Christians in Practice?
Lindsey Hall encounters a story of persistence and sacrifice.
Were you part of the human chain formed around Birmingham City Centre in 1998? Do you remember the estimated 50 – 70 thousand people congregating in the city, wearing red, to draw the attention of the G8 leaders to the unsustainable debt being carried by the poorest countries of the world? The Jubilee 2000 campaign by this time had gathered huge momentum, and as a result Britain and the US wiped out a significant amount of unpayable debt.
Click here to ediIt all started with one man and his friend having an idea. I did a bit of investigating about Martin Dent, and then out of the blue a student mentioned him to me. It turned out they had been at the same church and she was recognising that he was man who put his Christianity into practice in an extraordinary way.
Martin Dent often turned up to church dishevelled, even with his pyjamas on under his clothes, and signs of his earlier meal still evident. He was well known for this, and for using every opportunity to talk about a subject close to his heart, debt relief for the world’s poorest countries. It might not have been on the agenda at the PCC meeting, but Martin would introduce it anyway. Although they didn’t always want to hear his reasoning on the subject again, the people at the church knew that Martin was not just all talk. He lived very simply in a small house. He had replaced a large inherited house for two small ones and made the other one available to people in need of a home. There is an extraordinary story about him stopping a riot amongst the Tiv people when he was stationed in Nigeria with the Colonial Service. He was made a chieftain by the Tiv people and maintained his links with Nigeria throughout his life. Gill tells me that he would travel to Nigeria and sent back boxes of African masks and ornaments for the church summer fayre. In his enthusiasm to support both the Tiv people and his own parish, it was often Martin who ended up buying the goods on the day.
As a lecturer in politics at Keele, Dent had a good understanding of economics and international relations, but he refused to let his ideas stay in the classroom. It was his persistence, his contacts and his absolute belief that this was the right thing to do, that this was God’s will, that started the ball that would become Jubilee 2000 rolling.