Elder Holland Addresses All-Party Parliamentary Group in UK House of Lords
Contributed By Gerry Avant, Church News editor
At the United Kingdom Parliament, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland stood as an apostolic representative of God to “testify that He will help us” in efforts to alleviate suffering wrought through religious conflict.
Elder Holland, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, spoke June 10 to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Foreign Affairs in the House of Lords at the UK Parliament. He followed Dr. Rowsch Shaways, deputy prime minister of Iraq, who also addressed the gathering, along with Dr. Ali Nasser Muthanna from AMAR International, and Sharon Eubank, the Church’s director of Humanitarian Services. (Watch for subsequent reports to be published in the Church News.)
Elder Holland said, “Our theme for today is ‘Religious Conflict: Can Humanitarian Aid Help?’ The short answer to that question is ‘Certainly,’ but the long answer deserves some discussion.”
As part of that discussion, Elder Holland referred to passages from the Bible and the Book of Mormon, as well as reports from various publications.
He noted that every era in history has seen conflict, violence, and discrimination against, by, and among religious groups. “We all long for the day when swords will be beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks (see Isaiah 2:4), but unfortunately religiously related violence is increasing, not decreasing, as we move into the 21st century,” he said.
“A recent report published by the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C., indicated that such conflicts and confrontations have reached all-time highs in all regions of the world except the Americas—and there has been difficulty enough even in those nations. Worldwide the last few years have seen the largest displacement of religious populations in memory. In almost every corner of the globe tens of millions from a wide-ranging variety of faiths have been forced from their homes due to one form of religious conflict or another. Indeed, religious extremism is now the driving force of terrorism worldwide.
“A concurrent phenomenon with these open conflicts—and not unrelated to them—is the less visible but equally hostile restriction on religious freedom and religious expression being faced by fully three-quarters of the human population. … Of the 185 nations of the world included in the Pew study begun nearly 10 years ago, religious repression of some kind was recorded in 151 of them. The guilty include not only hostile private persons or parties, but entire governments which have subjected members of religious groups to restrictive policies, discriminatory laws, flagrant disenfranchisement, and, often enough, death. These practices have included laws criminalizing religious activity and expression, prohibitions on conversion or proselytizing, blasphemy laws, and impossibly stringent registration requirements.”
Elder Holland said that turning a blind eye to religious discrimination can de facto breed an environment in which hostile groups are emboldened in other ways, leading to other kinds of crime, violent behavior, and social disintegration. That in turn leads to further unraveling of the moral fabric of society.
“It goes without saying that these conflicts have led to humanitarian crises of staggering proportions around the world. The need to help remains enormous,” he said.
He cited religious conflicts in many parts of the world and said, “Because considerable portions of these situations are caused by those espousing one kind of religious belief or another (as tragically misapplied as that belief may be), then it only seems right that others of equal but more constructive religious conviction ought to help remedy these situations and set right what has gone wrong. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sees its efforts at humanitarian aid in that light. There are several advantages that religious groups have in such an effort.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland speaks with Baroness Emma Nicholson, a member of the House of Lords, at a breakfast meeting in the Churchill Room at the House of Commons.
“For one thing, in a chaotic situation, people find meaning in their faith, find consolation in their religion, and routinely search for safe ground and comfort, for courage and constancy through their religious practices. Furthermore, religious organizations are often able to establish trust and open conversations that are not always available to secular groups.”
He noted that religious organizations can function as powerful agents for tolerance, pluralism, and conflict management. “They are, by definition, peace-builders and peacemakers—or should be. … Because of their spiritual and moral commission, religious leaders have a legitimate stake, indeed an obligation, in trying to relieve conflict,” he said.
Craig Whittiker, a member of the House of Commons, with Elder Jeffrey R. Holland in Westminster Hall.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland sits with Craig Whittiker, a member of the House of Commons, at a breakfast meeting in the Churchill Room at the House of Commons.
“By appealing to one’s deepest values, religions and religious organizations have a unique capacity to motivate people and, at the same time, cultivate attitudes of forgiveness, reconciliation, and a willingness to strive yet again for the ideal in their personal lives and in society. To miss this positive influence of religion where there is conflict would be to miss much—I would say too much.”
Humanitarian aid—whether faith-based help or any honorable humanitarian agency—can help reduce the damage of conflict, even if it cannot entirely prevent or eliminate it, Elder Holland noted.
“Providing food, water, education, sanitation, housing, health supplies, and medical treatment not only brings immediate relief and comfort in an emergency, but it helps with intangibles such as the reduction of fear, the cohesiveness of families, the belief that there are good forces in the world as well as bad, that with such angels of mercy as humanitarian workers are there is reason to keep living, to keep believing, to trust that life will be peaceful and stable again. It is my considered opinion that there is one thing people cannot live without. Unfortunately, they may live without love, they may live without limbs, they may live without income, they may live without law. For a brief time they may even live without food or clothing, but they cannot live long without hope. And that is what humanitarian aid gives at least as much as it gives actual commodities and relief,” he declared.
