Friday, 31 August 2012


Regular update on the number of pageviews received from different parts of the world in the week just ending.
  1. United Kingdom 670
  2. United States 579
  3. France 173
  4. Russia 111
  5. India 85
  6. Germany 59
  7. Netherlands 44
  8. Ukraine 43
  9. China 28
  10. Saudi Arabia 21

This week's total: 1,813 (last week: 1,976). These are aggregates of figures from the top ten countries only. Blogger's stats software doesn't show me numbers of pageviews below the tenth-ranking country.

The world map at the top of this post is the graphic that I see on the stats page. The darker the green, the more pageviews from that country. I can see different versions of that map for "now" (i.e. in the last two hours), "today", "this week", "this month" and "all time". They're updated each time I look at them.


This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Genius of Mozart was not God-given
In his letter (Mailbox, August 21), Sean Coltman rebuffs the claims by E Letts regarding God-given talent (Mailbox, August 18).
I entirely agree with Mr Coltman. Talent is a purely natural ability which many people have in all walks of life: some are especially gifted and may stand head and shoulders above their contemporaries, while others may only achieve mediocrity.
Those who have only a modicum of talent may find this can be developed to quite a high standard by assiduous study and practice; a person of truly outstanding ability in a particular subject will, however, charge ahead much quicker than those who are less fortunate.
If talent was God-given then we would have to say that He supported favouritism: why create a Mozart or a Michelangelo and overlook others? We cannot all be geniuses. If we were, supreme talent would be regarded as so commonplace as to not be worth mentioning. Perhaps it is just as well that many of us have to be satisfied with being ordinary – after all, that's life.
R Oliver, South Wigston

Thursday, 30 August 2012


This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Let's have less religion please!
As a chocolate lover, I was inspired by Andrew Deacon's letter (Mailbox, August 17) telling us that, as a vegetable, chocolate is good for us.
Regrettably my wife, the blessed Joan, disagrees, as she says that eating chocolate makes me fatter and that I must continue to refrain from buying Mr Cadbury's products.
Alas, the Leicester Mercury Mailbox pages (14/15 August) read like items from the Church Times! As I see it, religion relates to: i) Those who believe; ii) Those who do not believe; iii) Those who don't know.
Please, may we go back to publishing more pleasant letters to cheer us up, rather than involving us in theological debates.
Ted Humphreys, Countesthorpe

Tuesday, 28 August 2012


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

Google may be Godsend for 900-year-old St Mary De Castro Church, in Leicester
From famous landmarks to neighbouring streets, Google mapping technology has made virtual tours of the planet as easy as clicking a button.
Now, the internet giant has taken its service a step further by depicting the insides of buildings – and a Leicester church is believed to be the first in the country to be included.
The interior of St Mary De Castro Church, in Castle View, has been pictured for Google's Business Street View by Leicester photographer Chris Jones.
It is perfect timing for the 900-year-old church, which is just about to launch a £140,000 fund-raising appeal to repair its eroded spire.
Church member and funding co-ordinator for the Save Our Spire appeal, Rosemary Mason, said: "We thought it was a great idea. You can do so much through technology these days and this was an ideal opportunity to show off our wonderful church.
"Our hope is that it will bring people forward who can help or donate to our appeal."
Vic Allsop, fellow church member and chairman of the appeal, said: "It really will open up the church to the whole world and that's exactly what we want to achieve."
Before Business Street View, the mapping technology only allowed internet users to see the outside of buildings. The new service was launched in May to give companies the chance to advertise themselves.
Chris, who runs LeicesterPhoto Design, in Littlethorpe, has photographed several businesses in the city, including the Very Bazaar shop, in Silver Street, and hi-fi specialists Cymbiosis, in Hotel Street.
"I've been taking photos of churches in Leicestershire and Rutland for years as a hobby," he said. "They're such beautiful buildings, so when I got a call from Google asking me to help out with Business Street View, I jumped at the chance.
"I was recently contacted by the church to help out with some publicity shots for its campaign for free, and I realised it would be ideal for Street View and could really help with the appeal."
Chris's photos will go online in the next few days.
The Save Our Spire appeal will officially launch next month. Anyone who wants to donate, or find our more, should

