethical standards". Now all we need is an advertising jingle for this venture to prosper. How about:

Church of England - the Bank that likes to say Bless?

Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors?

Over to you..

Friday, September 27, 2013

Michael Gove and the care of vulnerable children

From Brother Ivo:

When Michael Gove raised his deep disquiet at the way “confidentiality of data” had been restrictively administered, to the detriment of child protection, he did good service to the young within Local Authority care. No doubt he will hold meetings, ask questions and issue instructions.

He is an intellectually rigorous man, and Brother Ivo hopes that he will begin to appreciate that such difficulties arise within a wider context, both within his Department’s culture, and that of our society. Both need to be changed, which is easier said than done. Our public care for vulnerable children is not yielding happy or cost effective results, and Mr Gove will need to dig deep and think harder if he wishes to uncover the full extent of our failures and develop the changes necessary to advance the interests of the young.

The Secretary of State's outrage was triggered when he learnt that his own Department had difficulty in identifying the localities of children’s homes for which it was responsible, whereas the paedophile networks had managed to construct links to ensure that the information they needed was readily available and passed between them countrywide for their vile purposes.

"Mr Gove described a situation where it was very difficult to gather basic information about care homes and the children in them. He said he believed this could have hindered the police and helped individuals and groups seeking to harm children.”

“In the name of 'protecting children' by officially 'protecting' their information, we had ended up helping the very people we were supposed to be protecting them from.”
Mr Gove is characteristically blunt, and yet because he does not have direct experience in this area, he has yet to grapple with the other dimensions of the problem.

Not only have well-meaning 'confidentiality' principles compromised the safety of young people, so have 'Children’s Rights'.

Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan. Our children are being let down by our public interventions in their lives, but this deficiency is not just a failure of administration; neither is it a consequence of insufficiently defined targets or performance indicators. It is a signifier of a much wider neglect of childhood brought about by many who have sought to re-define family values and what it means to be a child.

Even in the best regulated families, childhood has changed. Our little ones have a very different experience of nurture from their parents and grandparents: they may not have prolonged care by their mothers and extended family during infancy; their parents have become more motivated to ‘fulfill themselves', which may mean extended time at work and a greater readiness to bail out of troubled marriages, if they ever had them. To compensate our children for these losses, we have offered them extended public interventions and 'Rights'.

“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?” Jesus once asked. We might bear this in mind as we see what responses we make to the young.

When families fall into stress and inadequacy - which they do for a variety of accidental and cultural reasons - young people suffer from the inability of their parents to prioritise for them. Responsible parenting gets lost as parents fall out, fail, and give up.

Biological parents are supplanted by statutory interventions, and yet what our authorities offer is all too often little better.

The child who is removed often suffers through that removal whether or not he or she was physically or sexually abused or neglected. We are becoming aware that soldiers returning from war zones often suffer disorientation when they return to a peaceful environment, even when coming home to their families.

It should not therefore surprise us that when we remove children whose personalities are still under formation, they have similar problems. Even if their homes have been inadequate, there is still a bereavement, and removals usually overlook a wise principle: “When making changes in children’s lives, make them one at a time.”

A removal often involves a change of school and locality, the loss of friends, and sometimes sibling separation. Often the 'befriending' social worker who changed your life is relocated to another case within months.

The younger child can usually be managed more easily, and many of these are placed with foster carers. But there is a nationwide lack of foster parents, partly because local authorities do not always treat them fairly or with sensitivity.

It is hard enough to recruit them for the very young, but inevitably when foster homes are sought for the most rebellious, truculent, and aggressive adolescent, that is a more difficult prospect. The more troubled children can pass through multiple carers with incremental losses compounding the problems with every move. Carers skilled in managing such children are in especially short supply and institutional care at massive public expense can become the only option.

Caring for just under 5000 children in private care homes is costing £1billion per year.

Often these children are placed far from home. Sometimes this is for good and understandable reason: children may need to be removed from abusive families, drug dealer networks, or gang cultures. Unsurprisingly, a combination of isolation and association with other children in difficulty within such homes provides a context in which the deceptively friendly paedophile makes his appearance.

Often, these children will have experienced not only removal from family and friends, but multiple failed foster placements and multiple social workers. They have become difficult to manage administrative problems. They may not cry out “I am not a number”, but that is how they will feel. Ill-equipped to make good choices for themselves, the older children frequently become self-contained, suspicious, and self-assertive. Why wouldn’t they?

What few outside this world of public childcare understand is that these institutions - which are providing some of the most expensive child care in the country (several times the cost of Eton) - can struggle to attempt to contain the children with any degree of parental authority.

If a child becomes so disruptive and uncontrollably at risk, one moves to yet another level of institution (and expense) within 'Secure Accommodation'. Only here the doors are locked. Getting a child behind a locked door - the better to keep him or her safe - is not easy. It requires a court order and an expensive legal process which is regularly reviewed. Local authorities under financial pressure regard this as a last resort.

This raises the question of why all our institutional children’s homes not 'secure'?

The shameful answer is 'Children’s Rights'.

In the same way that the high-minded principles of data protection permitted the obstruction of the Secretary of State's ability to identify the risky areas and plan accordingly, so the consequences of human rights activism has its unacknowledged dark and dirty side in the neglect and exploitation of the poor.

Nobody wants to own responsibility for this consequence of the human rights culture.

While the costs of residential care may be astronomically high, the residential social worker is a lowly-paid and much undervalued cog in the wheel. Having been given the responsibility to live with and manage difficult children, they have been given no power to impede the coming and going of young adolescents, and in the high profile cases of organised abuse, they have spoken of their anger and frustration as they watched young girls getting into taxis, knowing what was happening, and impotent to interfere. Some sense that managers of budgets have effectively given up trying to contain such youngsters.

We live in a rights culture. That should in no way be confused with a protective culture, a nurturing culture, or a responsible one.

It is not only the organised older men who exploit these troubled adolescents. They form sexual relationships with those of their own age which often lack affirming love. Often this begins under the statutory age of consent, but who cares about that anymore?

Brother Ivo does, for he has encountered one such young woman who described how her multiple sexual partners delivered no sense of exclusive intimacy or self esteem. It was only when a boyfriend became jealous and hit her that she felt any sense of being 'special'.

Few will articulate the problem so clearly, but it may offer a clue as to why the average woman who suffers domestic abuse tolerates 27 assaults before concluding that something needs to be done to stop it.

Why is this problem seemingly growing?

Brother Ivo suggests that it started to go seriously wrong when the courts decided to reject Victoria Gillick’s attempts to protect her children from unlawful under-age sexual intercourse, with the result that parents are no longer alerted when their children seek to be prescribed contraception. The arrival of the non-judgmental school counsellor further reduced parental controls, as did the virtual abandonment of enforcing the age of consent.

