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Saturday, 31 December 2011

Goodbye 2011, and good riddance!

I don't know about you, but 2011 felt like a real stinker - particularly the last half. The first 6 months looked promising, with the eruption of the Arab Spring, and the sense of fightback against the economic mess that the neo-liberal governments were forcing on the UK and other European countries. Movements such as the Coalition of Resistance and UK Uncut were putting pressure both locally and nationally on the focus of cuts, challenging who should be hit hardest; those who made the mess, or those who were poorest.

But by the summer things felt very different. Military action by the West in Libya, moved the Arab Spring into a far more bloody affair, and dictators in Syria and Yemen were determined that brute force would win the day. Even Egypt seemed to have not been able to free itself of the straight jacket of military rule. With the killing of Osama and later Gaddafy, it felt that vengeance was the ideological winner of 2011. Tunisia stands alone as a successful outcome of Arab Spring.

In the UK, the August riots rocked the nation, and have left us all feeling very uneasy about the future. More cuts are to come, jobs are scarce and the rapid destruction of 'Education for All', means that many young people face a dehumanising future.

The Euro continues to feel like a disaster waiting to happen, with dreaded consequences for the UK economy. Cameron's policies seem increasingly about appeasing the needs of the City of London

So where is the good news? The 'occupy movement' began to build a template at the end of 2011. We are going to have to do the rest ourselves in 2012! We will do so when we build stronger local communities who are eager to defend themselves against ideologically driven policies. We will do so when we stand up to bullies, and look after each other when that feels difficult and frightening. We will look for new opportunities to grow and learn from all the wonderful and surprising people around us. We must remain strong and positive, whilst forgiving ourselves for moments of weakness and negativity.

For those of us with faith, the task of 2012 will be to remember we have a God who does not protect us from the hardships of life, but who travels through them beside us. Good riddance to 2011, and God bless us in 2012.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Cameron's selfish euro decision.

Cameron has made me ashamed to be British. How dare he defend the interests of the banking community over the needs of millions of workers throughout Europe.  This policy will lead to the isolation of the UK (the only nation amongst 27 who will refuse to join the fiscal deal) and hinder the chances of a full settlement to the Eurozone crisis.

It is the most short term, selfish, and ultimately disastrous decision Cameron could have taken. It is further evidence, if any is needed, that the Tory party are simply out to protect those in the city who profit from the misery of others.

The people of Britain will be the poorer for the lack of a complete European deal. The workers of Greece, Ireland, Italy and Spain will continue to see their pensions squeezed and jobs axed. Britain is now a European swear word.

But several thousand people will benefit hugely from the curtailing the effect of a European wide Tobin Tax. Cameron's chums will be delighted.

Cameron has nailed his colours to the mast - he is in power simply to benefit the needs of the 1%, at the expense of the rest of us. Shame on him and this small minded government.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

St Ambrose, patron saint of occupiers....

Yesterday I had the privilege of preaching at Bradford Cathedral, down at their Wednesday morning Eucharist. I only had a little time to prepare, so I did what I always do in these situations and I checked out if it was a saints day. December 7th is a day to commemorate St Ambrose of Milan, a fourth century bishop, and I was concerned that it might be a bit dull for a sermon.

I was wrong! Turns out Ambrose was a pretty cool fella. And one of the things he did was use the tactics of the Occupy movement! A group of Arian Christians supported by the Emperor were given use of a building to work from. Ambrose led a group into occupation of the building from Palm Sunday to Easter Day - and though out they made up hymns about what was going on in the world (previously hymns were purely scriptural) so starting the ball rolling for contemporary and contextual hymnody!

But what really made Ambrose a great person, was the way he stood up to those with power. When Emperor Theodosius killed 6000 citizens in Thessalonika in 390AD - Ambrose challenged him, declaring that violence was never the way of faith. He denied that the emperor could even participate in the Eucharist, a powerful act considering that Theodosius considered himself the head of the church. Ambrose continued to try to bring peacemaking efforts to places of civil conflict.

So, lets have some more modern saints, who are prepared to occupy against modern heretics, the heretics who worship material things instead of the things of life and spirit! We need new saints who are prepared to stand up to all violent oppressors, especially when they dare to say that their violence is done in the name of God!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

A week at St Pauls

I finally had the opportunity to take a few days to head down to the protest camp at St Paul's and meet some of the inspiring people staying there. On Monday, I arrived, quite anxious. I remembered the atmosphere at the road protest camps in the early 90's - everyone used to be suspicious of strangers, with good reason given the amount of police infiltration at the time.

My fears were short lived, and I was made very welcome. I joined in with a General Assembly, offering my thanks to those who had slept out in terrible conditions and inspired the greatest challenge to the daily inequalities of capitalism. Everything was so well organised, from the info tent, to the kitchen. A prayer tent gave me some space to think. It was the closest I was going to get to a prayer space, as entry to St Paul's Cathedral was £14.50.

A lovely homeless Polish man offered to take me to visit Finsbury Sq, so off we went. Again, it was really friendly, a mix of students, young radicals, older hippies, and those with nowhere else to go. Good people and good food.

The 'Bank of Ideas' really was splendid, just a few metre's down Sun Street from the Finsbury encampment. The former UBS building was now adorned with political banners 'You can't evict an idea!'

Inside there was a radical cinema space, dormitories, kitchens, workshop spaces, libraries - and again, a prayer and meditation space with kettle and beverages. I met people doing workshops on 'Fracking' and witnessed role plays on how to react non-violently to aggression from the police.

Banners were being prepared for the demonstration on the 30th and legal teams were devising strategies for resisting the evictions that were inevitable in the days/weeks ahead.

I popped into the three occupied sites, St Paul's, Finsbury Sq and the 'Bank of Ideas' every day, and was continually inspired and challenged. Each day, the Evening Standard (the free London paper) spouted lies about them to try and turn popular mood against them - 'drug use if rife', 'donated money is stolen', 'camp is full of excrement'.  each day, these courageous people dealt with all the difficulties of life under the spotlight, living in very harsh conditions.

When anyone complains about the protesters, I simply say 'What have you done to draw attention to the mess capitalism has made of the world, and what are you prepared to give up to build a better community?'

We will remember these people as heroes in the years to come. If in London, go and give them some support, and never accept that right wing free paper again unless you are desperate for some loo paper, it is all it's good for!

Friday, 18 November 2011

Why Cameron killed the Tobin Tax

A financial transaction tax is an obvious and efficient way of curbing some of the excesses of the global financial markets. It is the complete free flow of finance that has allowed speculators to bring whole national economies to their knees, destroying the lives of millions of people in the process.

Clearly, even the Eurozone has now realised that it is an important policy to tackle part of the economic problem that the continent currently faces. But you cannot have just a few European countries taking part. For it to work, the whole of Europe must first act together.

Cameron was right today when he said that it needed to be a global initiative, if it was to be completely successful - as finance will always find a way to make the most of its international liquidity. however, a European 'Tobin Tax' would be the first step towards that global policy, and without it, Cameron knows that the tax is going nowhere.

Effectively today, Cameron stood up for the bankers, and defied the needs of ordinary people throughout Europe. He has killed of a 'Robin Hood' tax, a policy that would restrict the greed of bankers, and channel much needed capital into the hands of sustainable policies whilst encouraging financial stability.

It is another clear demonstration that this is a Government only working in the interests of a tiny minority of people, who are already very comfortable indeed. The sooner we are rid of them the better.

Save the Morning Star!

It is the only English language daily paper to represent peace and socialism, and now, the 'Morning Star' is facing total closure. Many people have predicted its downfall for decades, but it has stubbornly persisted, relentlessly being a thorn in the side of the establishment.

I have been a daily reader for 15 years, and it has kept me informed and entertained throughout that time. It has given me news that most of the mainstream press choose to ignore. It covered the victories of the left in Latin America, the anti-war movement in the states, the trade union struggles in the Philippines and the green movement in Africa.  The incisive articles by John Pilger, Jeremy Corbyn, Tony Benn, have kept me going over the years.

This small newspaper packs a punch far above its size, and democracy will suffer a severe blow if it folds.

There are only two things you can do if you want to see it survive into the new year. First, find a newsagent that sells it, and buy it everyday.  Secondly - once you have discovered what a vital lifeline it is in the struggle against cuts and the current Tory Government - send the 'Morning Star' a donation to their fighting fund. We cannot let the light of this star be extinguished.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Rohingya Community under threat!

Bradford's tiny Rohingya community are a remarkable group of families, numbering around 200 in total. Despite having gained safety in the UK, receiving refugee status, and making good use of chances to better themselves - they have never forgotten those they have left behind in the refugee camps on the border of Bangladesh and Burma. Having been driven out of Burma, they have endured horrific conditions in the camps of their neighbouring country.

Today, a delegation came to Desmond Tutu House seeking help. The news is emerging of a deadly deal that the Bangladeshi government is making with the Burmese dictatorship. No more Rohingyan people will be allowed to leave the refugee camps and from now on, they are to be denied the right to join family who have been able to find sanctuary in the UK, Ireland, Canada, US, Norway and Sweden.

Instead, as many as 30,000 now face repatriation to Burma, to a country where thousands have been killed, and where they simply have no rights at all.

This outrageous injustice must be challenged. Our group arranged to see our local MP to see what pressure our government can put on the Bangladeshi authorities. The Rohingya community are also planning a walk to the nearest Bangladeshi consulate in Manchester to highlight their concerns.

On November 18th, the Rohingya community will commemorate an incident in 2004 in which the Bangladeshi  military opened fire on a protest march against conditions in the refugee camps. 3 were killed and many, many more were injured or arrested. This date will be used around the world to call on the Bangladesh government to remember the rights of this persecuted community.

