Diana, the Compassionate Princess of Wales

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I still remember what I did on that sad day. It was the 31st of August 1997. Our son was just a baby in Great Britain. I brought him downstairs in the morning, strapped him to his seat and  switched the television on. The pictures were beamed live on BBC TV News from Paris, Diana, Princess of Wales had died in hospital, at the age of 36,  following a car crash, in a tunnel. The Alma tunnel lies beneath the Pont d’Alma (Alma bridge) in Paris, France. It was such a shock, Diana, (Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair had described her as the ‘People’s Princess’), was no more. She had thrown herself into her work with several charities, following the much publicized divorce with Prince Charles. She had a special place in the hearts of the British people. They called her a style icon, a caring and compassionate human being,  someone who could easily connect with ordinary people.

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The death of a Princess, shocked not only Great Britain but people across the world. She was so well known and loved by so many. The people of Great Britain found it difficult to comprehend that Diana was no more. On the day she died, Christian Leaders in Great Britain released messages and prayers to the British media – here is the message from Lord Carey who was Archbishop of Canterbury in 1997. Even Christian leaders were all stunned by the death of Diana. The Christian Post published an article that Princess Diana had deeper Christian Faith than people believed – this was according to a special ‘Songs of Praise’ TV Special on BBC Television in Great Britain.

“I think she had a stronger faith than people give her credit for,” said Mike Whitlam, former director-general of the British Red Cross, according to The Telegraph newspaper. “She wanted to put love where there was hatred, and make a huge difference to people’s lives so that they could live a better life. When you talk to people about making the world a better place, there are not many people who think it’s doable. She did.”

At the time I was an educator as well as a writer and I received a press invitation to follow the funeral proceedings from the Church House in Westminster. The Church House is the home of the headquarters of the Church of England, occupying the south end of Dean’s Yard, next to Westminster Abbey in London. I remember getting up very early and making my way to Westminster tube station. I thought I was early but when I left the tube station, all I could see were a sea of faces. The area surrounding Westminster Abbey was packed with people behind the barriers – even at the time of the morning. Security was tight. There were hushed tones on the streets of London, people waited patiently for several hours for the procession to pass by them. Some people had camped over night.

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The day before the funeral, my wife and I went to Kensington Palace and laid flowers by the main gate. The place was awash with flowers, tributes, scarves, flags, photographs. It was as if the whole nation was grieving. The London Underground was heaving with people, making their way to Kensington Palace, to remember this very special Princess. I got caught up in the moment. Church House was packed with the international media. I guess representatives of every single network from around the world were in that room. All the American networks were there. At one briefing I found myself seated next to the UK Channel 4 Television News anchor, Jon Snow (the longest serving news presenter at Channel 4), and we got talking about Diana. Everyone in the room was talking about her. She lived a life in pictures and words. The funeral was beamed onto a huge screen in Church House.

A poignant moment was when Elton John sang ‘Candle in the Wind,’ at the service in Westminster Abbey next door. He had changed the words, in order to pay a moving tribute to Princess Diana at one point he sang ‘now you belong to heaven.’ He also sang that she flew on ‘the wings of compassion.’ The well known lyricist, Bernie Taupin had written new words to the song and added a title:  ‘Goodbye England’s Rose.’ The Guinness Book of Records said that the song “Candle in the Wind 1997” is the second highest selling single of all time (behind Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” from 1942) and is the highest-selling single since charts began in the 1950s. It became the best selling single in UK Chart history.

Here Charles Spencer, recounts losing his sister, Princess Diana, at the Westminster Abbey service. He spoke movingly about his sister in his eulogy: “Without your God-given sensitivity we would be immersed in greater ignorance at the anguish of AIDS and H.I.V. sufferers, the plight of the homeless, the isolation of lepers, the random destruction of landmines. ” Charles Spencer spoke of her compassion: “Diana was the very essence of compassion, of duty, of style, of beauty. All over the world she was a symbol of selfless humanity. All over the world, a standard bearer for the rights of the truly downtrodden, a very British girl who transcended nationality. “

I remember coming out of the Church House and going past the back entrance of Westminster Abbey after the funeral service. Elton John’s Rolls Royce was parked by the back entrance – Elton John and George Michael were standing by the car, they looked shocked and were speaking in hushed voices about Diana.