The Gillick legal decision thought in terms of a minority of cases where a young person was responsible enough to make such a medical decision for herself, but, as with abortion, a free-for-all followed. Who now seriously bothers to challenge the wishes and feelings of any middle adolescent in these matters? The school? The social worker? Our culture?

Brother Ivo knows a primary school teacher who watched a nine-year-old storm out of school when the headmaster refused to allow her to come to the classroom dressed as jail-bait. On the way out she asserted her 'human right' to dress as she pleased.

There are two telling sentences in the summary of the Gillick story:
“The House of Lords focused on the issue of consent rather than a notion of 'parental rights' or parental powers.”
One Judge explained:
“..the authority of parents to make decisions for their minor children is not absolute, but diminishes with the child's evolving maturity; except in situations that are regulated otherwise by statute, the right to make a decision on any particular matter concerning the child shifts from the parent to the child when the child reaches sufficient maturity to be capable of making up his or her own mind on the matter requiring decision.”
We saw there the crippling of traditional parental authority which was replaced by the judgments of the State. What could possibly go wrong?

Doubtless mature, informed decision-making by intelligent, articulate young women all plays out very well in Primrose Hill, but we now see the consequences of such liberal reasoning in the inner city estates where multiple deprivations might have been survivable if strong families subsisted. With family breakdown and dissolved parental authority, we see the children of the poor betrayed. A stroppy youngster with human-rights rhetoric on his or her side is beyond the containment of many a struggling single parent.

Families used to be able to point to a societal 'line in the sand', confident that if they asserted a prohibition, society would support them. That age of consent, that right to know if a child was becoming sexually active, that right to enforce a curfew time, each was a useful weapon in the arsenal of the parent, helping them to discharge their responsibility to protect their child, sometimes from themselves, often within a dangerous environment.

Yet if biological parents no longer have knowledge or control over risks to their under-age children, why should we expect any different from the State when it acquires the role of 'Parental Responsibility'?

Many of the youngsters who are being drugged and gang raped have little self esteem, which is why they are so vulnerable to the slightest show of affection and interest. Often this begins with absent parents, usually fathers, but throughout the culture from their earliest years there has been a “Do what you like” message, and the endowment of 14-year-olds with a false sense of maturity.

This sounds liberal and liberating, but when it has been the underlying theme throughout your childhood, it has a profoundly depressing outcome.

An infant finds the world a very scary place. From the outset it looks to its family for nurture and protection. Above all, it wants boundaries, for within the boundaries, love, safeguarding and a sense of worth can grow. If you are constantly extending your hand towards a boundary that gives way, you begin to realise that not only are you not able to keep yourself safe, nobody is taking that responsibility.

The young adolescent, egged on by media and peers, may act confident, but the insecurities remain: human rights and legal rights are no substitute for what has been lost.

This is especially the tragedy of the child of the underclass within state care; they are overwhelmingly the victims of those who sneered at Victoria Gillick.

Our society thinks the dispensing of money shows how much we care. We are spending huge sums at present for poor value to all concerned, and doubtless some will advocate for more. Paying money while witholding what these children really need is actually the intellectually cheap and uncaring alternative.

However much Brother Ivo may sound like a dinosaur to Nick Clegg, our current uncaring cold-as-charity abuse of our young people will look every bit as bad to future generations as the abuse of the Magdalene Laundries.

The double tragedy for these young people is that when they have reached adulthood and leave public care, their expensive 'education' will disproportionately lead them to populate the cohorts of the alcoholic, the prisoner, the unemployed, the drug addicted, the homeless and the mentally ill. They will also be more likely to suffer the heartache of their children being removed as the whole cycle repeats itself.

The disturbing picture at the top of the page graphically portrays what our publicly declared 'compassionate liberal' society actually delivers through its values and the expensive care system to the children of the poor.

If any commercial organisation consistently delivered damaged goods at such prices, we would prosecute them under Consumer Protection legislation.

Mr Gove has his work cut out.

Brother Ivo is the Patron Saint of Lawyers.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Archbishop Justin: Peshawar martyrs cry out for justice

Yesterday, the Archbishop of Canterbury gave an interview to BBC Radio 4's 'World at One', in which he drew attention to the fact that Christians in Peshawar spoke of forgiveness even as they were 'crying out' for justice after Sunday's suicide bombings:
But he added that Christians in Peshawar are also ‘crying out vigorously’ for justice and protection following the worst attack on Christians in Pakistan’s history. The attack, which was launched as people were leaving Sunday Mass, killed 85 people and injured more than 120.

The Archbishop added that we have seen ‘more than 80 martyrs’ in Peshawar in the last few days. "They have been attacked because they were testifying to their faith in Jesus Christ by going to church. And that is outside any acceptable expression, in any circumstances for any reason, of religious difference," he said.

He continued: "When you look at what Christians teach, we are deeply committed to justice - we pray for justice for the victims, justice to be established. But Jesus, at his crucifixion, prayed also for those who were ill treating him. And that has been the pattern of Christian witness throughout the centuries."
Extending this doctrine of God to the appalling atrocity in Kenya, all this was faithfully reported by the Daily Mail. But the comment thread beneath was illuminating:
Why is it that all the Archbishops we get are so clearly nuts!

He's in his own little world and so far removed from real peoples' lives it's scary.

Yep,.. Just Like Cameron.... Roll on the Elections....!

I pray that the terrorists live in an eternal hell and burn there. I am not religious but this man should be removed from office as he is not fit for purpose.

Is it a pre-requisite that every AofC be an insensitive out-of touch buffoon? Whilst being in line with Christian teaching, surely forgiveness and prayers would be for the relatives of victims to decide themselves. It really isn't his place to say such a thing and can only compound the suffering of those relatives who feel that they could never forgive such an act - which most people would understand in these circumstances.

Anyone wonder why people aren't Christians anymore and why the churches are mostly empty buildings?

Welby needs to live in the real world.

No wonder the Anglican Church is falling apart. There is no moral direction left in either politics or religion nowadays. Our unelected, so-called leaders are all trying to show how wonderful they are, which is not what it is all about.

Bloody bible bashers saying pray for the sick and twisted terrorists?! Don't think so! Pray for the poor people who have lost their lives and the ones who were terrified stuck in the mall.

Is he for real

I wouldn't have thought it possible but this one is actually far worse than the last one.

Justin Welby may have been more suited staying in the city and not gone into the church.

Time was when the church had courage and direction and could give guidance. This clown is so full of pc nonsense we all just drift along

Who is this idiot trying to kid??

Is it any wonder that church goers are dwindling. Stupid man.

Well done Welby, talking to your hands is such an empty gesture.

Does the Archbishop of Canterbury really support Christianity?
In their indignation at the counter-intuitive teachings of Jesus and cynical condemnation of the faithful witness of the Archbishop of Canterbury, this baying horde is no different from those who cried "Crucify him!" in Jerusalem 2000 years ago. They leap to judgment, but their minds are darkened. No doubt Archbishop Justin will forgive them their ignorance of the Christian gospel, for they know not what they say.

