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Archbishop of York opens St. Paul's Centre, Blackburn College

Friday 7th September 2007

The Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu, awarded an anti-slavery medallion to the Lord Chancellor Jack Straw.

Queen Victoria once asked her Prime Minister, William Lamb, what he thought about Thomas Macaulay's brilliant essay on education for all.

"I don't know, Ma'am, why they make all this fuss about education" he is reported to have answered "none of the Paget family can read or write but they all seem to get on well enough".

Education has traditionally been about the "three R's" - reading, writing and arithmetic, but for me Education is more than that. Education must have, for its object, the formation of character – preparing students to engage in activities that will make societies generous, prosperous, clean and safe.

From a Christian perspective it is a delusion to train the head and let the heart run wild. We should not allow culture and character to walk miles apart, stuffing the head with mathematics and languages whilst manners, morals and spirituality are left out of the picture.

Isn't the great aim of education informed action and not merely minds filled with facts and factoids ?

True education does more than enable us to pass exams. Education forms the common mind – it creates the realm for the application of knowledge beyond simple understanding.

This college and all our schools, must surely be models of the City of God.

At its best this College must be a place which gives us a glimpse of what the City of God is like - where the treasures laid up in that City turn out to be the best the righteous – those who have loved God and neighbour and pursue mercy, kindness and justice - have known and loved on earth - filled with the achievements of our God given potential and our gracious magnanimity  and bound together in common cause.

In a moment we will be placing our items into the time capsule to be buried. It will be opened again many years from now, and who knows what those who open the capsule will make of what we put into it?

Would they laugh at what would seem like the archaic technology of the latest I-Pod and shake their heads in bewilderment at those gadgets and gizmos of which we are now so proud but which will one day be useless and obsolete?   Like the old gramophone?

Today I will be placing into the capsule two items which speak not of gadgetry and gizmos but of hope and triumph, of humanity and divinity, of freedom and of victory. They are symbols of hope borne from suffering and tears.

First, I will be placing in the capsule this small cross – made in Bethlehem.

The Cross is a symbol used by Christians to remind them of hope. It is the hope of light overcoming darkness, life victorious over death and good triumphing over evil. It is the place where Jesus died but where his story did not end.

His mission of self-less love, embracing a broken world and humanity was accomplished, the Word of God returned having fulfilled its purpose.

The Cross remains a powerful symbol to many, and like many powerful symbols it has been misused over time.

We need only think of the Hindu Swastik which was used by the Nazis as a symbol of hate oppression. The power of symbols is such that they will be claimed by many who seek to misuse them for their own ends.

And for those of us who wear a cross, there is not only hope but also a responsibility.

The responsibility that goes with claiming the name of a Christian. The responsibility to act and to live as Jesus of Nazareth lived. This symbol does not point only upwards but also outwards, it reminds us of our duties not only to God but also to one another.

Those wearing a cross proclaim themselves followers of the Prince of Peace and have the duty of acting accordingly; of showing love to our neighbours of all faiths and none, of forgiving those who offend them and choosing a life of service to those they meet in this community be they students or teachers, the cool or the uncool, the weak or the strong. Their duty is to show love to all.

And this is why I will put this Cross into the time capsule. Not only as an enduring symbol of hope, but also as a reminder to those generations to come of their continuing duty to care for the world in which they find themselves years from now and to love all of those with whom they share that world and this very special place.

Secondly I will be placing this medallion made by Josiah Wedgwood, two hundred years ago, as a symbol for the Abolition of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.   On it is a slave bound in chains surrounded by the words, "Am I not a Man and a Brother?" 

May it remind us and for many generations to come our common humanity and that there is only one Race – the Human Race – made up of many and diverse ethnic groups – to Races.

There is an African proverb which says "It takes the whole village to educate a child."

This magnificent building represents the hopes and achievement of many people here today. We salute them for their part in building this place of learning. It is now up to the rest of us to play our own part.

TRIO = The Responsibility Is Ours.   May you all be a TEAM: For Together Each Achieves More.

Finally, I am also giving a similar anti-slavery medallion to the Secretary of State for Justice and Attorney General.   He invited me here and this is the least I can do.   More importantly as a token of thanks for agreeing to set up a Judiciary Inquiry into the Murder of Stephen Lawrence.  

As Home Secretary he set up an Action Plan that led to the implementation of the 73 recommendation.   This changed the culture and method of policing.  

Thank you

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