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Sunday, 31 January 2016
Last weekend in London, 19 persons from across the Diocese gathered with the Revd Canon William Gulliford, the Diocesan Director of Ordinands, as part of an initial enquiry into possible vocation to Holy Orders in the Church of England. Fr William brought together a team of vocations advisors, as well as other former ordinands of the Diocese, to assist him in guiding the enquirers through this weekend of exploration.
The enthusiastic group of enquirers came from Switzerland, Spain, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Turkey, Poland and Italy. Many come from non-Anglican backgrounds, and one of the key questions explored in the weekend was "What has brought me to this point and why am I an Anglican?" Fr William and his team led them through discussions that help to prepare them for the Church's rigorous discernment process.
It is a healthy sign that so many in our Diocese are interested in the Sacred Ministry.
Friday, 29 January 2016
|An Iraqi family who managed to make the journey safely to Samos.|
This morning 26 Kurdish refugees from Iraq were confirmed to have drowned off the coast of Samos Island in Greece on 28 January as they attempted to cross to Europe from Turkey. 10 of the dead were children; five boys and five girls.
Despite the winter weather and dangerous seas refugees continue to arrive on Greek islands in their thousands. Over 200 people have drowned crossing from Turkey since the beginning of the year. The Anglican Chaplaincy in Greece, with the support of the Diocese in Europe and United Society continue to support a Greek medical organisation “Medical Intervention” on Samos Island. For those who arrive safely by boat to Samos many need medical treatment and Medical Intervention is there to provide it. The contributions from the Church are being used to buy medicines, soaps, blankets and sleeping bags. Medical Intervention also provides baby milk to those with young infants.
The medical issues for refugees arriving on Samos are numerous. Beside all the routine maladies and medical conditions, they are suffering from conditions brought on by their arduous journeys and cramped living conditions, like scabies.
The Anglican Church continues to fund the good work of Medical Intervention on Samos. Meanwhile, the continuing loss of life in the Aegean Sea whilst countries disagree over shared responsibilities is deplorable. As was noted during a recent combined statement between the World Council of Churches and the UN “It is of urgent importance that safe and legal passage for refugees coming to Europe be expanded and facilitated. Closing national borders to refugees is not a solution because it only shifts the responsibility to the next country.”
Our thoughts and prayers are with those who lost their family members off the coast of Samos yesterday.
|The walls of Medical Intervention’s clinic are filled with the pictures of the children they have treated. They often show the boat trip from Turkey. This picture shows the child’s refugee boat being rescued by the Greek Coastguard.|
|Afghan mother takes her children for a medical check-up on Samos Island|
Wednesday, 27 January 2016
I have just returned from Marrakesh where I witnessed a momentous gathering. The inspired vision of His Majesty, King Muhammad VI of Morocco, has borne fruit. Under his high patronage, the scholars, muftis, academics and government ministers from Muslim countries around the world have agreed a significant statement, entitled The Marrakesh Declaration.
The Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs of the Kingdom of Morocco and the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies based in the UAE, jointly organised the conference, which after 3 days of intense work and exchange of ideas, histories, theological, legal and textual information, has resulted in this remarkable and historic agreement.
In recent years the world has seen brutal atrocities inflicted upon religious minorities in predominantly Muslim countries. Many members of minority groups have been victims of murder, enslavement, forced exile, intimidation, starvation, and other affronts to their basic human dignity. The Marrakesh Declaration makes clear, and with the authority of the Muslim leaders called together for this conference, that such actions have absolutely no relation whatsoever to the religion of Islam.
It was a privilege for Canon Dr Medhat Sabry, priest-in-charge of St John's Casablanca, and myself to be among the small group of international observers from non-Muslim religions who were invited to be present to witness this work. We were warmly hosted and encouraged in our own group to reflect on the progress being made by the Muslim scholars and officials.
