Rural Dean's Letter - May 2017

What do we think of when we hear the word 'nun'? Do we immediately summon up in our mind's eye a middle-aged, rather austere woman, in a full-length black dress with some kind of funny-looking headgear? Perhaps, we have had some unhappy experience in our childhood of being schooled by severe nuns? Or, perhaps we think of the golden-hearted nuns of Call the Midwife? Maybe we remember feeble television and film comedies featuring nuns doing something absurd or saucy? Or, again, maybe, we immediately raise the question of celibacy?

Well, a group of nuns or, as they are more properly known, religious Sisters, have been brought together in a global organisation called Talitha Kum. I will explain that phrase in a moment. These Sisters are fighting tirelessly throughout the world to rescue people from the blight on humanity known as human trafficking; the selling of one human being to another. In other words - modern day slavery. Victims are forced to work all day and night, every day and night for nothing; or submit to an abuser's disgusting obsessions. Frequently, they are hauled out of their homes, sometimes across the other side of the world, to a lonely place where they are imprisoned, beaten, abused and even murdered.

The Sisters of Talitha Kum enter into such places - places of squalor and deprivation, of pain and dismay - at great risk to their own lives and well-being. There, they confront the abusers and criminals and seek to rescue those poor souls - very often children or young women - who, through no fault of their own, have had their lives destroyed. Once rescued, the Sisters then start to rebuild the lives of the rescued; bringing them hope, help and security.

'Talitha Kum' is an Aramaic word from the ancient near east. It is the language Jesus would have known and used. Indeed, he used this phrase when, finding a little girl who had died, he took her hand and said softly: 'Talitha Kum' meaning: 'little girl... get up...' And the little girl rose. 'Get her something to eat' said Jesus, in his compassion. This event took place in front of a group of people who were hopelessly flapping their arms or wringing their hands in grief.

We, too, can stand around flapping our arms and wringing our hands, looking on, or we can roll up our sleeves, get stuck in to the mud and the blood and the pain of this world and make a difference in our own circumstances, our own situations wherever we find ourselves. Just as the Sisters are making a difference.

One of the great messages of Easter is that: in the midst of darkness and despair there is the light of hope; the fresh green shoots of Spring. We all have our part to play in bringing about an end to abuse and suffering wherever we find it; not least in human trafficking.

With every blessing this Eastertide and beyond.

Rev'd Martin BoothRural Dean of Sevenoaks