News Briefing and Comment


06/28/2017 08:18 PM
Two magic money trees and a helicopter

Two magic money trees and a helicopter

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06/28/2017 04:22 PM
Military conference at Church House disrupted by Christian protesters

An arms industry-sponsored event was disrupted today by Christian campaigners just as Defence Secretary Michael Fallon was due to speak.

An arms industry-sponsored event was disrupted this morning (28 June 2017) by Christian campaigners just as Defence Secretary Michael Fallon was due to speak. The Land Warfare Conference, at Church House Westminster, was challenged by Christian campaigners who object to a Christian venue hosting a military conference sponsored by arms companies.

Ten Christian protesters blockaded the main entrance to the centre for about an hour after around 8.40am this morning. They were removed by police, who arrested one of them for attempting to walk into the building.

The blockade followed an attempt to question Defence Secretary Michael Fallon about arms sales to Saudi Arabia as he made his way into the conference. He did not answer any questions and his critics were physically dragged away from him by Church House security staff.

The conference, organised by a military thinktank the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), is sponsored by arms companies including Airbus Defence & Space and L3, who have both been challenged over the provision of arms to Saudi Arabia.

Church House claim that Church House Westminster (formerly known as Church House Conference Centre) is a separate business. Critics point out that, as well as being in the same building, it is a wholly owned subsidiary business of Church House Corporation, whose president is the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

As the door was blockaded this morning, army officers and arms industry personnel clustered around the steps, unable to get through the doorway, before being diverted to an inconvenient back entrance.

The ten Christians, who included several members of the Church of England, displayed banners declaring “Evict the arms dealers”, “Anglicans against arms” and quoting Jesus’ words, “All who take up the sword will die by the sword”.

“I did not take this action lightly,” said Christian author and Ekklesia associate Symon Hill, who was arrested as he attempted to walk into the building before being released shortly afterwards. “Church House have consistently refused to listen or talk with us, ignored the points we have raised and even been petty enough to block critics on social media.”

He added, “As those with power refuse to listen, we have taken nonviolent direct action, putting our bodies in the way of the evil that is going on at Church House today.”

When the conference opened yesterday, hundreds of tweets were sent to Church House Westminster to object to the event, including several from Church of England clergy.

There have been protests and vigils outside RUSI conferences at Church House every year since 2012.

“Jesus lived a life of active nonviolence,” said Eve Waterside, a member of the Church of England living in Oxford, who took part in today's protest. “We are called to follow his example, however fallibly.”

She continued, “A leading Christian conference centre is being used to plan large-scale violence, funded by companies that arm some of the world’s most oppressive regimes. I am sad and angry to see the church of which I am part profiting from war and the arms trade."

Christian pacifist network the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FoR) responded to the protest by declaring that the blockade was “morally justifiable”.

FoR explained, “Church House Westminster say they can’t check who funds all the events they host, but it’s not hard to find out, as it’s plastered all over the organiser’s website”.

They added, “We think that taking money from weapons manufacturers is the opposite of Jesus’ message of peace and nonviolence. While we recognise the humanity of each and every arms dealer, their profession has no place in a house of prayer.”

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06/28/2017 10:00 AM
Church of England and Methodists publish Mission and Ministry in Covenant

The Church of England and the Methodist Church in Britain are to consider proposals that would bring them into a new relationship of full communion, after a period of some 200 years of formal separation.

The Church of England and the Methodist Church in Britain are to consider proposals that would bring them into a new relationship of full communion, after a period of some 200 years of formal separation.

The proposals are presented in Mission and Ministry in Covenant, a joint report from the two churches' faith and order bodies. It sets out how the Methodist Church could come to have bishops in the historic episcopate, and how ministers from one church could become eligible to serve in the other.

The report builds on the theological convergence established by 'An Anglican-Methodist Covenant', signed in 2003, and the subsequent work of the Covenant's Joint Implementation Commission.

In 2014, the General Synod of the Church of England and the Methodist Conference mandated the faith and order bodies to bring forward proposals that would enable the interchangeability of ministries in the two churches.

The report sets out a way by which the Methodist Church would become one of the churches with which the Church of England is officially in communion, alongside other members of the Anglican Communion and Lutheran churches in the Porvoo Communion.

