James Mawdsley

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James Rupert Russell Mawdsley is a traditionalist Catholic priest of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP), who is also a human rights activist campaigning for democracy in Burma. He is a dual citizen of the United Kingdom and Australia.[1]

Early life[edit]

Mawdsley was born in 1973. His parents are David and Diana, and he has three siblings.[2] He gave up his study at Bristol University, and while backpacking met Burmese refugees who engaged his interest in the plight of ethnic minorities in Burma.[2]

He married his wife, Elizabeth, in January 2005. They honeymooned in Rome, where their union was blessed by Pope John Paul II.[3]

Burmese activism and imprisonment[edit]

Mawdsley took up teaching English at a Burmese refugee camp, and became further involved when government forces burnt down the school.[1] He was arrested three times for his involvement[2] and deported three times. The second arrest was in May 1998, for handing out stickers and playing songs for the pro democracy movement.[2] On arrest, he was tortured for 15 hours,[2] and sentenced to five years imprisonment, which was suspended after 98 days.[1]

He was rearrested a third time in September 1999, for illegal entry and sedition, and was sentenced to seventeen years in jail.[1] His imprisonment was held to be arbitrary by the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in 2000.[4] This time, he spent 415 days in solitary confinement, before his release in October 2000, after pressure was exerted by the United Kingdom Foreign Office on the authorities in Myanmar.[5]

External activism and politics[edit]

Mawdsley's memoir of his experiences in Burma, The Heart Must Break: The Fight for Democracy and Truth in Burma, was published in 2001; in the United States, the book was titled The Iron Road: A Stand for Truth and Democracy in Burma.[6][7] In February 2003, Mawdsley co-authored New Ground, a pamphlet advocating foreign policy based around freedom, dignity and the rule of law. This document has helped give rise to the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, founded in October 2005.[8] At the 2004 European Parliament Election, Mawdsley was a candidate on the Conservative Party list for the North West England.[9] However, he was placed ninth on the list, so was not one of the three Conservatives who won a seat.

In February 2005, he was selected as the prospective parliamentary candidate for the constituency of Hyndburn, due to the previous candidate deciding not to stand, overseeing unsuccessful campaigns in 1997 and 2001.[10] In the 2005 General Election, which took place in May 2005, he lost to sitting MP Greg Pope by 5,587 votes.[11][12] Ken Hargreaves supported his bid into becoming the next MP for Hyndburn. His wife suffered a ectopic pregnancy on the eve of the General Election.

Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter[edit]

Mawdsley is now a Catholic priest of the FSSP, having studied to become a priest at the FSSP seminary at Wigratzbad in Germany.[9] He was ordained to the priesthood on 2 July 2016 and was assistant priest at St Mary's Church, Warrington in Cheshire, England through October 2017.[9] From November 2017 through August 2018, Mawdsley was assigned to the FSSP apostolate in Reading, Berkshire, where he served the Latin Mass centres of Bedford and Chesham Bois.[13] Effective September 2018, Mawdsley will be assigned to the FSSP apostolate in Vienna, Austria.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "British activist jailed in Burma". BBC News. 2 September 1999. Retrieved 17 November 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Lane, Harriet (9 January 2000). "'I half want my son to stay in his Burma jail hell'". The Observer. Retrieved 17 November 2014. 
  3. ^ "Election candidate's baby grief". accringtonobserver.co.uk. 12 May 2005. Retrieved 9 March 2017. 
  4. ^ "James Mawdsley v. Myanmar". Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/2001/14/Add.1 at 124. University of Minnesota Human Rights Library. 2000. Retrieved 17 November 2014. 
  5. ^ "2000: British activist freed from Burma". BBC On This Day. 2005. Retrieved 17 November 2014. 
  6. ^ Mawdsley, James (2001). The heart must break : the fight for democracy and truth in Burma. London: Century. ISBN 9780712679213. 
  7. ^ Mawdsley, James (2001). The iron road : a stand for truth and democracy in Burma (1st American ed.). New York: North Point Press. ISBN 9780865476370. 
  8. ^ Dr Fox reaches out to right in confident performance
  9. ^ a b c "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 27 September 2015. Retrieved 15 September 2015. 
  10. ^ "Tories pin election hopes on author". accringtonobserver.co.uk. 3 February 2005. Retrieved 9 March 2017. 
  11. ^ "Hyndburn". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 November 2014. 
  12. ^ "Result: Hyndburn". Election 2005. BBC News. 6 May 2005. Retrieved 17 November 2014. 
  13. ^ "St Mary's Warrington Bulletin" (PDF). 5 November 2017. 

External links[edit]