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Lord Hankey: My Lords, this has been a fascinating debate. As the last Back-Bench speaker I shall be brief, but I should like to make one or two observations that arise out of 30 years' experience of working, and even longer of living, abroad under Stalin and in Franco's Spain.
Recently, my work has been as a consultant to international agencies for environmental upgrading, institutional and legal strengthening in the developing world and as a specialist in the social and built heritage. That work has taken me to many different countries all over the world. It has been my luck to be an architect to three dioceses in this country, to a new Hindu temple in Delhi, to King Khalid's Mosque in Riyadh and now to work in five different provinces in China looking after the World Bank's support for upgrading the environment. I look after the preservation and approved use of the 71 metres-high World Heritage site of the Leshan Buddha and the associated temples and pagodas.
Through this diversity I have been enormously impressed, not by the differences in belief and interpretation of the religious message, which is as diverse as the languages of the people involved, but by the astonishing uniformity, need for and interest in the importance of spiritual awareness and the benefits of meditation and prayer. There is in this universality a most important bridge for different religions to appreciate the qualities that each of them has. Religions help in ordering man's relationship to his spiritual needs and interpreting as best they can the relationship of man to the deity, whatever form it may take. I believe that the future peace of the world depends on the accommodation, tolerance and understanding of cultural and religious differences.
As we have heard today, history shows that the name of religion can be used as a weapon to defend the security and narrowness of a culture and its religious and mystical beliefs. It has done so throughout history. In this increasingly small and globalised world, however, many beliefs (be they religious, moral or political) are under threat, and the social and economic orders built upon those beliefs, accompanied by the many vested interests in the status quo, do not take kindly to change. Today, many societies, not least our own, face rapidly increasing change. Therefore, it is important that our moral and religious leaders assist us to accommodate that change.
But religion has so often throughout history fallen into the trap of disobeying the tenets of its founders and, for political and economic ends, has been the deluded agent of misguided and sectarian forces. The intolerance of dogmatic and fundamentalist belief is a danger to any society that we should not
In history, I suggest, it has not been the religious, or any other, belief which may promote order or disorder but the manner in which that belief is exercised. This presents the faith communities with not only the problem of being adequately aware of the task of understanding the often complex social, political and economic context associated with a particular problem, but also the challenge of delicately respecting all sides of the argument.
It is only by inclusion, empowerment and the giving of ownership that conflict arising out of change can be overcome and the policies for change sustained. For many in the faith community, committed to their understanding and beliefs, and surrounded by different cultures, it is an almost impossible task to be so open and tolerant of difference.
As in politics, we so often find that it is not the objective of a policy that is at fault, but the lack of awareness of the inclusive management requirements and an ignorance of a means of implementation that impedes a policy's realisation and universal adoption. But the faith communities, I believe, can with due humility be a great source for good, conciliation, forgiveness and the restructuring of social relationships, as has already been said. They can provide the human spirit with a transcendent uplift and support. They can give order to the confusion of life. They can lend their moral weight to the judgment of right and wrong in local and contemporary issues; and they can promote the cultural awareness of people throughout the world. Religion is, in my thinking, a component of the cultural heritage that we inherit and continue to reinterpret as the centuries roll by. Certainly it is to be considered in the enhancement of well-being and justice, and by the inclusion by creative thinkers in government, the professions and other sectors of our lives.
We have mentioned many times today the increasing globalisation of international best practice and other pressures. There is an increasing state of mutual awareness and thereby, on the one hand, potential for conflict, and on the other, the beneficial appreciation of each other's contribution to society. An increasing number of people have immediate access to comparative studies on any issue. For the defence and conservation of our environment, we perceive the need to develop common standards and a common base for our social, political and economic relations. In effect, as we have such power on the one hand to destroy our globe and the sustainability of life, we also have never before had such a potential for realising that our existence depends upon developing and understanding mutually acceptable systems for laws, trade, institutional and administrative practices and an internationally acceptable social context.
