Learning Hope - Fr Timothy Radcliffe in Hull

William Wilberforce, the 18th Century social reformer was born in Hull and served as its MP for nearly 20 years. With other like minded campaigners, he strove to bring an end to the slave trade in the British Empire. He is remembered with pride by the people of Hull.

Hull University’s department for the study of Slavery and Emancipation is named after him. The Wilberforce Lecture Trust, in conjunction with the University, was established to bring distinguished speakers to Hull to lecture on topics related to Human Rights, Freedom and Democracy.

This January, in Hull’s year as UK City of Culture, the invited guest was
Fr Timothy Radcliffe OP. He spoke at St Charles Borremeo Church, in the city centre, about his experiences of ministry to his Dominican brethren in regions of the world affected by conflict. It was a great blessing that he was able to come, given his recent illness, and a packed church listened with interest to his talk. Sr. Jean and Sr. Bernie from the Southcoates Lane Community attended.

Although admitting he had never visited the city before, Fr Timothy made connections with Hull by noting it still had a street named Blackfriargate commemorating the presence of the order here and that one of Wilberforce’s grandsons, Bertrand, had joined the Dominicans and become Prior General. 

He focused on the challenge of finding hope in war, giving many examples of his own experiences in Rwanda, Egypt, Iraq and Syria of ordinary people living through conflict as best they could. He said bearing witness to the faithful presence of 'God- with- us' was the most important aspect to maintaining hope and this he saw time and time again.

He told the story of the Dutch Jesuit Fr van der Lugt who was killed by ISIS in Homs. Before he died he explained why he had stayed in the besieged city; The Syrian people have given me so much, so much kindness, inspiration, everything they have. If the Syrian people are suffering now- I want to share their pain and their difficulties.

He spoke movingly of the friendship and mutual support Christians and Muslims give each other in Syria. He was told many times by the people there that the divisive ideology of ISIS was not the Syrian way.

He warned against the simplistic views of those holding fundamentalist ideas, stressing how important are reflection, prayer and serious thinking about complex issues in order to bring light to situations.

The full lecture will hopefully be available soon to listen to on the website of the trust:

Other lectures which have been given over the years are also available to view.

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Sr. Bernie Roche

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