Issuu on Google+

netherhall august news 2012

2012 the year in review


contents Cover page: the year in pictures. over the past year netherhall residents have engaged in a wide range of trips and activities, from studying spain to retreats in rome. The biggest event of the year was the celebration of 60 years since the house was opened, with many former residents gathering to join the party held in may this year. p.36 CONTENT EDITOR Zubin Mistry MANAGING EDITOR, DESIGN & SETTING Luke Wilkinson IN-HOUSE CORRESPONDENT Dominic Bardill CONTRIBUTIONS AND ADVICE Dominic Bardill, Archan Boonyanan, Peter Brown, Javier Castañon, Andrew Duncan, Jaeyoon Han, Fr Joseph Evans, Fr Robert Farrell, Andrew Hegarty, Peter Herbert, Simon Jared, Sergio Maresca, Fr Bernard Marsh, Jim Mirabal, Kieran Mortell, James Newman, Arnil Paras, Neil Pickering, Fr Stephen Reynolds, Paul Rogers, Andrei Serban, Mgr Richard Stork, Luke Theobald, Alex Osborn, James Osborn, Jonathan Parreño, Stephen Pattie, Miguel Rojo, Prakarsh Singh, James Somerville-Meikle, David Wyatt.

regular features editorial

4

zubin mistry doesn’t like encores

PHOTOGRAPHY Various CIRCULATION Netherhall News is sent by e-mail to current and past residents of Netherhall House. It is also available at http://www. nh.netherhall.org.uk/magazine/magazine.htm CONTACT US Would you like to be included in our mailing list, contribute to or express your opinion on Netherhall News? Write to: LUKE WILKINSON C/O NETHERHALL NEWS, NETHERHALL HOUSE, NUTLEY TERRACE, LONDON, NW3 5SA, U.K. or E-MAIL: alumni@nh.netherhall.org.uk

2

netherhall news

director’s notes

8

peter brown looks back over the year that was

DISCLAIMER All opinions expressed in this magazine are those of the authors concerned and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors of Netherhall News, of Netherhall House, or of Opus Dei.


8

12

firm in the faith: two perspectives on world youth day

tough cookie: on resilience

32 16 18 24 26 30 36

reluctant traveller: a study trip to seville

diplomacy in a dirty world: small talk with the enemy

learning from the past: the northern irish peach process

38 22 british universities in a time of radical change gifts of faith: visit of the archbishop youth of today? an inside perspective univ 2012: the definitive report withdrawal symptoms: learning from iraq sowing seeds for 60 years: netherhall’s anniversary netherhall news

3


‘W

hy should I go off-stage and pretend to be halfway to the bus-stop, only to be dragged back by your applause – what would happen if you didn’t applaud and I’d left me best songs unsung?’ The late singer Jake Thackray loathed encores. ‘That was my last song,’ he would declare before adding, ‘and here’s another one’. For Thackray, encores were a ludicrous conceit, a hammy charade with which he could never bring himself to play along. During sets decidedly without any encores he would pour scorn upon them in his Yorkshire baritone: Do you think the stage manager has to run down the road in the pouring rain to the bus stop and say, ‘Hey, lad, would you mind doing another song; only the audience are still clapping?’ and I run back the road, take off me coat, get out my guitar, and come back on stage like I didn’t expect it or summat? This final issue of Netherhall News for the academic year is, one hopes, not quite like one of the preposterous encores which Thackray disliked so much. The editors were not on the 13 bus pulling out from the stop on Finchley Road when the director chased after it hotfoot in pursuit and tapped frantically on the windows with email printouts in his hands. In the following pages you will find a selective retrospective, skimmed rather than full fat, of the year that was through articles and features which appeared in these pages. At the risk of making it sound like magazine moonshine concocted by bootlegger editors during the long

4

netherhall news


summer holiday prohibition, it is a distillation of our own devising. Selecting the pieces was not entirely straightforward. The range of subjects covered each year – and the unique involvement of each contributor – reflects the diversity and vivacity of Netherhall life from residents to guest speakers: the small talk of international diplomacy, the challenges of brokering peace, the theory of high finance, the challenge of fighting poverty, the distorting perceptions of contemporary youth. It is a compliment to the variety among the hall’s inhabitants, from which pool so many of our contributors come, that the magazine itself has been curiously if, I protest, mistakenly ascribed with more than one bias from across the political spectrum. Some interesting numbers, from a deromanticised take on medieval chivalry to a charming guide to one-upmanship, have had to be omitted. Despite slipping a bribe to the content editor, none of my own pieces, sadly, made the grade. While Netherhall is far from an urban island, it has been harder to capture the whirlwind of wider events, from the aftermath of the London riots at the end of last summer to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the ongoing Olympic Games. Still, some, though not all, of the little and large events which have shaped Netherhall life have left their imprint on this issue: for instance, World Youth Day 2011, while the 60th anniversary celebrations in May have had their own special issue. Indeed, that was the last issue…and here’s another one.

editorial zubin mistry doesn’t like encores

netherhall news

5


director’ s notes peter brown looks back over the year that was

A

s the applications for 2012/13 academic year come in and applicants call for interview, it is clear that the curtain has come down on the 2011/2012 academic year. It was a very good year with a great bunch of residents. Perhaps even more than most years I thought the residents of 2011/12 got along well together right from the start and I hope that the photos in this magazine will serve as a permanent reminder of a year in which many friendships were forged among people from all over the world. In the age of Facebook and email it has never been easier to stay in contact. Of course it is my hope too that some of the ideas discussed in get-togethers or over meals or with guest speakers will also leave a positive mark on each of you. In any event I

6

netherhall news

would ask all this year’s residents to stay in contact with us and do all you can to become a frequent visitor. Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the ‘class’ of 2011-12 for the particular contribution you each made to Netherhall in your time among us. Some of you will be returning and I encourage you to keep on doing your bit to make Netherhall special. The role of residents in their second, third or more year is crucial to help form the hall’s atmosphere. For those of you moving on to new challenges, I wish you well in all your endeavours. With my best wishes and prayers,

Peter


top left: Following a now annual tradition of at least two years, Netherhall staged its own England-India cricket match in June. After India’s victory last year, England got close to squaring the series thanks to a gallant innings from hall director Peter Brown, but the ‘Britishers’ finally succumbed when Peter lost his middle stump at the beginning of the last over. Two nil to India thus far. left: The class of ‘67 reunited at the 60th Anniversary celebrations in May 2012. below middle: the crowds at world youth day 2012 bottom left: the visit of archbishop vincent nichols bottom right: pablo hinojo performs one of his famous impersonations at the christmas show 2011 opposite top: the group who attended the study trip to seville in June 2012 opposite middle: the netherhall ski club opposite bottom: ricard rovirosa conducts the choir at carols and punch 2011

“the residents of 2011/12 got along well together right from the start and I hope that the photos in this magazine will serve as a permanent reminder of a year in which many friendships were forged among people from all over the world” netherhall news

7


‘firm in the faith’ paul rogers listened closely to the message of world youth day 2011

A

28-strong Netherhall contingent –current and former residents and friends of the hall – joined over 1.5 million young people in Madrid last August for the World Youth Day convened by Pope Benedict XVI.

WYD is an international event of faith and culture which began in 1985 through the initiative and inspiration of Blessed Pope John Paul II. Following the great enthusiasm and number of youth who accepted Pope John Paul II’s invitation to come to Rome for that gathering, every two or three years since then there has been an international reconvening of young people to celebrate and grow more deeply in their faith in Jesus Christ. Catholics as well as other Christians and even non-Christians have been coming to the various cities chosen by the Pope for the event. For the 2011 WYD, which went from 18th to 21st August, the Spanish capital proved itself a worthy, competent and welcoming host. The Netherhall group included pilgrims from the universities of Kent, London, and Exeter along with an outstanding contingent from Warwick University, who ensured there was no lack of Union flags flying through the streets of Madrid. The group also had a strong international flavour, itself reflecting a miniature cross-section of the WYD gathering. There were Netherhall pilgrims coming from as far as Malaysia, New Zealand, the USA, Poland, France, Iraq, and of course, some Spaniards too. Amid the throngs, flags from what seemed nearly every nation of the world waved and fluttered throughout the week in the avenues of Madrid and for the final two days in Cuatro Vientos Airport, where Pope Benedict presided over an evening prayer vigil and the closing Mass on Sunday morning. Staring across the vast airfield covered with young people from almost every part of the globe, the words of the Psalmist seemed to be realized before our eyes: ‘There are no languages or dialects whose voices are not heard; their sound has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the end of the world’ (Ps. 19:3). The city of Madrid had a distinctly festive atmosphere. Spontaneous cheers and songs would often break out along the city’s boulevards and in trains; countless banners were carried through the plazas, and draped in the windows of local homes and shops were Spanish and Papal flags. At his opening address at the Plaza de Cibeles, the Holy Father told his young listeners that building our lives on faith was to be like the man in the Gospel who built his home ‘on solid rock’; he became ‘resistant to the onslaught of adversity.’ The Pope contrasted this with the person who builds his house on sand, who allows the essentials in his life to be ‘inconsistent’ and who follows fashionable ideas that take shelter in the here and now neglecting true justice. The Pope warned us of the dangers that lie in thinking we can lay the foundations for our lives on ourselves alone, allowing ourselves to be the sole judges of good and evil, of truth and falsehood. The words of the Pope, clear and certainly always gentle, were challenging ones. While he knew he was addressing young people, there was an air of serious urgency in his message. He was, in fact, asking the young people of today to grow up quicker than perhaps their parents had – and even to know their faith better than these, a point he specifically made – but without losing the joy and enthusiasm so characteristic of youth.

8

netherhall news

above: some of the very international Netherhall group with the flags of their respective countries at Cuatro Vientos aerodrome as they waited for the evening vigil.


