G8 services in Enniskillen focus on justice and compassion by Paul Harron, Church of Ireland Press Officer - as featured in the Church of Ireland Gazette edition of 21st June 2013. Reproduced with permission. For full details about the weekly Gazette, visit www.gazette.ireland.anglican.org
A focus on Justice and Compassion at G8 Services in Enniskillen
By Paul Harron, Church of Ireland Press Officer
With the G8 meeting at the Lough Erne Golf Resort on the 17th and 18th of June much of the world’s recent media attention has been concentrated on Northern Ireland and on Co. Fermanagh in particular. On the eve of the summit, St Macartin’s Cathedral in Enniskillen hosted two significant services – a broadcast service for both BBC Radio 4 and Radio Ulster on the morning of Sunday the 16th and a lively ecumenical service organised by the ‘Enough Food for Everyone IF’ campaign at which the Archbishop of York was the guest speaker in the afternoon.
Ecumenical IF Service
‘Enough Food for Everyone – IF’ is a coalition of over 200 organisations across the UK and Ireland, including Christian Aid, Tearfund, Trócaire, the Irish Council of Churches and Fields of Life, which, Gazette readers will recall, received both the strong endorsement of the Church of Ireland General Synod through its resolution to support the call to the G8 leaders to take urgent action in tackling the root causes of hunger in our world (reported 17 May) and in the pre-G8 Statement issued by the Archbishops and Bishops of the Church of Ireland (reported, 14 June; see also http://ireland.anglican.org/news/4618).
This IF service was an opportunity to pray and act in solidarity with the one in eight people who go hungry every night. The Service of the Word brought together the people of St Macartin’s, St Michael’s Roman Catholic church (to which the service was also relayed), the Enniskillen Methodist and Presbyterian churches and others, welcomed by the Dean, the Very Revd Kenneth Hall; the Very Revd Canon Peter O’Reilly, parish priest of St Michael’s; the Revd David Cupples of Enniskillen Presbyterian church and the Reverend Kenneth Lindsay, Former President of the Methodist Church in Ireland.
During the course of the service the congregation heard challenging interviews with David Thomas, Chair of IF campaign in Northern Ireland, fresh from a large, if somewhat damp, IF concert-event held in Belfast’s Botanic Gardens the previous day; the Revd Suzanne Matale, General Secretary of the Zambian Council of Churches; and Mr Sudarshan Sathianathan, Tearfund head of region for Asia. The scripture reading (Matthew 5:1-12) was given by Cliff Onega, a Trócaire partner from Uganda, and the prayers were led by pupils from local schools.
Archbishop of York calls for Social Justice
In his sermon, The Most Reverend and Rt Hon. John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, who had travelled especially to Enniskillen following recent surgery, focused on the issue of the outrage of global hunger, saying that the needless deaths of 3 million children every year from malnutrition is ‘a great scandal and scar on all our consciences’.
The Archbishop said that his own childhood experience had shown him how important this campaign is: ‘When I was 5 years old there was severe drought which hit my village in Uganda very hard. It was a real struggle for my mother and father to feed our family.’ However, he continued, ‘All around the world a quiet and momentous change is happening. People are saying enough is enough in respect of global poverty. We are at a tipping point. We could be the generation to ensure every boy and girl, man and women recieves justice, mercy and love, able to live a dignified human life.’
He spoke of the ‘radical Gospel’ given by Jesus in The Beatitudes: ‘God’s summons to become his Agents of Change by the power of the Holy Spirit’ in approaching ‘the conflicts and pressures of the world’.
The Archbishop said that as lovers of God, our neighbour and ourselves, there are ‘four big changes we could make that would make all the difference to our blessed poor neighbours’. Firstly, calling for a stop to big companies dodging taxes in the two-thirds world. He said, ‘That money could help millions of people to be freed from hunger. They are not only robbing people but God himself who calls us all to love mercy, do justice and walk humbly before him. We can help stop this tax dodging if our G8 governments step up to close the international tax loopholes.’
Secondly, continuing to maintain the right investments through aid. He called on the congregation to support the British Government’s commitment to spending 0.7% of the national income on aid. Thirdly, calling for an end to poor farmers being forced off their land by giant corporations. He said, ‘These companies don’t care that the land is already being used by local people to grow food. Stopping them would help millions of people get enough to eat.’