The Bradford Rohingya community can be proud that they have never run away from their responsibility to the community still suffering on the borders of Bangladesh and Burma. let us do all we can to support them.

Is Europe now to be run by the bankers?

The downfall of Berlusconi is something many of us have looked forward to for a very long time. His mixture of right wing ideology and highly questionable personal politics was extremely disturbing to observe. For twenty years I felt really sorry for my more progressive Italian friends.

Now Berlusconi has gone, a thoroughly outrageous truth is dawning. In Italy, as in Greece only a few days before, a huge coup has been achieved by the worlds banking elite. An elected Prime Minister has been replaced by an unelected member of the financial elite. Mario Monte was the EU Competition Commissioner from 1999 to 2004, and now is a International Advisor to Goldman Sachs as well as being a Senator in the Italian upper house. Monte has exquisite neo-liberal credentials, and is now in charge of the 3rd biggest economy in the Eurozone.

This looks like it is fast becoming the way our democracies are heading. The moment George Papandreou hinted that the Greek people had a right to debate the policies being thrust upon them by the EU, he was destroyed by the financial community. Days later, he was replaced by another non elected EU economist.

The 'Occupy' movement that began in the US, and has been active in London for a month, have continually argued that it is wrong for most of us to be ruled by a tiny elite controlled by the needs of the financial community. Now, even the semblance of democracy is being eroded.

I do not want Europe run by unelected technocrats who are not accountable to even their own nations. We cannot be run by the very same people who got us into this mess. Our European nations are now desperately in need of a revolution in their democratic structures.

Monday, 31 October 2011

conversations with the 'occupyers'

Over the last few weeks, I have visited the sites of several of the 'occupations against greed and poverty'. Birmingham, Edinburgh, and today, Bradford, my home town. Of course, all the attention has focused on 'Occupy London Stock Exchange', and the issues over how St Paul's Cathedral has responded to them. This has somewhat undermined that it is an international movement, with people taking part in over 900 cities so far.

In my conversations with participants and passers by, some overwhelming realisations are occurring. 1) unemployment is now affecting us all in one way or another. Many of the people, young and old, that I spoke to are out of work, and with no prospect of work. They want to work.

2) There is no respect for our banking institutions or for the way our governments have dealt with the financial sectors

3) Many people do not believe that this present government will change direction, and that protest, whilst important, will not change a thing.

These conversations with the folk coming up to these occupations are one of the most important aspects of the 'occupation' movement - giving people space to say how they feel. From them, we cannot help but realise that poverty is affecting more people than even grim government statistics admit to. It shows that people are fed up with policy being led by the needs of the financial and political elite. Finally, it tells us that people have no faith in our present forms of democracy.

There's a lot to change, a lot to do. Simply kicking out these camps will not solve the problem - the problems of poverty and political leadership will not go away so simply.

Let's not be sidetracked by the pronouncements from St Paul's Cathedrals, let us instead listen more intently to the conversations with the marginalised and disempowered. That is what Jesus would do.

Friday, 28 October 2011

God Bless Giles Fraser

Having just listened to Giles Fraser on a Guardian podcast, my heart goes out to him. He has lost not only his job, but his accommodation and the security for himself and his family. As a member of clergy I realise how difficult this is - all our jobs also come with a home and much support from a diocese.

So why was he prepared to give it all away? Ultimately, he knew that once the Church authorities 'green lighted' the police action to evict the protesters, violence is a likely outcome. He preferred a route of negotiation and sanctuary, and the City Corporation and the Mayor of London disagreed.

I was fascinated to hear him say that is was the biblical story that led him to this position. Firstly, he had to preach on the reading from Matthew of 'render unto Caesar', one that ultimately leads you to the conclusion that a person cannot serve both god and mammon (money). Secondly, he could picture the upcoming nativity season with a baby Jesus more likely to be born in the protest camp than the baroque cathedral of St Paul's.

Giles will be a stronger, more public voice than ever before. People will listen more attentively when he appears on Radio 4's 'Thought for the Day'. Thank God for that, as we will need more outspoken voices from the clergy as the moral issues arising from the 'rule by the few' become more and more painful for the ordinary people of the UK. The Church of England needs to speak out on behalf of the wide spectrum of UK citizens, it needs to always remember that we are not here to prop up the rule of the political and financial elites. 

Sunday, 16 October 2011

A dead Sirte

Sirte has been a horrendous battle, in which the death toll may well run into many thousands. The city, still full of civilians, was pounded by NATO planes, then pummelled by heavy artillery fire. Whatever the Western media may think of them, the towns defenders have shown incredible resistance to the firepower leashed upon them.

The struggle for Libya has ended the hope I have had for the Arab Spring. After Tunisia and Egypt, one could genuinely feel that people power, despite overwhelming odds, could non-violently change society for the better.

Could that have happened in Libya? Perhaps in Libya, like in Syria and Bahrain, the well armed state could ultimately always repel the peoples desire for change. I'm not sure now if these countries could ever have had a successful people's revolution.

But what I do know, is that by blasting Sirte and several other pro-Gaddafi cities into oblivion, and by the death of up to 50,000 Libyans in the civil war so far - the future does not bode well. The new government is facing accusations of widespread torture and corruption. It seems to have made extraordinary oil related financial deals based on Western military support. This is not a good way to kick start a democracy.

Occupy against Greed!

The wave of occupations against greed that have sprung up since the first 'occupation against Wall Street', are heartening indeed.

They come out of a simple truth; we are fed up of being ruled by the interests of a tiny capitalist elite. The 1%, made up of corporations, bankers, financiers, political elites, should not be able to rule over the interests of the other 99%.

As modern day capitalism continues to squeeze the living conditions of the bulk of working people, and drive to destitution some of the most vulnerable in society, we need to collectively say 'enough is enough'.

We need politicians both locally and nationally to represent the needs of the people, not just those who can pull the financial strings.

Let us see this movement grow. We must do whatever we can to build a society based on the needs of the many, not the greed of the few.

Friday, 16 September 2011

A view from DSEi: "War is normal"

On the first morning of the arms fare in the Docklands, a group of us tried to obstruct the main bridge entrance to Excel. We sang peace songs and tried to engage with the delegates. Most just kept their heads down, and tried to ignore us. One though, was keen to talk.

"War is normal" he said in a plummy accent "Just like death, and birth. War is a perfectly normal part of life"

He smiled, he meant it from the bottom of his soul. War is normal. And for this reason, it is perfectly possible to justify the actions of 25,000 men (very few women) in suits going about the 'normal' business of buying and selling arms.

The smell of money was palpable. This is big, big business. The wealth that comes along with the arms trade is formidable. It must be intoxicating to those who want it.

But war is not normal. Most people, most normal people do not want war. Throughout history, war has been the tool of the few. The few who desire more land than they need, the few who desire more wealth and power than they need. War is the opposite of normal - it is sick and the product of greed and cruelty. In the powerful words of the CAAT slogan "This is not OK!"

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Disarming DSEi! Do all that you can to stop this evil trade!

Hats off to the hundreds of folk who have been working hard to shutdown 'Defence and Security Equipment international' (DSEi) the worlds biggest arms fare, being held this week at the Excel centre in the docklands. I was able to join in for the first few days of protests and it was a privilege to mix with such a diverse and determined group of people.

This arms fare has been particularly repugnant due to the number of oppressive regimes invited to the event, especially ones still involved in repressing the Arab Spring (Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain)

Even worse, has been the desperate attempts to sell the new UAV's (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or 'drones'), inflicting death to civilians at an alarming rate from control desks on the other side of the world.

I have so many tales to tell, from gaining entrance to Excel after saying I was there to perform the official exorcism, to being part of some extraordinarily brave actions to block the entrances to the event.

I even managed to get myself ejected from the National Gallery in protest at the meal they put on for senior arms dealers. Eventually, SERCO (nasty, nasty privateer company) even banned me from using the DLR,  (Docklands Light Railway) though I never once blocked the way of passengers on the actual stations.

So many stories, watch the blog site in the coming weeks, but now is the time to say: DSEI is still on! If you can get down there in the next few days, be brave, sit down in the road, sing peace songs, do all you can to say to our government: control arms sales, don't gratuitously promote sales no matter what the human cost.

The Arms trade is not normal, in the words of CAAT (Campaign Against The Arms Trade) 'THIS IS NOT OK!' Make your voices heard.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Thoughts on September 11th

It is hard not to think that this is the defining moment of the century so far. We all remember exactly where we were ten years ago. I was in a bookshop in Knutsford, the owner had turned up the radio for us all to hear. America was under attack. When I got to a television, the images dug deep into the memory, a horror made for TV.

Those pictures; the impact of the planes on metal and glass; people leaping to their deaths; the fire officers struggling in the dust; the lines of shocked people walking away from Manhattan.

But it is the response to the violence of those 19 suicidal extremists that has sadly defined this last decade. Revenge on nations, invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Over a million killed. The US could have pursued those responsible in such a different way. They choose retribution and violence, and now there are at least 19 suicidal extremists every month in Iraq and Afghanistan. Vicious and endless circles of violence.

Let us pray, that the next ten years will see nations refusing to follow the logic of violence and revenge, and instead, doing all they can to foster real justice and peacemaking in our troubled world.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Let's stop kidding ourselves about Libya

Up until 6 months ago - we were arming Gaddafi to the hilt. Now we are apparently sending in our SAS snatch squads to bring him to justice. We are trying to make ourselves and the Nato Allies into the heroes of the hour, when in fact it was us who had strengthened this dictators grip of power of the people of Libya.

