Why the focus?

Gayle and I have had a focus on shifts in society for a long time. Gayle was involved in education and taught in schools that were not rated highly in government statistics. In that context she saw people come to faith, and early one morning when having arrived before anyone else was in the school […]

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Gayle and I have had a focus on shifts in society for a long time. Gayle was involved in education and taught in schools that were not rated highly in government statistics. In that context she saw people come to faith, and early one morning when having arrived before anyone else was in the school she then thought someone else was also in and playing music… but no, simply some angels had also (got up early?) and come to add some music to the prayer. My push was simple: through prayer the church would shift demonic powers, discover the gift of the city / region and people would come to faith. As I developed that focus I moved from a simple vision of something that might look similar to classic revival (Finney, Welsh, Hebrides etc.) to a presence of God’s Spirit and people throughout all society. Influenced by Anabaptism the challenge was how to see that outwork practically. Thankfully the journey of understanding the nature of the imperial spirit ran parallel to the push toward the emphasis on salt in society. So an understanding that was in contrast to anything top-down developed.

Three years ago, this month, it became clear that a sharp focus for us was to be the opening up of space for a new politics to grow in Spain (and beyond in Europe). This was something left of field as neither of us have a background in politics. And if we were to see some kind of shift here so what? Why this focus? If we did have a top-down perspective this might be easier to understand, but we see the drive to get the Christian PM / President as misplaced. We do not think that all that is needed is to get the right party in power. The party governing can change but unless the very shape changes nothing really changes.

We will soon have lived in Spain 9 years and in this apartment for almost four of those. In the past 9 years we have dug deeply into the history of the land, both recent and ancient. We have witnessed an increasing exposure of corruption, of cases going to court. (Fancy buying a T-shirt with an extract from handwritten notes printed on it? The handwritten notes of the governing party’s illegal accounts and who was paid. This T-shirt has the extract of one of the many names: ‘M Rajoy’, and one of the payments he received from an account that has been run for decades.) There is a long way to go but there are shifts. We sat recently with a senior bank employee who told us in no uncertain terms that we needed to understand that ‘corruption is part of Spain and will always be here’.

The mainline press and TV channels do not cover a lot of the corruption. Thank God for social media and some very honest journalists. This past week a set of conversations have been recorded between a ring of at least 100 national police. (Thankfully there are many good and honest people involved in law and order.) However the conversations have not only been highly negative about the Catalan situation, but have talked one to the other of their hope that certain people will be destroyed and blown up. They have named journalists and the mayoress of Madrid among others.

The Catalonian crisis continues. Are the current Catalan political leaders ‘political prisoners’ or not? Even Amnesty International has said that they are not. At the same time as this goes on, greater clarity is coming into one of the big corruption cases, with the clear implication that many politicians in the governing party, including the PM, have received large illegal payments. The same party has failed to give an explanation for 40billion euros that has disappeared from public funds. The other main historic party has just had a huge debt written off by the banks. (Contrast this to a 42 page letter we received from the government saying that if we did not respond within 10 days we would be fined 70,000euros. Our crime was to send some money to a friend who was threatened by the banks and had no money to buy food.) The Catalan leaders have not been granted bail while a member of the governing party was granted bail and the next day one of his houses (in Mexico) was raided and 5million in cash was discovered. I could go on – almost 900 senior members of the governing party are either now in jail, court, indited or suspects in corruption. Our banking friend was correct – corruption is part of Spain… Corruption continues! But the future?

Anyway I am a little of track with this post. We are committed to seeing the corruption exposed and old ruling families from the Franco era no longer shape the future with that agenda. But so what? Why the focus? In making a response I note that something continues for us both – shifts in society; but the change of focus indcates that there have been some paradigm shifts.

  • The levels of corruption indicate that there is the presence and effect of the demonic that is unacceptable. Demonic powers do not just focus on one area but look to destroy humanity. We are their nemesis, created in the image of God. They look therefore for all kinds of partnerships, all of which focus on the dehumanisation of humanity. The corruption indicates their presence. That is almost reason enough to focus this way!
  • We see the body of Christ carrying responsibility for the world. This is God’s world, everything is in God, for in him we live and move and have our being. We owe it to the world so that living within boundaries they might seek and find him. That is certainly a significant reason.
  • Justice is called for and this has led to a new word – we are not looking to Christianise the world (as per Christendom) but to heavenify it. By this I mean a greater measure of heaven’s love, freedom, servanthood and justice to be made visible. All good gifts come from heaven.

We are deeply grateful to God for both evangelical and charismatic foundations. We pray that those we meet and increasingly share life with will find Jesus in a not-too-dissimilar way. We continue to seek to be a witness, bearing testimony to new creation realities… but our focus is on the politics, to push back space so that those who, knowingly or not, partner with demons will no longer be able to do so, and those who manifest love and justice will find space to yield their gifts for others. That is our focus in the foreseeable future as we believe that is our responsibility.

We have been here almost 9 years, by the end of 12 years we expect to see something shift beyond recognition. The next years… a focus that needs to stay sharp and a bumpy ride!

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No, not an advocate of Christendom!!

Had a few responses to the post ‘Toward the vacuum’ and also Steve Lowton re-posted it on his facebook page soliciting a few more comments. In the post I was both reflecting back on the dream from years back on the opening up of the façades, the response of a number of believers in the […]

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Had a few responses to the post ‘Toward the vacuum’ and also Steve Lowton re-posted it on his facebook page soliciting a few more comments. In the post I was both reflecting back on the dream from years back on the opening up of the façades, the response of a number of believers in the public sphere and the danger of the ‘familiar’ being our default response. In the post – now some 8 years on from the dream – I suppose there were a few paradigms that crept through that I am becoming increasingly aware of. So I thought I would outline what I think they might be below.

Surprisingly (!!) I am not an advocate of Christendom. I have been too heavily influenced by anabaptism, the new church movement and the like to be in that camp. I see Christendom as an aberration of the apostolic faith, not as some sort of fulfilment of eschatological hope. And given the nature of God (another paradigm here) this does not mean that God did not use Christendom… he works in all things for a purpose. His work ‘in’ does not mean his approval ‘of’.