Monday, 27 August 2012


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

A minute's silence in tribute to Armstrong
Scientists and stargazers have paid tribute to "inspirational" astronaut Neil Armstrong.
Staff at the National Space Centre, in Leicester, held a minute's silence at 11am yesterday in honour of the first man to walk on the moon.
Meanwhile, experts at the space physics department at the University of Leicester said Armstrong , who died on Saturday, aged 82, inspired countless children to become scientists and engineers.
Jamie Burgess, public relations manager at the National Space Centre said: "It is safe to say he was a very courageous man.
"To be able to have that bravery is an incredible quality in a person."
Malika Andress, the centre's head of marketing, said staff held a minute's silence to show respect to the legendary figure.
"It was important for us to mark the occasion, not only because he was the first man to walk on the moon, but also because he was an amazing academic who was really inspirational," she said.
"We wanted to show the respect we all had for him and the difference he made to space research and exploration.
"Even though he was 82, he had only recently made a statement he was still willing to work with Nasa to put humans on Mars. He was a remarkable man."
Mr Armstrong died of cardiovascular complications after heart surgery.
It is 43 years since he commanded the Apollo 11 mission that forged new frontiers in space travel.
About 600 million people around the globe watched and listened to the moon landing on July 20 1969.
Professor Ken Pounds, of the University of Leicester's space physics department, was a young lecturer in the city when he watched the iconic images on television.
"I remember, like everyone else, just being amazed by what I was watching," he said. "It was inspirational for everybody, and had a great impact on many, many areas of science."
Prof Pounds said the mission – and the scientists, engineers and astronauts who made it happen – inspired a generation.
"For the human space field of work, Apollo 11 was the most dramatic example so far, with Armstrong leading the way, having a unique capability to inspire," he said. "So many children who watched went on to think, 'I want to be a scientist', and are now working in Silicon Valley where life-changing things such as Google and Facebook are being created."
Mr Armstrong's family, who live in Cincinnati, Ohio, called him a "reluctant hero".
In a statement they said: "For those who may ask what they can do to honour Neil, we have a simple request: honour his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink."

Saturday, 25 August 2012


This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Spirituality is a force for good
I've read in Mailbox recently about the "Non-Existence of God".
Chris Lymn for instance (July 27) states that "Religions face an inevitable demise", and the "Absurdity of belief in God". How can belief in God be absurd when so many people have been saved by this belief? Some people see their faith as very special to them. The doctrine of Christ, the teachings of Buddha, the Tao of Lao Tsu etc.
These can only do good in this troubled and turbulent world, and though the latter two do not relate to a God, they are just as spiritual. Due respect though, for his views.
If given a choice between Atheism and Religion, I know which I'd choose.
Gordon Newton, Eyres Monsell


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

Historic city sites open their doors
A house haunted by a mischievous 10-year-old, a hotel which took 200 years to open and the oldest brick building in the city are opening their doors free.
Between September 6 and 9, heritage sites across the city which are usually closed to the public or charge for admission will be open for all to see.
At De Montfort Hall on September 6 and 8, the public will have the chance to go backstage.
Leicester's oldest surviving brick building, Great Meeting Unitarian Chapel, in East Bond Street, was built over 300 years ago. It will open on September 8 and 9.
On September 7 and 9, members of the public might catch a glimpse of a Georgian child ghost supposedly haunting the medieval Wygston's House.
At the restored Georgian City Rooms hotel [photo above], visitors can see the ballroom decorated with classic paintings.
The grade I-listed building was built in 1792. It was intended to be Leicester's first hotel but lack of money meant it had to be sold before completion.
After various uses, it finally became a hotel in 2006, after being restored by Naresh and Sharon Parmar and their son Kiran.
Kiran, 26, said: "People who come here fall in love with the hotel and its great Georgian character.
"It's not as well-known as other heritage sites in Leicester but it is slowly becoming more popular as more people realise it's here."
Leicester Council of Faiths has organised a peace visit tour where people will have the chance to visit different religious buildings.
Ajay Aggarwal, co-ordinator of the council, said: "The open days will be a great way of bringing people from different backgrounds together.
"I had never been in a synagogue until this year and it was such a wonderful experience I think everyone should try visiting somewhere new."
For opening times, see: heritageopendays

Leicester Council of Faiths would normally hold the Peace Visit tour on the Sunday of the Heritage Open Days weekend. This year that Sunday (9 September) would coincide with Our Leicester Day in Leicester Market. Last year, our scheduled Peace Visit clashed with Our Leicester Day. As we were committed to Our Leicester Day and didn't know how many people would be attending that event (including the kind of people that we'd normally draw on to support the Peace Visit) we cancelled our tour of some of the city's places of worship. This year, we're holding the Peace Visit on the Saturday, which avoids the clash and allows us to do both.

