Light for Katowice

As the COP 24 talks begin in Katowice, Poland, Elizabeth has updated a powerpoint to help us pray for all who are taking part … and for climate action.

Download the powerpoint here:  Advent Light for Katowice

Pray and Fast for the Climate – December 2018 Prayer Points

As the next round of UN Climate talks approaches, we pray for the negotiations at the talks. We pray, too, for work – both at the UN level and locally – to preserve biodiversity. We give thanks for scientists’ labours to inform us and for churches and others showing leadership in engaging with environmental issues. And we pray for those affected by recent fires.

Download the prayer points here.

One Small Step – Barry’s Story

As Christians, we know we’re called to live in ways that show love of God and neighbour. But how do we make changes to live this call out in practical ways in our daily life?

For many of us, practical changes often take place because we’re inspired by someone else – seeing them doing something or acting in a certain way.

CCOW’s ‘One Small Step’ series shares stories of change — the small steps individuals have taken to live more in keeping with their faith – to help inspire and encourage all of us on our journeys.

In this ‘One Small Step’, Barry shares his story which starts with some plastic bottles by the side of the road …

Download Barry’s Story here.

Time for Creation

Elizabeth Perry’s powerpoint for Time for Creation combines beautiful pictures of nature with quotes from Scripture, hymns, and prayers to form an acrostic of prayer and praise.

Download it here: Time for Creation powerpoint

For the Love of Creation

“The entire material universe speaks of God’s love ….” Laudato Si’ 84

A visual meditation on love of the natural world prepared by Elizabeth Perry using words drawn from Scripture and Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si‘.

Download the powerpoint: For the Love of Creation

Time for Creation Postcard

A beautiful postcard that you can use as an invitation to your Time for Creation/Creation Time/Season of Creation services … or just to encourage people to remember to take time to thank God for creation!  To request copies, email ccowemails@ccow.org.uk.

 

 

 

Voices from the Front Lines of Climate Change: Tagolyn Kabekabe

“So when we talk about the impacts of rising sea levels it affects everybody, but it is worse for the low-lying islands, because we’ve had incidences like a few years ago when we had a spring tide that actually washed through the islands and it washes everything with it… the chickens, the pigs, it washes through the kitchen taking the pots, the pans, everything into the sea. And so these are experiences that people are now experiencing, which a lot of people say never happened in the past. They used to have high tides, but they know it was only half a meter – but that has changed so much in the last ten years.”

Tagolyn Kabekabe is the Pacific Coordinator for the Anglican Alliance, an agency that works on development and relief. She spoke to Elizabeth Perry about the challenges the Pacific is currently facing as a result of climate change.

Download the full interview here.

One Small Step – Diana’s Story

As Christians, we know we’re called to live in ways that show love of God and neighbour. But how do we make changes to live this call out in practical ways in our daily life?

For many of us, practical changes often take place because we’re inspired by someone else – seeing them doing something or acting in a certain way.

CCOW’s ‘One Small Step’ series shares stories of change — the small steps individuals have taken to live more in keeping with their faith – to help inspire and encourage all of us on our journeys.

In this story, Diana, a Reader from Lichfield, shares her story, which starts with a coffee cup …

Download Diana’s Story here.

Care for Creation, Crisis for Rohingya, Prisons Week, Kenya: 8 to 14 Oct 2017

In this week’s prayer email:

  • Prayer for Creation
  • Crisis for Rohingya
  • Short Notes: Prison Week, Kenya, Keep on …

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Prayer for Creation

The 4th of October was St Francis’ Day, when many churches recall the saint who so beautifully expressed the way Creation reveals – and revels in – God’s love and glory. In honour of that, we’re releasing Elizabeth’s new prayer powerpoint of Pope Francis’ ‘Prayer in union with creation’.

It’s available to download from our website: we hope it will be a blessing to you and those with whom you share it.

Crisis for Rohingya

Long-time readers of the prayer email will know that concern for the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar’s Rakhine State has been escalating for some time.