But they should not detract from the witness of these Christian martyrs - in Pakistan and Kenya and all over what is often termed 'the Muslim world'. There are now pictures available online of Christians being beheaded in Maaloula, Syria, for refusing to renounce their faith in Christ. His Grace has seen them, and cannot bring himself to link - such is the horror of the terror. We really have no idea. But we must cry out on their behalf for justice.

So speak out, Justin, servant of Jesus Christ, for you have been sent as one seeking the grace of God to travel with these martyrs in His service together. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Christians should resist cynicism about politicians

From Father Silas:

If you were to ask the average member of the public what he or she thinks of politicians, it’s pretty safe bet that you wouldn’t hear anything remotely positive. Although the British are not alone in this, we have, as a nation, an abject regard for those who go into politics. We mistrust their motives, we doubt their sincerity, we sneer at their every utterance regardless of whether it be an expression of high-minded philosophical intent or an assurance of fellow-feeling with the governed. We don’t believe them. They steal from us via bogus expense claims. They keep smutty little secrets while lecturing us on morality. They are incapable of giving a straight answer to a straight question. With a few honourable exceptions, they are not interested in us or our struggles. All they want is our votes to keep them in their private club by the Thames. Oh, and our money, obviously.

I’m pretty confident that this is what is called cynicism. According to the OED, to be cynical is to be “distrustful or incredulous of human goodness and sincerity”. It is to assume the lowest motive for any act or expression or ambition or desire. To be a cynic is always to suppose one’s fellow creatures incapable of altruism, philanthropy and selflessness. At some level, says the cynic, they are out for themselves, because that is what human beings are like. And that is what they are like, of course. But that is not all they are like.

What do we think persuades people to go into local government or Parliament? Do they do it for prestige, fame or fortune? Some of them, perhaps. But a desire for any of those things does not, of itself, condemn a person to outer darkness. It sits awkwardly (to say the least) with the Christian principle of denial of self and the primary love of God and neighbour; but it is hard to find many things that are pure in that regard. It may make such a person unattractive as a representative or legislator; but the electorate has the answer to that in its own hands.

However hard we struggle to accept it, there is evidence that low or selfish personal motivation does not necessarily eclipse all other, more admirable, qualities. It is entirely possible for someone who is motivated by a desire for his own comfort to care about the discomfort of others. One who sets out to benefit himself at public expense may nonetheless turn out to be a force for good on the public stage. Yet my suspicion is that few politicians are so motivated. Most start with a belief that the world can be a better place, and a conviction of how it can be made so. They may feel called to, or work towards, or arrive by chance at, a point at which they are personally able to move this belief forward. That is politics. Once they have gripped the greasy pole, their better or worse characteristics may come to the fore, but they are neither all good nor all bad. It is true that those who climb further, or who serve those at the top, are more liable to the corruption of power; but they remain human, always capable of better. This is the lesson of Damian McBride’s memoirs. Listen to what Telegraph blogger, Dan Hodges, says about that:
“Anyone who thinks Tony Blair or Gordon Brown or those who worked for them were quintessentially evil doesn’t understand government, and how it really works. It is not populated by political innocents. It is a car crash of power and ambition and jealousy and hope and pride and bravery and cowardice and triumph and failure. In other words, it is populated by ordinary men and women, with all the flaws that implies.”
That is as near to an exegesis of the Doctrine of Original Sin as I suspect we shall hear from any political commentator this conference season. Pride and ambition are neutral, since they can be for good or ill. But note the presence of bravery and hope alongside jealousy and cowardice. The point is that politicians, like the rest of us, are human and fallen. Their world, like ours, “is populated by ordinary men and women, with all the flaws that implies”. Quite right, Dan. We are all capable of good and bad. To see or assume only the bad is cynicism; it is not fully human; and it is a condition of mind which the Christian is thus called to resist.

Father Silas is an undistinguished (he says) priest and deacon of the Church of England who loves it in spite of everything.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Damian McBride - you reap what you sow

The ubiquitous and effervescent Mr Harry Cole tweeted last night that Jeremy Paxman was "not really landing a single blow on McBride". Paxo's lugubrious arrogance notwithstanding, it is difficult to "land a blow" on a chastened, humbled and conscience-stricken man, even one who is basically peddling a book. And for all McBride's sins - and they are legion - his persona is penitent, stable and generous; his psychology is essentially that of learned helplessness.

Damian McBride stands accused of dragging British politics into the gutter, and he pleads guilty - unconditionally so. The opening words of Chapter 2 of his book Power Trip are: "I wasn't always a nasty bastard." But even being a bastard, he is aware that his actions aggravated, hurt, caused offence and took their toll on many innocent people.

And he is sorry. He is now trying to rebuild his life. Indeed, following his resignation as Gordon Brown's Special Adviser / Head of Communications, he became Business Liaison Officer at Finchley Catholic High School, and is now head of media at the Roman Catholic charity CAFOD, which works to alleviate poverty and suffering in developing countries.

This is sackcloth and ashes stuff. Right or wrong, good or bad, he is exposing wrongdoing and answering moral questions. The narrative elicited by his book - right in the middle of the Labour Party Conference - is concerned with matters of truth. He lied about so many and so much, but is now exploring an order of moral learning, surrounded by Roman Catholics in a context of charitable endeavour.

Repentance implies not only the acknowledgment of truth, but the admission of falsehood. The two are in conflict, and the moral mind distinguishes between the falsehood of one's own thoughts and actions and those which are endemic in the world. It is called taking responsibility, for we cannot repent of the falsehood of the world: we can only transform the self.

We ought not to judge too harshly that hazy line between self sacrifice and being 'caught out': it is like trying to distinguish between repentance and moral learning, or between justification and sanctification. We cannot know when Damian McBride was converted or even if he has been: but we can witness conversion and new instruction. And who has ever not had to repent while they learnt?

And when did obedience not go hand-in-hand with forgiveness?

Repentance is not the mere realignment of a will that retains a fundamental continuity with its past; it involves a moment of self-annihilation. In politics - as in much of life - you tend to reap what you sow. Those who operate in the darkness will live a life of shadows - whatever party they belong to. Sin has its own vain regrets, but those regrets become the foundation upon which the new life is built. There follows reconciliation - and the authentic Christian will focus on love over judgment, and on mercy over punishment.

Damian McBride was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.

We should rejoice.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Peshawar horror as Muslims massacre and maim Christians

It was the worst atrocity committed against Christians in Pakistan's entire history. Two Muslim suicide bombers entered All Saints Anglican Church in Peshawar, and slaughtered around 80 Christians and maimed many more as they worshipped God and praised Jesus. It was a jihadi bloodbath of butchery and carnage. 

