Monday, 30 November 2009

An Unappealing Chairman

I've just heard on BBC Radio Jersey an interview with Edward Trevor, who is Chairman of the Joint Christmas Charities Appeal this year. The news report before mentioned how he had criticised and harassed people collecting for an Aids Charity, because it is World Aids day this week, and threatened to get the police to remove them from the streets. (1)

Part of his discomfort is understandable. He thought that they were collecting at a time (the period with the run up to Christmas) when the Joint Christmas Appeal had the sole monopoly on collecting in town. He discovered that this was not so, and the Bailiff had given them permission.

But what is extraordinary, and quite damaging to the Joint Christmas Appeal, is that when interviewed by BBC Radio Jersey, not only did he make his annoyance at this clear, which was a valid argument, but went on to call the Aids charity "a so-called charity", said he wouldn't give to them because he didn't agree with their aims, and that "in the West, people with Aids brought it upon themselves".

This is an extraordinary bigoted statement, and while he may have such views, it is not wise for him as Chairman of the Joint Christmas Charities Appeal to make a statement which gives the suggestion that the supporters of the appeal would mostly agree with him. I think he should apologise for not making it clear that he was speaking just as an individual, and stating views that were his own, and not in any way a reflection of the Joint Christmas Charities Appeal.

I was at school in the same year as two people who died of Aids. One of those suffered from hemophilia, and in the 1980s, a lot of the blood clotting agents used was imported to Britain, and was infected. This was a scandal that Lord Winston called "the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS"(2). I imagine that if his parents heard the Edward Trevor's views they would be both appalled and extremely and justifiably angry.

The other friend of mine went into acting, and was openly gay. Clearly he had picked up the infection from his lifestyle. And yet is that a reason to turn away, and say that nothing ought to be done? I remember his funeral well, because it was at St Brelade's Church, and his parents came, grief stricken, for it must be so hard to lose a son while you are still alive, and he was their only son, and only in his thirties. But the church was packed with people, because he was much loved. Would the only crumb of comfort that Mr. Trevor had to offer be that "he had brought it on himself?"

In the 1980s, I wrote a celebration of the Life of St Francis, which was performed at Grouville Church, and produced by Rosemary Hampton. Leprosy was the great fear, the AIDs of the time, and Francis was afraid of lepers, yet he overcame his fear, and embraced the leper. We know today that leprosy is not a result of a person's sin (as indeed the wise book of Job said long before), but in the Middle Ages, it was seen as a result of the individuals sin, as a curse brought upon them because of bad living. Have we progressed so little that some can still see Aids in this way?

Voice: Francis! Francis! All the things you used to love in the world, and wished to enjoy, you must now hate and despise if you wish to do My will. And those things that made you afraid will bring you My joy, and the love of Good Lady Poverty.

(Music plays, special lights off, normal lights on. A bell rings. Francis comes to, as if waking up. )

(The bell rings again. A white-faced leper comes into sight from the shadows, dressed in. rags, bent over, moving with a shuffling gait. )

(Bell rings (cue voice) )

Leper: Unclean! Unclean!

(Francis shrinks back away from the leper in horror. The leper stretches our a white hand and Francis flinches away, to avoid the touch. )

Leper: Take pity! Take pity on one of God's poor!

(Francis loses his fear. He moves forward, slowly taking out his purse. He holds the leper's hand and places coins in it. Then (impulsively) moves forward and embraces the leper. )

(Song; Good Lady Poverty (2 soloists begin singing (consecutively), and the congregation join in the last verse. ))

(Francis moves off with leper (arm around his shoulder) )



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