There is a place, however, for cultural understanding, for the appreciation of the value and dignity of another person's experience. I believe that that relates to each of us in this Chamber as much as
However, cultural appreciation and tolerance is essential in all cross-cultural dealings, as it is always the other party's perception--I speak as one trying to advise other parties in my profession--which must be the language and analogy for any development of understanding and reasoning. One's own logic must be built into their analogy and experience if we are able to do so. I believe that this is an important moral position for any adviser, whether religious or secular. It seeks empowerment, not repression. It seeks inclusion, not disenfranchisement.
In Yemen, where we have been restructuring the institutional and legal systems and developing planning for the reuse of the heritage assets of the country, it is quite clear that the ability to achieve effective and sustainable policy requires the devolution of power from the centre and the inclusion and ownership of policy by the people to create a sustainable and economically viable country. The position of the faith communities--the Aqaf--is vital in this process as they wield great authority. I believe that there is an important role that religion must play. In my youth I always imagined that that was the meaning of militant here on Earth". But always it has to be part of a team effort.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I thank the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for instituting this debate. When I first read the words of the Motion I was a little puzzled. It seemed clear that we could discuss a large number of issues under the broad terms of the Motion, but his perception was far wider than mine. He has drawn on the astonishing resources of this House, exemplified by many speakers with their knowledge, understanding and reach throughout the globe. That has made this an extraordinary debate. On behalf of all noble Lords I thank him for this debate, which has given so many people an opportunity to reflect on the problems of our time.
We have listened to a remarkable set of maiden speeches. Indeed, it was the most remarkable group of maiden speeches that I have ever had the pleasure to hear in this House. All three were of an astonishing and complementary standard. We heard, first, from the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, a speech which indicated the great knowledge he will bring to this House. It was delivered with the force and confidence one normally associates with people who
We also heard from the noble Lord, Lord Gretton, who had some interesting comments to make about the Middle East. He drew upon his experience both there and in Northern Ireland, but concluded that religion added to the complexities of our world rather than helping to resolve them. I hope that during the course of the debate he felt that the argument was more divided than his speech suggested. However, he certainly lead us to think hard about the points he was making.
Thirdly, we heard from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester. Apart from an astonishing knowledge of Christianity in many countries outside this one, he is known by many of us for his dedicated work among refugees.
The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, referred to the way in which we in this country sometimes treat strangers. It is perhaps worth putting on record that, despite their poverty, many developing countries, such as Pakistan, India, Kenya, Tanzania and Zaire, accept strangers with a degree of generosity which we in this country no longer comprehend. I sometimes wonder whether our major enemy is not so much other faiths, but simply the tremendous grip of the consumer society of materialism on the wealthy countries of the West.
It seems to me that two profound issues came out of this debate. I should like to say a word about each of them. The first is the impact that globalisation is having on our society. That was touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, and the noble Lord, Lord Butterfield, in his remarks about the scientific revolution.
Indeed, globalisation offers us many potential benefits, but it also carries with it certain great dangers. I shall refer briefly to each of those. The first, as a number of noble Lords have pointed out, is that the immediate impact of globalisation has been to widen the inequalities within our world. In a splendid speech, the noble Lord, Lord Elton, referred to the need for justice as well as peace on our globe. He was absolutely right.
Earlier this summer I was in Brazil taking part in a seminar on human rights. While I was there, the most recent figures on the distribution of income were published. They showed that the proportion of the gross national product now enjoyed by the poorest half of Brazilian society had gone down from 12½ per cent of national wealth only eight years ago to 11 per cent of national wealth today. No less than 63.8 per cent of national wealth goes to the richest fifth of that society.
One must then look at the people who, in a sense, are almost being forced out of the human race. They are so poor, so destitute, so unable to reap the benefits of education or public health, that we must ask ourselves whether we do indeed intend to lose the heritage of one-third of our fellow human beings because of the impact which our greed and their desperation is now having.
In that context, that same kind of inequality is now being reflected within much richer societies such as that of the United States and even our own. My first question, which has already been addressed by several right reverend Prelates and noble Lords, is whether we can take steps to deal with the legacy of early globalisation, which appears to be deeper poverty for a minority of the world's population, albeit that it has helped to lift a substantial proportion of people who now enjoy benefits which they never had before.
