Our Bishops


The Rt Revd Martin Seeley

Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich

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The Rt Revd Dr Mike Harrison

Suffragan Bishop of Dunwich

01473 252829

Michael Robinson Canon Theologian and Bishops' Chaplain 01473 252829
Diane Matthews Executive Assistant to the Bishops and Archdeacons 01473 252829
Terry Atkins Secretary to the Bishop 01473 252829
Louise Richardson Administrative Assistant to the Bishops and Archdeacons 01473 252829

 

Latest press article by Bishop Martin

First published in the East Anglian Daily Press on Saturday 27 June 2020.

Half way through our time of lockdown I learned that our colleagues in our sister diocese in Tanzania were facing serious challenges with the fast approaching pandemic.  They had no resources in their villages for hand washing and sanitising, including washing equipment for their clergy and congregations to continue to provide pastoral care and worship.  This part of northwest Tanzania, in east Africa on the borders of Uganda and Rwanda is isolated, very rural and very poor.

I asked for help to respond to this need in one letter I sent to clergy and lay ministers here in Suffolk – one reference in one of the letters that I have been sending out each week in this time of coronavirus.  The result was amazing – we raised three times what was needed for the washing equipment, thanks to the generosity of Suffolk people, just from one reference in one letter.  In fact we raised enough to contribute to making up the unpaid salaries of the school teachers while the primary school has been closed, cleaning and protective gear for the theological college, and a substantial welfare fund for clergy where local economies had collapsed as a result of the pandemic.  We had raised just over £8,000 which has gone a very long way to provide some relief of the poverty of people already very poor.

They have sent us wonderful messages of thanks for what we have done to help them.  I have lived here long enough to know the generosity of Suffolk people,  – when there is a real need at both home or overseas, people respond incredibly generously.  But when it happens, it always seems such an incredible response, and a recognition that in so many ways we can share from what we have to enable others to improve their lives.

We know that compared with the people of north west Tanzania, whom many of us in our Suffolk churches would consider friends, together we have plenty, even in the challenging times we are living through.  As Jesus said, from everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required.  And being generous for the sake of the very poor, making a difference, is just one of the many ways we love our neighbours, whether those neighbours are near, or far.

That principle, even if not named as such, has been exercised globally on our behalf by the government’s Department for International Development, known by its acronym, DFID.  Over the past more than two decades DFID has been at the forefront of international aid, turning the UK into global force for development in the poorest parts of the world.  As a separate Government department, it has largely kept above the political fray so that help has gone by and large where it is genuinely needed and will make a real difference.  Whether in health care, education, economic development, combatting the effects of climate change, agriculture, clean water, or a host of other areas, the legally ring-fenced 0.7 per cent of gross national income has had a huge impact for good.  It has not all been straightforward, and one health care programme that works in one area may end up being a waste of money in another context, but that is what happens when you genuinely try to help.

And the 2002 International Development Act made it illegal to use aid money for purposes other than poverty reduction. But then last week the Government announced its intention to bring DFID under the control of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.  In the announcement, it was asked why countries like Zambia and Tanzania should receive more aid than the Ukraine and West Balkans.  Well, the answer is because Zambia and Tanzania are poor and need help.  Other countries may welcome our help but the motive for giving it will not be the relief of poverty.

Many would agree that there should be better coordination between DFID and the FCO, not only centrally but how that is played out on the ground between aid programmes and the British Embassy in each context.  But this plan has produced understandable outcries, not just from charities that work hard to make a difference for the poorest of the world, but by politicians across the parties, including three former prime ministers.  Because the fear is that funds will start to get tangled up in politics. It would be very tempting for development money somehow to start to assist in pursuing trade deals in the post-Covid-19, post-Brexit era.

The head of Tearfund, a major Christian development agency, concerned at what is proposed, said, “it is crucial that the UK does not turn its back on the world’s poorest.”  That is the bottom line for any Christian, that the poorest are reached out to and helped.

DFID operates in many of the most challenging – and forgotten – corners of the world, helping to relieve poverty, promote development and along the way to contribute to peace.

I hope the plan is changed. In the meantime, I am so grateful to the people of Suffolk for their continuing care for the poorest both in our midst and across the world.

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Previous Press Articles 

East Anglian Daily Press May 2020 | PDF

East Anglian Daily Press April 2020 | PDF

 

To find out more

Bishop Martin writes a monthly article in the East Anglican Daily Times as well as the Bury Free Press. 

Both Bishops also post a weekly vLog on their Facebook pages.  

Bishop Martin and Jutta lead daily Mornings Prayers on Facebook at 8.30am Monday to Friday.  Please note that they are currently on leave and daily Morning Prayer will resume on Tuesday 1 September at 8.30am and then continue every Monday – Friday.  Do please join them!

 

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 Updated 10 August 2020.