For the Year of Mercy, the Catholic Chaplaincy have been hosting a series of public lectures. We kicked off with an inspiring talk by Magnus MacFarlane Barrow, founder of Mary's Meals. Mary's Meals is currently educating and feeding over 1 million children in twelve countries, and will not stop until it has fed the 59 million more children who remain hungry in our world. The story of the charity can found in the Child 31 documentary on Youtube. Magnus's amazing work has won him acolades from around the world; last year he was counted in the Top 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine. His book, The Shed that Fed a Million, reached the UK's prestigious Times and Sunday Times bestseller list immediately after its release. In his talk, Magnus traced the journey of Mary's Meals from its humble beginnings and helped us to understand how little steps can accomplish great things. Mercy is not a theory, but something that can be lived out by everyone in little ways. Magnus spoke with great passion, incredible humility and joy at the great things that the Lord has done in his life.
Following on from Magnus, we were delighted to be able to welcome Lord David Alton, an Independent Cross-Bench Peer, Professor of Citizenship, and a long-time human rights campaigner.
Over a meal, Lord Alton shared with the students experiences from his visits to Burma, North Korea and Pakistan.
Lord Alton's lecture packed a punch as he explored how mercy can be translated into public policy. He was struck by Pope Francis's call to touch the flesh of those who are suffering, and he highlighted three areas in the current climate: the outcast, those who are discarded by society, 'thrown out', the 8 million children who have been aborted in this country since 1967 and the relentless call for euthanasia and eugenics; the Refugees fleeing violence, sectarianism, poverty and despair; and, the persecuted, in particular citing the genocide of Christians and other minority groups in Syria and Iraq. Lord Alton, in response to these challenges, spoke about the need to uphold the rule of law, particularly the Declaration of Human Rights, article 18 on the freedom of religion, and he observed that many politicians seem more motivated by commercial interests than gross human rights violations. Mercy and justice will not come about by magic, but by a serious choice. In the chapel dedicated to St Thomas More, it was inspiring to hear a statesman speaking in these terms, upholding principle over what is expedient.