I believe that the Churches should take great credit for the crusade they led with the non-governmental organisations against the burden of international debt. It is no good lecturing the countries of sub-Saharan Africa or of west Asia about how important it is that they follow orthodox financial policies--although of course that is right if one begins by shackling them with inherited debts. Many of them, as we know, inherited those debts following wild spending of earlier dictators on arms and so-called defence". Democracies in Africa and Latin America, such as Nigeria, Argentina and Paraguay, are fighting against a legacy that could drown and destroy them. We need to help them to struggle towards establishing democratic institutions.
In that context, I should like to make one other reference. It was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Carlisle and others. One other side-effect of globalisation on the former Communist countries of Russia and central Asia has been, tragically, to bring profound poverty to some sectors of their populations--notably the elderly, whose pensions have simply dissolved in the storm of inflation. In addition, women, especially rural women, have effectively been driven out of the labour market. In many cases, such women have literally no alternative sources of income, and many of them are desperately trying to raise hungry children with not much help from the rest of us.
Another effect is what I might describe as the response and reaction to globalisation of some troubled societies. I refer to those particular societies which simply have not been able to take on, adapt to and live with globalisation; societies like many of those in sub-Saharan Africa, and in countries like Sudan, Yemen and many others. There, the reaction to the forces of an internationalising world is to climb back into what one might describe as a fierce and aggressive belonging to oneself. That is what we saw with the Serbs in the Balkans, and that is what, I believe, we are seeing to some extent among the Indonesians. Having grown rapidly wealthy, they suddenly suffered a dramatic and drastic decline in their standard of living. I find it hard to believe that the deep political troubles in Indonesia have nothing at all to do with the fact that last year their standard of living fell by over 26 per cent per capita, with many Indonesian peoples returning to villages that could not sustain them.
The point is simple: trouble, unrest and violence in the world are not unrelated to people's expectations of what globalisation, economic advance and the scientific revolution will bring to them. In that context, I want to make one more point. Belonging carries with
Yet belonging is essentially a challenge to the spiritual resources of our societies. That is where I believe that the Churches have an immense contribution to make. One of the great weaknesses of the response of economists and politicians to the problems of the developing world is that many--not all--of them fail completely to understand that many of those societies have deep spiritual roots and that one has to address those spiritual roots by trying to speak to the people in a language that they understand.
In that context, I have one more remark to make before I move to a conclusion. I agree absolutely with what noble Lords have said about the white revolution in Iran. There was an almost complete failure by Western experts to understand that one of the underlying sources of that white revolution's opposition was precisely because the Shah refused to allow simple villagers to practise their religion. In the end, by doing so he created a huge backlash on himself and on his own efforts on modernisation.
I conclude by saying that I believe that the end of the Westphalian system, which essentially is what we are now looking at--I refer to the system of sovereign nation states--gives a huge opportunity to all our spiritual traditions. We now have to find a new moral law, a new structure of order, no longer based on the power that one or two nation states can exercise over others. In a sense that is almost a return to the global concept of religion that applied throughout the centuries where people like Dun Scotus, Aquinas and many others ruled intellectual thought. I believe that it is perhaps the greatest challenge that all our faiths can seek.
Islam brings us, among other things, a very powerful sense of faith. As the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson, and the noble Lord, Lord Ahmed, both pointed out, we have to learn it, come to terms with it and understand it.
Hinduism and Buddhism bring us a sense of fragility and the preciousness of our planet which too often in the Western world we have simply begun to forget and which, to some extent, we have allowed ourselves to despoil.
Lord Moynihan: My Lords, from these Benches we would also like to congratulate all three maiden speakers on providing your Lordships with three exemplary contributions. Given the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, to sport in particular, it is right that he should be addressed as a noble friend, not only from the Cross Benches today but from these Benches also. Many years ago when I had the good fortune to be Minister for Sport we worked closely on football policy. I have always respected him. Today he won the support and respect of your Lordships' House.
