Saturday, 27 June 2009

Premature clarity is a dangerous thing

I  have been involved in a number of discussions about the future in various organisations, particularly in the context of financial downturn,  and there is a tendency to want to make decisive moves with long lasting implications. Sometimes we need to check. Michael Fullan's book Change Forces With A Vengeance  offers some asssistance here 

Change Forces with a Vengeance

In a chapter on 'New lessons for complex change'  which can be viewed online  he talks about how 'Premature clarity is a dangerous thing.'


Fullan suggests that when you are facing a complex problem with a sense of urgency there is nothing more seductive than an off the shelf solution, the clarity of charisma or anything that provides the comfort of a clear direction. He asks that we resist it. 

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‘People refer to gurus because they don’t know how to spell charlatan.’   Peter Drucker


Fullan comments that Heifitz and Linsky in their book 'Leadership on the line: staying alive throught he dangers of leading' (2002)  make the distinction between technical and adaptive change.  We tend to know the answers to the former but not the latter. Technical change is hard enough, in education for example, it is improving numeracy and literacy.  But adaptive change is more fundamental - it is transformation of the system.


‘Everyday people have got problems for which they do, in fact, have the necessary know how and procedures.  We call these technical problems.  But there is a whole host of problems that are not amenable to authoritative expertise or standard operating procedures . They cannot be solved by someone who provides the answers from on high.  We call these adaptive challenges because they requirenew experiments, new discoveries and adjustments from numerous places in the organization or community.  Without learning new ways – changing attitudes, values and behaviours – people cannot make the adaptive leap necessary to thrive in new environments.   The sustainability of change depends on having the people with the problem internalise the change.’   Heifetz and Linsky 2002

 Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive Through the Dangers of Leading

The authors suggest that in transformational change ‘peoples hearts and minds need to change not just their preferences or routine behaviours’ 

Fullan summarises his section on premature and false clarity by suggesting that:

'Clarity generates through interaction, problem solving, and communities of practice, delays premature closure enough so that the checks and balances of complexity theory serve to scrutinise ideas’ 

Friday, 26 June 2009

a simple rule of life



As part of the discipleship emphasis for GRACEworks  which I reported on in a previous blog on  liminality and 3rd places they have been thinking about discipleship as a lifestyle. Graceworks are already living under the banner headline 

 ‘People who are works of grace who work to bring grace’

Inspired by Mike Frost's  Exiles: living missionally in a post-Christian culture  

Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture

there is an interview with Mike about the book on the Blog and podcast ‘small boats big sea’   SBBS 

Mike Frost uses the word BELLS to create a rule of life  

'Bless - Eat - Listen - Learn - Send'

For Graceworks  Ali has been tentatively exploring the word G R A C E 

Give and forgive


Act justly



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That got me thinking about CMS and its rule of life as a Mission Order. Tim Dakin the CMS Gen Sec explains it in an article on the CMS website  on the Go!  (you might also be interested in an article called and CMS Covenant for a Community in Mission on the Anglican Communion Institute, Inc website)

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But in terms of  a rule of life for Mission (based on the CMS 'pathways to participation') how about something like......

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M   Missio Dei - engage in God's transformative mission

I     Incarnational witness  

S    Service as a vocation to others  

S     spirituality shape by prayer bible reflection 

I    Individual discipleship following Jesus daily 

O  Opennes to work Overall the wOrld  - glObal and lOcal 

N  new  - keep commitment vital and 'new' - renewed and reviewed 

I'm sure you have ideas to improve in this one. Ideas and suggestions appreciated............ 

You can read more about small misisonal communities  with more stuff on Missional communities by Ian Adams 

I'd also recommend the 10 marks of mission sprirituality  by Sue Hope.  

All on the CMS website 

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Ethical Evangelism - the 10 commandments of Mission!

St Francis and the Sultan 

The first ever set of guidelines giving advice for Christians and Muslims, who want to share their faith in an ethical way, will be launched on WED 24th June at Islamic Relief’s Headquarters in London. 

The guide, which contains 10 points of advice, has been produced by the Christian Muslim Forum, a national body set up in 2006 to improve relationships between the 2 faiths. 

Youth Specialist on the Forum, Dr Andrew Smith, will be one of the key speakers at the launch. He has been working for the evangelical organisation Scripture Union in inner city Birmingham for the past 14 years and has been active in promoting his own faith whilst at the same time seeking to listen to and understand his Muslim neighbours.