The Bishop of Coventry, The Rt Rev Christopher Cocksworth, Chair of the Church of England's Faith and Order Commission, said: "I am grateful to the joint working group for their careful but imaginative work on bringing forward a workable plan for enabling interchangeability of presbyteral ministry in our two churches.

"The solution is built on the centrality of the historic episcopate and the bishop as minister of ordination. The scheme as proposed will enable dioceses, districts and local churches to engage in creative pastoral planning for the good of the mission of God in this country."

The Bishop of Fulham The Rt Rev Jonathan Baker, Anglican Co-Chair of the joint working group, said: "The separation between Anglicans and Methodists in Great Britain is a tear in the fabric of the Body of Christ. The proposals in this Report are offered as a means of helping to repair that tear.

"They maintain the catholic, episcopal ordering of the church while at the same time acknowledging the real and effective ministry exercised by minsters in the Methodist Church. I warmly commend them for prayerful reading in the churches."

The report has now been released with the aim of enabling a wider discussion in the Methodist Church and in the Church of England, and to allow consultation with other ecumenical partners.

The Rev Canon Gareth J Powell, the Secretary of the Methodist Conference, said: "Methodists and Anglicans urgently need a set of proposals to enable the two Churches to move towards fuller communion, sharing more profoundly in mission and ministry. The model of a President-Bishop in these proposals, upholding as it does the centrality of the Conference, is a deeply Methodist way for John Wesley's people to engage at every level with the Church of England in mutual planning for pastoral oversight and Christian mission."

Read the report Mission and Ministry in Covenant here

* The Church of England https://www.churchofengland.org/

* The Methodist Church in Britain http://www.methodist.org.uk/

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06/28/2017 07:28 AM
Faith communities mobilise to fight hunger in Horn of Africa

Faith leaders and partners from organisations linked to faith bodies have gathered this week in Nairobi, mobilising to overcome hunger and sustain justice and peace in the troubled Horn of Africa.

Faith leaders and partners from organisations linked to faith bodies have gathered this week in Nairobi, mobilising to overcome hunger and sustain justice and peace in the troubled Horn of Africa.

The consultation, organised by the World Council of Churches (WCC), the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) and ACT Alliance, World Vision International and the World Food Programme, is being held in the Kenyan capital from 27-29 June 2017

Leaders from the World Council of Churches, ACT Alliance, Lutheran World Federation, Caritas Internationalis World Vision International and the World Food Programme (WFP) are participating.

Among the speakers are the Rev Dr Andre Karamaga, AACC General Secretary;  Dr Agnes Aboum, moderator of the WCC’s central committee; Ms Joyce Luma, South Sudan country director of  the World Food Programme (WFP); Dr Manoj Kurian of the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (EAA) and Dr  Nigussu Legesse, WCC’s programme executive for Africa.

The UN has declared famine in parts of South Sudan, but in adjoining areas such as Somalia, Ethiopia, Burundi, Kenya, and Uganda the situation is fragile. Organisers say they aim to build on the momentum gained on the Global Day of Prayer to End Famine on 21 May by engaging in strategic discussions.

The WFP has classified the drought crisis in the Horn of Africa as a 'Level 2 Emergency'. In Somalia some 2.9 million people and  around 5.6 million people in neighbouring Ethiopia are categorised as being in either crisis or emergency and requiring urgent humanitarian assistance. Further south in Kenya, 2.6 million people also require emergency food assistance.

The drought is evolving against escalating needs in South Sudan, with 4.9 million people requiring emergency food assistance between February and April 2017.

The UN and church leaders are worried about the nexus between conflicts and hunger, knowing that food insecurity and starvation are increasingly being used in conflicts as weapons of war. The weaponising of food adds to the humiliation, the decimation of populations and the shredding of the very fabric of human societies, they say.

* The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, by the end of 2012 the WCC had 345 member churches representing more than 500 million Christians from Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other traditions in over 110 countries. The WCC works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church.

* World Council of Churches http://www.oikoumene.org/en

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06/28/2017 07:08 AM
Amnesty USA files FOI request on travel ban

Amnesty International USA has filed a Freedom of Information request to find out how federal agencies will implement the travel ban.