Similarly, my noble friend Lord Gretton provided clarity of thought in a speech which came from the heart and one reflecting on the contribution of the first Lord Gretton. It was another first-rate maiden speech, worthy of a wider audience.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester was refreshingly energetic. If I could apply a new maxim to his conviction, faith, undoubted enthusiasm and connection in his speech to the everyday challenges which he faces, it would be Living your vision is essential".
Today's debate has been utterly fascinating. I hope that it will receive an even wider audience when it is available in the Official Report. I, too, would like to take the opportunity to pay tribute to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for enabling us to discuss this pertinent and highly-absorbing subject. To my mind, an historic debate such as this shows your Lordships' House at its very best. Its scope has been enormous.
This topic not only touches on but travels directly to the very heart of complex questions involving human identity, culture and philosophy. One has only to look at the contents page of this week's Economist, which has articles on Russia and Islam", Israel's religious-secular split" and Pakistan's politics of religion", to realise how inextricably religion is linked to our daily lives, both public and private.
Today we have heard those far more eloquent than I outline movingly the ways in which religion as a matter of private conviction, private conscience and private philosophy can be a big tent under which many nations with differing cultures, spiritualities, devotional practices and theologies can gather in peace and harmony.
The case for religion to be allowed to teach its doctrine of peace and understanding is overwhelming. As the noble Baroness, Lady Richardson of Calow, pointed out, such teaching includes an understanding of the faiths of others so that an end may be brought to those conflicts all over the world which are inflamed by a poor understanding of religion and exacerbated by ethnic, cultural and historical differences.
I shall limit myself to the central theme of the debate; namely, the role which religious leaders can and should play in world affairs, in particular in conflict prevention and conflict resolution. It goes without saying that religion has always been a powerful force in the tide of human affairs, not least in the arena of politics and international relations. Men, women and children find in religion a code of moral conduct, a sense of meaning and personal or collective identity. Religious institutions should provide far more than opportunities for worship: they should provide leadership and systems of law and adjudication.
One of the most interesting aspects of this debate for me has been the examination of the role that religious leaders should play in the political domain and the ways in which an appropriate balance can be achieved which does not constitute an interference in the policies of democratically-elected governments but which makes full use of this vast well of resources, expertise and understanding of humanity.
Today's debate asked us to look at the role which religion can play in the promotion of international order and the avoidance of international disorder. However, it would be all too easy to argue the opposite and to make it a compelling, if superficial, case for the part that religions have played in the tapestry of the world's conflicts, tyrannies and atrocities over the past two millennia.
In our century we have witnessed the spectre of religion fighting religion; we saw the violence between Hindus and Muslims in 1947 at the time of partition; we saw the ongoing conflict between the Jews of Israel and the Muslim Palestinians since the birth of the state of Israel in 1948; we know all too well the sectarian violence that has characterised Ireland's recent history; and in our own decade the ethnic cleansing of recent years in the Balkans has, without doubt, had a religious component.
Throughout history wars have been fought in the name of religion. Over the centuries religious fanaticism has been called upon to inspire armies to believe that they were fighting for the only true faith, and thus the concept of the holy war" was born, illustrated by the Crusades launched by Christian Europe in the 11th to the 13th centuries to recapture the Holy Land from the Muslims--an example used in this debate by my noble friend Lord Brentford.
Likewise, the Reformation in 16th century Europe, which saw the division of Christendom into Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant, saw conflicts between Christians tear the countries of Europe apart: the wars of the Schalkaldic League in Germany; the murder of 2,000 Huguenots in the St. Bartholomew's Eve massacre; the French wars of religion; the Swedish civil war; and the extended campaigns between the Russians and the Poles in the 16th and 17th centuries. Why are they so important? It is because they all took on the trappings of a holy war, the latter one between the Russians and the Poles in the 16th and 17th centuries between Catholic and Orthodox. They are the preserve of historians, but the carnage wrought by
Today, although numerous human rights instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights guarantee freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief as inherent and inalienable human rights, tragically, as was pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, we still find multiple examples of religious liberty infringed by governments throughout the world. To that challenge we in this Chamber have a duty to respond.
