Wikio - Top Blogs - Religion and belief

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Migration: This is a story about humanity

'Migration is what we have done since the earliest of times, triggering growth and enlarging our circles of possibility. Whether we’re discussing the Roman or British empires, 15th-century Venice or 20th-century New York or London today, great civilisations and dynamic cities have been defined by being open to immigrants and refugees.

They are, as migration specialist Ian Goldin characterises them, “exceptional people”. Over centuries, as he painstakingly details, it has been immigrants and refugees who have been part of the alchemy of any country’s success: they are driven, hungry and talented and add to the pool of entrepreneurs, innovators and risk-takers. The hundreds of thousands today who have trekked across continents and dangerous seas are by any standards unusually driven. They are also, as Angela Merkel says, fellow human beings. To receive them well is not only in our interests, it is fundamental to an idea of what it means to be human.' (Will Hutton)

'Other than a tiny proportion of sociopaths, our species is naturally empathetic. It is only when we strip the humanity from people – when we stop imagining them as being quite human like us – that our empathetic nature is eroded. That allows us either to accept the misery of others, or even to inflict it on them. Rightwing newspapers hunt down extreme and unsympathetic stories of refugees, and we fight back with statistics. Instead, we need to show the reality of refugees: their names, their faces, their ambitions and their fears, their loves, what they fled.' (Owen Jones)

'What do the following people have in common: Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England; the former England cricketer Kevin Pietersen; Nigel Farage’s wife, Kirsten; Chelsea’s new striker, Pedro; and Sir Bradley Wiggins?

Yes, they are all migrants – or, if you prefer, immigrants. Having moved to the UK to further their careers, some of them might perhaps be described as “economic migrants”. Except that this term is reserved exclusively by politicians and the media to describe people who – unlike bankers or sports stars – they don’t like: people who, in the words of our foreign secretary, are “marauding” across Europe.

People from the UK moving abroad to pursue their career or financial interests, meanwhile, are “expats”, never emigrants or migrants.

The language we hear in what passes for a national conversation on migration has become as debased as most of the arguments, until the very word “migrants” is toxic, used to frighten us by conjuring up images of a “swarm” (as David Cameron put it) massing at our borders, threatening our way of life.

As Prof Alexander Betts, director of the refugee studies centre at Oxford University, says: “Words that convey an exaggerated sense of threat can fuel anti-immigration sentiment and a climate of intolerance and xenophobia.”'

'Another journalist says: “They are people – men, women and children, fathers and mothers, teachers and engineers, just like us – except they come from Syria, Eritrea, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Why not just call them ‘people’, then list any other information we know that is relevant?”'

'Politically charged expressions such as “economic migrants”, “genuine refugees” or “illegal asylum seekers” should have no part in our coverage. This is a story about humanity. Reporting it should be humane as well as accurate. Sadly, most of what we hear and read about “migrants” is neither.' (Dave Marsh)


Michael Kiwanuka - I Need Your Company.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Windows on the world (355)

Paphos, 2014


Bear's Den - Agape.

Update: Sophia Hub Redbridge

Ros Southern writes:

'To see about the new enterprise club programme and what's on this Tuesday lunchtime - click here for info. We're looking for speakers for the Autumn if you can help.

It was interesting to visit the hearing/deaf community cafe and this is a space open to ideas evenings and weekends. click here for info

See our Timebank swap of the week and the amazing list of offers from Claudia Ungereanu! click here for info

We've two guest bloggers this week! Boris Johnson to invite you to join the energy business challenge open to small business... and Ruth Musgrave on an interesting course she attended on sacred economics and it's relevance to Redbridge.

There's an ECHO Timebank business panel and social at the Google campus in Stratford which is free - it doesn't even cost you Timebank hours! Very interesting. Click here for info.

Also I am delighted that Peter Musgrave is able to co-facilitate a Sophia Course in October - please register your interest!

Ros Southern
Coordinator, Sophia Hubs Seven Kings'


Lifehouse - Whatever It Takes.

Friday, 28 August 2015

The way to unity is through diversity

Here is my sermon from yesterday's lunchtime Eucharist at St Stephen Walbrook (the sermon can be heard at the London Internet Church website):

In the culture of Jesus’ day, those with disabilities were often excluded from their community because of their disability. We see this in the Gospels in references to disabled people living outside villages and towns and being beggars on the streets. Those who were Jews, were excluded from worship at the Temple because of their disability. Jesus’ acts of healing were, therefore, acts of inclusion because, as a result, those healed were reintegrated into their community. For those who were Jews, we often read of these people being sent to authorities after their healing in other that they can return to their communities.

Despite this, as the theologian John Hull has noted, many disabled people rightly ‘claim the Bible and Christian faith are not so much part of the answer but part of the problem.’ He notes that ‘many Christians still persist with a literal concept of miracle, and the imitation of Christ is sometimes thought to involve healing miracles for disabled people.’ In addition, ‘the Bible itself depicts many disabilities in a negative way.’ ‘He gives blindness as one example, due to his personal experience of this condition, which ‘is frequently used as a metaphor for sin and unbelief.’ This is a metaphor taken from the world of sighted people and used to marginalise and demean the world of blind people. The result of these negative features of the [Christian] tradition’, John Hull says, ‘is that disabled people usually find better things to do on a Sunday morning than go to church’.

