Category: Religion


AMDG

2 of our students with a representative of the myriad foundation

2 of our students with a representative of the myriad foundation

One of the beautiful things to see emerging the last few months is how students of different faiths are helping us with the foodbank. Every few weeks or so a couple of Muslim lads drop by with a car full of food that they have collected from various mosques.  The same day when they paid their last visit we received a cheque for £250 from the local synagogue.  Neither donations had been solicited from either faith community and they were gladly received.  The Muslims run an excellent charity called the Myriad Foundation which aims ‘ To make a positive impact on society and a significant contribution to the community’.  

Another story which was heart-warming  was when two young ladies turned up with two boxes of cakes.  I gratefully received them and asked them what had motivated them to donate them. It turned out that their mother had recently used the foodbank.  She was so grateful that now that she had got out of her temporary crisis, she had held a cake sale to raise money for our foodbank, and so the next week a cheque arrived for a few hundred pounds.

At the recent National Conference of the Trussel Trust – I attended a workshop on how to receive the stories of our clients.  At first we were reluctant to ‘pry’ into the reasons why people were coming for the foodbank.  However we have since learnt that we actually have a duty to give people the option to tell their stories.  It seems that about 80% of the users are all to keen to tell their stories (we have had been able to help over 1,300 people so far).  The Trussel Trust are keen to get their stories’out there’ in order to challenge the negative stereotypes and myths of ‘scroungers’ that seems to poison the public debate about poverty in this country.  The stories initially are taken anonymously and will be posted up on our blog (link), and then the majority of clients give permission to use them with media outlets / or journalists who get in touch – this time with some independent verification.

AMDG

freezerApologies to those who have been sending messages asking me what’s happened to the Blog.  Now that the University Semester has ended I think I have the time and energy to pull it out of the deep freeze….. This year happens to be a special anniversary for the Jesuits, it is 200 years since the universal restoration of the Society.  Somehow I found myself agreeing to design a website and a blog to commemorate this – at the request of the General Curia in Rome.  By Feb I realised that I didn’t have the time / energy to keep the two blogs running so I focused on the Restoration Blog.

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Pombal expelling the Jesuit from Portugal

Cutting a long story short, in the 18th Century, the Jesuits found themselves inside a perfect storm – as the world moved out of the medieval world, with the authority of church and king being challenged, Tradition and faith were often portrayed as being opposed to reason, individual enquiry and the scientific method, The old order was being challenged – some monarchs tried to respond by creating a political system  ‘enlightened absolutism’ or ‘enlightened despots’ which seems to be a bit of an oxymoron. In religious terms, many thinkers, sick of the wars between Catholics and Protestantism that had torn Europe apart,  There was a backlash against the political influence of organised religion, and new ideas were suddenly debated including deism and atheism.

In this climate, the Jesuits were under serious pressure,  Their influence was seen as to great, their thriving missions were too successful and often a thorn in the side of Colonialists, and an emerging trading class who were making a lot of money. So starting with Portugal they were expelled from a succession of European Countries and their colonies.  This political expulsion was followed by a canonical suppression, as Pope Clement XIV universally suppressed the Society of Jesus in 1773.  The Empress of Russia refused to promulgate the papal bull – so the Society of Jesus was left in limbo until their universal restoration in 1814, hence the anniversary this year.  If you want to read more, the blog is at www.sj2014.net

AMDG

catholic-312A piece of news that might have passed you buy a couple of weeks ago is that the Vatican has secured control of  the .catholic domain name.  The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which coordinates the assignment of Internet domain names and addresses around the world, is rolling out a new generation of new domain names such as  .party and .xbox, among others.  See the video below to see what TLGD’s (Top Level Generic Domains ) were available

I was hoping that I could be rebrand this blog – but I found out that the Vatican does not plan to allow individual bloggers or private Catholics to use “.catholic,”.  The domain will be limited to those with a formal canonical recognition: dioceses, parishes and other territorial church jurisdictions; religious orders and other canonically recognized communities; and Catholic institutions such as universities, schools and hospitals.  Paul Tighe who is the priest in charge of the Pontifical Council for Social Communication  says that .catholic will promote “a more cohesive and organized presence” of the church online, “so the recognized structure of the church can be mirrored in the digital space,”.

