Sunday, 17th May: the Archbishop gave the following address at The Dialogue Society annual Iftar event for Brighton & Hove, “Standing Together against the Global Pandemic”. The usual annual dinner at The Grand Hotel, Brighton was commuted this year to an online broadcast via Zoom. Arranged by former BHFA trustee, Mahmut Gunyadin other speakers included;
• Cllr Alan Robins, Mayor of Brighton & Hove
• Cllr Nancy Platts, Leader of Council of Brighton & Hove City Council
• Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion
• Lloyd Russell-Moyle, MP for Brighton Kemptown and Peacehaven
• Peter Kyle, MP for Hove and Portslade
• Nick May, Chief Superintendent, Divisional Commander for Brighton & Hove
• Rev’d Anthea Ballam, Interfaith Minister, Chair IFCG
• Afra Nur Doludizgin, Marbling Artist and Cloud strategist
• Rabbi Dr Andrea Zanardo, Brighton & Hove Reform Synagogue
• Iysha Arun, Research Fellow, Dialogue Society
• Uthman Jeewa, Head Imam at Al Medinah Mosque, Brighton
• HE Ben Khedher, Ambassador of Tunisia to London
• Geoffrey Bowden (host), Radio Reverb Presenter
Ramadan Mubarak! Peace be with you! Thank you for the invitation to share with you this evening and for managing to find a way to host something of what has been a Brighton institution ref the Iftar Dinner! As a Christian may I say how much we understand your present situation, COVID lock-down happened towards the end of Lent – our period of fasting, sacrifice and contemplation and was fully in force during our Holy Week – the most important week for us and of course Easter preventing us from breaking our fast and intense holiness together in a great feast.
As Chair of Brighton & Hove Faith in Action it has been my privilege these past few weeks to witness and assist Civic, Statutory and Voluntary sector partners come together from across the city and wide spectrum of communities to address the many and varied issues and challenges this unprecedented Coronavirus crisis has thrown at us all.
While the various Faith communities have not been able to worship respectively and collectively in their venues, it’s been amazing to learn and share in our weekly Zoom get-together the inventive ways they have addressed the problem of communication, collective worship and the needs of others. From utilising modern technology – such as we are right now – to facilitate prayer services, study groups and checking in with each other, through to rallying and coordinating volunteers and forming partnerships to deliver essential services to ensure “no one is left behind”! Having been privileged to attend meetings strategising and coordinating relief efforts for the most vulnerable in our city, the homeless, the elderly, the lonely, the sick and infirm, I feel proud to say that our City of Brighton & Hove is truly a compassionate place to be!
I’ve been fortunate too in my current role internationally for our church to have witnessed the same compassion and willingness to work together repeated in countries and communities across the globe – from the Philippines in Asia where I happened to be just as the Coronavirus was breaking out from China, to our missions in South America, Africa, India, and our parishes in the States and in Europe. In every place a great outpouring of compassion and goodwill has prevailed to ensure everyone is safe, cared for and comforted. Everywhere people of faith or no faith have come together in partnerships to meet the needs of others…
As awful and insidious a thing as Coronavirus is, there are some truths it has inadvertently made manifest…
- No one who contracted the virus knew exactly when or how they became infected – neither did they know what the outcome of their infection would be – life or death – this is reflective of life in general for all of us, irrespective of Coronavirus. Life is precious. Life is not something to take for granted.
- Everyone who became infected had been in contact with someone or something carrying the virus – in wide and divergent places in the world something that had once been local, became global – and everyone became susceptible – proving that despite the often prevalent zeitgeist of self-preoccupation and self-interest – suddenly the world remembered how small it is, how connected we all are and how the proverbial reverberations of a butterfly in one forest may indeed impact us all… we learned that no one is an island but that we all share this space, this time, these places together irrespective of wealth or health…
- The response that we’ve all witnessed by professional healthcare and front-line workers, essential and key workers, volunteers and neighbours has shown that again, despite the general preoccupation with “me, myself and I” when the ability to indulge oneself in materialism by commercialism is taken away, people can and will turn to each other, build and develop trust and compassion and help care for each other.
I hope that whatever passes for “normal” in the future, will be shaped NOT by a return to economic self-interest, a return to materialism and self-preoccupation – but that the goodwill and compassion we have seen manifested globally will be given space to refashion our world into a global village, of our society into communities of caring neighbourhoods. It would be an absolute travesty if the future were only to compound the awful tragedy that Coronavirus has been for a few, by repeating the mistakes of the past and not taking the opportunity now to transform our world into something different, into something redemptive, into something beautiful, into something new!
We know from Brexit, we know from the Climate Change protests, we know from the way people responded to the Coronavirus, that people on all sides of the political and social spectrum want change – this is the time and opportunity to allow that to happen. Irrespective of “left” or “right” everyone wants a fairer society, everyone wants the freedom to choose, everyone wants the liberty to express themselves in harmless ways… I appeal to our politicians locally, nationally and globally to facilitate and enable such change to happen, to re-prioritise politics as a system of enabling society to be cohesive, compassionate and create a positive environment for all to flourish. Look at the unity of humanity despite diversity that has been achieved in spite of adversity and work to facilitate that positive energy into a brave new world!
This is not the time for retrospective blame – now is the time for healing – the new “normal” must not be a return to the polarising derisive and divisive politics of the recent past. Coronavirus has proved there is such a thing as “common humanity” and that for all our faults and failings, when it matters we can be “a whole”, we can cooperate to effect “a common goal”… to effect “the common good”… Please note the evidence and listen to this global voice of a united humanity!