Wednesday 25 July 2012

A word of thanks to Marsha Singh

Here in Uruguay, news drifted over the internet of the death last week of former Bradford West MP Marsha Singh. I knew he had been unwell for sometime (hence the by election resulting in the election of George Galloway earlier in the year) but few knew the advanced stage of his illness.

I always voted for him, despite my misgivings about the national and local Labour Party. This was due to his good nature, and the fact that he was a person of principle, not always found in the big parties.

He always helped out where he could, from Asylum Seeker issues to campaigns against Tuition Fees. My last  major dealings with him were when we were occupying the University administration offices over the announcement of £9,000 fees. He gave unhesitating support and good advice.

He stood firm against whip pressure to vote against Trident, and was one of the brave MPs to vote against Blair in the run up to the war in Iraq.

His record and involvement on education and health matters are impressive. A true socialist who pragmatically made a real difference to society. I was very sad when it became obvious that he would be standing down.

The pressures on him surely had their toll, but I always found him accessible and ready to help even when others claimed he had overstayed his welcome.

So a belated word of thanks to Marsha, and condolences to friends and family who will miss him greatly. The Labour Party has lost another 'man of the people'.

Let the toxic olympics begin!

So it begins. I don't wish to be killjoy, and I hope that millions of people worldwide will take much enjoyment from the coming Olympics, but in truth, the way these games have been organised has sickened me. The main reason is the continued official endorsement of uber sponsors 'Dow Chemicals', the toxic company which took over from Union Carbide in 2001. They inherit the responsibility for the the Bhopal Chemical Disaster which killed over 20,000 people in India.  The company has never faced up to its horrific legacy. It has never cleaned up or faced proper legal redress. Tens of thousands still live with the after effects of the largest chemical leak in history.

The Olympics organising committee has continued to endorse the company line that Dow has no legal responsibility, even after Meridith Alexander shock resignation as 'Ethics Tsar' for the Olympics over the matter earlier in the year.

Dow's involvement with the games is a toxic legacy, which the London Olympics will always be associated with.

The matter sharply highlights the fact the Olympics is now an over bloated affair which is more concerned about money than sport. Corporate sponsors have almost completely high jacked the endeavours made by the athletes who take part. The politics behind the Olympic site, the Torch sponsorship, the G4S scandal are all part of a world far away from the ideals that the games purport to represent.

The Olympics can now only serve one purpose, as a stark reminder that we as a society must protect ourselves from the self serving greed and power of the corporations and their apologists.

Enjoy the games, but lets not for forget the bigger prize, a world driven by compassion, not the corporate ambitions of sick companies such a Dow Chemicals.

Tuesday 10 July 2012

The Farewell Service

It was going to be a day of tears - pretty obvious with the Murray/Federer final coming up - but I had been determined to keep my last communion service at SoulSpace as upbeat as possible.

For nearly seven years I have delighted in taking part in this unique experiment. We mix the concepts of Liberation Theology and 'deep participation theory' and have evolved a wonderful liturgy that allows sermons to emerge from the community. More than that - it is simply fun. I have laughed and been thrilled in equal measure over the years.

My Children have been allowed to be themselves, and I have grown in faith through the friendship and wisdom of others.

But people grow not only through laughter, but also in shared pain, and so it was almost inevitable that tears began to flow. It is painful leaving a community of love, and as I encountered the words of Jesus at the last supper, waves of brokenness swept though me. It was so hard to say all the words, and I was heartened as we all began to say the words together.

The Eucharistic moment has always been the most powerful for me. We enter God's journey of being broken for others. Jesus is prepared to be beaten, tortured and killed to demonstrate that the roman occupation and its submissive client state do not have the final victory. Through the resurrection, God is victorious for all time.

Most of even our most mundane victories involve being broken along the way. For as we are reformed and healed, then new possibilities can take place. Resurrection is only possible through crucifixion.

My soul felt thanks to all who have journeyed with me over the last 7 years. May God help SoulSpace endure as a place of joy, of brokenness, and ultimately, as a place of healing and fresh hope.

10 years of love and support

On Friday 6th July, Cat and I celebrated 10 years of married life. To mark the occasion, we went to a Cathedral Ceilidh, and flung each other about for a couple of hours. We then went on to spend a night in the luxurious surroundings of the marvellous Midland Hotel right in the city centre. It was a wonderful evening (thanks to babysitters!)

How my wife has put up with me over the years I'll never fully understand. All I know, is that without her enduring love and support, most of my campaigning and activities would have come to nothing.

I guess this simply gives me a chance to say that I love the institution of marriage, I think it is a beautiful thing, and it should be open to all who find love. On the Saturday morning (7th) a petition was handed in to General Synod called 'Not in our name'. It simply is a plea that the Church of England should not be fighting against the right of Gay people to 'get married'. Marriage is for all who find love and want to express that love before God and before community.

Those of us who have the privilege of enjoying married life, need to work harder to make sure that it is available to all. It is a great gift from God, and should be available to all created in the image of God. As I have often stated, most clergy I have met are looking forward to the day when they can perform Gay marriages. Let us embrace a forward thinking theology that constantly includes, and doesn't automatically exclude.

Tuesday 3 July 2012

So Diamonds arn't forever!

The news of Bob Diamond's resignation this morning was almost inevitable - but it does not go far enough.

There has yet to be a single prosecution in the banking sector for the crimes committed against the people of this country.

Whilst working as a social worker, I would often despair as some of the young people I worked with would end up with custodial sentences for rediculously minor offences. Once I remember someone being sent to prison for nonpayment  of a fine imposed because they had shoplifted dog food for their pet.

How can it be that a bank (actually a network of banks) can operate a fraud that involves billions of pounds of money, and yet no one is held to account? The bank gets to pay a tiny fine of £390 million, which doesn't even go to the public purse! (the 'fine' goes to the FSA to pay for their running costs, which means that all the banks pay less the next year!)

Bob Diamond was the head of the investments wing of Barclays Bank when it committed such a fraud, and as such, criminal investigations should start with him. Instead, he gets away with estimated £100 million in earnings.

We cannot keep allowing these injustices to go unpunished, or those who are responsible for our banking sector will never realise that financial crimes of this scale should not be above the law.