And still the BBC led with the Nairobi atrocity, and placed the Peshawar horror beneath even Ed Miliband's mutterings about absolutely nothing. As the day progressed, the story languished beneath Angela Merkel's victory in Germany, suffering in Somalia and news of the Emmy awards in LA. But it was only 78 Christians, so it ended the day as a single line in the bottom left-hand corner; an insignificant indication; an obscure footnote.     

This is not, of course, a competition or crass game of numbers. But with fatalities in Pakistan exceeding those in Kenya, someone at Broadcasting House made the editorial decision that the Kenyan Westgate story vastly eclipsed that of Pakistan's Anglican Church; that the appalling plight of people murdered while shopping was more newsworthy than anything; and that Miliband muttering, Somalians suffering, Merkel's election victory and the annual Emmy awards were all worthy of greater attention than the butchery of Christians worshipping. This morning the story is nowhere. Even the Emmy triumph of Liberace is considered more newsworthy.

This is the British-interests factor as determined by the MSM.

Without media coverage we in the West cannot smell the fear of those Christians who are persecuted by Muslims all over the world.

And one or two of you might be wondering why His Grace has adopted 'Muslims' rather than 'Islamists'. The reason is simply because he is sick and tired of the PC distinction which has no meaning or traction at all in those countries where the 'Islamists' are on the ascendant. There they are simply Muslims, and their religion is Islam. And if moderate and peace-loving Muslims here wish to protest, please do so first against your Sunni-Salafi-Wahhabi brothers and sisters who believe it to be the will of Allah and the direction of Mohammed to walk into a church of worshipping Christians and blow them all to pieces - women and children and all. And don't simply protest with pious platitudes on a website, DO SOMETHING.

You have absolutely no idea how many Christians cower behind locked doors and boarded-up windows, living in terror of those who say they follow the example Mohammed in cleansing the land of non-Muslims. Jumma prayers too easily give way to bombs and bullets in these lands, and every day is a trial of terror against mob rule.

Christians routinely have their houses burned, their schools and hospitals destroyed, and their churches desecrated and vandalised. In Pakistan, it is not uncommon for entire Christian families to be burned to death inside their houses. The crime is allegedly 'blasphemy' against Islam - invariably baseless, but the summary punishment is meted out by a baying horde - sometimes thousands strong - and there is no mercy from the clubs, sticks and stones.

Christian towns and villages in Pakistan are being reduced to slums; poverty is endemic. Children are poorly educated (except in the private schools) and local politicians are corrupt. And this includes some of the Christian leaders, who have little concern for social welfare, security, justice or human rights.

Christians in Pakistan are hunted by complete strangers and haunted by fear. Muslims dare not convert or intermarry with Christians on pain of death. The pulpits whisper their sermons for fear of upsetting the mosques, and the graveyards are filling. There is social segregation, economic hardship and political disenfranchisement. Abduction and forced conversion to Islam are commonplace - especially among young girls. These are rarely reported to the police for fear of the consequences. 

Human Rights Watch has flagged up the appalling living conditions for Pakistan’s non-Muslims; the US Commission on International Religious Freedom regards it as a 'country of particular concern'. There is certainly no peace and brotherhood. To be a Christian in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is to be persecuted and oppressed. The Muslims who persecute and oppress the infidels are simply doing their job. Those who blow themselves up and kill Christians in their churches are martyrs for the cause of Allah and the greater glory of the Prophet of Islam.

May they rot in hell.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Nick Clegg insults Archbishop of Canterbury

During the debate in June on same-sex marriage in the House of Lords, this was the reasoned and intelligent contribution of the Archbishop of Canterbury:
My Lords, this Bill has arrived in your Lordship's House at great speed. The initial Proposals, when published at the end of the autumn, have needed much work to get them into today's form. Much of that work has been done through detailed legal effort and discussion, and I am deeply grateful to the DCMS (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) teams – and especially to the Secretary of State for the thoughtful way in which she has listened and the degree to which she has been willing to make changes in order to arrive at the stage we’ve reached today.

We all know, and it’s been said, that this is a divisive issue. In general the majority of faith groups remain very strongly against the Bill, and have expressed that view in a large number of public statements. The House of Bishops of the Church of England has also expressed a very clear majority view – although not unanimous, as has been seen by the strong and welcome contribution by the Bishop of Salisbury.

The so-called Quadruple Lock may have some chance of withstanding legal scrutiny in Europe, and we are grateful for it, although other faith groups and Christian denominations who’ve written to me remain very hesitant. There have been useful discussions about the position of schools with a religious character and issues of freedom of conscience. And I’ve noted the undertaking of the Noble Baroness the Minister on those subjects, and I’m grateful for what she has said. The Noble Baroness the Minister has also put forward all her views today with great courtesy and persuasive effect, and I join in the remarks of the Noble Baroness, Baroness Royall, in appreciation of that.

And I have to say that personally I regret the necessity of having to deal with the possibility of a division at this stage, on a bill passed by a free vote in the other place.

I was particularly grateful to hear the speech of the Noble Baroness, Baroness Royall, and agreed with the proud record that was established by the last government during the years in which it held office in this area. I also, if I may, will pass on her comments with gratitude to my colleague the Most Revd Prelate the Archbishop of York.

It is clearly essential that stable and faithful same sex relationships should, where those involved want it, be recognised and supported with as much dignity and the same legal effect as marriage. Although the majority of Bishops who voted during the whole passage of the Civil Partnerships Act through your Lordships' House were in favour of civil partnerships a few years ago, it is also absolutely true that the church has often not served the LGBT communities in the way it should. I must express my sadness and sorrow for that considerable failure. There have been notable exceptions, such as my predecessor Archbishop Ramsey who vigorously supported decriminalisation in the 1960s.

It is also necessary to express, as has been done already, total rejection of homophobic language, which is wrong – and more than that, sickening.

However, I and many of my colleagues remain with considerable hesitations about this Bill. My predecessor Lord Williams of Oystermouth showed clearly last summer, in evidence during the consultation period, that it has within it a series of category errors. It confuses marriage and weddings. It assumes that the rightful desire for equality – to which I’ve referred supportively – must mean uniformity, failing to understand that two things may be equal but different. And as a result it does not do what it sets out to do, my Lords. Schedule 4 distinguishes clearly between same gender and opposite gender marriage, thus not achieving true equality.

The result is confusion. Marriage is abolished, redefined and recreated, being different and unequal for different categories. The new marriage of the Bill is an awkward shape with same gender and different gender categories scrunched into it, neither fitting well. The concept of marriage as a normative place for procreation is lost. The idea of marriage as covenant is diminished. The family in its normal sense, predating the state and as our base community of society – as we’ve already heard – is weakened. These points will be expanded on by others in the debate, I’m sure, including those from these benches.

