A prayer for New Zealand

22 February 2011

I was asked today to write a prayer for use in the Diocese for those caught up in the earthquake in New Zealand:

Heavenly Father,
whose love and care embraces all people
as our lives weave through the opportunities and dangers of this dynamic world.
Tighten your embrace we pray on those who are victims
of the powerful forces of this planet:
be comforter for those who weep,
an encourager for those who search,
and a strength to those who support the lost and bewildered;
and to all the people of New Zealand at this time,
give the assurance of your presence amid the devastation and loss,
for the sake of Jesus our Lord, Amen

You can’t measure prayer

7 April 2009

Over-to-you  BBC Radio Humberside  Tuesday 7th April

Yesterday, high above us in space, the European Goce Satellite switched on super-sensitive instruments which will make ultra-fine measurements of the Earth’s gravity.  The purpose of the Goce mission is to study the oceans – to understand better how gravity pulls water and heat around the globe and goce-satellitethus improve our understanding of climate change.  The satellite is an amazing feat of science, technology and engineering which will enable us to understand more about earth our home and the gravity which keeps us on it.

It was a tragic irony that on the day on which these super-sensitive instruments were switched on, miles below the residents in and around  L’Aquila in Italy were woken by the devastating effect of our globe’s most destructive force. The tectonic plates, which relentlessly grind together around Italy, moved suddenly causing an earthquake which brought devastation and destruction to the town and the power of gravity wreaked death and injury to the citizens of that region as buildings and infrastructure collapsed around them.

Our hearts go out to those who are caught up in this devastation – the bereaved, the injured and the homeless and we wrap them in our prayers along with those who continue to search for signs of life amidst the rubble and recover the victims of this natural disaster.

Science enables us to understand more and more about our planet and the life it sustains, with projects such as the Goce satellite extending that knowledge.  Already there are questions about why the scientists were not able to give any warning of this impending disaster as the energy built up under the epicentre of this earthquake.  Yet in the end we live on a living planet with the movement of the continental plates being part of the 4.5 billion year history of our world.  The victims of yesterday’s earthquake are tragic victims of this reality.

There are ever those who want to drive a wedge between science and religion. Artificially introducing conflict where there is none.  Science gives us an understanding of how this world works and how life is sustained; religion gives us an insight into the human dynamics of life, the purpose of life and the preciousness of each and every life.  As we wrap the victims of yesterday’s earthquake in our prayers we can do something which science can never offer, nor should it, we can for a moment become involved in their suffering and grief – we can’t change it, nor can we remove it – but in our prayers we avoid being indifferent to their plight – in prayer we are drawn into it.    That’s what makes us human and God makes possible – an ability to relate to each other in a way that science can never measure, no matter how super-sensitive its instruments may become.

Spare a thought

23 June 2008

My contribution to BBC Radio Humberside’s Breakfast programme on Monday 23/06/08

The news from Zimbabwe that the Movement for Democratic Change has decided, in the face of mounting violence and intimidation across the country, not to contest the presidential election run-off, is a salutary reminder of Lord Acton’s observation, as far back as 1887, that ‘Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely’.  It is a desperate situation for the people of this country – a place so full of natural resources and potential, yet held in the vice like grip of a corrupt regime which presides over the economic chaos which gives rise to so much poverty and injustice.

The people of Zimbabwe join with those of Burma and Tibet in experiencing the political impotence which comes when those who have power have no real interest in the long-term flourishing of the individual, but are consumed with retaining power for themselves.

Of course on a Monday morning in Humberside all this seems a long way away and it is tempting to relegate the plight of the Zimbabweans to the background chatter of the news headlines.  There are other things more pressing on our time and demanding of our attention – yet one of the strengths of our age is that the plight and sufferings of others has an immediacy which draws us into their situation.

Freedom is a precious commodity, which I believe is God-given.  It gives us the dignity of making choices about how we shape our lives and our futures.  In a democracy we surrender something of that freedom every time we go and vote. Elections give us the opportunity to comment on the way in which our freedom is being used by the government and if we feel that they are wasting the opportunities we’ve given them, then we can remove them from power.

It has taken us a long time to reach the point where the democratic choice of each and every adult is part and parcel of our freedom and a sign of our dignity with in our community.

We quickly forget the struggles that we had in our own country for everyone – male and female to be able to vote.  Indeed it wasn’t until 1928, only some 80 years ago, that women in England got the same voting rights as men.  The struggles for the right to vote where about status — to be given the vote confirmed that a person mattered – they had status.

The way in which the people of Zimbabwe are being treated by their government just says that the people don’t matter – in the eyes of a corrupt regime the people have no status.  And as our week gets underway we may well feel that there is nothing we can do to change this situation – but there is – we can give them status by just pausing to think about them.  Those of faith can hold the Zimbabweans in their prayers and those who don’t have faith can still stop and give the people of is Zimbabwe a status by keeping them in their hearts and minds.

One might feel that this is a rather small and inconsequential response to the plight of a people so abused by the powerful — but deeds of darkness flourish when the world is preoccupied with its own busyness.  Robert Mugabe’s regime will fall, but its end will be hastened by a world which recognizes that people of that country, each of them, have a status which cannot be removed by the corruption of politicians and in the meantime we gave a small amount of our time each day to think of them because they may not matter to your Robert – but they do to us.