20120602_IRD001_0The politics behind ‘naming the internet is fascinating.  Saudi Arabia has entered an objection to the Vatican’s bid for a new “.catholic” internet domain. In an appeal to ICANN,  Saudi officials argued that the Vatican “cannot demonstrate that it possesses a monopoly over the term ‘Catholic.’” The information-technology commission of the Islamic kingdom claimed that other Christian groups, including the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches, also use the term “Catholic.”  It wasn’t a specific attack on the Catholic church as the Saudi commission sent ICANN over 150 objections to proposed internet domain names, for a variety of reasons. It objected to any group being put in charge of web addresses based on religious terms. It complained about bids to create top-level domains for .islam, .halal and .ummah on similar grounds.They  also made moral complaints about an array of planned new suffixes. It objected to .gay because it “will be offensive” to societies where homosexuality is “contrary to their culture, morality or religion”, to .tattoo as tattooing is prohibited in Islam and Judaism and to .bar on grounds that because of its association with alcohol the term.

AMDG PakistanIt’s reading week here in Manchester and one of our students ‘Eric’ has been sweeping up leaves for us after the storm.  Eric arrived in Manchester from Pakistan 4 years ago – he is a very hard worker.  It was raining heavily this morning so I told him to come in out of the rain and have a cup of tea with me.  Whilst brewing up Eric showed me some photos of on his phone that were shocking.  They were of his house being burnt down 6 months ago in Pakistan.  I have known him for months now and this is the first time he has talked about it. The riots started when one Muslim resident had accused another Christian resident of blasphemy against Muhammad after the two had engaged in a dispute. The police arrested the Christian accused of blasphemy on Friday, and the mob action took place the next day.  Eric told me that they would remove and burn the blessed sacrament first before burning down the church. Joseph Colony Badami Bagh Lahore Pakistan The Independent

This picture on the right is of the burning of all the  church objects .  He talked very calmly about it – the house was worth about £70,000 and was going to be Eric’s inheritance.  According to the Pakistani government  178 houses, 18 shops, and 2 churches were damaged during the riots. Eric says his friends and family reckon the number of homes destroyed is at least 350, or about twice the size of the government estimate and that the entire operation was very well planned and deliberate, not a case of a peaceful demonstration getting out of hand. That the police told residents in the Colony the previous day (Friday) that they should leave the area. This clearly indicates that the government was aware of the planned mob action, and wanted to minimize the loss of life. The St. Joseph Colony is located on land near a number of industrial sites including steel and iron-making plants. It is well-known that these industries would like more land to expand their operations, and many residents believe that is what was behind the clearance.

416bLFOkUuLEric asked me to tell this story on my blog – this all happened 6 months ago – what I want to know is why the BBC is not interested in reporting this? Because it’s an uncomfortable truth for the Liberal Elite.   John L Allen, the excellent American commentator,  has an interesting take on this – he wrote – Stoked by historical images of the Crusades and the Inquisition, and even by current perceptions of the wealth and power of church leaders and institutions, it’s tough for Western observers to wrap their minds around the fact that in a growing number of global hotspots, Christians today are the defenseless oppressed, not the arrogant oppressors.  His new book is coming out soon – already available on Kindle – and it is worth getting, it is called (left)  The Global War on Christians.