In the years following his renunciation of nuclear technology, we happily gave him whatever weapons we could sell him, to help him torture and suppress the Libyan people.

And by encouraging a 6 month civil war, we have helped again to destabilise an oil producing nation, hoping to put in compliant new rulers.

The world was told that Nato's weapons would only be used to 'protect' civilians from Gaddafi's troops. The extensive bombing of Tripoli and now of Sirte shows this to be a complete fiction. As with Baghdad, the civilian infrastructure has been devastated, leaving millions without electricity, water and basic supplies.

Perhaps as many as 50,000 are dead.

There must be better ways of getting rid of dictators than this? O, I know, lets resist the urge to sell them whatever weaponry they need to suppress their own people in the first place!

Be down at the DSEi arms fare in London docklands, 13th September. Let's not allow some companies to get filthy rich with the blood of so many people on their hands

'A Just Church' at Greenbelt 2011!

What a weekend! Greenbelt is an incredible experience, and sums up for me all that can be wonderful about Christianity in the UK. It can be poetic, mystical, adventurous, challenging, inclusive and prophetic. The scriptures can come alive and faith can become a joyful explosion of experience and relationship. 25,000 people camp in Cheltenham Racecourse and share food, music and stories. It is awesome.

It was spoilt a bit by the fact that I was speaking. This made me extremely nervous, and I spent far too much time worrying about it. On Sunday evening, I was pleasantly surprised to see a huge line of people developing outside the tent I was speaking in. It turned out to be the queue for 'Pie Minister', a food stall. Never mind.

The first talk was a bit rambly, but it was certainly a good introduction to my book, and I hope that it encouraged a few to flick through it at the bookstall. My second talk, on the Monday, went much better - mostly because I decided to listen to the voice of Paulo Freire, (Brazilian radical educationalist), and be as dialogical as possible. I spoke for only 30 mins, to allow for 30 minutes of discussion. This was a wonderful chance to be more spontaneous and hear from some of the extraordinary people who had come to hear the talk 'Dancing in Millbank'.

The plea was that Christianity must be visibly present in the modern struggles to protect the welfare state. We must demonstrate the reign of God's love and peace, even in uncomfortable places that involve protest against war, environmental degradation and devastating inequalities. I think it struck a chord, and certainly the questions and statements were helpful.

Thank God for Greenbelt, and all who make it possible. Thanks to Billy Bragg, and Mark Thomas and the myriad of contributors and campers who made Greenbelt 2011 so memorable. Thanks also to all who came and encouraged my quest for a more 'Just Church'!

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Big Society = Big Riots

Don't get me wrong - I'm angered and outraged by the violence and looting of the past few days. I want those who set fire to buildings brought to justice. They do not care if people die through their actions, and they need to feel the full punishment of the law. Those who attack shops and restaurants, deliberately wanting to terrify customers, deserve whatever we can throw at them legally. These people do not give a damn about the family of Mark Duggan, they care about the thrill and profit of the riot. But if we simply leave all the blame with the rioters, we are making a huge mistake.

If you allow massive youth unemployment to go unabated, (Tottenham having one of the worst levels in the country) if you take away the opportunities for people to go on to further and higher education (and the massive increase in fees has certainly done that) and if you treat the young people of the black community with contempt (of which the stop and search policy alone gives clear evidence) then you are creating the conditions for a riot.

Criminality is not a condition people are born into. It is created. The policies of this Government, especially the cutbacks to local authority spending, but also the whole 'big society' agenda, is slowly eroding the civil life of this country. If you suddenly slash funding for youth groups, educational opportunities, local amenities - and add to that virtually no prospect of getting a job - then you create a ticking time bomb of crime and resentment.

I'm fearful that there is much more to come in the months ahead. Other cities and towns are bound to follow London, Birmingham, Manchester etc. It does not take long to create the right conditions for a riot. It will take many years to rebuild our fragmented society, and it has to start by challenging policies that tear down the fabric of local communities. Lets make sure we hold to account all those responsible for the terrible scenes we have seen on our streets, from the arsonists and looters to those whose policies are wrecking our society.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Outpourings of Hate must be countered with outpourings of Love

It has been hard to digest the evil that has occurred in Norway last Friday. The madness, the shear horror, the utter cruelty of it all. Anders Breivik has attempted to overturn the peaceful nature of Norwegian society, and unleash a wave of hatred toward all who favour multiculturalism, and violence towards those of other faiths.

He has failed miserably. The Norwegians have reacted with shock, but real dignity. "The answer to terrorism is not more 'security' but more democracy" was the reply of the Prime Minister. One survivor said "If this amount of evil can be done by one man, imagine the good that can be done collectively by those with good intent"

Breivik wants to provoke more hatred - but he has stirred disgust at all who work for violence and evil, and the reaction to his crimes will not be what he had fantasised. His outpourings of hate must be countered with a determined outpouring of love for our neighbours. He is not the future, but a throwback to the sick racism and fascism of the past.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Renewing Liberation Theology

Cheers to all at the Urban Theology Unit (UTU) in Sheffield for a stimulating day looking at the 'renewal of Liberation Theology'. John Vincent, Ian Duffield and many others provided much food for thought, and helped provide an intellectual framework for our own conference in Bradford on the subject in the coming weekend.

The UTU is a profoundly important place for British Liberation Theology, it has been its home for several decades, and has produced the most comprehensive UK based material on the subject. More importantly, it has lived it out, setting up community 'Ashrams', fair trade shops and cafe's and being a home to those on the margins.

Long may the work of UTU continue, and excellent place to study and to learn from the wisdom of those who have gone before us. Watch out for a publication coming out of such a thought provoking set of discussions!

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

The Council leader's sad reaction to the pleas of the children of Bradford

I went to the Bradford Council meeting yesterday, primarily to support the wonderful people of Whetley Hill Resource Centre. But alongside their petition to save their centre, came the petitions to save the three local pools to be closed.

As we got ready to go in, Bradford was stirred by the sound of a class of children from Whetley Hill Primary School. Their local pool has closed, and now, they will have nowhere close or suitable to learn to swim.

They were amazing, chanting and determined. In the council meeting, they pleaded to say some words, and Ian Greenwood was gracious enough to grant them the right to make a short speech. However, as soon as they had left, to get home for teatime, Mr Greenwood made the most outrageous slur. He accused the Tory party and the campaigners of 'Parading' these kids as a political move, and that campaigners should have made the children stay for the full meeting to hear why the pool should close.

These kids were not 'paraded' by anyone. They were not 'being used' by local activists. Their only local pool, in an area with few local amenities, was to close, and they had asked their teachers to help them do something. They were making a heartfelt plea, and to hear how they were dismissed by the council leader was truly awful.

Yes - this mess is the fault of the Tories, but our Labour local authority needs to do all it can to prevent front line services being cut that affect some of the most needy groups of people in some of the poorest parts of the city.

Monday, 11 July 2011

The Murdoch Empire continues to crumble.

Finally, politicians, police officers and the public are finally voicing their opposition to the way the Murdoch Empire has run it's business. After the scandals involving Miller Dowler's phone and Gordon Brown's medical records, no longer will Members of Parliament and Prime Ministers cosy on up to the string pullers of fleet street. At least for a while.

Murdoch is poison, and his evil empire has finally lost it's veneer of respectability. Not even the vicious axing of 500 jobs at the News of the World will save the reputation of News International. If anything, it has made people angrier, as we watch Murdoch desperately trying to save allies like Rebekah Brooks by destroying the lives of people who had nothing to do with the illegal practices of their former bosses.

Rupert himself has come in to oversee the destruction of incriminating evidence, and to try and save his precious BSkyB project - all to no avail. He will hang on to Brooks for as long as he can, but I suspect he will drop her if share prices continue to plummet.

The self regulation of the printed media has shown itself to be part of that neo-liberal lie, that we can 'trust' big business to manage its own affairs. People like Murdoch crave power and influence, and finally, we can begin to chip back some of the damage he has done to our society. Media is too important to be left in the hands of big bucks business. It needs to be localised, democratised and above all, accountable to the people. Long may Murdoch's decline continue.

The EDL thugs are not to be dismissed easily.

On Saturday, the English Defence League attempted a new strategy in their attempt to spread fear and Islamophobia. Four regional demos were arranged, in Halifax, Cambridge, Plymouth and Middlesborough. Proposed EDL demos in Liverpool, Dagenham and Derby were called off after local opposition.

Although the EDL numbers were low (450 in Halifax, 200 in Middlesborough; 150 in Plymouth and 350 in Cambridge) it still shows that they are mobile and well organised. They do not look like they are likely to 'fizzle away' as had been hoped. Their next intended target is Tower Hamlets on Sept 3rd, and it will be important to do whatever we can to support 'Hope not Hate', 'Unite Against Fascism' and local opposition to this event.

One of our church members witnessed the violent thuggery of the EDL supporters in Halifax city centre. These people clearly are just going out for a ruck, they are mindless and dangerous, and because of this, they will fail to get wider support for their activities. This does not mean however they are not a danger. For perhaps thousands of young people, they are being socialised into the idea that smashing up a Muslim is a totally acceptable act. They are successfully breeding hate in our country and we must never ignore or belittle the threat they pose to our society.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

A death on the doorstep

I awoke with the constant sound of ring tones, unusual on a Saturday morning. Messages on my phone led me to realise things were not well at Desmond Tutu House. I spoke to a resident, and realised that a tragedy had occurred. A body had been found outside at 6.20am, and now a huge cordon was placed around the building.

