As I am only just due to begin sixth form I was unfortunately not present at this conference, but was fortunate enough to come across it on Archbishop Rowan’s website. The conference was for students studying Philosophy, Religion and/or Ethics, and as I listened intently to the speakers words, alike I expect to the students present, I came away with a lot to think about.
Revd Richard Coles, a faith representative in the media, discussed the stereotypes of vicars and the effects of the media through television, radio, newspapers etc., speaking about world poverty and how on the front of newspapers and on news headlines instead of being told that there are a billion people starving, we are told that Peter Andre cried when he broke up with Jordan, prompting all who were listening to Revd Richard that day to think about their responsibilities in their role in society.
Next came Professor Elaine Graham, who discussed the oncoming decade, including talk on the different religious groups in the world and their growth, the inevitable uprising of technology, and global issues such as climate change, challenging those listening to find new ways of living in our communities today.
The last speaker was Archbishop Rowan who told us of a woman called Etty Hillesum. She was taken to Auschwitz by the Nazis in the war.
Several times in the war, she said, she fell down to her knees to God, not really knowing who she was talking to, if anyone was listening, but that she wanted to make a physical acknowledgement that the universe was not ruled by the Nazis, but by someone else she had faith in.
She famously said,
Someone has to take responsibility for God in this world.
Archbishop Rowan then said,
In the case of that extraordinary woman, faith wasn’t just a strange exotic opinion that you hold in your head. Faith was something that radically changed what you thought you were. Where you thought you were. What sort of world you thought you inhabited. And what sort of message you wanted your life to communicate.
… (and then later on)…
Faith is one of those crucial things that allows you to see something else, not something extra, but to be in touch with some depth or dimension of reality, which changes the whole landscape. Allows you to see that it doesn’t have to be like this, that human beings are more than they seem to be. That the future is not a closed repetition of the past, and that I think is part of what Etty Hillesum was talking about. To take responsibility for God, to live in such a way that it looks like there’s something else to see. Not a little extra religious bit of reality, but something that casts light on everything and reshapes the landscape and the lives of the people around you.
This conference has given me a lot to think about.
I found Archbishop Rowan’s speech absolutely fantastic, and feel particularly irritated and embarrassed now that I remember once saying Hello to him several months ago without the slightest clue to who he was. I hope I see him again!
Listening to Revd Richard has particularly caused me to reflect on my way of living, and I imagine I shall post some of my thoughts on wealth on here in a few days time.
Now as I head off to the half hour debate part after the talk with the speakers, I shall leave you.
If you’d like to watch or listen to any of it yourself than let me know and I can give you a link.