How can we respond? There are many different kinds of policy tool, both negative and positive, which can be used to promote international standards of religious freedom and other human rights to bring about a peaceful resolution of conflicts. In some cases, incentives can induce governments to change their behaviour. Incentives can be as simple as diplomatic engagement or high-level visits or as complex as the provision of foreign assistance, trade and investment.
Negative inducements, or sanctions, are also an important foreign policy tool. On this subject the House will be aware of the work of the US Secretary of State's Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad. Since 1997 it has been engaged in the process of analysing three things and it is important to learn from its experience. Those three things are the status of international religious freedom, the role religion plays in conflict and conflict resolution and the actions the US Government might take to further religious freedoms abroad. When religious freedom is denied to anyone, freedom for everyone is threatened.
I ask the Government to assess the work of the US Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad and the Office on International Religious Freedom with the view to consider plans to establish similar opportunities for dialogue, information gathering and parallel action by government and religious institutions in this country in order to address persecution and promote conflict resolution and respect for humans rights all over the world.
There are many different reasons why religion is a factor in conflicts. As we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Janner, persecution is one, and fears of foreignness" is another. Ethnic or nationalist conflict among groups who are identified with a common religion, or political conflicts between a state and a religious movement, particularly in countries where religious political movements and parties are becoming more involved in the political process, are other common factors.
However, it is equally important not to minimise the religious aspects of conflict situations; or, indeed, the potential for religion to play a role in resolving conflict. From these Benches, we share the views expressed in the House this afternoon that it is
Indeed, one has only to look at the list of Nobel peace prize winners to see the importance of religious leaders in promoting and facilitating peace. Let us think of Archbishop Desmond Tutu in the protracted fight against apartheid in South Africa; the Dalai Lama, the religious and political leader of the Tibetan people, who was awarded the prize in 1989; or Martin Luther King, who led the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, for his campaign for civil rights. Most topically, let us think of Bishop Carlos Belo, who was awarded the prize in 1996 for his work towards a just and peaceful solution of the conflict in East Timor. His work in that strife-torn province will continue to be vital in the many months ahead as the East Timorese seek to reconcile and rebuild their society from the maelstrom of violence into which it has been plunged.
I should simply like to state from these Benches the important point made by my noble friend Lord Gretton. We believe that religious groups across the spectrum of religions can offer an important contribution to foreign policy debates--be they large, trans-denominational entities or small, local churches, synagogues, mosques or temples. Many religious groups undertake vitally important work to assist victims of religious persecution, to monitor and report on human rights violations (which are of enormous value to us in terms of access to information for debates in this House), to educate and defend universal human rights, including the right to religious freedom, and to mediate conflicts and promote reconciliation.
We believe that it should be a priority for officials from British embassies and high commissions to engage in dialogue with religious leaders and advocates of religious freedom and to maintain, as I believe they do, a high level of dialogue with religious leaders, religious groups and experts on local religious life.
In my closing remarks, perhaps I may just touch briefly upon the modern relationship between Church and state. Beyond the role that religious leaders can play in the theatre of conflict resolution and prevention, the question of how pro-active religious leaders should be in world affairs generally must be asked, for whatever answer is decided upon could have substantial repercussions and implications in the decades to follow. From time immemorial, Church and state, religion and politics, have been bound together in a deep-rooted relationship--a relationship sometimes of hostility and sometimes of complicity.
In Europe, we have a long tradition of Christian democracy in our political groupings. In Islamic countries there is a long tradition of clerics in politics and, in this country, the very presence of the most
Accounts of the Witan in the 11th century describe an early example of strife between Church and state when William Rufus attempted to force Archbishop Anselm to accept the supremacy of English law rather than the supremacy of Rome. The noble Earl, Lord Longford, was right to intervene on that point. For a later example we need only to look at Henry VIII's defiance of Rome in the 16th century which ultimately led him to declare himself the sole supreme head of the Church of England and presaged years of blood-stained struggle. I think that your Lordships will all agree that we have come a long way since those days, certainly in the case of the relationship between Church and state, although on the question of European supremacy, from these Benches, I am not wholly sure!
