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Home > Politics

Go Bish!

The Bishop of Birmingham hitches up his skirt and wades into the argument over Iraq.

23 June 2003

At long long long long last, an Anglican Bishop has decided to get his hands dirty and get political. According to the Independent:

Tony Blair will be accused by a senior bishop today of encouraging criminality in Britain by backing an illegal war in Iraq. The Right Rev Dr John Sentamu, Bishop of Birmingham, will mount a scathing attack on what he will call the Prime Minister's disregard for international law and denounce David Blunkett's tough approach to sentencing.

Bishop Sentamu is delivering the 'Longford Lecture' (which is sponsored by the Independent) - and it sounds like a great speech. It's a message that's been totally forgotten over the last 30 or 40 years: that the Anglican Church actually exists in the real world and that a Christian message can be socially radical. For example, he says:

"Tabloids carry a message of viciousness and vindictiveness. When we [say] someone is beyond being brought back to a civilised society, beyond rehabilitation, we have to fall back more and more on longer sentences. But ... all law-breakers must be given the chance to change. We all have inside us the potential to change."

And on the subject of Iraq, Bishop Sentamu pulls no punches:

"The recent conflict in Iraq saw a situation where the US and UK governments flouted the will of the UN Security Council and invaded Iraq. Upon achieving a military victory, they then went back to the UN Security Council and secured a resolution which gave them power over the spoils of a war which they conducted without approval. How would this global action work locally? It is like a group of men from across the street, having been refused permission by the courts to do so, coming to your home and kicking the door down. Once they have found your credit cards they then go to court where they get approval to spend your money for an indefinite period while they promise to look after your best interests."

It is so refreshing to hear an Anglican cleric engage with the world of politics. The Church of England has almost meeked itself into non-existence, and it only if voices like Bishop Sentamu's are heard will anyone both to turn towards it.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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