Friday, 24 August 2012


Regular update on the number of pageviews received from different parts of the world in the week just ending.
  1. United States 841
  2. United Kingdom 641
  3. France 164
  4. Russia 105
  5. India 97
  6. Germany 49
  7. Canada 29
  8. China 26
  9. Chile 12
  10. Singapore 12

This week's total: 1,976 (last week: 1,668). These are aggregates of figures from the top ten countries only. Blogger's stats software doesn't show me numbers of pageviews below the tenth-ranking country.

The world map at the top of this post is the graphic that I see on the stats page. The darker the green, the more pageviews from that country. I can see different versions of that map for "now" (i.e. in the last two hours), "today", "this week", "this month" and "all time". They're updated each time I look at them.


This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Pointer for those who question
Don Tallis, in his letter to Mailbox (August 15), stated that "essentials to life would of course exist without any divine assistance".
This is clearly false, as without God nothing could be created or exist at all.
However, he asks a pertinent question when he wonders why an "all-seeing and benevolent God allows tragic events such as natural disasters or the killing of innocent children".
It is a problem which is the most frequent cause of doubt for those who believe in God but probably regard him as indifferent.
It would be silly to pretend that anyone has a complete answer to this problem. But the Christian Church does have some pointers.
First, the human race is a fallen race and the effects will be felt until the end of time, both in the human person who is, despite his intrinsic goodness, inclined to sin.
Further, human beings have a large degree of free will in choosing good or evil.
Jesus Christ, by his suffering and death on the cross, atoned for the sins of mankind and repaired the rift with God.
Jesus said that anyone who "wants to be my disciple must take up his cross and follow me".
Suffering is intrinsically bad and is to be fought by normal means, yet acceptance of it can lead to great holiness.
It is part of the human condition until the last day; but it does not, and cannot, contradict the truth that God, out of love for the human race, sent his Son to suffer and die on the cross for our redemption.
Yes, God does work in mysterious ways. It is not just a platitude.
Mark W Jacques OP, Quorn


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury (some nine days after the event):

Special meal marks end of Ramadan
Members of different religions in the city gathered for a meal together.
Bishop of Leicester, the Right Reverend Tim Stevens, and assistant city mayor Manjula Sood were among the guests who joined Muslims marking the end of their day of fasting for Ramadan.
The event, at St Philip's Centre [St Philip's Church, in fact], in Evington, Leicester, on Wednesday, August 15, was organised by the Federation of Muslim Organisations in Leicester.
The meal, known as an Iftaar, was attended by guests representing Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, and other faiths and non-faith communities.
The federation also organised regular meals for the homeless and hungry during Ramadan.
Federation spokesman Suleman Nagdi, said: "The blessed month of Ramadan is a time for sharing and giving.
"However, there are many Muslims and people of other faiths who are vulnerable and lonely and do not get to enjoy the togetherness of Iftaar. It is our hope that we are able to bring hope and happiness to those who desperately need it."

Wednesday, 22 August 2012


At Phoenix Square Film and Digital Media Centre for the fortnightly meeting of Creative CoffeeI missed the last one, so it's reassuring to see a good turnout this morning. We appear to have developed a core support of a dozen or so (including, today, all the members of the steering committee) with around the same number of occasional or new attendees.

The presence of "Table Experts" has become well established. I spend a useful quarter of an hour speaking one-to-one with Kelly Fisher, Business Development Executive at Peninsula, who's here to give advice on employment law.

At noon, we have a brief meeting of the steering committee. We discuss updates on the new logo (which I think we finally approve today), the website (including old and surplus domain names, a trail of which have been left behind since the old days when CreativeCoffee Club met in the Graduate Bar at De Montfort University), the blog, use of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, and business cards. There's a brief but interesting discussion of how to use information entered into Eventbrite when attendees sign up to create an accessible database - including ramifications related to Data Protections - and the difference between "Creative Professionals" who attend our meetings and everyone else. This last point highlights a creative tension that (in my experience and opinion) energises and fuels Creative Coffee: it has never been (and cannot be, if it wants to retain its distinctive spirit) a meeting place for professionals only. Most of the people who ask me about Creative Coffee don't fall into a technical definition of "creative professional" - nor do most of the people to whom I recommend it. To me, much of its attraction comes from how it provides a regular opportunity for creative people of all sorts to meet and mingle.


