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 …

____________________________________________________________________________

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

Charles Scribner: Why I care about the environment

This edition of our “Why I care about the environment” series is by Charles Scribner, an Anglican living in Birmingham (Alabama,
not England).

Charles is a member of the Cathedral Church of the Advent, which he represents on the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama’s Task Force for the Stewardship of Creation. Charles is also executive director of Black Warrior Riverkeeper, a nonprofit organisation dedicated to improving water quality, habitat, recreation, and public health throughout the Black Warrior River watershed.

In this piece, he reflects on his Christian faith and how it informs his care for creation: Charles Scribner Why I Care

Speak Up, Charles Scribner, Cholera in Yemen, Fairtrade Update, Sea Sunday – 2 July 2017

In this week’s email:

  • Speak Up
  • Why I care about the environment: Charles Scribner
  • Cholera in Yemen
  • Fairtrade Update
  • Coming Up: Sea Sunday

Jeremiah is the focus of one of this week’s Revised Common Lectionary Old Testament readings. The context is that Jeremiah has been called to prophesy prolonged service to a foreign kingdom when the false prophets are speaking about a return of the exiles and a restoration of the Kings of Judah. Are there places today where we are seeking words that promise a false peace when God is calling us to a faithful acceptance of challenge?

Speak Up

This coming week is the latest ‘Speak Up Week of Action’, in which the Climate Coalition and its members are encouraging people around the UK to speak with their MPs about climate change.

The focus is on asking MPs to “reflect their constituents’ concerns about climate change by asking the Prime Minister to:

  • 1) Show global climate leadership by working with others to implement the Paris agreement
  • 2) Ensure government departments work together to produce a strong emissions reduction plan
    • Unlocks local and community energy
    • Cuts energy waste in homes
    • Tackles emissions and air pollution from vehicles”

If you would like to undertake action, you can either attend your MP’s surgery or write to your MP, noting that it’s the Week of Action and that you have some concerns and requests. The Climate Coalition has an outline briefing on what to say (p.13 of the Action Guide): we would recommend in addition that you ask your MP to ask the Prime Minister how she intends to implement the Climate Change Committee’s most recent recommendations. The recommendations were published this week: a summary can be found here.

If you would like a template letter, please email us. If you are meeting – or plan in the future to meet – your MP and would like the brilliant new Hope for the Future booklet on preparing for such meetings, please also email.

And please pray:

  • that many people will participate in the Speak Up Week and will communicate to their MPs that there is a constituency for climate action
  • that this week’s discussions will begin or continue fruitful, constructive relationships between people concerned about climate change and their MPs
  • that the Government will respond by working to implement the Paris Agreement and taking rapid action to support local and community energy and to tackle energy waste in homes and emissions from vehicles.

Why I care about the environment: Charles Scribner

As this month’s Pray and Fast prayer points note, Donald Trump’s removing the US from the Paris Agreement – and his government’s attacks on environmental legislation and funding more generally – have had the perhaps unanticipated impact of galvanising many in the US who remain committed to care for the environment.

US Christians are at the forefront of many environmental initiatives, and we’re delighted this week to launch a series of ‘Why I care about the environment’ articles reflecting their perspectives. The first of these is by Charles Scribner, the Executive Director of the Black Warrior Riverkeeper, “a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving water quality, habitat, recreation, and public health throughout the Black Warrior River watershed.”

Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt, the controversial Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, are currently seeking to weaken, postpone implementation of or repeal legislation around water pollution – so it’s a particularly appropriate time to hear from Charles Scribner and to keep him and the vital Riverkeeper work in our prayers. We’re hugely grateful for this piece – and we pray:

  • in thanksgiving for Charles Scribner’s work and the work of the Riverkeeper movement and the Waterkeeper Alliance
  • for the Black Warrior Riverkeeper and its work to protect one of Alabama’s richest sources of water and biodiversity
  • for all the Waterkeepers, as they seek to “strengthen and grow a global network of grassroots leaders protecting everyone’s right to clean water”
  • for wisdom and courage for all who are seeking to counter moves to weaken environmental protection rules, in the US and worldwide


Cholera in Yemen

The cholera crisis in Yemen has reached exceptional proportions: as of the 1st of July, some 246,000 cases have been reported since the outbreak began, and 1,500 people have died since late April. The deputy head of the International Committee of the Red Cross’s delegation to Yemen writes: “Yemen now suffers three-way tragedy: a population under siege, suffering the violence of war and unable to work or access nutritious food or health care; an economic collapse that has led to a rise in criminality; and now a devastating health crisis. This all leads to what could be the largest cholera outbreak of our lifetime.”

The directors of UNICEF and the World Health Organization noted: “This deadly cholera outbreak is the direct consequence of two years of heavy conflict. Collapsing health, water and sanitation systems have cut off 14.5 million people from regular access to clean water and sanitation, increasing the ability of the disease to spread. Rising rates of malnutrition have weakened children’s health and made them more vulnerable to disease. An estimated 30,000 dedicated local health workers who play the largest role in ending this outbreak have not been paid their salaries for nearly 10 months.”

There is some hope that a dramatic scaling up of work undertaken by agencies is beginning to see a reduction in deaths – but the situation remains critical.

Please pray:

  • for all affected by cholera, asking God to bring hope and healing to the people with the disease and those loving and caring for them.
  • in thanksgiving for the dedicated health workers labouring – despite, in many cases, lack of equipment, medication and pay – to prevent and treat cholera. Pray that God gives them strength in the face of difficulty and that they are able to access the medicines and equipment they need. Pray that they will also be able to get the pay they need for themselves and their families.
  • in thanksgiving that parties to the conflict are now allowing medical assistance into areas where aid has previously been blocked.
  • for a just end to the conflict that is devastating Yemeni’s lives and Yemen’s  infrastructure and that is creating the circumstances where cholera can flourish.
  • Pray for wisdom for those leading efforts to press for diplomatic resolution of the conflict – and to hold all parties accountable for their actions in the conflict.

Please act:

  • Could you donate to the ICRC or MSF, which are two of the biggest providers of medical assistance to people affected by cholera in Yemen? (MSF does not have specific appeals, so the donation is to their general fund)
  • Or could you donate to any one of the many charities (eg Christian Aid, Tearfund, Oxfam) offering assistance in the country?

Fairtrade Update

A few weeks ago we reported on the worrying development that Sainsbury’s was preparing to pull the Fairtrade label from some of its own brand tea (and rooibos tea) products, replacing it with a “fairly traded” label as part its new ‘Sainsbury’s Sustainability Standards Programme’. We noted grave concerns around this, centering on the lack of transparency in the process and Sainsbury’s refusal to allow producers direct control of the equivalent of the Fairtrade premium; we’re also very concerned about the misleading nature of the ‘fairly traded’ label.

Since then the ‘Fairly Traded’ tea has gone on sale – and there have been several further developments:

  • ISEAL, a major organisation which “represents the movement of credible and innovative sustainability standards,” issued a statement noting that, while Sainsbury’s announcement included a statement of intention to apply for ISEAL membership, “Sainsbury’s Sustainability Standards Programme and its tea pilot are not endorsed by ISEAL and Sainsbury’s has not applied for, nor obtained, ISEAL membership.” Indeed, ISEAL “did not have any involvement in setting up the tea pilot or knowledge of it prior to the public announcement.””The principles of transparency and engagement,” ISEAL added, “are two Credibility Principles that underpin good practice when setting up and implementing a credible sustainability standards system. ISEAL strongly encourages Sainsbury’s to uphold the Credibility Principles to which it has publically committed.”
  • The Fairtrade Foundation has countered Sainsbury’s explanation that the new programmes were designed to help farmers deal with climate change by pointing to Fairtrade’s own work in this area. It has also issued a strong, clear statement of why producer empowerment – through things like self-determination in the use of the premium – is such an important part of Fairtrade.
  • Some of the founding members of the Ethical Trading Initiative and the Fairtrade Foundation – including Christian Aid, CAFOD, Oxfam and Traidcraft – have written an open letter to Sainsbury’s, expressing “a number of serious concerns.” These included:
    • seeing “‘own brand’ certification standards as a step backwards in tackling major issues related to poverty and environmental sustainability,” as such standards undermine collaborative work across sectors.
    • the sense that the labelling is misleading: “Products sourced in such a different way to both Fairtrade certification and Fair Trade principles will mislead consumers if branded as ‘fairly traded’.”
    • the failure of the proposed standards to address issues around wages [The Fairtrade Foundation now requires plantations to have a plan for raising wages towards a living wage]
    • the disempowering of farmers: “Removing decision-making on the use of premiums from farmer organisations goes against the clear evidence that financial decision-making power for workers and farmers is essential to help them realise human rights, improve environmental sustainability and increase economic development.”
    • the apparent lack of “meaningful consultation of trade unions, workers or farmers’ organisations in the development of the standards” and the failure to reflect the feedback of some of the organisations who were consulted.

