Letters to the Editor

by
24 January 2020

Hungary and persecuted Christians, Ball documentary, and climate-change science

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Hungary and persecuted Christians

From the Ambassador of Hungary

Sir, — I refer to the article “Beware persecution propaganda” by the Revd Alexander Faludy (Comment, 10 January). The author seeks to discredit Hungary’s internationally acclaimed support for persecuted Christian communities worldwide by suggesting a wider political agenda, which does not exist, in relation to immigration policy (not least in support of our EU Schengen obligations).

In the process, your correspondent also makes a range of factual errors understating our investment in this area. Overall, we might express our surprise that a Christian publication should give space to a critique of our efforts, on partisan political grounds, without room for any countervailing argument. We provide one below.

In the past years, the migration crisis has brought forward issues, such as national identity or the matter of identity, in Hungary and other countries, including the UK. The integrity of Western culture and open societies is, indeed, a proper matter of discussion within our own nations; but Hungary is also deeply concerned with the fate of Christians all over the world, as the most persecuted religious minority on the planet.

One need only seek to attend a Christian church in parts of the Middle East to know that “multi-culturalism” appears to be so often a one-way street in favour of other religions. Prime Minister Orbán’s speech, therefore, did not equate the plight of different communities, but set out why it would be very short-sighted to look only at problems facing Christianity in Europe without providing help to other continents (I’m sending you the whole speech attached).

The financial figures referenced understate significantly the financial investment our government is making in support of its commitment to protect these Christian minorities: since 2016 the Hungarian government spent over £30 million via the “Hungary Helps” programme on aiding Christians in over a dozen countries in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.

In 2018, Hungary additionally spent some £135 million on international development, including a further £8m on Christian-minority programmes.

Your correspondent also misrepresents the process of fund distribution. Hungary continues to work together with multilateral development agencies; in fact, the majority of its funds are allocated through multilateral channels and with the help of aid organisations (source: Hungary International development cooperation profile).

However, the representatives of the Hungarian government listen to the needs of persecuted Christian communities and react to their requests when they would like to receive assistance directly, thus enabling church leaders to assist their communities in distress.

Although Mr Faludy claims that Hungary is misusing EU funds, the European Commission reacted to investigations with regard to Hungary by stating on 4 November 2019 that, according to the European Court of Auditors, “the error rate in direct payment expenditure was below 2 per cent, regarded as insignificant.” We have just announced a global partnership with USAid, the US DfID equivalent, fully meeting their standards of governance.

It is obviously disappointing that your publication should give so much space to an attack on one of the stand-out efforts to protect the communities internationally which, as your readers, we value quite rightly as highly and equally with other religious communities.

KRISTÓF SZALAY-BOBROVNICZKY
Embassy of Hungary
35 Eaton Place
London SW1X 8BY
 

Responses to the TV documentary on Peter Ball

From the Rt Revd Dr Colin Buchanan

Sir, — Your editorial (17 January) commented appropriately upon what the BBC documentary Exposed: The Church’s darkest secret had unearthed about the double life of Bishop Peter Ball and some other Chichester clergy in the 1980s. The documentary, however, had omitted a major element in the story which the Gibb report had also ignored and the independent investigation had addressed only in part. As you, too, did not mention what Exposed had omitted, I raise now the crucial question how Peter Ball ever became Bishop of Gloucester in 1992.

There were at least rumours of Ball’s activities around in Sussex from early in the 1980s, and the diocesan bishop, Eric Kemp, was aware of them. Yet, when the Crown Appointments Commission in late 1991 considered candidates for the Gloucester see, they must have had before them impeccable references for Peter Ball for him to be considered at all, let alone to be placed second in the names the Commission submitted to the Prime Minister. So, what had Kemp written about his suffragan? If he had written a very qualified reference, then its arrival before the Commission as wholly commendatory must be attributed to the editorial role exercised in those days by the Prime Minister’s Appointments Secretary, Robin Catford.

There is earlier evidence of Catford’s personal attempts to get the Commission to appoint Peter Ball to other dioceses: Bishop David Stancliffe testifies that the Portsmouth diocesan representatives on the Commission in 1984 were asked by Catford to nominate Ball, and they told him that in Portsmouth they knew too much about goings-on in Sussex to contemplate considering Ball; and the Gibb report itself tells a similar story in relation to the Norwich vacancy in 1985: Catford proposed and the diocesan representatives, because of what they had heard about Ball, disposed.