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

Pilgrimage for priest to be made a saint
Hundreds of Catholics will be making a pilgrimage to an abbey to pray for a former priest to become Britain's first black saint.
Blessed Cyprian Tansi, who was born in Nigeria, was a monk at Mount St Bernard Abbey, near Coalville, for more than a decade.
He arrived in Leicestershire from Nigeria in 1950 to train for the priesthood and remained a monk at Mount St Bernard's for 14 years, until his death in 1964, aged 61.
Due to his devout life as a Cistercian monk, he was beatified by Pope John Paul II, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, in March 1998, for his humility after a miraculous cure for a sick woman who prayed to him in Africa.
At the abbey on Saturday Catholics will be praying and asking God to make him a saint.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012


This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Talent may not be God given
In response to claims made by E Letts that "believers find God really helps" (Mailbox, August 18), I would like to rebuff those claims.
I am sure most people would have seen footage from the Olympic Games recently.
Sure enough, at the end of some of the events, we would have seen some of the winners "thank God" for their win.
But did anyone notice that God chose to neglect every other competitor in the same event?
Surely some of those believed that God would help them, too?
Why, E Letts, are you so sure that talented musicians, poets, painters, writers etc have somehow been given their talent from God?
Could it be that they are just extremely talented people?
Who are you to take their achievements away from them?
I would also ask you to consider how many "non-believers" surround you every day.
A non-believer may have built your home or present a radio show you listen to. Maybe they diagnosed your illnesses or designed your washing machine.
All of these things require talent and knowledge but they may not have had any belief that God would help them.
These people are good at what they do and you should not take that away from them.
Sean Coltman, Leicester

Saturday, 18 August 2012


This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Multiculturalism is the past not future
The Olympics has resulted in multiculturalism again being espoused in some parts of the media.
Multiculturalism is frequently confused with diversity but actually means "many cultures", something which this country had long before mass immigration.
Before then we had working class culture, middle class culture and upper class culture.
We had aspiring middle class culture – "keeping up with the Joneses" – middle class culture and faded genteel middle class culture.
We had grimly decent working class culture, "I have absolutely no intention of ever working" working class culture and "proud to be working class" culture.
We had huntin', shootin', fishin' upper class culture, disturbingly smooth and urbane upper class culture and dissolute, idle upper class culture.
We had an astonishing variety of fixed attitudes, received ideas and preconceived notions.
Practically everybody could define themselves in terms of which little box they occupied and which one you did.
The result was that we spent inordinate and regrettable amounts of time in mutual recrimination, internecine struggles and dialogues of the deaf while the country hurtled downwards faster than a lead balloon.
It was generally agreed that our diverse cultures were divisive, corrosive, a futile waste of time and energy and that we had to change.
Multiculturalism is not the future, it's the past.
Russ Ball, Leicester


This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
No doubts about an historical Jesus
It was in the 18th century that theologians in the European universities began analysing the four canonical gospels, partly in order to answer the question, "What did Jesus actually do and say?"
It led to redaction criticism; more simply, a study of the particular editorial intentions of the writers.
This in turn meant categorising the literature into various forms; for instance teachings, healing stories, parables, sayings and so on.
However, the most significant aspect was considered to be the kerygma – a Greek word referring to aspects that proclaimed Jesus as Lord.
In effect this was a sort of basic creed of the early church which is referring to Jesus both as messiah and risen Lord.
Since Mark's gospel was considered to be the first and generally thought to be written some 30 years after Jesus's death, then the period between the two events, known as the early church, had a particular fascination.
It was seen to be a dynamic period in which believers were baptised into the life, death and resurrection of their Lord and then partook of the eucharist, the celebration of the Last Supper.
In all, it was in this community of faith that the gospels were written, large parts coming down initially by way of an oral tradition.
As such it is maintained by scholars that what we have in the gospels is the Jesus of faith of the early community, making it almost impossible to separate this Jesus from the one of history.
However, more significantly regarding recent letters on this issue, I have never read of any serious criticism of the existence of a Jesus in Palestine at the time in question – the Jesus of history – who was teacher, preacher and said by some to be healer, who met death by way of crucifixion.
David Abbott, Stoke Golding