AMDG

imagesReading the wonderful interview that Pope Francis gave to Thinking Faith and other Jesuit journals last week – what comes across is the great freedom with which he speaks and also the humility with which he looks back on his past.  There is an interesting parallel between him and St Ignatius the founder of the Jesuits.  When we were Jesuit novices we had seminars on what is referred to as the ‘autobiography’ of Ignatius.  This was written towards the end of his life, somewhat reluctantly, Ignatius was wary of vainglory.  He had been urged by the young members of his new order to leave them an account of his life before he died, he seem to avoid it,  but eventually he submitted and dictated his memories to a young Jesuit – Goncalves de Camara.

autobiography-st-ignatius-loyola-paperback-cover-artAt a time when saint’s lives where often written after their death by their adoring followers, the literary style was usually hagiographic.  Emphasising their virtues, downplaying or ignoring their vices, often from a desire to inspire devotion – the result was that the Saints lives didn’t seem very human, or distant from what many of experience in normal life.  Ignatius is determined in his autobiography to do the opposite – he wants to show young Jesuits and also those who read about his life, about his mistakes and how God has worked through them and transformed him.  Some historians even think that de Camara ‘toned’ down some of the passages, particularly of Ignatius as a young man in order not to cause a scandal.

Pope Francis’s interview comes across in a similar tone.  He speaks frankly, and without excuses or self pity about the mistakes he made as a young Jesuit.  He was put in as a provincial in his thirties, a very young age, and in his own words ‘My authoritarian and quick manner of making decisions led me to have serious problems’ How refreshing it is to hear the Pope talk in such ways.  Francis talks about a period of ‘great interior crisis’ in Cordoba– – again mirroring Ignatius who went through great spiritual turmoil in Manresa after his initial conversion and overly zealous ways.  I am convinced that in life we often learn more about ourselves through failure than success – as long as we are supported through our failures in a loving environment.  Both Francis and Ignatius give testament to this, and theirs is the ultimate loving environment – an regular, deep and intimate prayer life.  This is  how grace works through weakness. This is easy to forget when we have an education system that is obsessed with measurable success.  

If you have a bit of time – read the Pope’s interview – and if you are too busy, make time!!

Heroic Faith (1)

AMDG

$T2eC16RHJIIE9qTYKDQ4BRo1n+7-z!~~60_35Whilst I was on my retreat last week, I was able to do some spiritual reading.  I was inspired by a book called ‘The Flying Bishop’  Fifty Years in the Canadian Far North, by Gabriel Breynat OMI.  It documents how the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and Sisters of Charity (Grey Sisters) did heroic work in Canada and Alaska at the turn of the century.  The author, pictured right, was called the Little praying man by the First Nations when he arrived in 1892 at the St Bernard Mission in Athabasca – 10 years later he was named Bishop at the age of 35 – and served as a bishop for 42 years.  He saw the mission grow north of the Arctic Circle,  establishing churches, Schools, Hospitals, Farms, Harbours even Coal Mines.

With such a huge mission territory and such harsh conditions the work that they undertook was incredible.  Originally visiting various communities entailed sleeping out on the ice, occasionally building igloos, surviving hurricanes, Ice Drifts, boats being crushed by Ice flows, having to eat their own dogs to survive, frostbite (losing toes), Bear attacks, Plane crashes, 3 month long winter and twilight, fishing under ice flows, hunting caribou (with migrations of 3  million of them at a time).  It is gripping reading. $T2eC16h,!ysE9sy0kzGKBQuDq7vLPw~~60_35The Travel was rigorous – but as the ice began to break up travel by canoe and boat became possible. mission boat evolved  went from 20hp to 120hp, finally they were able to buy a mission plane. This lead to him being known as the Flying Bishop – but the plane made possible a visit in 9 hours of various mission stations what would have taken him 9 weeks in his early days.  

