Thank you for having me, it is a privilege to be with you.

We meet in a week, of all weeks, that has felt heavy with history.

Many of you, like me, will have felt sadness as the UK flag came down amongst the European nations on Thursday night.

It has become easy, too easy, to forget the great act of faith in the European family that allowed the project we are leaving behind to exist at all.

For Europe, it was not always this way and it took courage to show that a new path of solidarity and friendship was possible.

Nearly a lifetime ago, the people and leaders of Europe came together and said simply that despite all that had come before, we are not so different as we think, we are not so divided as it seems.

It is those courageous acts of faith in each other and the common interests we share that I want to talk about today, and that are the most powerful inoculation against rising intolerance.

And there is significance that we meet in the week of the 75th Anniversary of the end of the Holocaust. Language is too inadequate to illuminate such an unspeakable act.

It is, then, in countless individual stories of courage and heroism, beyond most of us, that we see the human spirit. The courageous acts of faith in each other when it seemed humanity itself may be extinguished.

We see it in the Sainted and Martyred Maximillian Kolbe, a priest who at the midnight hour of a dark century, laid down his life for a brother – a stranger – at Auschwitz saying simply:

‘this man has a family, I will take his place’.

Fifteen days later, he was dead.

‘By this we see love’ the Apostle John says, ‘that he would lay down his life for us’,

In that act, did he not embody the pure courage and the ‘divine mystery’ of the human soul? That, in a Polish forest which had become an industry of death, he would lay down his life for a stranger, so that they may see their child again?

Kolbe did not forget the words of the prophet Isaiah that each sacred human life ‘is like an entire universe’. Nor must we.

Our common humanity is the most powerful weapon we have against the ancient enemy of intolerance, and the new lies, and new victims it cloaks itself in. The people it seeks to dehumanise.

Courage, solidarity, compassion and faith in each other. These are values, which in the difficult months and years ahead, we must live by.

In times of inhumanity, it is a radical, even a revolutionary act to highlight all that we have in common.

But in recent times, we have lost our way.

In Lampedusa, in 2013, when 360 migrants almost all from war-torn Syria lost their lives, capsized on a boat seeking safety, Pope Francis asked ‘how have we lost our bearings? – we have lost our sense of responsibility to each other.’

That indifference has walked hand-in-hand with leaders and elected politicians who have become too unwilling to defend what is right and too indifferent to suffering.

Yes, the world is complex and interlinked but “important principles may, and must be, inflexible”. That’s what our history has taught us.

That’s what the Kindertransport, eighty years ago taught us. Families taking in perfect strangers. The people of this country are much more decent than the politicians we elect.

That’s why when the Prime Minister reneged on his promise to the world’s most vulnerable child refugees, so soon after his election victory, and sought to remove those protections from the EU Withdrawal Bill, I felt we had to fight it.

There may be those in the Government who felt it was good politics, but these were children seeking sanctuary from conflicts they have played no part in. There are no winners in this kind of nastiness for them, or our country.

There can be a sense that fights like this are futile – we lost the vote – but each of us can be a thousand points of light in a world which feels beholden to intolerance.

There has never been a greater need for the type of divine discontent that Hardie demanded to meet the challenges we face; inequality is boring deep scars into our nation, minorities feel under siege, the planet – our precious inheritance – is in crisis.

We have to be the change we want to see.

The church-led response to hunger in our country has shown this.

Churches nationwide have swung open their doors in countless communities and thousands of volunteers have come together to feed those betrayed by a broken economy.

Without this solidarity, life would have become almost impossible for many families.

I never see in it an act of charity though. In the volunteers and in those who use foodbanks I see more a defiance against a system that would seek to humiliate decent people.

People gathering together to say quite simply we will not let this happen; we will not let you do this.

What greater demonstration of solidarity is there than that?

The fight against intolerance requires a similar communion of people coming together.

The powerful have succeeded in creating new victims and a scapegoat of the most vulnerable in this country. It even has it’s own vocabulary:

Bunch of migrants.


A swarm.

This has, of course, had a profound impact on our migrant communities. A recent study of British Somalis showed many had come to see abuse as commonplace, something to be lived with.

I am determined to see faith buildings – Synagogues, Mosques and Temples protected from attacks, so that the congregations can feel safe in their worship.

I want to see the police do more to tackle hate crime and the climate of fear it creates for many of our minority communities.

But the work being done by charities to train people in safe ways to intervene on behalf of victims of hate crime is another example of how, through courage, we can change the world around us.

It takes courage to stand up against intolerance and tyranny, as the humble Priest Maximillian Kolbe showed. Those courageous acts of faith in each other tear down boundaries and suspicions.

It takes courage to speak out and speak up for what unites us.

In some of the final words the black poet Maya Angelou ever wrote, we can find the strength to build a more tolerant world.

I note the obvious differences
in the human family.
I note the obvious differences
between each sort and type,

but we are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.


My Labour, our Labour, must always be a ‘light on the hill’ in times of darkness.

And never forget the ageless wisdom of the beatitudes, that ‘blessed are those who hunger and thirst for what is right, for they shall inherit this earth’.

Thank you.

Link to Instagram Link to Twitter Link to YouTube Link to Facebook Link to LinkedIn Link to Snapchat Close Fax Website Location Phone Email Calendar Building Search