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Why bishops and holier than thou celebs can't solve migrant crisis

By Lindy McDowell

Published 21/10/2015

No offer: Bishop David Walker, won’t be sharing his mansion
No offer: Bishop David Walker, won’t be sharing his mansion

That old line about "charity begins at home" ... It does not, you'll notice specify "stately home". Which is doubtless good news for the 84 Church of England bishops who have just released a letter they've written to David Cameron urging him to allow into the country more than double the number of Syrian refugees he envisages giving asylum to over the next five years.

So will the good bishops be at the forefront of providing accommodation themselves? After all, this is a Church, like all other Churches, fabulously wealthy in real estate.

Not me, says one of the letters signatories, the Bishop of Manchester, the Right Rev David Walker.

In an interview, Bishop Walker has admitted that he will not be taking any guests into the substantial six-bedroom mansion, Bishopscourt in Salford, where he lives alone with his wife.

Do as I say, not as I do?

The bishop looks like a nice man and I'm sure he is a good man. He has the obligatory CoE white facial fuzz and matching hair and he has soft, earnest eyes. In newspaper pictures, he wears a simple dark suit, a large gilt cross (surely not gold?) and on his bare feet (in this weather) strappy leather sandals. Very Jesus. Very Moses, anyway.

Bishop Walker makes the point that his Church has supplied an empty vicarage elsewhere in Manchester for use of refugees.

Asked if he will be hosting any himself chez Bishopscourt, however, he explains his house is "smallish by bishop's standards". Besides, he adds, refugees require "self-contained accommodation, a place where they can be with their families, not to try to share the breakfast table with a couple whose language they don't understand and whose culture is alien to them".

In an ideal world, yes. And in the long term, definitely.

But as a short-term measure, you might think that people who have gone through unimaginable horrors to escape their homeland would be happy enough, for a while anyway, to put up with the alien culture of a kindly bishop's breakfast table. Even if it does involve small talk in a foreign language over the Fruit 'n' Fibre.

(It may be just a wee bit patronising, Bishop, to assume these refugees will be flummoxed by this language "they don't understand". Most I've seen interviewed on television seem to speak better English than the rest of us.)

The problem with bishops preaching about what should and shouldn't be done about any crisis is that onlookers then expect them to lead by example. Although at least the preachers do have an excuse for the preaching.

Not so all those hectoring celebs, holier-than-thou actors and assorted multi-millionaires and tax dodgers we've had it up to here with in recent years with their preaching to the rest of us about the need for greater compassion, greater charity and an end to poverty, hate and fuel emissions. From the comfort of their luxuriously appointed private jets.

It all leads to a certain cynicism. To use a quote you may be familiar with Bishop, by their deeds shall ye know them. And the Churches are certainly not short of a bob or two. Action, not multi-signatory letters, might impress more in the circumstances.

As someone who believes very strongly that yes, we should give succour to refugees fleeing terror - and who wouldn't with those distressing scenes on the television news this week? - I think the migrant crisis is a tad more complex than the bishops' figures suggest.

They want to see 50,000 admitted in the next five years. But what if there's another major war/disaster in the interim? And what about the mass movement of economic refugees which is now gathering steam?

Who do we let in? Who do we keep out?

One bishop's house won't solve the problem. But the bishops' letter is just as empty on answers.

So is it really about doing good? Or just about making the Churches look good?

Let's get out of past and back to future

It's Back To The Future Day. October 21, 2015. The date that flashed up on the dashboard of the De Lorean time machine as an odd pair of boys attempted to power it forward.

We supplied the gull-wing for the original film. If the movie was to be made again, the way our film industry has taken off, we could now provide location services. And more.

We've also got an odd couple - a Marty and a man who keeps dipping in and out of the time continuum. We even have a process that constantly flits back decades. Only problem for a car movie - all those potholes out there, legacy of the spending cuts. Still. As the man himself said: "Where we're going, we don't need roads."

Fright night shocks cosy old Downton

Whoosh! There goes Lord Grantham's cream of tomato.

I was half watching Downton Abbey on Sunday night. They'd all sat down to a genteel dinner when I looked away for a moment.

When I glanced back it was Halloween at the fake blood factory.

His lordship was spurting "blood" like a horror movie zombie. An ulcer, apparently.

Viewers had been warned beforehand but I'd missed that bit, too. As shocking TV moments go it was far from the worst we've seen.

All the same, a bit of a gorefest for twee old Downton.

A bit too creepy, Crawley.

Belfast Telegraph

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