However, in conclusion, let me say this. The Vatican, for example, has continued its long tradition of the expression of its political views with the assistance of the Pope's diplomatic corps made up of the Secretariat of State and its nunciatures. This year the Vatican has intervened on behalf of the detained former Chilean president, Augusto Pinochet, while the Pope has met Yasser Arafat at the Vatican, as well as the Iranian President, Mohammad Khatami. In January last year the Pope made an unprecedented visit to Cuba. This is no isolated example; it is a trend in our political evolution. Delegates from the parliaments of 40 Islamic countries--as was rightly pointed out in an earlier contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Ahmed--including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bosnia and Turkey, met in Tehran at the Organisation of the Islamic Conference to set up the first interparliamentary union among Islamic states at which the President of Iran urged Islamic countries to exert a greater influence on world affairs.
There will be an awareness that one of the challenges for us in politics is that we must seek to ensure that the role of religious leaders complements and assists democratically elected governments, and does not compete with them. On that note I very much look forward to hearing the Minister's response. I am deeply grateful to all those who have participated in this debate. As happened to the Minister earlier this week I am losing my voice although it has just held out after what has been an exceptionally busy week for both of us.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, it is a great privilege for me to close this debate on the role of religion in the promotion of international order and the avoidance of disorder. I am grateful to all noble Lords who have contributed to today's debate on this important and perhaps under-explored issue. I am particularly
I join with others in complimenting the three noble Lords who made their maiden speeches today. We were treated to a feast. We had the advantage of the erudition and sagacity of the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, the youth, energy and enthusiasm of the noble Lord, Lord Gretton, and the wisdom, balance and truth of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester. It must be rare indeed for us to have been delighted in this way and in this House.
I wish also to echo the comments made by the noble Earl, Lord Longford, and the noble Lord, Lord Janner, that it is a great privilege and pleasure to listen to the contributions made by so many noble Lords who hail from the diverse richness of the world's great religions. We should and do celebrate the fact that noble Lords who have spoken in this debate have spoken with one voice as to the need for tolerance, understanding and reconciliation and the rejection of greed, as so eloquently expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, in her most excellent speech.
But I hope that, notwithstanding the great benefits from the Indonesian practice and example which the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, outlined to us, I shall not go on for so long that we all in this Chamber fall down exhausted. I shall try to respond to many of the issues raised in the debate. If I am unable to do so, I will of course write to the noble Lords concerned.
The promotion of international order and the prevention or resolution of international disorder are at the heart of the Government's policies. In his first few days in office, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary set out his mission statement detailing four benefits which we aim to secure for Britain through our foreign policy: security, prosperity, quality of life and mutual respect. I am sure that all sides of the House will agree that working towards the creation of a world in which governments are based on democracy, decency and justice is not only in Britain's narrow national interest but is a goal towards which any British government should strive.
Since their inception, Her Majesty's Government have made strenuous efforts to put their principles into practice. As many noble Lords have said, it is a sad truth that we continue to see graphic examples of the horrors of conflict. A number of noble Lords have rightly highlighted that we need only recall from this year alone what has happened in Kosovo and East Timor to see that. In both cases Britain has been at the forefront of international efforts to build lasting solutions based on respect for the rule of law and human rights. We have also played the key role in making significant progress towards a satisfactory solution to the long-standing disputes between the international community and Iran and Libya.
Along with many other noble Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, emphasised in his thoughtful speech that we live in an increasingly interdependent world. As such, we must recognise that there are limits to what national governments can achieve alone. The old ways of settling conflicts without resolving the underlying causes are no longer tenable. We need a new model which works. Whether we are talking about resolving armed conflicts, about reconstructing societies and building lasting arrangements after conflict, or about forestalling conflicts, the best chance of success comes from the combined, concerted and mutually supportive effort of all those involved--most particularly, governments and parliamentarians. If I may say so, we have in the House some very fine examples of parliamentarians who have walked the extra mile for peace. I name but a few of those who are making efforts at the moment: the noble Lords, Lord Stone, Lord Alton, Lord Elton and Lord Ahmed--noble Lords, who hail from each side of the House, speaking with one voice. It does our hearts good to hear those voices and we rejoice in them.
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