The group are in an area which has been a source of contention for centuries. Since Burma became independent in 1948, the Rohingya have experienced discrimination, and the majority were effectively rendered stateless by the government of Myanmar when citizenship laws were revised in 1982; they are not on the list of indigenous ethnic communities eligible for citizenship and their language is not recognised as an official language. The government labels them ‘Bengalis’ and, despite the fact that some Rohingya have lived in Rakhine State for centuries, it (and others in the country) regard them as having immigrated illegally during the time of British rule from the area that is now Bangladesh. In recent decades the Rohingya have repeatedly suffered the destruction of their property as well as violence against individuals, families and communities. On several occasions, there have been episodes of mass forced displacement: in both the late 1970s and early 1990s hundreds of thousands crossed the border to Bangladesh to escape intense government persecution. In both instances, many were subsequently repatriated.

In the past few years, persecution has again intensified. There was significant violence in 2012, followed by the creation of structures of repression, and a significant outbreak of violence again in Autumn 2016. In December 2016, we noted that: “With [part of Rakhine State] sealed off to observers, local sources reported that government forces committed serious human rights abuses, including torture, rape, extrajudicial executions, and widespread destruction of buildings, including mosques. Human Rights Watch has documented the burning of over a thousand structures; many aid workers (the main providers of health care) are not being allowed into the area, and with the exception of one World Food Programme delivery, humanitarian aid has been blocked; as a result, the UN says that 160,000 vulnerable people have been cut off from health care, school feedings and maternal care. And the allegations of torture, rape and murder are harrowing.” A UN report into the 2016 violence stated “that the widespread violations against the Rohingya population indicate the very likely commission of crimes against humanity.”

This summer the Rohingya Muslims’ situation burst onto the global consciousness, after the government responded to a rebel attack on a military camp and police outposts by waging a brutal campaign against the civilian population that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has said “seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” Reporters who have visited the area paint a picture of villages destroyed and terrified civilians forced to hide in the forest and eat leaves to survive. Amnesty International has accused the government of a ‘scorched earth campaign’, and Human Rights Watch has documented ‘widespread and systematic’ crimes against humanity throughout Rakhine State, including the “near-total destruction of 284 villages” and particular atrocities such as the massacre at Maung Nu village and another at Tula Toli village.

As a result of the burnings, violence and sexual violence, over half a million Rohingya have fled to the neighbouring country of Bangladesh, where they are living in hastily-constructed camps (map, video). Humanitarian agencies such as Doctors Without Borders (MSF), treating those in the camps, are concerned about their current conditions as well as the harm people have suffered before and during their flight. MSF emergency medical coordinator Kate White noted: “Right now, there are hundreds of thousands of people crammed along a narrow peninsula trying to find what shelter they can. It’s essentially a massive rural slum—and one of the worst slums imaginable … This has all the makings of a public health emergency.” The UN has also expressed concern about plans to accommodate the large numbers by building one giant refugee camp, noting that high concentrations of vulnerable people can lead to high risks of disease, and that the area chosen is not suitable.

The civilian government of Myanmar has refused to take responsibility for violence against civilians in Rakhine State; it is blaming the burning of Rohingya villages on local militants, despite the consistent testimony of survivors that the military is responsible and the fact that the actions follow a longstanding pattern of state-sponsored and state-sanctioned violence. The government has also claimed that its ‘armed clashes and clearance operations’ in the state ended in early September, which is manifestly not the case.

The UN and many Western governments have condemned the military’s actions and the failure of the civilian government to restrain them. The UK has suspended its training assistance to the Myanmar military, and the US Ambassador to the UN has called for a general arms embargo, while both Democratic and Republican senators have called for US sanctions against those responsible for the abuses. Coordinated international action is unlikely, however, as China, India and Russia have been less willing to put pressure on the government. China states that the government is facing complex ‘difficulties and challenges’ and requires patience and support to resolve the crisis; India expresses concern about extremism; and Russia, while calling for the situation to be resolved by political dialogue, repeats the government’s claim that it is the rebels who are burning villages. The different stances reflect both different approaches to intervention and the desire for influence within Myanmar and more broadly in the region. ASEAN, the regional alliance, has also been unable to agree on a response; an anodyne recent statement from the group’s chair, which did not refer to the Rohingya by name, was rejected by Malaysia, which, together with the other Muslim majority ASEAN countries, has expressed growing concern about the Rohingya’s plight. While there are calls from within ASEAN more generally for the group to put pressure on the Myanmar government, nothing public has yet been forthcoming.

