West Ham Archdecon Elwin Cockett is proud borough supports Syrian refugees


- Credit: Archant

Do you know the story of the 13 people who were killed by being burned to death locally in front of a baying crowd of onlookers?

These 11 men and two women are commemorated on a memorial which stands in the middle of Stratford, in the grounds of St John’s Church, in the Broadway.

It is well worth a trip to Stratford to read the inscriptions.

The deaths of the people, all from what was then Essex, happened more than 450 years ago, during the reign of Queen Mary, who came to the throne in 1553.

Following a rebellion under Sir Thomas Wyat, Mary conducted a relentless three-year campaign of terror against anyone who disagreed with her stance on religion, with some 300 suffering that fate of being burned at the stake. It ended when she died, in 1558.

Their deaths have echoes in some of the awful killings we have seen in videos from Syria and Iraq this year.

Then, as now, some who were killed showed levels of courage and faith that made a huge impression on those watching. Then, as now, their deaths had the opposite effect to that intended by their killers. Queen Mary became known as ‘Bloody Mary’, and religious tolerance became a feature of our nation, cherished as one of what we now call our British values.

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Values are fine, but can be worthless if they are not lived out in our actions. So, we can be proud that Newham is a place where people of all faiths are free to worship. We can be proud, too, that East Londoners of all faiths have responded generously to appeals for help for those who are suffering as a result of what is going on in Syria.

At the time of writing, our bishop’s appeal has raised more than £40,000 to help support families fleeing the war in Syria as we discover what their needs are.

May we continue to be inspired by the Stratford martyrs of 1553 to act together, whatever our beliefs, for the good of those among us who are in need. More from Elwin