House of Lords speech

The Right Reverend John Gladwin
Lord Bishop of Guildford

14 September 2001 (Crisis Session)

In the American Book of Common Prayer appear these words:

You shall not be afraid of any terror by night,
nor of the arrow that flies by day…
though a thousand shall fall at your side
and ten thousand at your right hand,
the deadly pestilence shall not come near you.

They are from Psalm 91.

My Lords, the deadly plague of hate has come very near us in the full sight of God and our television cameras. And the world reels; and our words crumble in the face of it.

The global community is, for Christians, nothing new.  Across the street from what was the World Trade Centre stands the first Church of England parish church, St Paul’s Chapel, Broadway, built in 1766: it is the mirror image of
St Martin’s in the Field. My Lords, the grave yard of St Paul’s has just been expanded by several acres.

St Paul’s Church, and the surrounding land, on which the Towers of the World Trade Centre were built, and have now fallen, was a farm owned by Queen Anne. It was given, as part of her bounty, to sustain the life of that Church in a small colonial port City.

How times change. Yet of the things that matter most, human virtue and evil, nothing changes. Yet again, as the Pastor of the American Church in Surrey reminded us in our Cathedral vigil with the American community, the senseless death of one man long ago and far away, affects even the senseless deaths of the ten thousand who have fallen at our right side this week.

My Lords it is in the nature of evil to seek to create chaos, to attack the innocent and to feed bitterness and hatred destroying all that makes our life truly human. We must not allow such to bring down our values and reduce them to rubble. Those who are responsible for these deeds must be brought to justice the justice which lives with freedom: impartial, measured and effective.

As we see ordinary firemen and police men and women struggle to find the people in the devastation, and as we ourselves are drawn into an unshakeable bond of affection with our American friends is not resistance making a start? Life and hope and renewed commitment to liberty and justice must spring forth from this death. The roots of American liberty and of our freedom as represented in our Parliament are one in the deepest of places in the culture, the values, the faith of our people over many centuries of struggle. If that is our good fortune and if it that which has come under attack from the forces of oppression and fanaticism then let us see it as gift to be shared with the whole human community.

We ought not to forget that our Parliament is to be the voice of the people defending their freedom and their dignity and enabling their duty and citizenship. As the forces of terror have struck deep into the heart of our free world so now we must ensure that freedom and justice strikes deep into those nations dominated by oppression and the gross abuse of power. That is the war we must win.

Now is not the time to consider the detail of all that needs to be done to our politics and our security. What matters at this moment is what we believe and what we hold together.

Her Majesty’s decision to have the US National Anthem played at the changing of the guard was a generous and powerful symbol of what we all stand for. It had an added poignancy. The American national Anthem was written in 1814 by Francis Scott Key while the British bombarded Baltimore from warships from its harbour! Dare we think of a day when the US marine band will play in a free and peaceful and just Kabul? Every ancient English parish church (and those built by Englishmen abroad) stands as a symbol of life in the midst of a graveyard. Out of this sea of death we must bring new life and hope to our world. That is our prayer for the people of New York and Washington and all America and it is our commitment for the world we desire.

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