    On these bases, the organisations ask Sainsbury’s not to extend the proposals to other products until it has “published independent evidence of the impacts of your pilot including a clear analysis of the costs to all stakeholders” and encourages them “to urgently review and reconsider your plans.”

  • A piece in The Observer brought these issues to wider attention, highlighting some of the issues involved. This was one of a number of examples of negative press coverage: the Financial Times and industry publications (eg Sustainable Brands, The Grocer) also carried articles noting criticism of Sainsbury’s.
  • A major petition, with the support of many of the agencies involved in Fairtrade, has been set up on Change.org.

It’s hard to tell what impact the protests are having: Sainsbury’s has not officially announced any changes and has continued to permit its employees to make statements, occasionally of questionable accuracy, regarding the relationship between their model and Fairtrade.

What next? It feels important to continue protesting, and we would strongly urge those who care about Fairtrade to sign the online petition. If you are part of an institution (Fairtrade church, Fairtrade town, Fairtrade denominational body, etc) that supports Fairtrade and would like some template letters to Sainsbury’s, get in touch, and we’ll happily send some.  We’d also suggest continued prayer:

  • for the more than 200,000 Fairtrade tea farmers affected by Sainsbury’s move. This may well be an anxious time: pray that they may have a sense of security for the short and long term.
  • for wisdom for the leadership of the Fairtrade movement as it decides how to make the case for Fairtrade – and how to deal with the consequences of Sainsbury’s actions
  • for the leadership of Sainsbury’s as they consider ways forward: pray that they will be responsive to the concerns of producers and consumers
  • that this will be an occasion to galvanise new interest in Fairtrade, reminding seasoned Fairtrade campaigners and informing new audiences about the full range of benefits of Fairtrade and the reasons why it exists
  • in thanksgiving for the way Fairtrade makes connections among producers and consumers, and for the way it helps to redress inequalities. Pray that it may continue to do these things, and to do them well.

Coming Up: Sea Sunday

We’ll have a full item on it next week – but this is just a reminder that next Sunday is Sea Sunday, a time for remembering and raising up in prayer those who work at sea. You can find resources at:

Pentecost, Environment Sunday, London, Elections, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan

In this week’s prayer email:

  • Pentecost
  • Environment Sunday: Caring for Creation
  • Short Notes: London Attacks, UK Elections, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, Afghanistan

__________________________________________________________________________

Pentecost

We give thanks to God for the gift of the Holy Spirit: Advocate, Spirit of truth, teacher, comforter, renewer of life, source of gifts and prophesy, witness to and glorifier of Christ.

Come, Holy Spirit!
As you revealed the truth about Christ
To peoples of every land and language
On the day of Pentecost,
So in our world today
Reveal Christ’s truth to the nations
That all people may come to know
The saving power of Jesus
And everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord
May be saved.

We give thanks for the gifts of the Spirit, equipping people throughout the Body of Christ for ministry; for the blessings brought by movements of charismatic renewal; and for the quiet work of the Spirit in places where it may not yet be recognised.

We pray for all who seek to spread the Gospel, witnessing in word and in deed, and especially for those who labour to translate the Gospel into new languages so that people can encounter Christ’s story and teachings in the language of their heart.

We pray for Christians suffering for their faith and thank God for the living water that flows in believers’ hearts, consoling and strengthening them. May all who are in need draw deeply of that water.

“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful, and kindle in us the fire of your love.”

Pentecost reminds us that we are part of a vast world church, united in Christ who died for love of the world. To help us meditate on this, Elizabeth prepared last year a powerpoint collage of pictures from around the world accompanied by translations of John 3:16, which is attached.

Environment Sunday: Caring for Creation

Environment Sunday is the 4th of June; it’s the closest Sunday to World Environment Day, which is always on the 5th of June. In an earlier email, we gave links to prayer materials; the prayer above (and in an easy-to-cut-and-paste format at the end of this section) is taken from the Pray and Fast for the Climate resources.

There’s a certain appropriateness to having Environment Sunday fall on Pentecost: we recall, with gratitude and praise, the Spirit’s role in creation and ask the Spirit to guide us in caring for that creation.

At the same time, we’re aware that for many people there’s an irony in celebrating World Environment Day so soon after the President of the United States’ announcement that he would seek to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement. We deeply regret the divisions that are evident in this decision – but we are conscious that other countries – and US states, cities, and businesses(EU/China statement; India; new US alliance; Low Carbon USA)- are clearly still committed to climate action. And we give thanks for the sense being expressed in so many quarters that the momentum for positive change is too great for one decision to derail it(Carbon Brief response round-up)

What is more evident now than ever is that what each one of us does to care for creation matters, and that the witness of the church is essential. At Pentecost, pray that we may listen for the Spirit’s guidance … and that our care for creation may be one of the many ways in which we show the Good News of Christ’s love to the world.

Loving God,
Blessed be the works of your hands,
Your Spirit inspires trees and birds and waves into song and dance,
It is that same holy wind that you breathed on your disciples and on all creation,
Let your Spirit blow us to creative love and stewardship that shows reverence for your creation.
Blessed be the works of your hands O Holy One, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, One God now and for ever. Amen

Bishop Ellinah Wamukoya of Swaziland

Short Notes: London Attacks, UK Elections, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, Afghanistan

London Attacks
We pray this morning for all affected, directly and indirectly, by last night’s attacks. May God grant healing to those who are injured; comfort to those who grieve or mourn; wisdom and strength to emergency responders and to the politicians who must respond in the longer term; reassurance to those who fear being targeted wrongly as a result of others’ thoughts and actions; and a change of heart to all who rejoice in or plan violence.

UK Elections
The second part of this email will set out more on the elections. In the meantime, we would ask you to pray that politicians, electors and the media in this election will be motivated by a desire for the common good – and will have a willingness to hear and assess fairly those who present to them visions of what that might be. We ask for clarity of vision for politicians and electors alike; for media coverage that reflects a love of truth and seeks to engage rather than to marginalise; for elections that take place without incident; and for a spirit of constructive engagement among and with those who are elected.

Sri Lanka and Bangladesh
Heavy monsoon rains in Sri Lanka have caused disastrous floods and landslides, killing (according to the latest estimates) more than 200 people, displacing more than 25,000, and affecting almost 700,000. Please pray for all who have been affected and all who are working on relief and recovery. The disaster has also catalysed a debate on the government’s preparedness for disasters; please pray that the results of this debate may be helpful to all Sri Lankans.

The rains from Sri Lanka fed into a disturbance that became Cyclone Mora, which hit Bangladesh as a Category 1 storm. A significant number of fishermen were caught up in the storm and are missing; the Bangladeshi and Indian navies have been searching for them.

The land area most affected by the cyclone is a portion of the country that is home to Rohingya refugees, many of them undocumented, who have fled violence against them in neighbouring Myanmar. Most of the refugees live in makeshift settlements, which were devastated by the storm.

Launching an appeal on their behalf, the International Organization for Migration, which coordinates work in the area, noted that in an area which is home to over 130,000 people, the storm had destroyed 25 per cent of shelters and damaged up to 80 per cent. “Food and fuel supplies were destroyed, electricity lines were cut, and health and sanitation infrastructure was also badly damaged,” the organisation stated.

Internally displaced people in Myanmar also suffered, according to the UN. The last thing people who have already suffered so much needed was more suffering: please pray for them and for those working on relief efforts. Pray too that the global community may increase its pressure for justice for the Rohingya and for all the beleaguered minorities of Myanmar.

Afghanistan

Please pray for all affected by violence in Kabul this week. A truck bomb on Thursday killed almost 100 people; several protesters calling for greater security were killed by police seeking to disperse the crowds; and at least seven people were killed and over one hundred injured in three suicide explosions at the funeral of one of the protesters, who was the son of the Senate’s Deputy Speaker, a prominent opponent of the Taliban.

Over seven hundred Afghan civilians have been killed so far this year. Please pray for healing for all who have been injured or who mourn, peace for those who are fearful for their family and friends going about their daily business, and wisdom for those charged with keeping order. Pray for something to break through and turn the hearts of the violent towards peace.

Pray too that those countries which are pressuring or requiring refugees to return to Afghanistan may cease doing so, given the unsafe nature of the country.