It seems, however, that in 1991, Catford not only found members of the Commission to nominate Ball, but also then provided the glowing references and, as it is natural to infer, subtly steered them to naming Ball as second behind their chosen number one. For Catford’s purposes, Ball’s being second would well serve as the path to becoming Bishop of Gloucester.

This reconstruction is fully vindicated by what happened next, a manipulation which the Independent Investigation did demonstrate with firsthand evidence. In §§65-66 they record how Catford unscrupulously pulled the wool over John Major’s eyes and persuaded the Prime Minister to recommend Ball to the Queen. And thus Ball entered senior public office with both unqualified written references and Downing Street’s public certificate of total integrity.

So, yes, the Church of England had a rotten apple (and should not cover that up), but the State grievously thrust it further into the barrel, and gave it more opportunity to corrupt those it touched.

COLIN BUCHANAN
21 The Drive, Alwoodley
Leeds LS17 7QB
 

From Canon Andrew Dow

Sir, — No one who watched the BBC’s programme about Bishop Peter Ball could fail to have been moved by the plight of his victims and their families, and the Church’s wholly inadequate responses at different times. Notwithstanding the documentary’s positive reception, however, it was itself not without fault in viewing the events of the early 1990s through the lens of what we now know — but did not know back then — of the nature and behaviour of paedophiles.

Neil Todd’s complaint about Ball was made long before Jimmy Savile’s death, and the subsequent shocking revelations about paedophiles’ tactics of grooming, cover-up, and deception, and the ability of “celebrities” to practise their evil arts undetected. Given the ignorance surrounding the subject in 1992, it is not surprising that the Church’s senior leadership initially responded cautiously: those at the top of every single one of our national institutions would have done the same.

Sadly, this more nuanced approach was given no space in the programme, and the result? A cruelly unbalanced portrait of Archbishop George Carey. Yes, he made a serious error in not immediately sending the incriminating letters to the police (an error that he has since admitted), but he was, like all of us, only “a man of his time”.

ANDREW DOW
17 Brownlow Drive
Stratford-upon-Avon
CV37 9Q
 

From Sally Cunningham

Sir, — Having watched Exposed, am I the only one to feel profoundly uncomfortable that George Carey still has a licence to officiate?

SALLY CUNNINGHAM
2 Milton Road, Oundle
Peterborough PE8 4AB

[Lord Carey stood down as an assistant bishop in the diocese of Oxford in June 2017, ceasing to be under licence, and withdrew from public ministry for a season. He requested and was granted permission to officiate in February 2018, which, the diocese says, was to enable him to preach and preside in the church where he worships. Editor]

Climate-change science and prognostications 

From Professor Nick Cowern

Sir, — The Revd Dr Ian Duffield (Letters, 10 January) casts doubt on the extreme risks involved in climate change and the urgency of action required in response (Letters, 3 January).

First, as David Attenborough said last week, it is nonsense to suggest that Australia’s bushfire crisis has nothing to do with climate change. Climate research by leading scientists such as Michael E. Mann and Stefan Rahmstorf shows that those fires would not have happened with such severity absent the rising temperatures caused by climate change. Moreover, a recent article, “Climate change — too risky to bet against”, in the scientific journal Nature, led by Timothy Lenton, director of the Global Systems Institute at Exeter University, warns that apocalyptic risks to humanity from a future cascade of climate tipping-points are closer at hand than previously thought. Indeed, Mann warns that this year’s Australian bushfire season is itself a climate tipping-point, producing as much carbon dioxide in emissions from biomass burning (the burning of forest, bush, and animals) as the Australian economy emits directly.

Second, there is no solace in the logarithmic dependence of global warming on carbon-dioxide levels cited by Dr Duffield. That mathematical dependence has long been part of climate model scenarios that point to 4°C or more of global heating.

It simply has to be faced that the climate crisis that many of us had thought would arrive at global heating levels above 2°C, which might have allowed time for measured, gradual action, is in fact already with us at just 1.1°C. There can be no doubt: climate change is an imminent global threat and there is a moral imperative for all to face facts and act with urgency.

