The Benefit Cap causes real misery to no good purpose. While I agree with this sentiment it is not mine. It comes from the closing sentence of a High Court judgement which declares unlawful the Government’s policy of capping the benefits of single parents with children under 2 years old. The full judgement is a forensic and impartial description of the Cap and its consequences and its conclusions are all the more damning because of it.
We are all connected
The events of the past six months have been truly shocking, haven’t they? It has sometimes felt that we have only just caught our breath from the last disaster, and then the news breaks, and it all starts over again. I can’t recall another time in my life when I have woken up, so frequently, to news of another attack, another victim, another family grieving for their relatives.
Today, representatives of the majority of the world’s nations will gather in New York to negotiate the text of a new “Convention on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons” (commonly known as the Nuclear Ban Treaty). The Nuclear Ban Treaty has been demanded by millions of citizens across the world. They are represented by faith groups, civic groups and NGOs who have gathered under the umbrella of the international campaign for the abolition of nuclear weapons (ICAN). Our churches and other UK faith groups have joined this call.
Yesterday President Trump isolated his Government from the rest of the world on climate change. Donald Trump’s reasoning for his action on Paris is clear; he does not believe that the agreement is good for American business. In terms of near-term profitability he may be right, although there are economic opportunities offered by the development of green technologies that will be necessary to help our transition to sustainable living. Essentially, Trump’s decision is based on a coherent and rational calculation that places narrow US interest and greed above the responsibility to protect our planet and the livelihoods of present and future generations.
The other day I was talking to a Catholic Priest friend of mine about secular politics and the role of the Church at election times. He was sharing something about the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola which resonated with me that might help us to avoid being co-opted unwittingly into political agendas.
There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28)
Since the Prime Minister called a General Election two weeks ago, the country has been awash with news from the Campaign trail. MPs are focused on getting re-elected and the media is concentrating on the latest polling figures, and what the parties will promise to do if elected.
After the whirlwind year of 2016 it looks like 2017 is set to continue in the same vein. Over the last three years we have seen two referendums (yes that’s a word), one on Scottish Independence, the other on the UK’s membership of the European Union, a General Election and elections for the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh and Northern Irish Assemblies. That’s not to mention the Local Authority and Mayoral elections that are to come next week. In a short space of time there has been an awful lot of opportunity to exercise our democratic right and I get the feeling that like Brenda from Bristol a number of us are at real risk of democratic fatigue.
On 9 April bombs at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria and in St George’s Church, Tanta during Palm Sunday services killed at least 45 people and injured over 120. These attacks on the Coptic Christian community have been claimed by Islamic State. At a time when attacks are increasing, Palm Sunday was the worst day of violence targeting Christians in Egypt in recent times.
His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, the leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church, was inside St. Mark’s Church at the time but was not harmed.
His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK states that in the face of escalating attacks the Christian community in Egypt continues to resist the urge to react vengefully or reciprocally.
Five UK Churches have issued a statement to support and encourage those meeting in New York to negotiate a treaty banning nuclear weapons. They have also expressed their shared disappointment that the UK Government has refused to take part in these talks, despite it’s longstanding international commitments to work towards a nuclear weapon free world.
On 4 May many of us will go the ballot box and vote for candidates in local council elections.
Over the last four years we have seen two referendums and a General Election, and in the midst of all of this it is easy to disengage from local politics.
And yet local democracy remains a vital part of our communities, the decisions that are made have a direct impact on congregations, church members, their friends and their families. This is an opportunity to focus on the local.