Manchester & Egypt, Sainsbury’s and Fairtrade, Tobacco, Climate Prayers – 28 May 2017

In this week’s prayer email:

  • Manchester and Egypt
  • Sainsbury’s and Fairtrade
  • World No Tobacco Day
  • Short Note: Pray and Fast Prayer Points

In the Revised Common Lectionary readings this week, Jesus says: “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” An appropriate reading for this first Sunday of Thy Kingdom Come! Pray that people everywhere may come to know Christ.
____________________________________________________________________________

Manchester and Egypt

#Egypt #Manchester #Westminster #Paris #Berlin #Stockholm #Nigeria #Pakistan #Iraq#FellowshipInSuffering #StrengthInPrayer #PowerInLove

Tweet from Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom

The tweet above, from Bishop Angaelos, came just after we learned that the week that had begun with sorrow in Manchester was ending with sorrow in Egypt. As a Bishop in the Coptic Orthodox Church, Bishop Angaelos understands well the fellowship in suffering that unfortunately unites people in so many parts of the world. As we pray for those affected by this week’s attacks, we also lift before God the many still suffering from previous violence, whether acts of terrorism or acts undertaken as part of more conventional conflicts.

Prayers for Those Affected by Manchester Bombing

Prayer Points for Those Affected by Recent Attacks in Egypt (taken from statements)

 

Sainsbury’s and Fairtrade

The announcement on 23 May by Sainsbury’s that it plans to replace its own-brand Fairtrade Red Label,  Gold Label, green and rooibos teas with a new ‘Fairly Traded’ brand (press release and documents) has caused concern among both Fairtade producers and Fairtrade consumers.

A fuller briefing paper will be available shortly, but in summary, the changes to tea are part of a broader proposed change in Sainsbury’s sourcing of what it describes as its “35 key crops and ingredients” – ultimately including not only tea but also, by 2020, other Fairtrade products such as coffee, bananas and sugar.

The new  programme offers benefits for farmers – tailored advice to help deal with the challenges of climate change, for example, and long term Memoranda of Understanding promising purchasing and volume commitments.

But a sustainable supply chain established by a major retailer is not the same thing as Fairtrade, where the aim is not merely to have sustainability and traceability but to redress the balance between producers and the major buyers. And this is where the new programme seems much weaker than Fairtrade: as Traidcraft’s CEO said: “We fear that this new scheme from Sainsbury’s may instead consolidate the power of the retailer over the supply chain.”

The new Sainsbury’s programme would require producers to agree to a new set of ‘Sainsbury’s Sustainability Standards’ established by the supermarket in conjunction with a global risk compliance firm into which the affected producer groups appear to have had no direct input. Information released publicly thus far does not make clear who will determine the programme’s guaranteed minimum prices. And crucially, the programme removes the ‘social premium’ – the money paid to producers for community and business development – from the producers’ direct control, forcing them to apply to a UK-based ‘Sainsbury Foundation’ to get funding for any proposed projects.

This last point was the grounds on which Fairtrade Africa refused the partnership and the Fairtrade Foundation announced itself unable to participate. We would strongly recommend reading the entirety of an open letter posted on the Fairtrade Africa website, which explains their reasoning. The following extracts give a sense of the arguments:

“Fairtrade is owned 50% by the producers it represents and we, Fairtrade tea farmers, workers, producer members of Fairtrade Africa, are unanimous in our decision to reject this unequal partnership with the Sainsbury’s Foundation. We believe it will strip us of rights and benefits attained over the years under the Fairtrade system.

Our position is based on the response of our representatives who heard directly about the detail of the model from Sainsbury’s who recently visited Kenya and Malawi. Whilst we appreciate Sainsbury’s overall aim and ambition to improve their supply chains, we are fundamentally opposed to their plans to take over the control and management of Fairtrade Premium …. the proposed ring-fencing of the Fairtrade Premium is  unacceptable and we have outlined this to them as a non-negotiable. As producers we are very aware that when consumers choose Fairtrade purchases, they expect the benefits to go directly to producers. Premium is not donor money but is created through a commitment to purchase Fairtrade products by conscious consumers …

We are particularly concerned that within the proposed model, Sainsbury’s approval process means that any project requested by producers in Africa can be rejected by a few decision makers in the UK. This process will jeopardise our existing long term development strategies and further threaten   premium pooled projects from our other committed Fairtrade buyers.

We told Sainsbury’s loud and clear: “Your model will bring about disempowerment”. We are extremely concerned about the power and control that Sainsbury’s seeks to exert over us which actually feels reminiscent of colonial rule. We work for, OWN our product and OWN our premium. We see the proposed approach as an attempt to replace the autonomous role which Fairtrade brings and replace it with a model which no longer balances the power between producers and buyers.

There are many questions yet to be answered, but as we await answers, please pray:

  • for the more than 200,000 Fairtrade tea farmers affected by Sainsbury’s move. This may well be an anxious time: pray that they may have a sense of security for the short and long term.
  • for wisdom for the leadership of the Fairtrade movement and of Sainsbury’s as they consider ways forward
  • in thanksgiving for the way Fairtrade makes connections among producers and consumers, and for the way it helps to redress inequalities. Pray that it may continue to do these things, and to do them well.

If you would like to take action:

  • if you are a representative of an institution (town, village, school, diocese, district or synod, etc) that has a commitment to Fairtrade, please email us for guidance.
  • If you would like to take action as an individual, there is a petition on Change.org.

 

World No Tobacco Day

Most people are aware that tobacco has a staggeringly deleterious effect on both personal and public health. But as the theme of this year’s World No Tobacco day makes clear, its impacts go well beyond the sphere of health – creating “a millstone around the neck of global development”.

What are some of the impacts of tobacco? Is there any good news? And what can be done to counter tobacco’s deadly impacts?

Smoking Rates and Health Impacts

A recent analysis of the prevalence of smoking globally and the disease burden attributable to it, published in The Lancet (full article here; editorial comment here), found that “worldwide, one in four men, and a total of 933 million people, are estimated to be current daily smokers…. Half of these, or half a billion people alive today, can be expected to be killed prematurely by their smoking unless they quit.”  In 2015, 11.5% of global deaths (6.4 million) were attributable to smoking and smoking was the second leading risk factor for early death and disability worldwide.

The prevalence of smoking is actually falling globally. Between 1990 and 2015 there was a 28% reduction in the prevalence of smoking amongst men, and a 34% reduction amongst women. Rates amongst adolescents also fell significantly in this period – from 16.1% to 10.6% for men and from 4.8% to 3.0% for women. This is all clearly encouraging. However, the pace of reduction varied from country to country, with greater reductions being seen in high socio-demographic index countries and Latin America, “probably reflecting concerted efforts to implement strong tobacco control policies and programmes”. Furthermore, even though low- and middle-income countries  saw variable decreases in smoking prevalence, the overall disease burden attributable to smoking in these countries increased due to population growth and ageing. And the majority of smokers – around 80% – live in these countries.

Because of these demographics, overall global deaths due to smoking are expected to rise in the coming years. In an editorial on the imperative of tobacco elimination, The Lancet says, “Currently, around 6 million people die from tobacco use every year, a figure that is projected to rise to 8 million by 2030 unless stronger measures are taken. Most (80%) of deaths are expected to occur in low-income and middle-income countries, and everywhere tobacco use is concentrated in the poorest and most vulnerable people”.

Impacts on Child Labourers

Whilst the diseases caused by smoking are well known, some of the other impacts of tobacco are less often discussed. For example, children who work in tobacco farming are especially vulnerable to ‘green tobacco sickness’, caused by the absorption of nicotine through the skin as a result of handling wet tobacco leaves. Ayu, a 13-year old girl from Indonesia who helps her parents cultivate tobacco, described to Human Rights Watch the symptoms she experiences when harvesting tobacco: “I was throwing up when I was so tired from harvesting and carrying the [harvested tobacco] leaf. My stomach is like, I can’t explain, it’s stinky in my mouth. I threw up so many times…. My dad carried me home. It happened when we were harvesting. It was so hot, and I was so tired…. The smell is not good when we’re harvesting. I’m always throwing up every time I’m harvesting.” Human Rights Watch says these symptoms are consistent with acute nicotine poisoning.

The particular threat to children from tobacco makes it especially appropriate that next weekend is the Viva Network World weekend of Prayer for Children at Risk. Viva is an international charity focused on releasing children from poverty and abuse.

Wider Impacts on Development

This year, World No Tobacco Day focuses on the wider threat tobacco poses for development. In a short video produced for this year’s campaign, Dr Douglas Bettcher, WHO Director for the Prevention of Non Communicable Diseases, says, “It’s not just health that tobacco damages. Tobacco use is a major barrier to sustainable development on a number of fronts: food security, gender equity, education, economic growth and environment just to name a handful. It is a millstone around the neck of global development…. [Low- and middle-income countries] bear almost 40% of the global economic costs of smoking [with] health expenditure and lost productivity estimated at over US $1.4 trillion – a truly staggering figure”.

