Welcome to our debate, “Religious Power: Risk and Regulation”, an open event taking place on Tueday 18th November, at 6pm in The House of Commons.
The debate will look at the use of religious authority in Britain and the rest of the world today and ask the fundamental question: are religious leaders in the twenty first century doing enough to protect the most vulnerable members of society from abuse, in all its forms?
Our guest speakers for the evening will be:
The Baroness Cox of Queensbury
Baroness Caroline Cox was created a Life Peer in 1982 and was a deputy speaker of the House of Lords from 1985 to 2005. She was Founder Chancellor of Bournemouth University, 1991-2001; Founder Chancellor of Liverpool Hope University 2006-2013 and is an Honorary Vice President of the Royal College of Nursing. She is heavily involved with international humanitarian work. She is Chief Executive of HART [Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust]. She was also a founder Trustee of MERLIN [Medical Emergency Relief International].
Lady Cox has been honoured with the Commander Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland; the Wilberforce Award; the International Mother Teresa Award from the All India Christian Council; the Mkhitar Gosh Medal conferred by the President of the Republic of Armenia; and the anniversary medal presented by Lech Walesa, the former President of Poland. She has been awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons of England and Honorary Doctorates by universities in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, the Russian Federation, and Armenia.
Baroness Cox’s humanitarian aid work takes her on many missions to conflict and post-conflict zones, including the Armenian enclave of Nagorno Karabakh; Sudan; South Sudan; Nigeria; Uganda; the Karen, Karenni, Shan, Chin and Kachin peoples in the jungles of Burma; and communities suffering from conflict in Indonesia where she helped to establish the International Islamic Christian Organisation for Reconciliation and Reconstruction (IICORR) with the late former President Abdurrhaman Wahid. She has visited North Korea helping to promote Parliamentary initiatives and medical programmes. She has also been instrumental in helping to change the former Soviet Union’s policies for orphaned and abandoned children from institutional to foster family care.
Publications include Cox’s Book of Modern Saints and Martyrs, with Catherine Butcher, Continuum 2006, 4th reprint 2011; This Immoral Trade: Slavery in the 21st Century 2006 (new edition 2013); The West, Islam and Islamism: Is ideological Islam compatible with liberal democracy?, co-authored with John Marks; The Very Stones Cry Out. The Persecuted Church: Pain, Passion and Praise with Benedict Rogers, Continuum, 2011. Two biographies have also been published by Monarch/Lion Hudson: The Baroness Cox: Voice for the Voiceless, by Andrew Boyd and, more recently, The Baroness Cox: Eyewitness to a Broken World by Lela Gilbert.
David is an award winning solicitor who has specialised in child abuse claims for over twenty years. He’s been a Partner at Switalskis since 2013 and heads their child abuse compensation team. David has worked on several complex cases, often involving Local Authorities and the Catholic Church.
David’s work in this area has helped to change the law: one judgment in a landmark case led to the lifting of time limits on compensation claims in child abuse cases. He is also currently representing fifteen Rotheram survivors. David is accredited by the Law Society (Personal Injury accreditation scheme), is a Fellow of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, and is an Executive Member of The Association of Child Abuse Lawyers.
As well as his work as a solicitor, David is a prominent campaigner for suvivors of child abuse and is also Chair of the Stop Church Child Abuse campaign, which aims to instigate a public inquiry into church-related cases of child abuse. David’s views on child abuse and the Rotherham scandal have been featured in the national media: he has appeared on BBC Look North, ITV and BBC Radio 5 Live as well as several local newspapers.
Sheikh Dr Muhammad Al-Hussaini
Muhammad is Fellow in Islamic Studies at the Westminster Institute, a US-based academic institute researching in the field of religion in public life and the countering of religious extremism.
He was Research Fellow in Islamic Studies at Leo Baeck Rabbinical College, where he taught rabbis and rabbinical students classical Islamic Studies relevant to Jewish-Muslim relations, undertaking the same work with Christian ordinands for the priesthood as a visiting lecturer at Wycliffe Hall, University of Oxford and Oak Hill Theological College.
Sheikh Al-Hussaini has lectured in defence and counter-terrorism contexts at theGeorge C Marshall European Centre for Security Studies and the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom, in its regular conferences and symposia. Muhammad was educated at Oxford, Cambridge and Al-Azhar and his academic research interests are in comparative Islamic, Rabbinic and Karaite approaches to rationalism in medieval hermeneutics.
Muhammad is founder of the Scriptural Reasoning interfaith registered charity in Britain, which promotes the shared study by Jewish, Christian and Muslim scholars of their holy books in order to foster deeper understanding of religious differences. Muhammad holds a strong lifetime personal vocation for the plight of persecuted Christian minorities in Muslim-majority settings, and to countering antisemitism arising in Muslim contexts. He is a keen boxer and is a national gold medalist Irish singer and fiddle player.
The Most Reverend Jonathan Blake
Archbishop Jonathan Blake leads the Open Episcopal Church as Bishop of Greater London and is President of the Society for Independent Ministry.
He was the Youth Chair and on the International Executive of the World Conference of Religion and Peace, and led an international inter-faith youth peace mission from Westminster Abbey, via Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen, to be guests of the Moscow Patriarchate, before the fall of the Berlin Wall.
