Sunday, 9 August 2015

Why Cathoilics should back Jeremy Corbyn's leadership bid

The policy positions outlined by Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn seem to have much in common with the recent utterances of Pope Francis and the social teachings of the Church.

So, just as Pope Francis has emphasised the importance of the human person as opposed to the accumulation of profits, so Mr Corbyn has called for people based policies grounded in the common good.

His support of trade unions resonates with Church teachings regarding the right of individuals to become members and the need to rebalance the otherwise unfair workplace indices of power.

Mr Corbyn also reflects Church teachings in the international field, particularly in relation to peace. He opposes military action against Isis, opposed the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and would scrap the Trident nuclear weapons system.

On the question of the environment, there is little if anything that Mr Corbyn would disagree with in Laudato Si. He favours renewable energy development over nuclear and fracking. More widely on energy he has called for the renationalisation of utilities like electricity, water and gas, as well as the railways, so that these services can serve the common good of people rather than the interests of shareholders.

Mr Corbyn also gives profound personal witness to his beliefs in a similar way to Pope Francis. So just as the Pope has embraced a humble lifestyle within the trappings of the Vatican, so Mr Corbyn lives frugally, cycles and maintains his own allotment.

The parallels between Mr Corbyn and the Pope can though be taken too far, there are many differences. Mr Corbyn is for instance pro-abortion and contraception. He is also not a particular fan of faith schools, though has no plans to dismantle them.

However, Mr Corbyn does have much Catholic support, particularly among the social justice fraternity. At the recent National Justice and Peace Network conference, Professor of Peace Studies  Paul Rodgers addressing the challenges of climate change and the growing  inequalities in the world, suggested that Mr Corbyn was the politician suggesting the most appropriate solutions.

My first contact with Mr Corbyn came 20 years ago in relation to a miscarriage of justice case involving two Catholic Tamils Prem Sivalingham and Sam Kulasingham. The two men had been convicted of murder, serving eight years for the crime they did not commit. The campaign to establish their innocence, included many from the then recent Guildford Four and Birmingham Six campaigns. Mr Corbyn made representations to the Home Office, which together with the efforts of the campaign and most importantly solicitor Gareth Peirce led to the two being cleared at the Court of Appeal.

Mr Corbyn has played such a role in many Catholic causes, not least of which was laying the ground for the peace process in Ireland. In the 1980s he was one of those who invited Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams to London to speak. There was much vilification in Parliament and the media at the time, but the dialogue was opened that help lay the way for peace a decade later.

It has been Mr Corbyn’s principled stand on matters of social justice - which also resonate with the teachings of the Church - that so appeal to Labour Party members and the wider public. He has stood by his principles, whilst so many others appear ready to trade just about anything in the interests of political expediency. Whether the principled stand will be enough to win him the leadership remains to be seen, what is for sure is that his candidacy has opened up a whole new seam of hope amid what has become a pretty moribund political scene
see - Jeremy Corbyn is the Labour leader for me - Tablet - 7/8/2015

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