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January 2015 - The Dignity of Everyone

What is special about 2015? In 1915 the Great War raged on. In 1815 Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo. However, there is a much older anniversary, which still has power in our lives today - the signing of Magna Carta, the 'Great Charter', at Runnymede in 1215. This could be the greatest document in English history. King John was forced to sign it by his barons. It stated that the King could not do just as he liked. Article 39 says: 'No free man shall be arrested or imprisoned .....or harmed in any way save by the lawful judgement of his equals under the law of the land.........'.

Why is this ancient document important today? It was a first step in establishing the basic human rights that defend us from tyranny. Its’ principles slowly became part of English law and were partly instrumental in evolving the parliamentary democracy of today. The Church had a major part in Magna Carta, as one of the negotiators was Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury.

There are many places today where the Magna Carta would be impossible - places where human rights and dignities are totally ignored by repression, unjust imprisonment and outrageous cruelty. Amnesty International does fine work in uncovering these appalling situations.

As then, the Church today in many places stands up for human rights and dignity where these are violated - often at great cost. We remember of the murders of Archbishop Janani Luwum of Uganda (1977) and Archbishop Oscar Romero in El Salavdor (1980) - as well as of many lay people.

As we start 2015, let's rejoice in the freedoms and rights we enjoy - but also remember those who do not enjoy such rights. Let us take our part, however we can, to make the world a better place for everyone. In the Lord's Prayer we pray: 'Your kingdom come'; that kingdom of God is about love, justice, freedom and peace - for everyone.

Best wishes - Andrew

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