That situation is the reverse of Jesus’ intent when he healed. He intended to include disabled people in the community, culture and worship of his day but some aspects of the Christian tradition which he began have resulted in disabled people experiencing exclusion. As John Hull has said, ‘The true miracle … is when disabled people are fully integrated into Church life and accepted exactly as they are’.

At St Stephen Walbrook we inhabit a space which is a visual treasure chest. We rightly value Wren’s masterpiece as ‘the pride of English architecture’ (John Summerson) and because the sensitive mirroring of Wren’s dome with Henry Moore’s altar and Patrick Heron’s kneelers creates harmonious space. However, those who are blind cannot see what we see in this space and those with mobility impairments cannot access the space in order to see. All the while that those of us who can access and see the glories of this space, accept that others cannot, we are actually a space and community of exclusion. As a community whose mission statement says we seek to provide, without prejudice or expectation, a safe and welcoming place, we need to creatively imagine how we can include those who are currently excluded.

Jesus, in order to communicate with the man in our Gospel story (Mark 7. 31 - 37), uses touch and gesture. There are several different theories as to why Jesus acts in ways that seem very strange to us; putting his fingers in the man’s ears, spitting before putting his fingers on the man’s tongue and looking up to heaven. The simplest explanation would seem to be that touch and gesture were the ways in which communication could take place. The starting point for inclusion for us, as for Jesus, is to enter to some extent the world of the other person, in this case the man who was deaf and who had a speech impediment.

It can only be as we connect with the different world that others inhabit that understanding can come from which inclusion can develop. John Hull says: ‘The major disabilities create a distinctive world of experience, so different from the world in which the majority live as to constitute different human worlds. The powerful majority often create a world which is assumed to be the only world. Those who do not share this world are regarded as being without a world and are pitied or patronised. This idea of multiple worlds is of great political and social significance. If you do not understand my world, how can we relate to each other with mutual respect? If we rush too soon to a single world, we create an exclusive domination. The only way to create a unity of the human species is to go through multiplicity. The way to unity is through diversity … We must also include the different human worlds of experience, such as the disabled worlds we have been thinking about. Just as the Church can’t be holy or catholic without the equal ministry of women with men, so it cannot be holy or catholic without the equal prophetic and sacramental ministry of disabled people with the able-bodied.’


Stevie Wonder - Visions.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Stolen Lives: Private viewing

Tonight I was at the St Bride Foundation for a private viewing of Stolen Lives, a new web based project which looks at issues of historical and contemporary slavery through music, songs, words, images, film and animation.

Stolen Lives is a collection of 17 freely dowloadable multi-media animations which will be of use to schoolteachers, especially those teaching at Key Stage 3 (ages 11 - 14) and Key Stage 4 (ages 14 – 16), but also to youth groups, museums, music and dance groups, and churches and faith groups. The project is also interactive with the website enabling users to post their own performances or interpretations of the material, allowing for a much broader sharing of ideas and practice.

Stolen Lives is a collaborative, open-educational project, bringing together academics (The Wilberforce Institute - Hull University), musicians (Paul Field and others), artists (Peter S. Smith) and educationalists (Sue James).

Paul Field is composer & Creative Director for the project. He has worked as a Songwriter, Composer, Producer and Performer in the UK and around the world. From the release of his first album 'In your eyes' (with Nutshell) he has written around 800 songs over four decades. He has received an Ivor Novello Award from the British Academy of Songwriters and Composers and a Dove Award (and two nominations) from GMA in Nashville along with numerous other awards from ASCAP in the USA. He has had #1 chart success with his songs in the UK, USA, Holland, South Africa and Germany. He has received many Platinum and Gold records for his work.

Peter S Smith, who created the visuals for the project, is a Painter/Printmaker with a studio at the St Bride Foundation in London. He studied Fine Art at Birmingham Polytechnic and Art Education at Manchester. In 1992 he gained an MA (Printmaking) at Wimbledon School of Art. Examples of his work can be found in private and public collections including Tate Britain and the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. His book 'The Way See It' (Piquant Press) is a visual monograph of contemporary work by a professional artist who is a Christian, which provides an illustrated introduction to the art of engraving.


Stolen Lives - Midnight Rain.

Exhibitions: The Connection's artists and Quaker artists

There are currently two interesting and engaging exhibitions at St Martin-in-the-Fields.

Artwork 2015 is a vibrant exhibition displaying a wide range of talented artwork and photographs by people who use The Connection’s creative groups. The workshops unlock people’s potential and are therapeutic, increasing people’s confidence and well being. Some of the art is available for sale and proceeds will support The Connection’s artists.

Margaret, who uses the art room says: “I was suffering from depression because I lost several members of my family all in the same month, and art is a leeway. Instead of taking tablets, I thought find something to work on, and then my mind is not focused on that fact. It’s focused on what I’m doing. I don’t take any tablets because of art.”