For these and many other reasons, those of us in the churches and faith groups who are extremely hesitant about the Bill in many cases hold that view because we think that traditional marriage is a corner stone of society, and rather than adding a new and valued institution alongside it for same gender relationships, which I would personally strongly support to strengthen us all, this Bill weakens what exists and replaces it with a less good option that is neither equal nor effective. This is not a faith issue, although we are grateful for the attention that government and the other place have paid to issues of religious freedom – deeply grateful. But it is not, at heart, a faith issue; it is about the general social good. And so with much regret but entire conviction, I cannot support the Bill as it stands.
This is Nick Clegg's response:

Here's the key phrase:
Meanwhile, inside the House of Lords, dinosaur opponents of the Bill were having a final go at killing it – declaring that gay marriage would be the end of civilisation as we know it.
So, according to the Deputy Prime Minister, the Archbishop of Canterbury is a dinosaur. In the context of theological objections to same-sex marriage, words like 'medieval' and 'dinosaur' are simply euphemisms for 'bigot'. Mr Clegg has form on the latter term, when a speech was circulated in advance in which he referred to opponents of same-sex marriage as 'bigots', so we know his heart on the matter. It is, as Lord Carey said, 'immature' to hurl such insults.

While Mr Clegg was referring to the 'dinosaurs' in the House of Lords, these peers were undoubtedly speaking on behalf of many millions of ordinary people. If, as appears, Nick Clegg believes all orthodox Christians, Jews and Muslims to be 'dinosaurs' in their desire to preserve the procreative potential in the sanctity of marriage, it is difficult to see how any of these groups can vote Liberal Democrat in the future. Recognising that there are genuine divisions of opinion within these faith groups (and, indeed, amongst Hindus, Sikhs and people of no faith) on the issue of same-sex marriage, one might expect senior politicians to engage with the serious issues, as the Archbishop of Canterbury manifestly did.

Isn't responding to reasoned matters of culture, history, theology and natural law with 'dinosaur' just a little, well.. bigoted?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Syria: the nun who exposed the stage-management of public opinion

Mother Agnes Mariam el-Salib is a Melkite Catholic nun who has lived and worked in Syria for 20 years. She is Mother Superior of St James' Monastery in Qara, and has compiled a comprehensive, compelling and persuasive report (download HERE) into the photographs and videos coming out of Syria being used by President Obama, David Cameron and François Hollande to justify punitive action against President Assad and his forces for the alleged use of chemical weapons.

Read the report for yourself, and make up your own mind: what follows here is mere summary. She evidences photographs and video footage which are being circulated as proof that the Syrian President used sarin gas on his own people. No one doubts that a lot of children died, yet only Mother Agnes appears to have asked why there are only piles of dead children. Where are all their parents? And why do the same bodies in the same clothes keep on cropping up in different locations?

Mother Agnes has been consistently outspoken about the atrocities committed by Western-backed Syrian 'rebels' against Christians and other minorities. Her reputation is considered impeccable, though she is routinely slandered in Western media. She said of the events of the morning of August 21st:
"I am not saying that no chemical agent was used in the area – it certainly was. But I insist that the footage that is now being peddled as evidence had been fabricated in advance. I have studied it meticulously, and I will submit my report to the UN Human Rights Commission based in Geneva."
And so she is doing, and some news outlets - notably Russian state broadcaster RT - are assisting in the dissemination. They say the dedication and determination of this lone nun is putting to shame the US intelligence community. Well, as the propaganda mouthpiece of President Putin, they would say that, wouldn't they?

But leave aside the politicking and powerplay, and listen to the nun, for she is concerned only with the truth. As Assad continues to deny - quite vehemently - that his regime was responsible for the gas attack, Mother Agnes highlights the hypocrisy, deception and double standards among Western governments and the Western media. On August 5th, for example, Western-backed insurgents went on a murderous rampage in several Alawite villages, killing more than 500 innocent civilians. Western governments pretended it did not happen, and the MSM obliged their governments in a conspiracy of silence. Mother Agnes told RT:
What I want to ask first of all is how the international community can ignore the brutal killing spree in Latakia on Laylat al-Qadr early in the morning of August 5, an attack that affected more than 500 people, including children, women and the elderly. They were all slaughtered. The atrocities committed exceed any scale. But there was close to nothing about it in the international mass media. There was only one small article in “The Independent”, I believe.

We sent our delegation to these villages, and our people had a look at the situation on-site, talked to the locals, and most importantly – talked to the survivors of the massacre.

I don’t understand why the Western media apply double standards in this case – they talk about mass murder that the use of chemical weapons resulted in non-stop, but they keep quiet about the Latakia massacre...

A total of twelve Alawite villages were subjected to this horrendous attack. That was a true slaughterhouse. People were mutilated and beheaded. There is even a video that shows a girl being dismembered alive – alive! – by a frame saw. The final death toll exceeded 400, with 150 to 200 people taken hostage. Later some of the hostages were killed, their deaths filmed.
Asked about the persecution of Christians in Syria, Mother Agnes was quick to point out that not only Christians, but also many Muslims are being murdered by the Western-supported insurgents in Syria. She said that the insurgents are emboldened to commit even more gruesome atrocities because they feel they have the backing of Western powers:
I would like to say that if these butchers didn’t have international support, no one would have dared to cross the line. But today, unfortunately, the violation of human rights and genocide in Syria is covered up on the international level. I demand the international community stops assessing the situation in Syria in accordance with the interests of a certain group of great powers. The Syrian people are being killed. They fall victim to contractors, who are provided with weapons and sent to Syria to kill as many people as possible. The truth is, everywhere in Syria people are being kidnapped, tortured, raped and robbed.
So while Dave, Barack and François are obsessed with a few YouTube videos that purport to show a few hundred killed in some sort of chemical attack, there is a cover-up - not to mention a wall of silence - about the thousands who have died in atrocities committed by their 'rebel' allies. At the very least, questions need asking about the 'intelligence' being presented US Secretary of State John Kerry. As part of a scripted speech against Assad, he referred to these photographs (and accompanying videos) and constantly uses the words “our own eyes” and “seeing.” He even asked that the videos be watched by the general public. Mother Agnes has ably assisted:

In the top picture, note the little boy in the red shirt. In the second picture, at least nine children have been transported from Kafarbatna (left) to the Al Marj Region and carefully positioned "without any medical or humanitarian explanation", Mother Agnes claims. These same children are being carted around to different locations in order to exaggerate and distort truth. The report also highlights the fact that there have been no public funerals or announcements about all these dead children. In the footage of one of the few recorded burials, three bodies are not covered in white shrouds, which is a mandatory funeral ritual. "Were these people murdered by the insurgents and disrespectfully buried without the proper rituals as a sign of disdain?"

Whatever position one takes on Syria, it is the responsibility of us all to seek the truth as far as we are able. Mother Agnes Mariam is a humble nun, but her intelligence report is illuminating. It is not, however, really surprising. The shocking thing is that the bodies of dead children are being prostituted to justify military intervention. Sorry, but we are sick of dodgy dossiers.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Yid Army victory is a defeat for the PC battalion

From Brother Ivo:

The cockles of Brother Ivo's heart are being warmed. Despite the nights drawing in, he senses a thaw. It puts him in mind of that passage in CS Lewis when the small signs of springtime in Narnia were first detected. It began slowly, but gradually it dawns on those who have suffered a long, unforgiving winter that change is on the way. A victory is coming.

