On 21st July 2022 the Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, Rt Revd Paul Williams, delivered his maiden speech in the House of Lords during Lord Alton’s debate, “that this House takes note of (1) the impact of the Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports on food insecurity in developing countries, and (2) its contribution to the danger of famine in (a) the Horn of Africa, and (b) East Africa.”
The Lord Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham (Maiden Speech): My Lords, I begin by thanking fellow Members for their gracious welcome and expressing my gratitude to the parliamentary staff and officers who have so kindly supported my introduction to the House.
It is an honour to make this maiden speech in such an important debate, which focuses so clearly on the needs of the most vulnerable: those affected by the sudden steep rise in global food prices resulting from Russia’s terrible war and blockade in Ukraine. I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, both for bringing this debate to the House and for his long record of campaigning advocacy on behalf of those whose suffering is too often overlooked.
On June 23rd 2022 MPs put questions in the House of Commons to the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP:
Persecution of Christians Overseas
Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
What steps the Church is taking to support the implementation of recommendations in the final report of the Bishop of Truro’s review on persecution of Christians overseas. (900659)
The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous): The murder of 50 Catholics in church this month in Ondo state in Nigeria and the ongoing murders for alleged blasphemy are a stark reminder of why the Church of England stands foursquare behind the implementation of the Bishop of Truro’s review.
On 30th March 2022 the Bishop of Worcester asked a question in support of returning ancient sacred tabots held in the British Museum to Ethiopia.
The Lord Bishop of Worcester: My Lords, apart from the way in which these artefacts were obtained, and the responsibility of the British Museum and its independence, I wonder whether the Minister would agree that what sets these artefacts apart, as he has intimated, from any others in the British Museum and other museums across our land, is that they are sacred. As such, they relate to a living faith—the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Whereas these tabots mean very little to anyone here except as stones of limited historical value, and no one is able to see them anyway, they are of profound religious significance in Ethiopia. Would not the Minister agree that they should therefore be returned to those who understand them to be holy and will cherish them as such?
The following written question was replied to on 30th March 2022:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of Hong Kong following reports of threats and intimidation of Benedict Rogers, a UK citizen and Chief Executive of Hong Kong Watch. [HL7070]
On 27th January 2022 MPs asked the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP, answered questions in the House of Commons chamber:
Churches and Cathedrals: Sustainability
Jerome Mayhew (Broadland) (Con)
What assessment the Church of England has made of the steps needed to put the maintenance of churches and cathedrals on a sustainable basis. (905258)
The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous): The Church estimates that over the next five years at least £1.14 billion of maintenance and repairs are needed for churches and cathedrals. The Church is very grateful that 550 churches and cathedrals have already benefited from the culture recovery fund, but there remains an urgent need for predictable and sustainable sources of funding, which enable us to keep skilled builders and craft people in work.
“I have experienced first-hand the sting of injustice—injustice born of being caught up in events that are bigger than we are and in the face of which we are powerless.”
The Bishop of Chelmsford, Rt Revd Guli Francis-Dehqani, made her maiden speech in the House of Lords on 2nd December 2021, in a debate led by Lord Collins of Highbury, “That this House takes note of the detention of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and the case for further action by Her Majesty’s Government to secure her release.”
The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford (Maiden Speech): My Lords, I was introduced to the House barely a month ago, having recently taken up my post as Bishop of Chelmsford, that vast and wonderful diocese that covers the whole of Essex and east London. It is a privilege to serve this diocese, which is complex, diverse and full of opportunities and challenges. Today, I thank everyone here who has offered me the warmest of welcomes. I am immensely grateful, in particular, for the help and support that I have received from staff and officials.
I have a deep and personal interest in the subject of this debate. Not only have I met Richard Ratcliffe and followed the story of Nazanin over the years, but I myself originally come from Iran. Born and brought up there, I left as a teenager during the Islamic Revolution, following difficult and traumatic circumstances. I was born into a Christian household, my father having been a convert from Islam to Christianity, in a small village in the centre of Iran. We were part of the tiny Anglican Church in Iran, which, when I was growing up in the 1970s, was made up primarily of converts and second- and third-generation Christians.
“what moral authority will we lose, and what price will the Uighurs pay, if we do not do all in our power, whatever the cost, to confront these dreadful atrocities that are unfolding in front of our eyes?”
In the House of Lords on 25th November 2021 Peers debated a Motion from Lord Alton of Liverpool, “That this House takes note of the reported remarks of the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs that a genocide is underway against the Uyghur population in Xinjiang, China.”
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I too pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for his tireless work in this area. I also share with him a sense of frustration—I feel as if I have stood up so many times as we have engaged with this issue, yet it seems that we are not able to confront it in a way that is really making a difference. Despite all our hopes of human progress, it is quite extraordinary that here we are, at the start of the 21st century, witnessing events such as we see and which are now well documented. There is no doubt that they are going on.
On 27th May 2021 the Bishop of Leeds asked a question about holding Azerbaijan to account for its actions in the border region with Armenia.
The Lord Bishop of Leeds [V]: My Lords, just to add to the catalogue, on 12 May this year Azerbaijani armed forces also invaded the border area of the Syunik region of the Republic of Armenia. On the ground, the constant incursions and the violations of human rights are perceived with impunity. Does the Minister believe that Minsk is working and is ultimately viable, and what more can the UK and its allies do to hold Azerbaijan to account?
Asked by The Lord Bishop of Southwark: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the statement by the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches of Jerusalem on 11 May that the violence in Jerusalem “violates the sanctity of the people of Jerusalem and of Jerusalem as the City of Peace”; and what plans they have to call on relevant parties (1) to halt further violence, and (2) to ensure the safety of worshippers. [HL192]
Asked by The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the report that the Azerbaijani military blocked Russian peacekeepers accompanying Armenian pilgrims to the Dadivank Monastery in Nagorno-Karabakh, what representations they have made to the governments of (1) Azerbaijan, and (2) Russia, to ensure the continued rights of Armenians to practise their religion in sites located in the territory ceded to Azerbaijan. [HL91]