Paradigm 1: the church is here for society

The primary role of the church is not to evangelise society (keep reading…), but to, as witness to God, create / fashion / hold a shape where something redemptive can fill it. It is our responsibility as royal priesthood to stand to mediate the presence of God to the world and to allow the world to grow up into a healthy space. This is not a) withdrawal to a spiritual realm (sorry to one stand of anabaptism there) nor b) to impose some kind of theonomy on the world (sorry to that strand of Calvinism, Reconstructionism, Kuyperism, 7 mountains etc.). The latter is ultra-Christendom. Not all come to faith, but there are those who will grasp the Jesus’ values and fill space in a Jesus-like way, even if some of those were to be atheists. (I see this in the reference to the Asiarchs in Acts, for example.) The former (a withdrawal) is to deny the intensely political nature of the Gospel. Not political in the sense of party politics, but carrying an all encompassing vision for society. The kind of vision we have been trying to capture with the word ‘convivencia’.

(Now don’t read ‘don’t evangelise’ into the above but do read ‘some evangelism is not a witness’.)

Paradigm 2: the world is not the church

My background of course left me very clear on that… however, the two realms are related. One has been redeemed, the other, not being evil but fallen, is there to be redeemed. The church that resorts to the familiar and does not connect with the era in which it is placed and participate with God’s redemption of the world might not be able to fully own the term ‘church’. Church is political (the ekklesia of Christ in every geography was a provocative term when the cities of the empire already had their ekklesia shaping the city and future). We have to somehow engage with the tension that not everything is in Christ but everything is in God. In him we move, live and have our being…

In Jeremiah 22: 16 Josiah is honoured because

He judged the cause of the poor and the needy; then it was well. Is not this to know me? says the Lord.

The chapter begins with a call to:

Act with justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor anyone who has been robbed. And do no wrong to the alien, the orphan, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.

Jeremiah did not say that Josiah’s behaviour was indicative of someone on the way to knowing God, nor that someone who knows God will seek to behave in this way. His words are too strong for that. Someone behaving in that way is showing the evidence that they know God! (And Jesus promise was not that people who followed him would know God… but that they would know who this God was.)

Paradigm 3: God is not in control

A little strong maybe? But what on earth do we mean by ‘in control’. Love and partnership have to be the ways in which we understand God at work in the earth, not omnipotence. Love means he is at work. It means he will work in and through whatever he is given. But he does not act in isolation – we are partners with heaven.

In all the above I am not an advocate of Christendom, I do see a distinction between the church and the world. I am not looking to Christianise society, but to heavenify it. That kingdom that comes from heaven does mean that convivencia has to manifest. Space for those who are not believers in Jesus to express their gifts for the sake of others. It means any wall that is built is a sign of failure, that any bridgebuilding will mean we are trampled on from both sides.

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This site

About this site

I am the main contributor to this site, though there are guest writers from time to time. Hopefully, what is presented are perspectives not the final word!

The main area that I focus on and continues to interest me is how we should understand and live out the gospel. I am convinced (a perspective!) that we have to understand the implications of the gospel as being that of impacting the world. Although the kingdom of heaven can never be identified with any 'earthly' kingdom we are called to pray, live and act, so that we see greater measures of heaven manifest on earth.

I am very grateful that I have been deeply influenced by a charismatic theology, an anabaptist understanding of hermeneutics, a long-term involvement in the various intercessory / spiritual warfare, and the (more-recent) work associated with 'kenarchy'. backgrounds. They all influence me enormously and it will not take too much discernment to read those influences in these pages.

Why Spain

Why Spain

spain-mapGayle and I have lived in Spain since 2009 (Jan. 1 - start the year as one intends to carry on?) and although Spain was not a place that was on either of our radar, the continent of Europe certainly has been. In that sense we have a focus on Europe and live in Spain, however as we have dug into the history of Spain something has got under our skin.

Spain has only a recent history of democracy (1975-1977 being years of transition to democracy, post Franco), and has been subject to a two-party domination in politics, until the end of 2015 when that was broken. Although our hope is not placed in a political party we see incredible connections between the shift of the 'powers' and the time in history that has been unlocked through prayer.

Our own focus has been on the history of the land and we have had a strong focus on the Civil War (1936-39) and its aftermath.

We plan to be based in Spain long-term and increasingly look to connect with those who are embedded in the wider European context and are seeking to live out the implications of their faith in that setting.

WordPress design

WordPress design

wordpress_logo20I began developing sites for my personal use many years ago and settled on WordPress soon after it moving from being simply a blogging platform. I find it incredibly flexible and can empower virtually any style of site. My skills are in working with clients who wish something custom made for their use.

This site here is based on WP and uses a theme that I have developed. A site can be as simple as a set of posts and some pages, or any number of elements can be added such as this animated set of tabs that are activated when clicking the tabs above. All the sites are designed to be mobile-friendly, being responsive, they adjust to the device being used to view them.

If interested in a site feel free to make contact. I also have developed various courses on WP theme development. If interested in taking one of them online, or indeed you would wish to contact me about presenting a course to a small group.

This site
Why Spain
WordPress design

About this site

I am the main contributor to this site, though there are guest writers from time to time. Hopefully, what is presented are perspectives not the final word!

The main area that I focus on and continues to interest me is how we should understand and live out the gospel. I am convinced (a perspective!) that we have to understand the implications of the gospel as being that of impacting the world. Although the kingdom of heaven can never be identified with any 'earthly' kingdom we are called to pray, live and act, so that we see greater measures of heaven manifest on earth.

I am very grateful that I have been deeply influenced by a charismatic theology, an anabaptist understanding of hermeneutics, a long-term involvement in the various intercessory / spiritual warfare, and the (more-recent) work associated with 'kenarchy'. backgrounds. They all influence me enormously and it will not take too much discernment to read those influences in these pages.

Why Spain

spain-mapGayle and I have lived in Spain since 2009 (Jan. 1 - start the year as one intends to carry on?) and although Spain was not a place that was on either of our radar, the continent of Europe certainly has been. In that sense we have a focus on Europe and live in Spain, however as we have dug into the history of Spain something has got under our skin.

Spain has only a recent history of democracy (1975-1977 being years of transition to democracy, post Franco), and has been subject to a two-party domination in politics, until the end of 2015 when that was broken. Although our hope is not placed in a political party we see incredible connections between the shift of the 'powers' and the time in history that has been unlocked through prayer.

Our own focus has been on the history of the land and we have had a strong focus on the Civil War (1936-39) and its aftermath.

