Right Reverend Adrian Newman:”Love, peace and justice. That’s what we all long for sitting in this room today.”Published by International Liberty on January 26, 2016
The Right Reverend Adrian Newman, the Bishop of Stepney, made a speech in Auvers-sur-Oise, north of Paris on Wednesday January 20, 2016.
He along with The Right Reverend John Pritchard, former Bishop of Oxford,, met with Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) at her residence.
Below is the text of speech by the Right Reverend Adrian Newman:
My sisters and brothers it is a great pleasure to be here with you today. Thank you once again for the warmest of welcomes which we have received here. It’s wonderful to be here.
We want to be here – both Bishop John and I – to support you and to stand in solidarity with you for the struggle in which you are involved. Each of the great Abrahamic faiths is in agreement that God is known by love, expressed in peace and recognized by justice. Love, peace and justice. That’s what we all long for sitting in this room today.
These are the qualities that unite us. And we long for these values to be fully reflected in the life of our faith communities and the societies that we are part of. And the societies we carry in our hearts if we are far from home today.
Wherever we see a deficit of love or of peace or of justice, Christians and Muslims will want to speak out. There is, of course, no end of places in the world where human beings fall short of these sort of universal values. Sometimes the tide of violence and inhumanity feels overwhelming. And as I say that, I can look around this room and be aware that you carry these stories, very personally, in your hearts and in your histories. You have been personally touched by tragedy in a way that we have not. And so I want to salute you for your courage and for your willingness to continue to struggle for freedom and for justice in this situation.
It is hard to remain optimistic and hopeful. How have you done it? I applaud you for continuing to remain hopeful and optimistic. And unwilling to be bowed down by the suffering you and your people have experienced. It never ceases to amaze me how resilient the human spirit can be in defiance of oppression. The flame of hope is not easily extinguished.
And I want to pay tribute to those who have shown such determination to keep this flame of hope burning for those who were denied natural justice. To speak up for those whose voice has been silenced. To draw the attention of the international community to those whose human rights and dignities are being violated on a daily basis. The specific action, around which fifty two Church of England Anglican bishops have united, and it’s wonderfully here displayed on your wall.
The specific action around which we have united is the unprovoked attack on Camp Liberty on the 29th October last year in which twenty-three Iranian refugees were killed and many others injured. And it is rare, I have to tell you today, it is extremely rare to get such a united response from this number of bishops and I think it demonstrates the sense of outrage we felt that innocent civilians were targeted with such a wilful disregard for any notion of international justice. This was not a war zone. This was not provoked. In many ways, Camp Liberty remains an enigma. It has become, for you and for many, the focus of a much larger issue which is the right of citizens to dissent when they do not agree with their country’s adopted approach to creating a flourishing society.
There is a saying, attributed to Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” The way in which human beings disagree is fundamental to the world we want to live in, to the nature of the world we want to create. We in the Anglican churches are currently going through a very painful process in which we are trying to work out how to stay together in love, when across the world, Christians hold some very different and opposing views on the subject of human sexuality. How we do this process, honouring one another’s deeply held convictions may be almost as important as what we decide, how we do things, when we disagree. Most major faiths will agree on this – it comes back to our core values of love and peace and justice. Dissent and debate are a vital part of this territory. Whenever dissent is repressed and debate is silenced, we are all in trouble. And that’s why there is such international consternation about the effective imprisonment of Iranian refugees in Camp Liberty.
That’s why there is such concern about human rights in Iran at the moment, signalled with such transparency by the 62nd UN resolution censoring human rights abuses in Iran. Suppression of alternative voices is a mark of a society scared for its future. Confident, mature communities will allow proper debate. Constraining, muffling and silencing political discussion is always a mark of fear and insecurity.
It is not for me, really, to call upon the government of Iran to listen to somebody like me. But I can ask them to listen to the voice of their own people and indeed to the voice of the international community.
And I can call on my own government, in the United Kingdom, as well as other EU states, to heed this, especially in a week when the international community has reopened trade routes following the deal agreed last July.
The refugee status of those who live in Camp Liberty must be recognized and respected. The attacks on life and property must stop.
The call for human fights in Iran itself must be heeded. What right have we, as bishops in the Church of England, to demand these things? Perhaps we have no right at all, except that we share these fundamental Abrahamic roots with our Muslim sisters and brothers.
Love, peace and justice. These are the values around which divinity. These are the values around which divinity and humanity touch. Within Christianity. Within Islam. In the United Kingdom. In Iran. And across the world.
Thank you very much.