I raced in as soon as I could, and the PCSO's let me under the police tape. They explained that someone had been found by the wall, in the car park to the 'Treehouse Cafe' annexe. he had been 'found in drink', and the circumstances were apparently not suspicious, with the assumption that it was natural causes.

The increasing number of street drinkers is depressing. Many are from Eastern Europe. They came looking for work, and found only despair and the downward spiral of alcoholism. It is a short, sharp and brutish life. This death is the fourth on our street in 4 years. Two murders and two alcoholics left for dead by their 'friends'.

Our church must find a way of offering some hope to these lost souls, we cannot ignore as Lazarus lies dead on the doorstep.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

10 years on from the riots, and Bradford is looking very good!

A decade ago, the far right ignited a night of violence and hatred in our city, and it had a devastating impact on multicultural relationships in the region. I had been studying in Durham at the time, and raced back the following day to see if there was anything to be done. I remembered being involved in the previous rioting in 1995, and knew this would have a lasting social and economic impact on Bradford.

Bradford 10 years later is doing surprisingly well. Last year, when everyone predicted that the English Defence League visit to the city would spark another riot, Bradfordians reacted with determination and restraint. The situation in terms of race relations has certainly improved, and the police have a much healthier relationship to the local Muslim community.

I have been invited to comment in the media about the riots, and there are plenty of 'forums' about discussing the 10 year anniversary. I think some of it is riot 'porn', though mostly I'm sure it is helpful reflection. But, apart from this blog, I've stayed well away from it all. Bradford has moved on, and should not be so associated with the riots. Yes, we have our problems to deal with, especially in terms of education, job opportunities and the health of the local population, but on the whole, we are in a better situation to deal with the issues than we have ever been.

The far right have disintergreted in our city, and instead, it is those who are struggling for a more just and respectful civic life who are winning hearts and minds. I want to celebrate Bradfords people and achievements, and not focus on the mistakes of the past.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Walking with Mark Thomas

For my our ninth wedding anniversary Cat and I couldn't believe our luck - Mark Thomas was performing a show in Bradford! The comedian has a very special place in our hearts because 9 years ago, two days before our wedding, we had walked with him around the American Spybase at Menwith Hill. He is a top bloke, who uses his skills as a humourist to highlight extremely important campaigns.

His books have been on the arms trade, the evils of Coca-cola, and now, recording his travels walking the length of the Israeli Wall, illegally built on Palestinian soil. His show, based on the book 'Extreme Rambling' is hilarious, but more importantly it tells of the plight of the Palestinians in an informative and accessible way. Those of us who have been to the region recognised so much truth in all the comedy. Mark's hatred for the folly of violence is only topped by his hatred of mime artists, clowns and street performers in general. His tale of the 'Martyred' giraffe in a Palestinian zoo was side splittingly funny, yet also said so much about the human spirit. Read the book to hear the story!

My thanks to Mark for doing what he does, and inspiring the rest of us to use the gifts we have for the service of humanity. Even if it is juggling.

Happy Birthday NHS!

Yesterday we had a very special party in Bradford's Centenary Square. It was the 63rd birthday of the National Health Service, formed on the 5th July 1948 by the post war Labour Government. Up and down the country, many of those employed by the service, and many of us who owe it a great deal, got out the streamers and the party hats, and celebrated with style.

Someone had produced a giant cake, and others were giving out sweets to passers by. I've never seen the NHS celebrated so publicly before, and it can only mean one thing. We are waking up to the fact that the ConDem government are on the verge of wrecking it. Their ill thought out reforms are designed to aid the privatisation of the service, adding more competition to the NHS.

A very senior heart specialist resigned today, and was on Radio 4. He had served under 6 different governments, but said that it was the policies of Cameron that made his job impossible, as it was destroying the quality of care that should be offered.

I don't want to see leading NHS practitioners being forced out - I want to see ConDem policies opposed and exposed for what they are. We want the NHS intact for our children's children and beyond. Decent healthcare is the perfect birthday gift for the next generation.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Independence from America Day; Menwith Hill

I've just come back from a splendid party over at Menwith Hill, the American Spybase located near Harrogate. Each year on July 4th, a group of peace activists gather to celebrate 'Independence from America Day'. As US citizens rightly remember their struggle against British Colonialism, it is also right that we remember the present struggles against US Imperialism.

The US flag waved proudly at the gatehouse, guarded by British police officers and men with machine guns. This is US soil, on British Land. Not even local Members of Parliament are able to discover what goes on behind those gates, only the US spooks can hope to listen into the vast material gathered from the 30 or so 'giant golfballs', (simply covers for the satellite dishes, disguising which direction they may be pointing in)

From Drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen, to bombing raids in Afghanistan and Iraq before that - Menwith Hill is far from innocent. It lies in such an idyllic location, hiding the horrors that are produced from it's intelligence gathering. It is called a listening facility, but listening is too benign a word. It is a facility of power and dominance, a facility of secrecy and destruction.

One day, when British foreign policy does not simply slavishly follow aggressive US empire building, one day we shall have our independence. We will not follow to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, we will not fuel their weapons industry with the folly of Trident - and this little piece of England will be returned to the beauty of the orchids.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

What did you think of the Westfield exhibition?

Today, Westfield completed two days of 'consultation' with the local community. The exhibition in the Midland hotel was perfunctory, but less than inspiring. The new plans are not exciting, but are not an insult. The new scheme is, after all, a shopping centre, not a piece of great architecture.

There is no plan to woo local Muslim businesses, there is no plan to provide multicultural/multifaith space, there are no facilities for young people, there are no green spaces at all. Simply put - it is architecture that does not provide for community.

Nevertheless, when the first bit of work begins, we will need to applaud it, we will probably need to get behind it. There are too many people out of work in this city to knock the only decent chance of improving their prospects.

Yet I think of a shopping centre in Hungary, where instead of a carpark, on the roof was a great garden and children's play space. It is a place I always go back to and it is the most popular shopping centre in Budapest. Why is it not possible to think creatively with our shopping centres? 

Neil McClure from Westfield admitted that the timescale of 'work starting in a year' (T&A local paper) maybe a little optimistic. This is not, after all, a happy time for shop retailers. Maybe we can enjoy our urban garden for a few more years before the walls begin to go up.

I'm torn by it all. So, what did you think of the Westfield exhibition?

Street Angels say goodbye and thanks to the German Church!

Last night may well have been the last shift that the Street Angels operated from the German Church Hall. For 4 years we have worked with the German Church community, and they opened up their facilities for our daring project. Countless young people have been able to come and feel safe after some sort of trauma (last night we helped 3 young Latvian women, one who had severely injured her ankle) and it has been our base for thousands of patrols that have helped make Bradford a safer place.

From next week the police have offered us free space in their new facility in City Hall, and we begin a 3 month trial there. I'm sure it will be great for Bradford Street Angels, but I'll miss the German Church Hall - so many memories!

Bless the little old ladies of the German speaking community, who dared to realise that God had not finished with them yet! The realised that they had possessed a gift for the people of Bradford, and they gave it willingly.

The deepest cuts - defend those with disabilities from our cruel governments!

Yesterday I was invited to the most powerful campaign meeting I have attended in a long time. The moment I entered the Whetley Hill Resource Centre, I was bowled over by the sense of warmth and activity. In Bradford, this has provided a really important community for those with moderate to severe disabilities for the last 35 years.

Purpose built, with dedicated staff, it a remarkable gift to the city. It is well used and well loved by those who depend upon it, but now it is under threat. The local council have decided to cut the provision from March next year, to save a miserly £200,000.

The people who use the service, alongside their carers, sat in a large circle, 40 or so mostly in wheelchairs. They had action plans, petitioning and real gusto! Only one councillor has dared to actually visit the centre, and he has not publicly declared his support, only privately. The first task will be forcing those who want to make this cruel decision to actually see what goes on.

The staff have been told not to speak about it, though 20 of them face redundancy. The council are trying to argue that there is no need for the provision, and that it is under used. The reality is that senior council bosses are delaying and deterring referrals to the centre to try and give that impression.

The job now is to make this campaign visible, on the streets and in the council chambers. Cuts inevitably hit the most vulnerable first, and it is the duty of all of us to defend these vital services. We have a strong moral case, but more importantly, amazing allies. The users of Whetley Hill are not to be pushed around - they will make formidable adversaries for the bullies of local and national government!  

Thursday, 30 June 2011

'They look after us when we're young, we should look after them when they are old!' Solidarity with striking teachers!

Like many other people, I got to enjoy a day with my kids today because of the strike by the National Union of Teachers. They, together with several public sector unions took this action in the face of intransigence from the government over pension provision.

The government want public sector workers to work an extra 8 years, pay more each month towards their pensions (an average of £300 a month more) and still look forward to a reduction in the amount they are to receive.

Not only is it understandable that they are striking, but it is applaudable. Teachers in particular provide one of the most important functions to the nation, and all of us who pay taxes should value their vocation, and allow them to retire at a sensible age with some dignity.

The government feels that to strike is moral outrage, at the same time preparing to spend £76 Billion on a Trident nuclear weapons system, £6 Billion in Afghanistan and 'what ever the cost' of military action in Libya. I believe that it is far more moral to value the people who educate our children. My daughter held aloft her placard 'They look after us when we're young, we should look after them when they are old!'

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

The unrecognizable highstreet

TJ Hughes is finally to go, alongside Thorton's Chocolates. Bradford is slowly losing its famous high street brands. We didn't have a Habitat or a Jane Norman, so at least its only 2 empty shop fronts and not 4, but its still another blow. TJ Hughes saved the iconic Co-operative building, a 30's masterpiece, it would otherwise have fallen into sharp decline. Heaven knows what will happen to the building now.

