What value freedom?

Hollywood often gets history wrong, never so more abysmally than in Mel Gibson’s ‘Braveheart’. Yet the last scene as William Wallace is executed is powerful; remember Gibson’s final shout of ‘Freedom!’

What does the word ‘freedom’ mean to you? It’s something which is much discussed at the moment as we celebrate the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta at Runnymede on 19th June 1215.

It may be freedom of choice, freedom of religion and belief, freedom from hunger or debt or fear. The freedoms we enjoy in this country have not appeared overnight but, as we recall now, have developed at great cost over many centuries and been defended with great sacrifice.

In the current post-election period it is easy to forget that we have yet to reach the centenary of when all women had the right to vote. And some social freedoms, like those for the LGBT community have been won in very recent times indeed.

In recent years there has been a deep and abiding cynicism in regard of the political processes. Yet however flawed, it is those same processes which are intrinsic too, and essential for, the freedoms we enjoy. There are many people in the world who still look to our liberal democracy as a beacon of hope in a corrupt and violent world.

Because of the abuses of a few, the very concept of ‘human rights’ itself is being questioned and discredited in some quarters. What signal will it send to every petty dictator if the ‘mother of parliaments’ votes to leave international conventions which help hold in check the worst excesses of power?

A final question. What does your freedom mean to you? How might your life have been different if you were born in Beirut rather than Bridport or Damascus rather than Dorchester?

In St. Mary’s this week is our ‘Flowers of Freedom’ Festival. Churches, local organisations and schools are taking part. And we are raising money for Clive Stafford Smith’s charity ‘Reprieve’ working with those on death row.

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