Urgent in his message was the role young people must play if Europe is to rediscover its Christian roots - a theme that has been present in many of his writings before his election as Pope. These roots can be restored not through activism, even less still by violence but only through daily conversation with Christ in prayer, in the reading of Scriptures, and careful study of the faith. At his homily at the closing Mass on Sunday, the Pope also highlighted the importance of cultivating our relationship with Christ within the Church. ‘We cannot follow Jesus on our own,’ he said. Instead, he encouraged us all to draw ‘support from the faith of your brothers and sisters, even as your own faith serves as a support for the faith of others.’ This support was felt travelling with a group, in which there was great camaraderie. Whether it was in enduring the Spanish heat

or the stone-hard mattresses that we slept on, there was often ready good cheer that helped greatly to pick others up, especially late in the day. Many in the group were impressed by the warmth of the Spanish welcome and the indulgence of the good people of Madrid. Whether it was the friendly volunteers in their distinctive green shirts offering directions, or the local restaurant owner finding room for a table of 15, or the family simply turning on their garden hose to give a cool drink of water to passing pilgrims walking in the parching heat of the Castillian summer, the gracious hospitality of this generous people left an indelible mark upon the hearts of everyone. Paul Rogers is a graduate student at Cambridge University.

netherhall news

9


despite the sweltering heat, and a storm, James Osborn found himself energised by wyd 2011

H

aving eventually arrived at Tajamar School, our Madrid base for the next few days, at some time near three in the morning, I was woken up two hours later by a shower of water from some sprinklers close to where I was sleeping (given the heat, I – like numerous others – was sleeping outdoors on a sport’s pitch). Not an ideal start, but for all its minor trials it was the first day of a wonderful World Youth Day in Madrid as part of a 28 strong group from Netherhall House. That morning (Tuesday) was spent in the centre of Madrid which was an early experience of the unique atmosphere of WYD, joyful, youthful and exciting, with cheery young pilgrims wherever you turned. Thursday was to be the Holy Father’s first day in Madrid and it was immediately obvious what the plan should be: to get as close as possible to the road as the Popemobile passed by. Finding a suitable street corner, we waited for about an hour and a half for the Pope and his vehicle. In this time our group’s full repertoire was sung (‘O When the Saints’, ‘Yellow Submarine’, etc) but, once again, the joy of seeing so many people lining the streets, the atmosphere created and the sense of one big family shone through, as did the sun! Following this we made our way to as close as we could get to the Plaza de Cibeles, for the welcoming ceremony in Madrid’s famous square. Having found a suitable ‘base’, six of us set off through the crowds to try to get nearer to where the Pope would be. It was lovely to meet amongst the crowds several friends from England, to join in a UK conga line, and to be refreshingly showered with water by the fire brigade (which was to become a regular feature of WYD). Concluding that we were not going to get a very good view, we returned to the base, and passed some more time in the bar with a very good pint, before settling down for the welcome ceremony. After this, and despite the heat and the tiredness of a long day, the happy atmosphere continued on the Metro line back to Tajamar. After a moving Via Crucis ceremony on Friday, following Christ’s journey to the Cross, helped by a beautiful reflection on suffering by Pope Benedict, there was only one place to be on Saturday: Cuatro Vientos Airport for the Vigil with the Holy Father. Even walking up to Cuatro Vientos – and in the blazing heat crammed together with an enormous number of people trying to enter the airbase, this really was a walk – the sight of seemingly every national flag under the sun reinforced the family feeling and a true sense of community.

10

netherhall news

top: on the way back from Cuatro Vientos after the vigil and Mass with the Pope - tired but very happy! middle: Quique, Pawel and James blaze the British trail right: The Holy Father arrived to a great reception. below: it wasn’t all prayer! Who could go to Spain with sampling its culinary delights?


I was one of a lucky group of seven to be presented with a pass to be on the stage for the vigil, and so my evening was made, and what an evening it was. This was the closest I have ever felt to being like a rock star, though this was no ordinary gig. Everywhere I looked there were young people, an enormous sea of youthful humanity, gathered together under the intense sun. But, the weather was to change dramatically as night fell and the blazing heat of the day would give way to a short but ferocious night-time storm. The Holy Father eventually arrived to a great reception. By this time it was raining, and then during the Gospel reading, sounds of thunder were heard and the wind picked up. By now suitably wet, there was only one thing we could do and that was to start up the chants of ‘Benedicto!’ I am convinced this saw us through and dried us out! The vigil was cut short due to the weather with much of the Pope’s speech omitted but, once we were able to resume, the silence during Eucharistic adoration and the continuous joyful atmosphere despite the weather will live with me for a long time. Sunday morning was the first time I’d ever woken up in an airport with nearly two million people around me! The final part of WYD was the Mass celebrated by the Holy Father. The Pope passed through the crowds before the Mass and though Holy Communion could not be distributed due to the damage caused by the storm to the tents where the Eucharist was kept the previous evening, the Mass was made special just by the sheer number of people present.

At the end, the Holy Father announced that WYD 2013 would be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and it then became clear just how many Brazilians had come to Madrid! On the walk out of Cuatro Vientos, we at last were able to oblige the Italians (many of whom had asked on numerous occasions to exchange flags) by swapping our flags with them. For me, WYD was one of contrasts. Just before we left for Madrid, London had witnessed scenes of rioting by disaffected youth, but in Madrid it was a delight to be amongst young people infused with the joy of the Catholic faith. There was the contrast of the tiredness of the first few days with the infectious and high energy atmosphere of the Vigil and final Mass. It was a week to remember which gave me a big boost for the academic year which followed it. Roll on Rio 2013!

“Everywhere I looked there were young people, an enormous sea of youthful humanity, gathered together under the intense sun”

netherhall news

11


diplomacy in a dirty world james somerville-meikle & dominic bardill discover the global significance of small talk and speaking to your enemies

A

re we ultimately ignorant of that which is hidden in the darkest political corners and whispered around the conference tables of the world? In most cases ‘yes’, but this is the work of diplomacy and it is essential for society to function. For diplomacy is not the result of an ordered and structured world, but rather of a chaotic and anarchic one requiring common values to ensure survival. In this increasingly globalised world ‘no country can be an island’ and therefore foreign relationships, and the diplomacy which accompanies them, are essential elements of any country’s activity. So argued Professor Jack Spence OBE, a senior scholar in War Studies at King’s College London, on 3rd October. Professor Spence began by highlighting the different perspectives through which political scientists view the international order. The ‘realist’ account, in which ‘the life of man is nasty, brutish and short’, contrasts against the more optimistic ‘liberal’ interpretation, in which co-operation and harmony are possible. Realists traditionally believe that the most important factor in any international dispute is ‘self ’ and the state is the guarantor of everything a society wants. Given that our world is evidently anarchic with no single authority to compel judgment, realists consider amassing military, economic and political power to gain an advantage over others to be the best foreign policy. Thomas Hobbes, a 16th century diplomatic realist, wrote about the ‘war of every man against every man’ in his book, Leviathan, an early summary of the realist outlook. An ancient example Professor Spence drew on was the Spartans and Athenians of the fifth century BC. The Greek historian Thucydides said in relation to the conflict between the two ancient city-states that ‘the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.’ Interestingly, liberals also recognise an anarchic world. However, they believe the best solution is to devise structures and institutions to bind states together through common goals. The socalled ‘English School’ regards diplomacy as some form of ‘collaboration that bridges differences’ and one of the main goals commonly held by all nations is ‘survival’. Each nation is cautious that they could become ‘the weak’ Thucydides wrote of and therefore, as the English School’s Hedley Bull once suggested, it is in the interest of all nations to ‘exercise tact’ and ‘not to bang your fist on the table’. The Cold War was an example of this caution. Professor Spence appeared to position himself within the liberal school of thought as he referred to diplomacy as both ‘a civilised and civilising’ process and a way towards creating a ‘society of states.’

12

netherhall news

above: Hobbes’ Leviathan But diplomatic discourse is not limited to the realm of the theoretical. The Universal Postal Union enables us easily to post letters across the world and yet requires vast amounts of daily diplomacy worldwide. And while we go about our everyday lives, diplomats in myriad forms and methods are negotiating. Embassies gather intelligence. Even ex-colonies engage with their former masters, showing the vitality of diplomacy. Professor Spence referred to the ‘tangled web of organisations and groups’ such as the International Civil Aviation Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organisation which enable our interconnected world to run smoothly and which all rely on the efforts of diplomats across the world. Only a small part of this web is ever seen by the public, usually when it appears in matters to do with war and peace. More often than not the work of diplomats is like a plumbing system; a vital necessity but only truly appreciated when it breaks down. This is by no means a plea for greater recognition, for Professor Spence implied that diplomats preferred their work to remain out of the public eye,


perhaps abiding by the old Latin maxim ‘ars est celare artem’ (‘the art is to hide the art’). Professor Spence clearly believes that it was the increased levels of economic and diplomatic interaction between the USSR and the USA which brought the Cold War to an end. The economic and political competition between the two countries had fundamentally undermined the position of the Soviets as they were unable to compete with the Americans. These increases in interaction had only been made possible through the work of forward-thinking diplomats in the United States and the United Kingdom. Professor Spence reserved particular praise for George Kennan who was America’s Ambassador to the Soviet Union at the end of the Second World War. Kennan argued consistently that it would be competition through economic rather than military means that would ensure America’s victory in the Cold War. Having died in 2005 at the age of 101, Kennan was able to see his beliefs come to fruition.

One important aspect of diplomatic engagement is the role it plays in security and intelligence. Although there are dedicated bodies such as MI5 and GCHQ which take the lead in these areas there is also important work conducted by diplomats as well. Professor Spence pointed to the valuable work undertaken by Ambassadors and High Commissioners in profiling the countries they work in and acting as overt intelligence gatherers. This form of intelligence gathering takes place at the many dinners and drinks receptions which overseas diplomats are famous for but he maintained that the apparent small talk at these events is serious and important business as it keeps them informed. People in these postings require ‘tact and intelligence’ as they are required to assess accurately the public and political mood of the country and detect any developments which might affect the nations they represent. Security and intelligence work is not always a pleasant job for diplomats because it often means talking to people who have previously been your enemies or even those who remain so. De

netherhall news

13


above: Professor Jack Spence, at Netherhall 3rd November 2011, speaking on Developments in Diplomacy spite Professor Spence’s liberal outlook he acknowledged that realist approaches sometimes had to be taken in order to reach an end goal. He recalled a story of an American general who had been asked how he could talk to people who had blood on their hands, to which the general responded, ‘what’s the point in talking to people who don’t have blood on their hands?’ Results will only be achieved by negotiating with those people who have power but often this power has been achieved on the basis of military strength and brutality. On these grounds Professor

14

netherhall news

Spence defended the decisions of the UK Government to enter into talks with members of the IRA and Colonel Gaddafi’s regime in Libya. He pointed out that the meetings held between Tony Blair and Colonel Gaddafi in 2003 were crucial in persuading the former Libyan leader to abandon his plans for a nuclear power and weapons programme. An area of greater controversy is the question of whether it is possible to talk to members of terrorist groups. Professor Spence


Spence’s own home of South Africa where the British, Americans and French mediated. Things are more difficult where we see new breeds of terror and warfare with an unidentifiable enemy. Groups like Al-Qaeda are very hard to identify and define given their lack of clear structure and leadership, disparate aims and objectives, and geographical dispersion. Whilst negotiating with groups within Al-Qaeda remains an option, Professor Spence believes it would be very difficult to talk to the organisation as a whole though he remains optimistic that diplomacy could still play a valuable role in combating terrorism.