This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Believers find God really helps
In reply to a letter by F O Hipwell (July 31) I would say that maybe the writer is anxious for someone to convince him or her that God is truly real, because he would be happy if they could.
People with faith and who do their best to do God's will find that God really does help them, because He knows just what they need.
I have found this in my own experiences, in little things, but which were vital to me at the time.
I also had an experience in September which concerned some keys that miraculously appeared in my hand.
So you can see that people with true faith in God are a people set apart.
I do not know about rational people but I do think logically and surely there must be more to life than materialism.
Spiritual feeling expressed by musicians, painters and poets, it seems to me, indicates an inner spirituality given by God.
The gifts of the Holy Spirit, (the third person of the blessed Trinity) are memory, understanding and will, we were taught at school, so these must include our own personal consciences.
You must admit there is a good and evil in the world and there is justice and punishment for wrongdoing. Why do people know this and not admit that the sins they commit deserve punishment, or do they consider themselves to be perfect?
God is just but also merciful and always ready to forgive.
To my way of thinking, everything that is made by man requires a brain behind it to design and manufacture the item.
The knowledge gained from our forefathers is used through the centuries and added to, so why would the beginning of the world not require an intelligent force?
The church teaches that God made us to His own image and likeness and man is getting so clever – just think of the space programme, how marvellous is God's creativity in man.
E Letts, Leicester


This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Proof/probability divide enduring
May I make two points, one in particular and one general about the Christian v atheist argument, which has surely gone on long enough?
Mr Pendragon (July 31) fails to grasp what kind of history was written in classical times – and, indeed, much more recently.
Independent, unbiased historians could not exist before the days of printing and universities with history departments.
Josephus – the only historian who could matter in the context of the Holy Land – and his contemporaries were, like poets of the time, spin doctors, writing what pleased the Roman establishment.
In general, there will always be a division between people who insist on absolute proof, as with the famous square on the hypotenuse, and those of us – including me; I am a Christian – who are content with experience and the balance of probability, not only in religious contexts.
That is one reason why the proposal by the House of Lords to make all A-level courses include maths will fail to produce more engineers, though it will produce worse historians, worse linguists and so on, if it makes any difference at all.
What we need are not more round pegs but more square holes, to accommodate the human race in all its variety.
Veronica M Brown, Wigston


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
"Spiritual healer" conned families
A bogus spiritual healer who conned families by claiming he could cure sick relatives using a "special genie" has been jailed for six years.
Gul Faraz (54) donned robes and told victims his spiritual friend would ward off evil spirits.
He tricked his way into a string of homes in Leicester and London by claiming he was a charity worker collecting money to send to India's Kashmir region.
Once inside, he boasted of his healing powers – but insisted he needed his victims' jewellery for the prayers to work.
He then stole the jewellery including wedding and engagement rings, Snaresbrook Crown Court heard.
Faraz's method was to write prayers on a piece of paper, then blow them at his victims, said prosecutor Rekha Kodikara.
He then asked the families to put their precious gems into a pan of water mixed with milk, before dipping a pen into the liquid, which turned red.
Faraz claimed the colour change was the result of his special powers – but he had, in fact, slipped in red powder kept in small packets in his pocket.
"He then wrapped up all the jewellery in tissue paper and placed it in a money bag before putting it in a saucepan," said Ms Kodikara."He wrapped a cloth around the pan and said it had to be left in a cupboard for a week before it could be opened and the prayers had their full effect."
The families, who were mainly Muslim, believed Faraz and even gave him extra cash out of gratitude for his services.
But when the victims checked the saucepan, they found their jewellery was missing.
Faraz collected £3,000 worth of gems from a family after visiting their home in Bow, east London, on March 21 last year.
Ten days later, he pocketed £2,500 from a victim in Stepney, east London.
Faraz also stole £1,200 from a pensioner in Bow on April 4.But days later, a couple he had targeted in Purley Road, Belgrave, Leicester, noticed him slipping the jewellery into his pocket and he was later arrested.
Faraz, of Cambridge Avenue, Peterborough, admitted three counts of burglary and a fourth count of theft.
Judge Tudor Owen told him he had preyed on vulnerable people and his behaviour was "despicable".
The court heard Faraz turned to crime to fund his drinking and gambling addictions.