Brother Ivo is cheered because the Aslan of Common Sense is on the march.

The improbable setting for this English Spring is White Hart Lane, the home of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, which is a team that has traditionally drawn significant support from its nearby Jewish community. It is not the only club with such support; Leeds United and Manchester City developed similar traditional followings, as did Ajax Amsterdam. But perhaps because of resistance to the marches into the East End by Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists, the Tottenham Club supporters were the subject of particular venom.

Football fans are known to be robust, and few would object to the cheerful singing on a Saturday afternoon of 'Does your Rabbi know your here?', but things were nastier than that. The fans of the team were first characterised as the 'Yids' as a perjorative term until the fans appropriated that term for themselves. Just as some black young men in the US took to calling each other 'nigger' to take the string out of what was initially abuse, so the fan-base identified closely with their Jewish neighbours and both stood against anti-Semitism and embraced the name as a positive and proud expression of fellowship.

To this day, the flag of Israel will often appear in the ground and the most dedicated fans describe themselves as the 'Yid Army'.

Like many other clubs (Everton, Manchester City, Preston North End, Aston Villa), its roots are originally to be found in the social action of the Victorian church. Currently, however, the principal shareholder Joe Lewis and Chairman Daniel Levy are both Jewish, and they have plainly not felt at all discomforted or alienated by the terms of the fans' vocal support. Indeed, they have invested millions of pounds in the club.

The long established pro-Jewish heritage of the club recently became the target of the politically correct. The Chairman of the Black Lawyers Association Mr Peter Herbert threatened the fans with prosecution over their 'Yid Army' chants, and when the fans showed cheerful defiance he asserted: "We are not going to let go on this."

It was another step on behalf of the politically-correct busybody: the Football Association came in, also suggesting that fans would be prosecuted if they did not give up their self identification. Sadly for them, the law requires a hostile mens rea (guilty mind): it was patently not the fans' (singing of themselves) who were seeking to be offensive to anyone. Insofar as they gave it much thought, it was a cultural self-association with a time when their forebears did good things and stood up for what is right.

That said, for a long time it has been no more thought through than when England fans sing 'Land of Hope and Glory'. No doubt if the politically correct could stop that with threats of prosecution because of the perceived insensitivity to the victims of bad colonial practices, they would do so.

Amongst those who have objected is the 'Kick it out' campaign and comedian David Baddiel. Mr Baddiel is doubtless discomforted by the fact that his favoured team are amongst the worst when it comes to anti-Semitic chanting. Interestingly, Mr Baddiel can be deliberately provocative himself: on his Twitter profile he describes himself with the one-word self-description 'Jew'. That word, like 'Yid', is perfectly innocuous per se but is sometimes invested with invective by those with anti-Semitic attitudes. Both George Galloway MP and fellow Bradford MP David Ward might arguably be far more threatening and offensive to the Jewish community than the pro-Israel football supporter.

The Prime Minister has joined the debate, indicating he opposes the heavy-handed threat of prosecution. Toby Young was rather more incisive, asking if football fans are to be prosecuted for calling themselves 'Yids' why homosexual campaigners who call themselves 'queer' should not be similarly treated. One can imagine the squirming of Mr Baddiel if he inadvertently caused the prosecution of that secular saint Peter Tatchell.

One wonders whether the pathologically offended will take up the cause of Christians who are hurt and offended whenever the Lord's name is taken in vain - whether at a football ground or over the airways?

Fortunately, the 'Reasonable Man' - whose wisdom Brother Ivo has recently extolled - has ridden to the rescue in the form of Rabbi Yitzhak Schochet. His balanced analysis is the very embodiment of how this kind of controversy should be approached:
“I think we have to put this in context,” he said. “There is a time and a place for the word, used in different contexts or different settings it will have different implications.

“I maintain that on the Spurs pitch, it is categorically not anti-Semitic and not offensive but rather it is a rallying call of support for a team that has a strong Jewish following.

“If the phrase ‘Yiddo’ was yelled at me on the street that would be something entirely different as then, in the first instance, it would be intended as anti-Semitic.

“One problem is sometimes a certain hyper-sensitivity can exacerbate a problem. I suggest that if there was to be a blanket ban on the term at the Spurs pitch now that will engender anti-Semitism.”

This kindled a flicker of optimism in Brother Ivo's heart and mind, but it was fanned into a cheerful fire by the bloody-minded defiance of the fans who sang their songs at last Saturday's match, supported by the Bishop of Willesden and Tottenham fan Peter Broadbent who tweeted: "Off to the Lane this afternoon. The international break is stupidly disruptive. It'll be good to be back. We'll sing what we want. #coys".

At many levels this is a storm in a teacup. The fans are more motivated for their team, its tradition and its culture than any clearer association with our Jewish friends. Yet Brother Ivo sees this as a potential turning of the tide.

The political correctness of the Frankfurt School of Marxism has hitherto made much progress in defining debate throughout our 'postmodern' (largely anti-religious) society. If you can manage the use of language, you can shape the debate to your own advantage.

This week, an unlikely minority pushed back, resisted the definitions of others, the imposition of a secular political ideology, and faced down the ill-judged threats of prosecution and banning from the grounds. The police have acknowledged that those who do not direct hatred cannot be prosecuted for the use of a word which, at worst, is equivocal.

The fans won through a cultural cohesion which was strengthened and coordinated through the social media. They were enabled to debate the issue swiftly; to develop solidarity and then express it. In former days, the power of media figures, the threats to individuals and isolation would have favoured the politically correct who deliberately captured and re-defined the culture of the national media. This is why so few Christians are to be found at the BBC - unless they are 'in the closet'.

This story is an interesting practical illustration of Douglas Carswell's thesis in his book The End of Politics and the Birth of iDemocracy which argues that modern technology can restore power to the individual. Ten years ago, the views of David Baddiel and Peter Tatchell would have enjoyed disproportionate and overwhelming power because those in the national media give them their blessing. Brother Ivo recalls a senior woman executive at the BBC who once asserted 'Political Correctness IS morality'.

Today. Rabbi Schochet can get as widespread a hearing, whether or not the great and the good approve.

Sadly we still have not yet grasped the potential of this liberation - least of all in the churches, which are chronically averse to embracing cultural change even when it can help them (pace His Grace - Ed.).

In so much of public life, the mighty can be put down from their seat. In both Church and secular society there is untapped potential for 'virtuous information loops' to draw on the wisdom and common sense of the ordinary person.