“More often than not the work of diplomats is like a plumbing system; a vital necessity but only truly appreciated when it breaks down” argues that this debate is irrelevant because this has always been done. Nationalist movements in colonial times demonstrate that there are always stages involved; a terrorist group becomes an insurgency group and then finally engages in warfare. Thus, negotiations become inevitable due to the stalemate that occurs when neither can win. Neutral states will often intervene for some kind of resolution. In this instance there are numerous examples of so-called terrorist groups legitimately joining the diplomatic ‘spider’s web’, for instance the Vietnamese, and even Professor

The diplomacy of multinational corporations like BP is also becoming more prevalent. So will we need a new diplomacy or is it already here? The future is uncertain, but perhaps it is for diplomacy to decide its own future in the end. James Somerville-Meikle is studying for a Masters in Middle East Politics at SOAS and Dominic Bardill is in his third year studying Drama and Theatre at Goldsmith’s College. Both are in their first year at Netherhall.

netherhall news

15


british universities in a time of radical change a university principal explains the challenges facing british universities jaeyoon han reports

W

e are living in the midst of a period of radical change in Britain. Triggered by economic factors such as the global recession as well as political ones, the current UK government is introducing and implementing changes in a range of policies, the effects of which will be felt by the majority of the British population. And, as Professor Rick Trainor, Principal of King’s College London, explained on 7th November, higher education will not be immune to these changes. Professor Trainor first came to Britain from his native America as a Rhodes Scholar to study British social history. He liked it so much that he stayed! His career in UK academia has taken him from Oxford, (where he was a Rhodes Scholar), to the universities of Glasgow and Greenwich, and then to King’s College London where he was appointed Principal in 2004, a role which he has held ever since. Being the head of an institution of some 24,000 students, the issues surrounding higher education are constantly a priority for him. Professor Trainor expressed his concerns about how aspects of the higher education sector might potentially be turned into a ‘poker game’.

“the economic contribution higher education makes to our country is enormous, even before turning to its almost incalculable cultural and intellectual benefits” The British higher education sector consists of 165 institutions and almost 2.5 million students of which close to two million are undergraduates and over half a million are postgraduates. This brings a total income of £26.8 billion to the UK economy. And, as the Principal explained, if one considers further that universities were employing over 180,000 academic staff in 2010, one realises that the economic contribution higher education makes to our country is enormous, even before turning to its almost incalculable cultural and intellectual benefits.

16

netherhall news

above: professor trainor delivering his talk at netherhall Professor Trainor was also keen to dispell the ‘myths’ that we are being ‘over-run’ by overseas students and that universities only want them for their money. UK students, he explained, make up 84% of the total student population, EU students make up 5% and overseas students 11%. These figures, he said, show clearly that the image of being ‘over-run’ is simply not true. Leading universities like King’s, he insisted, are interested in overseas students because they are keen to attract high quality students, be they from Britain or abroad. Professor Trainor stressed that the current situation of overseas students being concentrated in London institutions is not reflective of the general state of universities across the whole of Britain. Regarding financing, UK universities currently receive their income from, among other sources, funding council grants (34%), research grants/contracts (16%), tuition fees/education contracts (31%), and endowment and investment (1%). Professor Trainor explained that these statistics are subject to change following the current government’s decision to reduce direct funding and introduce a shake-up of the general higher education market, in-


cluding but not limited to Parliament agreeing to lift the cap on tuition fees for UK/EU students to £9,000 for students starting their courses from 2012/13. According to Professor Trainor, the current restructuring of the higher education market has been presented by the government as a means to improve the student experience and put ‘students at the heart of the system’. The government’s principle argument is that the students will be more actively engaged, and that the institutions will pay more heed to their students’ needs when a higher proportion of university income comes from fees and a lesser proportion from government grants to institutions. While he clearly welcomed the fact that higher fees would help to counterbalance fewer grants, he seemed more ambiguous as to the overall effects of the changes on higher education. The government has set out ambitious new guidelines and policies regarding the access and repayment of loans and especially the availability of information concerning courses. Universities will be obliged to post more specific information (hours of study a week, employability, etc.) about their courses on the internet, thus allowing each student to become an ‘informed consumer’. Professor Trainor seemed somewhat sceptical as to just how much students really will benefit from this plethora of information. Universities are expected to compete for students because in many subjects the current student number caps for particular

ilyas khan

institutions will be scrapped for students with the highest A level grades. According to the government, this will result in every university competing against each other to attract the highest achieving students who in turn will have a better chance of enrolling at their university of choice. Professor Trainor referred to this new situation as a ‘poker game at a competitive casino’. Universities will be playing their cards carefully and trying to outbid each other in order to remain attractive to the brightest students. He predicted that the impact of this policy would be felt most by universities in the middle of the league tables. British universities are tangled up in a maelstrom of change once again. The first two changes came when the Labour government introduced tuition fees at £1,000 and capped them at £3,000 in 1998 and 2006 respectively. Despite such turmoil, British universities have shown their resilience in achieving excellence in world university rankings, standing neck and neck to their American counterparts. Published research papers are still dominated by American and British institutions. Will the new radical shakeup of higher education alter the landscape of British universities? Only time will tell. However, it is quite certain that British universities are heading anew into a state of ‘radical change’. Jaeyoon Han is in his third year studying English Language and Communication at King’s College London. He is in his second year at Netherhall.

Former resident Ilyas Khan is an entrepreneur and philanthropist, and currently the Chairman of Leonard Cheshire Disability. He visited in january to speak about the past and current work of the charity

netherhall news

17


the gifts of faith religious belief can bring a sense of community, meaning and love to our shared public space. david wyatt reports ‘Faith in God is not a problem to be solved, but a vital part of the national conversation.’ These words, taken from the now famous speech of Pope Benedict XVI to parliamentarians in Westminster Hall in September 2010, formed the title to the First Annual Thomas More Institute Lecture delivered by the Most Rev. Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster and President of the Roman Catholic Bishop’s Conference for England and Wales, at Netherhall House on 7 December 2011. Archbishop Nichols began by quoting a section from the Vatican council document, Gaudium et Spes, which explains that the human is most fully himself when he recognises God’s love and commits himself to his creator. This commitment not only calls on the Christian to engage in public life, but also means that he cannot participate in public life as anything but a Christian.

18

netherhall news

Building upon the statement made by the Holy Father, and that of Gaudium et Spes, Archbishop Nichols made three principle points. The first was the ‘deep-seated desire felt by many to live their lives not in isolation but in the context of a network of stable, lasting relationships in which encouragement, companionship and support are to be found.’ The Archbishop and I, as individuals with deep faith, would conclude that this is most perfectly embodied within the communities that exist in our parishes. For those of an Islamic or Hindu faith this would be equally fulfilled by the mosques and temples to which they belong. Within this context it is arguably the case that a contribution to the national conversation from those who have a faith in God is necessary. Believers can draw from the insights gained in parish experience to respond to many of the pressing issues of the


“Slowly a new place for religious belief in the public square is being marked out, not with a power or desire to impose religious beliefs or their consequences, but with the recognition that a mature and enlightened public square should reflect the beliefs of those who share its space - The secular public square should not be faith-blind but faith-sensitive, welcoming and testing reasoned argument. Religious voices should not expect special privilege because they are religious, but nor should they be excluded either” (from the archbishop’s address)

present day, such as the forging of community within fractured and crime-ridden urban areas. The Archbishop mentioned the example of the television choir-master who formed a choir in the town of South Oxhey. This was a secular response to the lack of community within South Oxhey. It did however build upon insights gained from the religious experience of community. The Archbishop argued: ‘One role of faith in God today, in our public conversation, is to offer service in the task of forming community, a community that is both cohesive and open, a community that reaches for universality and respects particularity. That is a vital contribution.’

this page: the archbishop speaks at the thomas more institute annual lecture. he then stayed to talk with people and sign copies of his new book about st john fisher

The second point that Archbishop Nichols expanded upon was the need for meaning and purpose that all individuals feel. The idea that life has no coherence or purpose is one that any rational individual would reject. This interlinks with the first point the Archbishop raised. Mankind is interlinked with generations

netherhall news

19


past and present in such a way that no individual can be the sole source or inspiration of any belief or idea that he or she may hold. The Archbishop once more made reference to a speech of the Pope, this one to the German Parliament, in which he stated that the individual person did not create himself and therefore does not enjoy ‘self-creating freedom.’ The third point that the Archbishop wished to raise could be summarised by the word caritas. Most individuals, regardless of whether or not they are individuals of faith, do see the need to give help to those in need. This may be to individuals who are ill, perhaps suffering from terminal illnesses, and also to those in abject poverty. The conception of the human person that comes with having a religious belief provides a much stronger and richer context with which to approach the issue of human suffering. ‘Every human person,’ the Archbishop argued, ‘is an essential unity of spiritual soul and body, such that the human person is both ‘embodied spirit’ and ‘spiritualised body’. This is an essential part of our ecology.’ The fact that the human body is not simply just a biological construct, and the fact that human action has an effect upon the ‘spiritual soul’, leads those with faith to acknowledge that preserving human dignity is an essential part of our response to matters of illness and poverty. There can sometimes be a tendency, when discussing the living out of one’s faith, to mock those who talk about ‘love’ as lacking any real depth. This tendency, though sometimes justified, is unfortunate. The response that a Christian faith calls one to

give, when confronted by illness and abject poverty, is one that is based primarily upon love. That is, a love that not only emulates the love which Christ showed when confronted with similar situations, but also reflects the love that one has towards Christ. The often quoted rule of loving one’s neighbour as oneself perfectly summarises this. ‘This is the contribution,’ the Archbishop concluded, ‘that we can make to the work of ‘caritas’ - that it never loses its human face, for we know that this face is the face of Christ. In ‘caritas’ we see that the Gospel is not only informative but also performative - it makes things happen and is life changing.’ Current resident David Wyatt gained his BA in Theology from Heythrop College in 2011 and is an intern at the Thomas More Institute. He is undertaking research into the ‘Big Society’. The Thomas More Institute is planning to hold an annual Memorial lecture. For more information about the Thomas More Institute, visit www.thomasmoreinstitute.org.uk.

