The Prophetic Edge

Writing in last week’s Spectator, Susan Hill gave this challenge,

On the other hand… I have been a lifelong Anglican. I love the Church of England deeply — its music, prayer book, buildings, and its unique ability to be a broad church, catering to many different shades of belief and tastes in liturgy within the same biblical, Protestant framework. I am no liberal, nor any evangelical either, yet I have always felt accommodated within that frame, so I feel as well qualified as any to complain now. Why do the present leaders not speak out — not about organisational trivia, politics or eco-lunacy, but about evil? Why are they so mealy-mouthed about the daily wickednesses perpetrated in our midst? Why do none thunder aloud that abusing little children is wrong, cruelty to vulnerable old people is wrong, torturing animals is wrong? Not politically incorrect, not inappropriate: simply always and everywhere wrong, wicked, evil and sinful. There now. I’ve said it even if they won’t’.

I haven’t the foggiest whether Tom Wright saw it, but I think this is what she had in mind. Here’s his piece from today’s Times,

‘It’s 4.45 in the morning. Something is happening out on the street. Flashing blue lights, a car door, a woman’s voice, a child crying. The door slams, the car speeds off. “They” have picked someone up.

East Germany in the 1960s? No. England in 2009. From the people who brought you “extraordinary rendition”; from the Home Office that has produced more new laws in a decade than in the previous century: welcome to the brave new world of post-civilisation Britain. This is how we treat frightened people who have lost almost everything and now stand to lose the rest.

The treatment of refugees is about the obligation – which civilisations much older than ours have known in their bones – to care for the stranger in need. What’s the point of “human rights” becoming a mantra for every special-interest fad if we ignore the most basic human rights of deeply vulnerable people?

Anselme Noumbiwa is 32, and comes from Cameroon. His father was chief of the Bamileke. When he died, Anselme was chosen as chief, and taken away for initiation ceremonies. These involved having sex with several of his father’s wives, and taking further wives. Anselme, a devout Christian, refused. He was thereupon degraded and tortured. The Bamileke need a chief to embody their wellbeing; but, if Anselme will not comply with their traditions, another chief cannot be named until he is dead. There is no chance of him being safe in Cameroon.

Anselme escaped to England in 2006, and has been trying to make a new life. But in October he was seized for deportation via Paris. Fortunately, the other aircraft passengers, seeing his appalling treatment, refused to sit down, so he was returned to England. I and others appealed to Gordon Brown to halt the deportation of this gentle, wise soul. Mr Brown wrote to me promising that his case would be reviewed.

Now, the authorities are making another sudden attempt to send him back. He was “picked up” last week and is to be deported this Friday. It would be too cynical for a bishop to suggest that Anselme is simply the victim of bureaucrats determined to generate “favourable” statistics.

But all the signs are that the Home Office is simply waving away the piles of evidence and forcing through an injustice. A local immigration official has admitted that “the system” does not want a successful appeal. So an innocent, vulnerable man is being sacrificed to prevent a precedent being set. This is just one case among many, but if it’s a sign of where society is going then the economic crisis is matched by a moral crisis of similar proportions.

I’m not always positive about the Bishop of Durham. But today I’m with him.

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