“Faith. Hope. Charity. The three great Christian imperatives are also found in most religions and indeed in virtually all humanitarian efforts worthy of the name. So in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we would hope that along with our much-needed temporal services, something of the spiritual would also obtain, that integrity would be rewarded, that the brotherhood and sisterhood of mankind would be remembered, that character would be built both in the providers and in the recipients of such aid. We tell our workers—virtually all of them volunteers—that even though it can get covered with dust in a refugee camp, the long-term objective of our humanitarian effort is not only to provide temporal relief, but also to remember and rescue all that is noble and divine within every human soul, to bring to flower and fruition the latent richness of the human spirit in which our religion and surely all religions believe. …
“Because of our religious convictions—convictions grounded in the command to love God and our neighbor as ourselves—we sponsor humanitarian relief programs. These projects pursued around the world benefit those primarily not of our faith and include emergency relief assistance in times of crisis and disaster. Last year LDS Charities responded to 132 disasters of one kind or another in 60 nations of the world, including a major typhoon in the Philippines, a destructive cyclone in the Kingdom of Tonga, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and extensive refugee assistance for Syria and Iraq. In addition to such emergency relief, we found calmer circumstances along the way which allowed us to provide wheelchairs in 48 countries, maternal and newborn care in 42 countries, vision care in 34 countries, clean water and sanitation projects in 26 countries, gardening projects in 17 countries, and medical immunizations in nine countries.
“In doing what we can, we take seriously this injunction from a Book of Mormon prophet: ‘That ye may walk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants’ (Mosiah 4:26).”
Further, Elder Holland said, “In our religious practice we are to pray over all our endeavors and for all of God’s people. When we are not praying aloud we are, as yet another Book of Mormon prophet taught, to:
“‘Let [our] hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for [our] welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around [us].
“‘… I say unto you, do not suppose that this is all; for after ye have done all these things, if ye turn away the needy, and the naked, and visit not the sick and afflicted, and impart of your substance, if ye have, to those who stand in need—I say unto you, if ye do not any of these things, behold, your prayer is vain, and availeth you nothing, and ye are as hypocrites who do deny the faith.
Sharon Eubank, director of Humanitarian Services for the Church, responds to an interviewer's questions. She also addressed the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Foreign Affairs in the House of Lords in the United Kingdom.
“‘Therefore, if ye do not remember to be charitable, ye are as dross, which the refiners do cast out, (it being of no worth) and is trodden under foot of men’ (Alma 34:27–29).”
Elder Holland returned to the theme “Religious Conflict: Can Humanitarian Aid Help?” and repeated his short answer, “Certainly.” He added, “So we must not get discouraged just because the numbers are large and the problems overwhelming. …
“As an apostolic representative of God I testify that He will help us. He is helping us now. And our success rate will increase greatly if the whole world would embrace the simple, pure morality conveyed in a single line from Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount; an unequivocal morality upon which it would be almost impossible to improve: ‘Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them’ (Matthew 7:12). To the best of our ability and with the limited resources we have, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will continue to respond to human suffering in that way and in that spirit.”
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Foreign Affairs is an informal group where members of Parliament and leaders of faiths, charities, and corporations examine issues of foreign policy and hold meetings like the one Elder Holland addressed on June 10 to stimulate wider policy discussion among Parliamentarians. Addressing the meetings is an honor as they play a key role in the workings of the British government.
“I invited Elder Holland to come to the House of Lords today to meet with a number of my fellow peers—members of the House of Lords,” the APPG on Foreign Affairs chair Baroness Emma Nicholson said in an interview before the meeting. “I want him to share his deep reservoir of knowledge and understanding—his heart, his head, and his wisdom. My colleagues here on all sides of the House work mightily to help people and are always looking for knowledge and ways that we can do more.”
As the founder and chair of AMAR, an international charity that helps communities in the Middle East faced with conflict, Baroness Nicholson has developed a close relationship with LDS Charities, the humanitarian arm of the Church.
“There’s so much work that has to be done, there’s so much suffering that it isn’t possible for any one organization to do it,” said Sister Eubank in an interview.
There are two causes that create humanitarian crises—one of them is corruption and the other one is conflict, she said. “The chance to be able to be in British Parliament speaking with decision makers, policy makers, that affect those two things is a great opportunity.”
(Left) Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles arrives June 10 at the House of Lords in London with the Right Honourable Baroness Emma Nicholson of Winterbourne. Elder Holland addressed the UK Parliamentary group chaired by the baroness, whose AMAR Foundation is involved in joint projects with LDS Charities in the Middle East. (Center) Utah Valley University President Matthew Holland, far right, stands next to his father, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, during a breakfast meeting before Elder Holland spoke to a United Kingdom Parliament group at the House of Lords in London. (Right) The Right Honourable Baroness Emma Nicholson of Winterbourne greets LDS Charities director Sharon Eubank (left) before Sister Eubank spoke to a UK Parliamentary group at the House of Lords in London on Wednesday. Photos courtesy of the AMAR Foundation.