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Latest News From Ekklesia

News Briefing and Comment
Tue, 23 May 2017 20:40:35 +0200

Muslim Council of Britain statement on Manchester attack

Following the attack on Manchester Arena last night, Harun Khan, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain. has issued a statement.

Following the attack on Manchester Arena last night (22 May 2017), Harun Khan, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, issued the following statement:

My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. I understand teenagers and children have been caught up in what the police has confirmed to be a terrorist attack. This is horrific, this is criminal. May the perpetrators face the full weight of justice both in this life and the next.

I pay tribute to the police and emergency services who have worked valiantly to save lives last night. They were helped by civilians who rushed into offer their support. I urge all those in the region and around the country to pool together to support those affected.

* Muslim Council of Britain http://www.mcb.org.uk/


Tue, 23 May 2017 12:11:58 +0000

Electoral Reform Society criticises Conservative voter ID plans

The Electoral Reform Society have challenged plans in the Conservative manifesto to introduce voter ID across the UK as "overbearing and counterproductive".

The Electoral Reform Society have challenged plans in the Conservative manifesto to introduce voter ID across the UK as "overbearing and counterproductive".

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said: “This pledge risks making our democracy even more unequal. As we’ve said before, mandatory voter ID is a sledgehammer to crack a nut  – there is simply not enough evidence of voter fraud in the UK to justify such a dramatic change to Britain’s democratic traditions.

“The introduction of voter ID is something that has to be thought about very carefully – because there’s a substantial risk that this could raise barriers to participation and put people off voting.

“There’s clear evidence that strict voter ID rules in some US states disproportionately disadvantages ethnic minority voters and already-marginalised groups. And where they aren’t strict – as in Sir Eric Pickles’ proposals – they offer the worst of both worlds: making it harder for most people to vote while not preventing those who really are trying to defraud the system from doing so.

“The experience of photographic electoral ID in Northern Ireland is more positive – but there, ID is provided for free. The Pickles review proposals are instead a watered-down form which wouldn’t necessarily reduce fraud. For example, allowing the use of non-photographic (and perhaps easily-forgeable) utility bills would mean the change could actually do more harm than good.

“The UK has an international reputation for running elections with integrity and openness. It would be wrong to risk throwing that reputation away by making it harder for people to vote, without thinking about the consequences or how to improve our democracy and turnout alongside it.

“There are other things that can be done to limit potential fraud, without damaging participation. Clearer guidance and better training of election staff and Returning Officers are changes everyone can get behind, while other suggestions to introduce stronger powers against voter intimidation and to make it easier to launch ‘election petitions’ to report fraud are very much worth discussing.

“Let’s look at more positive reforms before making overbearing and counterproductive changes that raise barriers to our democracy.”

* The Conservative manifesto states:

“The British public deserves to have confidence in our democracy. We will legislate to ensure that a form of identification must be presented before voting, to reform postal voting and to improve other aspects of the elections process to ensure that our elections are the most secure in the world. We will retain the traditional method of voting by pencil and paper, and tackle every aspect of electoral fraud.”

* Read Eric Pickles' review here 

* Electoral Reform Society http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/

Ekklesia's General Election theme for 2017 is #Vote4CommonGood. This will be explored by writers and researchers from different perspectives and backgrounds, as well as analysis of the different party manifestos in relation to the principles and policies we have advocated for many years.


Tue, 23 May 2017 08:27:43 +0000

Millions join hearts and minds to pray for end to famine

On 21 May 2017,  the Global Day of Prayer to End Famine, millions of people from faith communities, organisations and neighbourhoods across the world prayed, tweeted, posted and talked face-to-face about the urgent action needed to aid 20 million people facing famine in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Nigeria.

On 21 May 2017,  the Global Day of Prayer to End Famine, millions of people from faith communities, organisations and neighbourhoods across the world prayed, tweeted, posted and talked face-to-face about the urgent action needed to aid 20 million people facing famine in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Nigeria.

Standing with those caught up in the crisis, people prayed for peace, and for a galvanised international response to what the UN has called the worst humanitarian crisis since 1945.

