When China Rules the World…

David Alton in Beijing 2011


“When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order”  (out in paperback next January) is the provocative the title of Martin Jacques’ assessment of China’s future role as the dominant global power. For more than a decade Jacques was editor of “Marxism Today”  – having first transformed it from an obscure ideological organ of the Marxist Left into a broad platform for wide ranging political and social debate.  Not long after the collapse of the Soviet Union  “Marxism Today” was also wound up and Jacques went on to become deputy editor of The Independent,  an engaging newspaper columnist and author.

Having heard him speak recently about his book on China my main reservation is that he is still overly influenced by his political antecedents, and perhaps too willing to overlook the nature of the Chinese political system as he rightly dwells on China’s extraordinary growth, economic capacity, and cultural richness.

The title of the book is itself a giveaway.

Mercifully, no nation has ever ruled the world and however much national fortunes may change no free people would accept the idea of one nation determining our destiny. It’s neither desirable nor historically probable.

In 1963 the great Welsh tenor, Sir Harry Secombe, recorded a song entitled “If I ruled the world”. It contained the memorable lines that if he ever found himself in that position “every man would be as free as a bird” and “every voice would be a voice to be heard.”  Would  this be China’s song for its own citizens or the rest of us?  A troubling answer might come from Ai Weiwei, the celebrated Chinese artist and political activist, who was incarcerated in Chinese jails for two months earlier this year;  or ask Chen Guangcheng, the blind civil and human rights activist, jailed for four years after challenging China’s one child policy, and still under house arrest having recently been beaten up by his surveillance officers.

Jacques tends to dismiss concerns for human rights as the West patronising China and he believes that because the Communist State has created economic growth (a Pew Poll indicated that over 91% of its people are satisfied with its economic performance) this confers legitimacy on the Government. He argues that there is no widespread desire for democracy or for the “enlightenment values” of the West.

His central point is that, unlike Western powers, China is not a nation state but a “civilisation state”; that China is far more diverse than we imagine, and more flexible. He cites the example of Hong Kong and the creation of “two systems in one country” as an example of both its diversity and its flexibility.

What is incontestably true is that at a moment when our western economies are in crisis and stagnating, China’s continues to accelerate.

In 1992 just 3.5% of America’s imports came from China; today it is 14.5%; in Brazil it was 0.9%, today it is 14%; and in the UK, from virtually nothing in 1990, China provides 6% of our imports today. One fifth of Australia’s imports come from China, while its two-way trade with its near neighbours – Taiwan, Singapore, and even Japan –soars. Over the next five years we will see the Chinese currency, the Renminbi (RNB)  – “the people’s currency” – increasingly challenge the mighty U.S. dollar.

Globalisation will no longer be shaped by the United States but by China – although Jacques takes far too little account of America’s military might or China’s disastrous demographic trends, or the flight of capital from China’s new rich.  The inhumane one child policy (previously a flagship of the country’s Communist ideology) has left it with an aging population which will have to be supported by a significantly reduced young workforce (the back bone of its current economic growth).

Perhaps expressed less provocatively than in the title of Jacques’ book, it could certainly be said that the twenty-first century is China’s century; just as the twentieth century was America’s century and the nineteenth century was Britain’s.

What this will mean in terms of the aspirations of its own people remains to be seen.

Even more intriguing will be to watch what happens in the developing world– especially Africa – where China has become the main show in town.  And Jacques rightly says that “the developing world and China are umbilically linked.” The rise of China and the rise of the developing world will march hand in hand.  Here Jacques provides a contradictory picture.     He says that China was never a colonial power (some in Tibet would probably beg to differ) while it “has always seen its civilisation as superior as it created relationships with its vassal states” (places like the Korean peninsula).  For thousands of years China was the epicentre of a system of tributary states – which only ended when European powers arrived in the East at the end of the nineteenth century. But does anyone seriously believe that the modern Republic of Korea or Japan would happily settle into such a subservient relationship today?  These are not vassal states but neighbours and how China behaves in East Asia will shape the way they and the rest of the world sees it.

In Africa, Chinese self interest will also have to come to terms with democratic legitimacy and the rights of sovereign nations. And the more that Chinese workers  travel and are exposed to democracy, free speech, religious freedoms, and human rights will certainly affect the way they see themselves in relationship to their own State.

China is in Africa because it has a  scarcity of oil, minerals and food. Africa provides a solution. Once again, the big question will  be whether China  will be able to avoid the age old temptation to exercise hegemony  and be better than its colonial forbearers, Britain included, in both in avoiding exploitation and in using statecraft to resolve conflict and  to provide long term infrastructure and enable sustainable development.   Harry Secombe’s idyllic world where “happiness which no man can end” might seem a little far-fetched to a Congolese or Sudanese worker trapped in a country awash with arms (many made in China) where millions have died in lawless conflicts.  If China ruled the world would it be any different?

Jacques rightly contends that Confucianism was at the heart of Chinese civilisation and that it still shapes what is the very best of China today. But here he makes a miscalculation. He has nothing to say about the rise of Christianity in China and by many calculations during this century China is set to become the biggest Christian nation in the world.

As Matteo Ricci understood in the seventeenth century, when high Confucian philosophy and Christian faith walk together, they are an extraordinarily powerful combination – and perhaps this will be China’s great  gift to the world and certainly not something to fear. Martin Jacques should perhaps also ruefully recall that Christianity is also a principal reason why Marxism is yesterday rather than today in the former Soviet Union.





Please Look After Mother – A Korean Perspective On Dementia


In September the universal Church commemorates the feast of the Korean martyrs. The one time Anglican bishop of Korea, noted scholar and, later, Catholic priest, Monsignor Richard Rutt, who died in July, put their number at between 8,000 and 10,000. Mainly lay men and women; married an unmarried; young and old – they even include children in their ranks.  The first Korean priest, St.Andrew Kim, barely 25 years of age, was also among their number: http://magnificat.ca/cal/engl/09-16b.htm


John Paul II was deeply admiring of the Church in Korea, remarking that:


“The Korean Church is unique because it was founded entirely by laypeople. This fledgling Church, so young and yet so strong in faith, withstood wave after wave of fierce persecution. Thus, in less than a century, it could boast of 10,000 martyrs. The death of these many martyrs became the leaven of the Church and led to today’s splendid flowering of the Church in Korea. Even today their undying spirit sustains the Christians of the Church of Silence in the north of this tragically divided land.”