Concerns are growing not only about the humanitarian disaster but also the implications for the region more broadly. The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, the rebel group responsible for the August attacks, says that it is wholly indigenous and that its demand is for the Rohingya to “be recognised as a ‘native indigenous’ ethnic group and … allowed ‘to return home safely with dignity … to freely determine their political status and pursue their economic, social and cultural development’.” The Myanmar government alleges that the group is allied with wider Islamist movements. What many in – and outside – the region fear is that the Myanmar government’s violence will create a self-fulfilling prophecy, in which jihadist groups take on the cause of the Rohingya and recruit among its peoples, destabilising the region.

What are people involved suggesting as a way forward? In the immediate instance, aid agencies are pressing for greater access to Rakhine State, so that they can bring in humanitarian aid, and for increased funding to help those who have fled to Bangladesh. In the UK, DfID has helped to airlift in aid and committed £35.9 million in funding to relief. Some feel continued pressure on the military may also be helpful. In terms of long-term solutions, many feel it would be helpful to press Myanmar’s government to implement the recommendations of the Kofi Annan-led Advisory Commission on Rakhine State. Bangladesh is insisting on full implementation, and India and the EU advocated for this last week, as well as for Myanmar to work with Bangladesh to enable repatriation of those who have fled. The Myanmar civilian government has said that it is committed to implementing the recommendations “in the shortest time frame possible, in line with the situation on the ground.” It needs to be held to this commitment.

Implementation of the Advisory Commission’s recommendations could indeed be a positive step. Among other things, they include guaranteeing the rights of all verified citizens (including the small number of Rohingya Muslims who enjoy that status); creating a verification process for citizenship that is safe and efficient; clarifying residency rights for those who do not qualify for citizenship; providing a route to citizenship for permanent residence; and “re-examining the current linkage between citizenship and ethnicity.” The recommendations also call for freedom of movement for all people in Rakhine State, the closure of camps for internally displaced people and the resettlement of those people either to their place of origin or to a place of their own choosing. They call for humanitarian and media access to Rakhine State, better provision of essential services (eg health and education) for all, greater transparency in the judiciary system, more training and accountability for security forces, and the fostering of civil society and inter-communal dialogue to tackle the very serious prejudices that exist.

Please pray:

  • for the safety and well-being of the Rohingya remaining in Myanmar, those in refugee camps in Bangladesh, and those who have fled via other routes. Pray that God will give people healing of body, mind and soul.
  • in thanksgiving for the work of individuals and agencies who, moved by compassion and a sense of justice, are seeking to meet the Rohingya’s needs
  • that individuals, countries and businesses will be generous in responding to the Rohingya’s situation by offering humanitarian aid. Pray also for effective distribution of that aid.
  • for wisdom for Bangladeshi leaders, as they seek to respond to the incoming refugees
  • for an end to the ill-treatment of minority ethnic and religious groups in Burma, and for a just society in which all are treated with dignity and all people’s rights are respected.
  • for all who are working within Myanmar to establish a culture of peace and justice

Christian Aid also has a prayer in response to the Rohingya’s crisis.

Action Point:

Please donate to the Christian Aid, CAFOD, Tearfund appeals for the Rohingya, to other members of the Disasters Emergency Committee,  or to MSF.

Short Notes: Prisons Week, Kenya, Keep on …

Prisons Week
This coming week (8 to 14 October) is Prisons Week. The Scripture verse for the week this year is “‘Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” and the focus is on hope for all connected with the criminal justice system: prisoners, victims, families, communities, prison workers, and all working in the criminal justice system.

The Archbishop of Canterbury writes: “What better inspiration for all those connected to the criminal justice system, than Paul’s words? For the victims who struggle day by day to live with memories and scars, and hope for a better tomorrow; for the staff, who patiently come alongside broken men and women, and walk with them the slow road towards change; for prisoners themselves, trying to make sense of their lives, fighting against the scars and choices of the past and fear of the future; and for the families and friends of those in prison, faithfully visiting and supporting. Paul encourages all not to give up hope,
but keep their eyes on the goal, keep going. Yet this isn’t about making efforts and working harder. It is about recognising that in Jesus, God has already ‘taken hold’ of us. That victims, prisoners, staff and families, are not walking this road alone, but God, who loves them, is ready to walk with them. In Prison Week, we stand in prayer with all who carry on in hope, that they would know they are loved by God and have the faith and courage to press on towards new life.”