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People were wailing outside Westminster Abbey, many were overcome with emotion. I did feel a sense of sadness that Great Britain had lost someone who reached out in compassion to the vulnerable, the socially excluded and the down trodden. I wrote a tribute to her and mentioned the word ‘downtrodden,’ in a letter published in the Daily Mail in London, before her funeral service. I felt she genuinely had a heart for the downtrodden and really wanted to lift them up. This was compassionate leadership in action. Diana had said she had come to serve the outcasts, the marginalized, those who had no hope.

She may have been born into a world of privilege and class but I do believe that Diana, Princess of Wales had a compassionate heart. I remember in the 1980s when HIV/Aids was always in the news. There was a real stigma attached to Aids,  fueled by the media. In the 1980s I flew down to Sri Lanka on holiday. While I was in Colombo, I heard that an old school friend who had lived in France for a while in the 1980s had contracted Aids and had returned to Sri Lanka, to spend his last few months at home. I wanted to see him – I telephoned him at his home in Colombo and spoke to him several times. But my friends urged me not to visit his home. They said all kinds of things to me – they said it was contagious. I felt a sadness that I heeded their advice and didn’t visit my friend before he passed away. It was misguided advice. When I returned back to Great Britain, I read the newspaper report of Princess Diana visiting the hospital beds of AIDs patients, holding their hands and speaking to them with compassion.

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I saw this photograph in 1987 in the United Kingdom. Here was Princess Diana shaking hands with an AIDS patient without wearing gloves. In April 1987, the Princess opened the UK’s first purpose built HIV/Aids unit that exclusively cared for patients infected with the virus, at London Middlesex Hospital. In front of the international media, Diana shook the hand of a man suffering with the illness. She publicly challenged the notion that HIV/Aids was passed from person to person by touch.

Earl Spencer had mentioned the fact that when Diana visited Nepal she went into a leper clinic and there again she challenged people’s ideas and fears about lepers – that they were ‘untouchables.’ Here is a picture of Diana touching lepers in Nepal, the Princess was Patron of the Leprosy Mission and visited Leprosy clinics in India, Nepal, Zimbabwe and Nigeria. When you examine the photograph below, you can see the genuine compassion here, I think this photograph speaks volumes:

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People have also highlighted her work with the victims of landmines. She visited danger zones where the Halo Trust were involved in de-mining ,including Angola.

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A year after Princess Diana’s death I was involved with some Public Relations and Marketing work with the Sri Lankan test (cricket) team who had arrived in London to play just one test match with the England team at the Oval Cricket Grounds. The players got talking about Princess Diana during conversations at the hotel. I said I would try to contact Earl Spencer, her brother who lived on the Althrop Estate, the family seat. Now Charles Spencer was a huge cricket fan. I believe he played cricket at Eton and Oxford. Charles Spencer is a Patron of the Northamptonshire Cricket Club in the United Kingdom. He was also an on-air correspondent with NBC News in the United States of America, from 1986 to 1995, working for the network’s morning programme, Today, and NBC Nightly News.

I was pleasantly surprised when I contacted his office at Althrop Manor – Earl Spencer extended a warm invitation for the cricketers to visit Althorp – they were the first ever international test cricket team to be invited to Althrop Manor, to pay their respects at Diana’s Memorial. The team bus made it’s way to Althrop Park. We were invited into Althrop Manor by Earl Spencer’s Private Secretary and afterwards we made our way to Princess Diana’s grave, situated in the grounds. Her grave is on an island in the middle of a lake known as the Round Oval, which is located within the Althorp Park garden.

The grave of Diana, Princess of Wales on an island at Althrop House

 

The island where Diana, Princess of Wales is buried at Althrop House

I just thanked God for her short life and for her service to others and said a prayer as we stood on the other side of the island. Princess Diana changed the way people treated and viewed those who had HIV/Aids, her work with the Leprosy Mission – which is an international Christian charity  and the work she undertook with the Centrepoint charity in London so impacted on the lives of people.  It was a very poignant moment for all of us. There is also a memorial to Diana within the grounds of Althrop Park.