Following the US Supreme Court decision which allows parts of President Trump’s travel ban to go into effect, Amnesty International USA has filed a Freedom of Information Act request, to discover how key federal agencies intend to implement the ban. The ban is often referred to as a 'Muslim ban' because it targets people travelling from countries with majority Muslim populations.

Amnesty is asking the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of State and Customs and Border Protection to provide information regarding how arriving passengers will be processed, and what guidance has been provided to customs and border agents at international airports. 

Margaret Huang, Amnesty International USA’s Executive Director, said, “The public needs to know exactly what agents in airports nationwide are being told to do, and we need to know now. 

“This policy is cruel and discriminatory, and it could create havoc in airports in the US and around the world.

“Amnesty International has documented first-hand the horrific conditions that refugees are fleeing, and we’ve seen the turmoil President Trump’s orders created around the world earlier this year. 

“We filed this request for documents because people need to know what to expect when they face immigration and law-enforcement officials at US borders.”

Agencies are legally obliged to respond to such requests in a timely fashion, and Amnesty has requested the information within ten working days.

*Amnesty International USA https://www.amnestyusa.org/

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06/27/2017 07:37 AM
Yemen hit by world's worst cholera outbreak

Yemen is now facing the worst cholera outbreak in the world, with suspected cases exceeding 200,000 and the number increasing at an average of 5,000 a day, the United Nations has warned.

Yemen is now facing the worst cholera outbreak in the world, with suspected cases exceeding 200,000 and the number increasing at an average of 5,000 a day, the United Nations has warned.

In a joint statement, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Anthony Lake and World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan said that in just two months, cholera has spread to almost every governorate of this war-torn country. Already more than 1,300 people have died – one quarter of them children – and the death toll is expected to rise.

“UNICEF, WHO and our partners are racing to stop the acceleration of this deadly outbreak”, they said, also calling on authorities in Yemen to strengthen their internal efforts to stop the outbreak from spreading further.

“This deadly cholera outbreak is the direct consequence of two years of heavy conflict”, the UN officials said, noting that collapsing health, water and sanitation systems have cut off 14.5 million people from regular access to clean water and sanitation, increasing the ability of the disease to spread.

The UN officials also said that rising rates of malnutrition have weakened children's health and made them more vulnerable to disease.

An estimated 30,000 dedicated local health workers who play the largest role in ending this outbreak have not been paid their salaries for nearly 10 months. “We urge all authorities inside the country to pay these salaries and, above all, we call on all parties to end this devastating conflict”, said the UN officials.

* United Nations http://www.un.org/en/index.html

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06/27/2017 07:14 AM
Methodists reaffirm connexionalism

The Methodist Conference reaffirmed the importance of being an "interdependent" and "diverse" Church yesterday (26 June 2017), as it met in Birmingham for its annual gathering.

The Methodist Conference reaffirmed the importance of being an "interdependent" and "diverse" Church yesterday (26 June 2017), as it met in Birmingham for its annual gathering.

In a report entitled 'The Gift of Connexionalism in the 21st Century', the Conference discussed the fundamental importance of 'connexionalism' to how Methodists understand their own identity.

With origins dating back to the eighteenth-century, the Methodist Church has continued to describe itself as a 'connexion' for nearly 300 years. Originally referring to the inter-connectedness of people and groups, the word has developed significant and theological meaning for Methodists, being elaborated and expressed through hymns, liturgy and the constitution of the Church as well as in the faith and practice of the Methodist people.

The Rev Dr Nicola Price-Tebbutt, Secretary of the Faith and Order Committee, who presented the report, said:"For Methodists, connexionalism isn't just an abstract principle or simply a piece of historical baggage… It's a way of being Christian, fundamental to how Methodists understand the Church and what it means specifically to be a Methodist."

The report reflected on the importance of relationships of mutuality and interdependence, finding that Methodists spoke of the value of belonging to something larger than a local church and the benefits of sharing resources and experiences while celebrating diversity.

Additionally, the report emphasised the relevance of connexionalism in today's online world.

