is a story that starts in the medieval Balkans with a priest called
Bogomil, travels to recent Uruguay to visit a president called ‘El
Pepe’ and concludes in today’s UK with a politician named Jeremy
Corbyn. Over time and distance they are all linked.
is thought to have originated from the teachings of a Macedonian
priest named Bogomil, "beloved of God”. He called priests and
nobles 'servants of the devil' and preached about the differences in
life style between Jesus Christ and the wealthy.
beliefs spread across the Balkans with their rejection of church dogma and
the cruelties of the Old Testament. The Trinity was thought to be
delusional and the cross a killing instrument. Material wealth was
considered wicked as were formal religious and political
people followed Bogomil teachings, and their ideas spread to
present-day Bosnia, Serbia, Italy and France. By the late 12th
century it was the state religion in Bosnia and in 1222 the Pope
declared a crusade against them.
rising Ottoman empire to the south-east offered the 'Bogomils'
protection and they converted to Islam. As a result Bogomilism
survived and it is my view that their beliefs and practices continue
to this day amongst those people in Bosnia Herzegovina who I consider to be my friends and
family after living there before and after the wars in former Yugoslavia.
night on Netflix I watched ‘El Pepe: A Supreme Life’, Emir
Kusturica’s film about José Alberto ‘Pepe’
Mujica Cordano, a Uruguayan
who served as President of Uruguay
from 2010-2015. He, with his wife Lucía Topolansky Saavedra, were
with the Tupamaros at the time of the military dictatorship in the
70s and 80s and, for many years, both were imprisoned.
elected President, ‘Pepe’ refused to reside in the presidential
palace, preferring to live on a farm located off a dirt road. He gave
away 90 percent of his salary to charity. Now aged 85 he
has never had a bank account and still drives a 1987 Volkswagen. As
to how he dresses: “The tie is a useless rag that constrains your
neck. I’m an enemy of consumerism. Because of this
hyperconsumerism, we’re forgetting about fundamental things and
wasting human strength on frivolities that have little to do with
stands up for the oppressed and marginalised and during his
Presidency offered asylum to detainees from Guantanamo Bay, and
shelter to Syrian children refugees. He supported women's rights and
legalised abortion, gay marriage and marihuana.
are products of our pasts” Pepe says, “but we all have a chance
to mold a better future in the present. Never ever give up. Keep
fighting. Anything is possible.”
don’t need to repeat what I have written about Jeremy Corbyn in
recent weeks except to say that he bears remarkable similarities to
Pepe in his beliefs, practices and lifestyle.
for him he has not had to share Pepe and Lucia’s fate of lengthy
imprisonment, but has had to share the abuse and vilification from
their respective establishments.
can create a new kind of politics,” says Corbyn,“kinder, more
respecful, but courageous too.”