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Letters to the Editor

03 September 2021

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Aid from Church and State for Afghan refugees

From Sally Barnes

Sir, — This statement is being sent on behalf of the Public Square Group. We are a group of people in a wide variety of professions, careers, faiths, and beliefs, with a common mind about the necessity of treating human beings, whoever they are and wherever they are, fairly and with justice and welcome.

We are writing to express our support for, and solidarity with, those fleeing from Afghanistan who are facing violence and death at the hands of the Taliban. These are people who, over time, have endured suffering at the hands of many other countries. Now, by the way our forces are withdrawing protection and departing along with those of the United States, they are facing intense suffering and a feeling of desertion, and are terrified and vulnerable.

We are calling on the Home Secretary to provide sanctuary and protection in the UK by opening up a wide range of safe routes so that we can meet our responsibility to take in those who need shelter in the UK.

Our sudden exit, and the panic that this has caused, shows we have a duty to care for those trying to escape from a violence that is none of their doing. We are witnessing the sheer desperation of a people fleeing in terror and the death of some attempting to do so. We must not abandon them.

We ask that this be undertaken with urgency and immediacy, not making them wait over a period of years when it will be too late for many; and not requiring those applying for asylum to have to go through different processes of repeating their stories on different occasions to a range of officials, thus increasing their trauma.

We ask that they be housed in living conditions appropriate to their needs, which are safe, clean, and suitable for those who are disabled; that they are not housed in detention centres and sub-standard hotels where their physical health and mental well-being will be threatened; and that medical attention is provided for them at their point of need.

We ask that those students who have been offered places at universities have them honoured and not withdrawn. We have a responsibility, in the light of the chaos created in their country, to grant them entry for study and not renege on our promises.

We ask, too, that we be mindful of our obligations and duty to those who have risked their lives working for the UK on the ground.

We especially draw attention to the plight of women and young girls, who are at particular risk of human-rights violations, incarceration, brutality, and forced marriages. This deprives them of living full and free lives with the opportunity to develop their gifts and abilities. Young girls have a right to learn. Women have a right to carry out their careers. Women have shown over the past decade how they have developed in schools and universities and entered a range of professions. They have made a big contribution to the country, often under threatening and difficult situations, but they have carried on with courage and determination. Had this continued, their work would have taken the country forward. When they settle here, and are given time to recover, they will make a valuable contribution to the United Kingdom as others have done in the past. We will benefit from their knowledge, experiences, and abilities as well as their stamina and strength.

The UK has had a history of welcoming asylum seekers and refugees, as well as benefiting from the gifts and expertise they bring to us. We need to recognise and build on all this.

We ask the Home Secretary, and all involved in the responsibility for rescuing the people from Afghanistan, to show that, by, “welcoming the stranger in our midst” and encouraging our citizens to do the same, we are upholding our key values of hospitality, care, and the right of all people to live in peace and safety alongside each other.

on behalf of the Hospitality, Welcome and Refugee sub-group of the Public Square Group
91 Hamilton Road, London NW11 9JY


From the Hon. Michael Benson

Sir, — The airlift evacuation of families and individuals from Afghanistan is finished, and the nation must now focus on how to help those who have arrived here. A possible response from the Church of England, which, to date, has been remarkably silent on the issue, would be to organise parishes, or groups of them, in conjunction with local councils, to adopt a family or individual and offer them a level of financial support and friendship.

The funding for this endeavour could come by diverting some or all parish share to the cause, which, some might argue, was a better use of scarce resources.

Grange Farm, Westow
York YO60 7NJ


Words and actions in the area of climate change

From Jenny Paton-Williams

Sir, — Ouch! That classic-car driver really got it in the neck from Dr Katie Cross (Comment, 27 August). I felt a bit sorry for the guy to be singled out so sternly. Isn’t it likely that every one of us church eco-group volunteers has a blind-spot one way or another, and that we have all failed to live up to our calling?

I was particularly worried that the article failed to enquire into the complexity of ecological decision-making. Given that the driver was using vintage cars, at least he wasn’t buying new, and he may not have been motoring far. It is thought that up to 40 per cent of carbon emissions come from the manufacturing of goods. In the case of cars, this “embedded” carbon-dioxide impact derives from sourcing materials such as steel and lithium, as well as the energy in its actual manufacturing process.