“Speaking with local Muslims and sharing my faith has been fascinating, stimulating,  even fun,  but at times it has become competitive, aggressive and has left a nasty taste in my mouth. I was lef feeling frustrated and defensive and with no wish to do it again!  Talking to others I realised that this was a common experience, so the idea of a set of principles that would help both faiths avoid this, seemed  to me an obvious way forward” 

Speaking alongside Dr Smith will be Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, Interfaith spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain. He recognises that this is a controversial and sensitive area 

“Islam and Christianity are two world religions that are missionary- and therefore are ever vying with each other for converts.  But we should be able to speak of our faith honestly and with conviction, without  demeaning or ridiculing others. There is no place for coercion or manipulation and when a person does convert from either faith that decision should be respected. It is our hope that these ethical guidelines will be adopted by many Christian and Muslim organisations.” 

The launch will be chaired by the Vice-Chair of the Christian Muslim Forum, Dr Richard Cheetham, the Bishop of Kingston, and will be attended by many representatives from Muslim and Christian missionary organisations. 


Monday, 22 June 2009

Friday night in Iran

Have  alook at this simple but very moving video - a prayer from the heart from  a woman in Tehran. It is reminiscent of thrity years ago when the voices of people were heard on the rooftops just prior to the revolution that brought down the Shah. 

Friday night in Tehran 

Know hope:  TRACKBACK URL FOR THIS ENTRY:  'Friday Night In Iran'

I picked it via Soujourners who had linked to Brian Maclarens blog  'Two kinds of religion' 

Friday, 19 June 2009

Santuary - a garden of reguge - Birmingham

Ruth Geldhill's article in the Times Online 'No bed of roses for asylum seekers'   draws attention to  a new garden at the at the BBC Gardener's World Live at the NEC in Birmingham this week. previous CMS Chair of Trustees,  Rt Rev David Urquart, the Bishop of Birmingham,  is pictured here praying in the garden, which has been created by Whitchurch, Rhiwbina and Birchgrove Churches Together. 


Bishop David has written an article about Sanctuary which Ruth Gledhill includes in her Blog 

On first impressions Sanctuary Garden is a simple design, with a calming pool and beautiful planting. But this garden has hidden layers and attempts to both convey a message and challenge popular misconceptions. It encourages visitors to reflect on how asylum seekers are treated in the UK.

Scratch the surface and the real story unfolds. At its heart, a tree, stripped of its bark and painted white represents the thousands of ‘Living Ghosts’: people now living in the UK without any support from the state, unable to work, homeless and destitute. Many consider starving and sleeping on the streets to be preferable to returning to the dangers from which they have fled.

Meanwhile in the public mind asylum seekers have become synonymous with benefit cheats, scroungers and parasites.

I believe a garden is a fitting symbol with which to win hearts and minds. Since I was a small child a garden has been for me a place of wellbeing and peace. I enjoy the mixture of recreation and creativity that it offers me and when I can find a spare hour I often choose to spend it in the garden, pruning, sowing, weeding or planting.

The Sanctuary garden is well designed with features that reflect some of the struggles faced by asylum seekers as well as aspirations to live a productive and fulfulled life in security. Gardens are a recurring motif in the Bible as places of flourishing and harmony, representing a balance between rest and relaxation with work and productivity

In a climate of misconception and prejudice can we dare to dream of offering a garden sanctuary to people who have reached these shores and asked for refuge? Can we begin to offer a welcome and hospitality that is generous and not grudging, magnanimous rather than meagre. Are we prepared to offer meaningful employment to those with skills, homes, shelter and food to those with no access to benefits or healing, therapy and comfort to those traumatised by violence?

It is equally fitting that this garden is being displayed days before the launch of Refugee Week. This year the overall aim of Refugee Week is to create a better understanding between communities by promoting positive representations of refugees.A new campaign, Simple Acts, has been launched which is about inspiring people to use small, everyday actions to change perceptions of refugees. These acts include reading an article about exile, watching a film about refugees, praying for an asylum seeker, or cooking a dish from another country.

Cook a dish from another country
Watch a movie about refugees Say a little prayer for me Learn to say a few things in a new language
What simple act of kindness can we do this week?    I fancy a curry and a rewatch of the 'Kite Runner'  - And I'll inlcude something in the prayers and sermon on Sunday. 'Bishyar zyad Tashakur'  'Bamane Khuda'. 

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Day trip to Gaza June 2009

I received the following from Ruth, based in Bethlehem, about her day in Gaza.

