Welcome to 2015!!
The events in France with which the year has tragically begun highlight the need of the world to live with greater respect for difference. We must also seek a greater understanding of the pressures under which people live: pressures which in turn contribute to alienation and ultimately to hostility . We can only do this if we are open to understand and to think beyond preconceived positions.
We (Australians) have joined the fight against ISIS, at an immediate humanitarian level, a necessary engagement to help protect minorities under imminent threat. On the other hand to fall into the trap of contemptuous dismissal by naming this movement as a ‘death cult’ is unhelpful. We need far greater understanding of the stresses and strains under which we have placed Sunni and Shiite populations as a result of our mishandling of the Gulf conflict. We also need greater understanding of the place of caliphate in Islamic history, not least the loss felt by some since the fall of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the 1st World War. When we in the West become involved in others' struggles from our own perspective and perceived self-interest , without any attempt to understand the complexities, we can (unwittingly) be the cause of the very movements we then describe as ‘death cults’. I raise this matter as but one example of the problems we face and about which we need to be far more informed – hence the forums.
We at CES are very much in the debt of Professor James Haire, our patron for 2014. James’ address with which we began 2014 was an outstanding platform for the rest of the year. It was, however, a great disappointment that, as a result of a very serious health issue, James was unable to make a further contribution. He was seriously ill for several months. Praise God, however, he is now nearly back to full health and has begun to accept engagements again. His extraordinary knowledge and giftedness is much needed by us all. He and Julia have relocated to Mackay in Central Queensland but we hope we may still see them from time to time.
I am delighted to tell you that Professor Thorwald Lorenzen has agreed to be our patron for 2015. He will lead our first forum on 12 February for which a separate poster is being distributed. Thorwald needs little introduction. He is an outstanding scholar and a significant contributor to public theology over many years. He has been a life-time ecumenist and in his role as Senior Minister at Canberra Baptist led many social justice campaigns, particularly those focussed on the rights of indigenous people.
We have begun to put together a very stimulating programme for the year and I look forward to seeing you on many occasions.
Warmest good wishes in Christ
Audio recordings of last years forums can be found gpoing to our website: www.ces.org.au and clicking on Downloads