Human dignity and the loss of communal memory
From the Revd Donald Reeves
Sir, — Paul Vallely is half right: “Destroying people is still worse” (Comment, 26 August). No one disagrees that “human life is a universal value; dignity is inherent in the human condition.” But human dignity means honouring the past, and not robbing human beings of its history. The loss of communal memory is degrading.
In Bosnia, some thousand mosques were vandalised, damaged, or destroyed during the Bosnia War. The purpose of this destruction was to remove every trace of the Ottomans, and subjugate Bosnian Muslims. In Banja Luka, the administrative centre of the Serbian entity, all 16 mosques were destroyed, and some 30,000 Muslims were removed.
The Soul of Europe initiated the rebuilding of the Ferhadija Mosque in 2000. The mosque had been a recognised World Heritage Site. In 2000, the site of the mosque was designated as a car park. In May this year, the rebuilt 16th-century mosque, exactly as it used to be, using original stones salvaged from a lake, was inaugurated, 23 years after its destruction. Bosnian Serbs contributed to the cost of reconstruction.
We were frequently criticised by international NGOs and others for wasting our time on “building mosques”. But the rebuilt Ferhadija Mosque has been greeted with enthusiasm by the Bosnian Serbs; as the Bosnian Serb Orthodox bishop told me, “Now we can have a proper postcard of Banja Luka,” referring to a newly built Orthodox cathedral.
Together with the Catholic Cathedral, there is now the Ferhadija Mosque to complete the picture. And the Catholic Bishop added: “We hope this will help us to work together.”
Bosniaks are returning. There are considerable problems — political and economic, and discrimination against all non-Serbs — but the Ferhadija points to a new, possible future in which all communities are welcome. The city will become, we were told, a “place of pilgrimage”.
The Soul of Europe
The Coach House
Crediton EX17 2AQ
British policy concerning the Saudis and Yemen
From Mr C. J. Ryecart
Sir, — On being challenged by Jeremy Corbyn in the Commons about the morality of British arms sales to Saudi Arabia for use in its war on Yemen, just before his resignation, David Cameron defended his policy on the grounds that Britain was supporting the legitimate ruler in Yemen.
Tragically, for the people of Yemen, Mr Cameron had got it wrong. In reality, the election that should have produced the legitimate ruler of Yemen, after Mr Hadi’s term ended on 25 February 2014, never took place, and Mr Hadi remained in power illegally until February 2015, a year after his term expired, in violation of the UN Security Council-endorsed GCC initiative, which called for democratic elections.
Mr Hadi then fled to Saudi Arabia, and requested the Saudi government to reinstate him as President. The UN, instead of organising long-overdue elections in Yemen, then endorsed an illegal war against the people of Yemen, without UN mandate, by the human-rights-violating, totalitarian, absolute monarchy of Saudi Arabia, which executes Apostates.
Britain and the United States have been complicit not only in “recognising a fraud that has no legal basis in constitutional rights” (Al-Baghdadi, former legal adviser to the Ministry of the Interior), but also in supporting Saudi Arabia with arms and ammunition in an illegitimate war that has killed thousands of Yemeni civilians and almost destroyed the civil infrastructure of the country, leaving more than 80 per cent of the population in need of humanitarian assistance
If the most conspicuous element of Britain’s special relationship with the US lies in its propensity to create failed states in the Middle East — first in Iraq, then in Libya, and now in Yemen — perhaps it’s a relationship that needs reconsidering?
CHRISTOPHER JOHN RYECART
Weinberg 4, Kefermarkt 4292
Upper Austria, Austria
Chairs recommendation is now a shibboleth
From the Revd Geoffrey White
Sir, — As Rector of a Grade II* listed church, and also a member of our diocesan advisory committee, I, too, have become embroiled with the Church Buildings Council’s latest views on upholstered chairs (News, 26 August). I am certainly not against regulation, and am actually quite concerned lest Victorian pews become as rare as earlier examples.
The CBC’s advice on chairs is hedged with phrases such as “experience has shown . . .”, which, I would think, conveys an intention to make general recommendations, not to create a blanket ban on padded seats, applicable in all cases; yet this is how DACs, and now chancellors, are interpreting it.
Also, while plain wooden seats or backs are being encouraged, there seems to be no objection to stainless-steel tubing for frames, which can look stylish in, say, Beverley Minster, but would be crass in the more intimate space of a church such as ours.
We have chosen robust, traditional wooden chairs, upholstered in a cloth matched to the Victorian tiles, and to a predominant colour in windows and existing furnishings. We intend the chairs to be used in a 16th-century chapel, and to be available as occasional seating in the nave, where the west end is now cleared of pews for flexible use. Also, with the right seating, we can use this area for meetings and social activities, particularly for young parents and the elderly, but I don’t believe they will be much attracted by hard chairs.