We plan to be based in Spain long-term and increasingly look to connect with those who are embedded in the wider European context and are seeking to live out the implications of their faith in that setting.

WordPress design

wordpress_logo20I began developing sites for my personal use many years ago and settled on WordPress soon after it moving from being simply a blogging platform. I find it incredibly flexible and can empower virtually any style of site. My skills are in working with clients who wish something custom made for their use.

This site here is based on WP and uses a theme that I have developed. A site can be as simple as a set of posts and some pages, or any number of elements can be added such as this animated set of tabs that are activated when clicking the tabs above. All the sites are designed to be mobile-friendly, being responsive, they adjust to the device being used to view them.

If interested in a site feel free to make contact. I also have developed various courses on WP theme development. If interested in taking one of them online, or indeed you would wish to contact me about presenting a course to a small group.

Propaganda

I have been reading Norman Davies ‘Europe’ trying to get some fresh perspectives on the Thirty Years’ War (1618-48), a war that involved so much of Europe, shaped the nation-state, and many of the boundary lines in Europe spring from that era. A little, or not so little, sidebox on ‘Propaganda’ seemed worth posting here. […]

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I have been reading Norman Davies ‘Europe’ trying to get some fresh perspectives on the Thirty Years’ War (1618-48), a war that involved so much of Europe, shaped the nation-state, and many of the boundary lines in Europe spring from that era. A little, or not so little, sidebox on ‘Propaganda’ seemed worth posting here.

 
Theorists of Propaganda have identified five basic rules:

  1. The rule of simplification: reducing all data to a simple confrontation between ‘Good and Bad’, ‘Friend and Foe’.
  2. The rule of disfiguration: discrediting the opposition by crude smears and parodies.
  3. The rule of transfusion: manipulating the concensus values of the target audience for one’s own ends.
  4. The rule of unanimity: presenting one’s viewpoint as if it were the unanimous opinion of all right-thinking people: drawing the doubting individual into agreement by the appeal of star-performers, by social pressure, and by ‘psychological contagion’.
  5. The rule of orchestration: endlessly repeating the same messages in different variations and combinations.

In the political realm very easy to see the guilty parties. (The cynic says are there any innocent of the label?) What about in our realm. The realm of the followers of Jesus? Maybe we need some safeguards…

How about the message of Jesus is not for our success, or for making us great. It is not to be twisted to put us on the ‘good’ side of the line. Maybe if we saw it as aligning us to exist for the benefit of others, and that the only measure that can safely be applied is the difference we make around us?

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Toward the vacuum

A number of years ago I had a dream where I was standing in a city square and on the opposite side of the square were buildings. I knew each one represented an institution that had been shaped by, and in turn, shaped the public square. Then at the same moment all the façades of […]

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A number of years ago I had a dream where I was standing in a city square and on the opposite side of the square were buildings. I knew each one represented an institution that had been shaped by, and in turn, shaped the public square. Then at the same moment all the façades of the buildings came forward and then up so that what was inside became visible. Then at a point of time they all shut down again, with everything back to ‘normal’.

Have we entered a season again of the façades opening?

  • The paradise papers… tax evasion / tax avoidance
  • The sexual scandals in Hollywood and now in the British parliament
  • Spain… (more immediately below!!)

Restoring law and order. Really? Proclaimed by the party who have currently just under 900 national or regional delegates in court, on the way to court or suspects of breaking the law! Accusing the Catalan government of rebellion, sedition and misappropriation of money – so proclaims the party that have given no answer to where the 40 billion has disappeared…

Democracy means we can declare independence. Not a small change, but based on a turnout of 43%!

Law, order and democracy – all words that will have to be re-defined if the above continues.

(I think many political situations culd be added here: the Brexit also far from going the way promised. I seem to remember wonderful suggestions of so much extra money on the way to support the NHS.)

Have we entered a season again of the façades opening? I think so.

Back to the dream. The reason why the façades all closed up again was that the church began to sing a well-known song. The familiar was the place of safe retreat. I think it is vital that we grasp the role of the church in the public square. If Jesus has, and delegated, all authority it seems what the church does, how it positions herself is very key. The fallback to the familiar was what caused the problem. The closure then was cemented by the statement that:

It is the familiar that brings things back to normal.

So maybe we have a fresh opportunity at responding differently to singing the old familiar songs. Seems to me that the challenge of nor resorting to the familiar is that we have to travel on to ground that we do not know how to navigate – it is unfamiliar.

That means a leaving a place that has defined us, that has affirmed who we are, and being willing to enter a vacuum (by definition a place ‘vacated’ or ’empty’). What has the church vacated? One string violin – the calling as royal priesthood, the calling to see a world shaped by eschatological values, a living out of a new set of values (thank you San Lorenzo).

Into or toward the vacuum is very provocative and sounds just a little dangerous. Indeed it is, hence the important strong words of Jesus ‘I am with you…’ Time to go further than ever but with him. And if we don’t go further then probably the Presence of Jesus will be diminished where we are – though the corporate memory is so strong that we will still experience his presence – but mediated through the power of memory not the living presence of the Spirit.

The façades closed up, cemented back in place by that public statement. However, in that dream the audible voice I heard was somewhat different when it was clear that the church’s love of the familiar shut the façades back up. That voice said:

It is the familiar that restores the status quo and brings things back to where they were.

Not a time to go back to where things were. Not a time to restore the status quo. (Gerald Coates once said that the status quo is simply Latin for ‘the mess we are in’!!)

These next months are months to prepare for the next stage of the bumpy ride. Old certainties being challenged. Time to anchor to the cross. ‘Take up your cross…’ and walk toward the unknown.

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A well is opened

In a recent newsletter I managed (with no special effort on my part I add) to misspell the (ex-)President of Catalonia’s name (Puigdemont) as Puidgemont. Samuel Rhein who was praying into the situation and working with the French language he could hear in Puidgemont’s name both ‘well’ and ‘can I?’. Making no suggestion that Mr […]

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In a recent newsletter I managed (with no special effort on my part I add) to misspell the (ex-)President of Catalonia’s name (Puigdemont) as Puidgemont. Samuel Rhein who was praying into the situation and working with the French language he could hear in Puidgemont’s name both ‘well’ and ‘can I?’. Making no suggestion that Mr P was good or bad he suggested that in some way a well of demons had been opened. So here comes a nice light post!!!

