“I hope to save lives and end suffering” were the inspiring words of Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, before and during his visits to Moscow and Kyiv. He was everything we hoped he would be from the impression he has given in recent weeks during the terrible invasion of Ukraine. We can see why he was chosen for his position.
He accepted his insulting reception in Moscow with smiling patience. He knew his man. Putin is a puppet of his own imagination, but a supremely dangerous one, seeming to lack judgement: what strings are being pulled, who is pulling the wool over whose eyes? Antonio faced him perfectly, ideals undimmed, message unchanged.
When he went to Kyiv we saw him absorb the accusations of putting Ukraine in second place and allowed his heart to speak as he went where he wanted to go – to the dead, dying, suffering. His face, his words, reflected an intelligent and loving man – an ideal First Diplomat for our modern world. He said “Ukraine is an epicentre of unbearable pain.”
He will know how to balance Biden, Boris, Emmanuel and Olaf and the other changeable heads of government. In democracies we always have to be ready for change, the topple of the tawdry and time-servers who make an impression for a while but return to flat as soon as crisis occurs. The reaction then is power (Myanmar, Belarus, etc.) or “Go, your time and opportunity are over.”
Our British parliament has been amusing and disappointing us, occasionally inspiring us, in this last week. Do we have the right to expect morality as well as politics and legality in parliament – evident in the House of Lords more than in the Commons, but some powerful righteous thinking there, too. The best words are spoken in the sub-committees where we hear the sharpness of the individual minds. The House of Commons makes and looks for the headlines but knows it has only a few words attention-span from journalists and people at home; the solid work is in the committees where we hear the quality of questioning and research and the bumbling answers from inadequate ministers and spokespeople. The committees ask questions from knowledge and understanding and confuse the mouthpiece ministers whose heads can’t translate party-line policies quickly enough into words of personal conviction. A tape recorder would do better sometimes.
Our MP’s are not chosen by the people, are they? They are selected by small local party committees. Until the last election we knew the probable result in most constituencies and the candidate chosen by the small committees became our MP’s. “Safe seats” abound and the Party, not the people, choose who will sit there. The Chamber must be a drudge with its predictable pattern of insults and one-sided thinking.
If only Boris and Keir knew how to compliment one another, Jacob and Angela smile away their class differences, and even say the rosary together led by our two fine Catholic men. Imagine. Those two, Boris and Jacob, are the face of Catholicism in political life, called to preach the Gospel by the way they live, as we all are. We gasp. Last week we heard their convincing and strong argument for sending certain migrants (selected) to Rwanda to be processed and on Radio 4 Jacob criticised the Archbishop of Canterbury for criticising the Tory policy: “I think he misunderstands what the policy is trying to achieve and that it is not an abandonment of responsibility, it is in fact taking on a very difficult responsibility.” This week that policy is being fiercely challenged. We all change our minds, but changing our convictions is a different matter. What will happen?
God bless us to help understand all that is happening, for ourselves and for others.
(1st May 2022)