Gaza? What do you want to go there for? Dangerous, unsafe, and war zone are a few of the words that come to mind and for most of us  reasons not to visit. For the people of Gaza the damage caused by the war and the continued restrictions are utmost in their minds and lives. I realized that I needed to go and see for myself. Although much of media focus is now not on Gaza, it is still an area of the world that needs our attention. An area half the size of Wales, with 1.5 million people and only 3000 Christians. All are suffering and by visiting at least we could encourage and pray with them.

After months of waiting and much frustration, the Bible Society sponsored me to get a permit to enter Gaza. We left Bethlehem early in the morning to be at the crossing point by 8:00 when it opened. I went on behalf of the Anglican Church in Jerusalem and one of our aims was to take in medical equipment for an audiology clinic and blankets for a hospital in Gaza city. After much discussion with the authorities they decided that we could not take the medical equipment in and only let us take the blankets and some vitamins for children. We had to leave our frustration behind with the equipment and concentrate on getting through and seeing people. From the Check point it is 1 mile to the Gaza border. Another Check point and I found it rather amazing having my rucksack checked by a Hamas official with a uniform and a gun in his holster. Two hours from the Israeli border we were in Gaza city.

The first stop was a Christian School, called “Menara” or Lighthouse. Although the children had finished for the summer we were able to see the excellent, well maintained  facilities which had a very good reputation. We were entertained for lunch, falafel and shawarma, but while we were eating power went off twice, a normal occurrence. To commemorate the end of the latest war, the school, with funding from the West was able to build an asphalt playground. On the wall had been painted the slogan “Free Gaza”, which for me was very poignant.

Next we moved on to the Al Alhi hospital, just round the corner. The hospital was started by CMS in the 1870’s and continues to this day to be supported by them. Around the area of the hospital are grave yards and buried there was a CMS missionary nurse who was shot whilst transporting some children in 1972. It was also alarming to see some families living in the grave yard making makeshift homes out of corrugated iron. I learnt later that these families send their children to the Menara School.

Suheila, the hospital Director, was very pleased to see us and gave me a big hug when she knew that I was with CMS. I hope and pray that this is a contact that will be developed and used in a very positive way now that I have permission to visit. CMS had and still does play a very important role in supporting the hospital.

It was time to head for the Checkpoint to make it back by 3.0pm. The taxi took us the long way back through an area that has suffered major damage during the recent incursion. I really could not believe what I was seeing. There was devastation and many buildings had been completely flattened. We saw families trying to live among the concrete ruins because they have no where else to go. This was their land and their home so where else could they go? It appeared that the rockets were very specifically aimed and so the damage in places was very selective. Other areas were completely destroyed.  All this on the way back to the Checkpoint where on the other side was a completely different world.

Another 2 hours at the Check point and then back to our van and onward home to another town surrounded by a wall, Bethlehem. 


Tuesday, 16 June 2009

‘A holy and humble man’ Cecil Hargreaves (1919-2009) Asia Secretary

I attended the funeral of Rev Cecil Hargreaves at the college of St Barnabas in Lingfield  Although I did not know him personally he was Asia Secretary for CMS in the 1960s and I found myself identifying with this man quite profoundly. His son Jeremy spoke very eloquently and movingly about his father’s life and ministry.

During WW2, as a conscientious objector, Cecil served with the RAMC in India and Burma, at one point operating on the Viceroy’s leg in Peshawar. His call to priesthood was motivated by seeing a river full of bodies during the Bengal Famine.

After ordination, with CMS he served in India as a missionary (at Bishops College Calcutta) before becoming Asia Secretary for CMS and then later returning to India at the time of the United Churches experience (1970). He married Katrina, a Church of Scotland missionary in India and had three boys

Volley Ball at Bishops College Calcutta 

Here was someone else who had travelled some of the same ancient pathways for CMS in Asia. He loved music (he was also an accomplished pianist - we heard a 1937 recording Cecil played of Chopin's Scherzo in C minor, Op 39) and walking,  poetry and watercolour painting – somethings I just aspire to rather than actually achieve.

In UK, he was also heavily involved in the New Jerusalem Bible project and worked as a parish priest in Marden in the 1980s. He has written a number of books including Reader on Indian Christian Theology and The Translators Freedom

We were given a copy of his book - The Nazareth Route (Jesus Spirituality of Challenge and Vulnerability) Melrose Books 2008. I look forward to reading it as it explores various route-makers’ and ‘route-finders’, a number from Asia itself.

