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Truth, Justice, and the Rule of Law

by Gerry Lynch last modified 12 Mar, 2018 10:06 AM

Bishop preaches at annual Rule of Law service in Cathedral in aftermath of Skripal attack

Bishop Nicholas preached at the annual Rule of Law Service in Salisbury Cathedral this afternoon, in the aftermath of the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in the city as well as many of those who helped them.

The Bishop spoke of this as ‘a violation of our community’. He also spoke of the importance of truth to those who uphold the law, all the more challenging in what is said to be a post-truth society of alternative facts and fake news.

An excerpt from Bishop Nicholas’ sermon follows:

“In every community there are moments when you think you are standing on solid ground and suddenly drop below what felt safe and secure, discovering something new that previously had not been known.

“It is not yet entirely clear what happened last Sunday, nor are we certain who is responsible, but today, on the Sunday after this serious attack, we pray for Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia; for Det Sgt Nick Bailey; and for all who were contaminated by the nerve agent and have suffered sickness.

“And we give thanks for the emergency services, fire, police and ambulance, and for our hospital caring for the sick.

“As well as a shocking attack on two individuals, this was a violation of our community. The Rector of St Thomas’ is planning a service in a month’s time to bring together those most closely involved in the events of the last week, to pray for the cleansing and healing of the people and the place that has been violated.

“Those who uphold the law have to think a great deal about truth. ‘What is truth?’ asked Pilate when passing judgement on Jesus. We have all had to think about truth recently in what is said to be, ‘a post-truth society’, in which there are ‘alternative facts’ with allegedly ‘fake news’.  When you can’t tell truth for falsehood, trust and confidence break down. It is deeply corrosive of good relations. We all know truth can be difficult to tell, and always there is spin, but truth matters.

“Truth and justice are the touchstones of the Rule of Law. Those responsible for upholding the law have to be about the truth and seek justice even when it is difficult and personally costly.”

Bishop Nicholas also referred to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s new book Reimagining Britain, saying:

“Our Archbishop, Justin Welby, has a book out this week, Reimagining Britain. The Britain I grew up in was one that had come through two world wars and was determined to build a better future for its children. There was a commitment to housing, health and education. It seemed that things could only get better.

“The Britain we live in now is more fractious and divided. It lacks political coherence. We do not have an agreed vision of the sort of society we want to be. In every area of our public life it is clear we are either unable or unwilling to provide adequate funding for housing, education, healthcare or social services, for the emergency services, prisons, the armed forces, or for our county councils. You only have to look at the state of our roads to realise we have a problem.

“We want to be a compassionate society but we are no longer sure about welfare because it creates dependency. We want to give ‘hand-ups’ rather than ‘hand-outs’ even though some people are long-term sick or permanently disabled and unable to work. They need to be cared for.

“If a problem with welfare is that it has created dependency, there is also a problem with politics in that electors have become customers and consumers of services rather than active participants in society. Yet those of us in public life know that it is active participation that builds relationships and community.”

The full text of the Bishop of Salisbury’s sermon is available at www.salisbury.anglican.org/whos-who/bishops/the-bishop-of-salisbury/sermons-articles-and-media/rule-of-law-service-sermon-2018.

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