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News >

WWJD? Prod us, Primate says

by Ed Thornton

THE Archbishop of Canterbury said this week that Jesus would not take sides in the Occupy protests, but would ask questions of “capitalist and protester and cleric”.

In an article for the Christmas edition of Radio Times, Dr Williams said: “WWJD? [What Would Jesus Do?]: He’d first of all be there: sharing the risks, not just taking sides but steadily changing the entire atmos­phere by the questions he asks of everybody involved, rich and poor, capitalist and protester and cleric.”

Dr Williams said that Jesus would ask “awkward questions” of “religious people, moral people, and rich people — all the sorts of people involved at St Paul’s”. Jesus also “prods us to ask our­selves about our motives before we embark on grand gestures. Are we doing this for the sake of the real issue — or for an audience?”

On Wednesday afternoon, ten members of the Occupy camp were due to meet the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres; the in­vestment banker Ken Costa; and the chief executive of the Financial Services Authority (FSA), Hector Sants, in the Tent, at the Centre for Reconciliation and Peace at St Ethel­burga’s, in London.

A statement from Occupy London on Tuesday said that the meeting, which had been organised by the St Paul’s Institute and the camp’s Multifaith, Belief and None group, in­tended to “open up dialogue between the Occupy movement and the FSA”, and to “discuss what regulatory changes the FSA envisages taking place. . . and the time-frames the FSA is proposing.”

It said that representatives of Occupy London would talk about “how to work towards a future system that is democratic, just, open, ac­count­able, and transparent, and dis­cus­sing the need for regulators to be genuinely independent of the in­dustries they regulate. They will also be asking why they should believe regulation will work, when it has previously failed, and opening the dis­cussion as to how they, and the wider public, can inform and influ­ence the process.”

On Monday, the former Bishop of Worcester, Dr Peter Selby, who con­tributed to a recent St Paul’s Institute report on the financial system (News, 11 November), wrote in an article published on the Insitute’s website that he had found the protesters “receptive and critical” when he gave a talk at the camp.

“They have earned the right to be engaged with, not just by the Cath­edral, which is engaging with them, but by the powerful people in the City, and by politicians. Every day’s news gives more evidence that former remedies are not working, and at any moment we could wake up to hear the news that the entire financial system has broken down.

“And let us be clear: if that happens, those with plenty will find ways to protect themselves, while those who are poor and vulnerable will bear the brunt.”

On Wednesday of last week, members of the Occupy camp out­side Sheffield Cathedral met the Bishop of Sheffield, Dr Steven Croft, and other clerics, at the Central United Reformed Church.

A statement from the cathedral said that it was “a positive and mutually respectful meeting”, during which the Occupy Sheffield members had been “invited to share with the group their reasons for the camp; these centred on their concerns and anger about the increasing inequality between those who have and those who have not across the world.

“There followed a very construct­ive discussion during which the church representatives affirmed their understanding of many of the issues raised by the Occupy movement, and their commitment to continue keep­ing channels of communication open.”

On Saturday, a group of Occupy protesters in New York began a hunger strike in an enclosure at Duarte Square owned by Trinity Church, Wall Street. Occupy Wall Street said in a statement that the strike was “part of a continued effort seeking sanctuary on Trinity Church’s unused land”.

On the same day, Trinity issued a statement saying that “the enclosed lot at Duarte Square is not available, nor is it suitable for large-scale assemblies or encampments.”

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