Please join in using the Prisons Week resources to pray each day this week.

Kenya
When Kenya’s Supreme Court annulled presidential election results in August on the grounds that there had been irregularities and illegalities in the way the votes were  transmitted, commentators inside and outside the country applauded the way the country’s institutions had maintained their independence and the integrity of the electoral process. At the same time, people realised that the next stages could be complex.

The country is due to hold new presidential elections by the first of November – but the positions taken by the leaders of both the main parties are leading to concern for the success of the elections … and worries about the threat of violence. Pray:

  • in thanksgiving for the Supreme Court’s work to uphold electoral integrity
  • that God will guide those seeking to set up the new elections
  • that political leaders and their followers will act wisely and well, pledging to renounce hate speech and violence and seeking the common good
  • that churches will continue their leadership role in seeking peace
  • for the safety and well-being of all in Kenya

Keep on …

  • praying for all affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria … and now also those affected by Hurricane Nate, both in Central America and in the US. Pray for efficient, effective work to get vital emergency aid to those still unable to meet basic needs because of the storms’ impacts – and for all who are rebuilding and helping others to rebuild.
  • praying for the people of Yemen. The UN has estimated that almost 780,00 of its people have contracted cholera; moreover 17 million people there are currently facing food insecurity, with many of them close to famine.
    According to The Guardian, a draft version of the UN’s annual report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict has included the Saudi-led coalition, as well as Houthis, Yemen government forces, pro-government militia and al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula on a blacklist of parties responsible for violations against children in 2016. The UN has also stated that it is setting up an independent investigation into human rights abuses in Yemen.Pray for:

    • God to give strength, courage and wisdom to all who are seeking to ensure Yemeni civilians have access to health care, food, water and shelter
    • donors to support appeals for humanitarian assistance to Yemen, both on the large scale and on the small scale
    • a just political resolution to the conflicts in the country
    • an “end [to] the sale or transfer of arms and related materials to any party to the conflict where there is a risk they may be used in violation of international humanitarian or international human rights law”
    • wisdom for the international community, and especially for the UN as it deals with the various parties to the conflict
    • strength, courage and wisdom for those attempting to hold people responsible for human rights abuses they have committed during the Yemen conflict

Hurricane Maria & Dominica, German General Elections: 24 to 30 September 2017

Hurricane Maria and Dominica

Harvey … Irma … the rains flooding East Asia … Maria. Following the impact of hugely destructive tropical cyclones and monsoon rains over the past month has been heartrending, and together with you and others around the world we have been joining in prayer for all those affected.

We’re focusing on providing some context for prayer and action relating to Dominica in this email, however, as it’s the island with which we have a particular connection. Long-term supporters of CCOW will know that Dominica was where I (Maranda) travelled in 2010 to learn more about the social, environmental and economic impact of Fairtrade bananas. At that time,  I not only learned a great deal about the positive impact of Fairtrade on the farmers and the island as a whole, but also was bowled over by the friendliness of Dominicans, the beauty of the island’s rainforests and rivers, and the care that had generally been taken to preserve them.

 

 

 

‘Après Bondie, C’est La Ter’ (‘After God is the earth’) is the country’s motto, and Dominicans have historically been passionate about making decisions that preserve their home. When I visited, I found that the Dominica National Fair Trade Organization (DNFTO), for example, had used its premium to create a composting unit that would both reduce waste and provide income generation. There was an active organics movement. Tourism was being developed in a way that cherished the natural beauty of the island, with clear popular support. “The label we have attached to ourselves, ‘The Nature Island of the Caribbean,’ is the best thing that we could do to ourselves,” one person said. And people in Roseau opined that mass tourism wasn’t desirable: you don’t want to destroy your flora and fauna.  Nor was it simply private citizens who were working to steward the earth. While many were critical of the country’s governance, the government was clearly supporting eco-tourism as a means of development. More recently, it has installed LED lamps in its streetlights and is trying to work towards energy self-sufficiency from geothermal sources.

