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Letters to the Editor

14 May 2021

Church Times letters: letters@churchtimes.co.uk We regret that we cannot guarantee consideration of letters submitted by post under present working conditions


Why no condemnation of Israel?

From the Revd Alison J. Askew

Sir, — If it wasn’t Israel, there would have been international outcry and condemnation of the appalling events seen in East Jerusalem and Gaza in recent days. Of course, because it is Israel, the Western press reports events with its usual pro-Israeli bias. The reality is that Israel is the aggressor and the Palestinians yet again are the powerless, voiceless victims.

The current troubles have been precipitated by the unlawful and callous eviction of native Palestinians from the houses that have been legally owned by their families for generations in the Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan areas of East Jerusalem. While this is the reality in those two areas, they are merely a microcosm of what is happening all over the occupied West Bank of Palestine. The Israeli government not only supports but actively encourages the illegal possession of Palestinian lands for the building of settlements, effectively towns for Jewish people from all over the world who wish to live in Israel.

It should be pointed out that there is no shortage of housing for Israelis in their own country. Most of the apartments in the settlements are second homes for people who live abroad, many in this country, and some lie completely empty. While the Palestinians are driven from their lands with no recourse to the law and no financial compensation, tax breaks and financial incentives are given to those who wish to live in the settlements. This is not about housing Israelis or displaced members of the Jewish faith: it is nothing less than ethnic cleansing, driving indigenous Palestinians from their homes and lands with the stated intention of creating a Jewish-only Israel. This action has been condemned under international law, but nothing is ever done about it.

Yes, of course, the Jewish people have the right to a homeland where they can live in peace and safety, but so, too, have the indigenous Palestinians who have been the victims of oppression and injustice ever since the disingenuous British description of Palestine as a land with no people for a people with no land.

We must continue to condemn the atrocities of the Holocaust and all contemporary manifestations of anti-Semitism, but we need to be reminded that the condemnation of the Israeli government with its policies of ethnic cleansing, oppression, and denial of justice is not anti-Semitism: rather, it is taking a stand for human rights and justice.

If it wasn’t Israel, wouldn’t we be doing this anyway?

6 Mallorie Close, Ripon
North Yorkshire HG4 2QE


Assisted dying is a matter of personal freedom

From Barbara Gilman

Sir, — Those opposed to assisted dying (News, 7 May) obsess over the possibility of “coercion”, while singing the praises of good palliative care. As regards the former, the countries or states that currently allow assisted dying are either “on a slippery slope towards compulsory euthanasia” or “have safeguards that are working well”, depending on which side of the fence you are. Believe whichever you want. Viewed from abroad, either opinion tends to be based on emotion and anecdotal evidence rather than hard fact.

When it comes to end-of-life care however, the arguments of the likes of Danny Kruger are not only fallacious in themselves: they are missing the point.

To deal with the fallacies first: the assertion that nowadays pain relief is so effective that nobody need die in pain is simply untrue, as anybody who has seen a loved one die in pain despite excellent care can attest. The second fallacy lies in the exclusive emphasis on pain relief. Relieve pain, and a “good” death free of any physical suffering will follow! Again, this is simply not true. There can be other horrific and extremely distressing symptoms associated with dying which entail little or no pain. The third fallacy is that throwing more money and effort at palliative care will solve everything, or at least allow those opposed to assisted dying the luxury of a clear conscience. Many specialised hospital units and hospices already offer the very best in end-of-life care, and yet many people still die in great physical distress.

But the truth is that all these arguments against assisted dying miss the point. What is at stake here is personal freedom. No healthy person has the right to impose their own ethical views (whether inspired by religion or not) on another autonomous individual who is dying and wishes to exit this life at the time and in the manner of their own choosing. Of course, no medical practitioner should be forced into assisting a patient to end their life if the practitioner’s conscience will not allow it. There could be opt-outs similar to those that, I believe, exist in respect of abortion. But if those facing death are not allowed the dignity and freedom of choice, perhaps assisted by a loved one rather than a medical practitioner, then they are much more likely to take their own lives at an earlier stage. Ironically, this would of course be perfectly legal.

I wonder whether Danny Kruger would like suicide to be re-criminalised? If he believes that no human life should ever be wilfully ended, surely the same arguments apply, whether there is one person involved in the act, or more.