The US National Cancer Institute’s monograph on The Economics of Tobacco and Tobacco Control expands on the connections between poverty, development and tobacco saying, “Tobacco use is concentrated among the poor and other vulnerable groups, and tobacco use accounts for a significant share of the health disparities between the rich and poor. These disparities are exacerbated by a lack of access to health care and the diversion of household spending from other basic needs, such as food and shelter, to tobacco use. Moreover, tobacco use contributes to poverty, as illnesses caused by tobacco lead to increased health care spending and reduced income.” More specific statistics were presented at a World Bank event, reported on by William Savedoff in his blog for the Center for Global Development. He writes, “Average consumption of cigarettes is more than twice as high among the poorest quintile than the richest in countries like the Philippines, Thailand, and Uruguay. Researchers at the event presented studies on Chile and Armenia that demonstrated how the poor are more likely than the rich to smoke, to die from smoking, to suffer ill health and high medical costs from smoking, and to impoverish themselves and their children by smoking.”

Where does responsibility lie and what can be done to change this situation?

The Lancet and other commentators are striking in their condemnation of tobacco companies. In his editorial ‘Death, Disease and Tobacco’ John Britton writes, “Responsibility for this global health disaster lies mainly with the trans national tobacco companies, which clearly hold the value of human life in very different regard to most of the rest of humanity”. William Savedoff’s blog is similarly damning – reflected in its title, ‘The World’s Most Profitable Disaster: Tobacco’. He writes, “[Tobacco companies] profit immeasurably from selling cigarettes. Prabhat Jha estimates that every $10,000 in profit is associated with one premature death… And profits are huge… Cigarette companies are one of the best investments you can find.”

Also remarkably consistent is the call for increased taxation to reduce the demand for tobacco – and consequently its adverse impacts. The WHO say, “Tobacco taxes are the most cost-effective way to reduce tobacco use, especially among young and poor people. A tax increase that increases tobacco prices by 10% decreases tobacco consumption by about 4% in high-income countries and about 5% in low- and middle-income countries”. Dr Douglas Bettcher expands on this saying, “Increasing tobacco tax and prices is one of the most effective yet least utilized control measures that countries can use…. Tobacco taxation is a unique tool for reducing non-communicable diseases, death and generating revenues for governments to support universal health care… If all countries increased taxes by just one international dollar (about 80 US cents) an extra US $140 billion would be generated… This windfall of funds could be used to implement the Sustainable Development Goals.” William Savedoff puts it particularly succinctly when he writes, “The bottom line: raising tobacco taxes will save lives. Tripling excise taxes around the world would double prices, reduce consumption by about one-third and avoid 200 million deaths in this century.”

 

Please pray:

  • In thanksgiving for all the campaigns that have led to a reduction in the prevalence of smoking world wide – and for the people behind these initiatives.
  • For all young people affected by tobacco – those whose health is damaged by second hand smoke, young people tempted to start smoking and those affected by working in the tobacco industry.
  • For investors to understand the consequences of their investment choices and to divest from tobacco.
  • For imagination and determination on the part of policy makers to increase measures, including taxation, which will lead to reduced tobacco demand.

 

Short Note: Pray and Fast Prayer Points

The June Pray and Fast for the Climate prayer points are now available. They include information about the UK election, progress on renewable energy, developments in the earth’s oceans (and responses to those developments), new campaigns, and more. Download them here.

One further prayer point for this week relates to the G7 communique, which states:

“The United States of America is in the process of reviewing its policiest on climate change and on the Paris Agreement and thus is not in a position to join the consensus on these topics. Understanding this process,  the Heads of State and of Government of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom, and the Presidents of the European Council and of the European Commission reaffirm their strong commitment to swiftly implement the Paris Agreement, as previously stated at the Ise-Shima Summit.”

This is the outcome of apparently quite intense negotiations, in which participants in the meeting attempted to persuade the United States of the importance of remaining in the Agreement and honouring commitments.

Give thanks that the other members of the G7 stood firm in their commitment and pray that they will match words with deeds.

President Trump has stated that he will make his decision on the Paris Agreement this week. Pray for wisdom for him and for his advisors as they make their decision and that if the US does stay in the Paris Agreement it does so in a way that is constructive.

Featured Image Photocredit: Heart of Candles and Flower, James O’Hanlon, used under Creative Commons License.

UK and French Elections, Climate Talks, Events

In this week’s prayer email:

  • UK Elections
  • Short Notes: French Elections, Bonn Climate Talks
  • Coming up in the second half of May and early June …

The Christian community in Acts, as described in this week’s lectionary readings, is one where Resurrection joy and hope inform a daily life of shared prayer, shared meals, shared resources and mutual care. Can we, today, ask for the grace to live and promote visions of community that similarly reflect our hope in Christ and point towards God’s Kingdom?

UK Elections

How do we respond as Christians to the recently called snap elections? In response to this question, numerous denominations are issuing statements that offer material for reflection, prayer and action.

Church of England

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York released a pastoral letter, calling on Christians to pray for candidates and elected officials, and to engage with the election process in a spirit of love, trust and hope. The letter notes the importance of this election in shaping the national values and identity, refers to the place of faith within that identity, and emphasises the importance of three particular values: cohesion, courage and stability.

It defines cohesion as a “a  sense  not  only  of  living  for  ourselves,  but  by  a  deeper  concern  for  the  weak,  poor  and marginalised, and for the common good.” In domestic terms, it cites the importance of “education for all,” tackling housing issues, community-building, and a “confident and flouishing health service”; globally it talks about the 0.7% aid commitment, standing up for those suffering persecution, and “our current leading on campaigns against slavery, trafficking and sexual violence in conflict.”

Courage it defines as including “aspiration, competition and ambition,” and it mentions the need for just trade agreements, just finance, education that helps the excluded and a call to “affirm  our  capacity  to  be  an  outward  looking  and  generous  country,  with distinctive  contributions  to  peacebuilding,  development,  the  environment  and  welcoming  the
stranger in need.”

Stability it defines as “living well with change,” and notes: “Stable  communities will  be  skilled  in  reconciliation,  resilient  in  setbacks  and  diligent  in  sustainability,  particularly  in relation to the environment.” Recalling the importance of housing,  health  and  education, the archbishops also point to “marriage, the family and the household as foundational communities, which should be nurtured and supported as such, not just for the benefit of their members, but as a blessing for the whole of society.”

While the letter is clear that the values it espouses “are not the preserve of any one political party or worldview,” there is an interesting critique of it from an ecumenical group of clergy and lay people who are concerned, in the first instance, about the use of a term (stability) which is a primary campaigning term for one party, and more broadly with the way the letter defines some of its themes.

Joint Public Issues Team (Baptist, Church of Scotland, Methodist, United Reformed Church)

The Joint Public Issues Team has an election resources page, which brings together materials prepared  for this election (under the theme ‘This is a time ….’) and for the 2015 election. The materials include reflections, bible studies, worship materials, information about how to hold hustings, and videos of people ‘from the margins’ reflecting on election issues.

The ‘This is a time’ biblical reflections resource is a short (4-page) gathering of six Biblical verses, each serving as the springboard for a particular theme: engagement with society’s structures and recognition of God’s ultimate authority; the dignity of each person and importance of the common good; recognising and challenging misleading narratives while promoting honest discussion; raising issues that may be overlooked; Scriptural concepts of good government and good leadership; and the role of Christians in society after the elections.

Quakers

The British Quakers have a website called Quaker Vote. The introduction to this website notes that the election is a good time to raise issues that are important to Quakers and the site itself offers links to Quaker positions on such issues as peace, community, environment and sustainability, economic justice, equality, justice and democracy.

Quaker Vote also contains information about what individuals and meetings can do to engage with the election process, links to guidelines for events, and a blog with news about the elections. Its resources section has links to a wide variety of resources from the Quakers themselves, as well as from other groups.

For prayer around the UK elections:

  • a number of people have suggested using the prayer points for the French elections (below)
  • there’s also a helpful call and response prayer provided by the Joint Public Issues Team on the ‘This is a time’ theme.

Short Notes: French Elections, Bonn Climate Talks

French Elections

This Sunday the French are voting in the second round of elections. These are being contested by the two frontrunners from the first round, En Marche’s Emmanuel Macron and the Front National’s Marine Le Pen.

