June 19, 2015 admin


Alongside work within the community, I have been deeply involved this week in three issues about which I care deeply.

On Tuesday I had the privilege of meeting with His Grace Bishop Angaelos, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK.  The previous day he was awarded the OBE ‘for services to International Religious Freedom’.  He said he felt humbled by the award, which was really for everyone who worked with him, and that ‘it comes with a sense of sadness that in the 21st century we still need to defend people’s God-given rights and freedoms in this way’.

Coptic Christians, like many other Christian groups, are persecuted across the Middle East and the Council of Christians and Jews (www.ccj.org.uk) are encouraging all communities to reflect and pray, just as we want other faiths to stand up for us in our times of trouble. We spoke too about attitudes to Israel and what the Jewish community seeks from the churches.

Good relations with other faiths and faith leaders are critically important, especially in such difficult and unpredictable times as these. We need solidarity from one another, but that has to be earned. I invited Bishop Angaelos to visit our synagogue and I hope arrangements will soon come to fruition.

On Wednesday I was invited to speak on behalf of the Jewish community at the Climate Change rally opposite Parliament. I spent much of last night writing a Jewish response (which I hope The Times will publish tomorrow) to Pope Francis’ outstanding encyclical Laudato Si ‘On care for our common Home’. What can I say? I have grown up with a deep love for hills and rivers, trees and gardens, birds and animals, a love which has grown stronger year by year, and which contains in its heart not only a vibrant joy, a song to God for the wonder which permeates all things, but also an inescapable anguish which reports of drought, thirst and dying landscapes have intensified into a terrible fear. The issues are out in the public domain; the international meetings are scheduled; it remains for us all to take action at every level, international, national, local, communal and in each business, community and home.

The Pope concludes with a universal Prayer for the Earth:

“Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.”

To such words I am glad to say ‘Amen’.

Yesterday I joined Refugee Tales (www.RefugeeTales.org). We spoke about the meaning of welcome. ‘You listened’, said one former detainee, ‘that was welcome’. Welcome is to accept others as people, to respect their story, not to delay deciding their case for ten years or more, not to detain them indefinitely, not to take them from a hostel in the dead of night and deport them on a so-called ‘ghost plane’ to a land where they once again struggle in immediate fear for their lives.

I thought of my parents, both refugees at the age of sixteen. I thought of Dan Pagis’ poem ‘They were in the image. I was a shade. A different creator made me.’ We cannot say to another human being, either by commission or omission, ‘Sorry, but you are not made in God’s image. Get lost!’

It’s been a chastening week.

Get in touch...