Pope Pius XI took special interest in the mission – the first book he had read as a boy was an account for the quest of the north west passage.  The Pope was especially interested in the most remote and northerly mission, the mission of Christ the King in the Minto Inlet, on Victoria Island.  004272On occasional visits to him in Rome, the bishop would always have an audience with the Pope who was entranced and gripped with his updates. He presented a chalice to be used on this mission.  A Papal delegate visited many years later and reported ‘The Fathers dwelling was a big tent of tough canvas, about 15 feet by 20 feet and served as a chapel, presbytery, kitchen, bedroom – in one corner, behind an Indian curtain, was a little altar, surmounted by a poor tabernacle arranged like an ammunition box. IN the middle was a rich chalice presented by Pius XI and used by himself .  It was engraved Pius XI, Christus Vicarius, Christi praeconibus (Pius XI, Vicar of Christ to the Heralds of Christ)’

The missions had it own martyrs – The killing of Fr Le Roux and Fr Rouviere by Sinnisiak and Uluksak (two Inuit) near Bear Lake. Also the drowning of another priest who misjudged the thickness of the ice as he was trekking to another mission station.  It is inspiring and moving to hear about the dedication of these men and the sisters who were helping them – but the last word is for the one of the Inuit leaders who addressed the pope’s delegate in these words.

You the envoy of the Very Great Man of Prayer, have come from far away to see us.  Even though we live at such a distance, as though hidden in a wood, and even though we may seem, like Cain of old, to flee from the presence of the Holy Spirit, yet the men of prayer have sought us out: they are great hunters.  For a long time they pursued us, as though hunting, before they could catch us in the lasso of their prayer. It is nearly twice a thousand winters since the birth of Jesus.  At last the men of prayer have reached us: thanks to the Great Spirit we should say. You will tell the Very Great Man of Prayer that we venerate him most respectfully and love him with all our hearts; we thank him for having sent you here to see us.

.

 

700_dettaglio2_Paolo-dallOglioAMDG

Fr Paolo Dall’Oglio SJ has been a leader among Christians in Syria.  In 1992 he re-founded an abandoned ancient monastery in  the desert North of Damascus as a place for reconciliation and inter-faith dialogue.  It is becoming more and more famous as a pilgrimage site, attracting over 50,000 pilgrims last year, the majority being Muslims.  At the bottom of the post is a short documentary about the monastery ‘Deir Mar Musa made by an Italian NGO’.  Fr Dall’Oglio has received a prize from the President of Lombardy for his work for peace.  Since then – controversially – he has decided that non-violence is no longer an option in the face of what he has described as Assads ‘ethnic cleansing’ policy of Sunni’s.  In the face of this people have a right to defend themselves he claims.

_66206220_syria_damascus_raqqa_0313As his stance hardened he was told to leave the country by the Assad regime.  After he published an open letter to the UN and special envoy Kofi Annan, his local bishop insisted he heeded the threats and he went into exile.  As things deteriorated in Syria and Christian groups were targeted more and more – he gave this interview from Paris just before a Catholic priest was shot dead inside his church in June. The interview was given to a group called Syria Deeply.   Since the interview Fr Dall’Oglio has returned to Syria – and was kidnapped in the rebel held town of  Raqqa on 29 July by the militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, There are claims that he has been executed by the extremist group. The claims are not yet confirmed.

—————————————————————–

SD (Syria Deeply): Is that kind of reconciliation possible in Syria today, a country whose diverse ethnic and religious groups are being torn apart by the conflict?

PD: My position is we need to bring back all the sectors, all the facets of the Syrian population, in order to bring back this harmony that was the pride of the whole country. That so many communities were able to live together in the same society… it’s certainly one of the reasons why I fell in love with the country. And also because it was still outside the Western way of life, there was less consumerism, and traditions were so alive, such great hospitality, such an understanding of how to live together. Everything is lost now, and we need to rebuild on a solid foundation.

SD: Is this why you’ve chosen to risk sneaking back into Syria on two occasions now to meet with opposition activist groups?

PD: And I will go again. I hope to work with television to show and to help the civil society take root and grow.

SD: You’ve met with everyone from Kurds to Jihadists…

PD: I don’t like the word Jihadist. Jihad simply means ‘holy effort or struggle.’ There are Christians whose first name is Jihad, bishops with the first name of Jihad. I prefer to say ‘militarized extremists’.

SD: You met with militarized extremists who oppose the Assad regime.