Memorial to Diana Princess of Wales at Althrop House

The memorial to Diana, Princess of Wales at Althrop House

The memorial to Diana, Princess of Wales at Althrop House

Arjuna Ranatunga, Captain of the Sri Lanka cricket test team and family visit the grave of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1998.

In the photograph above, Arjuna Ranatunga, Captain of the Sri Lanka cricket test team and family make their way to the grave of Diana, Princess of Wales at Althrop, in 1998. The test team signed a cricket bat for Charles Spencer and also presented a book of poems on Princess Diana. And so we said goodbye to England’s Rose.

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I think it is great that the sons of Prince Charles and Lady Diana – Prince William and Prince Harry have inherited that spirit of compassion and her legacy of love and kindness. They are showing Compassionate Leadership in the work they have thrown themselves into – in the UK and abroad. The first charity that Prince William decided to support in 2005 was Centrepoint which was a charity reaching out to homeless people in Great Britain. When they were children, Princess Diana used to take them to meet homeless people at Centrepoint when she was Patron of the charity. Prince Harry is well known for creating the Invictus Games in which wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel and their associated veterans take part in sports including wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball, and indoor rowing. The games were named after Invictus, in Latin the word means “unconquered” or “undefeated”, the event was inspired by the Warrior Games held in the United States of America. Long may their work aimed at helping and supporting the vulnerable continue.

Ivan Corea

 

Photographs of Diana, Princess of Wales courtesy of Wikipedia, Huffington Post. Photographs of Prince William, Prince Harry  and Westminster Abbey, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Film Clips of Elton John at the funeral service of Diana Princess of Wales and Charles Spencer, Christian Leaders on the death of the Princess, courtesy of youtube.

Some information courtesy of Wikipedia.

All photographs of Diana’s grave and Althrop Memorial copyright of  © Ivan Corea 2019

The Christian Post article on Diana and her Christian faith: https://www.christianpost.com/news/princess-diana-had-deeper-christian-faith-than-people-believed-new-tv-special.html

If you are ever in Great Britain and you are planning to visit Althorp Estate – although visitors are not allowed on the island – here is the link: https://spencerofalthorp.com/visit/

 

 

The Healing Power of Compassion and Forgiveness

George M. Nutwell III and Ivan Corea come from different perspectives from within the Church. However, they are at one with the view that Jesus was a Compassionate Leader who healed out of compassion and readily forgave others. They examine the healing power of compassion and forgiveness, from Christ’s perspective:

THE POWER OF FORGIVENESS

George M. Nutwell III

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Like many others, I had always understood forgiveness to be a good thing, albeit difficult to do in many cases. I had always heard it would bring peace to the forgiver and that makes sense since a grudge is heavy on the heart. But is that it? Is that all Jesus meant by forgiveness in the Lord’s Prayer? When I retired from the Foreign Service and decided to enter the prison ministry, I found that forgiveness and loving one’s enemies was a core issue facing many of the people locked up. Most of them have much to forgive. They also want to be forgiven and would like to be able to forgive themselves. I needed to uplift these men so where to begin?

In the first book of the Bible, Genesis, the first great story of forgiveness appears. Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his brothers and then spent time in prison, forgave his brothers. He said to them, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” (Gen 50:20, NLT) Joseph saw the situation from a divine perspective. His brothers had been ignorant, and God had a higher plan. This event previewed Jesus’ crucifixion.

While on the cross, Jesus said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” (Luke 23:24, NLT) Jesus was asking for the forgiveness of his persecutors on the grounds that they were ignorant and did not understand the higher plan. They were ignorant of God who St. John said is “love.” St. John explained further that “anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (I John 4:8, NLT) Is that not the reason for all evil-doing, an ignorance or lack of understanding of love.