Douglas Carswell reminds us of the story of the young girl Martha Payne who began photographing her school dinners and writing a blog to critique them. The first response of the Education Authority was to ban her activity - until that repressive response was itself disseminated. This is instructive. When the computer is a mainframe programmed from above, routinely 'computer says no'. In a network, there can be greater reactive fluidity.

As one final thought upon the 'Battle of White Hart Lane', let us briefly consider the news story of how we improve failing hospitals within the NHS. One response has been the plan to put into every nurse's hands an iPad.

Douglas Carswell and Brother Ivo think it would be better to give one to every patient.

Brother Ivo is the Patron Saint of Lawyers.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Ashraf, Iraq: "I won’t let my brother’s death be in vain"

His Grace has written of the atrocities being committed in Ashraf before (here and here). He has received an email from the Ashraf Campaign (ASHCAM), with a letter Nima Habashi in Camp Liberty, Iraq. The world needs to know:
My name is Nima Habashi, one of the residents of Camp Liberty, Iraq, and I would like to share with you the profound pain that I am suffering.

As you all know, on 1 September 2013, during their latest attack against the 100 defenceless residents of Ashraf City, the Iraqi forces savagely murdered 52 people and abducted seven others. My brother, Naser, was one of the victims.

We all became aware of the scale and depth of the carnage through the pictures and footage that were provided by the brave Ashrafis. Some of the videos that display the crimes committed by the Iraqi forces were filmed by my brother. The assailants hunted him down and shot him in the throat to prevent him from recording their crimes. The pictures of the murderers and their victims all prove that this horrific crime was premeditated by the Iraqi government; the assailants were fully equipped and had access to resources that could only be provided by the government.

The last time that I saw my brother, he embraced me and promised that we would see each other again soon. We both thought that America and the United Nations would stay true to their word regarding the security and protection of Ashraf City residents. I guess we were badly mistaken. Their ineffectuality in fulfilling their obligations and pledges spurred the Iraqi government into committing this atrocity, and cost Naser and the other victims their lives. And if serious action is not taken soon, the lives of the seven hostages in the custody of the Iraqi government will be forfeited as well.

Unless some firm action is taken to stop him, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki – ever the loyal servant of the Iranian regime – will proceed with his plan to surrender the hostages to Iran, where they will face torture and certain death at the hands of one of the world’s most brutal dictatorships.

We’ve all had enough of inaction by the United States and the UN. It’s high time they took some decisive action before a disaster takes place, and not afterwards. The responsibility for any harm that befalls the hostages will be laid at their feet.

I’ve been on hunger strike since September 1st, demanding the immediate release of the hostages by the Iraqi government. In this regard, I ask the help of anyone who reads this article.

Don’t let Maliki get away with his crimes. Don’t let him hand over the hostages to the Iranian regime. Call on the US and UN to put pressure on the Iraqi government to release the hostages.

I made a pledge after Naser’s death not to relent until the perpetrators of this crime against humanity – Maliki and his cohorts – are brought to justice. I demand an impartial and complete investigation into the murder of my brother and the other residents of Ashraf. Putting the Iraqi government in charge of such an investigation is outrageous and out of the question. It’s an insult to me and the other relatives of the victims – and to anyone who believes in justice, for that matter. What do you suppose would be the outcome of such an investigation, conducted by the same person who gave the order to pull the trigger? I don’t think I need to answer that question for you.

Naser died documenting and exposing one of the worst cases of human rights violations in recent years. I will make sure that he will not have died in vain. I hope you can help me in this cause.
David Amess MP: “I have campaigned on this issue for a long time and I am a strong supporter of the rights of the people in Ashraf City and Camp Liberty. I hope that ASHCAM continues this good work and raises this issue whenever possible.”

Dr Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales: “The human rights of those detained in Camp Liberty are clearly being violated and they are turning to the international community in desperation for help and support. The mark of a civilised society is how it treats those in need. If we fail to respond and turn a blind eye to the detainees now, we will be colluding in their treatment and will have to share the blame for their fate.”

Lord Alton of Liverpool: "ASHCAM’s demands are straightforward and just. They include the championing of the safety of the residents of Camp Liberty; holding the Government of Iraq to account for its failure to comply with its human rights obligations under international law; and, the establishment of a UN commission of inquiry into the Ashraf City massacres of 2009 and 2011, and the Camp Liberty massacre of 2013. These objectives deserve our wholehearted support.”

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Princes of the Church have become middle managers

Father Silas makes his debut upon His Grace's blog (so be nice):

I love the sonorous and elegant formality of the statements issuing from Downing Street announcing the appointment of bishops of Our Own Holy Church. Here’s last week’s:
The Queen has approved the nomination of the Right Reverend Paul Roger Butler, BA, Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, for election as Bishop of Durham in succession to the Right Reverend Justin Portal Welby, MA, on his elevation as Archbishop of Canterbury on 4 February 2013.
Nomination, election, succession, elevation – the courtly high-flown Norman French a sweet, rolling echo of unperturbable order, timeless continuity and gracious acquiescence. None of which qualities, you may archly observe, are much in evidence in the modern Church. We no longer want our bishops to be princes of the Church; we want them to be its managers. We want them to be active, responsible and relevant. They must be seen to Make a Difference and to be In Touch. Above all, they must Care.

It sounds as though Bishop Butler ticks all the boxes. Published photographs suggest that he is not at all of princely bearing or demeanour. “Bishop Butler, a married father of four” (BBC News) looks reassuringly ordinary and benignly managerial. And sounds it, too. His statement to the Diocese of Durham website sets out his priorities, among which “tackling poverty” is prominent. “Together as communities” he says, “with the church in all its forms playing a key role, we must seek to see what we can do ourselves as well as look to support from elsewhere. Poverty is a scourge that we can only tackle together.”

Quite right, too. The Church should be against poverty and in favour of tackling it collaboratively (I think that is the word). As if to emphasise his determination in this area, the Diocese’s Twitter feed proclaims: “@BishopPaulB says other priorities our communities and working towards eradicating poverty and young people.” Eradicating young people seems a bit self-defeating – where is the next generation of church managers to come from? – but you can’t argue about poverty.

I wonder how Bishop Butler proposes to eradicate it? Apart from the fact that poverty is a relative state (the poor of his diocese may seem quite well off to the poor of, say, Malawi) is it in any real sense eradicable? Has any society ever succeeded in eradicating it to the extent that none of its citizens have had to do without what, in context, were regarded as the basic necessities of life (for want of a more definitive baseline)? But Christianity is nothing if not a religion of hope.

At the outset of his public ministry, the Lord stands in the synagogue to read the scroll of the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.” And the nature of that good news? “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God”, he later tells a “great multitude” of people who had gathered to hear him. It is the coming Kingdom of God that is the good news, not the eradication of poverty, for “you always have the poor with you”.

The move away from proclaiming the actual Gospel - with its promise of eternal life - towards proclaiming a “social” Gospel - predicated on the amelioration of our earthly circumstances - seems to have taken place without our really noticing it. Throughout most of its life the Church of God in this land variously provided healthcare, education, shelter and even sustenance (until these ministries were progressively subsumed by the State). Its modern congregations give generously to Christian Aid, to food banks and via countless other routes to help the poor.

