Suffolk: Bishop’s message of hope

IPSWICH: A trip to Africa has reaffirmed the importance of spirituality, hope and generosity for a bishop and he wants to pass that message on this Christmas.

The Right Rev Nigel Stock visited Kagera, in north-west Tanzania during the summer in his role as Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich.

“It is a very poor part of the country and about 16 years ago it was where the refugees from Rwanada went to during the genocide,” he said.

“The diocese has had a link with that area since those days and supported them when they looked after the refugees. All of the refugees have gone home now but we travelled through Rwanda and went to the genocide memorial.

“The whole experience reminded me very sharply of how human relationships can end up in completely disastrous situations. What the church used to refer to as sinfulness can lead to large-scale death.”

However, the Christian spirit shown during that time made him realise there are still plenty of caring people.

“The whole situation was redeemed by the care and co-operation of neighbouring countries, and the people of places like Kagera,” he said. “I was very moved by the resilience of the church and it made me very aware of how blessed we are in this country in what we have materially but very often we neglect the spiritual, whereas in Kagera they pay great attention to the spiritual. They are very spontaneous in their worship and very thankful for the little they have.”

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He believes we can all learn lessons from developing countries like Tanzania. “As Christmas approaches, many people are feeling very anxious in this country about the effects of the economic recession.

“I hope that this Christmas we will remember God who comes to us in Jesus, and learn real generosity and be alert to the ways that we can help and support the vulnerable and least well off in our society.”

He added: “Christmas is a time of hope. We are very aware of the tensions in the world and of those people who are based in this area who are part of the armed forces, serving in dangerous situations where peace seems hard to achieve.

“I think Christmas is a time when we want to pray hard for that peace and the welfare of those who try to keep peace and make peace.”

n Have you got a Christmas message for the people of Suffolk? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN.