Grabbing two wee Easter bunnies from the snack tin, I headed off on Saturday afternoon to visit a housebound patient who is a fellow chocoholic. The sun was peeking out as I emerged from her cottage so I drove on to Warkworth for a stroll on the beach.
Every step in my life has led me further away from religion, I reflected. Who knows what really happened 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem but there are millions worldwide who do believe in the resurrection or at least in what it symbolises.
Some aspect of faith colours all human affairs. The candle of my convictions was lit by the ending of apartheid in South Africa, the fall of the Berlin wall and the US civil rights movement; it is sustained by walking in the mountains.
Anyway, Easter is a good season for optimists.
Last Tuesday’s Guardian gave a sobering account of the dedicated work of Northumbria Police who receive 83 reports of domestic violence a day. The Northumbria force is one of just a handful singled out for praise. Despite crippling budget cuts, they revolutionised their modus operandi in order to cope with an epidemic of abuse and to reach out to the victims too distrustful to call them. On Saturday, The Journal reported £920,000 has just been awarded to the force for victim support and coordination with specialist agencies.
Last week brought good news for Jerusalem too. After decades of hostility between Iran and the West, and after years of painstaking negotiations between Iran and six world powers – the US, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany - a framework for a final, comprehensive nuclear agreement was reached.
A final deal won’t be sealed until later this year and there is a lot that could still go wrong. For example, failure would further encourage those with hawkish ambitions in Congress for an Israeli military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities; Saudi Arabia and other Sunni autocrats may acquire nuclear weapons setting off a new arms race. Would that Israel, Russia, the US or Britain sign up to such transparency on their nuclear programmes as Iran just agreed to!
The framework could have positive reverberations across the Middle East. An agreement may encourage Iran to play a more positive role in Middle East politics and help resolve some of the complicated problems there, especially the terrorism gripping the entire region. It could lead to greater collaboration between Iran and other Middle Eastern countries with the aim of averting further Shia-Sunni conflict. The Levant reborn; it requires sustained trust and a lot of mediation.
Iranians have been celebrating in the streets. They hope the stringent sanctions imposed on their country – which, logically, should have been lifted in 2007 after 17 US intelligence agencies proclaimed Iran did not have a military nuclear programme – will soon be lifted. Iranian president Rouhani told his people: “Some think that we must either fight the world or surrender to world powers. We say it is neither of those, there is a third way. We can have cooperation with the world.”
Let us hope the world will now respond in a similar spirit. It should encourage the US, UN and EU in future to go for the hard slog of negotiations and control the trigger fingers. The sun is peeking out for sure.
The oil price fell a few percent on news of the agreement which could be a fillip for growth in many countries. This reminded me of what Peter Tatchell, a political campaigner, wrote in The Independent last week. If he were Prime Minister, he would dump austerity and cut the deficit without damaging public services. He gave five simple measures to raise £600bn, enough to pay off the current annual government deficit six times and leave enough money over for housing, schools, hospitals and job creation. His proposals were clear and detailed. I hope Cameron and Miliband read them over Easter and they light some candles to dispel the obfuscating political gloom.
I smiled walking back to the car recalling a happy email received that morning from my dear friend Heather. She and her husband are in California with all the family to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary. Their marriage has not always been easy but they stuck at it, a triumph from years of faith and negotiation.