20

netherhall news

“One role of faith in God today, in our public conversation, is to offer service in the task of forming community, a community that is both cohesive and open, a community that reaches for universality and respects particularity. That is a vital contribution”


netherhall news

21


learning from the past: the northern irish peace process peace talks in today’s most complex conflicts may seem incredibly intractable, but a veteran peace negotiator gives cause for cautious hope. andrew duncan reports

S

ince 2001, the war in Afghanistan has claimed somewhere between 70,000 to 85,000 lives - of Taliban fighters, Coalition forces and Afghan civilians. The Philippines is currently suffering from sectarian conflict between Muslim separatists, Maoist guerrilla forces and state actors. Though concluded in 2009, the Sri Lankan Civil War still lacks a political settlement, with a bitter Tamil Diaspora highlighting major war crimes and human rights abuses. Wind back 30 years, and Northern Ireland offered a similarly bleak picture. Divides in religion and identity provoked communal violence and international terrorism. Yet the 1998 Good Friday Agreement stands among the most successful peace settlements since the Second World War.

“it is important to view peace as the road rather than the destination” It has also been the highlight of former Cabinet Minister Paul Murphy’s political career, who as a ‘political development minister’ chaired talks between Republicans, Unionists and other key players. The Labour politician, an MP of some 25 years, visited Netherhall House in November to discuss his experiences, weaving a turbulent history of over 800 years with an analytical perspective on contemporary conflicts. A crucial component of building the peace agreement depended upon the people of Ireland, who ‘needed to own the peace process’. By the late 1990s, many had grown tired of conflict and were increasingly eager for a resolution. The peace process was voted upon through referenda, in which a high turnout overwhelmingly supported the Agreement.

22

netherhall news

Individual players and characters were important ingredients too. In his autobiography, Tony Blair describes his Ministers in the Northern Ireland Office as ‘unusual’. As a straight-talking, down to earth, humorous, and above all, female Secretary of State, Mo Mowlam was a ‘breath of fresh air’ to the peace process. Humour played a part in Mr Murphy’s role as a chairperson of the ‘Stand One’ talks. In one meeting, after hearing repeated historical arguments from both Republicans and Unionists again and again, Murphy remembers crying out in mock anger that he knew his Irish history having been a lecturer for 17 years, leading to laughter and releasing tension in the room. International figures too brought momentum and the media glare to the talks. Tony Blair took a highly personal role in the talks, while US President Bill Clinton visited Northern Ireland and remained in contact with negotiators over the telephone. Senator George Mitchell, a neutral negotiator, even set a deadline for his personal involvement in the peace process, further pushing talks to a conclusion. A final lesson is to not give up hope, ‘for as soon as that happens, we’re finished’. A key element of conflict resolution is developing the political will and stamina to keep lines of communication open, to believe that a decision can be reached.


above left: Paul murphy speaking in netherhall above right: murals on the sides of buildings in belfast right: soldiers on patrol in a belfast street, 1973

Mr Murphy explained that today dissident Republicans still pose a threat to a complete peace, and the peace process requires renewed commitment and maintenance. Therefore, it is important to view peace as the ‘road’ rather than the ‘destination’. However, strengthened by the referenda and the rise of a new generation who have grown up unscarred by the Troubles, Mr Murphy strongly believes that the extremely turbulent violence of the 1970s and 1980s will not return. What does the Northern Ireland Peace Process offer to the world? With fresh peace talks announced in late January 2012 between President Karzai and the Taliban in Saudi Arabia, there is no definite template, but guiding principles of patience, democratic and multilateral involvement, and above all, hope are crucial in facing any seemingly intractable situation. Andrew Duncan is a parliamentary intern working for Paul Murphy MP and currently resident at Netherhall.

netherhall news

23


youth of today? simon jared on the distorting lens through which young people are viewed today

H

ave you ever gone on holiday in the UK? If the answer to this is yes, then allow me to make an assumption; that you were not a 21-year-old old male travelling with four other 21-year-old males when you went? Or, like me, you persevered against adversity. At the beginning of August four friends and I decided that we deserved a holiday before we all went back to university to do our Master’s degrees. All of us had been working in various summer jobs until Friday 2nd September so we decided to leave on the 3rd and come back on the 7th September as these were the only few days we all had free. I have always wanted to go to Cornwall but with such little time we didn’t want to waste so many hours driving so we decided on Devon. Hence, I started looking for campsites and rental properties: apartments, cottages, houses, whatever we could get at relatively late notice. Campsites were the first on my list. I began online searches and soon discovered something: that the South of England is not very welcoming to groups of 21-year-old males. In fact, I could find only one campsite in the whole of Devon that would or could take us. But it was in a bad location and had terrible reviews. My search then took me to properties. Normally holiday rental properties are booked months in advance on the South Coast but the lack of a discernible summer this year seems to have left many properties unoccupied. I began my enquiries, calling and emailing owners and agencies. But quickly I discovered that as soon as I mentioned the sexes and ages of my friends and I, the response was ‘I’m sorry but we don’t accept single sex groups’ or, ‘we only rent to families’ or, just ‘no’. It took two weeks of searching and enquiring before a lovely man who had a holiday home in Axminster, Devon, said ‘yes’. We booked and paid within minutes of his acceptance and had an incredible time walking, sightseeing, even sunbathing (yes sunbathing in England!). We cooked together every night and cleaned the kitchen after every meal. We left the house in the same state we found it, the neighbour was friendly and never had to tell us to shut up, we didn’t have a house party, we didn’t burn the place down, break anything, stain anything, or leave the house smelling of booze, vomit or cigarette smoke. In short we had fun. And according to many people, therein lies the paradox. I can understand why people wouldn’t want five 21-year-old guys holidaying in their house. If you’ve watched the TV or read a paper this summer you may have seen stories of a few young people (mostly guys) rioting, looting, burning, and committing every crime in between. In this country you do not see stories of

24

netherhall news

more than 1.5 million young people going on holiday to pray with each other and Pope Benedict XVI in the World Youth Day that happened in Madrid in August. We get a bad press. I could tell the holiday-home owners of Devon that in our group of five we have three people with first-class undergraduate degrees all from top UK universities, two of whom come from Oxford and Cambridge. I could tell them that we are all doing Master’s Degrees (again, two in Oxford and Cambridge). But this means nothing. We are students. We are 21 years old. We are all guys. Therefore we are not welcome. If I did not even mention that we were students, which was usually the case as most people did not ask, they were just as suspicious and often vicious: we were still rowdy youths. I could have sent them CVs and personal statements complete with references but somehow I think this would have made little difference. If you experienced the distrust I did in trying to book a holiday, or saw how angrily society has condemned the rioters, how we young guys have been labelled ‘disaffected’, or have noticed how the good things young people do in society are largely ignored, then you may be starting to ask the same question I am asking: just how are young people and especially young men viewed by society? The short answer seems to be that we are viewed as ‘youths’. This word has become an umbrella term which has been used so much in the last few months throughout events like the riots that it has now acquired a harsh and biting tone. Ask residents of Tottenham and they may say we are ‘yobbos’, ‘thugs’, ‘gangsters’, or a whole tirade of increasingly ruder words. Ask people how they see students and they’ll usually say they are lazy and they drink too much. A lot of people will tell you we are spoilt and disaffected from too much exposure to video games, the internet, music, smartphones, social media, etc. We are viewed through one of several negative stereotypes. Is this a new phenomenon brought on by the recent riots? Read some Victorian fiction and you’ll discover that more than a century ago people held young men in much the same light. If these inter-generational tensions are not new, then surely there is a problem somewhere. Either young men really are to be feared or the fearful people have a perception problem. But this is no binary issue. Some young people, like the 3000 or so who decided to riot and loot for a few days, or the students who spend their summers on ‘drinking holidays’ in places like Zante or Ibiza, are probably not to be trusted with a holiday home in Devon. But there are many who can be trusted for that and more.


above: simon jared (crouching) and friends challenge stereotypes by visiting beer rather than drinking it to excess below: a picture of the looting in hackney. this scene typifies the image young people have been branded with after the summer’s events.