During the 1980's there seemed an obvious trend on the high streets of England. Whereever you went, the shops began to all look the same, the same stores in every town and city, and the local shops were gradually being wiped off the face of main street. 

Now those same stores are increasingly looking precarious, from Mothercare to HMV. Many of these shops aggressively located near to local stores selling similar things, putting them out of business. So now we are left with a vacuum, which nobody can afford to fill. Will it be a short blip in capitalism, or are we in for a long period of empty shopfronts? whatever happens, the English high street is about to undergo the biggest face lift in recent history.

I've recently taken to buying everything I can from the city centre. It may cost more, and is a little trickier than buying online, but I would prefer to see at least one or two shops left in Bradford city centre!

Monday, 27 June 2011

100 days and nights of bombing Libya

Have we got very far in the last 100 days? At first it all seemed so wonderful; 'protecting civilians from a massacre!' - but like all lies, it all soon fell apart. And like all lies, the lies just got bigger. To cover up the mess we are in, the propaganda just keeps on coming.

100 days after the outbreak of Nato bombings, the International Criminal Court finally announced the warrants of arrest for Gaddafi and one of his sons. But of course, all war is crime. All those who feel that force will sort out the problems are deluding themselves. They are part of the problem.

We all want Gaddafi to go. He is another mad, bad dictator that we happily shook hands with and sold arms too. But it matters how we choose to rid ourselves of these people. It must come out of the efforts of the region itself. It must come about with diplomacy, sanctions, and primarily through non-violence.

But the bombing continues, innocents continue to die, and the two sides will grow in hatred, sowing the seeds for violence to flower in the coming years. The West has spent Billions on the war effort, Britain already wasting £250 million that could have been spent on struggling public sector projects. Imagine a different world. Imagine how we would feel if we were celebrating 100 days and nights of relentless peace making....

Can Murray finally do it?

Don't get your hopes up! You know where this will end! Why do we do this to ourselves every bloody year? AAARRRRRRGGHHHH!

The Biafran War is over.

I have finally finished reading 'Half of a Yellow Sun' by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the terrible tale of the ill fated Biafran war of independence against Nigeria. The war was fought between 1967-70, but was ultimately very one sided, and the Biafran people suffered horribly, many dying of starvation while the world looked on.

I am ashamed to say I knew nothing of the conflict before I read this book, and I am grateful that the author has opened my eyes. War is often told from the viewpoint of the victors, but Adichie comes from the losing side, and the inevitable Biafran slide from national certainty to utter collapse is delivered with no holds barred.

Loyalty, infidelity, rape as a weapon of war and many other themes are dealt with honestly and with brutal clarity. It was not a fun read, but I'm glad I stuck with it till the end. I tried not to look away, as we often do with war. The Biafra-Nigeria conflict may be over, but there seems to be no end in this world for the appetite for war.

Friday, 24 June 2011

'Walk for Justice'

21 of us managed to make the long trek from Bradford to Leeds, a 'walk for justice' as part of Refugee Week. The walk was undertaken by sanctuary seekers and their supporters, and took in the regional 'Asylum' courts in Thornbury, on the outskirts of Bradford, and the 'Waterside Reporting Centre' in Leeds.

On the way, the conversations were optimistic but sometimes heartbreaking. I spoke to a woman from Africa who had not seen her children for 9 years, and I met someone from Iran who had been forced to report to the centre for nearly 10 years, not being able to work for a decade until he finally won his case to stay.

This walk, and any acts of solidarity with those who have gone through the hell of seeking sanctuary, is vital to demonstrate solidarity with those who arrive at our shores. On arrival at the courts in Leeds, we were refused the dignity of being able to use the toilets and the security guards even chased after a retired Methodist minister who had accidentally parked in the wrong place.

The immigration service is a tough one to work in, but if they worked on the basis of hospitality and care rather than mistrust and hostility, I would begin to feel that I lived in a more civilised society!

Dealing with depression

In my book, I talk about the problem of 'burn out', and talk about the importance of prayer, time out and solidarity (circles of support and friendship). I've really struggled to make use of these tools over the last week or so, as I have had  to deal with a sudden wave of depression.

It's been hard to blog, or do much really, though superficially one has to keep on going whatever, even when feeling down. I rarely suffer from 'being down', and am normally fairly bouncy, but after a series of knocks, even I got worn out.

Firstly, the Treehouse Cafe, the world's first fairtrade cafe, situated in 'Desmond Tutu House' is really struggling. Much worse, when our church offered to help out, some members of the Treehouse refused as their militant atheism overcame the desire to keep the cafe open. It was hugely frustrating, and a realisation that as progressive as our church is, atheists can often reject working with us simply out of dogma. Ironic really.

The reason it really bothered me, was because in the same week I learnt more about the 'review' Desmond Tutu house is to go through to see if it is 'viable'. The review was partly triggered by the debts that the Treehouse Cafe had run up in utility bills. The thought that the project I have developed over the last 6 years might be under threat really knocked me back.

Then I learnt that my wife had not had her contract renewed at the University. Losing her job after 8 years was a terrible blow, and is part of the terrible dismantling of the world renowned peace studies department. The European wave of cutbacks finally came home to our family.

Friends have rallied around my wife and I, and I'm sure all will be well eventually. The  Desmond Tutu House project will survive, even if some in the Diocese cannot see it's value - but its been a tough week or so. If you pray - hold us in your heart. If you're suffering from depression - hang on in there; 'This too shall pass'.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Celebrating Refugee Week

The launch of refugee week was awesome! We listened to speakers from a wealth of nations, and contributions from the organisations that have emerged over the years to support them. I had a sudden feeling that we had turned a corner in Bradford, and we truly had become a city of sanctuary.

5 years ago, the attitude towards asylum seekers seemed more hostile, and services for them disjointed. Now the opposite is true, with a genuine sense of welcome in the city, and all the voluntary and public bodies mostly singing from the same hymn sheet.

This has been partly due to the work of BEACON, BIASAN, the  Bradford City of Sanctuary movement and the tireless work of Bradford Action for Refugees, but it has been the strength of character of the refugee groups themselves that has really made the difference, exemplified by the work of the refugee forum.

When partying and eating with the sanctuary seekers and refugees in Bradford, one can genuinely be proud to live in a city that has such a positive attitude to those who come from foreign shores. We can learn great wisdom and gain much joy from our encounters with strangers.

Monday, 20 June 2011

South of the Border

Just watched Oliver Stone's travelogue through Latin America, after finally picking it up from 'Dogwoof' productions. It's an important film simply because it forces North American audiences to actually listen to the views of the elected leaders of the South; Chavez, Morales, Kirchners, Correa, Lula and Lugo.

Along the way, the abhorrent policies of the IMF and US imperialism are laid bare. There was a long explanation of the situation in Venezuela, partially because of the role the US played in the attempted coup in 2002, but partly because Hugo Chavez has been such an inspiration to the Latin American left in general, probably more so than Cuba in recent years.

In my book, I talk in depth about solidarity with Cuba and Venezuela, as examples of nations where the poor have been lifted out of deep poverty by the actions of their respective governments. This does not mean we cannot be critical of their governments, but we must see politics through the lens of the poor, and not the lens of the media, which tends to favour the rich. This film is a good reminder as to why that chapter is important. South America has demonstrated a different way to act in the world.

Democratic revolutionary socialism, allowing nations the right to not have their property plundered by the rich and powerful, is a powerful and viable alternative to modern capitalism.

The film has it's weaknesses, and I would have loved to have heard much more from Fernando Lugo - the former Bishop, now President of Paraguay. He is proof that Liberation Theology is far from dead, indeed, it seems to be forging a new way of being faithful to the world! Watch it if you get the chance!

God bless you Brian Haw

For over 10 years he devoted himself to highlighting the atrocity of war. He was a familiar figure to all of us who have opposed the recent US wars - he was a beacon of determined resistance in the face of an unrepentant government.

In 2007 he beat Cameron and Blair in the channel four competition to find the most inspirational political figure. Despite numerous attempts to move him from the square (including introducing and entirely new law!) Brian was resolute to the end.

Brian, for your faithful work for peace, and tireless campaigning on behalf of the suffering children of conflict, we salute you. See you on the other side.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Official Government policy; 'Work till you drop!'

The announcement that virtually all government employees will have to work till they are 66, and will have to pay considerably more towards their pensions is a depressing story indeed.

Danny Alexandria and his millionaire chums will now face opposition from the GMB, the NUT and a range of public sector unions. For them to successful in there campaign for better conditions for their members, they will need widespread support from those of us not employed in the public sector.

The government will portray the unions as being unrealistic and greedy, so we must be prepared to make sure they are not isolated and picked off, one union at a time. To implement such horrific changes, the capitalist class (exemplified by this cabinet of millionaires), will need some hard hitting tactics. It is therefore not so surprising that the police (along with firefighters) will not have to endure the same changes as nurses and teachers. It looks like the government are getting ready for a full scale onslaught against the working people of this nation, and it may well resort to force.

Let us stand firm with the public sector workers - no society should hand over a trillion pounds to the banking sector, spend a million pounds a day bombing Libya, be prepared to lose billions of pounds in tax revenue from the most profitable companies, and at the same time, tell its public sector servants to 'work till you drop!'

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Have you ever heard of Nifissatou Diallo?

A great tragedy has happened, and I am worried that the victim is virtually nameless, someone whom nobody seems to care. Her name is Nifissatou Diallo, from Guinea, an African, a Muslim, a widow and mother of a 15-year old daughter. The police found her hidden behind a closet, crying and vomiting, traumatized by the violence she had suffered at the hands of the guest of a hotel suite, a guest whose name she didn't even know.