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Protests spark rethink on Islamic prayer room plan
The city council is reconsidering plans to allow a Muslim community group to lease a disused Scout hut.
The As-Salaam Trust is hoping to turn the property in Thurncourt Road, Thurnby Lodge, into a community centre and prayer room.
But some residents have staged protests against the plan, gathering in groups – sometimes hundreds strong – outside a nearby community centre where Muslims have been meeting to pray for the past two-and-a-half years.
Protesters fear the plans will cause traffic problems.
They have stressed their demonstrations are not anti-Islamic but aimed at the city council, which owns the land on which the Scout hut is built and which had agreed to sell the hut lease to As-Salaam.Protesters want the hut to be used as a boxing club for youngsters from the estate.
The city council has now said that, with As-Salaam's agreement, it is seeking an alternative site the organisation could use as a community centre.
City mayor Peter Soulsby has met residents and members of the trust and told them council officers will look at all options available.
He has promised to meet them again next month when officers have completed that work.
Sir Peter said: "I am committed to finding a way forward to address the current difficulties in Thurnby Lodge so we can return to a situation of collaboration and harmony in the area."
Leaflets are being delivered to about 1,300 homes to let residents know the council will not complete on the lease while officers are looking at other options that might better meet the needs of As-Salaam.
However, the council says if alternative premises cannot be found for As-Salaam, negotiations on the sale of the lease will resume.
The authority says that, of 100 groups expressing an interest in the building, only As-Salaam could meet the lease criteria.
The council has also said it will look for a venue that can host the boxing club, which was interested in the Scout hut but did not have the funds in place to buy the lease.
As-Salaam's imam, Mohammed Lockhat, said: "We are negotiating with the council. We live in Thurnby Lodge and we would not want to have to travel far to pray.
"Nobody is happy with the situation."
He said worshippers had been "very patient", but some had stopped attending prayers because there had been a "level of intimidation" from some protesters.
Maxine Williams, landlady of the Stirrup Cup pub, next to the Scout hut, has helped organise the protests.
She said she hoped the council would be able to find As-Salaam another site.
"A prayer room in that building would be incompatible with my business and would cause all sorts of traffic problems," she said.

Friday, 17 August 2012


Regular update on the number of pageviews received from different parts of the world in the week just ending.

  1. United Kingdom 628
  2. United States 598
  3. France 152
  4. India 91
  5. Russia 91
  6. Germany 46
  7. Canada 20
  8. Netherlands 16
  9. Ukraine 14
  10. China 12

This week's total: 1,668 (last week: 2,220). These are aggregates of figures from the top ten countries only. Blogger's stats software doesn't show me numbers of pageviews below the tenth-ranking country.

The world map at the top of this post is the graphic that I see on the stats page. The darker the green, the more pageviews from that country. I can see different versions of that map for "now" (i.e. in the last two hours), "today", "this week", "this month" and "all time". They're updated each time I look at them.


This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Church attendance has always been yo-yo
There has been a great deal in the Mercury recently regarding religion. Apparently it faces an inevitable demise.
Hasn't it always?
There was certainly a decline in religious attendance in the last century in this country – but there was a massive increase in the 19th century.
This was compared with the very sparse church attendance in the 18th century – which succeeded the general attendance in the 17th century.
I think this yo-yo behaviour is quite usual. A moribund church, for example, experienced a great resurgence of interest around AD 1000.
Way back in the first century BC, the Roman philosopher Cicero was writing of those who had recently decided that the majority who believed in the gods were wrong and that we had no souls after all.
In contrast with the argument that human history leads us ever onwards and upwards, this suggests that humanity's opinions more resemble a pendulum which swings from one extreme ("we believe!") to another ("we do not believe!") but spends the least of its time in the middle ("actually, we're not sure").
This not only applies to religion. It seems to be common to most human activity.
Even scientists convince themselves that they have almost everything sorted out only for some genius to wander up and casually chuck it all into air again. In politics, capitalism is sanity, then socialism insanity, then capitalism is the obvious solution, then socialism explains all.
There is a suspicion that the next generation reacts to the excesses of the previous by going to the opposite end of the spectrum.
Whatever the case may be, it is likely that religion will be with us for the foreseeable future.
Russ Ball, Leicester


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
MP joins community to break fast
A Leicester MP fasted for a day during Ramadan, in solidarity with his Muslim constituents.
Jon Ashworth, Labour MP for Leicester South, went without food or water on Wednesday to gain a greater understanding of what being a British Muslim is like.
Mr Ashworth fasted from 3am until 8.30pm, spending time with religious leaders, schoolchildren and community members, while carrying out his daily parliamentary tasks.
His experience was filmed as part of the Liberty Media Productions documentary "Breaking the Fast".
Mr Ashworth said: "Ramadan is such an important spiritual time of year for thousands of families across Leicester and I wanted to both show my support to the Muslim community and also experience fasting for myself – even if just for one day.
"I started the day at 3am and finished by breaking the fast at Masjid Umar mosque.
"Like many Muslims across Leicester, I went about my usual day and was in the office dealing with the many issues I deal with.
"By the afternoon, I was beginning to feel very thirsty and hungry but remained determined."
The documentary is the latest in a string of productions from award-winning Leicester film-maker Dr Halla Diyab.
Dr Diyab said: "The public are bombarded with messages about what being a Muslim entails, but I believe these reports are usually wide of the mark.
"Leicester is one of Britain's most diverse cities and I think it's important that people try as many aspects of different cultures as possible to promote a shared sense of community."
Dr Diyab will be talking to interested broadcasters about rights to the documentary after filming is completed this week.