PD: Yes, [the Syrian state news agency] then accused me of being imbedded with Islamist extremists and paid by Al-Qaeda.

SD: And for you, such meetings are all essential steps in a roadmap to peace?

PD: Absolutely, because at the same time we fight our fight for peace in Syria, we need to prepare the ground for reconciliation. Take the Alawite clan [Bashar al-Assad’s clan], they are not all criminals, there are very good people among them, but they are kidnapped by the logic of community solidarity to serve the regime. They too are victims of the regime.

SD: Your mission has clearly expanded far beyond furthering Islamic-Christian understanding.

PD: I am fully engaged in Islamic-Christian harmony building, but today I’m also in the service of Islamic-Islamic harmony building. We want next Ramadan to be a time for prayer and action for the reconciliation between Sunnis and Shiites.

SD: Are the types of causes you’ve taken up typical of a Jesuit?

PD: The Jesuits are an order of priests committed to the service of the gospel and souls, but not in an artificial way—we are very much for engaging and compromising in the society, by fighting for justice, for [community] development and human development, and for inter-religious dialogue and harmony building. Such has been my commitment… and in this I’m certainly very Jesuit.

SD: I’d like to understand what moved you to settle in Syria 30 years ago. What did you discover in the ruins of Mar Musa monastery in 1982, and what did you later try to build there?

PD: Simply, it’s a place of hospitality in the name of Abraham… In fact, traditionally, the Christian monastery in the desert is an organic part of the Islamic symbolic system, in literature, in relations between spiritual leaders, and in the massive flow of visitors—especially pious visitors. This began immediately after we opened our doors—up to 50,000 visitors in the year, the vast majority of them Muslims. Even now, in this difficult moment, this site is protected by the Muslim population.

SD: Were you able to function more or less freely for a time under al-Assad?

PD: The Syrian State is made up of people, yes it was kidnapped by the regime, but it still was a state with its ministries. So I worked with the ministries of agriculture on the environment, with culture on historic monuments and restorations, with tourism on development. The regime was always there watching, but I was in a sincere relationship with the state… But when we started to oppose corruption, then I was recognized as an enemy of the regime, and all my activities were shut down, game over. That was 2010.

SD: People had initially been hopeful about al-Assad as President.

PD: We had hoped that Mr. Bashar Assad would change his country, and free his people… The Syrian people who remembered the Hama uprising in 1982 knew this regime was capable of massacres, yet they hoped slowly there could be a shift to a new era of real democracy, even in small steps. They said, ok you stole all the money, fine enjoy it, but change the system. You have half the country for yourselves, fine, keep it, but let the people breathe. You have an enormous amount of power, fine, but start to share it. This was the hope. And it didn’t work. When our youth started the Arab Spring, they said enough is enough, obliging all of us to stand for freedom, and to stop this game.

SD: How has your perspective on Syria changed since you’ve been in exile?

PD: I’m really outside today, and being outside I find myself in the company of an entire people in exile. I meet with Syrians who have been in exile for 20 or 40 years, second generation expelled people. When you meet with a group of 15 Syrians outside the country, you have stories of years spent in prison and an incredible amount of suffering, violence and torture that has been witnessed—it is unbelievable. I want to raise up the voices of these people asking for freedom, democracy and justice.

SD: What do you believe those supporting the regime are fighting to preserve—the status quo?

PD: Today the regime is using actors in different sectors, Muslim leaders, Christian leaders, journalists, and working to convince them that the regime, although not the best in town, is better than anything that could come after them. They don’t pretend to be good, but the theory is the alternative could be worse. They say, look at Afghanistan, at Iraq, it didn’t work. Somalia was a disaster. Look what’s happening in Libya. In Tunisia and Egypt the Muslim radicals are taking power. So why do we want change in Syria if it’s to be the same story?

It’s to the point that today, you have Marxist anti-imperialists on the extreme left who are for Bashar [al-Assad], and who go march for him in the street alongside the right wing Christian traditionalists… both out of Islamophobia.

