Heaven’s help needed

I do not know how much the current unrest in Cataluña is being covered in international press. Below is a link to a set of photos from the third night of unrest. At this time there are 5 marches also en route from across Cataluña that are due to arrive in Barcelona on Friday.

Photos of third night of unrest.

There are questions that arise at such times, though the questions raised are always present, just not in such a provocative way as they are currently. Two simple questions that can be asked (though not so easily answered) are:

  • How much is what we are seeing simply a revelation of what was already there beneath the surface?
  • What level of expectation can we have to see a shift in the current crisis?

The only aspect of such a clear crisis as we are facing currently is that it helps one to focus. It is ever so easy to go through life and not see what is there. We can isolate ourselves, even isolate ourselves inside the Christian community, even by experiencing heaven’s touch, but not face the huge issues around us. I passionately believe that ultimately the keys for change do not lie in a White House, a #10 or a Moncloa (or a Brussels!), but are in the hands of believers, who understand that ‘all authority in heaven and on earth’ are in the hands of the Risen Lord.

Of course the current crisis has a context. A long historical context where two stories have been rehearsed. A story of oppression, restriction and persecution; and an opposing story of rebelliousness, selfishness and greed. The immediate past few days have added fuel to the fire with the sentencing of a number of Catalan political leaders. The result has been a large divide. Some of course protest concerning the harshness of the sentences – sentences for enabling people to express a vote concerning their future, and that vote facilitated by those who do not have any accusation of violence against them. Even last night from prison, Oriel Junqueras who was sentenced to 13 years, was appealing for non-violence, saying that ‘this is not who we are.’ Others have called the sentence a disgraceful sign of state weakness, calling the action a ‘coup d’etat’, and the sentences a betrayal of the constitution. That extreme view can be seen with one party leader appealing to the king to intervene as the sentences should have been up to 70 years long.

There is a context historically, but there is also a context spiritually. In a few days we should have the bones of Franco removed from the Valley of the Fallen. For some 5 years we have been praying into the constitution of Spain, and four years ago went to the Valley of the Fallen where Franco is buried, since that time we have prayed into the Transition years (1975-78) as we sensed they were far from complete, though almost certainly a wonderful result given that the country was coming out of fascist dictatorship to democracy and with a Civil War as the backdrop. Just a few days ago the acting PM said that when the bones are removed the loop of the Transition will be closed. We are grateful for that prophetic declaration, particularly as we had not seen it so clearly.

The end of a loop! Little wonder so much has kicked off. At a personal level we leave one framework and enter another one through the doorway of crisis, whether that be small or great. Likewise if this is a shift to a new framework in Spain it is not surprising that we are now facing crisis at a great level.

Without a doubt the current situation shows us what is there and things are being brought to the light. They also sadly become the soil to enable what is there to grow to a greater level. So I do not accept that we just sit back and say that it was there all along. Salt was one of the analogies Jesus used for his followers, and the salt of the NT from the Dead Sea had a strong property of preventing growth of what pollutes society. We are meant to limit what manifests as we take responsibility for our setting. The salt likewise, containing as it did phosphates, was also a promoter of good growth, a fertiliser. Our presence is meant to promote the good coming through.

We are not silent… we call for heaven’s help… we recognise the closing of a loop, the end of an era… and we call because we know that salt, as a metaphor, suggests that we do not need to see the full manifestation of unfettered division, hatred, anger and violence.

The next 20+ days leading to the national election will be very challenging indeed. Turning points often come at great expense. One of the key turning points in the original Transition took place with the non-violent response to a brutal assassination. That event was a major draw on us to live where we live, in the shadow of one of the most powerful sculptures remembering that event. We are watchful in this season for obvious reasons.

This has been a personally insulting year with many set-backs in our focus, and it probably indicates that we missed some keys along the way, yet even when we fail there is not a loss that cannot be redeemed.

What can we expect in Spain and into the crises we face? As we increasingly stand in the gap in whatever way we are led in our diverse settings we can expect a new landscape to appear that is more fertile than before. I remain ever so hopeful. None of us are alone… heaven loves to send in help. And we need it ever so much.

A little humility?

Most of us will have read about the sentencing of the Catalan leaders, and quite a few will have also seen the manifestations and stand-offs between demonstrators and police with a focus at Barcelona airport. I have my not-adequately-informed perspectives, and being neither Catalan nor Spanish am limited as to what I can really say.

Maybe though a few personal perspectives. I have always been right in all my opinions. I am convinced of that because I see what I see, and my sight… Oh no! All that just came out before I could press the delete button. How often we would love to find the delete button before our own inadequacies, weaknesses and arrogance are revealed. Yet not possible.

Things happen and then we are right there in the situation with our history and weaknesses delightfully manifesting. I had a situation this week. Here we are with two guests and it comes to paying the bill at the cafe. The bill comes, clearly totalling up what we have had and I pay exactly what was on the bill. Two minutes later as we stand up to leave, across comes the waiter with the manageress. ‘You owe us another 6.00€. You had two more drinks, and they were 3.00€ each.’ I look at the bill in her hand – 21.00€ and a list of exactly what we have just had, and there she is standing with 21.00€ in her hand that I have just given her! We also know exactly what we have had… A water-tight case and I will need no defence lawyer in this situation. Gayle is beginning to open a sensible dialogue and everything will be within seconds clear. However, there is a better way of doing this. In fact there is a right way of doing this, which has nothing to do with the money of who owes who what, it is about everyone being clear that I am right. So I quickly take over, and absolutely make sure that that my perspective becomes the only one. Stuff the money, I now have a platform for all my gifts. A God-opportunity handed to me on a plate. What God has opened no-one can shut.

