God at Work in the World
Three Wednesday evening meetings were held during the Autumn to look at topical issues, each evening beginning with an excellent meal and held in the Broadbent Room which help to create an intimate atmosphere for conversation.
The meetings were attended by a total of 33 people.
The first meeting was addressed by John Plummer (Coordinator of Prisons Missions for Church together in Westminster). John spoke about the current situation in prisons in a very informed and passionate manner.
Discussion centred on the low level of purposeful activity in many prisons because of staff shortages, the ineffectiveness of many prisons sentences (especially short sentences which don’t enable prisoners to undertake any courses), the isolation of sex offenders who can often find no way into employment or voluntary work and the high number of people imprisoned in the UK (compared to other European countries). Prison has been a hot topic in the news during the Autumn, the focus falling on the high rate of suicides, the riots and violence in several prisons and the industrial action taken by prison officers.
The second meeting was led by Rev Dr Martyn Atkins and Rev Gordon Newton.
Gordon presented a collection of statistics highlighting some of the features of migration from countries in Africa and the Middle and Near East during the last 15 years. The data showed numbers using the two main routes (North Africa-Italy and Turkey-Greece) for those making for Europe and a wide variety of factors causing migration. Martyn shared his experience of visiting the island of Lampedusa in the Mediterranean Sea (an Italian island although nearer to the coast of North Africa). He spoke about the desperate plight of large numbers of people arriving in Lampedusa and of the caring response offered by a significant proportion of its 6,000 population.
Nana Ocran contributed to the evening by talking about the Welcome Boxes, a scheme in which Central Hall is sharing, to offer friendship to refugees arriving in London.
The speaker at the third meeting was Christopher Broadhurst (a sub-Editor at The Times newspaper and son of Joan Broadhurst). Christopher spoke about his work “putting the paper to bed” as he works the shift from early evening until 3 am!
Discussion revolved around questions of:
- Who controls the news (the financial interest of newspaper owners, the public, the advertisers or the readers?
- Does the news shape the newspaper or do newspapers shape the news?
We were reminded that the press is still self-regulating, even after the Leveson report, but that there appears to be a greater awareness amongst much of the press of the need for higher ethical standards.
Time ran out before there was opportunity to look at how the press might have influenced surprising election results in the British Referendum on Europe or the Presidential election in the USA, not to mention ways that we, as Christians, might positively use the newspapers to share opinions and concerns.
My thanks to all who attended, led and contributed to some stimulating conversations exploring society with Christian eyes.
More next year? Watch this space!
Revd Gordon Newton