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Bishop is backing heart unit campaign
The Bishop of Leicester has criticised plans to move children's heart surgery and the specialist extra corporeal membrane oxygenation (Ecmo) treatment from Glenfield Hospital.
The Rt Rev Tim Stevens signed an online petition calling on Health Secretary Andrew Lansley to re-think plans to move the services to Birmingham.
Glenfield Hospital is one of four centres in England that will cease to provide surgery for children born with heart problems, following an NHS review.
Bishop Tim said: "In recent days, I have received a large number of letters and e-mails and had conversations with numerous people who are concerned that the loss of the children's heart surgery unit and the Ecmo facility from Leicester will significantly harm the chances of people living in the East Midlands and further afield in the eastern part of the UK.
"I have visited the heart surgery unit and know that it and the Ecmo facility have an international reputation for excellence.
"Skill levels and success rates are higher than similar services elsewhere.
"It is not at all clear the move to Birmingham will be straightforward."In fact, I fear the movement of these services will be harmful to the nation as a whole, as the skills of a unique team will potentially be lost.
"It has been reported that it may take anywhere between five and 20 years to recover the Ecmo skills currently at Glenfield."
Bishop Tim said he would be raising the matter in the House of Lords when it resumes sitting.
The online petition has now been signed by more than 57,500 people since it was set up at the start of July.
To sign the petition go to:

Wednesday, 15 August 2012


This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury (but not on its website):
Diversity exists without divinity
In his letter "Open your mind to a greater power" (August 11) Phil Dues asks us to open our spiritual eyes and wonder at the diversity of the world that we live in - animals, plants, trees, the sun and rain. He then suggests that these are proof than an omnipresent deity exists.
Al these essentials to life would of course exist without any divine assistance - in fact, without mankind's degradations they would all be healthier than they are now.
Finally, a question which I and many people have asked: Why does this all-seeing benevolent God allow tragic events such as natural disaster or innocent children to be killed? And please, spare me the usual platitudes about God working in mysterious ways. This tranlsates to me as "I don't know".
Don Tallis, Wigston

Tuesday, 14 August 2012


This email has been widely circulated today by Leicestershire Sikh Alliance after the public vigil organised by Leicester Council of Faiths for victims of the shootings in the Oak Creek Gurdwara, Wisconsin.

Members of Leicester Council of Faiths who attended the vigil appear to agree that the Council of Faiths did itself more good in the eyes of those present - City Councillors, local media - and especially the Sikh community of Leicester and Leicestershire - in 25 minutes last Sunday evening than it had in the whole of the last 25 years. This spilled over into social media, with a lot of traffic on Twitter and coverage on Facebook in particular.

Since this was an event illumined by open demonstrations of friendship, support and sympathy across the boundaries of culture, language, nationality and race, it's appropriate to see it (and its ramifications for our city's communities) in the light of this quotation from Bahá'u'lláh's Hidden Words that came to my mind while I was there: "words are the property of all alike, whereas such deeds as these belong only to Our loved ones". Actions speak louder than words.

And that links so aptly with the invocation that opens the message below. This may be translated into English as, "The Khalsa belongs to God, all victory is the victory of God."
Vaheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Vaheguru Ji Ki Fateh
With hundreds of people in attendance, including all faith leaders, the vigil for the victims of the Wisconsin Gurdwara massacre was a resounding success.  In these dark hours, it was amazing for all communities to come together and start the healing process as one universal Leicester community. 
A big thank you to Cllr Manjula Sood and Leicester Council of Faiths for arranging this event.  And an even bigger thank you to Cllr Inderjeet Gugnani who was the unsung hero and hidden architect for the whole event.
Also it was great to hear Jon Ashworth MP's speech. "Tonight we are all Sikhs", was very touching.  Nice one Jon!  This massacre was the largest attack on the Sikh community within the western hemisphere for over half a century.  Is it therefore right that only one MP from the City and County bothered to show?  In one word, "diabolical!".
Pictures attached courtesy of Punjab2000
PukaarNews UK, online news channel
JonAshworth MP's speech, Leicester South
A few words from Surinderpal Rai, General Secretary GTBG
A few words from Amandeep Rai, Public Relations Officer LSA
A few words from George M Ballentyne, Equality & Diversity Officer LCOF
A few words from Sharnjeet Kaur
Amandeep Rai (Public Relations Officer for LSA)


