AN OPEN LETTER TO THE REVEREND CHRIS HOWSON: SUNDERLAND MINSTER

Dear Reverend Howson,

Greetings brother in the name of our one true Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, the way the truth and the light.

On the 15th of September, Saturday, I attended the March for women and children against rape in Sunderland.

I read the article in the Sunderland Echo regards the march and was surprised at the bias it showed against the marchers.

I read on and was even more surprised at your words in the article : Reverend Chris Howson from Sunderland Minster, who was part of the counter demonstration, said: “I’m very disappointed that a number of far-right people marched through our city and tried to cause trouble. There’s no room for these people in our city. I’m glad it’s ended safely.”

I would like you to clarify what you meant in your sweeping statement of,” there’s no room for these people in our city”
One is reminded of the words of the property owners in The house of bread (Bethlehem) when confronted with a heavily pregnant woman on a donkey.

Do you know any of “These people” as you called them? Do you know of the Christians who were there, who profess Jesus as Lord and saviour? Do you know any of the rape victims there, do you know any of the victims of abuse? Do you know any of the brave women who were not only raped and abused, but for coming forward get slandered and insulted, indeed some of those on your side claim that they are just right wing girls making it up?
Do you know personally the pain and suffering victims of abuse go through, not just at the time, but for years to come, rape and abuse that scars for life, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally, that what happened years ago makes it impossible to form a normal relationship?
Are these the people you refer to?

Because I stand in the words of Jesus now and tell you in all truth and love, “these people” you seem indignant about are the people that Jesus loves and died for.

I find your words incredulous, or maybe I should not, because if you read your Bible correctly you would find that “these people” are the people Jesus went to. He didn’t sit with the religious of the day, who also sneered at “these people” tax collectors, sinners and prostitutes (as the religious called us back then.) Jesus was with them, he went to parties with them, listened and spoke to them, indeed, he even turned water into wine. I think yesterday Jesus would have been with us, in fact, I know that he was, if you knew the difficulties I had overcome to get there you would understand.

A few facts from yesterday for you: When the girls stood up and did their speeches not one mentioned the race or religion of abusers or rapists, not one mentioned colour. They used the term rape or abuse.

Have you been raped Reverend Chris? Do you know what it is like?

“These people” have been raped and abused.

Christ told us that the truth will set you free, so let us look at truth:
Since 2011 rape has increased by 123%. Yet convictions for rape have only increased by 11%. Rape Crises claim that upto 85000 women and 12000 men are raped in the UK each year. Recorded rapes of children rose from 5878 in 2011 to 2012 to 11947 in 2015-2016. Frighteningly did you know that for every 100000 children born in England 109 will be raped before they get to 16?

The EU reported that of the 215000 violent sexual offences across Europe 64500 were in England and Wales. Compared to Germany that suffered 34300. In England 55% or 35800 of those violent sexual offences were rape.

Are you aware in the last 4 years the numbers of rapes have doubled?

I do not wish to offend you so I will not mention the sex abuse and child murders that the church have been involved in, who can forget the 800 babies dumped and left to die in Ireland.

One of my favourite lines from a song is, “its so easy to be hungry when you ain’t got shit to lose” which reminds me of the way those of us who have been abused or raped are looked at by people like yourself.

Are you aware of the reality of abuse or rape?

I was severely abused as a child, not raped, but abused. This happened to me for 5 years, between ages of 5 and 10. Do you know the effects? I cannot feel loved, I want to be liked, yet am distrusting of those who like me, forming meaningful relationships becomes almost impossible. The memory’s of what happened do not go away, the past is as real as the present and although I try, when that depression hits the words of an abusive step father come back into my mind, when the postman delivers mail, it reminds me of my step father unlocking my bedroom door and I feel panic.

But these girls in Sunderland have had it a million times worse, they have experienced things that you would never be able to comprehend, things that would shatter your logic and ensure you never lived your comfortable life again.

I think you would have a change of heart if you had experienced what these girls have experienced, in fact, I do not think that you would have the courage they have, the strength they have, nor the ability to carry on as they have, yet “these people” are the ones who you claim you have no room in your city for.

This is where the church fails, because “These people” who need Christ are the ones you have no room for, “these people” are the ones your words turn away from the church. Again, I am reminded of what Jesus said to the religious of the day, “You Pharisees, you travel far and wide to make a convert, then you turn him into twice the son of hell that you are”
So we can see that your words people will listen to and believe, thus you turn them into people with views the same as yourself.

There were some unsavory people on the march yesterday, I was punched by one as I defended your group from being attacked, so some of “These people” defended you and your group. Trying to stop people who are provoked into violence by those who feel superior is not an easy task, but we held the line supporting the police whilst your mob laughed and jeered.

But those people too, Jesus would talk to before you, for they were the people he went to, let us not forget Peter carried a sword and chopped of someone’s ear.

Yet you have no room for them in your city, like an avid fan of apartheid, you want them as far away as possible. Totally the opposite of the Christian message and examples set by Jesus. He may not have accepted their views, but he would want to talk and reach out to them, not ostracise and wish them driven away.

Finally I would like to draw your attention to an incident in the bible that I want you to think about.

In the Gospel of John 7:53–8:11 a woman is brought before Jesus, she is accused of adultery and the religious people are adamant that according to the law, she should be stoned to death. There is a school of thought, based on Mosaic law that this woman had been raped. The crowd that were with the woman wanted to stone her, the religious law wanted her stoned, it must have been a sizeable crowd as Jesus was preaching to a crowd of “these people”
Jesus just sat down and wrote with his finger in the ground, the crowd, now frustrated began their demands again, louder this time, “the law says she must die!” they howled. Jesus, looked at each and everyone of them and simply said, “Let you without sin cast the first stone” he then held their gaze for a moment then went back to doodling. Eventually the crowd walked away, each unable to claim such a state if perfection. Jesus looked at the woman and said, “who condemns you?” The woman replied, “no one my Lord”.
Jesus kindly said, “neither do I, go and sin no more”

A victim of rape or abuse will condemn themself, they will think they are to blame, many times I have sat in the dark saying that if I had been a better child, my step father would not have tried to kill me by drowning, it plagues us and drives us to despair, and yet here is Jesus saying that no one should condemn this woman, no one is to judge or look down on her.

Yet in your words yesterday, you condemned “these people”.

People who want justice regardless of race, religion or Colour, people who are aware of the reality of life and demand a change to defend victims of Rape and abuse.

You set yourself against them yesterday, “these people” The people Jesus loves.

I understand that you may not be aware of facts and figures, but I would invite you to a meeting in formal settings with “these people” That you may form an actual opinion of them, not a hearsay opinion.

Dare you be like Jesus and actually mix with us, or would you prefer to be a pharisee and continue to think of us as these people?

By the way, I understand you may have been misquoted by Sunderland Echo. From first hand experience I know they do this, I wrote a piece for a DFLA and victims in Sunderland, but the Sunderland Echo lifted it and attributed it to Stand Up to Racism.

I suggest sincerely that you agree to being amongst us for the day, do as Jesus did. Get to know us before you push “these people” away.

May the blessings of Christ be with you.

Richard.

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