But out of that tragic history and the unresolved tragedy of the divided Korean peninsula the spirit of the vibrant Catholic community continues to touch countless lives – both through its institutional life and increasingly through popular culture.


I recently wrote about the movie celebrating Fr.Lee Tae Sok, whose work among the lepers of Southern Sudan has fired the imagination of thousands of Korean people (https://davidalton.net/2011/08/31/john-lee-tae-sok-korean-schweitzer-among-sudans-lepers-dont-cry-for-me-sudan/). He was nurtured in a Church which now comprises around 12% of the population and has created a hugely impressive network of universities, schools, hospitals, broadcasting outlets, and lay people committed to entering the public and political life of their nation.


But even more extraordinary and intriguing is the way in which Catholic identity and Korean identity have merged with one another, positively affecting attitudes and values; and how Catholic themes and Korean themes – such as the intrinsic worth of every human being; issues of human dignity; the commemoration of those who went before; and the value we attach to the family have synthesised so strongly.


Take, for instance, one of the best books which I have read this year: “Please Look After Mother”, a beautifully crafted novel by the Korean writer Kyung-Sook Shin. It has deservedly sold more than a million copies worldwide. Available in nineteen countries, it is a spiritual classic and deserves to be read as such.


Translated into English this triumph of creative writing is a wonderful example of the increasing globalisation and worldwide appeal of Korean literature.  It explores issues which unite our cultures. It also introduces us to a growing band of female Korean writers blessed with great and sensitive insight.


The Korean mother who emerges in Kyung-Sook Shin’s novel could be any of our mothers. Affected by dementia she accompanies her husband to visit her children in the city. Separated from her husband as they try to board a train in Seoul, her husband is helpless as he leaves her stranded on the platform. It will be the last time he sees her.


The novel then takes up the affecting story of her children’s subsequent attempts to find her; now looking at their mother through different lens and from different points of view.


As the story unravels we learn about her children and about the family’s secrets. Memories are recalled of a simple life in a tougher but more innocent time. Her distraught daughter tries to piece together a picture of the woman who has now been lost but whose memory mustn’t be.


There are touching vignettes.   Mother, she recalled, had once told of her ambition to walk the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela, knowing that in reality she would never leave Korea.


She insists that it will be different for her children, confidently telling her daughter that one day the girl will visit “the smallest country in the world” and there she is to get her a rosewood rosary – a memory which returns while trying to come to terms with the failure to find her mother. With a boyfriend the daughter does indeed travel to Rome and in St.Peter’s basilica she prays that God will “look after mother”. Remembering her mother’s words she finds a rosewood rosary.


In learning about the woman whom they have lost her children also discover that their mother had been quietly given away the money they had posted to her each week, giving it to the church orphanage, where, unbeknown to them, mother had become a volunteer. Overcoming illiteracy she had proudly read her daughter’s writing to the children.  It reminds us of how little we sometimes really know about the people who mean the most to us.


“I wanted to show,” said Kyung-Sook Shin, “that the mother is, yes, a point of strength, the root of the family, but is also fragile and sensitive.”  L’Osservatore Romano described the book as “a rich tapestry” and “a clamorous success.”


Born in 1963 in Jeolla Province in the South of Korea, like the character in her fiction, Shin was born in a rural village, the fourth child and first daughter of a family of six.  Her parents were subsistence farmers and struggled to pay school fees. Shin went to live with her older brother in Seoul and her first foray into publishing came in 1985 with “Winter’s Fable”, followed in 1988 with a collection of short stories.  Her subsequent works have been widely acclaimed and she is the recipient of the Manhae Literature Prize, the Dong-in Literature Prize, and the Yi Sang Literary Prize, as well as the French Prix de l’Inaperçu.


Shin herself says that people have told her that what they enjoyed about the book was those glimpses into Korean society. There are very Korean-specific parts, about Korean society, like the march, or the Korean mothers cooking, or the Korean traditional holidays — the rituals involved… so a lot’s always happening.”


But above all, this is a religious and spiritual book; appropriate to celebrate in this month when Korea’s great Catholic men and women are remembered in the liturgies of the Church.


Shin’s beautiful prose invite us to think more deeply about what matters in life; not to lose our identity; not to lose our families; not to forget the things which bind us to one another; and in the end, to entrust the ones we love – in this case the lost mother suffering from Alzheimer’s – into the hands of the One who made her, with the simple prayer, “Please Look After Mother.”      



The Great Partnership, God, Science and The Search For Meaning by Jonathan Sacks

When Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi, made his Maiden Speech in the House of Lords he recounted that at the burning bush an overwhelmed Moses told God he could not speak because he was “not a man of words”.

“Mind you”, continued Lord Sacks, “that did not stop him speaking a great deal thereafter. In fact, on one occasion, when pleading with God to forgive the people for making the golden calf, he spoke for 40 days and 40 nights.”

Although it doesn’t require 40 days to read his new book, “The Great Partnership, God, Science and the Search for Meaning” (Hodder and Stoughton), once again establishes Jonathan Sacks’ reputation as a formidable apologist and wordsmith.

With admirable precision and clarity, whether it is in his public utterances, his broadcasts, his contributions to the Credo column of The Times, or through his impressive publishing output, recorded now in eighteen books, he is widely regarded as the authentic voice of faith and reason.

The Great Partnership” intelligently builds upon his previous exegesis.

Here he counters what he calls “the unusually aggressive assault on religion” by “the new atheists”, sharing with Albert Einstein the belief that “Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.”  At all costs we must avoid a clash of fundamentalisms – what Matthew Arnold, in “Dover Beach” described as a place “where ignorant armies clash by night”

Nothing in science – whether it be cosmology, evolutionary biology or neuroscience – can lead to the conclusion that the universe is bereft of meaning or without the hand of an intelligent designer.

This is a formidable broadside against the vitriol of Richard Dawkins who argues that religious faith is “comparable to the smallpox virus but harder to eradicate.”   It also eschews what Chesterton called the “survival of the fiercest”, the Darwinism which has led to the infamy of eugenics.

Einstein asserted that such misuse of science could only be countered “by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding. This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion…I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith.”

Science operating in an ethical void carries huge risks for any society.

Who better to poignantly remind us than the country’s leading Jewish figure that more than half of the participants at the 1942 Wannsee Conference, which planned “the final solution to the Jewish question” – the murder of Europe’s Jews – were either medical practitioners or in receipt of other academic doctorates.  Nazi collaborators included a cast of scientists, doctors, judges, lawyers, philosophers and academics.

Tackling head on the argument that it is impossible to believe in a God who permitted the concentration camps, Sacks says: “I have known people who lost their faith in God during the Holocaust, and others who kept it. But that anyone can have faith in humanity after Auschwitz to me defies belief.”

We don’t need leg irons but we do need constraints; scientific exploration must guard against intellectual conceit.

For Sacks, science cannot be depended upon to safeguard human dignity.  Why? Because human dignity is based on human freedom.  Free will is a concept which lies outside the scope of science but rooted in the Abrahamic faiths. The blame game – of blaming others for our misfortunes – began in the Garden of Eden, with Adam blaming Eve, and Eve blaming the serpent. They failed to take the right decision because they failed to remember the principles on which their idyll had been created. Each was responsible for their own actions, their own choices, and for the consequences. The Garden’s lesson is that in discarding virtue we destroy a society from within.

Unlike the planets which have no freedom in their movements we are not constrained in our orbits: “chemical elements do not choose which way to combine, genes do not make decisions.”  We are free agents – which is why science needs the scaffold of religious ethics on which to build its discoveries.

In our own times Sacks warns that the dangers which flow from “the scientisation of the human person have not disappeared.” He says that “life becomes disposable, in the form of abortion and euthanasia. That is often the first warning signal”. He points to the dangers of human cloning, the use of psychotropic drugs and the medicalisation of human behaviour.

Jonathan Sacks tells us that “science takes things apart to see how they work. Religion puts things together to see what they mean.”

He introduces a fascinating insight into science as an activity of the left hemisphere of the brain; religion as an activity of the right; contrasting Greek and Hebrew belief and culture – one concrete, the other abstract; Aristotle versus Abraham; tragedy versus hope. There are also beautifully crafted insights into the great stories and figures of the Hebrew Bible – especially the portrait of Abraham; the lessons of the Fall; the murder of Abel; the struggles of Job

When religious faith disappears five things happen: a loss of human dignity and the sanctity of human life; the loss of the politics of covenant and the common good; the loss of half remembered concepts such as duty, honour integrity, loyalty and trust; the deconsecrating of relationships; and the loss of a vocational life of “being called.”    

Sacks commends Alasdair MacIntyre’s seminal work, After Virtue (1981), and  the work of two other Catholic philosophers, Philippa Foot and Elizabeth Anscombe, who build on Tolstoy’s contention that when Christian faith is lost Christian ethics are not far behind.

MacIntyre insists that the Enlightenment’s belief in rationality – devoid of religion and stripped of tradition – simply failed. It failed because of the cacophony of competing voices offering different takes on philosophy, economics, and the structure of society.   Politics becomes our church and we become our own gods.

It is not that there aren’t exemplary atheists; manifestly there are; and manifestly some horrendous things have been done by religious people. Pascal astutely observed that “Men never do evil so cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction”.  But, that isn’t the point.

In a world where charlatans strip away a nation’s assets or looters pillage a high street’s shops, we have had a glimpse of the practical consequences of a society robbed of virtue and values.   George Washington presciently observed that “Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” Sacks concludes that “God and good are connected after all.” 

All of this points to the Abrahamic vision – where the monotheistic religions meet God; where we encounter the men and women made in God’s image; where we meet those we love;  where we strive for the common good.  The truly great partnership is when God and man meet and embrace.

Ethnic Cleansing in Southern Kordofan: When the Stars Fall To Earth http://starsfalltoearth.com/

On July 9th the world’s newest nation was born. Under the presidential leadership of Salva Kiir Southern Sudan’s 10 million people finally broke free from the grip of Khartoum.

It is twelve years since I first entered Southern Sudan, travelling in with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. The country was still in the grip of the civil war – which claimed 2 million lives and displaced 4 million people. Akio Johnson, then Auxiliary Bishop of Torit, showed me some of the scarred remains of schools, health centres, churches and homes – and the graves of the dead. Memorably, he told me that “every barrel of oil which the West buys from Khartoum is half filled with our blood.”

The ending of the war and secession leaves Southern Sudan and the Republic of Sudan with a whole host of unresolved issues and formidable challenges.

Half of the South’s population is below eighteen years of age; 72% below the age of thirty; 83% of the population is rural; only 27% of the adult population is literate; 51% live below the poverty line; 78% of households depend on crop farming or animal husbandry as their primary source of livelihood; 80% of the population does not have access to any toilet facility; Infant Mortality Rate is 102 (per 1000 live births); under 5 Mortality Rate is 135 (per 1000 live births).; Maternal Mortality Rate is 2054 (per 100,000 live births); and just 17% of children are fully immunized; 38% of the population has to walk for more than 30 minutes one way to collect drinking water; 50% of the population use firewood or grass as the primary source of lighting. 27% have no lighting at all; 96% of the population uses firewood or charcoal as the primary fuel for cooking; a mere 1% of households in Southern Sudan have a bank account – daunting odds for any Government.

But at least the Africans of the South now have the liberty and freedom for which they have craved, fought and spilt their blood.

Countless generations of their forebears knew nothing of freedom, having been sold into slavery by Arabs in the north, while hardly a family was untouched by a fatality during the campaign of aerial bombardment waged by Khartoum.

Despite the phenomenal challenges the taste of freedom is sweet.

Tragically, though, just over the new border – in Abyei and Southern Kordofan – their African brothers and sisters have not escaped Khartoum’s yolk – and like the benighted people of Darfur – that other ravaged territory of Sudan – the killing continues. Dr.Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, has presciently warned that Southern Kordofan could become another Darfur.

Sudan’s President, Field Marshall Omar al-Bashir – wanted for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court – and having announced his intention to impose strict Sharia Law throughout the north, has begun a new genocidal campaign against the Nuba people and others living in the oil rich province of Southern Kordofan. Throughout the last two months I have challenged British Ministers about the abysmal failure of the international community to make good “the duty to protect.”
In questions and letters I have detailed a bomb attack on a hospital north of Kauda Valley and the killing of fleeing refugees while United Nations “peacekeepers” simply looked on. I sent the Government a report on events in Kadugli where UN soldiers, according to one witness, were themselves responsible for handing over people who were seeking refuge in the refugee camp “like lambs to the slaughter”.
On June 20th it was reported that northern military, dressed in the humanitarian clothes of Red Crescent workers, led 7,000 refugees, including women and children, out of U.N. protective custody in Kadugli. Since then there has been no sighting or trace of these 7,000 people. There are also reports of mass graves.