NICK COWERN
Address supplied
 

Unfollowed example 

From Miss Vasantha Gnanadoss

Sir, — Bishop Ronald Bowlby is rightly lauded (Gazette, 17 January) for the appointment of the first black bishop, Wilfred Wood. Bishop Wilfred was given charge of an episcopal area made up of suburbia and the countryside. This refreshing appointment could have helped others over the past 35 years to avoid the mistaken assumption that black and minority-ethnic (BAME) leaders are suited, if at all, only for urban and inner-city ministry.

This assumption is commonly made, not least by bishops who admit that there is racism in the Church of England, but make no senior BAME appointments themselves and lack meaningful interactions with BAME people.

VASANTHA GNANADOSS
242 Links Road
London SW17 9ER
 

Primates’ Meeting and the governance of Edwardes College, Peshawar  

From the Revd John Ray

Sir, — As one of many who now see the Church from the viewpoint of an English village, but who have shared in the joys and the pains of the world Church, may I thank you for your discerning coverage of the pre-Lambeth Conference meeting (News, 17 January). You report much good determination, also the failure to complete the promised study of what the Archbishop of Canterbury terms “the deep evil of corruption”. I comment on the seriousness of the latter.

I came to faith as a British Council-supported teacher in Lawrence College, Pakistan, in the 1950s, and found myself without further ado a lay reader in Lahore diocese. I thus began to learn discipleship from the lovely examples of a tiny congregation of Punjabi and Anglo-Indian colleagues.

Soon after, I was invited to go to the Tyndale Biscoe School in Srinagar as Principal, and was surprised to find myself a “missionary” and part of CMS. This was in Amritsar diocese, newly created and split off from Lahore after Partition. Among the good and not so good gifts that came over the border was Archdeacon Haq, with the proviso, as I learned later, that he should on no account be used in property matters.

Then, in 1970, the Church of North India was born, and I found myself representing CMS in matters regarding the invaluable urban property that they had bequeathed to the successor Church. Which one? The question was posed by Haq, who was busy selling it off, and was now trying to set up a continuing “Anglican” Church, using his heavy clout as paymaster to gather a few clergy.

For some years we struggled, in and out of the Amritsar courts. Murder was committed on the Bishop’s compound as the deep evil of corruption was bidding to destroy God’s Church, which was mainly saved by the firm stand of — often very poor — village congregations.

After a decade of the rats’ eating up the property — those who know the procedures of the lower Indian courts will understand — we were able to elect Anand Chandu Lal as Bishop. He knew he had to finish off the court cases with his left hand, while he set to work to rebuild the diocese as a true bishop. I found myself still immersed as his choice for secretary to the Diocesan Council, and enjoyed that privilege for the next six years. Bishop Anand, who also served as Moderator of CNI, has been succeeded by Bishop Samantaroy, again now CNI Moderator, another wise and godly leader.

Your report also mentions, with some factual error, the difficulty over Edwardes College, Peshawar. Edwardes did escape nationalisation under Bhutto in the 1970s because of the stand of the (mainly Muslim) staff and political leadership of North West Frontier Province. I visited the College just before 9/11 and met, among others, the then Governor of the Province, General Iftikhar Hussain Shah, who was hugely appreciative of it. As earlier in Kashmir, I found that it was senior local people, often alumni and often Muslim, who were the guarantors of good governance.

I believe that this may still be the case, and would urge the Church, both locally and more widely, to listen with the greatest caution. I can only feel that the Primates may have been insufficiently informed on this issue.

JOHN RAY
2 Birchfield, Hook
Goole DN14 5NJ
 

Across the Atlantic, freedom was still an issue  

From Mr Robert Gould

Sir, — The article “Before the Mayflower, death, prison, poverty” (Features, 17 January) gives a very good picture of the Separatists of the day, except in one respect. For them, as for many, “religious freedom” meant freedom for me, but not necessarily for you; or the “freedom to be right”.

The Massachusetts colonists were quite prepared to send others on their journeys, and the colonies of Connecticut and Rhode Island both owe their beginnings to groups unwelcome in Massachusetts. The link between Church and State lasted until 1833, long after the American Revolution.

ROBERT GOULD
80 Strathearn Road
Edinburgh EH9 2AF

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