Led by the World Council of Churches and the All Africa Conference of Churches, the Global Day of Prayer brought an emotional outpouring of love and hope that crossed world borders via social media, news headlines and quiet circles of prayer rippling out from churches everywhere. Responders, residents, relief workers, families – many have loved ones either caught up in the crisis or responding to it.

The Global Day of Prayer comes days before the Group of Seven (G7) meets in Italy to discuss, among other issues, global food security. The number of people globally in need of food assistance has risen 35 per cent in the last year, from 80 to 108 million people.

Christians were asked to pray for the mobilisation of funding to meet the funding gap for the aid response (only $1.3 billion of the $4.9 billion needed for an international aid response has been received); for more to be done to foster peace; and for the drivers of extreme hunger (including climate change) to be addressed.

The WCC General Secretary, the  Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, said: “We can extend this prayer to all of our sisters and brothers who are in need of food to sustain their lives.” He added, “We can make a difference in this situation. Let us stand together and reflect. Let us pray and act to respond to this crisis.”

Tveit concluded, “The world is one family, praying and responding together, to end famine, to end violence and to bring peace. To ensure that there is sufficient and nutritious food for all, to live life to its fullest.”

In East Africa, the South Sudan Council of Churches encouraged all churches in the country to join the global prayer event. Famine has already been declared in parts of South Sudan. Nigeria, Yemen and Somalia are at imminent risk of famine.

Below is just a sampling of stories and quotes shared on 21 May. Responses continued to be posted, turning the Global Day of Prayer into a lasting response that has great potential to bring about change.

David Beasley, new executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP) based in Rome, urged people to observe the Day of Prayer as he travelled. “Just left Jordan and now in South Sudan. Pray and hope for peace”, he tweeted. Dozens of people also shared a quote from WFP country director, Joyce Luma, in South Sudan: “Humanitarian assistance alone is not enough. If conflict continues, the scale and intensity of needs may escalate and outstrip the ability of relief agencies to meet them.”

Angelo Achuil, faith and development coordinator for World Vision South Sudan said: "Christians in South Sudan have been praying for peace and safety – and for their children to have a future free from violence. Congregations are desperate for an end to the starvation, conflict and displacement that are tearing apart their communities. They are grateful for the prayers of the global church and want people of faith to continue praying. But they also want them to cry out to their leaders to bring justice and peace and to provide the emergency aid that will help them survive this crisis. They feel like the world has forgotten them.”

The Uniting Church in Australia, as part of celebrating 40 years as a uniquely Australian church, included the Global Day of Prayer to End Famine within its 40 days of prayer from 14 May-22 June. The prayer, offered by Rob Floyd, National Director of UnitingWorld, was particularly for those in Africa who are facing famine: “We pray for the people of South Sudan and our partner the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan”, the prayer read. “Bless them as they care for their people and as they work to feed the growing number in their communities facing starvation.”

In a message to the worldwide Salvation Army, international leader General André Cox called on Salvationists and friends to respond "through our actions, not just our words".

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America shared a prayer with its members and partners. “Look with mercy, gracious God, upon people everywhere who are affected by famine or drought. Rouse us from our complacency and help us eliminate cruelty wherever it is found. Strengthen those who seek equality for all. Grant that everyone may enjoy a fair portion of the abundance of the earth; through your son, Jesus Christ Our Lord.”

The ICCO Cooperation, a non-governmental organisation that works to eradicate poverty, inequality and injustice, led a response to the Day of Prayer from its regional office in Central, Eastern and Southern Africa. Bradley Dawson, advocate, shared Bible verses, including Matthew 25:35: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat.”

The Canadian Foodgrains Bank promoted a collective response as people enjoyed a meal. “As we share our supper tonight let us pray together to respond and end hunger on the Global Day of Prayer to End Famine.”

Choice Souls Media in Nigeria, based its response on Psalm 112:7. “Lord, we trust in the covenant you have over Nigeria, we refuse to be afraid of the famine, recession, corruption, bad leadership, wickedness in high places. We pray in faith and we trust you for a turn around and for perfecting all that concerns Nigeria.”