An executive summary of the Marrakesh Declaration is below:
Predominantly Muslim Majority Communities
25th-27th January 2016
WHEREAS, conditions in various parts of the Muslim World have deteriorated dangerously due to the use of violence and armed struggle as a tool for settling conflicts and imposing one's point of view;
WHEREAS, this situation has also weakened the authority of legitimate governments and enabled criminal groups to issue edicts attributed to Islam, but which, in fact, alarmingly distort its fundamental principles and goals in ways that have seriously harmed the population as a whole;
WHEREAS, this year marks the 1,400th anniversary of the Charter of Medina, a constitutional contract between the Prophet Muhammad, God's peace and blessings be upon him, and the people of Medina, which guaranteed the religious liberty of all, regardless of faith;
WHEREAS, hundreds of Muslim scholars and intellectuals from over 120 countries, along with representatives of Islamic and international organizations, as well as leaders from diverse religious groups and nationalities, gathered in Marrakesh on this date to reaffirm the principles of the Charter of Medina at a major conference;
WHEREAS, this conference was held under the auspices of His Majesty, King Mohammed VI of Morocco, and organized jointly by the Ministry of Endowment and Islamic Affairs in the Kingdom of Morocco and the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies based in the United Arab Emirates;
AND NOTING the gravity of this situation afflicting Muslims as well as peoples of other faiths throughout the world, and after thorough deliberation and discussion, the convened Muslim scholars and intellectuals:
DECLARE HEREBY our firm commitment to the principles articulated in the Charter of Medina, whose provisions contained a number of the principles of constitutional contractual citizenship, such as freedom of movement, property ownership, mutual solidarity and defense, as well as principles of justice and equality before the law; and that,
The objectives of the Charter of Medina provide a suitable framework for national constitutions in countries with Muslim majorities, and the United Nations Charter and related documents, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are in harmony with the Charter of Medina, including consideration for public order.
NOTING FURTHER that deep reflection upon the various crises afflicting humanity underscores the inevitable and urgent need for cooperation among all religious groups, we
AFFIRM HEREBY that such cooperation must be based on a "Common Word," requiring that such cooperation must go beyond mutual tolerance and respect, to providing full protection for the rights and liberties to all religious groups in a civilized manner that eschews coercion, bias, and arrogance.
BASED ON ALL OF THE ABOVE, we hereby:
Call upon Muslim scholars and intellectuals around the world to develop a jurisprudence of the concept of "citizenship" which is inclusive of diverse groups. Such jurisprudence shall be rooted in Islamic tradition and principles and mindful of global changes.
Urge Muslim educational institutions and authorities to conduct a courageous review of educational curricula that addresses honestly and effectively any material that instigates aggression and extremism, leads to war and chaos, and results in the destruction of our shared societies;
Call upon politicians and decision makers to take the political and legal steps necessary to establish a constitutional contractual relationship among its citizens, and to support all formulations and initiatives that aim to fortify relations and understanding among the various religious groups in the Muslim World;
Call upon the educated, artistic, and creative members of our societies, as well as organizations of civil society, to establish a broad movement for the just treatment of religious minorites in Muslim countries and to raise awareness as to their rights, and to work together to ensure the success of these efforts.
Call upon the various religious groups bound by the same national fabric to address their mutual state of selective amnesia that blocks memories of centuries of joint and shared living on the same land; we call upon them to rebuild the past by reviving this tradition of conviviality, and restoring our shared trust that has been eroded by extremists using acts of terror and aggression;
Call upon representatives of the various religions, sects and denominations to confront all forms of religious bigotry, vilification, and denigration of what people hold sacred, as well as all speech that promote hatred and bigotry; AND FINALLY,
AFFIRM that it is unconscionable to employ religion for the purpose of aggressing upon the rights of religious minorities in Muslim countries.
27th January 2016
|Some of the Christian Observers at the Conference|
Sunday, 24 January 2016
Over 300 Muslim scholars and government representatives from Muslim states are gathering in Marrakesh for a conference on religious minorities in Muslim lands. Some representatives of other faith groups have also been invited, including our Priest-in-Charge of St John's Casablanca, the Revd Canon Dr Medhat Sabry, and myself. The meeting is at the invitation of and is hosted by the Kingdom of Morocco.
The matter under discussion is an important one, and commentators have noted that this might be the first time in 1400 years that such an international group has gathered to address it: the thesis that protection of religious minorities is itself deeply rooted in and required by traditional Islamic law. For Christians living in countries such as Pakistan, Syria and Iran this is a vital issue. It is also of importance to other communities such as Yazidis in Iraq or Jews in Yemen.
The meeting gets underway tomorrow, 25 January and runs through until Wednesday 27th. The opening keynote message is being given by His Majesty King Muhammed VI of Morocco, who carries the title Leader of the Faithful.
Pray for fruitful and honest dialogue and for the emergence of a commitment and an agreement on the part of Muslim scholars and authorities present to strengthen and uphold this important tradition within Islam.
Max reports that there were 36 presentations at the 2 day conference. The presence of the German Minister for the Interior gave the meeting a significant governmental profile. There was strong attendance from UN organizations, particularly UNHCR and UNICEF. Church representation came from countries of origin and first asylum (Middle East Council of Churches), countries of transit (Greece, Italy, Slovakia, Hungary) and countries of destination (Germany, UK, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Switzerland, Denmark). Significant interventions on the part of Churches were given by Archbishop of Uppsala Antje Jackelén and Bishop Angaelos of the Coptic Church,
Overall the conference saw a great level of consensus on most issues pertaining to the protection of refugees.