The Rev Canon Gareth J Powell, Secretary of the Conference, added: "Whilst celebrating the gift of modern technology, the Church also recognises the potential harm of the contemporary social experience which can be fragile, elusive or sometimes abusive. In a world craving genuine and meaningful relationships, connexionalism offers a hopeful alternative to a society which can often seem individualistic and consumer focused."

* Methodists in Britain http://www.methodist.org.uk/

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06/26/2017 09:42 AM
May must act on Briton detained in Ethiopia, say campaigners

It is three years since British father Andy Tsege was first illegally kidnapped from an international airport and rendered to Ethiopia’s death row. His partner, Yemi Hailemariam, has written to the Prime Minister asking her to negotiate his return home to her and their three children Helawit (17) Yilak and Menabe (both 10) in London.

Friday 13 June 2017 marked three years since British father Andy Tsege was first illegally kidnapped from an international airport and rendered to Ethiopia’s death row. His partner, Yemi Hailemariam, has written to the Prime Minister asking her to negotiate his return home to her and their three children Helawit (17) Yilak and Menabe (both 10) in London.

The children have not spoken to their father since December 2014, six months after he was abducted on 23 June 2014. Andy Tsege is a democracy activist and political opponent of Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and was convicted of trumped-up charges in his absence in 2009 while living in London with his family, says the human rights organisation Reprieve.(http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/21578)

In her letter, Ms Hailemariam writes about their children, saying “I am still at a loss about how to explain to them why their dad can’t come home. How can I tell them that their own country, their own Prime Minister has not called for his return? Instead of fighting the Ethiopian government on this together with you, I am still stuck fighting for the UK government to do the right thing.”

Yemi Hailemariam, who stood against Theresa May in her Maidenhead constituency during the recent general election in order to bring Andy Tsege's case to her attention, also asks the Prime Minister to meet with her so she can explain his desperate situation.

Maya Foa, Director of Reprieve, said “Theresa May needs show she has the strength to stand up to the Ethiopian Prime Minister and negotiate Andy’s return home to his family. Three years is already too long for Helawit, Yilak and Menabe to have been without their father. There is no excuse for the Prime Minister abandoning one of her citizens. At the very least she owes Yemi an hour of her time to explain why there has been no progress in Andy’s case and what she intends to do about it.”

* Read Yemi Hailemariam's letter here

* Reprieve http://www.reprieve.org.uk/

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06/26/2017 07:52 AM
Church leaders write to politicians engaged in Northern Ireland talks

Church leaders have written to politicians asking them to 'go the extra mile' as Northern Ireland talks deadline draws near.

As this week's deadline draws near, Church leaders have written to the leaders of the five main political parties involved in the current Northern Ireland talks process, to strongly encourage them "to go the extra mile" to reach an accommodation that works "for the common good of all in our society."

The letter, which has also been copied to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and to Ireland's Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, highlights the fact that without an agreed budget, or Executive ministers in place to make crucial decisions, both the most vulnerable people and the small voluntary and community groups that serve them, are at risk.

Sent by the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh, President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh, President of the Irish Council of Churches and the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the letter also makes the point that "little co-ordinated local input into the Brexit discussions" has taken place, "and even less detailed preparation for what lies ahead for Northern Ireland and the island as a whole" can happen without a functioning Executive in place.

"This week we strongly encourage all the political leaders involved in the talks to go the extra mile to reach an accommodation, which establishes a sustainable administration that will work for the common good of all in our society."

The letter has been sent to Mr Colum Eastwood MLA, Rt Hon Arlene Foster MLA, Ms Naomi Long MLA, Ms Michelle O'Neill MLA, Mr Robin Swann MLA, and copied to Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and to Mr Simon Coveney TD, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The full text of the letter is as follows;

It has been some 114 days since March's election to the Northern Ireland Assembly. With the current 29th June talks deadline drawing near, as Church Leaders we wanted to encourage you, and Northern Ireland's other political leaders engaged in the talks process, and reemphasise the pressing need for everyone to act together to end the current political impasse in the interests of all in our society.

While we acknowledge the complexities involved in reaching an agreement, we want to express our continued concern that without an agreed budget and with no Executive ministers in place, the most vulnerable are at greater risk, while crucial decisions on education, health and welfare are not being taken.