A poll taken after last Wednesday’s televised debate gave Macron a 24% lead. It is unclear, however, how the elections will be affected by abstentions and also by the online dissemination by unknown parties of a large number of documents which the Macron campaign says represent a mingling of hacked and faked material.

The French election uncertainty will not finish with the presidential elections, either. Whoever wins will then face the challenge of working with the parliament, which will be elected in June. Given that neither presidential candidate comes from the established parties which currently dominate the legislative branch, the parliamentary elections will, like the presidential, be without clear precedent.

Please pray:

  • that the country will be at peace. Pray for an end to terrorist violence and pray for wisdom and courage for all who seek to protect the country against violence. Pray that the French people will remain strong and calm and will not allow violence to make them live in fear and make choices from fear.
  • that as they vote – and as they receive the results – people will be able to find faith in the future, turning away from despair and cynicism, recalling God’s goodness and the gifts they have been given, and working out the role they can play in building up the common good
  • that the media will report truthfully and responsibly, and that people will be careful to seek out the truth about candidates and their positions.
  • that the country may make choices that help to protect the vulnerable and that do not further exclude people who are socially or economically marginalised
  • that people will continue to feel a sense of solidarity with those outside their borders, and will be open to those seeking refuge from conflict. That whoever is elected will both seek the common good for all France’s inhabitants and also enable France to play a positive role in Europe and more widely
  • that at a time of turmoil Christians and their churches may offer a living witness that Jesus Christ offers, as always, a way of love, truth and reconciliation – and that more people will come to know Christ through their witness

These prayer points are adapted from the reflection above, some of the statements by churches cited above, the website Prier Pour la France, prayer points offered by the European Evangelical Alliance, and the suggestions by the Communauté de Vie Chrétienne.

Bonn Climate Talks

The latest round of UNFCCC talks begins in Bonn this Monday. A considerable uncertainty hangs over the start of the discussions, however, as the Trump administration has submitted answers to a multilateral assessment that make it clear it has no plans to meet its 2020 commitment and doesn’t ‘have updated information’ on the emissions impact of recent policy decisions. It is rumoured, moreover, that the administration is seriously considering withdrawing from the Paris Agreement.

Please pray that the Bonn talks will include constructive discussions that move forward work to curb emissions. Pray too that the Trump administration will come to understand the importance of caring for creation and of honouring its climate commitments.

Coming up in the second half of May and early June …

14 to 20 May 2017 — Christian Aid Week: Resources on Christian Aid Week website

16 May – World Debt Day: Day to pray about unfair/unsustainable debt. Take a look at the resources in this area from the Jubilee Debt Campaign and Eurodad.

19 May 2017 – Iranian Presidential Elections

22 May– Internat’l Day for Biological Diversity: Theme: “Biodiversity for Sustainable Development.” Info from Convention on Biodiversity. Materials for churches: A Rocha, CEL

25 May to 4 June 2017 – Thy Kingdom Come prayer initiative: Could you and your church join with other Christians worldwide in prayer for people to know Christ?  Website with resources

26 to 27 May – G7 Leaders Summit, Taormina, Sicily. Proposed focus on migration. Potential meeting of Pope Francis and President Trump.

31 May – World No Tobacco Day: Materials from World Health Organization.

3-4 June 2017 – Viva Network World Weekend of Prayer for Children at Risk: Theme of ‘Teach us to pray’  Resources from Viva

4 June 2017– Environment Sunday (closest to 5 June, World Environment Day)  Links to worship materials

Climate Prayers, Creation Care Events, Electric Cars – 30 April 2017

This week:

  • Pray and Fast for the Climate
  • Creation Care Events
  • Electric Cars

Recognition, proclamation and action. This week’s  Revised Common Lectionary readings continue to follow the disciples as they grow in their understanding of Christ’s resurrection and its implications for them and others. Pray that we, too, may by God’s grace grow in our capacity to recognise Christ and the importance of His saving work, may share this Good News with others, and may be inspired to live in ‘genuine mutual love.’
____________________________________________________________________________

Pray and Fast for the Climate

This Monday is the first of May, and we once again offer the link to the Pray and Fast for the Climate prayer points. If you’d like to receive the link to them directly at an earlier point in the month, you can sign up for the Pray and Fast monthly email here.

Creation Care Events

Huge thanks to everyone who attended the ‘Theology, Spirituality and Mission’ creation care event in Oxford: we had a really enjoyable morning, including a fascinating talk by the Revd Darrell Hannah, whose look at Revelation and creation care was very popular – learned, accessible, original and thought-provoking.

Next Saturday we have the Reading version of the same event. Our theological speakers will be Ellen Teague, a speaker and writer well known to Catholics for her work on justice and peace issues, and the Revd Paul Beetham, scientist and theologian, former editor of the Christ & The Cosmos publications and trustee of the Science & Religion Forum. We look forward to hearing from them both. We’ll also have sessions exploring different ways of prayer, pilgrimage and Sabbath thanksgiving – which will be led by Elizabeth Perry, Jean Leston and Maranda St John Nicolle. And we’ll spend part of our time looking at how to communicate creation care effectively … and how to link it with each of our church’s mission and vision.

You can register here – and find out more about the subsequent events in this series here.  Hope to see you!

Electric Cars

This is, as Elizabeth notes, a slightly different piece from our usual, not least in that it discusses particular products and services. It’s very hard to discuss electric cars, which are an important part of the move to reduce carbon and hence a topic for prayer, without such references, as people’s questions and experiences are inherently quite specific. The references to particular products and services, however, reflect the views of those writing; CCOW is not endorsing any particular product or service.

I (Elizabeth) enjoy driving and love travelling… but hate the fact I’m adding to the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere when I do. So imagine my delight at now being at least part way to carbon zero travel. A month ago we bought an electric car (it turns out we are in very good company as the Pope has also recently gone electric!). It’s been such an interesting and surprising journey that I wanted to share my experiences, not least because since going electric I have become aware that many other people are toying with the idea but have lots of uncertainties, as we did. So here I will briefly review some facts and figures about electric vehicles and then try to answer the questions people commonly have about their practicality and cost.

As this is not the usual kind of prayer email item we offer, I am suggesting the following prayer points at the beginning, rather than the end, of the piece. Please pray:

  • In thanksgiving for the scientists, designers and engineers whose work and vision have brought the electric vehicle market to where it is today
  • For innovators as they imagine a more sustainable future for travel – that they may be inspired, encouraged and supported to develop new ways of doing things that promote the common good.
  • that the actions of governments, businesses and individuals will enable the renewables sector to grow further
  • For all of us as we strive to reduce our carbon footprints wherever we can.

 

Sales of electric vehicles in the UK and globally – and the outlook for an electric future

In the UK, sales of electric vehicles have increased dramatically in the last two years. On average more than 3,000 electric vehicles have been registered per month over the past 12 months – up from 500 per month in the first half of 2014. There are around 100,000 electric vehicles altogether in the UK. Globally, the number of plug-in vehicles passed the 2 million mark at the end of last year (61 % pure electric vehicles, 39 % plug-in hybrids).

As a percentage of overall vehicle numbers, these sales are undeniably modest: for the first 3 months of 2017, electric vehicles accounted for 1.5% of vehicle sales in the UK; globally they have just a 0.85% market share. However, these figures mask some encouraging developments. For example, Norway had 24% plug-in share in 2016 and the Netherlands 5%. China’s “New Energy Vehicle” market increased 85% compared to 2015, with over 350,000 electric cars being sold – as well as nearly 160,000 commercial vehicles (mostly all-electric buses). The Electric Vehicle World Sales database says, “Plug-in volumes have more than tripled since 2013 and continuing on last year’s growth rate of 42 % would mean 8 out of 10 cars sold being Plug-ins in 2030. Inconceivable today, not impossible for the future”.

Last year’s Paris motor show also points to a changing landscape. Transport and Environment noted, “On the surface, the figures are modest but dig deeper and the earthquake is finally shaking carmakers from their complacency. The Paris Motor Show in October may well be remembered as a seminal moment.” Many media outlets concur with their assessment, with headlines such as “At the Paris Auto Show, the electric future is now” (Bloomberg) and “Car makers embrace an electric future at Paris motor show” (Financial Times). In his blog Beginning of the end for the infernal combustion engine?” Greg Archer attributes this shift to the dramatic fall in the cost of batteries and the increased range of electric vehicles, the success of the Paris climate talks and consequent push to reduce CO2 emissions, and the desire of car manufacturers not to be left behind in a clearly growing electric vehicle market. Astonishingly, there have already been nearly 400,000 orders for the new Tesla Model 3 sedan, less than a month after it was unveiled.