The CMS archives come up trumps at times like this. Ken the archivist had picked out some papers. I was drawn to one particular quote from CMS Executive Committee,  21st January 1970:
His immediate colleagues learned to look at him as a shrewd counsellor, a keen advocate of truth and justice in all things, an unfailing spring of comic relief and most gracious friend; and his fellow workers in all ranks at the Society’s Headquarters have recognised in him that rare person, a holy and humble man of God'                         

During the service his youngest son read a poem (cited in the book) a reminder that in all the travelling to turn aside and find the sacred places and memorable moments.

I have seen the sun break through 

to illuminate a small field 

for a while, and gone my way 

and forgotten it. But that was the pearl 

of great price, the one field that had 

treasure in it. I realize now 

that I must give all that I have 

to possess it. Life is not hurrying

on to a receding future, nor hankering after 

an imagined past. It is the turning 

aside like Moses to the miracle 

of the lit bush, to a brightness 

that seemed as transitory as your youth 

once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

The Bright Field by R. S. Thomas

Iranian Phone videos - Let the People decide

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News is becoming more and more grounded. No longer is it simply professional broadcasting from the expert voice, people like John Simpson the BBC world affairs correspondent who is in Tehran at present.  There will always be room for such impartial, investigative reporting.  

But the post-election protests are also being covered by bloggers and mobile phone broadcasters.   I suspect that it is more the latter that has caused the country's supreme Religious Authority to demand a recount of the votes.  What will the outcome be? 

'Mousavi' or 'Ahmadinejad'  Let the People of Iran decide.

Supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi march in Tehran on 15 June, 2009

Sunday, 14 June 2009

3rd places and liminality : Graceworks - Woking

Ali the Graceworks Youth Minister at Christchurch did a presentation on Youthn ministry as par tof his Pioneer ministry course at St Militus  (Graham Tomlin )

I want to reflect on 3 things I picked up on  Liminality, Thrid places and a simple rule of life 


Roxborough is the guru on Liminality. See for example The Sky Is Falling: Leaders Lost in Transition  and also the Roxborough journal  where I found the following:     

the mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot famous for chaos theory, who generated the idea that when a butterfly flaps its winds in the middle of a South American rain forest it causes a storm over New York City. They were discussing how we typically imagine ourselves living in a managed, predictable world where repeated patterns of activity cause us to assume the patterns will continue on into the future. Their challenge this belief by stating that, in fact, small, unnoticed disturbances result in massive, unpredictable consequences in the most unexpected places.

Jonny Baker calls him   A kindred spirit

I like the expression: 'Living with the impact of the improbable'. It is on the edge of chaos where the most creativity is to be found.

If you are interested it also worth looking at together in mission  and their work on 

Responding to a changing landscape   gathering - learning - travelling

 Mission-Shaped Church

In their Youth strategy  Graceworks focuses on 4 areas of

Leadership discipleship worship and mission

This is part of the mission-shaped church focus. They are looking at pushing the boundaries with a possible change of venue and time  and video based teaching.  



 The Great Good Place: Cafaes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons, and Other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community

The Great Good Place, Ray Oldenburg (1989, 1991) 

“Most needed are those ‘third places’ which lend a public balance to the increased privatization of home life. Third places are nothing more than informal public gathering places. The phrase ‘third places’ derives from considering our homes to be the ‘first’ places in our lives, and our work places the ‘second.’”

Third places  (home is 1st place, school work is 2nd) are the most significant places for Christian mission to occur because in a third place people are more relaxed more open to meaningful conversation and interaction.

Places where community can be built, where access is  free, food is available  accessible places within walking distance,  gathering places which are comfortable and welcoming where friends are to be found.

BT had  agreat quote about small rituals and 3rd places 

'Third Places' are neither home nor workplace, but somewhere between. Places to meet, socialise, relax, hang out, work away from the office. Places to eat and drink without pressure to consume or move on. The 'third place' is epitomised by the modern coffee shop, with its sofas and newspapers - a revival of its 18th century role - or by the internet cafe.

That coffee shops should be third places more than bars, say, has to do with the beverages consumed. Stay in the bar all afternoon and you will get drunk. Stay in the coffee house and you will get things done. Of course it's not always that clear-cut. But for a place serving alcohol to function as a third place, its raison d'etre must not be the consumption of alcohol.

