As another year draws to a close and we mark Human Rights Day 2016, the importance of the sanctity of every human life remains challenged in far too many places in our world. This is despite various charters and conventions put in place to safeguard the lives of all. While humanity is seen to be rapidly advancing in many areas we are, as a global community, guilty of neglecting and even forsaking basic God-given rights and freedoms which were bestowed indiscriminately upon all; rights that must continue to underpin our values and choices if we seek to preserve justice, peace and freedom.
The Calais camp has been demolished. Almost 2,000 refugee children are stuck in limbo in France, Citizens UK - which brings together faith and community and faith groups from across the country, are organising an action outside Parliament next Tuesday, 13 December from 6 to 7pm to ask the Home Secretary to bring across at least 600 of the remaining lone exiled children stuck in France to fulfil her target proposed earlier in the year to bring 'half' the Calais children here -- and to do so before Christmas.
The annual Pax Christi Advent Peace Service and Fair was held at St Aloysius Church in Euston last night. Coming at the end of a year which has seen an upsurge in conflicts around the world and a huge influx of refugees fleeing warzones, this popular service, with its clear focus on the peacemaking message of Advent, felt particularly poignant. The service was led by Pad Gaffney, General Secretary of Pax Christi UK. The church was specially decorated with focal points for prayer around the church
The Vatican on Tuesday said the "logic of fear and mistrust that is epitomized by nuclear deterrence must be replaced with a new global ethic" during a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). "The promotion of nuclear security - preventing, detecting and responding to criminal or intentional unauthorized acts involving, or directed at, nuclear material, other radioactive material, associated facilities or associated activities - is of significant importance to the Holy See, said Mgr Antoine Camilleri, Undersecretary for Relations with States.
Sarah Teather, director of the Jesuit Refugee Service in the UK (JRS UK) has expressed concern and sadness at the latest death in Colnbrook immigration detention centre near Heathrow. The police launched a murder investigation after a 64-year-old immigration detainee died following a fight there on Thursday.JRS UK runs an outreach service to the two detention centres at Heathrow: Colnbrook and Harmondsworth. A team of religious and lay volunteers visit and accompany detainees offering pastoral support and help.
A special service has been held to celebrate the support shown by Catholics towards refugees during the Year of Mercy. The 'Welcome the Stranger' service, held on Saturday 3 December at the Spiritan Centre in Salford, recognised the many acts of compassion undertaken by the members of the Catholic community. The service, organised by CAFOD and Caritas Social Action Network, was celebrated by the Rt Rev John Arnold, Bishop of Salford. Catholics across England and Wales marked the Pope's Jubilee Year with an outpouring of solidarity towards people who have fled their homes.
The team from St Ethelburga's have announced that they will be supporting a vigil in London on Monday afternoon, 5th December, in solidarity with the Standing Rock water protectors in North Dakota, USA. The gathering has been initiated by Rev Peter Owen-Jones and friends. Members of Pax Christi together with the Columbans and several parish Justice & Peace groups will be joining the event outside the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square from 2-6pm. The organisers stress that this is a peaceful gathering of support, not a demonstration.
The Pax Christi Advent Peace Service and Fair takes place next Tuesday 6 December at 7pm in St Aloysius Church, Phoenix Road, Euston. This popular service, with its clear focus on the peacemaking message of Advent, will include prayers and readings for refugees, the people of Palestine and Israel and for women peacemakers. The service is followed by an alternative Christmas market and social with mulled wine and mince pies. The market will feature goods from the Philippines, the Jesuit Refugee Service, Traidcraft, Zaytoun products (Palestinian olive oil, soap etc),
The Global Day of Action 'No Dakota Access Pipeline' on 1 December was marked in London by a peaceful early morning vigil outside a banking institution in the City of London which is a funder of the oil pipeline. Around 100 people - carrying placards with the messages '#NoDAPL', 'Defund DAPL', 'Water is Life' and 'Standing with Standing Rock'- stood outside the Royal Bank of Scotland Office in Bishopsgate as city workers arrived at their offices. Among them was Josephine Siedlecka of Independent Catholic News and Ellen Teague of Columban JPIC. It was very cold, but
The year 2017 will mark 100 years since the Balfour declaration that made public British support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine, 70 years since UN resolution 181 calling for the partition of Palestine into Arab and Jewish states, and 50 years since Israel began its occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and the annexation of East Jerusalem. Pax Christi International believes that this is the moment for a renewed commitment to end the violence and to reach a just and sustainable solution guaranteeing the fundamental rights of both Israelis and Palestinians
The National Justice and Peace Network and CAFOD have welcomed both the Paris Climate Agreement of a year ago coming into force and the UK's ratification of the agreement. And global faith leaders have urged governments meeting in Morocco for climate talks to divest from fossil fuels and invest in the green economy. Both are stories in the December NJPN North-West J&P bulletin. Another story focuses on peace groups voicing concern that that the British army continues to recruit under-age soldiers.
Members of Catholic Justice and Peace groups will be joining peaceful protests in the City of London on Thursday, against banks which are funding the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline through the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota, USA. The project threatens to cut through an ancient burial ground, and prayer sites. It also endangers the Missouri River which supplies water to 17 million people. Under an 1851 treaty, the land belongs to the Sioux tribe. Many thousands of Native Americans from across the continent have been taking part in peaceful prayer vigils for months at the site.
This morning a group of Christians dropped a pile of melting ice in the entrance to a government department to express deep concern at the lack of meaningful action by government to tackle dangerous human-induced climate change which is threatening the creation God has called us to care for. On the first anniversary of the Paris Climate talks, members of Christian Climate Action also whitewashed walls outside the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (DBEIS) to a height of six foot to highlight the fact that current government policies are contributing to melting icecaps
On Friday Pax Christi in the Philippines began the '16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence' campaign, which runs to 10 December. This is the 25th year of the campaign. The Center for Peace Education-Miriam College (CPE-MC), Pax Christi-Pilipinas and the Catholic Archdiocese of Johannesburg in South Africa, members of the IANSA Women's Network, have 'Wear Orange Sunday' campaign on Sunday, 27 November and Sunday, 4 December. Why Sunday? The organisers say: "The campaign was originally meant to target church-goers. If you are not, you are still invited to wear orange
New figures out this week show that 24 percent of British Army recruits are child soldiers. This is despite public opposition from the Quakers and other Christian and lay organisations campaigning to raise the age of enlistment. The Ministry of Defence released the UK armed forces biannual diversity statistics 2016. They show that the proportion of the Army's intake aged under 18 increased from 22.5 percent to 24.1 percent. The armed forces as a whole recruited 1,140 16 year olds and 1,250 17 year olds, from a total of 12,300 new recruits.
CAFOD has welcomed the ratification of the Paris Agreement by the UK government as a "critical step" in the fight against climate change. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson signed the Agreement into domestic law on Thursday 17 November. The UK became the 112th country to ratify the Accord, which was reached at the Paris climate conference last December. The Catholic Church was seen as a major voice in the process that led to the Paris Agreement, with several world leaders citing Pope Francis's encyclical Laudato Si' in opening speeches at the 2015 conference.
In 56 AD, Luke the Evangelist, the Apostle Paul and their companions stopped on Lesvos briefly on the return trip of Paul's third missionary journey (Acts 20:14), having sailed from Assos (about 50 km away). From Mytilini they continued towards Chios (Acts 20:15). In 2016, Luke and Paul would have been picked up by coastguard ships and denied entry. Paul was a Turk and Luke a Palestinian. European governments now associate both of these nationalities with terrorism.
At the UN climate talks on Wednesday, a senior member of the UN Secretary General's Climate Change Support Team received the COP22 Interfaith Climate Statement, signed by more than 230 eminent religious leaders from 44 countries. The Statement called on nations to justly manage the transition to a low carbon economy and urged for governments to shift trillions of investments in fossil fuels into renewable energy, in line with the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development goals (SDGs).
At noon on the 76th anniversary of the bombing of Coventry, a group gathered in the ruins of the old cathedral to remember that event and the people of Syria and others in the Middles East who suffer the devastation of war today. Ann Fart writes: "We prayed for the thousands who have been killed, for those trapped inside besieged towns and the millions who have been forced to flee their homes. The Lampedusa Cross, made from the wood of ruined boats carrying refugees to the island reminded us of the tragic loss of life of so many."
The Vatican has asked Apostleship of the Sea (AoS) to take the lead in tackling trafficking and exploitation of fishermen. In a message ahead of World Fisheries Day on 21 November, Cardinal Antonio Maria Vegliò from the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, called on AoS to intensify its presence in fishing ports to identify and rescue victims of human trafficking. "We express our gratitude to the chaplains and volunteers of AoS for their dedication and commitment. It is also necessary that AoS work more closely
Pope Francis said in a message released today: "we have a grave ethical and moral responsibility" to act on climate change "without delay," setting aside particular interests and moving forward "in a manner as free as possible from political and economic pressures." The poorest and future generations, especially, are depending on it, Pope Francis said, in his message addressed to the Moroccan minister Salaheddine Mezouar, who is chairing the 22nd meeting of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Agreement on Climate Change (COP22), taking place in Morocco this week.
Church communities and other faith groups are coming together in an act of solidarity with those around the world suffering persecution because of their faith next week. The Red Wednesday event co-ordinated by Aid to the Church in Need will involve lighting up Westminster Cathedral and Westminster Abbey in red. Also being floodlit in red on the day - Wednesday, 23rd November - are religious buildings around the country - including Brentwood Cathedral and St John's Wood Synagogue.
The Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, based in Washington DC, has issued the following statement in response to the results of the US election. At the beginning of 2016, Pope Francis invited Catholics and people of good will to observe a Year of Mercy with acts that bear witness to the justice, mercy and compassion of God in the midst of a broken and suffering world. He has set an example, in word and deed, and has shown us, during his visit to the United States last year, what that justice and mercy looks like: visiting prisoners, welcoming
The election of Donald Trump as the next President of the United States has opened the door for the European Union to reassure the world that that the global low carbon transition is unstoppable. Christian Aid's International Climate Lead, Mohamed Adow, said the EU should replace the US as the world's chief climate diplomat. "Donald Trump's election will likely alter America's diplomatic bandwidth on climate," he said. "This opens up space for the EU to forge a new relationship with China and build on the global political momentum of the Paris Agreement. But it needs to lead from the front.
To you, Creator of nature and humanity,
of truth and beauty, I pray:
Hear my voice,
for it is the voice
of the victims of all wars and violence
among individuals and nations.