Frequently asked questions

So, what are the main questions people tend to have about electric cars? I have found they cluster around four issues:

  1. Range anxiety
  2. Cost
  3. Are they really ‘green’?
  4. How do they perform as cars?

In trying to answer these questions I will be drawing on the experiences of friends as well as my own more limited experience. Kevin and Ros (fellow pilgrims on the Pilgrimage to Paris) have a Renault Zoe with a 22kWh battery; we have a 30kWh Nissan Leaf; and our friend Gary has a top-end 85 kWh Model S Tesla – so between us we cover a good range of the available electric cars in the UK.

  1. Range anxiety: how far can you go between charges? Where do you recharge?

The range of an electric car depends on its battery size, how efficiently you drive and the air temperature. Kevin and Ros’s 22kWh Renault Zoe has a range of 70 to 100 miles – the lower figure being the range in winter months. Our 30kWh Nissan Leaf is currently giving us around 125 to 130 miles – and range just isn’t an issue for Gary, who can get from Somerset to Edinburgh and back on only two charging stops! The range of electric cars is increasing all the time. The new 41kWh Renault Zoe has a range of 180 miles and Nissan is expected to unveil a 60kWh Leaf later this year or early next year, with a range of over 200 miles. So already electric cars have a range that covers the majority of journeys people make and very soon electric cars will standardly have a range that covers what can sensibly be undertaken without a break. If you’re really worried, it’s worth noting that Nissan will lend Leaf owners a petrol or diesel car for up to 14 days free of charge.

We have found that, like most other electric car drivers, we do most of our charging at home. We are waiting to have our home charger installed (cost £75 – but can be free, as in the experience of Kevin and Ros; government grants are currently available), which will allow us to fully charge the battery in 4 hours. At the moment we ‘trickle charge’ overnight from an ordinary socket.

The real difference from Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) driving is that you have to think about your journeys more carefully. Obviously, you have to plan ahead to charge the battery if your journey exceeds the car’s range.

There are currently nearly 4,400 public charging locations in the UK (see ZapMap) – a number that is increasing all the time (28 rapid charging points were added to the network in the last 30 days). Rapid chargers provide an 80% charge in around 30 minutes and are available in 700 locations, including motorway service stations, supermarkets and public car parks. The car’s display lets you know what range you have available and the on-board sat-nav shows you the locations of nearby charge points. We have found locating charge points easy; it’s building in the time element that is the challenge if, like us, you’re used to being ‘efficient’ – i.e. cramming as much into as short a time as possible!

  1. How much does an electric car cost – both to buy and to run?

The ticket price of a new electric car is high – and because of that we had assumed it was out of the question – but that’s probably not the best way to think about the cost of owning an electric car. Like many people, we have ‘bought’ our car through a Personal Contract Purchase, which is essentially like leasing the car with the option to buy at the end of the loan period. The cost of a PCP depends on a number of factors, including your expected mileage, but a brand new Nissan Leaf, for example, can be bought this way for £219 – £259 per month currently if you shop around … and there are other cheaper options.

This is a substantial amount of money – but there are other factors to consider. The most obvious is the potential saving you will make on the cost of running the car – no road tax (for most models) and the cheaper cost of electricity over diesel or petrol (which I’ll come on to below), plus the fact there’s simply less to go wrong with an electric car. It’s also worth realising that when you buy a car outright, the depreciation can be quite a large (though hidden) cost when averaged per month. So for our older car, the difference in its value between when we bought it and now averaged over the time we have had it comes out at over £260 per month – more than we are paying for the electric car.

So what about the cost of running an electric car? This, of course, depends on the price you pay for your electricity. Our plan is to charge our car overnight using the cheapest tariff electricity (in our case Green Energy at 4.99p per kWh). With our 30 kWh battery it will therefore cost £1.50 to charge the battery fully. We can expect to get around 125 miles from a full charge, meaning it will cost around 1.2p per mile. This compares to 9.2p per mile at current prices for our fuel-efficient diesel car (which does roughly 60 mpg). Over the 15,000 miles we expect to do each year in the electric car, we could therefore expect to save around £1,200 if we did all our charging at home at the cheapest rate – £100 per month. Obviously, we won’t do all our charging at home, so what does it cost to charge when out and about? Ecotricity rapid charge points are free for Ecotricity customers – and as these are at almost every motorway service station, this is a real bonus. Otherwise, it is £6 per rapid charge at an Ecotricity rapid charger. We have POLAR Plus membership (standardly £7.85 a month), which gives access to thousands of charge points across the UK, the majority of charges then being free.

  1. Are electric cars really ‘green’? As someone put it, “Is this just a means of distancing a car’s pollution and telling yourself you’re not polluting the atmosphere here (like building taller chimneys)?”

The answer to this question really depends on your electricity provider. If you use electricity from 100% renewable sources and always charge at home, then yes, you can be carbon neutral in your motoring. And the rapid chargers at motorway services are run by Ecotricity, so are also 100% green. This is not the case for other charge points. However, even with a very conservative estimate of charging for only 80% of the time at home, we can expect to cut our carbon dioxide emissions by 2.3 tonnes per year compared with using our diesel car (which we bought because it was at the low end for CO2 emissions at 119g/km). There are, of course, also the emissions from manufacturing to consider, though that is the case for any car.

  1. How does it perform as a car? One friend asked, “what about speed and acceleration (important for us men!)?”

I can only speak from my experience, but our car is fantastic to drive. Speed and acceleration are absolutely no problem – in fact, you (as in ‘I’!) have to be very careful with speed because of not having the usual sound clues as to how fast you are going… which highlights the other very enjoyable feature of electric cars – how quiet they are.

What are other people’s experiences of driving electric cars?

First, Gary’s thoughts on his:

“Living with the car is best summed up as ‘FUN’. We use it for most journeys because it is easy to drive, fun to drive and very economical to drive. We can and have driven to Edinburgh and back again for approximately £6.00 with only two charging stops. We get free charging on the road as would any other electric car drivers if they join Ecotricity. We have driven around Europe covering 2,600 miles including the Alps with no problem. In fact watching your battery recharge as you go down the hills without wearing your brakes out due to regenerative charging can make the whole electric driving experience make sense. Our total mileage over the last 21 months is 32,500 relatively guilt free. We intend ‘doing’ the western highlands of Scotland this summer.

“The only negative I can think of is being aware winter and bad weather can affect your range more in some cars than others. The upsides far outweigh this.”

And these are Kevin and Ros’s thoughts on going electric:

“Like many people, we purchased a diesel car in the mistaken belief that it was better for the environment. In fact although it produced less CO2, it was a worse pollutant than anything that we’d had before!

“Once we realised our error, every trip out in it just felt wrong but we still needed the use of a car.  We cut down, used public transport as much as possible and lived with the compromise for the best part of two years. Things changed when we went to a Green Party talk by a friend on her experiences with having an electric car. As part of this she costed it all out and showed that running an electric car was financially possible for anyone on a ‘Citizens Income’.

“Previously we had assumed electric cars were out of our price range but this challenged our thinking.  We decided to investigate.  We worked out what our diesel car was costing us (£150 a month) and found that the cheapest option for an electric was for a Renault Zoe (£180 a month) with a deposit of £900 payable over 2 years with the option of buying after this period or taking out another contract with a new car. We arranged a local test drive and really enjoyed the experience, but we knew the big issue was the range of the battery (70-100 miles). It also became clear that a smart phone for all the charging apps was a prerequisite too.

“The car dealers know that switching to electric is a complete sea-change and you need to be sure so they kindly agreed to us doing a day long test drive to see how we got on charging the car on a long distance trip to Oxford that we often take*. It took extra time (rapid charge takes at least 30 minutes) and significant planning, but we experienced no difficulty and took driving an automatic in our stride.

“We have now had the car 8 months and have no regrets.  It was a bonus that we had the charge point installed externally at home for free.  There are also considerable benefits from having your electricity from Ecotricity. We have never broken down and whenever we have experienced a problem with a charging point the engineers on the end of the phone have been really helpful and the problem resolved in no time. We have only had to wait for a charging point once in all that time.

“Many people stop and talk to us when we charge at motorway service stations and the rapport with other electric car users has also been an enjoyable feature.  The after care service from Renault has been also very positive.

“Things we have learnt:

  • During the winter months, the range of the battery falls to about 70 miles and requires two rapid charges at service stations.  Other electric cars now have a better range than the Zoe.
  • There were additional costs we hadn’t anticipated – mainly around the ongoing service of the vehicle which because of the technical complexity of the vehicle needs to be done by Renault and costs around an extra £11.38 a month**.  Whilst a charging lead is provided with the car to use with charging points, it is also possible to purchase a lead that can be used with a normal electric socket.  But this is over £600.
  • We have some qualms about what happens to the car when we trade it in.  Because the technology is improving all the time, Renault expect their customers to want to exchange for the next up to date model.  This seems very wasteful.”