But  alongside the love and care for the earth lay a profound concern about changing weather patterns and the country’s vulnerability to disasters. In the Spring of 2010, the country was experiencing a drought that had caused severe damage to banana crops, and farmers there – as in so many places – spoke about uncertainty and wondered what the future held. One of the island’s most entrepreneurial and successful banana farmers, Cato Ferreira, said

“We have just experienced the worst drought ever … From November last year up to this present moment, I have never seen so much sun, so much dry weather. No rain at all … it’s very very hard at this point for the farmers … Last year I made about 4,000 boxes [of bananas] January to March. This year, it was about 1,000 boxes …We’ve reached the stage that we really don’t know what to do … If this pattern is going to continue, then we’re in deep trouble.”

Ferreira noted that there was more assistance for farmers to deal with hurricanes than with droughts – but an official at WINCROP, which provided crop insurance for bananas that were being exported, made it clear they regarded the prospect of severe tropical cyclones with trepidation. Hurricane Dean, in 2007, had passed close to the island as a Category 2 hurricane and had caused significant damage, including 100% crop losses for banana farmers. When asked what would happen if further such storms emerged, the official said simply: “WINCROP will soon get out of business. Every time we have a big storm, we lose growers.”

This week Hurricane Maria dwarfed all previous storms to hit the island. Between 8:00 pm local time on Sunday the 17th and 8:00 pm on Monday the 18th, it intensified rapidly from a low category 1 to a category 5 storm (reports at 5:00 AM , 11:00 AM, 5:00 PM, 8:00 PM AST). It was at category 5 with winds of 155-160 mph when it hit Dominica Monday night, its eye following a course that tracked the length of the island from south to north.

As of Friday, the Dominican government had confirmed at least twenty-five deaths, though because many roads are impassable and communication outside the capital remains difficult, it’s hard to assess what the final total of fatalities may be. Initial estimates by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) suggested that between 80% and 90% of Dominica’s buildings are damaged or destroyed, and the winds damaged or uprooted 75% of the trees that are such a dominant feature of the landscape. Many of the rivers that are normally a beautiful feature have overflowed their banks, and CNN saw dozens of places where the country’s steep slopes have crumbled in landslides – though on the whole these were not, fortunately, near centres of population. CNN reporters also stated that all crops – a significant portion of Dominica’s economy and source of foreign currency – appeared to have been destroyed, placing in jeopardy not only the country’s current well-being, but also its future income.  Everywhere, people lack access to food and clean water, and in the chaos, there has been looting.

Dominicans are strong and resourceful. They rebuilt after Dean in 2007 and again after Tropical Storm Erika whose rains devastated the country two years ago, killing 30 people and causing damage valued at $483 million, about 90% of the nation’s GDP. And, as this video shows, they have already begun to work on recovery. But the devastation this time is, as Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said, ‘mind-boggling’. “We have,” he noted, “lost everything what money can buy or replace.” While he promised that “we will rise … because Dominican people are strong, because Caribbean people are resilient,” the country will be building back “from zero.” Because Dominica is a small island and the hurricane hit all areas, there is no place that is unaffected, no part of the country that can offer unscathed resources to assist the others.

How do we respond to all this? In prayer, of course, and there are prayer points below. But we can also take action in two respects.

The first is by giving to relief efforts and pressing for adequate funding for vulnerable countries. Unlike many other islands in the region, Dominica is not an overseas department or territory, but an independent nation. As such it has no inherent right to draw on the internal resources of another country, though it is eligible for foreign aid.

The island’s immediate and long-term needs are huge. Local, regional and international agencies and Dominican expatriate organisations are working to raise funds and send emergency necessities (while it is often not best practice to send goods for humanitarian relief, this is one instance where sending goods that correspond to the island’s official list of needs is helpful). And at a country and international institution level, various commitments have been made. The Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility, a regional risk pool, will pay $19 million to Dominica within the next fortnight, giving the government vital capacity to address critical humanitarian and infrastructure needs. The Caribbean Development Bank is preparing to send an immediate grant of $200,000 and to make a loan of up to $750,000. Other islands – St Kitts and Nevis, Barbados, St Lucia, and Grenada among them – are providing assistance with personnel, in cash, or in kind. The US, UK, France and Venezuela are already providing  support and evaluating longer-term needs. The EU is disbursing 250,000 Euros worth of emergency supplies and logistical support. Specialist telecommunications teams are working to restore communications networks.