Director General of the IMF, Strauss-Kahn, was the hotel guest. We now know his name, and it looks clear that even he cannot evade justice. It is important though that the world is known not just by the perpetrators of violence, not just by those with power, but is known through the eyes of the victims.

Nifissatou Diallo can be a lens in which we see not just those women who are abused by men, but through whom we can see the countless millions who are abused by the IMF. The weak and the vulnerable who are chewed up and spat out by those who make decisions based on profits and not people.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Two fingers up at Berlusconi's nuclear option

It has been lovely to watch the tide turning on this repugnant right wing Italian. Berlusconi has often looked invincible. Whatever he did, however racist or sexist his behaviour was, he kept managing to get the votes.

Not any more. He lost the vote on his hopes to revive Italy's nuclear energy programme. It was overwhelmingly clear - in the wake of Fukushima, Europe is waking up to the realisation that a nuclear option could bring disaster upon us.

But perhaps more importantly for the fate of democracy in Italy, the referendum ended the lack of accountability for the political class. From now on, no-one, not even the previously untouchable Berlusconi, will be immune from being taken to court.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Will the hole in Bradford finally get filled?

The T&A had an exclusive today - a new photograph of the 'revised' Broadway Centre produced by developers 'Westfield'. Westfield will be holding a new public consultation on the project in July, and want people opinions. The scheme has been scaled down to reflect current economic conditions.

If you've read my book, or lived in Bradford over the last 10 years, then the mention of the firm 'Westfield; may fill you with dread. They have promised to start building on the site in the heart of the centre several times before - start dates have come and gone, so its hard to get too excited about the news story.

I'm happy that the scale of the shopping centre has been reduced. If it is to be built, it mustn't empty the rest of the city centre of it's existing shops. I like them where they are, in buildings with charm and character. Westfield's building proposals look as is they could be the sort of place that assisted suicides could be accommodated in. Bland, emotionless cathedrals of consumerism.

But the hole needs filling, so let us pray that this is not just another dud public relations move by a company that has had little regard for the people of Bradford over the last decade.
http://www.thetelegraphandargus.co.uk/news/9081725.EXCLUSIVE__Bradford_s_Broadway_shopping_centre_revival_plan/

The Lemon Tree

I just watched Eran Riklis' 2008 hit film 'The Lemon Tree' and needed to share my despair. Yes, it is a great movie, the story of a Palestinian widow going through the courts to protect her lemon grove from destruction after the a government minister moves next door. But no, I didn't enjoy it.

The wall wins, eventually the film climaxes with an Israeli and a Palestinian separated by a huge wall, and 150 lemon trees cut down to the stumps, so that the Israeli defence chief does not have to worry about 'terrorist' snipers using the lemon grove of his neighbour for cover.

This terrible, hopeless ending brought me to tears, and reflected back to me a terrible day, where walls seem to be springing up all over the place. Walls and separation are a reality of this world. I hope though, that history is on the side of those who eventually tear the walls down.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Peru's shift to the left?

Ollanta Humala was elected last week as President of Peru, and it marks another significant shift to the left by the people of Latin America. Some did not think it was possible, as Peru and Colombia are seen as unshakable supporters of the US free market model. Investors showed what they thought of the people#s decision by wiping 12% off the value of Peru's stock market in a single day.

Humala had to endure the jibing of a hostile press, and the constant derision from elite of the country who almost universally supported his opponent, Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of the disgraced former President, Alberto Fujimori. This was despite Mr Humala having to make significant shifts to the right since his last election defeat in 2006, which had been attributed to his support for and association with Hugo Chavez. To appease worried middle class voters, Humala ditched many of his left wing policies and appeared to favour a more free market model.

If Humala does not regain the courage of his earlier convictions, then his presidency is unlikely to be of much benefit to the third of the population living below the poverty line, and the next third who 'get by' under the free market model currently prevalent in Peru.

He must be bold if he is to make the kind of changes seen by those lifted out of poverty in nearby Venezuela and Bolivia. Should he decide to follow that route, he must be prepared for the continuous attacks on his government from the US, the multinationals and the 'markets'.

For the sake of the poor, for the sake of Peru, home of Gustavo Gutierrez, father of Liberation Theology, let us pray for courage in Peru's new president.

Friday, 10 June 2011

The Big Sing at the Mela

For those of us in Bradford, the Mela is one of the highlights of the year. Not only does it bring the best in Asian cuisine and culture into one awesome smelling and looking place, but it seems to bring out the best in Bradfordians.

Yes, it's a long way from the heady days when local enthusiast 'Dusty' was in charge, and yes, down to local government cutbacks, its only one day this year, instead of the usual weekend. It is still a wonderful event and I would recommend it to anyone living in West Yorkshire for a great family day out.

Our contribution this year will be in the 'Sanctuary Tent'. This tent celebrates the best in the cultures of those who arrive as asylum seekers in our country - and is full of dance and music and story. Members of 'SoulSpace' will be kicking off contributions by a special service of songs from the world music collection from the Iona Community. These songs of hope and commitment from South Africa, Cuba, Rwanda, Scotland, always inspire and uplift - even with my voice!

If in the area, come down to the Mela this Sunday in Peel Park, and if in the mood for spiritual music that is full of passion, then get to the Sanctuary Tent for 12 noon!

Thursday, 9 June 2011

At long last, the Archbishop speaks out!

I know it must be a difficult job, being the head of such a large organisation, having to be fair to so many different perspectives from so many different parts of the globe, but I for one am glad that Rowan has finally found a voice.

The Big Society is clearly a cover for ideologically motivated cutbacks, the changes to the education and health system were not in the manifesto's of either the Tories or the Lib-Dems, so it is true to say that these policies have no democratic mandate. Rowan is understating it when he talks of anger and anxiety caused by these policies.

I was invited on to Radio Leeds to debate the matter and was rather frustrated that the media was more fascinated with the story of whether Rowan has the right to talk about politics. I guess it has been so long since he has been anything but muted on so many issues that it is understandable to some degree.

Jesus spoke out against the leaders of his day when they were mucking up society and causing injustice, of course the Church should be involved in modern political debate. The question should not be, does Rowan have the right to voice an opinion, but rather, why doesn't he do it more readily and more clearly.

It took 5 years for him to admit that war on Iraq was wrong and did more harm than good. When is he going to condemn this government for bombing the hell out of Tripoli, or announcing more spending on Trident replacement?

Still, I'm glad he's beginning to voice an opposition to the economic and social policies of the Con-Dems. He is a wise man,  and I want him to find his own voice more often. Prophetic ministry can come from the very top Rowan!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Prayers for Syria

First it was President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia, overthrown after 23 years in power. Then Hosni Mubarak lost out to the peoples power in Egypt, after 30 years of absolute control. This week President Ali Saleh looks likely to have been ousted from Yemen after 28 years.

Where will the Arab spring take root next? Libya has been brought to a complex military and political stalemate, with Gaddafi holding on for now. In Bahrain, King Hamad has shored up his power base with troops from Saudi Arabia and looks unlikely to fall. All eyes now look to Syria.

President Assad is prepared to use all the force at his disposal to stay in power. Up to 750 protesters have lost their lives already, but it looks likely that may just be the tip of the iceberg. In 1982, Bashar al-Assads father slaughtered over 10,000 protesters in the city of Hama.

Now it looks like the town of Jisr al-Shughour is preparing for horrific showdown with the army, after claims that 120 government troops were killed in the town a few days ago.

The future for the ordinary Syrian citizen looks grim, but there are signs of hope. Non-violent resistance in the country is stronger than in Yemen and Libya, this has proved to be a much better tool at dislodging the giants than simply violent insurrection. Put simply, you can't use guns against these people. They know about guns, and they very well armed. But it is the peoples outrage to the murder of children that will make them fall eventually. Assad is losing his legitimacy daily.

I pray for my Syrian friends, they have a right to live in a free and noble country. And one day, it will be insha'Allah.

Amnesty International at 50! Now lets get writing!

Last night at JustSpace a small group of us gathered to write letters for Amnesty International. For the last 6 years we have met every two months, and sat down and put pen to paper. We listened to stories of death sentences in Iraq and disappearances in Sri Lanka, then held silence for political and faith related prisoners everywhere.

The importance of the work of Amnesty International cannot be underestimated. It has changed the way the world has looked at human rights. Though it is working with political leaders and dealing with international bodies, I think it is successful primarily because it works from the grassroots up. The letter writing connects individuals and small groups to the realities of human rights abuses around the globe, and empowers them to do something about it.

Tonight there will be a meal at the Treehouse Cafe to celebrate Amnesty at 50. But more important than the fundraising and delicious meals, will be another opportunity to write letters and press governments to stop torture and abuse. Amnesty helps the people tackle the powerful, and stops governments thinking they can get away with murder. Happy birthday Amnesty, now, lets get writing!

Praise for Bradford's pioneering Palestine Solidarity Group!

At the Annual General Meeting of Bradford's Palestine Solidarity Campaign, it became clear that the local group had excelled themselves. Rukaiya Collector, of the National Executive of PSC, explained how the campaign to ask wholesalers to stop stocking Israeli goods was a groundbreaking initiative.

The Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign is a classic tactic of Non-violent direct action, and it has gained ground in the last 5 years around the issue of Israel/Palestine. Here in Bradford, activists have been asking Muslim stores to not sell Israeli dates, especially during Ramadan. The campaign has been quite effective, though there are still many stores who do not seem to care where their produce comes from, even if they recognise that they shouldn't be supporting the Israeli economy.