“If older people in society think that all young people are rioters and criminals then they will develop a deep distrust of young people which unfairly discriminates against the innocent” It is important to try to expel these binary stereotypes. If young people think that the whole world is against them and that this is having a significant negative impact on their lives, then they act out. We know this all too well after the riots. If older people in society think that all young people are rioters and criminals then they will develop a deep distrust of young people which unfairly discriminates against the innocent. This can then make young people feel victimised leading to them acting out which then justifies the fears of the older generation, and so on, and so on. It is this problem that one of the editors of this magazine, Luke Wilkinson, is tackling with his new theatre company called ‘Angry Young Men’ as he explained in the last issue. I hope that

Luke does his part to change this perception whilst genuinely helping young men to find their place in society. Young people always exist but they are also always growing up. If, when we grow up, all of us treat young people with more trust and less fear then maybe in twenty years or so another group of five 21-year-old lads might just be able to go on a cottage holiday in Devon without too much hassle. Simon Jared is doing an MA in Shakespeare Studies at King’s College London and The Globe Theatre. He is a former resident of Netherhall House.

netherhall news

25


univ 2012 following a tradition of more than 40 years, a netherhall group spent holy week in rome last april to take part in the international student gathering, univ. the group included a contingent from grandpont house, an opus dei promoted centre in oxford. dan hitchens who attends activities at grandpont, and netherhall resident james osborn describe the experience. dan : In the great year of student agitation, 1968, Pope Paul VI

told the first UNIV gathering in Rome: ‘We are confident that you will overcome the present crisis and help to build a more just, more humane and more fraternal society.’ The 45th congress, which met this year during Holy Week, kept much the same spirit, though UNIV has expanded hugely in the intervening years. Our group numbered about a dozen students, mostly from Netherhall, though some of us from Grandpont in Oxford, but the total was in the region of 4,000. We spent much of our time with Americans and Singaporeans, Germans and Israelis. On our first morning, we headed straight to St Peter’s for the Palm Sunday Mass and then walked across town to the Capitoline museums. The encyclopaedic Nathan Pinkoski zestfully guided us through the museum, remarkable as much for the external views it offers of ancient Rome – the ruins of the old forum and imperial palace beneath it – as for its current exhibition. “The one thing you have to see in Rome,” I had been told repeatedly, “is the Scavi”, the necropolis beneath St. Peter’s Basilica which for centuries was piously rumoured to contain the bones of St Peter. When the area was excavated, the rumour was confirmed, and we stood twelve feet away from a little box holding the mortal remains of the chief of the apostles. No moment more strongly conveyed the feeling Rome presses upon a visitor, especially a Roman Catholic: the sense of centuries long past serenely asserting that they are still present. Early on Tuesday morning we were beneath the basilica again, for Mass in an underground chapel. We breakfasted on cappuccinos and pastries in a little café close by the University of the Holy Cross, the venue of the UNIV conference itself. The famous author and Biblical scholar Scott Hahn, the opening speaker, gave a characteristically stirring address on this year’s subject, ‘The Power of Beauty’. The beauty of marriage, Hahn told us, is a clue to the relationship between man and God, and one of his great themes, covenant theology: ‘the entire universe takes part in the marriage of God and Israel.’ Hahn then expanded his subject to challenge us: Why we had all come to Rome in Holy Week? ‘We are not here as spectators, or as tourists…but as participants in the Paschal mystery’.

26

netherhall news

In the afternoon, the student talks took place, the UK represented by a Canadian and an American (!), Nathan Pinkoski and Bobby Marsland. If their title - ‘Heidegger Meets Newton: Science and the Recovery of Beauty’ – was somewhat daunting, the presentation itself was superb, drawing together earlymodern science and twentieth-century philosophy to argue for the vital importance of imagination. ‘Art,’ as Bobby and Nathan paraphrased Heidegger, ‘must provoke a sense of awe before an infinite mystery’; and scientists, they showed, engage in just the same task. All who heard the talk were unsurprised when it carried off first prize at the closing ceremony, to the (only mildly chauvinistic) delight of the UK group. Wednesday was a day of audiences: firstly at St Peter’s with the Pope, then at Cavabianca with the Prelate of Opus Dei. The latter was the more lighthearted event: one question began, ‘I remem-


james:

ber when you gave me a hug two months ago…’ Another young man asked how he could become a Roger Federer of the spiritual life. Well, Bishop Echevarría returned, ‘How is he a great player? Because he trains every day.’ Again and again he repeated to us: ‘Do not be afraid’. There was a great warmth to the occasion, which carried over to dinner, when Juan Pablo Luna Buchahin took out his violin and played an impromptu Bach performance to the entire canteen, who rose in a standing ovation.

For final year students, the second term involves a ritual of visiting the university library and typing one’s dissertation. At the end of what feels like an eternal term, what better way to celebrate than to jet off for a week in the Eternal CityRome! There were times when I thought that I would never get there, but after a surprisingly uneventful Ryanair flight, the rest of the Netherhall/Grandpont group and I landed in Rome just in time to grab our first of many gelati as the sun was setting.

As for the art in Rome, I am reduced to listing the most extraordinary things we saw – Michelangelo’s Pieta, the bestarred ceiling of Santa Maria Maggiore, Bernini’s Ecstasy of St. Teresa, San Giovanni in Laterano with its august and unexpectedly affecting statuary, and above all, our visit on Thursday to the Vatican Museums. As our guide, Dancho Azagra, remarked, the keynote of Raphael’s work is peace, of Michelangelo’s, tension; each is a breathtaking example of a great artistic imagination enriched and provoked by sublime truths.

The food is one of many attractions of Rome- and indeed we were lucky enough to eat at some fine restaurants throughout the week- Colonna being the favourite of the group. A good meal is particularly important when walking round the hard concrete streets of Rome underneath the sort of heat that we Englishmen never quite adapt to. Fortunately, we were wellserved with gelati throughout the week.

One final-day trip, on Saturday, was to the catacombs, thirdcentury Christian tombs decorated with motifs of immortality. What, for these early Christians, many of them martyrs, signified eternal life? The peacock, a classical symbol; Jonah, whose descent into the whale and re-emergence was an image of the Resurrection; and, for a reason you can find at John 6:51, the Last Supper. By this point, we were immersed in the Easter Triduum, from Thursday, when most of UNIV gathered in Santa Maria Maggiore for the Holy Thursday Mass, to the Easter Vigil in St Peter’s. On Saturday, queuing in St Peter’s Square began at about 4 o’clock, and we were among 10,000 joining Pope Benedict in celebrating the Easter liturgy. The week will mean something different to everybody, but to me, at least, it meant the bringingtogether of friendship, the imagination, the intellect, and the senses, directed by and towards the presence of Christ, whom Benedict’s homily compared to the Paschal candle: ‘The candle shines inasmuch as it is burnt up. It gives light, inasmuch as it gives itself.’ Dan Hitchens is about to begin a DPhil in English at Oxford.

The Easter Triduum aside, the central focus of UNIV is the UNIV conference itself. This was held on the Tuesday at the University of the Holy Cross. This year’s principle speaker was none other than Scott Hahn, the prolific Catholic writer of such wonderful works as The Lambs Supper and Rome Sweet Home, both ideal literary companions for any Catholic visitor to Rome. His opening address on ‘The Power of Beauty’, the theme for this year’s UNIV, set the scene for the whole day. This talk focused on covenant theology- the beauty of the relationship between God and Israel as shown in the Old Testament. He highlighted the importance of reading scripture regularly, advising us to begin with the Gospels and then expand our reading to include the Old Testament as well. But it was the afternoon session, where Scott and his wife, Kimberly, took questions from the floor for a period of just over an hour which really stood out. Our own Peter Brown asked the first question, raising issues concerning atheism and the use of scripture and then the questions kept on coming, all expertly answered by both Scott and Kimberley. The answers always offered some encouragement- for example with a question concerning the apostolate or about handling challenges to the faith, Scott Hahn reminded us that although what we say might be some-

netherhall news

27


Pictures (this page and previous pages): the netherhall contingent enjoying the sights, sounds (and tastes!) of rome as well as engaging with the various discussion and talks given during the week. opposite page: the audience with pope benedict during univ 2012 times be lacking, with the help of the Holy Spirit our answers can be taken and made better. These small snippets of wisdom were typical of his answers. Perhaps the most powerful questions came from those who also included personal testimony of their conversions to the Catholic faith as part of their question. Scott Hahn answered these with a characteristic tenderness and with the simple, but eternity-reaching two words ‘Welcome Home’. As always on these occasions Scott and Kimberley were defeated by time constraints, but there was one more surprise awaiting both UNIV correspondents writing in this magazine. In the weeks preceding UNIV our group had arranged with Scott Hahn to meet him after the conference had finished for, you guessed it, a gelato, and a chance to talk to him ourselves. However, as things had slightly overrun at the conference, the meeting with Scott Hahn was carried out on behalf of our group by your UNIV correspondents. On the advice of Peter Brown, Dan and I were simply told to wait by the taxi picking up Scott Hahn and to see what happened from then on. The following half hour will remain in both of our memories. Having jumped into the back of the taxi with Scott Hahn we took on the swarming Rome traffic in order to reach the North American College, where he was to pick up some tickets for the following day’s audience. On this journey, James and I chatted away with Scott Hahn about all sorts of subjects, from what we thought of Rome to the importance of the Holy Rosary. Once at the North American College, we were introduced to the people there by Scott Hahn as ‘my friends from the UK’- which again made us realise how lucky we were at that moment. Having then been dropped off back at the University we exchanged emails and agreed to stay in touch before attempting to find the rest of our group. This search took us via St Peter’s Basilica, a lovely way to finish the day and give thanks for the privileged time we had had with such a great Catholic scholar. The other days of the week involved tourism, including the superb Scavi tour and the Capitoline Museums. But the climax of the week was of course the Easter Triduum and of this, the Easter Vigil was perhaps the most memorable feature. The Vigil itself was spectacular, and I shall forever remember the way my heart lifted in time with the bells and the music at the Gloria as the magnificent basilica, shrouded in an unfamiliar darkness at the start of the Vigil, was lit up in all its glory. A very quick three hours later, as we all left the Basilica, everyone remarked that there really is no better place to spend Easter than close to the bones of St Peter in the wonderful city of Rome. James Osborn has just finished his degree in Theology at King’s College, London

28

netherhall news


netherhall news

29


withdrawal symptoms foreign powers have failed to understand iraq more than once in its history and the consequences have been severe. james somerville-meikle reports

T

he withdrawal of British and American forces from Iraq in December last year marked the end of one of the most controversial conflicts in recent history, but Charles Tripp believes the challenges of constructing a stable nation state are far from over. Professor of Middle East politics at SOAS, Tripp finds that his expertise on Iraq, a country about which he was written extensively, is often in demand. His position as a leading academic in this field has been recognised for some time and has led to him meeting politicians and policy makers around the world, including a meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair shortly before the 2003 Iraq invasion. Speaking at Netherhall on 27 February, Tripp argued that the aims of the invasion were inherently flawed as they lacked a basic understanding of the country and its structures of power, which lay beyond the formal network of the state that the allied forces were preoccupied with seizing. Although he is a political scientist by profession, Tripp stressed the need to place Iraq’s contemporary politics in historical context. Many of the forces which allowed Saddam Hussein to maintain power and which are now hindering the development of a modern, liberal state, he emphasised, can be traced back to formation of the state of Iraq after the First World War. The territorial state of Iraq was created in the early 1920s by civil servants in London and Paris out of territory formerly belonging to the Ottoman Empire in Mesopotamia. It was formed out of the three provinces of Mosul, Baghdad and Basra, which were all unique and distinctive but were now made to share a common statehood. The concept of modern statehood was unfamiliar to most people of the Middle East and was particularly hard to adjust to in Iraq where there was no historical precedent for power being wielded right across the territorial area drawn up by the British and French. The responsibility of turning Iraq into a stable, sovereign state was given to Britain under the terms agreed in the League of Nations Mandate but the British Government began to look for ways out of this commitment almost as soon as it had entered into it. At a time when financial restraints were tough and Britain’s global prestige was declining, the cost of state building was hard to justify in the eyes of both the parliament and the press. Cost saving became the priority for British officials in Iraq and so the aspiration of creating a liberal, democratic state was replaced by the reality of creating a state that was stable. State institutions such as the army and civil service were hastily constructed,