I am in agreement with Sam’s suggestion. I have been struck by Puigdemont’s demeanor, his openness while in Brussels and I have no doubt his passion for what he understands as ‘the nation’ of Catalonia. At best some of what he has initiated has been unwise, aspects certainly have been illegal, some of the narrative of course not accurate. I have sympathy with their ’cause’ but am convinced that Catalonia belongs within Spain, though Spain has to be re-configured significantly. It is not right to deny a distinct people their right of self-determination. That right is contained both within UN and EU statutes – but explicitly denied in the Spanish constitution. Spain aligns itself with both those institutions.

A well of demons has been opened, or maybe a host of demonic powers have been revealed. This issue is not really on who is right (Spain’s central government or Catalonia’s elected government) but on undoing the demonic strongholds on the nation. Prior to the death of Franco he put a process in place that ‘tied everything up, tied it up well’. The shift of the reigns from the dictatorship to the king, and then into the transitionary period (75-78) with the establishment of the Constitution saw to that. This week the head of the armed forces spoke out that ‘history shows us in Spain that the army knows how to defend the nation’. The context is of the threat to the nation by Puigdemont and his colleagues action. That is the language that undergirded Franco’s coup d’etat, as he set out to reconquer Spain for God and for Spain. The current crisis is probably the biggest crisis in Spain’s democratic period of existence, and underlines why the praying into the ReConquista which conquered Spain for God and established Spain as Spain was so important.

Now we come to a well of demons, a time when things will become visible. For some time we have focused on the re-working of the Constitution but only now this past week realised that next year will be 40 years since it was established. In 2015 we prayed at Franco’s tomb asking for an earthquake to go through the land as a sign. Two months later many of the main press carried a headline that a major political earthquake had gone through the land, with the biggest shifts in the political scene in Spain since democracy had begun. There was also a headline that Franco had died for the third time. Something began in 2015 and as we enter 2018 we will soon be 40 years on in the final year of the transition. What was tied up has to be untied. We do not anticipate Spain will have an easy path this next year, but it will be a necessary one.

Seven years ago European airspace was totally closed down due to the eruption of a volcano in Iceland. Scientists are watching that space again. Almost certainly there is coming another major impact from Iceland. Eruption or not, what is certainly coming is huge disturbance to the spiritual air space over Europe next year. A bumpy ride is ahead!

To see permanent change there seems to be a pattern. What is on earth has to shake. And if something shakes on earth then it is because the heavens are shaking.

I do not believe we can hide behind a theology of ‘God is in control’ but we can participate with a God who will work in and through all things. What amazing opportunities we have in this season. We are looking for political change, a different kind of politics, not a change of political party in charge. The real change comes as the body of Christ partners with heaven so that society changes. So the well is open… what has been invisible is becoming increasingly visible and obvious. Painful but fun times are ahead. Discussions of taking back sovereignty can give way to servanthood: true convivencia. And there lies a challenge. I do not believe Islam is another way to God… but in the cross there is a whole aspect of protection of the other. The cross preserves the right of those who so choose to reject the Jesus’ way. That is convivencia – co-habiting the same space. If we wish to see society changed another level of Christendom will unravel. A well of demons in Spain… maybe a few demons will also be unveiled that have invaded the ‘church’ space in this next phase. And probably a few will also be unveiled that have invaded the ‘Martin’ space.

We look for a shift in the politics, for a shift in the inter-relationship of nations within the European framework. We look for a greater manifestation of convivencia. And we think in doing so we are aligning with heaven. But it will be important to remember that all demons are first pushed back at a personal level. So all in all we probably have a focused season ahead!!

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Catalonia out?

I was very briefly in the UK 5th – 7th October. Hand luggage only I picked a small bag that we often use. When I arrived in England I noticed an old tag on the handle and thought ‘why have I not ripped that off before’. I grabbed it and was about to pull it […]

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I was very briefly in the UK 5th – 7th October. Hand luggage only I picked a small bag that we often use. When I arrived in England I noticed an old tag on the handle and thought ‘why have I not ripped that off before’. I grabbed it and was about to pull it when I saw what was on it ‘Catalonia OUT’. I have no idea where nor when the label was placed there. It looks like a hotel luggage label but where from I have no clue. I paused to think and thought ‘surely not’.

The ‘train crash’ that occurred here in Spain was perhaps always coming. Certainly Ada Colau, mayoress of Barcelona, suggested that, but she like others has expressed the shock that it has now taken place. We watched the vote in parliament, and of those who voted the vote for independence was overwhelming. We watched Rajoy, Spain’s president, give the government response. Two stubborn minded approaches, with no real give on dialogue. Meanwhile Colau asked a simple question amidst her rebuke for both sides – ‘have you ever thought about picking up the phone?’ This is what democracy has come down to. Now central government will restore law, order and democracy!! They have dismissed the Catalan government, the government that a few hours earlier declared themselves the government of a new republic.

The economy will suffer, tourism will be affected. But the suffering over the days ahead will be once again the people.

We went to Tarragona a few weeks back to pray. Tarragona being the place where the independista campaign was launched. Were our prayers ineffective? Possibly. ‘But God is in control’ has been one response we have had. The problem with that phrase is what on earth (and I mean ‘on earth’) does that mean? Does God control? I have the perspective that either that phrase should be dropped or it needs a huge amount of modifying to have any meaning ‘on earth’. God is at work in and through the process for sure. He is found in all the mess that we create, and that gives us hope. Prayer has to engage with what God is doing in and through this situation.

For three years we have been praying into the constitution of Spain – next year will be 40 years on – so again we are discussing how we up our level of focus on that. Whey do we want the constitution changed? Because for us it is binding Spain in a way that does not allow the diversity to flow. Together, juntos, and the word we are using more and more ‘convivencia’ is not simply about borders, and certainly not primarily about ‘sovereign nation states’ but about being together for ‘the other’. The illegality of a distinct people to have a referendum to decide their future does not accord with either the UN nor EU articles, but the constitution of Spain does not allow for such.

At the same time as the ‘illegality’ of Catalonia’s government the central government is busily avoiding answering where 40billion euros of public money has disappeared! The same party has some 8000 scandal cases documented against it.

Summoning and applying all the discernment I can find I think something needs to change!