Many of the men in prison have been abused and abandoned. They have no concept of unconditional or, as St. John called it, perfect love. For one who does not know love, how is he to be taught love? One will never learn through fear or punishment. They will also not learn through words alone. They can only learn through the act or example of love. Forgiveness is that act. That is why Jesus taught his followers to love one’s enemies. This included praying for them. He added that this is how God loves His children and in that act of divine love, perfection is revealed. “Be perfect, therefore as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48, NIV) Forgiveness is the teacher that reveals perfection just like a piano teacher reveals it in a student.

The result of Jesus’ forgiveness on the cross was the conversion of the Roman Centurion, his own resurrection, and the saving example for all mankind. Earlier, in his ministry, people were healed of disease and sin after Jesus forgave them. I finally got it. There is spiritual power in forgiveness. All divine laws are backed by divine authority and power. When they are obeyed, “nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37, NLT)

As I began to share this spiritual law in my prison ministry, I witnessed individual resurrections. I saw people transformed by their forgiveness, and prayer, for those who had harmed them in the past. One example stands out above others. A man who had been in and out of prison over the years was suffering from physical and relationship issues. He did not ask for healing of those things. He asked to be healed of his feelings of hatred, anger and the desire for revenge against the many people who had hurt or betrayed him throughout his life. He had been kicked out of the house at thirteen and grew up on the streets using and selling drugs. He had been betrayed by family, even recently. He said, he could not sleep at night because all he could do is think about revenge. He asked, how can I overcome this problem? My answer – the spiritual law of forgiveness, taught and exemplified by Christ Jesus. I pointed him to the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:38-48, where Jesus commands us to love and pray for our enemies. I suggested that he make a list of people who had hurt him over the years and begin praying for them daily. Such a prayer might include him forgiving them as Jesus did on the cross.

It might also include praying for them to know God and feel His Grace. He began this daily prayer activity. For the first week, he later said, he did not feel sincere, but he did it out of respect for me. When the next week came, he started to feel something in his heart. It was turning warm with love. By the end of that week his life began to change. He started to sleep well, and a reoccurring pain began to disappear. He began to receive letters from the outside after having not received any for eighteen months. He also got a visit from family and an old friend. He felt like he was going through a re-birth of some kind. He felt more humility and gratitude than ever before. Soon after, he went through a physical exam where he found out that a disease had disappeared that has been with him for years. He was feeling the divine power of love in his life as never before. He has since continued to grow spiritually and has shared his testimony with many in prison, spreading his light. It is quite possible that his transformation will lead to an earlier release in the future.

I have witnessed this same spiritual power in my own life and in the lives of family and friends. To forgive is to teach love. It shines the light that Jesus said is in all of us. Just imagine the results of obeying this spiritual law in your own life. What do you have to lose?

THE COMPASSIONATE JESUS

Ivan Corea

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“Jesus Wept.”

These words are two of the most powerful words in the New Testament. John Chapter 11:35 is the shortest verse in the Bible but these two words really give us an insight into His heart of compassion. There are those who think that compassion might be a weakness, a ‘soft skill.’ Not so. I want to put it to you that compassion is a powerful tool, in the hands of a leader. I do believe it is a leadership strength.

Jesus, in his time, saw the suffering in front of him. His friends – Mary and Martha who were sisters from Bethany, had sent word to Jesus that their sibling, Lazarus was ill. They were the three closest friends of Jesus. The sisters report goes like this: ‘Lazarus, the one you love is sick.’ Lazarus was dying. He was seriously ill. My mind goes back to a morning when I received a telephone call from my niece Rebecca in New Malden, in Surrey, in the United Kingdom.

My niece was crying on the phone, she told me my father was dying. She had called an ambulance and wanted me to come immediately. There was a problem, I lived two hours away from them and it meant a journey on the tube, on the underground, across London, from the other side of town. (It took me two hours to try to reach the side of my father, on the other hand, Jesus was across the river Jordan, about twenty miles from where Mary and Martha lived, it would have taken him at least a good day’s walk to reach their home). I sensed the urgency in the voice of my niece, she wanted me to come ‘right now.’ It would have been the same with Mary and Martha. I just dropped everything, dashed out of our home and took the tube. Fighting back the tears in a packed tube, I kept praying and recollected the times with my precious father, childhood in Sri Lanka, moments in India, new adventures in Great Britain, a wonderful visit to Washington D.C.