On this rare occasion my perspective was the right one (nice for once), but now with reflection, why did I have to do it that way? The manageress did not have a leg to stand on. The best part of the experience was going back a little later to find the manageress to apologise to her for being too aggressive. I have no idea if she needed an apology or not, she graciously insisted she did not, but I needed to do that.

I am convinced change is easy. A little humility goes a long way. If I took time to reflect I would quickly understand the blockage to my six decades of slowness to change. A little bit of humility goes a long way, so I guess my lack of change and my wonderful double portion gift of revealing my immaturities just might be connected to a lack of humility. However, surely not, so I will move on very quickly.

A personal perspective because when it comes to something that really matters how difficult change becomes. Prison sentences, separated from families, histories being recounted that go back generations… it is hardly surprising that there are stand-offs. After all I can have a stand-off about 6.00€.

Dialogue and de-escalating potential conflict is not easy, and in Spain right now it will not be easy. Maybe though I will have a few opportunities to add just a little bit of humility to my prayers for the land. I don’t have to know too much about the rights and wrongs of the current situation; I probably won’t have an opportunity to have any level of influence at a visible level, but there will always be something I can do.

We certainly cannot stop what is beneath the surface manifesting. That is clearly a good perspective to hold. But by the grace of God there are aspects beneath the surface that can be so dealt with that they do not manifest, as the soil of history is cleansed.

These next 26 days in Spain running up to yet another election will be so key. We certainly cannot sit back and tick off what manifests. There are events that will take place that turn the outcome, but the nature of those events will be key. Who wins the election is not at all important; the outcome is what is important. A greater level of listening, co-operating, laying down personal agendas – the outcome is what is important.

These are huge days for Spain. There was a ‘transition’ over the years 1975-78 in the move from dictatorship to democracy. In a few days time there will be an event that has been described (and I believe prophetically described) as closing the loop of the Transition. A major door in and through the Transition of 75-78 was a tragic political shooting, right in the area where we live – that being one of the main reasons why we wanted to live here. As the loop closes there will be events. If we can shift something the events can take place in the heavenlies. That would be great. We do not need yet more manifestations of what is there. Enough is visible.

Catalans in Madrid

Supreme Court, Madrid

Yesterday Gayle and I were out and about. First a visit to the Supreme Court, though the security is high and we were unable to get right to the building. It has been this way ever since the beginning of the trial of 12 Catalans for their role in the ‘illegal’ referendum concerning independence. We have been there before on two separate occasions and were there to pray into two aspects – the trial and also the delay on the removal of Franco’s remains from the Valley of the Fallen. A June date has been set for the latter but there still is an appeal lodged in the Supreme Court. The judiciary has been a focus for us as it is vital a judiciary is not bought nor controlled by a political wing, and here in Spain there is long way to go on that issue.

Of course I have an opinion on Catalan independence but being neither Spanish nor living in the Catalan comunidad it has to remain as an opinion without weight. Our huge respect is for those who are seeking to be a bridge and call for open dialogue. The experience of those who are bridges is they are then trodden on from both sides, that being what a bridge offers. To help us pray Michael Schiffmann sent us some direction that we had to release three groups of people so that what needs to take place will flow in a healthy direction. (This is a joy to us. For those following these posts will realise that our theology is that the church has the responsibility to ensure that the shape in which things can be expressed in society is a healthy space where hostile powers have limited access. This does not mean only good things will happen – free will see to that! – but it does ensure a healthy space.)

The three groups at this time we see, and this will have a wider application than just Spain are: women, students and pensioners. This is a day for women… and again I have to be careful what I write for obvious reasons. I am slowly becoming aware that ignorant pontificating is not wise! Let me simply say women when embodying the feminine aspects of God; students, whether in formal education or not, but who are seeking to learn about their world and how to pull for the future; and pensioners, who in Spain have lived through and seen so much; those three groups are vital – and I think in that order. Those three we called for and for the Supreme Court to hear the threefold testimony of wisdom calling out from the street.

From the Supreme Court we dropped in a cafe and found ourselves sitting among a group of right wing extremists. Not our normal habitat, but both in need of a toilet and a refreshment having been out for a while already this was the place where we happened to drop in! Dressed in semi-militaristic style clothing the atmosphere was interesting to say the least. Then we went and stood in and by the Catalan demonstration. Incredibly moving as the songs were sung and banners that appealed for justice for the non-violent prisoners facing up to 25 years for rebellion and insurrection in organising the referendum.

Crowd in both direction beyond what the eye could see
The Poster is asking for the political prisoners to be released

The demonstration itself, brave as it was with many from Cataluña in the capital, might not move things forward. It might even push people further away. We certainly saw some blatant antagonism to the march, including a very well dressed older woman walking the other way to the marchers and giving them the finger while sneering at them. The march itself had people of all ages and estimates of numbers vary, but I would suggest in excess of 50,000 and perhaps as many as 80,000. It might not make a difference but we were both so happy to stand in it and get a feel for it. The card in the image that follows was given to us by an older woman (pensioner?) and the spirit of it embodied in the last words ‘a hug’ is what is needed from and to all ‘sides’.

The text written in Castellano and not Catalan says:

Hello friends. We invite you to know Cataluña and Catalans with your own eyes. I am sure that many prejudices will drop away and you will discover that the majority is not what you have believed. You will be well received. An embrace.

Over a cliff?

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.”,”post_title”: “”,”post_category”: 0,”post_excerpt”: “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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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 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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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 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.

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 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 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 unresolved 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. 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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