The focus of this morning in Synod shifted from what can often seem to be a preoccupation with our own affairs to something which should be high on our agendas, whoever we are. The Eucharist, Archbishop Justin’s homily and the panel discussion were all about the plight of those being persecuted in Iraq and Syria.

I was delighted that time – and quite a lot of time was given to this – but, to be honest, a little disappointed that what we had in the Chamber was so managed that what could have been passionate and engaging was anodyne and dull, nevertheless so much of what was said was important to hear.

After yesterday’s historic moment as the Canon was enacted, we had another today as we welcomed Shaykh Fuad Nahdi, Executive Director of the Radical Middle Way and an Imam, to take part in the General Synod. He was on the panel with His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK, the Revd Rachel Carnegie, Joint Executive Director of Anglican Alliance and Bishop Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds who from his time as Bishop of Bradford gained huge experience at working with the Muslim community.

I’ve had the privilege of visiting Syria, Jordan, Sinai as well as the Holy Land as part of pilgrimages and part of the rich joy of that is to see the ‘tapestry of faith’ in the region at its best. The danger is that the tapestry is being torn apart, irreparably damaged, lost.

The plight of the ancient Christian churches is extreme and they are in danger of disappearing. But alongside this is the persecution of Muslim by Muslim, the destruction of mosques and shrines by those who share their faith. We have been there, we know what it is like. The beautiful retrochoir of Southwark Cathedral hosted trials of Christians by Christians during the reign of Queen Mary. People, like the protestant martyr John Rogers, were sent from that place in which God was and is worshipped to their death at Smithfield.

John Rogers, protestant martyr

John Rogers, protestant martyr

++Justin made the point in his homily that persecution should never be romanticised. It is wrong, it is terrifying, it is suffering. When we speak of martyrs in the church it is too easy to forget that we are talking about the death of real people, of ordinary people. Our red vestments may remind people of their blood but at times we are guilty of glamourising what is not glamorous.

This morning was a beginning, but only that, of taking seriously what is happening. What happens next, what we as a church do next, is what is really important and let that neither be anodyne nor romanatic.

Passionate, loving God,
give courage and hope
to your persecuted children,
they are.

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