30

netherhall news

a king was imported from Syria and flying visits from the RAF provided the coercive power required to bomb the population into submission. The British had created the bare bones of a state and half-heartedly attempted to make it work but they were now anxious to leave and rid themselves of their responsibilities in Iraq. When Iraq gained full independence in 1931, its state institutions might have looked the part but in reality they were horribly inefficient and completely incapable of dealing with the task of governing the country. They had been imposed from above and as a result they were largely detached from the people they were set up to govern. From the very beginning the Iraqi state lacked a solid foundation in society; its power was weak and easily exploited by the elites whom the British had installed. Professor Tripp believes that the weaknesses of Iraqi state institutions allowed elites to develop their own sources of power through a network of patronage and clientelism which he described as the ‘shadow state.’ Those who controlled this shadow state used its resources such as land and oil to buy favour and consolidate their personal hold on power. This neo-feudal method of securing control and distributing resources was often mapped upon pre-existing loyalties according to tribe or kin. The deep divisions in Iraqi society meant that the power of the state was not seen as something to be shared but something to be grasped. When one group in society gained power they were reluctant to relinquish it and instead sought to use their position to benefit themselves and reinforce their control of the state. It was nearly always individuals and groups from the Sunni community who dominated the Iraqi state, and this led to feelings of resentment and alienation amongst the Shia and Kurdish communities who viewed the state as institutionally biased towards the interests of the Sunnis. The development of a strong army and rapid increases in revenue from oil exports provided those who controlled the state with the means at their disposal to consolidate their power. It is against this backdrop, Professor Tripp argued, that the regime of Saddam Hussein needs to be understood. Saddam and most of the senior figures in his regime came from a Sunni tribe in the north of the country. This was not a fact that Saddam Hussein wished to publicise because when the Baath Party came to power they had promised to rid Iraqi politics of the tribal divisions and patronage networks which had dominated the country’s political scene for so long. This seemed to be supported by the measure introduced in the 1970s which prohibited the use of


“Misconceptions and lack of understanding were manifest again during the 2003 invasion”

tribal surnames but it soon became clear that the real aim was to disguise the regional identity of most of Saddam’s inner circle. A disproportionate number of government officials bore the names ‘al-Tikriti and al-Duri’ which were taken from Sunni Arab towns in the north of the country, which is also the area where Saddam was born. These areas formed the main recruiting ground for his regime and the network of shadow state power which sustained his position. As with earlier rulers of Iraq, the power in Saddam Hussein’s regime was not vested in the formal institutions of the state but in an elaborate network of family and tribal patronage. It was through these shadow state structures that Saddam Hussein maintained his hold on power and the formal state acted merely as a façade for the domestic and international legitimacy of his rule. Policy makers in Europe and America, Tripp emphasised, lacked a basic understanding of the structures of power in Iraq and the unique nature of the state. Measures designed to weaken Saddam Hussein’s hold on power targeted the state and yet his power base was completely separate from formal state institutions. The sanctions and oil embargos that were applied to Iraq in the 1990s actually strengthened Saddam Hussein’s hold on power, Tripp noted, by further weakening the formal institutions of the state while reinforcing the real structures of power in the shadow state. As resources became sparser it was even more important for people to keep in favour with Saddam Hussein in order to gain whatever they could. The misconceptions and lack of understanding were manifest again during the 2003 invasion. Neo-conservative policy makers in Washington believed that success could be achieved quickly and efficiently by seizing control of the state, reforming it and

then handing it back to the Iraqi people. The reality that awaited the invading forces was that the Iraqi state was completely hollow because real power in Iraq lay in the hands of Saddam and his network of supporters. Following Saddam’s fall, the state disintegrated and gave rise to the chaos and anarchy that was seen in the subsequent weeks. Those who planned the invasion had fundamentally misjudged the nature of the Iraqi state and its relationship to society. A knowledge of the country’s history and the development of state power could have helped to prevent this. Professor Tripp revealed how he had been asked by the Department for International Development to provide them with a list of books on Iraqi politics just a few weeks before the invasion. Even more worryingly, the man appointed to oversee Iraq’s legal affairs following the invasion was unaware that the country had a legal system and had to ask Professor Tripp for advice shortly before his departure. State building is a difficult task that requires patience and willing participation. Unfortunately both seem to be lacking again as America pulls out of Iraq leaving behind a state that is stable but certainly not liberal or democratic. Both the British during the mandate and the Americans during the 2003 invasion possessed an idealised view of the Iraqi state, and completely underestimated the time and money required to achieve their aims. The alarming reality is that without a fundamental change in the nature of the Iraqi state and its relationship to its people the same patterns of patronage and networking which raised and sustained Saddam Hussein are likely to reproduce themselves again. James Somerville-Meikle is studying for a Master’s degree in Middle East Politics at SOAS. He is in his first year at Netherhall

netherhall news

31


on being resilient jonny parreño learns that toughening up isn’t all about being a tough cookie

I

n a nutshell, you can understand what ‘resilience’ is by picking up a Bible and reading 1 Kings 19. The prophet Elijah flees persecution in Horeb and feels that he is a failure for being unable to complete the task given to him by God. In his despair he prays for death and lays down to sleep under a bush. He is awoken by an angel who touches him, tells him to get up and eat the food he has brought; Elijah does this, but goes back to sleep. Again the angel comes and touches him, tells him to stand up, eat – and Elijah gains the strength to walk into the desert, where God tells him to return to Horeb. This chapter, Clemens Sedmak explained, provides a good example of facing adverse circumstances and the ways in which they can be overcome. By simply standing up and providing nourishment for the body, we are in a much better position to begin afresh and much more likely to bounce back quickly. Speaking at Netherhall on 6 February 2012, Professor Sedmak of the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at King’s College London wittily expounded the art of ‘bouncing back’ from adverse circumstances with a condensed history of the growing field of resilience studies. In the 1970s developmental psychologist Emmy Werner published her study of children born in 1955 on the island of Kauai in Hawaii, where poverty, alcoholism and unemployment were very common. Two thirds of the children she followed over the years remained trapped in the poverty cycle, experiencing high rates of unemployment and drug abuse. Yet the remaining third were somehow able eventually to break free. If all the children came from the same socio-economic background and were given the same schooling, why were some of these children able to prosper? Werner suggested that they had the ‘resilience factor’, as Professor Sedmak put it. This was the first scientific reference to psychological resilience and saw the birth of resilience stud-

ies. Werner’s groundbreaking paper was recently given further support by a German study three years ago which found that one out of three children born into poverty stricken families and neighbourhoods eventually break free and prosper. Frederik Flach, an American psychiatrist, believed that everyone has an internal equilibrium which allocates our resources in a balanced manner. When faced with adversity, the equilibrium is thrown out of balance and resilient people, according to Flach, are better at quickly regaining their equilibrium. For Flach, three main factors that influence resilience are creativity, humour and an aptitude to learn. Creative people are those who can see connections between things that on first glance seem totally unrelated. Having good general knowledge can help because there will be a greater probability of coming up with a creative solution. An inner sense of freedom is also important and those with a sense of freedom are more likely to find a creative solution as opposed to someone who feels under constant pressure. Therefore, Flach argued, resilience has a lot to do with cultivating a sense of creativity. Putting people under too much pressure or defining expectations too narrowly will not help. Bernard Häring, a German theologian, defined humour as the ability to live with the imperfect. With a sense of humour, people are able to distance themselves from a particular event and gain a different perspective on a difficult situation. The German case study mentioned earlier found that the ‘tough cookies’ (Professor Sedmak gave the teasing example of Arnold Schwarzenegger) were mostly unsuccessful in breaking out of poverty, whereas those who were ready to show weakness by asking for help were more likely to be successful. Resilience is not about being ‘tough’, but about being sensitive and increasing self-understanding.

32

netherhall news


left: one tough cookie opposite left: Boris Cyrulnik the French psychiatrist

The last time Professor Sedmak spoke at Netherhall (see Netherhall News February 2011), he drew upon the work of business psychologist Chris Argyryis in his talk on success. Argyris has shown how smart people can become ‘more and more stupid on the job’ (Professor Sedmak joked that perhaps we see a little truth in this when we look at politicians).This is because they are unused to saying ‘I screwed up’, feeling it necessary to keep up an image of total control. They will never learn from their mistakes because their mistakes never officially happened. This is why Argyris believes many CEOs with MBAs or other people in similar positions of responsibility have ‘brittle’ personalities – they may appear strong but they will collapse in the face of adversity. Professor Sedmak noted that Flach makes a similar point: a resilient person is one who is more likely to be self-reflective, with a sense of their own limitations and failures, and is able to learn from the past. Professor Sedmak explained three key ideas from the Jewish psychiatrist Boris Cyrulnik, himself no stranger to adversity. Cyrulnik was born in 1937 and was actively involved in the French

Résistance. When he was five years old his parents were sent to the concentration camps, where they were murdered, and he was placed in the care of a foster family who mistreated him. He ran away and by the age of seven he had become a messenger boy for the Résistance movement. Boris Cyrulnik is clearly someone who knows a thing or two about resilience. The first of Cyrulnik’s three main points is that resilience is about ‘framing’, the context you give your life and a particular situation. To illustrate the point, Cyrulnik tells the well known fictitious story of the stonecutters. A man once approached three stonecutters who were busy chiselling stone for the cathedral at Rheims. He asked each stonecutter, ‘What are you doing?’ The first replied, ‘I’m cutting stones.’ The second answered, ‘I’m feeding my family.’ But the third stonecutter said, ‘I’m building a cathedral.’ Three people doing the same job, but with very different outlooks. Commenting on this story, Professor Sedmak emphasised that having a religious frame may be very important for resilience. Cyrulnik’s second point is, to quote Professor Sedmak verbatim, ‘the sweater’. This may strike us as completely irrelevant, but Cyrulnik believes that resilience is woven from many ‘threads’, many different sources. To put it in another more familiar meta

netherhall news

33


“many CEOs with MBAs or other people in similar positions of responsibility have ‘brittle’ personalities: they may appear strong but they will collapse in the face of adversity” phor, having many threads is the same as not putting all your eggs in one basket. It is considerably more risky to invest in a company which produces only one particular item, compared to another company that offers a variety of products. By spreading risk, the negative impact of any one source failing is decreased. A person who relies on many threads such as being grateful for family or friends, or maybe even being grateful for a job or food, is likely to be more resilient. Together with ‘framing’ and ‘the sweater’, Cyrulnik also sees ‘anti-fatalism’ as an influence on resilience. One of Professor Sedmak’s friends, a Filipino theologian, wrote a book on bahala na. It is a Tagalog expression that roughly means ‘leave it to God’, with the sense that nothing can be done. This, Professor Sedmak said, seems very close to what Boris Cyrulnik calls ‘fatalism’. People who hold this attitude will not be very resilient; in contrast, someone who has a sense of agency, or self-efficacy, that something can be done to change circumstances, is likely to be more resilient. Pauline Boss, an American psychiatrist working with displaced persons, such as those who are forced to move because of war, argues that resilience has a lot to do with having an extended ‘psychological family’. Having a sense that ‘these people belong to me, and I belong to them’, even when they are not part of our core family, makes it more likely that a person will be resilient. They can be friends, role models, colleagues – what matters is that they are significant to us and that we do not simply define ourselves by exclusive attachments to our core family.

34

netherhall news

Secondly, resilience is enhanced when we have a sense of agency. People who know that they can change certain factors to affect their circumstances, just like the anti-fatalism of Cyrulnik, will be more resilient. The third factor is an acceptance of realism, not simply escaping into a dream world by watching television or, Professor Sedmak added with more tongue-in-cheek humour, listening to talks. Accepting reality as it is means a person is in a much better position to cope with adversity. To these various ideas – Flach: balance, humour and aptitude to learn; Cyrulnik: framing, the sweater and anti-fatalism; Boss: extended psychological family, agency and realism – Professor Sedmak offered some of his own ideas on what strengthens resilience: a sense of direction and a social sense.


above: clemens sedmak speaking at netherhall On our sense of direction, Professor Sedmak cited a book written by James Elder, Children of the Great Depression, which examines the families of academics who suddenly lost their wealth in the Great Depression in America. He found that families which were able to cope with the shock had a strong sense of goals, of getting back to where they had been by educating their children and instilling in them the same values with which they grew up. Social sense means taking an interest in other people’s wellbeing, their realities, making the effort to talk to others. Professor Sedmak’s father-in-law was a farmer from upper Austria. When one of his lungs failed at the age of 60, he was taken to hospital where he would stay until his death ten years later. No longer able to define himself as a man of manual labour, he was unable to talk about anything other than himself and his ill health for

two years. But then he began to take an active interest in his children and grandchildren, which helped him bear the suffering more easily. By way of conclusion, Professor Sedmak gave several examples of people who have shown great resilience, including Francois Van Thuan (also called Nguyen Van Thuan), a Vietnamese bishop who was imprisoned for thirteen years by the Communist government of Vietnam from 1975. Kept in isolation, he held fast to his faith and focussed on his small freedoms, such as being able to pray, or crafting a small cross which he hid in a bar of soap. Jonny Parreño is a first year student of English Literature at King’s College London. He is in his first year at Netherhall

netherhall news

35


sowing seeds for 60 years Netherhall’s 60th anniversary was celebrated on 26th May. The following is an abridged version of the meditation delivered on that day by chaplain Fr Joseph Evans

I

t is a great joy to talk to you tonight making use of what is in fact a long-standing Netherhall custom: the Saturday evening 6pm meditation. It has been going on for years, freely available to those who want to benefit from it. The usual audience is a largely Catholic one and the priest preaching can take for granted a pretty well-disposed – if occasionally distracted – public holding a basically Christian idea of God as Three in One, with a particular stress on Jesus whom we believe to be God made man. I am aware that, with such a mixed audience tonight, I cannot take all this for granted. I will do my best to be respectful of your wide range of beliefs without compromising my own. What I can certainly say without surprising anyone here is that it is precisely the belief in God which has inspired Netherhall from its very conception. Even though some hostile atheists may claim that religion does nothing but evil, it is the experience of most people who have lived in Netherhall that religious belief has done them some good – whether they themselves were believers or not. By this I mean that the religious convictions of those men who started Netherhall – particularly its prime mover, St Josemaría – and of those people who have run it over the years have inspired these people to create an atmosphere where people are valued and loved whatever their beliefs. Since 1952 thousands of residents have benefitted from the belief in God, a God understood as infinite love, and this love has poured over them all. It reminds me of something Pope Benedict XVI said during his famous Regensberg speech in Germany in September 2006. Reminiscing about his own time there as a university professor, he recalled how the university then had ‘and was very proud of it two theological faculties’ (I presume Catholic and Protestant), and how this led to one professor commenting somewhat cynically that ‘there was something odd about our university: it had two faculties devoted to something that did not exist: God’. Ever since 1952 this same ‘non-existent being’, as radical atheists might argue, has been literally the life and soul of Netherhall House. He has been our inspiration, and it is His love – as expressed and made manifest primarily in Jesus Christ – which has driven us on and given us the love we have tried to pass on to the students living here. For me, Netherhall itself is a proof of the existence of God. Whether God exists or not is not an idle academic question (not that I am claiming that academics are idle!). It makes an enormous difference as to how we live: it makes an even bigger difference as to

36

netherhall news

how we die. There is all the difference in the world between staring into nothingness and looking up to infinite love. For we, as Christians, truly believe that God is just that: infinite love. There’s the story told of a visit to Paris in 1981 by Pope John Paul II. At his traditional meeting with young people, they had been invited to write questions on cards and submit them in advance. The Pope would pick questions from the box and answer them. As was typical when Pope John Paul was with young people, he was in no hurry. The Cardinal of Paris was getting nervous as they had to get to another engagement afterwards. The Pope pulled out another question from the box but it slipped from his hand and fluttered through the air. He caught it and read it to himself. It said simply: ‘Does God exist? I need to know. Michel.’ The Cardinal’s impatience prevailed. There was no time to answer the question. But as they were leaving the Pope said to the Cardinal, ‘see what you can do to find him’. It seemed an impossible task as no surname had been given and Michel (Michael) is a pretty common first name. Consequently the Cardinal did basically nothing until

“Whether God exists or not is not an idle academic question. It makes an enormous difference as to how we live: it makes an even bigger difference as to how we die” later a message came from Rome via the Pope’s nuncio, ‘has anything been done to find Michel?’ As a result of this a search began which eventually led to finding out who the young man in question was. A priest was sent to wait to meet him after a lecture and Michel was to be offered two tickets to Rome, I presume to meet the Pope. I don’t know exactly how the story ended and whether he actually went to Rome (he would have been a fool not to!), but I do know that by the time he had been located he had already been converted and found his own way to God. I like to think that John Paul II’s prayer played a role in this. The question of God is not one that can


leave us indifferent: no-one can comfortably remain passive before it. We need to know. Let me add, though it is obvious to everyone here, that people need to know whether God exists not by having him rammed down their throats, but by the witness of love and the quality of reasoned arguments, leaving people freedom and space to accept them or not. Tomorrow is the Christian feast of Pentecost when we re-live the coming down of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles. They were so filled with fervor as a result that we are told they went out to preach to the crowds who had come from far and wide for the big Jewish feast (as it was then and still is for Jews). What is more, even though these apostles were mainly uneducated fishermen from Galilee – seen as a northern backwater by the more sophisticated Jerusalem city-dwellers – somehow they managed to make themselves understood by the people of many nationalities standing before them. This episode makes me think of Netherhall because this Pentecost experience has been somehow what we have been living here for the last 60 years. Ever since 1952 young men have been coming here, from a range of cultures and different languages, and quite simply they have been understanding each other, and those who want have, in addition, also heard about the mighty works of God. One of the great features of modern Britain has been the way it has got used to being a pluralistic and cosmopolitan society. ‘International’ is not only a fact which describes most aspects of British – and particularly London – life, and certainly all our universities, but it is also seen as a positive value to be celebrated. But it seems to me that you only truly appreciate internationality if you believe in God. Without God all the different gifts of so many cultures are just isolated and random phenomena. With God there is a source and these are many different streams and rivers flowing from it. Internationality has an origin and a logic. Its many manifestations are billions of expressions of this one creative genius, this genius which is love. God is so great a genius He creates genius and delights in it. He is so united He can deal with difference and variety and encourages it. ‘Be fruitful and multiply,’ he told Adam and Eve and He blessed them. He has blessed and promoted ever