Until now, this has almost never happened because Christians thought they were eradicating poverty, or even “tackling” it in anything other than a local, personal sense. They have done it, and continue to do it, out of compassion; out of a vocational love of their neighbour inseparable from the love of the God who is his father as well as theirs. By this love, they hope to gain, with the poor, the oppressed and the downtrodden, citizenship of that Kingdom of which the Lord speaks.

That is what used to be called the Good News. I hope proclaiming it is also among Bishop Butler’s “priorities”.

Father Silas is an undistinguished (he says) priest and deacon of the Church of England who loves it in spite of everything.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Niqab-wearing in court is a small step too far

From Brother Ivo:

Today a judge ruled on an individual's request to give her evidence in court fully veiled, in accordance with her reading of Islamic requirements to dress modestly. Whatever his decision and reasoning, it was always unlikely to be the last word on the subject: a variety of politicians and commentators have already begun to grapple with a problem that will simply not go away.

What is the proper balance to be struck between religious rights and the requirements to comply with secular values and institutions?

Many approach such questions, especially when they touch on legal matters, as black and white issues. It is easy for outsiders to think that law turns upon what is legislated, written or defined. Yet these matters are usually more subtle than that.

Law can be binary. Do you have a certificate of insurance for the car you are driving? That admits no equivocation, though plainly the degree of culpability may need to be judged when the sentence comes to be assessed. If you had been told your cheque had been cashed and a clerical error by your insurer prevented the certificate being issued, you may expect greater leniency.

Other matters are far less clear. A killing may be murder, self defence, accidental, or lack criminal culpability through automatism.

Legal principles are often best considered less as black-and-white 'where's-the-line?'-type questions but rather as those having 'weight'. In some circumstances, a principle may be weightier, but a group of other considerations may well outweigh it in another context. Thus it is perfectly lawful to throw a javelin in a sports field - but not in a shopping centre.

In all cases where context is critical, we balance a range of considerations, and our old Common Law had regular recourse to a fictional hero of English Jurisprudence - 'The Reasonable Man'.

For the avoidance of doubt, Brother Ivo happily confirms that 'The Reasonable Woman' is no less sagacious, but the language derives from a particular time and culture, and rather than clutter the narrative, he asks readers' indulgence for his using the term throughout.

The Reasonable Man is a thoroughly decent fellow: he is not extreme in his opinions; he is neither technically specialised nor adept in any particular field, but is also no fool. If you explain even complex things to him he can make a pretty sound judgement on all aspects of life, including complex matters of science, accountancy, culture and religion. He is probably a cultural Anglican, though nobody has thought to ask him. He and his values may well be looked down upon by the self-appointed intelligentsia but, being sensible, he bears this with a degree of equanimity.

It is the innate decency of the Reasonable Man that has made this country the first port of call for many immigrants. Brother Ivo therefore tentatively asserts that this paragon of civic virtue is an Englishman (or, in this jurisdictional context, sometimes Welsh). Other Reasonable Men are to be found in Scotland and Northern Ireland, but we need not digress.

There are many black, brown and white Reasonable Men, for to be one is cultural, not racial. And he may also be of various religions or none.

Our imaginary hero brings common sense to the law and usually makes a very good job of it. It is when he is excluded, and his judgement supplanted by 'Human Rights' interpreted by over-intellectualised lawyers and judges that the cock-ups occur. Unlike them, the Reasonable Man of the Common Law is never absurd.

HH Judge Peter Murphy of the Blackfriars Crown Court has attempted to act in the spirit of the Reasonable Man in the case of the Muslim woman who sought to veil herself during proceedings. In both of the two reported appearances of the defendant, concerning a serious charge of of witness intimidation, the Judge has shown considerable, perhaps excessive, forbearance as this lady's declared beliefs came into conflict with the long-standing value historically attached to open justice.

As a preliminary issue, he allowed the defendant's identification before the Court to be made by a female police custody sergeant. He has now ruled that she may remain veiled, save for when she gives evidence and is cross examined.

That, to Brother Ivo's mind, is a small step too far. It is not only when giving her own evidence that a defendant's demeanour is under observation and judgement. Many a person in civil or criminal cases has revealed their attitudes to be other than they protest when they have been seen by judge or jury to respond to the evidence of others.

If the victim is distressed or fearful, how does the accused respond? Amusement or callousness - and it happens - tells you a lot. By the Judge's last ruling, the jury is being deprived of this wider evidence of demeanour, and the Judge, though doubtless well meaning and trying to be balanced, may have called that wrong. He could have screened the defendant from all save those who need to know. That would have been a better balance.

Psychology and, more importantly, common sense and experience tell us that much communication is non verbal. Is the speaker composed and confident as they speak? Are they blushing, frowning or tense? What do these cues mean in context? We constantly bring such factors into play when asking whether a person is trustworthy and truthful. They are no less important as we see how they respond to their accusers. This evidence is now being denied for a group of persons, and the Reasonable Man might suspiciously wonder who else will call for special treatment.

The debate needs to take place beyond this case, for the ruling is not of binding status.Much of that debate has been predictable, but there are two aspects which Brother Ivo finds compelling.

First, a woman commits no sin within Islam by complying with the laws of the community within which she resides. By asking to remain veiled, she will have registered her faith-compliant view and then acceded to the lawful request of the court to unveil (see Islam Today).

Second, those who take the strictest interpretation of Islamic culture might care to talk to us about the dress code mandated for women when undertaking the holiest of pilgrimages, the Hajj. The website Islamic Insights helpfully offers 'Clothing tips for sisters'. Our Christian nuns will feel some affinity.

Strikingly absent is the full face veil.

The faces of Islamic sisters on the Hajj will be seen by tens of thousands of strange men - some good, some bad, some indifferent. For a serious sober purpose, the veil is put aside. It cannot be regarded as shameful, demeaning or disrespectful for the courts of England and Wales to say that their business of offering justice with integrity is also a serious and sober purpose; indeed, one might think its practicality and need are more pressing.

What need of any man on the Hajj to see the women he cannot see in another context? That is a serious question. Many Muslims have come to this country precisely because of the benefits developed by the common sense and human decency of that much maligned 'Middle Englander', who is also the Reasonable Man.

Here you will not be whipped, stoned or beheaded. If threatened by your own community or outsiders, the Reasonable Man will stand up for you. He may not agree with you, but he cannot abide a bully. His values are honest and well motivated.

He wants the guilty punished, but places a high value on justice being done. He has embodied that idea of Justice above the Central Criminal Court in a statue of Blind Justice, but that symbolises impartiality, not blindness to the evidence. If you really want that, then you may have to seek it elsewhere.

Brother Ivo is the Patron Saint of lawyers
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