Advocate Sarah Park found a new perspective on second helpings of food, and began setting an empty plate next to her own whenever she sets the table. “When I learned that 20 million people are currently facing famine in East Africa, it was a difficult number to comprehend and be moved to action.” she wrote. “In spite of this, I truly believe that hope is always present in the midst of suffering. So this is my response as a global citizen and human being. Every time I sit down for a meal in the months to come, by setting an extra empty plate, I am convicted to pray and donate to those afflicted by food insecurity and famine in East Africa, and I am reminded that why I may not have the power to feed 20 million, I can be a blessing to one.”

Eze Kingsley Chizoba, an agriculture and biotechnology engineer in at the University of Nigeria, shared a simple prayer that resonated with many: “Nigeria is in the hand of God. Join me to pray for Nigeria.”

* 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


Tue, 23 May 2017 06:26:47 +0000

Draft UN nuclear weapon ban released

The first draft of the United Nations treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons was released in Geneva, Switzerland yesterday.

The first draft of the United Nations treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons was released in Geneva, Switzerland yesterday (22 May. 2017) Elayne Whyte Gómez, the Costa Rican ambassador who is presiding over negotiations of the historic accord, presented the text to diplomats and members of civil society, before answering questions from the media.

The draft was developed on the basis of discussions and input received during the first round of negotiations, held at the UN headquarters in New York from 27 to 31 March 2017, with the participation of 132 nations. The negotiations will resume on 15 June and continue until 7 July, with the draft as the basis.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapns (ICAN) has welcomed the release of the draft as an important milestone in the years-long effort to ban these indiscriminate weapons of mass destruction in light of their inhumane and catastrophic impacts. Once adopted, the treaty will constitute a major step towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

The draft provides a solid basis for a strong, categorical prohibition of nuclear weapons. ICAN expects further constructive debate on certain provisions as the process moves forward, and will be campaigning to ensure the strongest possible treaty. The organisation says it is confident that the treaty can be agreed by 7 July.

“We are particularly happy that the text is rooted in humanitarian principles and builds on existing prohibitions of unacceptable weapons, such as the conventions banning biological and chemical weapons, anti-personnel landmines and cluster munitions,” said Beatrice Fihn, the executive director of ICAN.

Nuclear-armed and nuclear alliance states should engage constructively in these discussions, she said. “Whilst they will be able to join the treaty once it has been agreed, failure to participate in the negotiations undermines their claims to be committed to a world without nuclear weapons.”

“Nuclear weapons are morally unacceptable. They are intended to kill civilians indiscriminately”, Ms Fihn said. “Their continued existence undermines the moral credibility of every country that relies on them. A treaty to ban them, as a first step towards their elimination, will have real and lasting impact.”

* Read the Draft Treaty here

*ICAN  http://www.icanw.org/


Tue, 23 May 2017 06:14:00 +0000

Amnesty human rights warning over Trump visit to Saudi Arabia

Amnesty International USA has released a response to the news that President Trump has finalised an arms deal with Saudi Arabia during his trip to the country.

Amnesty International USA has released a response to the news that President Trump has finalised an arms deal with Saudi Arabia during his trip to the country.

Eric Ferrero, Amnesty International USA communications director, said: “This deal has President Trump throwing gasoline on a house fire and locking the door on his way out. There is damning evidence that war crimes have been committed by the Saudi-led coalition and continuing to arm Saudi Arabia fuels serious human rights violations that are causing overwhelming civilian suffering in Yemen. President Trump finalizing this deal while simultaneously banning travel to the U.S. from Yemen is an unconscionable move.”

Amnesty International had  previously voiced concern about the absence of human rights on Trump’s Saudi agenda and on his foreign trip as a whole:

“The world will be watching as President Trump meets with leaders of other states with records of trampling on human rights in the name of national security. We fear this ‘new partnership’ could lay the foundation for further erosion of human rights in the region and far beyond,” said Margaret Huang, Amnesty International USA executive director.

