Summary May 6th 2021
The rapid spread of Covid in India provokes a question whether our promised Autumn 3rd booster should not rather be for the “3rd” World. Some charities (such as Tearfund) are promoting vaccines for India and Nepal but more needs to be done, and can probably only be done by governments. “Until all are vaccinated none are safe”.
India has 1.2 billion people, and health care is severely limited in rural and poor areas. It spends 4.2 percent of its national wealth on health, compared with 18 to 20 percent in the UK and USA. 70 percent of the population live in rural areas, often with little or no access to health provision. Only 5 percent are covered by health policies and 7 percent of children die under the age of five years, often of diarrhoea, despite the simple remedy of boiled water, salt and sugar (the equivalent on the White City Estate in West London was a bottle of Coke and packet of crisps). Modi’s authoritarian rule has added to the problems, with consequent lack of oxygen provision.
India’s crisis has forced its way onto TV screens and into our consciousness, but there are many similar situations throughout the world of which we know nothing. The greeting of a Ukrainian man in Shepherds Bush in the 1980s: “What is news?” has an ironic significance- much of what happens in the world is not counted as “news” for us, and so there is little pressure on governments to act, while their voters are focussed on domestic concerns.
Our readings was from Luke chapter 5, verses 27 to 39, about new wine in old bottles. Can this help us to re-focus our messy priorities? But there is a sense of security in the “old”- for example continuing to use fossil fuels despite escalating climate change- and a sense of insecurity with the “new”, even though investment in Green energy is proving to give better returns. As Jesus said when you have tasted old wine you prefer that to new. But the Covid lockdown has forced us to adopt new technologies (including Zoom)- which could become as effective in persuading governments to act as were the old Christian Aid postcards with £1 coins attached in their day.
Finally a book well worth reading:
Ghost Ship: Institutional Racism and the Church of England by Azariah D.A France-Williams SCM Press: Paperback / softback £19.99 (now £17.99)
The Church is very good at saying all the right things about racial equality. But the reality is that the institution has utterly failed to back up these good intentions with demonstrable efforts to reform. It is a long way from being a place of black flourishing. Through conversations with clergy, lay people and campaigners in the Church of England, A.D.A France-Williams issues a stark warning to the church, demonstrating how black and brown ministers are left to drown in a sea of complacency and collusion.
While sticking plaster remedies abound, France-Williams argues that what is needed is a wholesale change in structure and mindset. Unflinching in its critique of the church, Ghost Ship explores the harrowing stories of institutional racism experienced then and now, within the Church of England. Far from being an issue which can be solved by simply recruiting more black and brown clergy, says France-Williams, structural racism requires a wholesale dismantling and reassembling of the ship – before it is too late.