Finally, the Archbishop called for transparency by governments and big multi-national corporations about their actions that stop people getting enough food. He concluded that ‘then we would be a global village where want and hunger are a thing of the past’.
Archbishop Sentamu also said that it was ‘a joy and delight to be in Enniskillen’ particularly as part of the Enough Food For Everyone IF Campaign. He was echoing sentiments he had articulated in the Belfast Telegraph on 13 June when he drew his focus specifically towards the setting of Northern Ireland, remarking: ‘It’s my prayer that Northern Ireland becomes better known for being a place where good decisions are made, where justice reigns, where people join together to build a future that is better than the past … I know that your spirit of generosity and fair play, your experience of pain and injustice, and your desire for fairness and reconciliation can help others make the leap of faith that many of you have already taken … Eight of the world’s most powerful leaders will gather here to discuss the big issues affecting our global community. There is much to deliberate, and there are tough decisions to take. However, what we must keep at the centre of all plans, deliberations and actions is a passion for economic and social justice for all.’
The rousing music at the service included the hymns ‘Be Thou my Vision’, ‘Tell out my soul’ and ‘I, the Lord of sea and sky’, as well as vocal contributions from The Three Priests accompanied by an ensemble from the Ulster Orchestra.
The Blessing was given by the Rt Revd John McDowell; the Most Revd Liam MacDaid; the Rt Revd Robert Craig, the Presbyterian Moderator and the Reverend Kenneth Lindsay.
Further information about the IF campaign can be found at: www.enoughfoodif.org. As part of the campaign letters signed by senior Irish church figures including the Archbishops of Armagh and Dublin and Bishop Trevor Williams (Chair of Christian Aid Ireland) have been sent to Prime Minister David Cameron and An Taoiseach Enda Kenny asking that the world’s hungry were put at the top of the agenda at the G8 summit.
Broadcast Service – ‘Generosity the core of the Gospel’
Led by Dean Kenny Hall, the broadcast service from St Macartin’s, took as its theme praying for the time when oppression, crime and greed shall be no more. In his sermon, Bishop John McDowell spoke passionately about both international justice and about the fundamental importance of work and the need to tackle youth unemployment.
He drew on the story of Naboth’s Vineyard, saying ‘It mightn’t be a bad idea if rich countries who have a genuine desire to help developing countries added the Naboth test into the economic algorithms which have to be made when aid or investment is being contemplated. The Naboth test would require a healthy amount of self suspicion about our own motives … questions like - Who is really benefiting in the long term from this transaction, and, are there any hidden motives that I am conveniently ignoring? The Naboth test might also take into account some factors that have greater value than money; in fact may be something that money can’t buy. Something like the self respect of the receiving country and its real long term interests.’
Bishop McDowell continued, ‘No country (whether one that gives aid or one that receives aid) has the right to barter with the riches it has received in whatever form, without first guaranteeing that an even better result can be handed on to another generation. Today in most Western countries there is a large group of people who are not quite the unborn generations but who have every possibility of becoming the forgotten dead without having the opportunity to become the fully living; the young unemployed.’
He also said, ‘There are also times in the lives of every man or woman living, and in the lives of nations too when our true character shines out in acts of almost reckless generosity. Un-repayable debt demoralises people and crushes hope, and eventually destroys whole societies. Generosity gives hope and life’, and concluded, ‘Generosity is at the core of the Gospel and we all can think of a hundred reasons why we shouldn’t be generous. But generosity is the very spirit of Jesus. There was nothing sensible in his life. He gave without calculating the cost. The Pharisee would have looked at His life and His death and asked “ Why this waste?” We all fear becoming poor. Jesus dreaded that any man should be rich; such was the danger of riches to the soul … In the Scriptures eternal life, the life of God, does not belong to the sensible people. It doesn’t belong to those who hoard their lives, but to those who spill out their lives for the love of God and their neighbour.’
G8 service in Enniskillen
The 'Singing' Priests
The 'Singing' Priests with the Ulster Orchestra and St Macartin's Cathedral Choir
Students from local schools reading prayers
Archbishop of York greets Lord and Lady Brookeborough
The Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu