Church leader Reverend Dr Inderjit Bhogal addressed a public meeting organised by Wisbech Interfaith Forum.
The meeting, held at Trinity Methodist Church in Wisbech, was attended by twenty five people. Also featured in the program was Poppy Kleiser, Fenland Poet Laureate 2014 who read two of her poems. In the background can be seen the Quaker World War One exhibition which featured the work of the Friends Ambulance service, an alternative to military service.
This exhibition was also displayed at St Peter’s Church and at Thomas Clarkson Academy. At TCA members of the Interfaith Forum attended during the students’ lunch break and helped to answer their questions.
In his address entitled “Our peace, our world” Dr Bhogal stated that he had long wanted to visit Wisbech because of the contribution of one of its sons, Thomas Clarkson to the abolition of the slave trade. Earlier in the evening he had gone to view the Clarkson memorial and paid his respects to the man whom he described as a giant in breaking the chains of slavery. Dr Bhogal went on to state that slavery was still very much alive in our society in the form of the horrendous practice of sex trafficking. He said: “It is a scourge and a blight on our society and we need a present day Clarkson to shatter the chains again.” Dr Bhogal is leading a campaign to establish what he calls ‘cities of sanctuary’ where people who are fleeing persecution and poverty can find hospitality and a chance to make a fresh start.
The first city of sanctuary in the UK was established in Inderjit’s home town of Sheffield in 2007. He went on to describe poverty as the greatest “weapon of mass destruction” in today’s world. If we are serious about ending conflict, give people a chance to lift themselves out of grinding poverty, the answer to the mass migration of people from the poorer parts of the world to America and Europe to help them feel safe, secure in their own homelands and with sufficient resources to enable them to feed their families.
He went on to say that he respected those who had died in the Great War but he also paid tribute to the Conscientious objectors who took what at the time was a very lonely and unpopular stand against militarism. “This is the war that was supposed to end all wars and here we are one hundred years on with several conflicts waging across the earth.”
Dr Bhogal’s last assignment was as leader of the Corrymeela Community in Northern Ireland. Readers will be familiar with this organisation which this year is celebrating its fiftieth birthday and to which Wisbech supporters have contributed over £3,000 in the past thirty years. During his time at Corrymeela he met the Dalai Lama who on a visit to the Province stated that there is no alternative to reconciliation between enemies.