At the same time, I am sure you are aware that small voluntary and community groups - who play such a vital role at the heart of our villages, towns and cities - face mounting uncertainty and are finding it increasingly difficult to support those most in need. Furthermore, with no Executive there has been comparatively little co-ordinated local input into the Brexit discussions and even less detailed preparation for what lies ahead for Northern Ireland and the island as a whole.

As Christians we recognise our responsibility to pray for you and for all those in political authority and no doubt you recognise your responsibility towards the people of Northern Ireland at this time. Our prayer and hope is that you and the leaders of the other parties will take the action necessary to end the uncertainty that is weighing heavily on our society.

This week we strongly encourage all the political leaders involved in the talks to go the extra mile to reach an accommodation, which establishes a sustainable administration that will work for the common good of all in our society.

May God richly bless you in this task

Yours in Christ,

Archbishop Richard Clarke, Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh
The Rev Dr Laurence Graham, President of the Methodist Church in Ireland
Archbishop Eamon Martin, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh
Bishop John McDowell, President of the Irish Council of Churches
The Rt Rev Dr Noble McNeely, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland

*Independent Catholic News http://www.indcatholicnews.com/

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06/26/2017 07:31 AM
China urged not to return refugees to North Korea

China should immediately release five North Korean refugees held in Chinese detention and agree not to return them to North Korea, where they would face grave danger, says Human Rights Watch.

China should immediately release five North Korean refugees held in Chinese detention and agree not to return them to North Korea, where they would face grave danger, says Human Rights Watch. China should protect the five refugees and let them travel to safety in a third country, the organisation said in a letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping.

North Koreans who are forcibly repatriated after fleeing their country face a real risk of torture, sexual violence and abuse, incarceration in forced labour camps, and public executions, making them refugees in need of urgent protection under international law. 

“China should not force these five refugees back to North Korea, where the government is known to severely violate the rights of those sent back using methods such as torture, sexual violence, forced labour, and long-term incarceration in North Korea’s brutal prison camp system,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Beijing should fulfill its obligations under the UN Refugee Convention by releasing these five refugees and permitting them to go to a third country where they can be safely protected.” 

Chinese government officials detained the group traveling to the city of Shenyang, Liaoning province, in northeastern China. Three of the five refugees are relatives of 'Lim'” a North Korean now living in South Korea and using a pseudonym. On 16 June 2017, Lim received a call from her brother, who was using a smuggled Chinese phone in North Korea. He told Lim that he had crossed the Yalu river, on the border between North Korea and China, with their mother and a cousin. He had been carrying their mother, who was too weak to walk, and needed help because the group had become lost on the mountain. Lim’s relatives had no food and her brother eventually lost consciousness from exhaustion and hunger. 

Lim was eventually able to contact someone who could help guide the group and provide them with food and basic assistance.She told Human Rights Watch that she spoke to her family a few days later, when the person trying to help them reached the group before departing by car. She has not been able to contact them since then. 

On 21 June, Lim learned from her local contacts that the group, including her three relatives, had been detained by the Chinese military near Yanji city, Jilin Province. On 22 June, she heard that authorities were about to move her family to Helong, 70 kilometres southwest of Yanji. 

China regularly labels North Koreans as illegal 'economic migrants' and forcibly repatriates them to North Korea based on a 1986 bilateral border protocol. However, regardless of why North Koreans decide to flee the country, they are virtually guaranteed to face extremely abusive treatment if forced to return. For this reason, international law considers them all to be refugees sur place, or refugees because of circumstances after their departure.

China, as a state party to the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, as well as the 1984 Convention against Torture, is specifically obligated not to return refugees when that may put them at risk of persecution or torture. The same obligations bind China as a matter of customary international law. Forcing North Koreans back to North Korea amounts to refoulement, or the sending of persons back to territory where they face serious human rights violations. Such a practice forbidden by international treaties to which China is a party.

According to interviews conducted by Human Rights Watch with North Koreans who have previously been apprehended in China and returned to North Korea, the North Korean government harshly punishes all those who leave the country without permission.