Next October the Catholic Church throughout the world begins what is called a Year of Faith. It is a year to reflect more deeply on just what faith is and its role in our lives. The Pope launched the initiative through a letter entitled Porta Fidei, the door of faith. In it he stressed that this door is something we have to pass through freely. It seems to me that the door of this chapel has for the past 60 years been just such a porta fidei, a door of faith. It has stood there quietly as students go about their daily business: to the computer room, lounge, or auditorium … The door was there as a discreet invitation. No-one was obliged to go through it though many have done so to find peace within these walls. This is the atmosphere of faith which has permeated Netherhall since 1952: an open door, or at least one very easily opened, with just a little nudge, but a door which each one had to choose to go through freely – or choose not to. We are coming to the end of the Christian Easter season and last week we celebrated the Feast of the Ascension. Jesus was just about to ascend to His Father in heaven after 40 days on earth following His Resurrection. Though he had told his disciples again and again that he did not seek a political kingdom, they asked him once more whether he would restore the kingdom to Israel. They wanted political success now. Christ had to remind them the ‘success’ He promised was neither political nor immediate. ‘It is not for you to know the times and seasons which the father has fixed by his own authority’, he told them (Acts 1: 8). This is the type of ‘success’ we seek at Netherhall, the type Christ speaks of. The special 60th anniversary edition of Netherhall News talks of some distinguished residents and what they have done, but we also mention that far greater number of former residents who have never hit the headlines. This for us is success: the family man who is a faithful spouse and good father and who brings up his children well and lovingly; the discreet professional who does a good job and who may never rise high on the career ladder, perhaps – in some cases – because he follows his conscience and refuses to practice the dirty dealing demanded of him if he expects to get on. To borrow other Gospel ideas, Netherhall has been that mustard seed, that tiny seed of faith planted by St Josemaría and those early members of Opus Dei in Britain, in which many birds of the air

since this multiplicity of life and cultures. This multiplicity is what we experience every year at Netherhall. As the book of Revelation puts it, talking of heaven, ‘they shall bring into it the glory and the honour of the nations’ (Rev 21: 26). Every year the glory and the honour of the nations flows into Netherhall with the talents and insights of such gifted young men from so many parts of the globe. I am not claiming that Netherhall is heaven on earth –we have our problems and difficulties like everywhere else – but it does make me think that if unity on earth is so good, how wonderful unity in heaven will be!

have taken shelter and from which they have flown to numerous adventures and undertakings. As the Year of Faith approaches, we could learn from them to appreciate the value of faith and its willingness to undertake bold, generous initiatives. May Mary, Mother of Jesus, Mother of God, to whom Elizabeth said, ‘blessed are you for believing’, win for us the gift of greater faith, and may the faith which gave birth to Netherhall continue to inspire it throughout its history. Fr Joseph Evans has been Netherhall chaplain since 2002 and is just about to move onto pastures new.

netherhall news

37


reluctant traveller james newman found the study trip to seville was well worth it in the end!

A

fter nearly four months of cajoling and coercion by the establishment, finally I consented and thus found myself leaving an overcast London, bound for the azure of southern Spain. After a few hours we disembarked into the dry heat that smothered the tarmac of Seville airport. Nobody wants to hear about another person’s holiday, but if you’ve read this far there’s no reason why you shouldn’t continue any further. It was evening when we arrived in the university residence, Guadaira, the Netherhall of Seville, under a warm setting sun. It soon dawned on us just how fortunate we were to be living in a place such as this, with its large outdoor swimming pool next to the football pitch/tennis court that was also on site. Dinner was a casual affair and as we ate, milling around in the foyer, we were introduced to the residents there, and through a melange of primitive pan-European sign language we gesticulated to an understanding. With nothing else to do that evening, we had no choice but to enjoy ourselves in the pool. Our first day was “cultural education” and, after Mass in Seville cathedral, we set off to Jerez to take a tour of the Tio Pepe winery, situated in the centre of the town. The store room with thousands of sherry barrels was a cool refuge from the kiln of the gardens and exuded thick odours of sweet wine from every angle. Thankfully our desires were sated as we were provided with a generous tasting at the end. From here we headed to Pozoalbero, a conference centre promoted by Opus Dei just outside Jerez, and ate lunch under a tree at the side of the pool, resting under the sultry heat of the midafternoon, realising that we were henceforth on Spanish time and everything ran late. The evening finished with a trip to the bull ring in Seville. Together we sat on baked stone as the sun’s diminishing rays gradually changed into a rufescent glow above the carnage in the ring. Obligingly, one fighter was gored as part of the evening’s entertainment, sustaining, we read later, a twenty five centimetre deep wound under his arm. Guadaira is a splendid place. It has an Andalucian courtyard, replete with fountain in the centre and cloisters around all four sides; cool in the heat of the day from the shade and wind blowing off the water. Off to the side, a door discloses the chapel; it is a wonderful room. A few months ago in Netherhall I showed an atheist friend of

38

netherhall news

“Rocio doesn’t have tarmac roads but tracts of sand instead. The neatly-sculpted whitewashed houses even had banisters outside to which one could tie a horse. It’s a beautiful place and a glimpse of a past world” mine around the house and after visiting the chapel he remarked that “it’s such a shame that all the beautiful buildings are religious ones”. To my mind, he really hit the nail on the head. Leaving aside the aesthetic beauty that the Catholic faith promotes, my friend touched on an important point that was not only mentioned during the classes on Catholic social teaching we received in Seville (see below), but also sunk home upon entering the Guadaira’s chapel. The reason that so much effort, money, labour and time are spent on religious buildings is both to show the importance of God, but also to serve as a reminder of His beauty and the promise of Heaven. The chapel in Guadaira certainly did this. The walls were bedecked with carved or gilded features stretching up to the resplendent sanctuary from which light shone off the ornate


and clean surfaces into the rest of the oratory. Anyone who says beauty isn’t important is a muppet. Each day we had morning classes on Catholic social teaching led by Professor Clemens Sedmak from King’s College London. Professor Sedmak explained how Catholic principles apply to everyday life, and what the Church has to say about economics, politics, development, and other key social issues. It’s hard not to be enthused by Professor Sedmak, a man whose vigour and felicitous personality would make even the most boring topic a joy to study. The afternoons were given over to excursions out into the big beyond. We visited Cordoba, Cadiz and the beach, via Rocio – a famous pilgrimage site on route to the coast. This old town doesn’t have tarmac roads but - as advertised by an overly enthusiastic Peter Brown – tracts of sand instead. The neatly-sculpted whitewashed houses even had banisters outside to which one could tie a horse. It’s a beautiful place and a glimpse of a past world. After that we went to the beach for a very pleasant afternoon and a dip in the Atlantic, followed by half an hour of prayer.

there was meditation in the morning; spiritual reading; Mass; the rosary; the visit to the Blessed Sacrament; the examination of conscience; and a half hour of personal prayer. For a lot of this, my mind was on other things and I longed for a more flexible routine. Yet, having joined in the events and toed the line, some things have stuck with me. By seeing the effort and dedication which others devote to their faith, and partaking in it even for a week, some of it has rubbed off and, having returned to the UK, I see its effects in me.

It was the evening of the England versus Ukraine game and I for one was keen to get back to fulfil my nationalistic duty by downing half a crate of beer and smashing up a swathe of Seville then heading off on a patriotic pillage until the early hours. Prayer was not what I wanted and I can’t say I was in the best frame of mind for it, neither at the beach nor in the car on the way back.

It helped me see that Catholic social action also involves personal spiritual life and showed me the importance of some type of formation in our lives and especially mine. All in all, the seven days in Spain were enormous fun, a great opportunity to relax and an excellent way to deepen in my faith.

It is only with retrospect I can see the benefit of this. Each day

James Newman is studying medicine at Queen Mary’s College, London

netherhall news

39


guest speakers 2011-2012 3rd October - Developments in Diplomacy Jack Spence Professor Jack Spence OBE is an expert on South African politics and African international relations based at the Dept of War Studies, King’s College London 12th October - Formula One Adam Khan Driver Adam Khan joined the Renault F1 team in 2009 20th October - Chivalry in the Middle Ages Anne Duggan Emeritus Professor Anne Duggan is a medieval historian who has published widely on a range of subjects from canon law to queenship. Based at the History Department, King’s College London, she is the leading expert on Thomas Becket 24th October - Sir Robert Peel Douglas Hurd Conservative politician and writer Baron Hurd of Westwall served as an MP for over two decades from 1974 until 1997 and was Home Secretary in 1985-9; his biography of Robert Peel was published in 2007 31st October - Fund Management: An Insider’s Perspective Tim Sanderson Investment manager Tim Sanderson is the founder of Sanderson Asset Management 7th November - British Universities at a Time of Radical Change Rick Trainor Professor Sir Rick Trainor is a social scientist and the current Principal and President of King’s College London 14th November - Netherhall through the Ages Javier Castañon The director of Castanon Associates, former resident and architect Javier Castañon designed part of the Netherhall Phase II development 16th November - Professional Football Gustavo Poyet After a career as an international footballer, Gustavo Poyet became manager of Brighton and Hove Albion FC in 2009 23rd November - The Northern Ireland Peace Process Paul Murphy Labour politician the Rt Hon Paul Murphy MP served as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in 2002-5. 40

netherhall news


29th November - The Anti-Enlightenment in the 19th and 20th Centuries Brian Sudlow Dr Brian Sudlow is Lecturer of French with Translation Studies at Aston University and researches range across Catholic literature, the French Far Right and secularisation theory. 16th January - Large Multinational Charities: Remaining Focussed Ilyas Khan Former resident Ilyas Khan is an entrepreneur and philanthropist. He is currently the Chairman of Leonard Cheshire Disability 23rd January - The UK in 2012: A Labour Party Perspective David Crausby Labour politician David Crausby has been the MP for Bolton North East since 1997 30th January - The Conservatives: A History Robin Harris Author and journalist Robin Harris is a former aide to Margaret Thatcher 6th February - Being Resilient Clemens Sedmak Theologian Clemens Sedmak is FD Maurice Professor of Social and Moral Theology at King’s College London. 13th February - The Royal Navy N S R Kilgour Rear Admiral N S R Kilgour joined the Royal Navy in 1968 and commanded HMS Porpoise during the Falklands War 21st February - Neville Chamberlain Francis Chamberlain The grandson of former Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain 27th February - Iraq: Past, Present and Future Professor Charles Tripp A leading expert on Iraq and the Middle East, Charles Tripp is Professor of Politics with reference to the Middle East at the School of Oriental and African Studies. 5th March - Is the European Union past its sell-by date? Stephen Wall Retired diplomat Sir Stephen Wall was British Permanent Representative to the European Union in 1995-2000 14th May - Philosophy and Islam Peter Adamson Professor of Ancient and Medieval Philosophy, King’s College London, Peter Adamson has published widely on late ancient and medieval Greek and Arabic philosophy. netherhall news

41


passing through

above: this year saw the departure of long-term inmate georgios grigoriou upon completion of his sentence (phd) right: congratulations to benoit perin who got married this year below: raffaele chiarulli and his wife chiara on their wedding day on 18th February this year

42

netherhall news


Netherhall News August 2012