State sponsored ethnic cleaning is underway and let no one pretend that they didn’t know.
Two months ago the UN received a report (which one of their own agencies had compiled) detailing “aerial bombardments resulting in destruction of property, forced displacement, significant loss of civilian lives, including of women, children, and the elderly; abductions; house-to-house searches; arbitrary arrests and detentions; targeted killings; summary executions; . . . mass graves; systematic destruction of dwellings; and attacks on churches.” Yet the international community chooses to disbelieve the evidence of their own eyes.

Like an unfolding Jacobean tragedy, it is not possible to predict how many bodies will lie scattered across the stage that is Southern Kordofan when this new Sudanese drama reaches its deadly and bloody climax. What is all too easy to predict is that the international community will plead ignorance and do nothing.

Earlier this month my friend, the New Jersey Congressman, Chris Smith, chaired a Congressional Hearing on the deteriorating situation and he concluded that “Whatever the numbers involved, we can be sure that the suffering of the people in Southern Kordofan, especially the Nuba people, has been catastrophic.” The human suffering can barely be imagined.

The Catholic bishop of the Nuba, the saintly Macram Gassis, once said “Peace without justice is like building a house without foundations; it is a pseudo-peace doomed to collapse at the very first storm”. Today there is neither peace nor justice for his Nuba people.

Bishop Gassis has warned that Janjaweed militia are currently targeting the Nuba and have embarked on Darfur-style ethnic cleansing. He says that chemical weapons are being held in readiness to use against his people. And, guess who has been appointed Governor of Southern Kordofan? None other than Ahmad Harun – like Bashir a wanted war criminal –and who oversaw the Janjaweed’s rape, arson, murder and pillage of Darfur and its people.

In 2004, with Rebecca Tinsley, another long standing friend, I visited Darfur. In a sprawling refugee camp we took first-hand harrowing accounts from some of those who had suffered so grievously.

Since then, through the small charity which she founded, Waging Peace, and with single-minded determination, she has doggedly kept the story of Sudanese suffering before political leaders and commentators. Now, she has published a wonderful and timely novel, “When the Stars Fall to Earth” ( http://starsfalltoearth.com/ Landmarc Press and available via Amazon).
It is the story of the brave and dignified 14-year-old Darfuri girl, Zara, whose struggle to survive ultimately takes her to England and to the United States. Zara’s story, and those of others whose lives meet hers, is a sobering reminder of the new tragedy now unfolding in Sudan. The American film actor, Martin Sheen says the book is “a must read.” He’s right. It is a must read but for the world’s political leaders, ignoring the new unfolding tragedy in Sudan, it should be must act, too.

To Seek A Newer World – Robert Kennedy

To Seek A Newer World – written in 1967 by Robert Kennedy.
by David Alton on Sunday, June 6, 2010 at 11:38pm

In 1967, a year before he was assassinated, Senator Robert Kennedy published “To Seek A Newer World.” It grew out of his speeches, out of his travel experiences and time spent as Attorney General in his brother John F.Kennedy’s administration. More than forty years later his words still has the power to inspire: Kennedy’s instinctive idealism, compassion and intelligence shine through.
It was a book given to me when I was a student – along with Martin Luther King’s “Why We Can’t Wait” – not long after the two men had been killed. Taken together, those books provided me with a road map and compass which, even now, can restore my faith in a political process too often cheapened, impaired by cynicism and self interest.
Kennedy’s “To Seek A Newer World” remains his personal testament. It provides an insight into the President he might have become – perhaps in many ways a greater one than his older brother, John. It is a call to arms against injustice, poverty, and violence:
“What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? No martyr’s cause has ever been stilled by an assassin’s bullet.”

Kennedy’s own passionate analysis was not silenced by his assassin . The civil rights he advocated are now commonplace; his antagonism, both towards Marxism and the social negligence which succoured it, holds good.
Robert Kennedy’s Catholic faith, his belief in human dignity and the common good animate the text. It is tempting to wonder whether, had he lived, if in another ten year he would have been forced to compromise that faith (as his younger brother Ted would do) by accepting the liberal Democratic insistence on support for abortion. But, mercifully, in 1968 he was not required to make that tryst.
The book takes its title from some stirringly beautiful lines penned by the Victorian poet laureate Alfred Lord Tennyson in his poem “Ulysses”,
Come, my friends.
‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world….
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are—
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
By invoking Ulysses Kennedy perfectly catches the thought that every generation has to seek a newer world and that whatever calamities may befall us individually, or collectively, we should not allow them to incapacitate us; that we should be ready to take on impossible odds.
The dedication of the book is to “to my children and yours” and Kennedy uses the words of Albert Camus to remind us that although we may not be able to solve every injustice it is a poor excuse for failing to solve any of them:
“Perhaps we cannot prevent this world from being a world in which children are tortured. But we can reduce the number of tortured children. And if you don’t help us, who else in the world can help us do this?”
During the 1968 campaign for the Presidency this sense of refusing to accept the inevitability of how things are was challenged by Kennedy again and again. In what became a defining remark he said:
“Some men see things as they are and say, ‘Why’? I dream of things that never were and say, ‘Why not’?”
This idea of the active citizen taking on a rotten and decaying system of politics and seeking its renewal was based on a view of citizenship which was rooted in Kennedy’s love of the ancient world and the purity of public service. He insisted that every claimed right had to be matched by a duty. In a speech to the University of San Francisco Law School he said:
“Since the days of Greece and Rome when the word ‘citizen’ was a title of honour, we have often seen more emphasis put on the rights of citizenship than on its responsibilities. And today, as never before in the free world, responsibility is the greatest right of citizenship and service is the greatest of freedom’s privileges.”