In 2010, North Korea’s Ministry of People’s Security adopted a decree making defection a crime of “treachery against the nation,” punishable by death. North Koreans who have fled the country since 2013, or who maintain contacts inside the country, have told Human Rights Watch that people repatriated by China face severe penalties. Those caught while trying to go to South Korea can face seven to 15 years of forced labour in ordinary prison camps (kyohwaso – re-education correctional facilities), incarceration in political prison camps (kwanliso), or even execution. 

North Koreans may be sentenced to more than two years of forced labor in ordinary prison camps for living illegally in China. A former senior official in the North Korean state security service (bowibu) who worked on the border and received North Koreans sent back from China, told Human Rights Watch that officials torture every returnee to find out where they went in China, who they contacted, and what they had done.

Lim remains especially concerned about her family’s treatment because police detained and forcibly disappeared her father in 2010. When detainees vanish without information on whereabouts, trial dates or result, the community assumes the person has been sent to political prison camps (kwanliso). Lim fears that because of their father’s status, her family will be lost in the kwanliso system. 

Political prison camps in North Korea are characterised by systematic abuses and often deadly conditions, including meagre rations that lead to near starvation, virtually no medical care, lack of proper housing and clothes, regular mistreatment including sexual assault and torture by guards, and summary executions. Death rates in these camps are reported by former North Korean prisoners and guards to be extremely high. Detainees in ordinary prison camps also face forced labour, food and medicine shortages and regular mistreatment by guards.

The 2014 UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea found that those fleeing the country are targeted as part of a “systematic and widespread attack against populations considered to pose a threat to the political system and leadership of the DPRK… to isolate the population from contact with the outside world.” It also found that crimes against humanity, including torture, execution, enslavement, and sexual violence, are committed against prisoners and people forcibly returned to North Korea from China. 

Human Rights Watch has called on China to stop repatriating North Koreans, and to allow the UN refugee agency to exercise its mandate and protect people. China should provide asylum to North Korean refugees, let them seek resettlement in a third country, or allow them to pass through Chinese territory without fear of arrest or forced returns.

In December 2016, the UN Security Council again discussed, for the third year in a row, the human rights situation in North Korea as a threat to international peace and security. In March 2017, the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution strengthening the UN’s work to assess and develop strategies to prosecute pervasive human rights crimes by the North Korean government.

“There is no way to sugarcoat this: if these people are forced back to North Korea, their lives and safety will be at risk”, said Robertson. “The world is watching to see whether Beijing fulfills its duty to protect these five refugees or again becomes complicit with North Korea’s abuses.”

*Read Human Rights Watch's letter to President Xi Jinping here

* Human Rights Watch https://www.hrw.org/

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06/24/2017 07:30 AM
CND calls for a halt to construction of new nuclear power stations

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament is calling for a halt to the construction of new nuclear power stations in light of a damning report from the National Audit Office.

A National Audit Office report on the construction of Hinkley Point C nuclear power station says the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has locked consumers into a risky and expensive project with uncertain strategic and economic benefits.

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said, “The Department has committed electricity consumers and taxpayers to a high cost and risky deal in a changing energy marketplace. Time will tell whether the deal represents value for money, but we cannot say the Department has maximised the chances that it will be.”

Commenting on the report, the General Secretary of the Camapign for Nuclear Disarmament, Kate Hudson, said, "It is becoming increasingly clear that successive governments' obsession with developing new nuclear power stations poses a threat to the economy, consumers and the environment. It's time for the government to start investing in renewable energy which can power the UK towards a greener, sustainable future."

The National Audit Office states that since the original White Paper on nuclear power published in 2008 “the economics of nuclear power have deteriorated: estimated construction costs have increased while alternative low-carbon technologies have become cheaper”. This comes after repeated cuts in government support for renewable energy.

Government involvement in the project is also criticised, as the report notes that by taking a 50 per cent stake in the construction of the plant, the government could have achieved a strike price of £48.50 per megawatt hour. As it currently stands the strike price is a guaranteed £92.50, around twice the wholesale price.

The National Audit Office report on Hinkley Point C can be found here

*Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament http://www.cnduk.org/

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06/23/2017 09:42 AM
Ekklesia at Solas Festival: making change, and journeys of belief

Ekklesia at Solas Festival: making change, and journeys of belief

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06/23/2017 09:26 AM
Police need more training on hate crime, says Amnesty

Amnesty International has called for improved training for police into how to deal with hate crime and for a review of the hate crime legal framework as it publishes a new briefing Against Hate: Tackling hate crime in the UK.