He was the Director of the Week of Prayer for World Peace. He was a hospital and hospice chaplain and opened the first inter-faith hospital chapel. He has been a vicar, a school governor, a Relate marriage guidance counsellor, a Samaritan, a foster carer and an Independent Custody Visitor.
His innovations during parochial ministry, as well as overseeing a major building project and creating a thriving community, were to introduce fact based preaching and social awareness, disseminating information about political affairs, HIV and showing videos about safeguarding issues.
He has been arrested three times. For writing a biblical text outside the Houses of Parliament during a peaceful protest against the Gulf War. He was charged, appealed and the case delineated the boundaries between religious conviction and jurisprudence. The second for nailing his own 95 theses to the door of Canterbury Cathedral and the third, for taking his children on to his house roof, properly harnessed; on these occasions, being released without charge.
He has slept on the streets in solidarity with the poor, taken Mass to the sex workers in Soho as well as used the postal service to distribute the Mass internationally. He ministered as a priest within the Church of England for 12 years, left and since 1994 has pioneered independent Christian Ministry in this country. He has been a leading campaigner for equal marriage. He was consecrated a bishop in 2000 and has ordained gay and lesbian clergy and co-consecrated the first woman bishops for England, Wales and Scotland.
He has carried out relief work, independently in Calcutta, and with Tear Fund and Mother Teresa, as well as on the streets of London, housing the homeless, at times in his own home.
His book ‘For God’s Sake Don’t Go To Church’ was published in 1999 and ‘That Old Devil Called God Again’ in August, this year, as well as self publications on how to be an awesome Dad and a diary of his own father’s experience as a prisoner of war.
He founded ‘When No one’s Watching’ in 2009 to help protect civil liberties.
His litigation against Associated Newspapers in 2001 identified the inability of the civil law to regulate the religious beliefs and activities of individuals and bodies, since when it has proved to be influential case law.
He is chair of the Holy Circle Trust that owns land in Kent designated to become a symbolic centre of international unity.
He is presently active in public ministry and is a prolific blogger on current affairs. He is married and has 5 children.
Rabbi Dr Jonathan Anidjar Romain MBE
Rabbi Jonathan Romain is minister of Maidenhead Synagogue in Berkshire.
Dr Romain writes for ‘The Times’, ‘Guardian’ and ‘The Jewish Chronicle’ and is often heard on the BBC. He has written several books, including, ‘The Jews of England’ and ‘Faith and Practice : A Guide to Reform Judaism Today’.
In 2004, he received the MBE for his pioneering work nationally in helping mixed-faith couples, a theme covered in his book ‘Till Faith Us Do Part’ (HarperCollins). He is chaplain to the Jewish Police Association, advisory board member of the Three Faiths Forum, chair of the Accord Coalition (which campaigns for inclusive education) and a Patron of Dignity in Dying.
Dr Romain is married to Sybil Sheridan, Rabbi of Wimbledon and District Synagogue, and they have four children together.
PT Satish K. Sharma
Satish is co-Chair of the Hindu Muslim Forum, a platform dedicated to the promotion of religious harmony for the public benefit, which the forum does through promoting knowledge, mutual understanding and respect of the beliefs and practices of different religious faiths.
He is also General Secretary for the National Council of Hindu Temples, and works to empower British Hindus to participate in British cultural, social and political spheres.
Satish is currently Chair of the British Board of Hindu Scholars and founder of the established Save Herbal Medicine Campaign . He is a talented mathematician, and senior management consultant with over 15 years’ experience.
A member of the Interfaith Network, Satish is often asked to represent the British Hindu Community and to lecture on Dharma and Hinduism. He is also a highly accomplished yoga practitioner, specialising in Jnana Yoga and Vishaad Yoga.
Natasha Phillips – Chair
Natasha is a barrister, writer, and activist running a project inside the justice system called Researching Reform, which is dedicated to child welfare and has a following in the House of Commons and the House of Lords. She has organised and chaired debates inside the Palace of Westminster for over six years, and from 2010 until 2011 worked as an advisor for and producer of Speaker Meetings for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Family Law and The Court of Protection. She remains a consultant for The Group.
Natasha received her law degree from SOAS (University of London), where she also learned to read and write Farsi. Whilst studying there, she founded the Persian Society and co-founded the Jewish Society, organisations set up to explore the cultures of each. Natasha was called to the Bar in 2002 and is a member of the Inner Temple.
In 2008, Researching Reform was nominated by The Times newspaper as a useful resource for families going through the courts, and in 2009 she was named one of thirteen “Savvy Women in The Law” by JD Supra. In 2013, Researching Reform was awarded the title “Best in Social Work” by MSW for its content on-site, and through social media.
She has written for several family law and child welfare organisations and publications, and currently writes a column for Jordans Family Law on legal and policy matters relating to children. Natasha is often interviewed by the national media including the BBC, on child welfare issues and consulted for documentaries and policy proposals which touch on areas of law affecting families.
Natasha speaks fluent French and basic Spanish, Bangla and Farsi.
Natasha is of Muslim and Jewish heritage.