“President Trump will also meet with leaders of countries who are hosting huge numbers of refugees from Syria. They must use the opportunity to voice their concerns about Trump’s attempts to slam the door on people fleeing violence and persecution, and demand that the USA does its fair share to alleviate the global refugee crisis.”

In a recent visit to Saudi Arabia, the UN special rapporteur on human rights and counter terrorism concluded that Saudi Arabia had failed to take concrete steps to investigate possible war crimes committed by its own forces in the conflict in Yemen.

Meanwhile, the United States remains the biggest supplier of arms to Saudi Arabia.

Amnesty International has documented a wide array of violations of international law by all parties to the conflict in Yemen, including the Saudi Arabia-led coalition. The coalition has carried out relentless airstrikes, killing and injuring civilians and destroying civilian homes, property and infrastructure in indiscriminate attacks and attack on civilian objects. Several of these attacks, some of which amount to war crimes, used US. arms.

“The United States continues to fuel serious human rights violations that have caused devastating civilian suffering in Yemen, through arms transfers to Saudi Arabia” said Huang.

“There is damning evidence that war crimes have been committed by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition. The United States must immediately halt all arms transfers to members of the coalition for use in Yemen and push for an independent and effective investigation into the numerous violations documented in this forgotten war.”

The UN special rapporteur on human rights and counter terrorism also concluded in May 2017 that the country’s terrorism laws did not comply with international standards, and that Saudi Arabia “must stop using counter-terrorism legislation against people peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.”

Amnesty International has documented a continuous and systematic crackdown by authorities in Saudi Arabia against human rights activists, dealing heavy blows to the last vestiges of the country’s embattled civil society. Activists are being detained and prosecuted, based on vague and overly broad charges using anti-terrorism legislation and laws designed to stifle peaceful criticism. Those detained, on trial or serving prison sentences include several members of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association, an independent human rights organisation formed in 2009, which the authorities closed down in 2013.

“The Saudi authorities shamelessly hide behind draconian counterterrorism laws to justify the convictions of peaceful human rights defenders. One by one, activists in Saudi Arabia are vanishing”, said Huang.

Other Gulf countries have also used the cover of security and counterterrorism to crack down on dissent. The government of Bahrain has continued to curtail freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly, detaining prominent human rights defenders, stripping Bahrainis of their citizenship, violently cracking down on protests and dissolving opposition parties.

In the UAE, authorities arbitrarily restrict the rights to freedom of expression and association, detaining and prosecuting government critics, opponents and foreign nationals under criminal defamation and anti-terrorism laws. Enforced disappearances, unfair trials and torture and other ill-treatment of detainees are also common.

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



Mon, 22 May 2017 08:52:07 +0000

Methodist Church of Great Britain News Service

Methodist Church of Great Britain News Service
Tue, 23 May 2017 20:40:36 +0200

Booking now open for 3Generate: the Children & Youth Assembly
Children and young people will get the chance to change and challenge the church, the world and each other at this year's 3Generate
Fri, 15 Jun 2012 01:26:25 GMT

Stop blaming the poor for poverty, say Churches
New proposals seek to measure 'faults' of poor, rather than poverty
Thu, 14 Jun 2012 01:26:25 GMT

Reshaping for leadership of the Connexional Team
The leadership structures of the Connexional Team will be significantly re-shaped under recommendations from a reference group of the Methodist Council
Fri, 08 Jun 2012 01:26:25 GMT

Fijian Church given permission to meet
The Methodist Church in Britain has welcomed the news that the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma has been granted permission by the Government to hold its annual Conference
Fri, 08 Jun 2012 01:26:25 GMT

CTE Presidents' Statement on the Jubilee
The Presidents of Churches Together in England have issued a joint press release for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. It is for all churches and community groups celebrating the Jubilee this weekend. It can be read out in churches, posted on websites, put in literature and passed through social media.
Wed, 30 May 2012 01:26:25 GMT

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