Our task in these years has been to seek to hold space where a healthy politics can develop. For that to take place healing of deep wounds has to occur. That task is evidently not close to being over. What is deeply encouraging though are the few voices that are not taking sides but calling for a fresh path of dialogue and respect.

Elections have been called for December 21. The shortest day of the year. And 12 years to the day that Steve Lowton and team arrived in Rome, having walked from Whitby to proclaim that ‘from now on the day will get longer in Europe’. Back then we thought much more about ‘the church’ at the centre of it all. Now we think of the need for the body of Christ, hidden and humble, carrying the responsibility for our society. Much more demanding, much more exciting, and much more necessary.

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Over a cliff?

Now that we are at the cliff edge, it seems that there is no option but to step over it. We can then continue arguing from the bottom of the gorge (Fernando Garea on Catalonia and Spain).

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Giles Tremlett is British but has lived in Spain acting as a correspondent for the Guardian newspaper and is occasionally interviewed also on Spanish TV. He authored a book which we read early on in our time in Spain, ‘Ghosts of Spain’. Reading the book it became clear that he had embraced the land and the article that I reference here gives a good current read on the Catalonian situation: Catalan separatists prepare for war of attrition against Madrid.

In it there is a telling quote from Fernando Garea of El Confidencial (online newspaper):

Now that we are at the cliff edge, it seems that there is no option but to step over it. We can then continue arguing from the bottom of the gorge.

The situation changes day by day. Almost certainly this week the government will have ratified the use of article 155 and impose direct rule on Catalonia. How will this work out? Will the Catalan police (the Mosos) take orders from Madrid or defy them? The same police who were praised across Europe for their handling and swift response to the Barcelona attack, and then heavily criticised for their refusal to exercise force (violence?) on the day of the referendum. How comfortable will it be to be one of the drafted in police personnel to restore order to a territory that you do not identify with? And what about if you are one of the suited people brought in to replace a local person in an administrative position?

‘Fake’ Image from October 1?!!!

Over the weekend the foreign minister was interviewed on British TV and he held that many of the images of violence were ‘fake images’ or ‘fake footage’. How this term,’fake’, is being used and now part of political speech is seriously alarming. The media being silenced is such a sign of oppression and dictatorial rule.

In most situations, such as the current one, there is propaganda on all sides. Stubborness and pride is evidenced on both sides. What is sure there will be more losers than winners in this conflict – witness already the departure of over 1000 businesses from Catalonia.

Maybe as an observer the hardest part is seeing the squeeze on Catalonia not simply from Madrid, but from Europe. Refusing to get involved (officially) but clearly all the powers are on Madrid’s side. The main European powers are involved but are not involved at a peacemaking level. They have not pressed Madrid to take in their quota of refugees – in direct contrast to Barcelona’s powers that have sought to open their door and heart to refugees.

We have prayed over these years into divisions within the land. First into issues surrounding the civil war, then into the both the Jewish and Muslim expulsions. Such divisions have to be healed and what we are witnessing today in Catalonia is not a recent division, but a historic wound that is being re-opened (time does not heal, reconciliation does). It is being re-opened either because it cannot be covered over for ever or the situation is being deliberately manipulated. Either way we believe that what is taking place – in terms of exposure of the division – is necessary. The conflict, the pride, the suffering of people is not necessary, but will be inevitable unless healing is brought. Oppression through article 155, loss of economic power through companies relocating will not resolve something. Nor, should Catalonia get independent status, resolve something either.

Blessed are the peacemakers.

We have prayed often for one peacemaker, Ada Colau, mayoress of Barcelona. From an activist background, not an independista, and one calling for dialogue.

We also carry a perspective that, whether it is Catalonia, or the Brexit (or Lomabardy and Veneto in Italy, and probably a growing number of other European regions) that there is something deeper taking place. There is a re-shaping of Europe that we believe is surfacing. Our biggest concern on the Brexit was not of Britain leaving Europe (and of course there was a rhetoric ‘we are not leaving Europe only the EU’!!) but of a disengagement from believers in the UK with the political, social and spiritual development of Europe. 500 years on from a Reformation that changed so much, yet left so much (christendom) in place. I am not a Zionist (surprised?) but there is something of a move back to Jerusalem, not for some doom and gloom Armageddon (the place does not exist – John makes the name up!). That move back – and I have been declaring this since the late 80s is back through north Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Middle Eastern nations. What would a Jerusalem look like revisited by a (political – small ‘p’) gospel recovered that Paul and others were passionate about? Surely marked by convivencia (the co-habiting of space by those who have found a way through their differences). This is not about a political solution, but a spiritual one with a deep political and social manifestation.

It is very hard to know how to respond to the current crises. We have thought about renting an apartment in Catalonia and taking shoes of peace on the streets. We might need to do that. But there is always something we can do today. Align not with a ‘side’, but with justice and seek to see everyone as ‘human’. Maybe then we will get fresh sight on the one true human.

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Europe’s opportunity

Yanis Varoufakis writing at SocialEurope.eu makes some insightful points and worth a ponder. He suggests: The duty of progressive Europeans is to reject both: the deep establishment at the EU level and the competing nationalisms ravaging solidarity and common sense in member states like Spain. The Catalonia crisis is a strong hint from history that […]

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Yanis Varoufakis writing at SocialEurope.eu makes some insightful points and worth a ponder. He suggests:

The duty of progressive Europeans is to reject both: the deep establishment at the EU level and the competing nationalisms ravaging solidarity and common sense in member states like Spain.

The Catalonia crisis is a strong hint from history that Europe needs to develop a new type of sovereignty, one that strengthens cities and regions, dissolves national particularism, and upholds democratic norms.

in the article he also highlights the approach of Ada Colau in Barcelona, who is pushing for a redemptive way through the current lock up. As mayoress of Barcelona her administration had created excellent housing for 15,000 refugees only to find that central government barred entry to the refugees. It is always amazing what is termed illegal by those in control (referendum = illegal; banning refugees that Spain was mandated to accommodate by the EU is not illegal?).

It is naive to think that anyone – Colau or whoever, or proposals of a new approach – by Varoufakis or whoever, will produce heaven on earth – as if!! But when we understand that the body of Christ is to open space so that it can be occupied by those who will create shapes for convivencia there are exciting possibilities that open up. This I believe is one of the central thrusts for this time, and is part of the recovery of the radical social outworking to the Pauline gospel.

