the end of the 1980s, I was part of a fellowship run by the free-church
(Methodist) chaplain in a men’s prison.
Tuesday we went to share with them in prayer, worship and discussion. It was a
luminous and wonderful opportunity, where I made many friends and gained deeper
insights than I’d otherwise have had the chance to do.
reading the latest news of our British Prime Minister’s avid inclination to
drop bombs on Syria, and the struggle of saner people to stop him, a memory
came back to me from those Tuesday evenings at the prison fellowship.
prison, a grim humour flourishes that arises from familiarity with defeat and
despair. ‘Tell us a joke, Pen,’ an inmate would say, coming to sit beside me as
the men filed in.
of the men I knew there, the graduate of a seamless continuum of abusive authoritarian
institutions since he was two years old, had a ready store of jokes and funny
stories, mostly very politically incorrect, all very funny.
his most recent arrest, for which he had been sent down on that present stretch,
the magistrate had demanded to know, before sentencing him, if he had anything
to say for himself. Perhaps unwisely, he had reached into his breast pocket for
his packet of cigarettes, flipped open the lid, and muttered into it: ‘Beam me
Star Trek fan, his imagination had been caught by a short dialogue between
Captain Kirk and some other staff member of the Starship Enterprise. The two
had teleported onto an alien planet, where some of the natives began to
dialogue wentlike this:
is life, Jim, but not as we know it.’
come in peace!’ – called out: but, in a sotto voce aside, ‘Shoot to kill.’
this amused Terry immensely. He recognized in it the pattern of established
hypocrisy embedded in authoritarian institutions everywhere. When he first
arrived at the prison, he had come to scope out the chaplaincy meeting, ready
to mock and cause trouble. But, finding us to be a cheerful and welcoming bunch
with a first-class jazz pianist, free-flowing strong tea and plenty of
biscuits, he softened towards us. In time, he’d be one of the first in the
queue, showered, his hair combed to perfection, wearing a clean shirt, eager to
often, as he slid into a seat alongside one of us, he’d murmur in greeting: ‘This
is life Jim, but not as we know it. We come in peace – shoot to kill.’
he knew we’d get the joke; we’d understand that’s how it always is. As he once
said to me, ‘You can’t do anything about the government. Nobody can do anything
about the government. It was the government that killed Jesus.’
am absolutely, completely, unshakeably opposed to the proposed UK airstrikes in
last time (two years ago) our Prime Minister urged that we do this, the result
would have been disastrous. If he’d had his way, Bashar Al Assad would have fallen and Daesh – the very people he wants us to bomb now – would be running the country, in control of the entire armed forces of Syria.
Syria would escalate violence, incite war, and inflame terrorism. Besides this,
it would certainly cause death, suffering, injury and hardship to men women and
children who are not members of Daesh, and whose lives are already made
miserable by the cruelties of armed extremists.
the Paris attacks, political leaders have been heatedly discussing the matter
of air strikes in Syria. David Cameron (wouldn’t you know it) is all for this.
Obama is more cautious. François Hollande typically hot-blooded in his response.
in considering war, it’s important to have a clear understanding of the kind of
thing we’re talking about. I invite you to read this article about drone
warfare – note the vocabulary. When the drone operator kills someone for the first
time, they call it “popping his cherry”, a sexual reference – losing his
virginity. And the children are called “fun-sized terrorists”. Hmm.
then the economics of war should not be overlooked. War is central to the
prosperity of the United Kingdom and the United States of America. War is in
our interest. To my mind, this places extra responsibility on UK and US
citizens to work tirelessly, vociferously, persistently and uncompromisingly
for peace. Especially as all things are connected, and climate change links in to both consumerism and war.
is important to me. Not because I am an especially kind or compassionate
individual – I’m not sure that I am; more pragmatic, really. It’s just my
selfishness. On Judgment Day, what I’d dearly like to hear Jesus say is, “Well
done, thou good and faithful servant”; not, “Away from me, ye cursed. I never
I think the part I take in caring for the Earth, in welcoming refugees, and in
working for peace, feeds in to that strongly.
very rarely do I bring something to your attention that needs donations of
money, but I’m doing so today.
One Spirit Ashram Kitchen is feeding hundreds of people every day in the Jungle
at Calais. The Jungle, if you aren’t familiar with the name, is the place
where, in nylon tents and makeshift shelters, thousands of refugees are stranded, having made
it across the sea to Calais (France) in the hope of starting a new life in
here in the UK, people are constantly organizing trips with clothes and
blankets, tents and sleeping bags – the necessities of life. I presume the same
is true across Europe.
One Spirit Ashram Kitchen is run by volunteers, and provides a basic hot meal
each day to the hundreds standing in line, until the food runs out.
the cold and wet winter weather is setting in, and every day more people are
coming in from the sea, the numbers swelling.
please – if you can possibly help by sending some money for food and to build a
bigger kitchen, will you consider doing so? Will you ask your church to help?
Just do what you can.
about them here. Donation link embedded in the article or here.