But while all this is good, the totals involved so far are nowhere near the totals required, and there is an urgent need to advocate for further country-level aid and for the development of  international mechanisms to assist Dominica and other vulnerable states, especially small island developing states, in responding to the loss and damage caused by extreme events for which adaptation isn’t possible.

The second way we can respond with action is by taking, now, whatever our next step is to fight climate change. When Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerritt spoke to the UN General Assembly on Saturday, that, not aid, was where he started. “I come to you straight from the frontlines of the war on climate change,” he began. Warmer air and sea temperatures, he noted, were “the fuel that takes ordinary storms … and supercharges them into a devastating force.” “To deny climate change,” he added, “is to procrastinate while the earth sinks …”

Hurricanes are complex phenomena: powerful ones have long existed, and any single event involves multiple factors. What allowed Maria to become so potent, for example, wasn’t just the higher-than-average sea surface temperatures and high ocean heat content in the hurricane development area, but also an absence of wind shear to disrupt the storm’s circulation and a moist atmosphere. Not all climate scientists, therefore, are comfortable attributing – yet – the potency of Maria or other recent storms specifically to climate change, though many say they feel that trends relating to climate change are becoming visible and an increasing number are, like the Prime Minister, suggesting that climate change may have made these storms and their impacts worse.

But even if we don’t yet have the verdict of attribution studies on the more recent storms, science gives us reason to act now. As the Prime Minister notes, there is general scientific consensus (New York Times, Atlantic) that warmer waters did and more generally do provide the fuel that allows for the kind of rapid intensification Maria and Harvey underwent. Warmer air carries more water, creating the potential for greater rain extremes; the World Meteorological Organization has already said this likely influenced Harvey’s rainfall rates. Sea level rises linked to climate change do make coastal areas more vulnerable; Superstorm Sandy would probably not have flooded lower Manhattan were it not for sea-level rises. In short, climate change is at the very least, already loading the dice, increasing the likelihood that storms will become more intense. The longer we wait to address it, the more likely it is that disasters like this will become the norm.

And as the Prime Minister noted later in his UN speech, there is a profound injustice at play. “We as a country and as a region did not start this war against nature; we did not provoke it. The war has come to us,” he said. “We in the Caribbean do not put huge greenhouse gases … but yet we are among the main victims on the frontline … We are shouldering the consequences of the actions of others.” It is indeed profoundly wrong that people who work so hard to care for the part of creation entrusted to them should, whether at this time or at any time in the future,  find themselves and their home placed at risk by a threat for which they are not responsible.

“We need all humanity, all countries, big and small, developed and developing to come together to save our planet. We must all live up to our obligations and commitments to do more.”  Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, UN General Assembly

We, as individuals and church communities acting on our own, cannot solve the issues around climate change. But out of love for God and our neighbours – in Dominica, in the Philippines, in Vanuatu, in Texas – we can join those people, businesses, cities and countries that are providing an example of leadership, forming a growing network that can make a difference. As the founder of a major environmental coalition once said, taking action isn’t about worrying over what you can’t do. It’s about recognising that you must do what you can do. It’s about taking one small step – writing to your MP so that climate issues are on his or her agenda; switching to a green energy supplier; not planning holidays that require flights; eating less (or no) meat; campaigning for disinvestment – and then following where God calls you from there.

As churches around the world celebrate the Season of Creation, this is part of our calling as disciples. Arthur Bannis, who is both one of Dominica’s largest banana farmers and a Pentecostal minister, put it this way in 2010: “I believe the Word of God. I love nature. The Bible says He gave us all things to enjoy. The first place that He put man was in a garden. Man is there to manage the Earth; if he goes overboard, he’ll face the consequence. As a church, we need to take care of the environment, take care of the earth….”  This Season of Creation can you and your church take action? If you’d like ideas, we’d be happy to help.

Please pray:

  • for all affected by recent disasters, including:
    • the people of Mexico following last week’s devastating earthquake
    • the people of Indonesia at risk from a volcanic eruption in Indonesia
    • the people of Texas rebuilding after Harvey
    • the people of East Asia recovering from monsoon floods
    • the people of the Caribbean and Florida recovering from Irma and Maria
  • In all cases,  pray for comfort for those who mourn lost loved ones … safety for those whose homes have been damaged or destroyed … hope for those who have lost livelihoods … wisdom for those charged with governing and coordinating relief
  • for climate justice – that individuals, businesses and countries will act to reduce emissions, to fund adaptation by those most vulnerable to climate impacts, and to compensate those who suffer extreme loss and damage.