Inside Out / Outside in is a thought-provoking exhibition by three Quaker female artists (Anne McNeill-Pulati, Isa Lousie Levy and Caroline Jariwala). Featuring human landscapes, the exhibition provides an opportunity to depict, show and open dialogue around shared spiritual journeys.

Isa Louise Levy says: "Our creative practice uses the figure as a vehicle both metaphorically and pictorially, and as reflections of human experience and spirituality. The figure is the bridge where inner and outer worlds connect the physical and metaphysical landscapes. Our collaborative exhibition celebrates human integrity and diversity as we come from multi-faith backgrounds namely Jewish, Hindu and Christian. Our faith journeys also share a common ground as we are all Quakers."

Friends House in Euston is also currently hosting an exhibition by Quaker artists. Climb up to the moor is an exhibition of works by Judith Bromley Nicholls and Robert Nicholls which focuses on "moorland, its importance for carbon-capture, the fragility of this amazing landscape, and our relationship with the natural world." The exhibition is a collection of paintings, texts and an ever expanding installation 'Groundcover'. It runs 11 – 16:00 each day until Saturday 29 August and is free.


Jon Watts - The Kabarak Call.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Start:Stop - The Sacrament of the Present Moment

Bible reading

"… as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, as on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your ancestors put me to the test, though they had seen my works for forty years. Therefore I was angry with that generation, and I said, ‘They always go astray in their hearts, and they have not known my ways.’ As in my anger I swore, ‘They will not enter my rest.’”

Take care, brothers and sisters, that none of you may have an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partners of Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end. As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” (Hebrews 3. 7 – 15)


In Deuteronomy 30 we read of Moses saying to the Israelites, “today … I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses” and exhorting them to “choose life.” Similarly, in our reading from Hebrews we have heard that, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts …” Later on in Hebrews we read that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” but the emphasis here is on today.

One reason for this emphasis is that, as Simon Small has written, “There is always only now. It is the only place that God can be found.” Each moment we are alive is unique and unrepeatable. As songwriter, VictoriaWilliams, has put it: “This moment will never come again / I know it because it has never been before.” We live in the present. Therefore, we can only encounter God in this moment, in the here and now, today.

Jean Pierre de Caussade was a French Jesuit priest and writer known for his work Abandonment to Divine Providence and his work with Nuns of the Visitation in Nancy, France. De Caussade coined a phrase to describe what we have just been talking about. He called it ‘The Sacrament of the Present Moment,' which “refers to God's coming to us at each moment, as really and truly as God is present in the Sacraments of the Church ... In other words, in each moment of our lives God is present under the signs of what is ordinary and mundane. Only those who are spiritually aware and alert discover God's presence in what can seem like nothing at all. This keeps us from thinking and behaving as if only grand deeds and high flown sentiments are 'Godly'. Rather, God is equally present in the small things of life as in the great. God is there in life's daily routine, in dull moments, in dry prayers ... There is nothing that happens to us in which God cannot be found. What we need are the eyes of faith to discern God as God comes at each moment - truly present, truly living, truly attentive to the needs of each one.” (Elizabeth Ruth Obbard, Life in God's NOW, New City, 2012)

Simon Small has noted, however, that “Our minds find paying full attention to now very difficult. This is because our minds live in time. Our thoughts are preoccupied with past and future, and the present moment is missed.” He goes on to say that, ‘To pay profound attention to reality is prayer, because to enter the depths of this moment is to encounter God ... Contemplative prayer is the art of paying attention to what is’ (Simon Small, 'From the Bottom of the Pond', O Books, 2007). In saying this, he echoes de Caussade’s idea of the sacrament of the present moment and the thinking of SimoneWeil who said that, ‘absolute unmixed attention is prayer.’ All these confirm the thought in Hebrews that today is the moment for encounter with God.


Lord God, our thoughts are often preoccupied with past and future, meaning that we miss the present moment. Enable us to realise the uniqueness of each passing moment which is unrepeatable. Enable us to live in the sacrament of the present moment by giving absolute unmixed attention to the reality of what is in the here and now. Today, may we hear your voice in the sacrament of the present moment.

Lord God, give us the eyes of faith to discern you as you come at each moment - truly present, truly living, truly attentive to the needs of each one. May we discern you in what is ordinary and mundane, in the small things of life as in the great, in life's daily routine, in dull moments, and in dry prayers. Today, may we hear your voice in the sacrament of the present moment.

Lord God, keep us from thinking and behaving as if only grand deeds and high flown sentiments are 'Godly'. Teach us to value the doing of small, mundane actions recognising that you are equally present in the small things of life as in the great. Enable us to show your love through our actions as we do our common business wholly for the love of you.  Today, may we hear your voice in the sacrament of the present moment.


Realising the uniqueness of each passing moment, hearing God’s voice today, living in the present moment, discovering God’s presence in the here and now. May those blessings of God almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, rest upon you and remain with you always. Amen. 


The Velvet Underground - Sunday Morning.