Saturday, 1 May 2021

Canon Michael Bourdeaux

 The Times newspaper today carries an obituary of Canon Bourdeaux, who died on 29th March 2021.  (The Guardian obituary can be read here; and an appreciation from the Keston Institute here.)

The obituary in the Times refers to Canon Bourdeaux's influence with political leaders, based on the integrity of the research work of Keston College:

In Britain Bourdeaux was consulted in the 1970s by Harold Wilson, and in 1983 after he had briefed Thatcher she took a personal interest in securing the release of Irina Ratushinskaya, a Christian poet, and Alexander Ogorodnikov, the founder of a Christian seminar in Moscow.

At that time, Keston College had a network of support groups in the UK, including one based in Hornchurch. Each group was assigned a particular religious believer experiencing persecution behind the iron curtain in order to pray for them and support them by, for example, sending supporting cards to their prison addresses. Irina Ratushinskaya was the prisoner assigned to the Hornchurch support group. I still have in my possession the minute book of the Hornchurch support group, as I was secretary for a number of years. If I recall correctly, I became a member of the support group after visiting an open day at Keston College, in the days when it was based in the former village school at Keston.

The minutes of the group Annual General Meeting in October 1986 record a collection of £120 being taken at the meeting, and handed to a representative of Keston College so that it could be spent to buy orthopaedic boots and a warm coat for Irina Ratushinskaya, who at that time had just been released from prison and was seriously ill following her ill-treatment in prison.

Irina visited the Hornchurch support group in September 1988. My minutes of that meeting read as follows:

Over eighty members and friends of the Group put questins to Irina Ratushinskaya. Irina first answered questions about her time at school in the Soviet Union, and then answered questions from the floor. Irina was accompanied by her husband Igor, and Mrs Alyona Kojevnikov from Keston College.... Irina's closing remarks were to thank members of the Group for providing the money for a pair of boots. After the meeting, refreshments were served, and Irina signed copies of her books.

 Very different times .... 

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