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Optimism is the first option!!

Half full or half empty? There is a lot to be pessimistic about such as climate change and seemingly endless conflict across the world. No person in their right mind can be naively optimistic given the unbelievable human capacity for stupidity. Yet on some issues and situations I am optimistic. The EU with all its […]

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Half full or half empty? There is a lot to be pessimistic about such as climate change and seemingly endless conflict across the world. No person in their right mind can be naively optimistic given the unbelievable human capacity for stupidity. Yet on some issues and situations I am optimistic. The EU with all its failings has one of its major sources in the vision of Robert Schuman, who pulling on his Christian take believed that we had to find a way of being together across the continent where the (world) wars had ravaged, in order to avoid such conflicts again.

Since moving to Spain our focus has been on the healing of the land. (So glad that there are things that are not main stream for us and those things are down to others to pick up. We all have whatever focus is given to us.) We have touched on the civil war and on some of the prayers could pinpoint newspaper headlines where a straight line could be drawn from what we have prayed to what they have printed. This past year has been very profound for us with the Muslim rule and subsequent ReConquista and expulsion being the focus. Few things have impacted us so much as giving ourselves to that. Now there is a serious conflict not simply brewing but bubbling up with hard to predict consequences. The Catalonian situation (and even what spelling to use is a challenge – Spanish, Catalan or Anglicised spelling?).

How do we read this? Well I am opting for an optimistic response, and not simply because it is easier and less painful but I do believe somehow that these conflicts are the consequences of prayer. By that I do not mean ‘we’ (how important are we!!!) have prayed and now look at how powerful our prayers are(!!), but that the Lord is way ahead of the game and there has been much prayer focused to bring the nation to this point.

Prayer into history does not lead to our straight line of answer. Wounds that are there are to be healed but the first step is that of exposing what is there. Seems to me there is a pattern – a handful pray, probably naively expecting everything to be sorted, then what they have prayed into surfaces (in the land and in them too). What happens at that stage is important. If it surfaces in them – or in the wider community of faith – how they deal with the issues will be very important. Every big issue has a leverage point in the community of faith. The leverage point is not at the same scale as what is manifesting in the land, but is of the same spirit (cf. Jesus words on adultery and lust; murder and anger). In the current situation it is a ‘Spain / Madrid’ is correct; or ‘Catalonia / Barcelona are in the right’. In other words it is a taking of sides. However both with Joshua at Jericho and his ‘are you for us or for them?’ kind of question, or our core prayer instruction from our Teacher – ‘let your kingdom come’ there really is no ‘Madrid is right’ or ‘Barcelona is right’. Of course there might be a ‘I lean this way because it is more redemptive’ but the idea it is right is a myth. This is the fault line that is being exposed in the West at this time. I see many appointments not being the answer to prayer in the sense of we now have our ‘person in the WH / #10 / Moncloa’ or wherever. Where did we get that idea from? However I can accept them as appointments to expose the lies the faith community that owns the name of Jesus has bought into – that faith community that has been claiming a kingdom vision for years!!

What is manifesting now in Catalonia is a divisive spirit. What is manifesting from central is a divisive spirit. One manifests as separation, the other as control but they are one and the same. We have focused on the Muslim expulsion – this was Spain controlling Spain (excuse the anachronistic nature of those words), Spain evicting Spain… we began our journey praying into the first Christian martyred by fellow Christians pulling on Imperial power, the death of Priscillian. One could be pessimistic. After all that prayer now what has changed?

What has changed is what was simmering below the surface and therefore would never yield to healing is above the surface. I referred to a pattern above. Something begins with believers who pray. Then things seem to get worse – NO they become very visible. In the current generation the issues get flushed right to the surface there being nowhere to hide. There are no political solutions, but there is a solution which begins with a pathway of humility. The humility leads to dialogue and through the dialogue solutions are found.

I have no doubt that Spain has a calling now to lead the way to find a path of humility for the sake of Europe. Maybe the EU has had its day? But Schuman’s vision of being together has definitely not had its day. That is a vision of convivencia, of co-habiting / co-stewarding the same space.

There is so much more I could write on the current situation, suffice it to say that the struggles will not go away quickly – and for there to be healing they really cannot. Conflict will be here in Spain for the next years. We have to engage with it, calling for the third way of the cross.

A few years ago we had a very helpful dream sent to us. Gayle and I were standing at our table looking at invites and situations from across Europe. We did not know how to respond to the person standing there waiting for our response. Eventually I looked up and said to him ‘We will go and talk with the man of Spain and he will help us make our response’. This past year we have met the man of Spain – Al Azraq, Al Avez, Priscillian and many others we could name. People of the land – and from that era the majority were men. We are now needing to open space for a new manifestation of the ‘man of Spain’ to rise. This will not be one person, nor male, but a new humanity occupying space, regardless of faith, with the humility and grace that will be recognisable as containing heavenly qualities.

Amidst all the conflicts, Spain and Europe is such a wonderful place to live. Conflicted space, at the small level we have here, is a creative space.

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Convivencia

We watched the unfolding of the Catalan (non?) referendum yesterday appalled at the violence with over 800 injuries some serious. Glad to see that those who resisted did so (in the main) non-violently. It is never easy to be a law enforcement person in those situations, but the way the Catalan police behaved was very […]

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We watched the unfolding of the Catalan (non?) referendum yesterday appalled at the violence with over 800 injuries some serious. Glad to see that those who resisted did so (in the main) non-violently. It is never easy to be a law enforcement person in those situations, but the way the Catalan police behaved was very moving indeed confronting unnecessary force by police from outside Cataluña. The intransigent stances of central government and the separatist movement in Cataluña and the resulting clashes was at a level beyond what would be expected in any Western country. The video below will give some indication of the level of tension on the day:

No one is the victor after such a day. It was Wellington who was credited with the statement that the only thing sadder than a battle won is a battle lost. Yesterday highlights the deep wounds in the land, and (being optimistic!!) those wounds have to be exposed for there to be healing. We anticipate a few years of unrest and tension. Into that has to come the good news of Jesus that is intensely political. Not political in the sense of party politics, but in the sense of how we live together.