Of course, in many ways this is a new name for the role that cafes have long performed in Mediterranean life. But the 'third place' is not focussed on the act of eating and drinking in the fashion of traditional cafes, restaurants, bars and pubs. The food or drink one consumes is the entry fee, not the point. The 'third place' is a living room, but not in someone's house; a workplace, but not in someone's office.

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Mission is incarnational it is about knowing 'God in Culture'   The goodnews can only be proclaimed IN a culture not AT a culture. And 'coffee shops' are part of our culuture

Exploration of the use of the coffee shop space in Christchurch (Beacon) is under review. Is it possible to create a third space which is multi-user-friendly for young and old alike ? Starbucks sees to have done so.  

Whatever he does Ali has my support.  Gracework's  Re-roote has been great for all of my kids.   

I'll leave it at that and think about the Simple rule of life next time 

Monday, 8 June 2009

Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ, 1844 – 8 June 1889

Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J. (28 July 1844 – 8 June 1889), was an English poetRoman Catholic convert, and Jesuit priest, whose 20th-century fame established him posthumously among the leading Victorian poets. His experimental explorations in prosody (especially sprung rhythm) and his use of imagery established him as a daring innovator in a period of largely traditional verse.   (From Wikipaedia) 

There is a good bibliography in Hopkins Quarterly

‘The Windhover’

I CAUGHT this morning morning’s minion, king-
dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird,—the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!
Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!
No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.

Another poem Kingfisher   was posted a few days back. You can see the bird hovering in the icon -   click here for an  explanation of the icon © Fr. Wm Hart McNichols
Gerard Manley Hopkins ........ is now considered one of the greatest poets in the English language. This does not mean he is easy to read. His images flair up before you with a Baroque ferocity…two words which you think cannot come together. The language is lush, mysterious and beautiful with a rough ancient Celtic musicality; meaning you must actually move your mouth to read Hopkins as if you were singing or trying to speak in Spanish or French. The theology woven tightly all through…above, beneath, alongside, is perfectly “horizontal and vertical”, all at once.

He died 120 years ago today, aged 54 - my age! 

Sunday, 7 June 2009

'The Shack' a great story for Trinity Sunday

The Shack, a novel by Wm. Paul Young is something of a publishing legend.  I quoted from it during this morning's sermon, on Trinity Sunday, as an illustration of the relational nature of God. 

The main character Mack meets three people in the Shack who take him on a journey dealing with a major life trauma – the brutal death of his daughter.

  • ‘Elousia’ a beaming African-American woman, a large, homely woman who embraces him in a bear hug.  ‘Papa’ as people call her is full of homely wisdom, as she cooks and housekeeps. 
  • A Middle-Eastern looking handyman called Yeshua (or Joshua, or Jesse),   but called by his common name  ‘Jesus’ throughout. He is about 30, ordinary looking and he 'fixes things'. 
  • And a small Asian looking woman called ‘Sarayu’ - translucent, shimmering in the light, with hair going in all directions as if blown by the wind.  Easier seen out of the corner of the eye, Sarayu is 'keeper of the gardens among other things'

And Mack ponders that  'since there were three of them, maybe this was a Trinity sort of thing. But two women and a man and none of them white?'     
It may not fit your image of God either... 

“Then,” Mack struggles to ask, “Which one of you is God?”
“I am.” Said all three in unison. Mack looked from one to the next, and even through he couldn’t begin to grasp what he was seeing and hearing, he somehow believed them.

One domestic scene represents this relational nature (P104-105) Mack goes to investigate a noise: 
Mack was shocked at the scene in front of him. It appeared that Jesus had dropped a large bowl of some sort of batter on the floor and it was everywhere. It must have landed close to Papa because the lower portion of her skirt and bare feet were covered in the gooey mess. All three were laughing so hard that Mack didn’t think they were breathing. Sarayu said something about humans being clumsy and all three started roaring again. Finally Jesus brushed past Mack and returned a mnute later with a large basin of water and towels. Sarayu has already started wiping the goop from the floor and cupboards, but Jesus went straight to Papa and, kneeling at her feet, began to wipe off the front of her clothes. He worked down to her feet and gently lifted one foot at a time, which he directed into the basin where he cleaned and massaged it.
‘Ooooh, that feels soooo good!” exclaimed Papa as she continued her tasks at the counter.
As he leaned against the door watching, Mack’s mind was full of thoughts. So this was God in relationship? It was beautiful and so appealing. He knew that it didn’t matter whose fault it was – the mess from some bowl had been broken, that a dish had been planned and not shared. Obviously what was important here was the love they had for one another and the fullness it brought them. He shook his head. How different this was from the way he treated the ones he loved!