He insisted that those privileges and the wealth we enjoy should be put at the service of all: In Georgia he said:
“I believe that, as long as there is plenty, poverty is evil…” while in South Africa he attacked apartheid:
“We must recognize the full human equality of all our people – before God, before the law, and in the councils of government. We must do this not because it is economically advantageous – although it is; not because the laws of God and man command it – although they do command it; not because people in other lands wish it so. We must do it for the single and fundamental reason that it is the right thing to do.”
Although Kennedy was himself a young man taking on the status quo – and in “To Seek A Newer Land” he makes much of the young men who sparked great movements, and quotes Archimedes, “Give me a place to stand and I will move the world,” never-the-less this is not a peon of praise to youth but a call to see the world in a different way:
“This world demands the qualities of youth: not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the life of ease.”

Seeing the world in a different way means judging the success of politics not so much by the value of sterling against the dollar or the value of the Gross Domestic Product; it should instead be judged, he argued at Kansas University, by more human criteria:

“Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.”

Kennedy’s finest and most moving speech was delivered in Indiana where he learned of the death of Martin Luther King. Referring to his own grief after the assassination of his brother he turned to the Greek playwright, and father of tragedy, Aeschylus:

“My favorite poet was Aeschylus. He once wrote: “Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.” What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black… Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.”

A newer world would certainly be a less savage and more gentle one: still a worthy ideal to catch the imagination of another generation.

The Jeweller

As a boy, growing up in Wadowice, Blessed John Paul II – Karol Wojtyla – wanted to be an actor and, as a teenager, he participated in the school theatre.
In 1938 on enrolling at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University he was able to study drama until the Nazis ended classes during the occupation of Poland in 1939.
Then, during the Second World War, with a former teacher, Mieczyslaw Kotlarczyk, he co-founded the Rhapsodic Theatre, an underground theatre group, which clandestinely performed nationalistic works and kept alive the Romantic tradition of live poetry.
After the war, and now a priest, Fr.Wojtyla continued to encourage the theatre group and he published critical appreciations of their performances. He also put pen to paper and among his dramas are “Our God’s Brother” and “The Jeweller’s Shop.” Throughout his life he had a love of theatre, music and the arts, once famously quipping: “ I have a sweet tooth for song and music. This is my Polish sin.”
An adaptation of “The Jeweller’s Shop” – “The Jeweller” – was recently staged by the Ten Ten theatre company at London’s Leicester Square Theatre.
From his celestial vantage point I am sure John Paul would have given excellent reviews but, more importantly, his enthusiastic encouragement to this young Catholic theatre company, founded by Martin O’Brien and his sister, Clare, in 2006 – with behind the scenes full time voluntary help from their mother, Anna and a small team of professionals.
After watching “The Jeweller” – more of which in a moment – I met up with Martin and Clare. They explained why they had established Ten Ten – now a registered charity – and described their nationwide work, undertaken from their offices based in Our Lady’s Church in New Southgate, North London. The charity receives no core funding and is reliant on the revenues and donations earned or raised.
Ten Ten are currently working with over 65,000 school children, young people, and young offenders and are now one of the largest providers of external education and pastoral support in the UK’s Catholic schools.
Within the setting of drama their work raises the full gamut of social challenges – from knife crime to the traumas posed by collapsing family structures; from addiction to the sanctity and dignity of life itself.
In primary schools two of their actors run workshops and deliver two of their plays, along with 60 minute sessions for parents. David Quinn, RE Adviser to the Diocese of Nottingham, describes how the values taught in Nottingham’s schools are “made more meaningful to the children” through the performances and workshops and that “the quality and content is superb.”
Their work in secondary schools – which, through the lens of self worth and being made in God’s image, explores controversial contemporary themes – has been given equally strong approval.
Archbishop Patrick Kelly commented that their work touches on “issues which matter greatly to young people”. Nathan Brown, at the Benedictine Worth School remarked on the “myriad of complex issues which were handles with sensitivity without lecturing or castigating” believing that “the message conveyed will …last in our hearts for a very long time.” Ten Ten’s theology advisor, Fr. Stephen Wang, is currently writing a booklet for parents to keep enabling them to cultivate the seeds which may have been planted.
In addition to their work in schools Ten Ten have developed a one-day programme for Confirmation candidates and for retreats. They have also been running eight week-long workshops in Young Offender Institutions.
Barry and Margaret Mizen, the parents of Jimmy Mizen, the murdered school-boy, work with their Safer Streets team. As part of this work, Martin O’Brien wrote “Sam’s Story” – dramatising the way in which young people can be so easily drawn into a world of violence and crime – and Ten Ten have performed and developed this and work improvised by young offenders themselves.
But, in addition, during 2011 Ten Ten have undertaken a number of public performances. Earlier this year “Good Creatures” was commissioned by the Arts Council and in September they are planning a run of public performances of their children’s play, “Healthy Heart.”
Like the Christian theatre company – Saltmine – whose performance of C.S.Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters” I saw earlier this year at the Burnley Mechanics Theatre (and voted a brilliant performance by my fourteen year old son, James), and who are currently performing “Pilgrims Progress” – Ten Ten know that there is a real appetite for good faith-based drama. That was why Leicester Square Theatre was full to see their contemporary re-imagining of Pope John Paul’s “The Jeweller’s Shop.”
“The Jeweller” tells the age old story of unfulfilled life, disappointed love, brokenness, human nature and the call of faith. In many respects, the original play – along with Wojtyla’s thesis “Love and Responsibility” – was the genesis of the ideas which shaped is later teaching and which would be described as “The Theology of the Body.” Central to his beliefs was an insistence on the dignity of the human person and their right to free will. He passionately believed that “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.”
Martin O’Brien sets his version of the play in the England of the last three decades. The London production was staged on a small budget, rehearsed in less than a week, and with sparse technical effects and a very basic set. Yet, the timeless themes speak above these limitations. Ten Ten make no secret of their hope that they will be able to bring the play to an established theatre, with high production values. And they believe there would be a significant potential audience interested to see this adaptation of John Paul’s play. The comedian, Frank Skinner, described “The Jeweller” as “deeply funny, gut-wrenchingly sad and thought provoking.”
But whether it is through drama, movies, or the whole array of modern means of communication, John Paul knew that the old story and the old truths had to be told in new ways: “The question confronting the Church today,” he said, “is not any longer whether the man in the street can grasp a religious message, but how to employ the communications media so as to let him have the full impact of the Gospel message.”
As Ten Ten are successfully demonstrating, drama and the theatre can be brilliantly deployed in giving that message new appeal.
http://www.tententheatre.co.uk office@tententheatre.co.uk 0845 388 3162

The Cross and The Third Reich by Dr.John Frain

The Cross And The Third Reich – Catholic Resistance In The Nazi Era” by Dr.John Frain
by David Alton

“The Cross And The Third Reich – Catholic Resistance In The Nazi Era”by Dr.John Frain

In his concluding remarks at the end of this admirable book (published by Family Publications), John Frain tells us that he is neither a historian or a theologian – just a layman who wants to truthfully and honestly describe the role played by the Catholic Church in Nazi Germany. He has no need to be modest or apologetic for this is a significant contribution to understanding that fateful era and the reaction of Christians to Hitler’s murderous ideology.

