THE diversity of London should be its strength, the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, said this week.
Speaking at a debate, “Who is Welcome Here?”, at St Paul’s Cathedral on Monday evening, Bishop Mullally said: “Living and working alongside many different kinds of people offers opportunities for us to learn, to grow, to enjoy a varied life.”
The event was based on research published by the St Paul’s Institute, “A Common Good Approach to Free Movement of People and Capital”, written by Dr Adrian Pabst.
At the beginning of the talk Bishop Mullally said: “We stand at an important moment at not just our nation’s history, but in the history of Europe. There have been few other times in our lifetime which have been more dramatic, polarising, or uncertain. Division is not new. Historically, we have found ourselves to have unbearable, seemingly unreconcilable differences before, and I’m absolutely certain that we will again.
“The report calls for a politics and a broad public discourse based on a different language, and a transcendent conversation — one that can address deeper questions of meaning and belonging. . . It’s not as easy as it sounds; otherwise we would have done it by now.”
Introducing the event, the Dean of St Paul’s, the Very Revd Dr David Ison, said that the question that the debate was framed around was “particularly important at this time of enormous transition: a transition which we’re uncertain about the process of”.
He continued: “Freedom of movement, labour, and capital has gone from being a slightly geeky, technical issue to a hugely live and pertinent debate. It matters enormously where we’ll be allowed to live and work, and who is going to being to be permitted to live and work here. None of us is going to be unaffected by what is happening with borders, migration, and the future of labour.”
Bishop Mullally emphasised the need to find common ground with neighbours, even in the midst of deep social divisions: “We are fighting against a deeply held instinct. This is not an easy problem to solve. It has been with us, in one manifestation or another, throughout the whole of history.
“Our challenge in this time is not to pretend that we are all alike. We clearly are not. But we must recognise — and, hopefully, learn, in some small way, to overcome — our intrinsic nature which pushes away others and tries to carve out territory only for ourselves.
“The diversity of London should be our strength, and not a hindrance. A city such as ours prospers only when we work together in diverse teams, bringing together various backgrounds and cultures.”
Referring to what churches can do, Bishop Mullally said: “One of the things we ought to be doing as churches is listening to people, and developing relationships with communities; so, in a sense, we listen to our communities. . . This will vary wherever we are are. We may need to get out of our buildings to do that.”
In the executive summary of his report, Dr Pabst writes: “The problem this essay explores is how to bring about greater justice at a time when a growing number of people feel they are not getting a fair share in the economy and society. . .
“A key message of this essay is the importance of broad-based engagement in seeking to advance the common good. The aim is not simply to reframe the debate about the free movement of capital and labour. It is hoped that doing so will help to support the renewal and development of common good practices both as an end in itself and as a fertile ground for the formulation, adoption and implementation of fresh reforms.”
Bishop Mullally also said: “As Christians, alongside other people of faith and of good will, we live in and serve the whole of this city. We are here to serve it and to bless it, to carry hope and peace, and to demonstrate the love of God to everyone. We are servants and neighbours to those around us.”