The appeal of this homely allegory (some have compared it to Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress)  is the domestic ordinariness of life - that God who is essential relational invites us into that relationship - to participate in a meal. 

There are interesting ‘online debates' on who might be cast for a film version. Some people are reminded of the Matrix.    

Who would you cast in the various roles?

Saturday, 6 June 2009

The heart in pilgrimage : sacred poetry

At our sacred:space,  Richard introduced some of the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins and George Herbert. It was a great evening with space to listen, think and reflect.  Here are a couple of tasters. ....  

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844 – 1889)

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;

As tumbled over rim in roundy wells

Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s

Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;

Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:

Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;

Selves - goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,

Crying, whát I dó is me: for that I came.

I say móre: the just man justices;

Keeps gráce: thát keeps all his goings graces;

Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is -

Chríst - for Christ plays in ten thousand places,

Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his

To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

George Herbert   (1593 – 1633)

“Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,

Guilty of dust and sin.

But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack

From my first entrance in,

Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning

If I lack'd anything.

'A guest,' I answer'd, 'worthy to be here:'

Love said, 'You shall be he.'

'I, the unkind, ungrateful ? Ah, my dear,

I cannot look on Thee.'

Love took my hand and smiling did reply,

'Who made the eyes but I ?’

'Truth, Lord; but I have marr'd them: let my shame

Go where it doth deserve.'

'And know you not,' says Love, 'Who bore the blame?'

'My dear, then I will serve.'

'You must sit down,' says Love, 'and taste my meat.'

So I did sit and eat.”

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Sri Lankan Crisis Update

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Sri Lanka is facing a continued post war humanitarian crisis.  Adrian our Regional Manager for South Asia writes: 

In February of this year before the formal end of hostilities in May, I visited Sri Lanka including the East Coast and was very disturbed by hearing many stories of human suffering as a result of the civil war. Thousands fleeing the violence only to be caught in the crossfire and either killed or horribly injured – with no access to medical treatment. Those that made it were sent to refugee camps which they were not allowed to leave and where relief organizations were denied access. I met an Anglican pastor who did not know if his parents and other close relatives from the conflict area were alive or dead. I visited villages in areas of resettlement, where there was fear of attack by unknown gangs. The residents in one village were going to a funeral of a young man murdered in his home by one such gang two nights before.

But I was also greatly encouraged by the active response of the Church of Ceylon – on the ground level to provide relief, counseling and support among the affected communities and individuals, and also nationally by its strong advocacy voice, and by their longer-term strategies for promoting peace-building and conflict transformation. The dedicated labour of Rev. Chandran Crispus and his team among internally displaced and recently resettled people in the Batticaloa area was one example of how the church is responding practically and effectively in these ways. They desperately need a vehicle to help to facilitate this work.

Nearly 80,000 people have died in 26 years of conflict in Sri Lanka in what has been Asia’s longest and possibly nastiest civil war. There are an estimated 300,000 Internally Displaced People and many are living in what are described by some as more like concentration camps than places of refuge. At least a million landmines have been laid. Thousands of children have been forced to become soldiers. In the final months of fighting at least 7,000 people were killed (and some local estimates such as those of the Roman Catholic church put the figure at 20,000) and 40,000 injured.

Now the government has achieved a military victory over the rebels. For the first time since 1983 the entire island nation is under government control. A relentless military offensive conquered 15,000 sq km which the rebels ran as a separate state in the north and east. But there is a huge task now of reconstruction and rebuilding as much of the land of the north and east have been laid waste by fighting, destruction of buildings and infrastructure, landmines and war debris.

But it is not just a matter of physical rebuilding. The Rt. Revd. Duleep de Chickera (Bishop of Colombo) has called for
“prayerful, purposeful and collective steps towards an integrated, united, and just Sri Lanka that has eluded us for decades. We must become a nation in which every woman, man and child, regardless of religion or ethnicity, is made to feel equal, free and proud to call themselves Sri Lankan. For this to happen we will be required to address the grievances of all communities, eliminate social fear and suspicion, restore the people’s confidence in law and order and good governance, and respond to the current economic challenges with immediate attention to the needs of the poorest, the displaced, the helpless, and the harassed amongst us.”

If anyone is interested in donating towards the CMS response to the Crisis  then there is a link on the website (take a look at the Sri Lanka focus page)  and there is more from Bishop Duleep 

But above all please continue to pray for Sri Lanka