The National Catholic Weekly reminds Anglicans of who we are at our best in this report on "a rally around Parliament today which was a terrific reminder of what the Anglican faith is capable of when it is not mired in internal ecclesiological arguments. A service at Westminster Abbey for Zimbabwe led by the Uganda-born Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, was followed by a Strangers into Citizens rally of 1,200 Zimbabweans in Parliament Square calling for the right of Zimbabwean exiles in the UK to be allowed to work. The Anglican Church today offered a space in which those stories could be told, and a powerful preacher to voice the longing for justice and dignity of an exiled people."
In between hymns in Ndebele and Shona – two of the languages of Zimbabwe –the exiles spoke with longing for their country, sang and ullulated for their land. The Abbey church of St Margaret’s, opposite the House of Commons, shook with the words of the Hymn for Africa. In the Queen’s own church, the cry went up for human dignity both in the UK and in Africa.
On the eve of the Lambeth Conference, when bishops from across the Anglican Communion gather to argue their differences, it was a reminder that communion is not just about resolving doctrinal questions. It is firstly about human connection – solidarity, empathy, and the courage to stand with those who are suffering.
Will we succeed? Unlikely. But as we walked to the Home Office to present our petition, then moved across Lambeth Bridge, along the river, with our bright orange ‘Strangers into Citizens’ banners and Zimbabwe and Union Jack flags in full view of the House of Commons on the other side of a sun-struck Thames, that didn’t seem to matter. We occupied the political heart of London for just a few hours, to declare that the dignity of human beings comes first. For the Zimbabwean exiles, it was a release of hope. And that, in itself, is success.
I hope the Bishops at Lambeth can hear and come back to their best selves offering the world some hope.