Disturbed by the repetition of claims of Catholic collaboration and indifference, Dr.Frain decided to revisit the sources, test the arguments, and examine the charges. He does so in carefully authenticated detail, painstakingly assembling the facts, bringing back to life extraordinary men and women.

This account of what happened in Germany some seventy years ago is given contemporary edge and is enriched by his personal accounts of visits he made to the concentration camps and by speaking to some of the remaining survivors.

What emerges is a rich text of great scholarship, both refuting baseless and headline grabbing caricatures while reminding us of the great bravery and faith of those who did stand in Hitler’s way. He rightly reminds us that all human beings err and does not gloss over institutional failings and errors of judgement – such as the role of Austria’s Archbishop, Theodore Innitzer (or the Vatican’s immediate rebuke) . He also faithfully examines the narrow range of options open to individual laymen, pastors, bishops and the papacy, and the ease with which retrospective decisions based on hind-sight, and which cost nothing, can be made. This is a labour of love and a labour of truth.

Although those who hate the Church may find its scholarship inconvenient, any fair-minded person who believes that we should never appease secular ideologies when they threaten humanity will learn from these accounts and, indeed, be inspired by them.

History is a great teacher and the wise man will have regard to the past if he wishes to predict what will occur in the future.

History has a habit of repeating itself – “Never Again” too often happens all over again.

This book hold may clues for those who are interested in averting such calamities in the future.

How we reacted to the great tyrannies of the twentieth century can be instructive in shaping our response to the continuing genocides and crimes against humanity that erupt from Cambodia to Rwanda, from the Balkans to Burma, from the Congo to Darfur, from the Middle East to the Caucuses.

As I read the accounts of the torture and misery inflicted on those who opposed Nazism my own mind travelled back to a visit I made in 2004 to the genocide sites of Rwanda. One site, Murambi, had been a technical college where men, women and children took refuge. 50,000 people were murdered there.

Murambi is now a memorial. Some of the mass graves have been excavated. The classrooms are filled with human remains. In some cases the corpses have been preserved in quicklime and retain tufts of hair and recognisable features. Now in the classrooms lie thousands of white skeletons, sometimes frozen in the positions they fell. It is as if a man-made Pompeii had swept over the hill and through the buildings. Some still clutch their rosaries. Some of the women were clearly pregnant. Skulls bear the marks of the machetes used to hack them down.

It’s because of places like Murambi that we need to constantly remind ourselves of the importance of taking a stand. “Never Again” must not be allowed to casually occur all over again.

While I was reading John Frain’s text Pope Benedict XVI was making his pilgrimage to Jerusalem and to the Holy Land.

Just as history can repeat itself in new outrages of genocide, so can attempts to rewrite history and to traduce reputation and character.

During Benedict’s visit we heard echoes of the false charge laid against Pius XII that he was “Hitler’s Pope” and the repetition of the lie that Catholics seek to deny the Holocaust.

Pope Benedict’s visit to Yad Vashem, the Jewish memorial to the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust, was bound to be a profoundly sensitive and poignant moment – because of the Pope’s own German origins and because, like other young Germans, his name was included in the membership of the Hitler Youth. In his autobiography the then Cardinal Ratzinger speaks of his brief and enforced membership. He never played any part in its activities and has been opposed to Nazism all his life and is horrified by the crimes committed by his countrymen. At Yad Vashem he said: “May the names of these victims never perish! May their suffering never be denied, belittled or forgotten! And may all people of goodwill be vigilant in rooting out from the heart of man anything that could lead to tragedies such as this.”

Pope Benedict’s insistence that the despicable denial of the Holocaust – such as that enunciated by Richard Williamson (a formerly excommunicated follower of Marcel Lefebvre who gave him Episcopal rank) – can have no place in the Catholic Church may disappoint those who want to caricature the Catholic Church as a cat’s cradle of Anti-Semitism, but it is utterly consistent with the stand taken by the men and women whose lives are described in this book.

Anti-Semitism is not merely a historical phenomenon. In one recent year official figures reveal 547 Anti-Semitic attacks in Britain (the second worst figure on record). There is only one place of religious worship in Britain where believers are advised not to linger outside after services: the synagogue. Even in places like leafy Surrey there have been reports of swastikas being daubed on vehicles, pavements and signposts.

All forms of hatred against people – whether on the basis of their race, religion, sexuality or outlook – are an unqualified and unmitigated evil. For those of us who call ourselves European, the Holocaust means that Anti-Semitism holds a unique and special horror. It is a horror that had its origins in 2000 years of hatred directed at Jewish people. Blood libel and caricature has mutated into new forms of hatred, sometimes masquerading on the internet under the guise of free speech, sometimes originating as part of new virulent ideologies from heads of state.

The Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has famously denied the Holocaust, has described the Jewish people as“filthy bacteria”,and said he would like to use nuclear capability to wipe Israel off the map: “Anybody who recognizes Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation’s fury… Israel is a rotten, dried tree that will be annihilated in one storm…They have invented a myth that Jews were massacred and place this above God, religions and the prophets. The Zionists avail themselves of the fairy tale of Holocaust as blackmail and justification for killing children and women and making innocent people homeless.”
Jewish people often try to put a brave face on all of this and make light of such systematic hatred – like the rabbi who quipped that a telegram was sent by a relative to his family: “Start worrying, details to follow.”

Well, we know precisely what details have invariably followed.

We also know that Anti-Semitism never stops with the Jews – its tentacles extend and embrace every other form of intolerance too. In this dangerous world it is more vital than ever that we understand one another’s stories and stand alongside each other – a sentiment brilliantly expressed in “The Home We Build Together” by our British Chief Rabbi, Dr. Sir Jonathan Sacks.