At a time when we are being asked to be more flexible and welcoming, this new shibboleth seems counter-productive.
Norton Rectory, Norton Church Road
Sheffield S8 8JQ
Full electoral powers should be restored to MPs
From Dr N. P. Hudd
Sir, — Having been away, I have only just seen your edition of 5 August, but have to say that I am perplexed by the odd view of “democracy” propounded by the letters from the Bishop of Wolverhampton and Mr Gabbott.
The elected MPs of the Labour Party hold their positions by the due process of the mass franchise, confirmed in a recent referendum by the electorate. The electors of the (apparently) official Leader of the Opposition paid a few pounds for that privilege.
That is not only non-democratic: it might by some be construed as corrupt. The apparently “democratic” procedures of all the main parties in this respect divert authority from the Commons, and they would all do well to persuade their members that this is, in fact, an anti-democratic privilege that should be abandoned in the interests of the nation.
In the name of openness, I declare that I am a contributing member of one of the parties in question, and would readily vote myself out of a vote in this matter
N. P. HUDD
Consultant physician (retired)
13 Elmfield Tenterden
Kent TN30 6RE
Reservations about the ‘squeeze’ at the Peace
From the Revd Janet Fife
Sir, — I, too, sympathise with Canon David Winter’s comments on extended sharing of the Peace in the eucharist (Diary, 5 August). I understand also Canon Broad’s attempt to find a solution (Letters, 19 August); but I have some reservations about asking everyone to link — and squeeze — hands.
As a sufferer from rheumatoid arthritis, I have joined the many who find a firm handshake painful, and such a practice could make churchgoing a difficult experience.
There are also many people with a very reasonable distaste for forced intimacy; some (though not all) of these may be survivors of physical or sexual abuse who feel the need to guard their personal space. These should be respected rather than pressured into an unwelcome physical contact. The church should be a place where vulnerable people are understood, accepted, and nurtured; our record has not been good in this respect.
In one of my parishes, we talked through these issues, and arrived at a solution that suited all. At the Peace, we invited everyone either to greet each other, or to remain seated and continue in prayer. We also asked people to respect those who remained seated, and not to hinder their prayers. It worked well in that church, but would not suit every congregation.
It should, however, be possible for the celebrant to keep the Peace within limits simply by announcing the next hymn, if there is one and the organist is co-operative. In a said eucharist, one can simply call everyone back to their seats and proceed with the offertory.
12 Waterstead Crescent
Whitby, N. Yorks YO21 1PY
From the Revd Dr Paula Clifford
Sir, — The way we share the Peace should surely reflect and affirm how we relate to one another before we come to focus on our relationship with God in the eucharist.
On a recent Sunday, we welcomed an unusually large baptism party (60-plus visitors) to our morning service. When it came to the Peace, I indicated that our custom was to share a handshake or a hug, as appropriate. Without hesitation the visitors — mainly young, mostly non-churchgoers — exchanged high fives, so bringing into our worship an unexpected element of joyful delight in one another’s company.
The respectful silence that marked the Eucharistic Prayer seemed all the more profound because of the exuberance that preceded it.
23 Upper Crescent
Oxon OX29 0RT
From Anne Hughes
Sir, — With reference to Canon Broad’s letter: at St Catherine’s, Heald Green, Cheshire, we have been exchanging the Peace at the eucharist for the past ten years by holding hands round the church.
102 Oakdale Drive
Heald Green SK8 3SW
From the Revd David Chamberlin
Sir, — I read with some sympathy the letter from the Revd Lindsay Llewellyn MacDuff concerning women’s clerical dress (19 August).
There is a wider issue, however: I am increasingly irritated by the lack of affordable slimmer-fit clerical shirts for male clergy. All the shirts I have bought in recent years from the best-known suppliers assume I have Friar Tuck proportions. I want to continue to wear distinctive “uniform” when on duty, but not being the Priest-who-ate-all-the-pies means that, especially at this time of year, I appear to lack the ability to properly dress myself, or to choose suitably sized clothing.
I would be very glad to hear of any company who can supply my requirements (without costing an arm and a leg), and so salvage my battered sartorial reputation.
24 Church Lane
Cambridge CB24 6AB
What it stands for
From Dr Steve Tomkins
Sir, — I’m not sure how vital readers will consider this information to be, but Westhoughton Evangelical Church, mentioned in “When Trump was thought humble” (Press, 19 August), in fact “separate[s] from the charismatic movement and the ecumenical movement” rather than is an Evangelical church that separates from “charismatic and evangelical movements”.
49 Sandrock Road
Lewisham SE13 7TS