Max has now returned to Athens to continue his work with the Churches there.
The communique from the conference is below the fold:
Saturday, 23 January 2016
Saturday, 16 January 2016
|Primates at Evensong in Canterbury. Photo: Canterbury Cathedral|
It was my chaplain Deacon Frances Hiller who first remarked “the Diocese in Europe is like the Anglican Communion in miniature”; our 300 congregations are scattered over 1/6 of the earth’s land surface, in 44 of the 165 countries of the Anglican Communion. Our people are not just “Brits abroad” for globalisation has brought peoples from every part of the Anglican world to Europe. Some congregations are almost entirely English/British. Others are almost entirely Tamil or Nigerian, or Sudanese, or Malgaches, or Iranian… Many of our clergy come from the Anglican Churches in Britain and Ireland, but we also are blessed with the presence of priests and deacons from the Anglican / Episcopal Churches of Canada, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Burundi, Nigeria, Sudan, Egypt and India. Thanks to the Porvoo Communion we are also served by Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian, Estonian, Danish and Icelandic priests. As individuals from so many backgrounds we may not all be of one mind on matters of human sexuality, but we are committed to live in charity with each other, respecting the dignity of all as beloved children of God. We are experts in living with diversity within the life of one family.
|7 clergy from just one deanery - from 7 different countries|
Anglicans in Europe are a small minority. But we are part of something greater, that diverse and beautiful community we call the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. We need each other for our mission and ministry, to be a visible sign in a divided world of the unity God wills for humanity, together to be salt and light in a world being transformed by Christ.
In the Diocese in Europe, all are welcome!
|Ordinands of the Diocese from every corner of the globe|
Friday, 15 January 2016
|Photo: Paul Jeffery, WCC|
I was invited to participate in this event, but due to previous commitments in Tangier, I am unable to attend. The General Secretary of the WCC, the Revd Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, encouraged me to send a representative. I am pleased to say that our diocese will be represented by Mr Max McClellan, who has been seconded by our partner mission agency Us (formerly USPG) to work with our church in Greece, serving the coordination of ecumenical and inter-agency response to the refugee situation in that country. Besides being on the front line of our own diocese's work in this area, Max brings a wealth of expertise in the field of international refugee, human rights and resettlement.
The opening keynote address next week will be delivered by the German Minister of the Interior, Dr Thomas de Maizière, with responses by UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Volker Türk, Greek Ambassador to the UN, HE Mr Alexandros Alexandris, and Archbishop Dr Antje Jackelén of the Church of Sweden.
The agenda also features contributions by the leaders of the WCC, UNFPA, UNICEF Central and Eastern Europe Region, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Lutheran World Federation, the Middle East Council of Churches and its Ecumenical Relief Services, the (Roman Catholic) Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe, the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, the Evangelical Church in Germany and the German Protestant aid agency Bread for the World, among others.
The overall goals of the meeting are to:
- Develop clear commitments to coordinated responses in all areas, from the implementation of migration and integration policies to the creation of adequate mechanisms for orderly and safe refugee movements across Europe.
- Address the whole trajectory of the population movements, from points of origin (root causes), to points of transit, and ultimate destination.
- Prioritise the integration of migrants into civil society, religious communities and socio-cultural institutions - people fleeing or driven from their homes should be able to find belonging and build a sense of home at point of reception
Thursday, 14 January 2016
Some marvellous news was received today from the Revd Stephen Murray, the priest-in-charge of St John's Ghent and St George's, Knokke.
The congregation in Ghent will, from this coming Sunday, worship at Sint-Elisabeth Church in the Old Beguinage. The Roman Catholic parish which worshipped there officially closed on 20 December 2015 and by agreement the Anglican congregation will become the sole occupant and user of this venerable and listed building. To mark this historic occasion, this Sunday's service will be a joint liturgy of Morning Prayer with representatives of the previous Roman Catholic congregation. The first Anglican Eucharist in this new home for the congregation will be on 24 January.
The chapel formerly used by the Anglicans was getting too small for the numbers attending public worship and there was no proper Sunday School facilities. This spacious church will be a fitting spiritual home for the vibrant multi-cultural, growing congregation.
Fr Stephen says, "While the new location comes with daunting responsibilities, it also provides immense opportunities for mission & ministry. Despite its challenges, this building is truly a gift from God". From the photos, taken by the priest-in-charge, one can see that this certainly is the case.
Anglican worship in Ghent dates back to 1743.
Fr Stephen is also the Area Dean of Belgium and Luxembourg. (Oh, and incidentally, he is also formerly a priest of the Diocese of Niagara).