Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, has not worn a clergy collar for the past ten years.
Back in 2007, during an appearance on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, the archbishop removed his collar and cut it up. He said at the time that it was in protest of the brutal regime of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe.
Mugabe was enjoying the global limelight at the EU’s Africa summit in Lisbon at the time, and the archbishop was speaking out against the regime’s destruction of Zimbabweans’ identities.
“Do you know what Mugabe has done? He has taken people’s identity and literally – if you don’t mind – cut it to pieces,” Mr Sentamu told BBC1’s Andrew Marr show.
“As far as I am concerned, from now on I am not going to wear a dog collar until Mugabe is gone.”
Ten years on, he has kept to his pledge but now Mr Mugabe is gone, pushed out of power by the military with popular backing. Appearing once again on the BBC Sunday morning program, host Andrew Marr presented the archbishop with the pieces of cut up collar.
Handing back the original collar, Marr said: “Nearly 10 years on, I’ve got them for you, they’ve been sitting in my desk. They’re in a slightly crumpled old envelope, but here they all are. I said I would give them back, so I’ll give them back.”
Sentamu called Marr a “a faithful friend” as he looked at the cut-up pieces of his old collar. He then reached into his coat pocket producing a new one that he put on, saying; “I actually think the lesson for Zimbabwe is the same, they just can’t try and stitch it up. Something more radical, something new needs to happen in terms of rule of law. Allowing people to get jobs, because 90% of people are out of work, so they can’t just stitch it up,” he said.
“I promised then when Mugabe goes I will put my collar on, so I have no choice but to put it back on after Mugabe has gone. But the new president has got to remember something more now than simply stitching up a thing will work.”