I see these [Syrian] Christians as victims too of what’s happening, they’re trapped in the middle, unable to believe in the revolution, in democracy, having been educated from their early days to believe that democracy is part of a big conspiracy, a big lie of [Western] imperialism. So they go under the protection of the regime thinking without it they will be forced into exile.

SD: You were exiled soon after the massacre of Houla, was that a turning point in the conflict for you?

PD: Yes, in the sense that it was the moment when my calls to the international community to act in a nonviolent way to protect the freedom of the Syrian people in their pacifist protest ended in a failure, where the international community was unable to act. The regime chose to use more and more violent repression, until it reached the point of massacre.

SD: At that point you decided a violent response to this repression was justified?

PD: The moment came when I said people have the right to defend themselves. The soldiers that have left the army so that they won’t be forced to shoot their own people, they have the right and the duty to protect the people. And when a democratic civil society is pleading not to be destroyed by violent repression and torture, the international community should help

AMDG

“I would like [the message of Christ's resurrection] to go out to every house and every family, especially where the suffering is greatest…”The power of these words were matched by an encounter, photos of which went viral yesterday of Francis hugging young Dominic Andrea who suffers from cerebal palsy.  I found this reflection from his dad – a professor of theology – On a blog called Catholic Moral Theology.  It is very beautiful

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“Small acts with great love,” Mother Teresa was fond of saying. Yesterday, Pope Francis bestowed an extraordinary Easter blessing upon my family when he performed such an act in embracing my son, Dominic, who has cerebral palsy. The embrace occurred when the Pope spied my son while touring the Square, packed with a quarter million pilgrims, in the “pope mobile” after Mass. This tender moment, an encounter of a modern Francis with a modern Dominic (as most know, tradition holds that St. Francis and St. Dominic enjoyed an historic encounter), moved not only my family (we were all moved to tears), not only those in the immediate vicinity (many of whom were also brought to tears by it), not only by thousands who were watching on the big screens in the Square, but by the entire world. Images of this embrace quickly went viral, and by Easter Sunday afternoon it was the lead picture on the Drudge Report, with the caption, “Change Hatred into Love” (a paraphrase of Pope Francis’ Urbi et Orbi message that followed shortly thereafter), where it remains even as I write this. Fox News, NBC Nightly News, ABC Nightly News, and CNN all showed clips of it. Lead pictures of it were found in Le Figaro, the New York PostThe Wall Street Journal, the Philadelphia Inquirerinter alia.

It is often difficult to try to express to people who do not have special needs children what kind of untold sacrifices are demanded of us each and every day. And as for Dominic, he has already shared in Christ’s Cross more than I have throughout my entire life multiplied a thousand times over. What is the purpose in all this, I ask? Furthermore, I often tend to see my relationship with Dominic in a one-sided manner. Yes, he suffers more than me, but it’s constantly ME who must help HIM. Which is how our culture often looks upon the disabled: as weak, needy individuals who depend so much upon others, and who contribute little, if anything, to those around them.Pope Francis’ embrace of my son yesterday turns this logic completely on its head and, in its own small yet powerful way, shows once again how the wisdom of the Cross confounds human wisdom. Why is the whole world so moved by images of this embrace? A woman in the Square, moved to tears by the embrace, perhaps answered it best when she to my wife afterward, “You know, your son is here to show people how to love.” To show people how to love. This remark hit my wife as a gentle heaven-sent confirmation of what she has long suspected: that Dominic’s special vocation in the world is to move people to love, to show people how to love. We human beings are made to love, and we depend upon examples to show us how to do this.

………..