Amnesty International has called for improved training for police into how to deal with hate crime and for a review of the hate crime legal framework as it publishes a new briefing Against Hate: Tackling hate crime in the UK.

The briefing, produced following a study by the University of Leicester, is a review of existing legislation and case studies from victims of hate crime, and is being published on the one-year anniversary of the European Union Referendum vote.

It highlights a 42 per cent rise in hate crime in the two weeks either side of last year's referendum, mainly against members of minority ethnic and faith communities, new migrants, asylum seekers and refugees.

The research showed that many hate crime victims are not reporting abuse, and the training of police officers across the country is inconsistent, leaving some ill-prepared in identifying and investigating cases, and therefore leading to a low conviction rate.

The report includes case studies of disturbing hate crime based on disability, race, religion, sexual orientation, and transgender identity – plus sectarian-motivated hate crimes in Northern Ireland.

Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty UK, said: "The rise of hate crime in the UK is of significant concern for a number of reasons – and the time is now to put a stop to it. This is a problem that is both under-reported and under-resourced.

"Every year hundreds of thousands of people in the United Kingdom are attacked and harassed – physically or verbally – because they are perceived as 'different'. All people of all identities should be able to go about their lives in peace, without the fear of being abused or harassed by those who seek to sow hatred and division.

"In recent weeks, attacks in London and Manchester have attempted to undermine the very fabric of our society. In their wake, we have seen reports of a rise in demonising language and dangerous comments that can cause real harm to real people. Now, more than ever, we must stand together against this hatred.

"We are now calling for police to receive increased training in how to respond to hate crime and support victims, for more resources to assist investigation and prosecution, and for more awareness in how victims can report hate crimes."

Case studies include:

  • Hanane, a Muslim woman in London who suffered anti-Muslim abuse on the bus while pregnant, accused of being a terrorist and threated with violence. She said: "I am finding it difficult to sleep at night and every time I go out I am afraid."
  • Grace, an Asian woman who suffered racist abuse online from her partner's former friends, but was told by police that the comments "were not really racist...only immature men who were joking."
  • Monique, a mother from Ghana who settled in the West Midlands with her family but suffered racist abuse following the EU Referendum as her children were told they were going to be deported.
  • Bailey, a 13-year-old from Belfast, who was assaulted and suffered sectarian abuse. He said: "It makes me feel annoyed that I can't go somewhere without being attacked because of my religion."
  • Cathleen, a transgender woman from Edinburgh, who was verbally abused on a bus. She said: "Historically the police and other authorities have been prejudiced towards LGBT people and this has prevented LGBT people from reporting."
  • David, a gay man from East London, who was assaulted in a homophobic attack because he was holding hands with his partner. He said: "Since being physically attacked, I feel so much more self-conscious about holding my partner's hand or being affectionate."
  • Michael, a 61-year-old from Belfast who has a muscle-wasting disease and was verbally abused because of his disability. He said: "It was torture and I just didn't understand why they were doing it."

The study also highlighted that between 2012 and 2015, only 52 per cent of hate crime victims in England and Wales were satisfied with the police response in terms of fairness and effectiveness, much lower when compared to 73 per cent of general crime victims.

Kate Allen added: "We have had concerns for some time that toxic rhetoric from prominent figures can have serious consequences on the streets of Britain. Last summer, there was a worrying use of divisive language that demonised sections of the population and sent the harmful message that some people are more entitled to human rights than others.

"The language used by politicians, social commentators and sections of the media can have very real consequences for people, and we are reminding them of the need to be careful with what they say and what they do in this ongoing era of political upheaval."

At Amnesty's AGM earlier this year, Brendan Cox, husband of murdered MP Jo Cox, said: "The threat of rising far-right extremism is real and it isn't going to go away quickly. But with resolution, a concerted attempt to reach out and a focus on building closer communities we can and we will defeat it."