16 Minster Court, Beverley
East Yorkshire HU17 8HQ


Begging the question

From the Revd Christopher Rogers

Sir, — Along with the rest of the clergy in the Church of England, I have just received an invitation to activate my People System account. I was, however, slightly surprised by the conjunction of the statement “To be a more diverse church is a key part of the Vision for the Church of England in the 2020s” with a question in the linked survey on my sexuality.

Does the Church of England really want to encourage diversity of sexuality? Given that my blue file has a note on it detailing my civil partnership, and that no priest is permitted to bless our partnership, I would be interested to hear how the Church seeks to encourage such diversity. And if it does not, then why ask the question? Prurience?

59 Southend Lane
London SE6 3AB


C of E’s further-education report is out of touch

From Professor Chris Higgins and Dr Keith Sharpe

Sir, — The Church of England appears out of touch with post-16 education today. The report Vocation, Transformation and Hope: A vision for the Church of England’s engagement with further education (News, 30 April), acknowledges that its aim is to “build a younger and more diverse church”, seeing further-education (FE) colleges as a recruiting ground for new church members rather than a place of education and community.

Astonishingly, the report has little to say about what, if anything, the Church might be able to contribute to the real-life educational and welfare needs of the young people of today’s Britain. The report skims over the fact that only around one per cent of students are C of E-affiliated and shows little awareness that FE colleges provide professionally qualified and comprehensive support for all their students’ welfare, mental-health, and well-being needs.

FE colleges support equality of opportunity for students of all backgrounds, abilities, and aspirations, and it is unclear how the suggested chaplaincies could be integrated into the existing professional welfare support in a manner that would not be counter-productive to the pluralistic life promoted by FE colleges and the local communities that they serve.

It would be wholly inappropriate for the C of E to use post-16 education as a privileged means of attempting to reverse its falling membership among young people.

Secular Education Forum
National Secular Society
Dutch House
307-308 High Holborn
London WC1V 7LL


Covid memorial will be of help to the grieving

From Dr Phillip Rice

Sir, — As a St Paul’s Cathedral Friends Council member, I welcome the unique contribution the St Paul’s “Remember Me” project for Covid-19, an online book of remembrance now with some 7300 entries, has delivered. I rank even more highly the proposed bringing together of the digital and the physical as a memorial in the portico of the north transept, symbolically placed in the spot where a 1941 bomb destroyed an existing porch. The ravages of war and the ravages of Covid-19 are to be linked in an imaginative digital and physical memorial that allows those who have died of Covid-19 to be named and honoured by their loved ones.

Therefore, I disagree with Lorna Dorrington (Letters, 7 May) on the expenditure of £2.3 million. On 1 May, the launch of the campaign to raise this money was, in my estimation of the TV radio and newspaper coverage, an outstanding success. I heard and saw news editors presenting this as a sensitive and significant contribution to helping grieving relatives and bringing some appropriate national memorial to those who had died. I am grateful for the initiative of the cathedral and its Friends and supporters who are backing this. I look to see many benefits in well-being for those who will in future be able to visit the site

23 Christchurch Square
London E9 7HU


Violence and gender

From Mr Philip Belben

Sir, — Emily Gathergood (Comment, 7 May) presents some statistics that, she believes, should “induce discomfort”. For me, however, they induce puzzlement, since she is using them to talk about gender-based violence, while giving no indication to what extent the violence in question actually is gender-based.

We are told that 22 per cent of women experience sexual violence, and that 71 per cent experience sexual harrassment, but not what proportion of men suffer similarly, nor what proportion of these cases are gender-based. (As a teenager, I suffered sexual harrassment from a classmate, but since we were both male, that presumably was not. My wife, too, when at school, suffered sexual harrassment from another female student: also not gender-based?)

We are told that, in the UK, a woman is killed by a man every three days; but how often is a man killed by a man? someone killed by a woman? someone killed by a person or persons unknown? Without these numbers, the statistics tell us nothing about gender-based violence — or gender-based anything else. Gender-based violence is a serious issue, but it is clouded when discussed with such meaningless figures.

This article makes me more worried about the quality of the research — and the way in which research is taught in universities — than about gender-based violence.

The Chapel, Maitlands Close
Nettlebridge, Radstock BA3 5AA

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