Yesterday was one of those rare days in church, or anywhere else for that matter. One of those days when you meet somebody truly inspirational who is humble and oozes integrity and has actually influenced real change rather than just talking about it. This guy was Inderjit Bhogal, who is according to his website an OBE – something not mentioned at all yesterday. I had heard he was meant to be good and so was glad the coffee rota meant I could get to hear both services he was preaching at aswell as hearing him at Methsoc in good conscience, (i.e. not feel guilty about not being off doing field work).
His main themes are inter-faith dialogue, anti-racism and sanctuary for refugees and asylum seekers. He does not talk about this in the usual middle class way which you expect, but rather talks it like it is – to the extent I was wondering if we were going to get the full f word within a quote in the morning sermon, at one point, (and I don’t mean feminism). Yet and here’s the thing in the mist of stating it like it is he shows totally humility and a deep understanding of and respect for scripture and other people. He refuses to dehumanise the other…..using a quote from a Bosnian in one of his sermons to explain when you start viewing anybody as less than human you are on the road to genocide.
This is all not just a good show of humility from a seasoned performer. This is the real deal. It’s a lifestyle thing. I happened to be on the coffee rota this week and so was in the kitchen washing up when he came in to chat to those of us in the kitchen and give a hand with the drying up. I also had a bit of an embarrassing moment at Methsoc when he started flogging his book with a student discount. I’d bought it full price off him in the morning and so started mumbling about the fact I would have waited if I’d known I could get it cheaper in the evening. He turned round, checked he’d heard my mumbling right and then reached in his pocket and gave me the difference – so I got my student discount. There were other things I observed which showed this bloke was the genuine article rather than a performer. He is a good old fashioned activist, who also happens to be a minister, chair of all sorts of commitees, OBE and former president of the Methodist Conference.
In terms of significant stuff this bloke has been involved in starting up the most important I guess is the City of Sanctuary movement, which has grown out of Sheffield. This is about getting places to commit to being places of safety, welcome and inclusion for refugees and asylum seekers.
There is a very good You Tube film where Inderjit and others explain what City of Sanctuary is about