This afternoon I went to see the protesters who are occupying Cathedral Square. Although I am usually sceptical of such actions, I found that those I met were extremely articulate and appear to have a genuine concern for their fellow man.
Why, therefore, is the Dean of the cathedral asking the protestors to leave? I cannot see the camp presenting any trouble to the cathedral in terms of ingress, noise or behaviour.
On BBC Look North, the reporter stated the cathedral do not understand why the camp has set up in Cathedral Square. The answer is obvious. Although not in the midst of the the City of London or Canary Wharf, it is surrounded by branches of large banks.
The square is also a large, flat space capable of taking the camp, is accessible to people with disabilities and is right next to a public transport interchange, making it easy to get to from all parts of the city. The proximity of the cathedral is incidental and it should not flatter itself that the camp has set up there simply because it is there.
The Dean has also said that the protesters have made their point but must now move on. The point of protest is to maintain the protest until something changes significantly. I’m sure readers will agree that nothing in our current economic and political order has changed significantly in terms of benefiting the many rather than the few.
So I feel the camp should be welcome to stay until such things happen. Has the church forgotten that christianity itself started as a ‘protest movement’ against the evils of the day, hiding in the catacombs?
I recently read a leading article in The Independent concerning the St Paul’s report into ethics in the city of London and think Sheffield Telegraph readers would do well to do the same.
Having visited the Sheffield camp, I can see that they are having a genuinely open, democratic exploration of what the alternative approach to our fellow humans should be for the coming generations. They seem to be a community where all have an active part to play, where a voice is being given to those who have had no voice.
The church in Sheffield should be supporting these people in their message against greed, arrogance and self-interest of the few at the expense of the many. So it pleased me when I heard on Radio Sheffield that the Quaker church and several ministers from other churches around the city have lent their support to these protesters.
I do not see any point in causing a similar debacle at the cathedral church of St Peter and St Paul in Sheffield as has embarrassed the Church at St Paul’s Cathedral, London.
If that happens, the church will alienate many more people, especially the crucial younger generation and lead them to question its relevance to their lives.
If the church cannot truly support peaceable protest during the biggest moral crisis of recent times, then when can it?
Having recently attended the cathedral’s Remembrance Sunday service, I would hope that members of my own family did not die to see our world succumb to the love of money and to see their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren suffer in the midst of plenty, as is happening to so many in this city and around the world.
As a lifelong christian, I am at a complete loss to understand why Sheffield Cathedral is not being more supportive of the people who are trying to stand up for our neediest and poorest.
By informing people of the debate that needs to be had about our times they are surely following the teachings of Christ. I think I speak for many christians in Sheffield when I say that the protesters, although they may not all be Christ’s followers, are acting in the true and purest spirit of Christianity and should be allowed to stay where they are. It would be a disgrace to turn them away.