So much for the contemporary reasons to worry but when the industrial killing at Auschwitz and the other death camps was being orchestrated how did the international institutions, including the Catholic Church react?

Dr.Frain carefully documents the Church’s repeated denunciation of Anti-Semitism and Nazism from 1928 onwards. In that year the Vatican issued a “binding condemnation” of “that hate which is now called Anti-Semitism”.

He also details the year by year condemnations issued by the German bishops: beginning in 1929 with Bishop Johannes Gfollner of Linz warning against “the false prophets” of Nazism and telling the Catholic faithful: “Close your ears and do not join their associations, close your doors and do not let their newspapers into your homes, close your hands and do not support their endeavours in elections.”

In 1930 the Bishop of Mainz declared Nazism and Catholicism to be irreconcilable; in 1933 the bishops of Cologne, Upper Rhine and Paderborn said they would deny the sacraments to anyone involved in parties hostile to Christianity; and the bishops of Bavaria condemned Nazi racism and their eugenic ideology with its scorn for the sanctity of life of the unborn and its belief in euthanasia.

Even before the Second World War began the Reich had compulsorily sterilised 350,000 people and begun the elimination of what it called “useless eaters”, people possessing “life unworthy of life” – which the Vatican condemned in 1933 as government degenerating into cattle breeding laboratories and in 1940 as “contrary to both the natural and the divine positive law.”

In 1937 Pope Pius XI condemned events in Germany stating: “Seldom has there been a persecution so heavy, so terrifying, so grievous and lamentable in its far-reaching effects. It is a persecution that spares neither force, nor oppression, nor threats, nor even subterfuge of intrigue and the fabrication of false facts.” In 1938 he said that no Christian could be Anti-Semitic because “spiritually, we are all Semites.”

Above all others, the story of Bishop von Galen – the Lion of Munster – is one of immense courage and bravery – with Martin Bormann demanding his execution; and Dr. Frain is right to record the details of von Galen’s heroic stand.

Bishop von Galen described the National Socialists as “the hammer” and “we are the anvil” and “the anvil is harder than the hammer.” He resolutely lived up to his family motto: Nec laudibus nec timore (Neither men’s praise nor fear of men shall move me).

In many ways “The Third Reich and The Cross” is at its very best when it animates us with the spirit of those who gave their lives speaking for truth.

Here are the stories of Erich Klausner, the General Secretary of Germany’s Catholic Action, who was shot dead; Adelbert Prost, Director of the Catholic Youth Sports Association, also murdered; Fritz Gerlich, a Catholic journalist murdered at Dachau (known as “the priest’s camp” because 2,670 priests from around 20 countries were held there: 600 died at Dachau and another 325 died during “transport of invalids”.

We are reminded of the arrest of Catholic politicians, the suppression of Catholic political activity, the confiscation of church property and the suppression of over 200 Catholic publications.

Some stories – those of Blessed Titus Brandsma, St. Maximilian Kolbe, and St.Edith Stein are quite well known. Others, such as Fr.Jacques Bunel, Blessed Marcel Callo, Fr.Alfred Delp S.J., Blessed Nikolaus Gross (a miner and Catholic trades unionist), Blessed Franz Jagerstatter, the Austrian farmer beheaded by the Nazis, Blessed Restituta Kafka, guillotined on Bormann’s orders, Blessed Karl Leisner, Blessed Bernhard Lichtenberg (declared “Righteous Among The Nations” at Yad Vashem), Blessed Rupert Mayer S.J., Fr.Max Metzger, Fr.Franz Reinisch, are less well known.

Dr.Frain is also right to recall the role of the Protestant members of the Confessing Church, particularly Dietrich Bonheoffer, Karl Barth and Martin Niemoller; and the Catholic and Protestant members of the White Rose student resistance movement led by Hans and Sophie Scholl.

In 1931 there were around 21,000 Catholic priests in Germany and over 8,000 of them, one third, clashed with the Reich and several hundred were eliminated by the Reich.

Fr.Maximilian Kolbe who died giving up his life in the place of another prisoner at Auschwitz, said “No one in the world can change truth, and beyond the hecatombs of the extermination camps, of what use are the victories on the battlefield if we are defeated in our innermost personal selves”: words that sum up the spirit of all the men and women cited by John Frain, who rightly asks “how can any of these facts ever be made t sound like complicity?”

Page after page of this book refutes the libel that German bishops were docile or indifferent when confronted with Nazism.

Perhaps the greatest calumny of all concerns the role of Pope Pius XII. Dr.Frain describes “the cottage industry” of detractors and their failure to objectively examine the facts. He cites Rabbi David Dalin who describes such books as “Best sellers made out of bad history”.

Rabbi Dalin says that “The truth about Pius XII must be restored. This hijacking of the Holocaust must be repudiated.”

Dalin cites Pinchas Lapide, an historian and Israeli consul, who said that Pius XII “was instrumental in saving at least 700,000, but probably as many as 860,000 Jews from certain death at Nazi hands.” In the context of the 6 million who perished he contrasts this record with the abject failure of others to save the Jews.

In his forensic analysis of the facts Dr.Frain details what the Nazis themselves said about Pius – “he has always been hostile to National Socialism”; “Pacelli was the live spirit which stood behind all the anti-German activities of Rome’s policy.” The Nazis described Pius XII as “Jew loving.”

Most telling of all are the recorded comments of the Jews who were contemporaries of Pius XII.

After the War he was thanked by survivors of the Holocaust and tributes included one from Israel’s first President, Chaim Weizmann and Isaac Herzog, Chief Rabbi of Israel. Rome’s Chief Rabbi, Israel Zolli, became a Catholic and took the Pope’s name as a tribute to him.

At the time of his death, in 1958, Golda Meir said “When fearful martyrdom came to our people in the decade of Nazi terror, the voice of the Pope was raised for the victims.” The Jewish Chronicle recorded: “Confronted by the monstrous cruelties of Nazism, Fascism and Communism, he repeatedly proclaimed the virtues of humanity and compassion…many hundreds of fugitive Jews found sanctuary in the Vatican by the Nazis. Such actions will always be remembered.”

There is no doubt that the recent attempts to rewrite this history has placed a barrier between closer Catholic-Jewish relations. This is something which has motivated a New York Jew, Gary Krupp, to found the Pave The Way organisation. He says that a proper understanding of the history of this period, and the role of Pius XII is crucial because “Pius XII, in just one day, hid 7,000 Jews, from the Nazis”. Krupp says he “grew up hating Pius.” Having carefully researched the facts Krupp has come to the conclusion that “he was the greatest hero of World War Two. We can prove it. We have something on our side – documented proof – where the revisionists haven’t a scrap of paper to support their theories.”

One of the most telling refutations of Vatican indifference to the rise of Nazism and the appalling events of the Holocaust came from Albert Einstein who had escaped from Nazi Germany. In 1940 he said: “only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler’s campaign for suppressing the truth…I am forced thus to confess that what I once despised I now praise unreservedly.”

Those who read this excellent book may not be able to bring themselves to Einstein’s conclusion – and perhaps we should all be wary of every extolling or praising anyone or anything unreservedly – but John Frain has surely done us a great service in reminding us of the truth of something else that Einstein said. “The world” he insisted “is a dangerous place. Not because of the people who are evil. But because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”

This book is a chance to both celebrate the memory of those who did do something about it and to be challenged in our own lives and our own times to confront the new evils that confront us.

March Till They Die – North Korea’s Prison Camps – http://www.channel4.com/news/the-3-000-mile-exit-route-from-north-korea

March Till They Die: see Channel 4 Report, June 2011, – 3,000 mile exit from North Korea.

The dramatic release from North Korea of two American journalists was a timely reminder that the challenge posed by North Korea has not gone away.

Laura Ling and Euna Lee were imprisoned after they strayed across the border between North Korea and China. On assignment for Current TV, a company owned by the former American Vice President, Al Gore, they were intending to report on the trafficking of women across the border. The North Koreans sentenced them to 12 years hard labour.

Gore’s former boss, Bill Clinton, intervened on their behalf; he flew to Pyongyang, and earlier this month they were released.

Their arrest was not entirely unexpected. The Chinese authorities, and missionaries working in the region, had been warning for some time that the North Koreans were looking for high profile scalps to use as bargaining chips. Two foreign journalists fitted the bill perfectly. Their connection with the former Vice President was an additional bonus.

The whole episode has exacerbated the already dangerous situation and difficulties facing North Korean refugees on the border – not least because, unpardonably, the two journalists were carrying with them recordings of interviews they had made with refugees. The revelation of those identities and stories places these refugees and their families in acute danger. Some of their family members have probably already been imprisoned.

Life in North Korea’s prison camps is dehumanising and degrading.
The United Nations estimate that 400,000 people have died in the camps in the past 30 years. Many of the stories that have emerged from escapees reveal a primitive brutality.

Ironically, many of these barbaric practices were first pioneered by the Japanese during their occupation of the Korean Peninsular. After the Korean War, the Communist regime in the North used many of the same methods to stamp out dissent.

One of the most vivid accounts of these depredations appears in a harrowing account published in 1955 by a Columban missionary in Korea, Fr.Philip Crosbie.

“March Till They Die” is the story of his imprisonment between 1950 and 1953.
Unlike seven of his Columban colleagues who died in prison, Philip Crosbie, an Australian priest, survived to tell his story.

Those who paid with their lives included the Chicago born Monsignor Pat Brennan and Fr.Tony Collier, who worked with Fr.Crosbie at the mission station of Chunchon.

During his epic ordeal Fr.Crosbie, and others imprisoned with him, were marched from place to place, given starvation rations, and frequently left exposed to the elements.

One of his companions was Monsignor Thomas Quinlan who originated from Thurles in Tipperary – one of a pioneering group of Columban missionaries who went to Korea from Ireland – and Fr.Frank Canavan from Galway.

Another was a Maryknoll priest, Bishop Patrick Byrne.
Others on the forced march included a captured group of Carmelite nuns along with French nuns from the Community of St.Paul of Chartres, and their provincial superior, 76-year-old Mother Beatrix.

They were later joined by other prisoners: members of the British and French Legations in Seoul; the Anglican Bishop Cecil Cooper and the Reverend Charles Hunt; members of the Methodist mission; Herbert Lord, head of the Salvation Army in Korea; and a clutch of South Korean politicians. Later they were joined by a group of American Prisoners of War.

The title of Fr.Crosbie’s book is drawn from the remarks of a North Korean major.
When Commissioner Lord protested that many of the group were elderly or infirm “…but they will die if they have to march” the Korean major responded “Then let them march until they die.”

Among the fatalities was Mother Beatrix – who had given more than fifty years of her life caring for the sick, the poor and orphans in Korea.

When she could walk no further and lay by the roadside one of the guards shot her dead.
Following his capture in July 1950 Fr.Crosbie saw many deaths and terrible suffering.
On November 18th, Mother Mechtilde – a Belgian Carmelite succumbed and was followed, on November 25th, by that of Bishop Byrne.

Fr.Crosbie records his burial “The only sign of his rank was a light cassock of black silk, with red buttons and piping. The buttons under their covering of red cloth were of metal. Some day they may help to identify the remains.”

Charles Hunt and Fr.Canavan died a few days later.
The remaining prisoners were marched ever onwards – and their peregrinations took them to the River Yalu (close to where the American journalists would be arrested in 2009), to the Chinese border, and back again to Pyongyang. Some, including Monsignor Quinlan, Bishop Cooper and Herbert Lord, survived and were eventually freed.

Monsignor Quinlan returned to South Korea in 1954 as Regent to the Apostolic Delegation.
On May 25th 1953 Fr.Crosbie was handed over to an official of the Soviet Union, taken to Moscow and was freed. Staff at the Australian Embassy welcomed him: “And so”, he wrote, “I came to freedom.”

He movingly describes his return to “laws that respect an individual’s freedom while providing for the good of the State; …a land where the Muses are not completely chained to the chariots of politicians; where books and newspapers are freely published, and I can freely read them. …All this I prize; but I have gained a still greater and more precious freedom. It is the freedom to believe in God and openly profess my faith.” Philip Crosbie prized his regained freedom but he also remarked that the cruelty and atrocities had not only flowed in one direction.

He concluded his account with a prayer for those who did not live to see freedom; and a prayer for those who had captured and abused them: “May there be none of us who will not find Him at the end!”

That must still be the hope we express for the hundreds of thousands still interred in North Korea’s prison camps – for it will be on the foundations of these sacrifices and such pain that one day a more gentle and tolerant Korea will be built.