* Just to add, we did a 6-day test drive of a Nissan Leaf while deciding if an electric car was for us. As Kevin and Ros say, car dealers know it is a big change and offer extended test drives.

** We don’t have this extra cost with our Nissan Leaf.

Depression, Climate, Paraguay, South Africa, Trade: 2 April 2017

In this week’s email:

  • World Health Day – 7 April
  • Pray and Fast for the Climate – April
  • Short Notes: Paraguay, South Africa, Brexit and Trade, Fair Trade at Easter
  • John Madeley

Can these dry bones live? Whether these words in this week’s Revised Common Lectionary readings make you think about dry places in your own life or other people affected by spiritual, mental or physical dryness, it’s a question which we’ve all asked at some point. Thanks be to God for the hope of new life in this week’s readings … and in the saving work of Christ on the cross, which we are preparing to celebrate.

World Health Day – 7 April

World Health Day, held annually on the anniversary of the World Health Organization’s founding in 1948, is “a unique opportunity to mobilize action around a specific health topic of concern to people all over the world.” This year the WHO has  chosen to focus on depression.

Perhaps the same impulses that mean we are often reluctant to talk about depression here in the UK mean that people don’t raise it as a genuine and pressing issue in other situations around the world. But it is no less real for that – and no less real than more obvious issues like hunger. Indeed, last October the WHO launched a year-long campaign, Depression: Let’s Talk, focusing on depression as a global issue.

In their recent publication ‘Depression and Other Common Mental Disorders – Global Health Estimates’, the WHO report that globally the total number of people with depression was estimated to exceed 300 million in 2015.

That’s more than 4% of the world’s population. And contrary to the common supposition that depression is a ‘Western’ disease, 80% of the people affected live in low- and middle-income countries, and the highest rate of depression is 5.9% among women in the African region. Depression is more prevalent in women than in men in every WHO region (and, globally, across all age groups).

Unsurprisingly, people are more likely to suffer mental health problems in emergency situations. Mental health problems can be induced both by the emergency itself (for example as a result of grief, distress, family separation, loss of livelihood or the tearing of the fabric of ordinary life) and also by circumstances arising during the humanitarian response (for example through overcrowding in camps, lack of privacy or anxiety caused by a lack of information). In addition, an emergency can exacerbate people’s pre-existing conditions.

In a World Bank blog Patricio V. Marquez calls for more to address these issues, noting “While most of those exposed to emergencies suffer some form of psychological distress, accumulated evidence shows that 15-20% of crisis-affected populations develop mild-to moderate mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD). And, 3-4% develop severe mental disorders, such as psychosis or debilitating depression and anxiety, which affect their ability to function and survive.” Mental health issues affected over 10% of people visiting clinics in Nepal following the earthquake in 2015 and recent harrowing reports from Syria show the profoundly traumatic impact the conflict is having on children’s mental health. In their recent report, Invisible Wounds, Save the Children quote a teacher from the besieged town of Madaya who told them, “The children are psychologically crushed and tired. When we do activities like singing with them, they don’t respond at all. They don’t laugh like they would normally. They draw images of children being butchered in the war, or tanks, or the siege and the lack of food.” Save the Children also reference a 2015 study of Syrian refugee children in Turkey, which found that 45% of the children showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and 44% showed symptoms of depression.

As we think about and pray for people suffering debilitating depression in traumatic situations of crisis, we also want to remember and pray for people who might not be ‘clinically’ depressed, but whose mental well-being is adversely affected by crises or by chronically difficult situations – perhaps of poverty or providing long-term care. The reality of this issue was forcefully brought home to me (Elizabeth) back in 2005 when I visited a home-based care project for people living with HIV and AIDS in Zambia. At the time, antiretroviral drugs were not commonly available, and death rates were very high. I spent a morning with Anne, a nurse counsellor, visiting clients in the area she supervised. I was able to meet some of the people she helped care for: women living in extreme poverty who received nursing care, medicines, nutritional supplements and practical help with cooking and cleaning from volunteers of the home-based care (HBC) programme. The love and care shown to the clients by the HBC staff and volunteers was deeply moving and greatly appreciated by the recipients. But it came at a cost. Anne told me about the burn-out that staff and volunteers commonly experienced from the relentless cycle of “making friends with clients, seeing them struggle with insufficient food, and eventually dying… and the toll of constant funerals”.

Please pray:

  • For all people living with depression – that they might find support and healing.
  • For the WHO’s Depression: Let’s Talk campaign – that it would help to break some of the stigma associated with depression and other mental health disorders, help people to become better informed about depression, and encourage people with depression to seek help.
  • In thanksgiving for the recognition, by the WHO and other agencies, of the need to integrate mental health care into how they respond to emergencies. See here for more.
  • For agencies working in crisis situations as they work to provide effective mental health care.
  • For the children of Syria and other conflicts, who have experienced trauma and mental scarring – that they might find healing and peace.
  • For the millions of unknown people who feel overwhelmed and burnt-out by the care they provide in chronically difficult circumstances.

Pray and Fast for the Climate – April

The first of each month is marked as a day to Pray and Fast for the Climate – but we need prayers for climate action throughout the month … so we’re including the Pray and Fast April prayer points with this email.

Please do use the materials in your public and private prayers throughout this month.  And during the Easter season, look forward to some stories of hope from Christians who are working to care for creation, sometimes under difficult circumstances ….

Short Notes: Paraguay, South Africa, Brexit and Trade, Fair Trade at Easter

Please pray for …

  • Paraguay

    Paraguay’s capital of Asunción erupted last night as protesters demonstrated against a secret Senate vote in favour of a constitutional amendment allowing the current President, Horacio Cartes, to run for re-election in 2018. Pray for a just and peaceful solution to the situation and to the wider political and economic issues facing the country.

  • South Africa

    South Africa also faces political instability – and, many are arguing a fundamental choice of direction (Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, Oscar van Heerden, Mail & Guardian, Richard Calland, FT, ) – after President Jacob Zuma, over the objections of many in his party, fired widely-respected Treasury Minister Pravin Gordhan in a major cabinet reshuffle. Gordhan had opposed state corruption, and his ousting and replacement with a Zuma loyalist is seen as problematic both economically and politically. The Archbishop of Cape Town described this as “an assault on the poor,” adding, “Who stands to gain when corrupt elites enrich themselves on the side while doing deals worth billions of rand with state-owned enterprises? … I hope the ruling party will reflect on how they are betraying the hopes of our people and take appropriate action. Civil society too will have to consider for how long we stand by helplessly and watch the gains of our democracy destroyed.”

    Pray for wisdom for all in government and all in positions of religious, economic and social leadership. Pray for moves that increase justice and transparency, reduce corruption and inequality, and provide stability and a better life for all South Africa’s people.

  • Brexit and Trade

    There’s much to pray for around post-Brexit trading arrangements, but today we’d commend two points. First, pray for a new campaign that asks the government to  protect people from the world’s poorest countries against negative trade impacts following Brexit … and to go further by promoting development-friendly trade. Secondly, the US has just released its 2017 report on what it considers ‘foreign trade barriers’. If you read the chapter on barriers to trade with the EU, you’ll see that it includes many environmental, chemical and food standards that help to promote care for creation. If these are considered ‘trade barriers’, they will almost certainly be key negotiating targets in any bilateral deal that the US does with the UK. Pray firstly for US politicians to grow in their desire to care for creation – and secondly for UK politicians to be prepared to stand up for higher standards while negotiating new deals.

  • Fair Trade at Easter

    Please do remind people in your churches about Fairtrade Easter treats, especially the Real Easter Egg (available in Tesco, Waitrose, Morrisons and a few Co-ops, as well as online through Traidcraft and the Meaningful Chocolate Company itself). Many churches have already ordered the eggs for parishioners … but there are always a few people still looking late in the day. The Real Easter Egg is Fairtrade-certified, offers a donation to charity, and tells the story of Easter … a win/win all around.


John Madeley

It was with great regret that we learned this week of the death of John Madeley, a leading writer on development issues – especially around trade – and a good friend to CCOW for the past several decades.

John combined gentle kindness, a deep spirituality, and a fierce passion for justice for the poor. We give thanks for his life, and ask God to send comfort to all who mourn his death.