One more thing. Pope Francis’ embrace of my son, Dominic, indicates that we should not interpret the new Pontiff’s expressed devotion to the poor, already a cornerstone of his pontificate, in facile, purely material (let alone political) categories. His Easter embrace of my son stands out as a compelling witness to the kind of “poverty” that he urges us to adopt, the poverty that he pointed to in the opening line of his Urbi et Orbi message yesterday: “I would like [the message of Christ's resurrection] to go out to every house and every family, especially where the suffering is greatest…” Parents of disabled children, stand up and find solace and encouragement in these simple yet profound words

See the encounter below (forward to 10.30)

AMDG

On the historical night of the election of Pope Francis – the Jesuit community & guests Fr Dushan Croos & Br Guy Consolmagno Sj , were toasting the health of the new Pope – when we were joined by a very enthusiastic Argentinian Postgrad.  It was a wonderful surprise – as he knew Cardinal Bergogolio when he worked for the Bishops Conference in Argentina  – so we were all delighted to hear his story.

How I met Pope Francis by Milan C Jelic

milanA year ago, I had the intention to speak with father Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio about the political party some friends and I were trying to create (and still working on it) in the City of Buenos Aires in Argentina. The party is not a religious party but since I am Catholic I wanted some kind of advice from such a wise man. So I contacted a friend in common and asked him to help me set up a meeting. My friend asked Cardinal Bergoglio and gave me his e-mail . Some days after I wrote an e-mail asking for the meeting, my mobile phone rang  and the person calling said he was ‘Father Mario’. I was standing on the bus, hanging on to the bars  and thinking on other issues, and didn’t realise who was calling.

I would never imagine the Cardinal Primate of Argentina would call himself on the phone, without using a secretary.  So I answered: Who? He replied, Father Mario Bergoglio. Then I said, Oh! I don’t know what to say. Well, you’ve asked for a meeting, haven’t you? He replied… Finally I had my meeting with him. We talked about political philosophy, ontology, Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church and according to it how the Christians should participate in social life. It was a very interesting experience and I remember that meeting as one of the most important ones I have ever had.

Milan’s story reminds me of the interview given by the receptionist of the Jesuit Curia in Rome – who received a similar phone call from -now – Pope Francis . Watch below………….

 

Outward Looking

AMDG

 

English: Ivan Lewis MP February 2009 taken by ...

 Ivan Lewis MP 

 

We had a great evening at the chaplaincy on Friday Night – as the Faith and Politics series of evenings came to a climax.  With 4 guests, 2 current MP’s, a former MP and a prominent Catholic Journalist.  What was very striking was how positive the energy was, and it is important to remember how much we can achieve when we are looking outwards rather than inwards.  It is an unhealthy community that splits into factions and rows and gossips about ‘internal matters’ whether dogma or politics. A dynamic attractive community is one that puts its faith into action, helping and engaging with civil society.  First up on Friday was Ivan Lewis MP, who talked about his Jewish identity and upbringing, and his passionate defence of faith schools. Currently the Shadow Secretary for International Development, we had moved his talk forward as he left us to go straight to the airport to fly to Burma and meet Aung San Suu Kyi.

 

Talking about Faith and Politics from a liberal Jewish perspective it was interesting to hear him talk about the need for integration not assimilation – with an implicit critique to ‘assertive secularism’.  He argued that a good faith school gives you a strong identity which allows integration.  Compare this to Dawkin’s absurd claim that faith schools are a form of child abuse.  It resonated with me when Mr Lewis said that the lack of a sense of identity was a big problem with young people.  Interestingly this is something I have been pondering recently – especially a phenomenon I see more and more as the Digital Age allows people  to experiment with multiple identities.  Although there is a sort-of freedom in this, ultimately the lack of a deep-rooted identity, especially the experimenting with conflicting identities which on line anonymity allows, often leads to bullying and abuse – and also a vulnerability to being buffeted by the shrill winds of consumerism and ‘lifestyle agendas’.

 

The other MP – Paul Goggins, in contrast shared about how his identity had been shaped at Manchester University – particularly through experiences are working with disabled children through L’arche.  This ethos of service was rooted in his faith – and I am delighted he mentioned this as we were invited at yesterdays evenings mass to get involved with the Manchester L’arche community that is opening.  My next post will be about the other two guests on a memorable night!

 

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