Following the publication of the briefing, Amnesty is calling for:

  • An extensive review of the UK's hate crime legal framework to assess whether the current system meets the needs of victims.
  • All police officers to receive adequate training to correctly identify hate crime, respond to victims and support them appropriately.
  • Resources for police forces and local governments to support frontline practitioners to establish and continue meaningful dialogue with different communities.
  • Public officials to speak out against and challenge negative stereotypes of particular groups and mobilise public opinion against discrimination on any grounds.
  • Developed training packages to improve police officers' knowledge of online hate crime and their confidence in dealing with this form of crime.
  • Extending the list of protected characteristics across the UK to include, as a minimum, gender, socio-economic status and age; and all characteristics should have equal legal protection.

* Read the report Against Hate: Tackling hate crime in the UK here

* Amnesty International https://www.amnesty.org.uk/

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06/23/2017 07:49 AM
New heir to Saudi throne presided over Yemen intervention

The newly-appointed Saudi Crown Prince has defended human rights abuses and presided over his country's intervention in Yemen as Defence Minister.

King Salman of Saudi Arabia has appointed his son Mohammed bin Salman as Crown Prince and heir to the throne. The new Crown Prince has repeatedly defended the human rights abuses of his father's regime, including the mass execution of 47 people in January 2016.

The crown prince claimed that all those killed were “terrorists” who were executed following fair trials. In fact, they included people arrested for simply attending a peaceful protest and convicted on the basis of false confessions extracted through torture. Those killed included Ali al-Ribh, who was just 17 at the time of his execution.

There is now great concern about three young pro-democracy protesters who could be executed at any moment on King Salman’s orders. Ali al-Nimr, Dawoud al-Marhoon and Abdullah Hasan al-Zaher were all juveniles when arrested.

Prince Mohammed has also been heavily criticised for presiding over the Saudi intervention in Yemen as defence minister since 2015.

Maya Foa, Director of the international human rights organisation Reprieve, said, “This is an attempt by an ageing dictator to fool the world into believing he is prepared to change. The reality is Prince Mohammed has stood alongside and publicly defended the King as young men have been tortured and executed for peacefully protesting while he has led the internationally condemned intervention in Yemen. Change will only come if the Crown Prince puts an end to the execution of juveniles, otherwise this is little more than routine spin to distract from the gravest human rights abuses.”

*More about the cases of Ali al-Nimr, Dawoud al-Marhoon and Abdullah Hasan al-Zaher, can be found here.

*Reprieve http://www.reprieve.org.uk/

*Reprieve provides free legal and investigative support to people around the world facing execution, and to victims of torture, extrajudicial imprisonment and extrajudicial killing.

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06/23/2017 07:48 AM
WCC chief greets Sami Church festival

At the Sami Church Days in Sweden, a festival held 14-16 June 2017, the World Council of Churches General Secretary, the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, described how indigenous people lead the world in caring for creation.

At the Sami Church Days in Sweden, a festival held 14-16 June 2017, the World Council of Churches (WCC) General Secretary, the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, described how indigenous people lead the world in caring for creation.

The Sami people are an indigenous people of northern Europe inhabiting lands which today encompass parts of northern Sweden, Norway, Finland and the Kola Peninsula of Russia.

The theme for the festival is Psalm 36:9: “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.” The verse, Tveit said, is “a fantastic motto that shows how love unites all: God, nature, humankind.”

Caring for the earth means respecting and valuing what God has created, Tveit reflected. “How can we love our neighbours if we don’t care whether there’s something to live from – and live for – on this one planet? How can we love God if we don’t love the world God loves?”

All of this is connected as part of the circle of ideas that we call 'nature' today: earth, plants, animals, air, water, light and darkness, climate, temperature, said Tveit. “It has always been part of our prayers of gratitude to God from humans of all cultures and traditions.”

Indigenous people in particular have had much better expressions for this connection than many others, and know a lot about why loving one’s neighbour, loving God, and loving nature are inseparable concepts, he continued. “We have so much to learn and to do together. Indigenous peoples, their situation, and their challenges have played, and do play an important role in the work of the WCC, and it is an important part of the lives and work of the churches that is expressed through the contributions of indigenous peoples.”

* The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, by the end of 2012 the WCC had 345 member churches representing more than 500 million Christians from Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other traditions in over 110 countries. The WCC works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church.

* World Council of Churches http://www.oikoumene.org/en

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