‘Convivencia’ was a term used to describe the era when there was majority Muslim rule in Spain and those of the three faiths: Islam, Judaism and Christianity, were living together. Whenever we look back we can often romanticise about a past era, and I am sure it was not perfect, but there was something taking place that was good. The repair of the damage caused to the land and the corporate memory of the (re-)conquering of Spain for the Christian faith and the subsequent expulsion of both Jews and Muslims is what Gayle and I have given ourselves to this year. If there has been any shift in that then what is beneath the surface will become very evident. As we travelled we became convinced that the Pauline Gospel has a message for society that is well summed by the word convivencia.

Words have some measure of intrinsic meaning but they essentially carry the meaning that is injected into them. In that way a word can change meaning over time, or be used in different ways by different people. We want to use the word ‘convivencia’ to express that the Gospel gives space to one and all to live together, with their differences honoured, and with a specific watchful eye to make sure that those who are marginalised have space to live. I would not consider that Paul was looking to ‘christianise’ but that he understood the church as royal priesthood for the wider world.

So we have been using the word as a shorthand way of expressing our desires for society. Maybe the word has always been in the vocabulary of the politicians in Spain, but over the past days, and yesterday in particular I don’t think a politician has talked into the Cataluñan / Spanish situation and not used the word. In the few speeches we listened to yesterday it must have been mentioned 50 times. Maybe we are now hearing it and it was always there, but I have my suspicions…

The word is now in the spiritual realm to re-shape hopes and release substance. At that stage the next element that happens is a strong attempt to colonise a word. In colonisation something is owned, redefined and rendered as a result powerless. It seems that when the word was used yesterday convivencia was fought over to mean, you have to live the way we say and that is convivencia!! Control and conformity, and certainly any confrontation or opposition has to be resisted otherwise convivencia will be broken.

Convivencia can never be shaped that way. It is something given away; it will result in messiness, difference, tension, conflicting ideas… but in listening and dialogue. It is a Gospel gift, for it is in God that we all move and have our being.

One huge aspect that first placed Spain on the map for me was in 2001 when in response to a question I made a totally non-pre-meditated response that Spain has no need for a revival history and that it was the only nation that on biblical authority could claim that there were first century apostolic unanswered prayers in the land.

If convivencia is a useful word, and if it is the outworking at a societal (political) level of the Pauline Gospel then we should anticipate a battle both over the word and the reality these coming years. And if there are a handful of believers who will see their faith as calling them to seek the true welfare of the city (polis / political space) these next years might just yield some very interesting results that could just smell a little like heaven. Not a Christian country (where did that myth come from!!??) but an environment where all can dwell – where the gates are never shut.

Yesterday was a catalytic day. Maybe this week Cataloña could declare independence. The narratives spun by central Madrid and by Barcelona will continue to gain traction. But there is another narrative, and we expect that narrative also to be spoken. It is not down to the church to speak it but to take responsibility for it to be spoken. The word is now in the the spiritual realm ready to re-shape hopes and also release substance.

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A week away and home via…

For Gayle and I this year has been extraordinary, with so many aspects coming together for us. Almost 12 months ago we were convinced that we were to follow the path of the ReConquista (the ‘re-conquering’ of Spain & Portugal for Christianity and ending the Muslim rule) and seek to find the hot-spots (most of […]

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For Gayle and I this year has been extraordinary, with so many aspects coming together for us. Almost 12 months ago we were convinced that we were to follow the path of the ReConquista (the ‘re-conquering’ of Spain & Portugal for Christianity and ending the Muslim rule) and seek to find the hot-spots (most of which are marked with a red dot on the map below) where there was unresolved issues in the land. Weeks of research led to four main trips across Spain and Portugal with some 5k miles (8k kms) covered. We loved this time, just kind of what we feel we were born for!

And once our travels were over, ending with some wonderful people coming to join us in Gibraltar, we were really happy to head north to Zarautz, camp on the headland and be joined by Noel & Tricia Richards (from Mallorca). It is so good to have friends that demand nothing, give a lot and one can totally relax with – nothing to prove. That was so good for us. A few days in and two other places came on our horizon, two places where we could go and maybe make a small contribution. So a slight detour on our way home to Tarragona and to Cambrils (top right on the map). The latter place being where the young men who were involved in the Barcelona attack were radicalised. Young men that the locals knew, young men with whom they played football. Tarragona being the place where the campaign for independence of Cataluña was launched.

Cambrils, a small town, clean and mainly pristine. A pleasant place to live, but underneath it what would appear to be some strong divides. We prayed on a bridge over the river, the river that divides the town almost perfectly in two. Praying that healing might come not simply to the recent reason for being in international news but healing that goes before that in time and goes deeper. Praying somehow that angels will hold the land and its divides.

It was probably, though, Tarragona that pulled us more strongly, and we went to the (former) bull-ring to pray where the ‘yes’ campaign had been launched. We are a few days away (October 1) from an ‘illegal’ referendum in Cataluña concerning independence. If the vote is a majority for independence then the Catalan government has said they will announce Cataluña as an independent republic in the days following. The vote is ‘illegal’ because the constitution of Spain says there is one indissoluble Spain. There can be no separation according to the constitution.

As per all such possible divisions there are underlying narratives that stretch back in time. Immediate history of finances going to the central administration (Madrid) and little coming back; Civil War history when Franco’s forces were extremely brutal toward Barcelona / Cataluña and the language was suppressed; the war of succession history (1702-1714) when Cataluña supported the ‘wrong’ side and was subsequently punished, suggesting to hard line Catalans that they are the spoils of war. Wrongs that have to be righted – but how?

At this point of time there are two intransigent forces. On one side the central government of the PP and President Rajoy. They have seized ballot papers, detained people, actively instigating heavy fines on anyone involved in the administration toward the referendum, and even drafted in large numbers of police from outside Cataluña, taking over the organisation of the police from the current Catalan boss. Just short of putting the army in the show of force is very deliberate and visible. On the other side there is also no backing down, an assurance that there is no plan ‘B’ and that in spite of the courts’ ruling that the referendum is illegal they are insisting they will go ahead with it. Spain is divided and Cataluña is divided. The ‘yes’ campaign is very visible, organised and strong. It is being fuelled in reaction to the response from Madrid. The ‘yes’ campaign is also very hostile toward those who wish to remain as part of Spain. Madrid is seeking to silence the democratic voice, Cataluña is seeking to allow only the ‘yes’ voice to be heard. (It was easy to find the ‘yes’ flag of Cataluña flying.) Not the way to right wrongs!