Love of Creation, Mothering Sunday, Tuberculosis… : 24 March 2017

In this week’s email:

  • ‘For the Love of Creation’ powerpoint (sent as separate email yesterday)
  • Mothering Sunday
  • Tuberculosis
  • Yemen Humanitarian Crisis
  • Sanctification and Unity

Mothering Sunday

If you’re still looking for Mothering Sunday prayer resources, you might want to look at these:


Tuberculosis

“Isn’t it worrying that even today we don’t know the exact number of multidrug resistant TB cases in this country? Isn’t it scary that most MDR patients are misdiagnosed and treated incorrectly? What is worse is that most Indians cannot access the right diagnostics or drugs. Why are we letting a curable disease become so powerful?” –Deepti Chavan, a 32-year-old from Mumbai.

The 24th of March was World Tuberculosis Day. It’s a good reminder to pray for all suffering because of – and/or working to prevent and cure – this ‘voiceless’ disease, which despite its low profile is responsible, according to the WHO, for about 5,000 deaths a day.

Ending the global TB epidemic by 2030 is one of the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals. It’s not a simple task, though, and at present, despite diagnosis and treatment efforts that saved an estimated 49 million lives from 2000 to 2015, the incidence of infection is not falling rapidly enough to meet interim milestones.

Why is it hard to tackle TB? As with many diseases poverty often heightens the risk of being infected with tuberculosis, while reducing chances of accessing treatment – and doing things that can help build health, like eating well. Tackling TB therefore means not only ensuring transfers of medical knowledge and prioritising work on the medical aspects of TB, but also tackling broad socio-economic challenges, whether in  high-income, middle-income, or low-income countries. The difficulties are compounded by the emergence of multi-drug-resistant (MDR), extensively drug-resistant (XDR) and incurable tuberculosis, which are especially challenging to diagnose, as well as to treat or (in the case of incurable TB) to manage well.

The combination of issues facing people in poverty comes out clearly in an interview with one MDR TB patient who lives in a shack in a crowded township in South Africa, one of six middle-income countries which together account for 60% of global TB new incidences. She states:

I was expecting [to get TB] because … I was living with my grandma and my sister also who was having TB … I knew that one day I’ll have it … Now I’m getting the treatment. I feel fine in my body, but emotionally I can’t feel fine because there at clinic they said that you should eat this, you should eat that … and I can’t afford that, because I can’t work.”

A Lancet commission released to mark World Tuberculosis Day underlines the seriousness of MDR and XDR tuberculosis as global health risks – especially because MDR tuberculosis appears often to be transmitted (ie spread from person to person) rather than acquired as a result of failed treatment, as had been previously thought. The report stresses that to break the pattern of transmissions, the global community needs to

  • prioritise the development of new tools to diagnose and treat MDR and XDR tuberculosis. This involves increased funding: the article notes that “investment in tuberculosis research and development was US$674 million in 2014, which is a third of the $2 billion needed annually to eliminate tuberculosis, estimated by the Stop TB Partnership”
  • reduce the stigma associated with TB in order to increase people’s willingness to seek care
  • make access to fast, accurate diagnostic techniques available to all so that MDR tuberculosis can be detected early and treated before infectious patients spread it to others
  • offer all tuberculosis patients access to treatment protocols that are aligned with the latest science and appropriate for their particular case.
  • ensure that treatment is patient-centred, including not only medical treatment but counselling and treatment literacy, social and economic support and full respect of patients’ human rights, and
  • tackle the issues of poverty and overcrowding that provide an enabling environment for infection

“I’m feeling proud of myself now, because with this new treatment, it’s very good.”
“Even now I can … talk, I can do anything, everything in the house, and then I feel free.” 
Drug-resistant TB sufferers participating in a new trial

In a comment piece accompanying the Lancet Commission, other leading experts reflect on both the threats the article notes and some signs of encouragement – especially the appearance of a short oral treatment paradigm for both drug-sensitive and drug-resistant TB that seems to show high potential. They conclude:

“Ultimately, Dheda and colleagues are describing an epidemic that is at a crossroads. Every year, strains of drug-resistant tuberculosis will emerge that are more transmissible, more difficult to treat, and more widespread in the community. Yet we also have more tools at our disposal than ever before. And unlike for most other drug-resistant pathogens, we have evidence that, with a comprehensive response, drug-resistant tuberculosis epidemics can be rapidly reversed. Over the next decade, it is quite possible that we will see a drug-resistant tuberculosis epidemic of unprecedented global scale. But it is also possible that the next decade could witness an unprecedented reversal of the global drug-resistant tuberculosis burden. The difference between these two outcomes lies less with the pathogen and more with us as a global tuberculosis control community and whether we have the political will to prioritise a specific response to the disease. Drug-resistant tuberculosis is not standing still; neither can we.”

 

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Perry, from For the Love of Creation powerpoint.

 

Please pray:

  • for all people infected with or affected by tuberculosis. Pray that they will be healed medically and that they will be able to access the social and economic support they need to lead a good life.
  • in thanksgiving for work to develop new ways of diagnosing and treating TB, especially the breakthrough in genome sequencing announced this week
  • in thanksgiving for the efforts of family, carers and local health workers, often undertaken despite risks to their own safety. Pray for their safety and well-being
  • that both the global community and countries with high TB incidences will prioritise funding for diagnosing and treating TB
  • that better awareness of how the disease is contracted and treated, together with stronger community health systems, will help to end the stigma attached to TB and lead more people to seek early diagnosis and treatment
Further Reading:
If you want to read a little further on the issues: try a brief article by the lead author of the Lancet commission or the Reuters summary
If you want to go in depth: Lancet Podcast (7+ minutes) and Commission  (Listening to the podcast does not require free registration; the commission does) … or the WHO’s recent report on fighting TB in South-East Asia


Yemen Humanitarian Crisis

This Sunday the conflict in Yemen will enter its third year. It is hard to overstate its catastrophic nature for many of the country’s people. The direct casualties of conflict include more than 100 civilians killed last month and at least 4,773 killed and more than 8,700 (perhaps many more) injured over the course of the conflict. But the huge damage lies in the damage done to social and economic structures and hence to people’s ability to access work, food, shelter and healthcare. Millions of people are internally displaced; the economy has been shattered; health services are lacking; and health workers face obstruction (just this week MSF has decided to pull out of a hospital because of Houthi interference). Overall, the UN estimates that 21 million Yemenis, 82% of the country’s population, “are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.”

Of these, the World Food Programme estimates that about 7 million are severely food insecure – and it is the food crisis that is most worrying. The WFP has warned that two areas, which are home to about 25% of the country’s population, “risk slipping into famine.”  Focusing on the conflict’s youngest victims, Dr Meritxell Relaño, UNICEF Representative, stated: “We are seeing the highest levels of acute malnutrition in Yemen’s recent history. Of the 2.2 million children suffering from acute malnutrition, 462,000 are severely and acutely malnourished (SAM). To put things in perspective, a SAM child is ten times more at risk of death if not treated on time than a healthy child his or her age.”

The UN managed to reach 4.9 million people with food assistance in February, but because warring parties have restricted access and funding for the UN Yemen appeal is extremely low (according to Oxfam, the appeal is only 7% funded), they have not been able to do as much as they would like.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has called for:

  • all parties to the conflict, and those with influence, to work urgently towards a full ceasefire to bring this disastrous conflict to an end”
  • “[all parties] to facilitate rather than block the delivery of humanitarian assistance”
  • “an international, independent investigative body to look into the hundreds of reports of serious violations in Yemen” and an end to impunity for rights violations

Oxfam, which also works in Yemen, is:

  • “urging the United Nations Secretary General to pressure all parties to the conflict to resume peace talks, to reach a negotiated peace agreement and improve the economic situation in the country” and
  • “calling for all land, sea and air routes to Yemen to remain open and for attacks targeting military objects related to supply routes and infrastructure to not disproportionately affect civilians in accordance with International Humanitarian Law.”

It has also echoed the appeal for UN funding.

Please pray that:

  • civilians who are suffering from injury, hunger, ill health or displacement will be able to access what they need and will be given strength and a sense of peace amidst their difficulties
  • warring parties will lift barriers to humanitarian access so that essential aid can reach those who need it
  • the hearts of those who are making war will soften and be turned towards peace
  • all who are working for a ceasefire and, ultimately, a fair and just peace will be given wisdom, courage and stamina to keep going despite the difficulties
  • there will be an independent investigation of rights abuses
  • appeals will receive sufficient funding to enable the provision of adequate relief

 

Action Point: Could you donate to a charity that is assisting people in Yemen? These include CAFOD, Oxfam, Tearfund and the World Food Programme.


Sanctification and Unity

For meditation and prayer:

Jesus said: “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word… I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,  that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

John 17: 6, 15-26 (ESV-UK)