This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Faith and science are not exclusive
Philosophy of religion is a very popular subject at advanced level.
The syllabus involves some of the traditional arguments as well as more recent ones – for the existence of God formulated by such theologians as St Anselm and St Thomas Aquinas and counter-arguments by such renowned thinkers as the classic empiricist David Hume.
It is certainly a very worthwhile undertaking for students.
At every twist and turn they are involved in a profoundly thoughtful debate, one in which they will try to argue that perhaps one side may be shown to carry more weight than the other.
To provide sound foundations for the undertaking it is necessary to become familiar with two schools of thought with respect to examining propositions in order to verify their meaningfulness – rationalism and empiricism.
The former concerns itself with the sort of truths arrived at by way of sort of mathematical proof (a priori), the latter those using the scientific method (a posteriori) with its emphasis on experience.Just to offer a taste of argument and stir things up somewhat. Think of yourself – don't try it – standing between railway lines and staring down the track.
Your experience, by way of the senses, would clearly demonstrate that the two lines meet.
Rationalism, in terms of mathematical proof, would perhaps win the day in arguing that, by definition, parallel lines never meet.
It was Rene Descartes in particular – theist, philosopher and mathematician – who argued in this sort of way to show that experience could be somewhat flawed.
Some years ago a Jesuit priest explained to me how for him the teaching of physics involved both himself and his students in something of a spiritual and aesthetic exercise since, as they tried to unearth the mysteries of the universe, the whole process invoked such feelings of awe and wonder.
At the same time, he was careful to argue the limitations of influencing the spiritual development of pupils by way of teaching religious education, maintaining that "religion is something caught" by way of example, "rather than taught".
Most certainly the Jesus of the gospels was teacher, preacher and, more significantly, regarding the latter comment, healer.
In the universities many dons teaching science are also theists, some members of the various faith communities of this country.
Further, I seem to recall reading about a leading scientist, maintaining with some humility, that science strictly speaking seeks to show that a particular theory has escaped disproof rather than attempting to prove anything with concrete certainty.
Personally, I don't recognise the estrangement between science and religion today, though I can quite understand how it arose in past centuries.
The Roman Catholic Church, for instance, in its initial condemnation of Galileo – in Cardinal Newman's words – forsook truth at the expense of authority and it seems that Charles Darwin largely upset the biblical fundamentalists with his theory of evolution.
David Abbott, Stoke Golding


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury (with a decent photo, which hasn't been posted on the website):
Dozens of people in vigil for US temple shooting victims
Dozens of people from various faiths gathered for a prayer vigil in memory of six people killed at a Sikh Gurdwara in the USA a week ago.
The service in Town Hall Square, Leicester, on Sunday night, was organised by Leicester Council of Faiths chairman Councillor Manjula Sood and secretary Councillor Inderjit Gugnani.
They organised the vigil as a way to commemorate the victims of the attack, as well as a way for Sikhs and non-Sikhs to stand together to bring about healing.
Coun Gugnani said: "We pray it doesn't happen again. But it happened. All we can do is turn it into a positive message for our friends in the community."
A 40-year-old Army veteran with links to the white-supremacist movement entered the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin and opened fire. Six people ranging in age from 39 to 84 lay dead. The suspect, Wade Michael Page, reportedly killed himself.

I posted a comment on the Mercury's website, under my own name, as follows:
Glad to see the Mercury cover this, but, as a strong, positive story expressing good relations between the diverse communities of our city, I'd have hoped that it would have attracted more attention. I was there, among a considerable number of people who were not Sikhs, but wanting to show solidarity and sympathy. The Mercury report doesn't mention that Jon Ashworth MP was in attendance and gave a short speech. There were more like 250 attendees at the height of the event. There's more detailed coverage of the vigil on various social media outlets, e.g. the Facebook page of Leicesterhire Sikh Alliance (, the YouTube channel of Civic Leicester (, the video report posted by Pukaar News ( and my blog post (