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Occupy London's Sister Ruth
by Camilla Schick
London's Mother Theresa?
In this special report, we profile one unusual member of the Occupy London protest on the steps of St Paul's Cathedral.
Click play on the right to listen to an audio introduction from Camilla Schick, our reporter:
As dusk descends upon St Paul’s Cathedral, two protesters stand near the tents, staring a woman wearing rosary beads and a blue tunic bearing an image of Jesus.
She dances and sings along with a guitarist and a crowd of young protesters.
“What does it say on her tunic?” One protester asks. “Jesus loves you,” the other smirks.
“British-Italian, with a bit of Jewish thrown in”, Sister Ruth is a Catholic missionary and socialist with a wicked sense of humour who appears most days at the Occupy London camp.
She unabashedly holds a statue of Christ on the cross, with British and Israeli flags peeping out of her wheelie-bag.
She’s a nun with an unexpected and refreshing amount of banter, joking from the start that she’s here to pick up good-looking bankers.
“I’m a very strict Catholic. I’m not really chasing any men. Unless I can trip one over and catch him.”
Continue ReadingAt its peak, up to 3,000 protesters crowded around St Paul's Cathedral.
The protesters haphazardly landed on the steps of St Paul’s last month when the police booted them away from the Stock Exchange.
But their persistent presence in the face of eviction quickly drew out an astonishing reaction from the woodwork of one of the Church of England’s most famous cathedrals, keenly picked up by world media, causing a Canon, and later the Dean, to resign.
“I keep hugging Canon Giles Fraser. I want to hug the Dean and others too, but I can’t find them!”
On a more serious note she adds:
“I admire Fraser. He’s the only real Christian in this Cathedral. The police were going to push the protesters away from here too, but Fraser told the police: no, you go away. Then, the wealthy bully-trustees and donors forced the Cathedral to close after a lot of pathetic excuses. They’re bonkers. All they do is listen to right-wing lies and twists of the truth. Taxpayers are wasting millions of pounds on police guarding us instead of catching criminals and terrorists... They should be ashamed. Jesus took a whip and drove the money lenders out of the temple.”
What would Mother Theresa think of it all?
“She’d be here, as would Jesus. When the rich man asked him ‘How can I follow you?’ Jesus said ‘Go and give all your riches to the poor and follow me,’ and then the rich man walked away because he couldn’t do it.”
We mutually agree religion needs comedy: “Jesus had a sense of humour. The world is such a mess, and laughter is a therapy. I get to people through laughing. They see me and get scared, they think I’m gonna hit them over the head with the Bible. So I joke - and then I kneecap them!”
Local papers report she's Portuguese, born in Burma, and a resident of Knock, Ireland - when she’s not busy globe-trotting that is. She's travelled to over 200 countries, carrying a three-foot statue of the Virgin Mary, spreading the love of Jesus, warning of the apocalypse, and praying with Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, Protestants, communists and atheists. She admits to me how she detests the Royal Family, Etonian MPs, and Rupert Murdoch.
In 2002 the Sunday Herald reported she had been arrested in Croatia, stalked by the KGB in the Soviet Union, and ‘gassed and robbed in Mexico’, yet visiting Scotland and Northern Ireland had still seemed a more daunting prospect to her at the time.
She has also reportedly been spat on by Muslim fanatics, attacked and nearly killed on several occasions by people thinking she’s crazy, and sectioned under the Mental Health Act. “I’ve been put in prison fifteen times by police saying I’m citing religious hatred by wearing this,” She points to her Jesus tunic. “I’m on police bail.”
And yet, local papers worldwide have reported how people love to open up to her with their problems when they see her coming. Certainly my own conversation with her left me convinced she is warm, funny, perceptive, smart, wise, eccentric – anything but insane. Continue Reading
Her thoughts on capitalism mirror the sentiment of her fellow protestors:
“I believe in a mixed economy. If we cooperatively shared profits, we wouldn’t have this growing divide between rich and poor. Most people know we can’t do away with capitalism altogether. But I think first we should stop tax-fiddlers, and hedge funds fiddling all their loop-holes, and them not wanting to give a penny to free education, free schools, and the welfare system. We taxpayers bailed out the banks with billions, and they repay us by gambling all the money. They’ve caused this financial collapse. Instead of repaying us, all they do is grab a huge bonus. They should stop all these rightwing press headlines. They should tax the rich more. They’re incredibly dishonest, devious, greedy, and corrupt.”
“Time is very short and very urgent,” She warns, “The world is getting more amoral, materialistic, greedy and selfish. If we ignore peaceful protests and cling to selfish wealth, then there will be violence. Look at the rioters. Cameron says it wasn’t because of social injustice. But they then found most were from the poorest backgrounds. Prophets have said there’s going to be bloodshed in Britain.”
She tells me she wants to return to Africa one day to open an orphanage, hopefully in South Sudan. “African children are gorgeous. They’re happier than ours.”
As I photograph her, other photographers spot her and begin snapping away too, before she gives me a farewell hug by the Cathedral steps, wandering back into the camp to mingle with the other protesters as night falls.
The Cathedral has re-opened its doors to tourists. The Corporation of London gave protesters until 18:00 on 18th November 2011 to vacate the grounds of the cathedral, but to date, they are still present.
Not on the Wires continue to monitor their protest, please contact us via our Facebook page if you hear more developments.
Local newspaper coverage of Sister Ruth’s journeys around the world can be viewed on her website.
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