Rukaiya hopes that other parts of the country could follow Bradford's example, and that the BDS campaign can grow till the point that even the business community in Israel puts pressure on the Government to stop its atrocities in the occupied lands and seek a realistic peace settlement.

Things are changing, Egypt is beginning to lift restrictions on Gaza; a new wave of democratic youth movements is forcing the old Palestinian leadership to unite rather than fight amongst themselves; and the Israeli government heads towards pariah state for its killing of Palestinians and arrogant denial of human rights in the region.

Israel cannot keep playing the 'anti-semitic' card against the BDS campaign or any criticism of its policies. It needs to engage in a pragmatic and peaceful diplomacy, it needs to recognise the rights of the Palestinian people to live in peace and with dignity. We must struggle against injustice with every non-violent tool at our disposal.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Poor Kids; 'From the mouthes of babes...'

The BBC documentary on the life of kids living in low income families was completely depressing.  Poor kids from Leicester, Bradford and Glasgow told their stories of missing meals, living with illness, worrying about debt and generally feeling insecure and worthless.

The kids were amazing and articulate, putting into words the realities of life on the edge. Here, in one of the richest economies in the world, hundreds of thousands of kids live with this hell.. 1 in 6 of poor kids has considered suicide. Poor families pay over £1200 than average families on credit charges and extra fuel charges (metered). Kids live with terrible housing conditions (1 million kids live in housing considered 'unfit' to live in) and with nowhere safe to play.

The stories of the damp bedrooms brought back terrible memories of my own childhood. I recall that in one council house I lived in, my bed linen was perpetually mouldy, and I was constantly ill. But you would hope that life in 1970's Britain was significantly worse than 2010. Not true. The same problems apply today, because capitalism always ends ins a hierarchy, with the wealthy often completely ignorant of life at the bottom of the pile.

People will always find reasons to blame the poor. The Tories, the press, even the last Labour government found it easy to scapegoat the poor (though at least with Labour, the 'Surestart' programme was designed to help those with least) I hope though, that these stories, told so eloquently from these kids, cannot so easily be ignored. 'From the mouthes of babes', the truth of poverty will be heard.

Monday, 6 June 2011

When the IMF are endorsing the Tories, it's time to fightback!

So, the International Monetary Fund has supported the right wing, neo-liberal agenda of the Tories? Well that is hardly surprising! Many working in the field of development have campaigned against the IMF for decades because it has always sided with the rich and powerful at the expense of the poor.

The IMF, like Cameron, have disguised their language to sound as if they really care about the most vulnerable, but in practice, their policies have continued to follow the rules of the 'Washington Consensus'. Privatisation, trade liberalisation, erosion of public services (especially health and education) and the steady decline of democracy, as power is handed over to international finance bodies and trans-nationals.

The IMF has often wrecked national economies by offering a simplistic 'one size fits all' approach in formulating their policies. They also fall short of being a model of transparency, and have become synonymous with unaccountable and undemocratic governance. There are far too many examples of destructive social and economic impacts following the imposition of IMF policies for us not to be worried about their comments regarding the UK.

Now that the IMF have endorsed Tory economic policies, it is clear that we need to redouble our efforts to resist them!

Yemen gets rid of another dictator, but what next?

President Saleh looks almost certain to be the third dictator to be ousted during the 'Arab Spring'. He left Yemen for medical treatment in Saudi Arabia two days ago, following a rocket attack on his Presidential compound, and would find it almost impossible to retain power back home.

In power for over 30 years, he has been popular with the West for his support for the 'war on terror'. It has meant that we were happy to sell him weapons to use on his own people, and were slow to condemn the horrendous attacks on protesters over the last 10  weeks.

Despite Saleh's departure, Yemen is not a successful product of non-violent revolution, and it is unclear who will fill the power vacuum. The tribal power grab is certainly not a peaceful one, and elements connected to al-Qaeda are present in some parts of the country.

What becomes clearer with each passing moment, as the Arab Spring turns to Summer, is that the gains of Tunisia and Egypt are not being replicated in Libya, Bahrain, Syria and Yemen. Each country is different, and will require different solutions.

Two common threads are these: First, the West has responsibilities to these nations based on its colonial history and modern political involvement. Put simply, our foreign policy has built up horrific dictators that we have been prepared to 'do business with'. This cannot be allowed to continue. The second common element, is about non-violence. The more the opposition groups are armed, the more likely things are to turn into prolonged bloodshed.

We need to find ways of supporting those who bravely resist the despots we have helped create. Not with bullets, but with diplomacy, targeted sanctions, international courts challenging human rights abuses, and foreign policy not based on what is best for business, but what is best for the people in those countries.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Breathing Space

I love city life, the sights and smells, the people and architecture. But city life can be tough, and we all need 'breathing space'. This has been one of the most fun aspects of the life of our 'fresh expression' of church - we have often found time to get out of the city, found time for breathing space.

Yesterday we were in the wonders of 'Henacre Woods', (bigger than an acre, and definitely no hens) and followed the woodland stream to its source, passed a lovely small set of waterfalls. It was a short walk away from the 576 bus route, and the children had a fantastic time exploring.  I held back from the group at one stage, looked up at the tree canopy, and gave thanks to God. I can't remember the last time I had done that and really meant it.

It seems to me, whether religious or not - we all desperately need to create gaps, moments in the wilderness, breathing spaces for our souls. They enable us to be thankful for the wonder of creation. These moments help make sure we don't get too lost in the unnaturalness of the built up world.

The Big Lunch V The Big Society!

Long before that evil Tory ruined the word 'Big', the Eden Project coined the event 'The Big Lunch'. It is a simple but brilliant idea - streets are encouraged to close down the roads to traffic and the neighbours are invited to eat lunch together.

Today, 'The Big Lunch' came to Ashgrove, the perpetually sunny street where Desmond Tutu House is located. We had been building up to it for months (3 months legal warning to get a road closed!) with lots of litter picks and leaflets to prepare the neighbours. The local Methodists got involved (though the Catholic Church completely failed to engage...) and the council pitched in with its neighbourhood community team.

From 12-4, all traffic was stopped, bunting went up, and tables went out on the streets. Neighbours were a little unsure at first, but the kids pestered them to come out (they could smell the face paint) but 2pm it was a roaring success, the Muslim kids playing football with the Latvian and Polish kids. The Ugandans playing 'superheroes' with my little ones.

If we provided more community space for kids to get to know one another, then the world would some be a better place.

Then the food began to pour in - with East European, African and Asian delicacies way beyond the size of the trestle tables we had borrowed from the YMCA. People living in hostels were mixing with students of electrical engineering. local homeless people came and ate their fill. It was heavenly.

'The Big Society' seems to be based on cutting down on vital resources, ending up with vulnerable people going without. 'The Big Lunch' on the other hand, is about building community from the bottom up, regaining a sense of belonging and neighbourliness. After such a heartwarming day on the street, I pretty much know which one I prefer!

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Natural Shale Gas fracking lunacy!

Go and see the film 'Gasland' (available through the fantastic 'Dogwoof' film distributors.)  It is clear that the process of 'fracking' has some disastrous effects on the environment, especially on local water supplies.

The news that it may also be responsible for low level earthquakes around Blackpool is apparently not news to the industry, where these side effects are known and predicted. I wonder if the people living nearby had been given this information before 'fracking' was started.

We have a finite planet. We simply cannot keep on squeezing all the non-renewables from the earth. our desire for more sources of energy seems to outstrip our care for the planet. I fear that the oil and gas industries are being given permission to get away with the murder in the search for new ways of keeping the old systems going.

The public need to know if the government has given permission for any other 'fracking' experiments. And we need to stop this method being used throughout the poorer parts of the world, as desperate for energy as they may well be.

If we don't stop this madness, and concentrate our 'energy' on renewables and reduction of energy consumption, then we will end up being well and truly 'fracked'.

Private care V public care

The Panorama programme showing horrific treatment of those in a private care home is not a shock to many who have worked in the sector. In the late 1980's and early 1990's I had several jobs working in residential settings, and post social work qualification, a spell working in and then running hostels for the voluntary sector.

From working with the elderly, mental health issues, learning difficulties, the homeless and those coming out of prison, I soon developed a view that the public sector was almost always the best way of providing services. Whilst there were some fantastic private/voluntary sector hostels, and some poor public sector care homes - clearly, on the whole, the private sector provided a second rate service.

Profit margins are always at the front of private sector projects, which means less staff, poorly paid and poorly trained. Where ever cuts can be made, whatever concerns about the level of care, managers implemented them with little resistance.

But it is the poor levels of monitoring that is the biggest problem, and it is this one that can allow the worst cases of abuse to happen.

Yes, the public sector was almost always the costliest way of offering provision, but this was for a reason. High levels of well trained staff and high levels of monitoring. Good care cost money.

Often the private sector not only cuts corners but also syphons off huge amounts of public sector funding for providing the services, money that ends up in the pockets of owners and company directors of these care homes.

I remember once walking out of a job in a private sector care home for people with learning difficulties. One of the patients had been flinging excrement at the other patients in the TV lounge. Though the incident had happened much earlier in the day, none of the staff had been bothered to deal with it, leaving it to the night staff to clean up. It was horrible and degrading for all those having to live in those conditions. I had witnessed some awful sights over the previous 3 weeks, but it was for me the final straw and I quit that night

Public sector care has been much derided since the Thatcher era, but I for one have witnessed enough to say; I'd rather our governments spent less on bombs and city centre water features, and more on decent public sector provision for the most vulnerable in society.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

6 months of Blogging

This is just a thank you to loyal readers after 6 months of blogging! I began the exercise simply to help plug my first ever book 'A Just Church', and to expand upon recent developments that come out of the themes of that the book touches on.