A smile broke out on my face when I remembered the time we visited Lucknow Zoo in India. I was standing behind my father and was flabbergasted to see a pickpocket before my eyes, trying to steal my father’s wallet. I lifted the pickpocket by the scruff of his neck, my father just said let him go and forgave him! That was a salutary lesson in forgiveness! Back in 1970s London, I went to see a rock group at the Roundhouse Theatre. My father travelled across London in his light blue Volkswagen ,to give me a ride back home to Upper Norwood. I don’t know how he found me that night, but he did. That was my father. He was concerned for my safety. He thought I had gone to see a play! I loved my father, unconditionally, and I ran to be by his side. Sadly, by the time I reached my beloved father, he had passed away. Dad had ‘gone home.’ As I stood by his bedside touching his lifeless form, I was able to thank God for his life and I committed my earthly father’s spirit into my Heavenly Father’s loving hands. I was reminded of Larry Norman’s lyrics:

‘And now you’ve gone, so far away
I hope I’ll see you again someday
But if I don’t, I hope I’ll see you in heaven.’

So, in the instance of his close friend Lazarus, what did Jesus do? He waited for two more days before rushing to his side. He intentionally delayed his trip. When He heard that Lazarus was dying, Jesus said: ‘This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son will be glorified through it.’ (John Chapter 11) Jesus knew what was going to happen. He went on to say, ‘our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.’ Jesus waited because He wanted Mary, Martha, Lazarus, his disciples and the people around him to experience something so profound. It was a huge step of faith they would have to take, to place their total trust in Him. Jesus had such compassion – he wanted them to see his power over death, it was a picture into the future when He himself would be raised from the dead on the third day. This was miraculous healing, He had the power to raise the dead.

Jesus saw people suffering. Their heartbreak was His heartbreak. He had genuine compassion for others. Jesus just had to touch them, and they were healed. The woman with a hemorrhage touched the hem of His garment and was healed. (Mathew Chapter 19: 18-26) Jesus had compassion equal to His power. His compassion was such that he dared to do what no other person in his day would have done – He touched and healed a leper. During that era, lepers lived in colonies, set apart from the rest of the local community. They were reduced to begging and had to shout ‘unclean, unclean,’ to warn others when they were travelling – people would avoid them. Some threw stones at them. They suffered banishment from their friends and families. People would not dare go anywhere near a leper.

I was a teenager travelling with my family across India. We were travelling to New Delhi. As soon as we came out of the railway station, I saw a leper who was begging in the heat and dust, right outside the crowded railway station. This was the first time I had ever come across a leper. Although I gave him some money, I did not touch him. Lepers were treated as ‘untouchables.’ What did Jesus do? He touched and healed them, out of compassion for them. He restored them to communion again. The leper said: ‘Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.’ What was His response? In Mathew Chapter 8 verse 3: ‘Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.’ He said, ‘I am willing.’ He turns to the leper and says, ‘Be clean,’ and he was immediately cleansed of his leprosy. Jesus moved by compassion, healed others. ‘When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed them.’ (Mathew 14:14)

When I was growing up on the island of Ceylon, now called Sri Lanka, I drank some contaminated water and developed typhoid fever. One night I had 105 F fever and was dying. My stomach was on fire. I was rolling on the bed in pain. My younger brother slept on a mat by my bedside, holding my hand in the night. It was at that point of severe, excruciating pain that I cried out to Jesus and said, ‘please heal me.’ At the time I wasn’t a practicing Christian.

My family were church going people, but I hadn’t made a conscious decision to accept Jesus as my Savior. But He heard my cry. I started getting better. It was a gradual process. I spent six months in bed, I weighed about 98 lbs. It was an absolute miracle and I am alive to tell the tale. Healing is real. I have experienced the Compassionate Jesus. His compassion, his love, his healing, is available to you. He said: ‘according to your faith, so be it unto you.’ He bore our sicknesses, so we don’t have to. By His stripes we are healed. ‘I am willing,’ said Jesus to the leper. ‘Be clean.’