It is all to easy to make simplistic judgements, and it doesn’t help to pick off easy targets. There are all sorts of behaviour and practices, sometimes quite subtle or private, that we can conveniently ignore: dubious pension pots, a “love” of gardening which includes plastic pots and peat compost, cheaper but non-biodegradable nappies and bin-liners, flights to holiday destinations and conferences, daily meat and dairy consumption, new phones, paved house-fronts, food in plastic packaging. We confess our sin corporately.

While I agree that there is a gap between what we say and what we do, it is probably kinder and more thorough to campaign for societal change by lobbying politicians and business leaders, and also to provide accurate information whenever we can, to encourage individual awareness and wise decision-making.

28 Castle Terrace
Edinburgh EH1 2EL


From the Revd Dr Ian K. Duffield

Sir, — I always thought cognitive dissonance was an uncomfortable personal experience, not an observation about others, let alone a “luxury” of privileged white people (Comment, 27 August). So, Dr Katie Cross perhaps too easily sees the speck in a fellow climate activist’s eye without perceiving the plank in her own (Matthew 7.3ff): being a person of faith who at the same time manifests great anxiety (Matthew 6.25ff).

Furthermore, dissonance (or evasion) may be observed more generally among climate activists who ignore the mismatch between the cautious IPCC report itself and the alarmist executive summary.

Director of Research, Urban Theology Union
Urban Theology Unit, Victoria Methodist Hall
Norfolk Street, Sheffield S1 2JB


From the Revd John-Francis Friendship

Sir, — After our Lord overthrew the tables of the money-changers, he quietly left the Temple. This week, we were shown the spectacle of police arresting Christians for protesting about the financial dealings of the Church. Kyrie eleison.

22 The Old Fire Station
Eaglesfield Road
London SE18 3BT


Taking glebe into account in funding rural ministry

From the Rt Revd David Wilbourne

Sir, — Simon Hoar’s heartfelt letter (27 August) about funding ministry in rural parishes stirred my memory.

In 1965, my dad was appointed vicar of such a parish near York, to be paid £1000 per annum, a princely sum compared with the squalor of his curacy days. But his first pay cheque was just £29, £4 less than he’d received as a curate. The York diocese eventually informed him that the rest of his income was from glebe rents on local land owned by the church, and that he needed to employ a local agent to collect them six months in arrears.

Some farmers paid up on the nail, some paid in kind (potatoes and the odd turkey with a broken leg); some never paid. In a funny way, it worked, a form of appraisal/review, tenants holding back money if their vicar was lazy or offensive. My dad was faithful and hard-working, and we never lived as well as we did then.

By the end of the 1960s, the diocese began centralising all the glebe, relieving clergy of the hassle of it all. But, thirty years later, when I worked at Bishopthorpe, I chanced upon a restricted list of glebe lands and their revenue, and checked my dad’s former patch, which hadn’t had sight of a vicar for more than a couple of decades. The revenue was £20,000, more than enough to fund a full-time priest back then, and I sensed that somehow those folk, who worked the land that their ancestors had given to the Church, had been cheated.

I wonder how much Mr Hoar’s Six Pilgrim’s benefice presently generates in glebe income, and whether there is a moral imperative that that should at least be considered by the diocese when funding ministry there.

8 Bielby Close, Scarborough
North Yorkshire YO12 6UU


Pastor’s marriage vow

From the Revd Andrew Body

Sir, — If, at some future date, clergy are allowed to conduct marriages other than in churches (Letters, 20 and 27 August), they might like to ponder on the following example from the diocese of Visby in Sweden. I spent a little time there some years ago, researching their practice about marriage.

The Lutheran clergy were allowed to conduct marriages on the beach and elsewhere. I asked one of them how he felt about it. “I am happy to conduct marriages anywhere, but I always tell them that the further we are from church, the more I shall talk about Jesus.”

17 Temeside Estate, Ludlow
Shropshire SY8 1LD


Here for the beer?

From Jennifer Salisbury

Sir, — I have just visited Bury St Edmunds, looking forward to spending some time in its beautiful cathedral, only to be informed on arrival that it was closed to visitors that day, unless they presented a pre-paid ticket for the annual Beer Festival. While I am entirely in sympathy with the holding of such a festival, I question whether St Edmund will be happy with such exclusivity of access to his shrine.

3 Little Orchards, Broomfield
Chelmsford CM1 7EP

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