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Peace-seeking vicar gets reconciliation award from Archbishop of Canterbury
A retired Nottinghamshire vicar is to receive a prestigious international award by the Archbishop of Canterbury for work in reconciliation.
The Most Reverend Justin Welby, has given the Hubert Walter Award for
Reconciliation this year to the Rev’d Graham
Graham and his wife, Dr Gillian Burton, worked in Pakistan for twelve years and in Nottingham for twenty-five years. During their ministry they have worked tirelessly for peace, especially between
Christians and Muslims.
Graham will receive his award at Lambeth Palace on 4th April. He
said: “I was taken by surprise initially. Now that I have had time to reflect on it, I remember someone saying to me nearly 20 years ago: ‘You in your ministry are a pioneer.’ What
I have tried to do in the 47 years since I was ordained is, on the one hand, to be faithful to Jesus Christ – and at the same time take seriously that we are called to incarnate or live the gospel in
a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-faith society… and in order to do that practising reconciliation and building relationships with people of other faiths should have a high priority.
This award therefore greatly encourages me that the path I have taken for my ministry has been recognised and affirmed and I am very grateful to the Archbishop for choosing me to receive it.”
When the couple lived in Pakistan Graham built St Thomas’s Church in Islamabad, a very complex and long process, involving negotiations with both Islamic and government leaders – and it is still
operating today. He met the then Prime Minister, Zia Ul Haq, several times as part of this process. He also set up another church in a ‘Basti’ shanty town serving 25,000 people. This property was
given to him rent free because it was used to serve the community. His wife, Gillian, also set up the only medical clinic in the Basti.
The Bishop of Sherwood, the Rt Revd Tony Porter, shared his delight at this news ‘We are thrilled that Graham’s tireless, patient, persistent ministry for Reconciliation has been recognised and
applauded. It is a tribute to Graham and Gillian that this ministry continues effectively today with such passion. His calling has been in ‘disadvantaged’ areas, but because of his
ministry, so many have been ‘advantaged’.
Graham was appointed Priest-in-Charge of the parish of Hyson Green and Forest Fields in 1992, and worked hard to facilitate understanding and joint working between Christians and Muslims; this
has been done in the complex context of simultaneously supporting Pakistani Christians seeking asylum following persecution for their Christian faith.
He was the founder of the Rainbow Project which has been running for the last 17 years. The initial aims of the Rainbow Project were to enable leadership in the Anglican church from within ethnic
minorities, fight racism and bring the community to work together as people of different faiths for understanding, justice and change.
Following ‘9/11’ Graham co-founded ‘Faiths in Action’, a local interfaith organisation which is still working today to bring people of different faiths together. Hundreds of Christians and Muslims
have learnt to live well alongside one another through his work. When he retired in 2007 he continued to live in the same parish and still continues his ministry to many in one of the most
disadvantaged parishes in the diocese.