Some ways of donating to Caribbean islands affected by Irma and Maria

Some websites to look at for suggestions on climate action

German General Elections

Today,  Sunday 24th September, general elections will take place in Germany to elect the parliament for the next four years. The leader of the main party which forms the government will become the Chancellor. The system of proportional representation used in national German elections means that the number of seats in the German parliament (Bundestag) which each party gains reflects the percentage of votes cast for that party over the whole country. All parties which gain at least 5% of the vote are represented in parliament. This is different from the “first past the post” system in the UK. It means that usually no one party has the absolute majority, and coalition governments are the norm.

The current government is what is known as a “Grand Coalition” of the main parties; the centre-right CDU (Christian Democrat Union) together with its Bavarian sister party the CSU (Christian Social Union) and the centre-left SPD (Social Democratic party). Chancellor Angela Merkel is standing again for the CDU, hoping for a fourth term; the candidate for the SPD is Martin Schulz, who was previously President of the European Parliament. Also likely to gain seats in parliament are the FDP (Free Democratic Party), a free-enterprise pro-business party lead by Christian Lindner; Die Linke (The Left) a left wing party with roots in the former East German socialist party under Sahra Wagenknecht and Dietmar Bartsch, AfD (Alternative for Germany) a populist, nationalist party under Alexander Gauland and Alice Weidel; and Bündnis 90/Die Grünen (The Greensthe environmental party under Katrin Göring-Eckardt and Cem Özdemir. Recent polls 1are predicting the follow result: CDU/CSU – 36.3%, SPD – 22.5%, FDP – 10%, Linke – 9.5%, AfD – 9.5%, Greens – 8%, Others – 4.3%. This would make another “Grand Coalition” of CDU/CSU & SDP or a “Jamaica Coalition” (of the parties whose colours are black, yellow and green like the Jamaican flag) of CDU/CSU & FDP & Greens a possibility. Further analysis can be found here.

There are a range of issues which are important to voters in Germany in these elections including: asylum and immigration legislation, internal security (combatting terrorism and crime), social justice (low paid jobs, the gap between rich and poor, tax reform), pensions and retirement age, quality nursery and school provision, closing down all atomic power stations and future energy supply.

Germany’s position vis a vis refugees has, in fact, shifted over the past few years. When the refugee crisis in Europe began in 2015, as large numbers fled Syria via the Mediterranean and the Balkans, Germany was at the forefront of welcoming them, taking in over 1 million people. Appeals to other EU countries to share in hosting refugees, however, went largely unheeded. This, combined with some terrorist attacks in Germany, led to a degree of backlash amongst some parts of the German population. The far-right group Pegida (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of The Occident) was formed and the AfD increased in popularity. As the number of refugees arriving in Germany has declined to about 90,000 in the first half of 2017, however, following the EU treaty with Turkey and the closure of the Balkan route, the popularity of Pegida and AfD has waned. In addition, the SPD has criticized Merkel’s 2015 policy, and the government’s stance has altered somewhat. It is now attempting to use international agreements to prevent refugees travelling to Europe, leaving Italy to accommodate those who have recently arrived there across the Mediterranean and giving many Syrian refugees only a reduced humanitarian protection status without the right of family reunification.

Please pray:

  • for all involved in the election and its aftermath to remain respectful and constructive, free of discriminatory or inflammatory language, and for the elections to be free and fair.
  • for a new government which will work for the good of all its people, addressing the issues of concern, and seek peace and justice around the world.
  • in thanksgiving for the welcome given to refugees by the German authorities and the vast majority of the German population over the past two years.
  • for wisdom for those making decisions about Germany’s future immigration policy.
  • for refugees in Germany – that they may have a good experience of integration. Pray also especially for those separated from loved ones
1 Polls by Allensbach and Forsa from 19.09.2017 – https://bundestagswahl-2017.com/prognose/#fn-117-1 from www.wahlrecht.de