The event was organised to afford students an opportunity to hear a first-hand testimony of a Christian persecuted for her faith, as well as reflect on the role of faith and personal freedom.
The first guest speaker was Sr Luma Khudher OP, an Iraqi Dominican sister of Catherine of Siena.
She holds both a Masters and a PhD in Biblical Studies and is a lecturer at Babel College for
Philosophy and Theology in Erbil, Iraq ,and is a summer instructor at Catholic Theological Union in
Chicago, USA. Sr Luna has had first-hand experience of persecution, having had to flee Qaraqosh,
and has worked with Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Erbil and Dohuk.
The second guest speaker was Rev Dr Andrew Pinsent, a former particle physicist who worked at
the CERN project in Switzerland and also with Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide
Web. Now a Catholic priest, he writes and lectures in and around Oxford. He spoke about reason,
faith, science and the relationship between the three, drawing links between Sacred Scripture, the
Greek philosopher Aristotle and St. Augustine. The day concluded with Mass in the London Oratory
School Chapel, presided over by their school chaplain Fr George, with hymns sung by the London
Oratory Schola Cantorum.
The aim of the day was to inform the students about the scale of the problem of religious
persecution, in the contexts of the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and of
British Values. Students had the opportunity to attend workshops which linked the freedom of
religion to topics pertinent to A-Level Philosophy; Ethics, Theology, History and Sociology.
Salesian School Chertsey was the most well-represented of all the visiting schools, and St John Bosco College Battersea added to the Salesian presence at the event. My profound gratitude to each of the seventeen students from Year 12 and Year 13 of Salesian Sixth form college who attended the event.
Fr Marco Villani SDB
Chaplain, Salesian School Chertsey