Without any major publicity, and with no reviews in even the Christian press, the book went into reprint within 2 months, and was a strong enough seller to go onto kindle. Pretty good going for a book about Liberation Theology! Its is thanks to word of mouth, and a lot of support has come out of those who read the blog - so thanks again!

Its not always been easy - the EDL targeted the blog at one stage, so I had to take off the comment section (though I still read everything sent to me - cheers for the encouraging comments!) and various right wing commentators have tried to hijack bits - (I find those who hide their true identities particularly annoying!)

But mostly its been fun - and with nearly 3,000 hits a month, well worth the efforts! I do hope that you continue to enjoy this medley of faith, culture and politics!

Why you should be a member of Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT)

I joined CAAT some years ago, when it became clear that Labour's 'ethical foreign policy' was clearly not amounting to much. Our governments, whether Labour or Conservative, have not only supported the aggressive foreign policy of the US, but also bend the rules to make sure they can sell as many arms as possible, regardless as to there 'end use'.

As the Arab Spring unfolds, and enters a rather hesitant Arab Summer, it is clear that our government had a hand in arming the despots. The April-June edition of CAAT's news letter tells me exactly how much money was made in arms sales to Libya, Algeria etc, and how British made weapons have been evident in use from Bahrain to Saudi Arabia.

If we give a damn about the millions of people who are risking their lives to non-violently resist the authoritian of North Africa and the Middle East, then the most powerful thing we can do is to highlight the abuses of our involvement in the arms trade.

Nowhere is that more evident than the 'Defence & Security Equipment International (known as DSEi) bi-annual arms fest held in London this September - the world's biggest arms fare. I'll be blogging a lot about it in the months to come - because I'd like to see as many people down there as possible. This unacceptable trade must be exposed and resisted.

If you're not sure about it, then please consider joining CAAT - they do their homework, give us the facts and figures, plus opportunities to put that information into action. Put it in your diaries 'Day of Prayer, 11th September, Day of Action 13th September - lets stop this arms fare, lets stop arming killer regimes!

Monday, 30 May 2011

If Germany can shake the nuclear habit - so can we

The announcement that Germany is to shed itself of nuclear power is a relief to many. It is an important step, because, if they can do it, anyone can. Germany has a 23% reliance on nuclear fueled electricity, so how can they manage withdrawal?

Firstly, they have a belief that new technology can reduce energy consumption, and secondly they are prepared to put a huge investment in renewable energy sources. It is the only sane thing to do after Fukushima.

On the surface, the Japanese nuclear catastrophe appears to be a freak accident, triggered by the devastating tsunami that followed the huge earthquake. Analysts though have been warning of similar disasters that could follow accidents at nuclear plants for a whole series of reasons, and the old German reactors were beginning to creak.

Germany is also the most financially savvy country in Europe. It knows that the nuclear figures just don't add up. The energy is only ever affordable with massive state subsidies, and the cost of safe disposal of nuclear waste is phenomenal.

Germany also knows that it will be impossible to ask the Polish government not to go ahead with two new nuclear power plants if they did not take this decision soon.

The UK, France, Japan and the rest of the world needs to learn from Germany's decision. It may be tough, but we have to rid ourselves of the nuclear option once and for all.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Prayers and action for the people of Yemen

The capital of Yemen, Sanaa, has been the scene of terrible battles over the last few days. 124 people have been killed by government forces, as they protested against the despotic rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Saleh has been in charge since the ending of the civil war in Yemen in 1994, and has ruled with a iron fist.

Before he came to power, South Yemen had been a bastion in the Middle East of progressive secularism for almost 20 years. But a progressive, Marxist government that had enhanced the life chances of women, had tackled poverty and inequality, was not to be tolerated in the 1990's. The West supported the warlords of Northern Yemen in the civil war, and allowed Saleh to come to power. In the years after the 'peace agreement' in 1994, thousands of 'leftists', academics and trade unionists were 'disappeared' or exiled by the Saleh regime, but human rights abuses were ignored by the West.

What a mess it all is now, having given Saleh the weapons to keep the population subdued, Western governments do not know how to respond. And yet, still the people bravely rise up, despite the bullets and the sniper fire. Yemen, alongside all the nations of the Middle East need our prayers. And prayers need action. Protest at the DSEi Arms fare in London this September, lets stop arming the killers.

2 women and 12 children murdered in the South West

If it were bombs dropping on Bristol, we would see things very differently. The news that 14 people, 2 women and 12 children were murdered by a US/NATO attack should make us all very angry. The two houses in the South Western area of Nawzad of Afghanistan were bombed in response to an attack on US marines by rebel forces. Revenge, the strategy of 'an eye for an eye', has become NATO policy

The US clearly believes it can get away with murder. Saying sorry for when these air strikes goes wrong is not enough. It happens all the time, week after week, and barely registers on the news channels of the countries that do the bombing.

Drone attacks, missile and air strikes, are a daily occurrence in Afghanistan and Pakistan - there is not even any concerted effort to count the number of people killed, let alone make accurate distinctions between 'insurgent' and 'civilian' casualties. Each death results in greater hatred for the occupiers in particular and the West in general.

If the money spent on bombs and weapons used in Afghanistan had been spent on waging peace and bringing prosperity to the country - then the world would be a much less dangerous place than it is.

We have to be angry, and it shouldn't matter whether the victims are in Helmand or Bath. When one innocent victim is killed by our government's policy - we have a duty to hold it to account.

For the sake of each murdered child, resist this evil war with every fibre in your being.

Gaza celebrates as 4 years of imprisonment ends!

The opening of the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Palestine hopefully ends one of the worst human rights abuses in modern history. One and a half million people have been imprisoned in the Gaza strip for 4 years, denied access to medical aid and basic goods. The easing of the restrictions were welcomed throughout the Arab world today.

Israel sealed the borders when Hamas were elected by the people of Gaza, and did not have any problem persuading the then Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak to support their policy. Collective punishment has been a tool used by the Israeli state for far too long, and the international community has not reacted to it with any conviction.

The struggle for freedom of movement is far from over, and the Palestinian people are still denied the right to trade. But as women and children could finally cross to Cairo for much needed medical care, and families were reunited, it is clearly a great day for the people of Gaza.

It is also proof that real change is being felt in Egypt. Finally, the government is beginning to respond to the will of the people. Today there is hope for at least one part of the Middle East.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Mladic and bin Laden. Spot the difference

They had both been on the run for ten years. They had both gone into hiding with a network of supporters to sustain them - they had both been responsible for the deaths of thousands of people. They both had a loyal group of followers, mostly trained in combat. They were both two of the most hunted men in the world.

But it is in the capture that any similarities end. One will go to the European War Crimes Tribunals and be held account for what he has done. He will face a trial, and the victims of his crimes will be able to put their case, and he will be judged on his actions, probably facing a jail sentence til the end of his days.

The other was executed by a kill squad, getting out of his bed, in front of his wife and one of his young daughters. Unarmed, he had a high calibre weapon placed near to his head, and half his head blown away.

Yes, bin Ladens execution was efficient, his body swiftly sunk beneath the waves - but I believe that Mladic's arrest and trial witnesses to a deeper justice than the barrel of the gun. Bin Laden will always be a martyr to his followers, killed by the evil empire, but the trial of Mladic will weaken his following as his crimes are exposed and he is finally made responsible for his barbarism.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

rekindling interest in Liberation Theology!

I discovered today that my book is now available on Kindle, 'the electronic book'. That's great news for those who have now got their new Kindle device, though I'm personally keen on a 'hard copy' that's easy to share and can be bought in a local shop!

The great thing is that the publishers have put it on Kindle because of the demand for the book. I don't believe that it's because I'm a great writer, I'm a community activist at heart not a professional author, but it shows that there is a huge appetite for a theology that is liberating. People long for a theology that they can relate to, and makes sense of the world around them.

For too long, theology has been lost in archaic academia, struggling for relevance. But it seems to me that if God is God, the way we talk about God (Theology) must be relevant. It must help build the kingdom of God, and it must help us to find  new ways of communicating God's love for the world.

I really hope that when people read the book, they don't just stick it on a shelf (a least that's not possible with the Kindle version!) but dare to use it as a model for making their own local church a beacon hope in their community. They might even begin to go to church again, knowing that it can be part of 'the movement of movements' that will be make 'another world possible'.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Congress backs Netanyahu's delusions.

Congress gave Netanyahu an easy ride during his speech to them today in Washington. They were clearly happy to egg him on with his delusions that Israel is a bastion of freedom and democracy within a sea of Arab evil and anti-Americanism.

Of course, the reality is that Israel has always propped up dictatorships that it thought were helpful, and bombed and undermined the only Middle Eastern states to hold free and fair elections, Palestine and Lebanon. And ask a Palestinian living under Israeli occupation how 'free and democratic' Israel is, and you'll get a very different perspective.

Netanyahu's determination to define the scale of the stump state of Palestine, and refuse to allow debate on returning the borders to the 1967 lines, is entrenching Israel into permanent conflict (which I believe the Israeli Government has decided it can live with.)

Watching congress give Netanyahu 30 standing ovations, including one after he stated that Jerusalem will never be a shared capital, was simply frightening. Their is no 'give' in this stance, merely 'take'.

With the US military might behind it, Israel can do whatever it wants, and it knows it. If Obama really is serious about forcing a peace agreement, he has as much work to do facing up to the Zionists in the US Congress as with the warmongers in the Israeli Government.