A week ago the two mayoresses of Madrid and Barcelona (both of whom have reduced the debt in the cities, along with many other positive changes) were interviewed on TV. They called for a lowering of the testosterone, the aggessive stances on all sides, and calling for the ‘feminisation’ of politics. This was a theme that Gayle had picked up from Ada Colau (Barcelona) when she studied a couple of years back on the politics of love. Not simply more women in politics (Spain has some very high profile women in politics) but of a different approach, characterised as ‘feminine’. Dialogue, listening and seeking to find a third way (maybe in my language ‘the most redemptive way forward’?).

These next days will be very challenging. The language (wonderfully) used in Barcelona after the attack by the people on the streets of ‘we are not afraid’ is now being used by those on the streets in opposition to the excessive resistance from Madrid to the referendum. The language of ‘convivencia’ which we have seen as a suitable term for the societal outworking of the Pauline gospel is being used by Catalans of them co-habiting space, but not with the rest of Spain.

Many years ago I had a waking vision, one we are still engaged with, of a man lying across Spain. His right arm pinned to the north east around the A Coruña area, the head over Bilbao, the left arm over the Barcelona area, the lower back over Madrid and the two legs going down over the south coast. A few weeks ago I again had a waking vision and it was of a bear trampling over the border into Cataluña, causing it to become very unstable. Maybe there is a connection with history as there is the strong suggestion that the (‘Christian’) troops from Madrid who joined the battle that defeated the Muslims at Las Navas de Tolosa (1212) carried a banner with a bear on it, and soon after this the bear was part of the shield of Madrid. Whether the bear represents Madrid specifically or not it certainly represents imperial power. In the waking vision the bear was stamping just across the southern border of Cataluña (pretty much where Tarragona is) and trampling Cataluña as a whole so threatening that it could be trampled into the sea.

The outcome of these next few weeks will not be pretty whatever takes place. Even if there is a referendum there will not be a resolution. Wounds are not resolved by aggression, but through dialogue and forgiveness. So we prayed in Tarragona… our hope is through the next few years of pain and restlessness there will be a long term shift. We trust that the prayer into the ReConquista will have a knock on effect on these internal Spanish politics, but again it highlights that there are ongoing unresloved issues in the more recent past.

Spain has so much to offer. A nation of great diversity, geographically and to some extent ethnically. A nation that could open its doors to those from other nations, particularly those fleeing troubles of war and economics. What is for sure this is not a time to turn the clock back, not a time for a conservative response but for new ideas that will facilitate a depth of ‘convivencia’.

We are sure that Spain will come into a time of great restlessness. It could set things back at least 20 years, or through these strains and stresses we could see something fresh come through. Ever since visiting Bilbao two years ago to pray into the thinking in Spain we have seen that the constitution has to loosen up. Tension, stress, conflict. Yes that is what we expect these next years. A pull back to the status quo will be a disaster… the challenge is finding the right way forward.

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October 1

Not many days left in September. Bought our first set of ecological logs yesterday for our wood burner, nicely named ‘the Hobbit’ (should be getting some commission for that mention?) as from the end of October we will be lighting up right through to March. Seems crazy haring had so many heat waves this year. […]

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Not many days left in September. Bought our first set of ecological logs yesterday for our wood burner, nicely named ‘the Hobbit’ (should be getting some commission for that mention?) as from the end of October we will be lighting up right through to March. Seems crazy haring had so many heat waves this year. A small change, but as we head to October 1 there is potentially a very big change in Spain. Spain is divided into 17 comunidades, one of the bigger ones and the richest is Cataluña with its capital being the well known city of Barcelona. On October 1 the Catalan government is intent on having a referendum concerning Independence. The central government (based in Madrid) is in total opposition to that and the courts have deemed it illegal.The BBC article gives a fair report on where things are at. It seems Madrid will not put troops in to Cataluña to block the vote, but there are very real threats of a significant number of arrests. Likewise it seems the Catalan government will not back down and last night the campaign was launched at a public rally. The president of the Catalan government, Puigdemont, even cracked a joke last night about all the legal action against them: ‘From lawsuit to lawsuit until the referendum.’

Of course there is history that lies behind all the tension. My take is probably very inadequate on it all but I will have a go. Spain consisted of a number of independent kingdoms, the two of Aragon and Castile being the most prominent and it was when there was a marriage between Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabel of Castile (1469) that there was a movement toward a unified Spain which was formalised in 1516. Cataluña was not a separate kingdom in this period but was subject to Aragon.

In the war of succession, the outcome of which is what gave Britain Gibraltar and the Spanish slave trade (1713), established the Bourbon family as the royal family of Spain. Cataluña was punished for its opposition to the Bourbon king (as was Valencia and Aragon), resulting in the Catalan constitutions being abolished and with it the Catalan and Valencian parliaments and their rights. The Catalan universities were suppressed and the administrative use of the Catalan language was abolished. Mid way through the 1700s the Catalan language would also be banned from primary and secondary schools.

In the period of the Second Republic (1931-39) Catluña and the Basque Country was given space and even favour that could have opened the door to independence. Franco resisted this, conquering Spain for Spain and for God, and he treated both Cataluña and the Basque country oppressively. Again post-Civil war the language was suppressed.

Not being a fan of centralisation, and certainly not being a fan of oppressive centralisation I have huge sympathies with the Catalans, but… living here in the Valencia communidad (the one directly south of Cataluña) there would be a strong sense that often what Madrid is to Barcelona, Barcelona is to Valencia. Cataluña would really like to include Valencia and the Balearics in this movement to independence. After all the languages are so close (much closer than Scottish Gaelic / Irish / Welsh) and the Spanish government recognises them as sharing one language.

It is hard to know how this will be resolved. Two pretty intransigent positions with a load of history behind it all. Having travelled as we have and come to the conclusion that ‘convivencia’ (sharing life in the same space and time / co-habiting) is part of the Pauline Gospel it was interesting to come back to a statement from Puigdemont that nothing will break ‘conviencia’ in Cataluña.

Rights and wrongs, and how much can ever be settled at a ballot box or politically? But the way of Jesus, that third way is what is so needed in our world. I have sympathies with Cataluña but whenever I seek to address the situation in prayer, it is hold back, don’t go.

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