Refugee Week, Grenfell Tower, Queen’s Speech, Refugee Prayer Points – 19 June 2017

In this week’s prayer email:

  • Refugee Week
  • Short Notes: Grenfell Tower, Queen’s Speech, Refugee Prayer Points

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Refugee Week

It’s very appropriate for the Sunday before Refugee Week that the Revised Common Lectionary‘s Old Testament reading is the story of Abraham’s hosting three mysterious strangers, whom Scripture tells us represent a visitation of God. The alacrity and generosity with with the patriarch welcomes his unknown visitors provides a model for ‘welcoming the stranger’. And the immeasurable gift that the visitors give Abraham may prompt us to reflect: is it perhaps also true in human encounters that those who welcome the stranger can find themselves receiving far more than they give?

To encourage churches to celebrate Refugee Week, we are launching a new series of resources for churches that wish to ‘welcome the stranger’ and celebrate both our different pasts and our shared future.

These resources were primarily prepared by Joanna Schüder, who started as CCOW’s Churches Refugee Networking Officer at the beginning of April. Joanna comes to CCOW with a degree in social work and a background of working with refugees both in the United Kingdom and in Germany. She has wide experience in a variety of church contexts and is currently a deacon at Didcot Baptist Church, with particular responsibility for pastoral care. We are delighted to welcome her – and grateful to all whose prayers and donations are making Joanna’s work possible.

Joanna has spent her initial time mapping out what is already available in terms of support and resources. We are now working to make this information accessible and to make connections: a new page on our website shows local groups in the Thames Valley who are working to support refugees, and you can sign up to be connected with those working on refugee support in our area. We’re also attaching to the prayer email the CCOW Guide to Worship Resources – Refugees and Forced Migration: we hope that this will be of use to you for your Refugee Week services next week and more generally.  Further materials – including a website section on refugees and migration, more general resource guides and case studies from the groups Joanna is visiting – will be available shortly.

Short Notes: Grenfell Tower, Queen’s Speech, Refugee Prayer Points

  • Grenfell TowerWith the rest of the country we pray for all who mourn, all who are injured or traumatised by what they have suffered or seen, and all who have lost their homes or are temporarily displaced. We give thanks for the extraordinary courage and commitment of the emergency services and hospital staff, for the work of people in the community supporting those affected by the fire, and for the generosity of all who have contributed time, goods and money to relieve people’s needs. We pray, too, for a national conversation that looks seriously, soberly and rigorously at the concerns about justice, inequality, and attitudes towards regulation which the fire has raised … and we pray that we may honour those who have suffered by our determination to learn lessons that will prevent such suffering in the future.If you are looking for written prayers, you might wish to use prayer points from people ministering in the area; the Moderators of the United Reformed Church’s General Assembly’s prayer; the prayer from the London District Chairs of the Methodist Church (scroll down); or Bishop David Thomson’s prayer.
  • Queen’s SpeechIt is anticipated that there will be a Queen’s Speech on Wednesday.Different members of Government’s thoughts on migration and Brexit have been the subject of much discussion. There were also several Conservative Manifesto statements on aid, trade and energy that have inspired debate, including an apparent willingness to consider unilaterally changing the rules on aid, some quite ambivalent language in statements on renewables, and a strong commitment to shale gas (fracking).Please pray for wisdom, discernment and a commitment to the common good for those who are tasked with drafting the speech and, more generally, Government policies.
  • Refugee Prayer Points
    There are so many different possibilities for specific prayers of intercession and thanksgiving related to refugees. We’ve noted just a few bullet points here ….

    • that Europe may make progress towards rules on ‘safe passage’ so that people will no longer be forced into hazardous voyages
    • for justice for those who have been detained in poor conditions on Papua New Guinea and Nauru – and for a fair and just asylum system in Australia
    • for those who are suffering abuse in detention centres in Libya – and for an end to the ‘outsourcing’ of borders to areas that are unsafe
    • for those who are being involuntarily repatriated to Afghanistan, despite the dangers they face
    • in thanksgiving for the gifts and resilience of refugees and asylum seekers
    • in thanksgiving for all those who are sponsoring refugees and coming alongside them with support of many different kinds
    • in thanksgiving for the work of Christians, Christian agencies and churches to assist refugees, offering a witness to God’s love and receiving the gifts that strangers bring
    • in thanksgiving for those countries, like Uganda, which are keeping open their borders for those fleeing conflict. Pray for the Refugee Solidarity Summit this week in Uganda – and more broadly that Uganda and other host countries will receive appropriate support from nations and agencies.
    • in thanksgiving for the opportunity to celebrate refugees’ gifts to the UK and other countries in Europe through Refugee Week and through specific initiatives like the Refugee Food Festival

UK Elections, Philippines, Sponsored Walk – 11 June 2017

In this week’s prayer email:

  • UK Elections
  • Philippines
  • CCOW Sponsored Walk


“And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” This phrase from the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel for the week has comforted Christians in danger throughout the centuries. As we read it this week, we thought of Christians being held hostage in Marawi City … those in the Central African Republic (again an area of concern) … and those in so many other places. For them, for all of us, may these words bring a renewal of faith and hope.
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UK Elections
Many church leaders and church-related bodies have made statements relating to this past week’s elections – and have offered prayer points. A selection of comments and prayer points is below – at the bottom you’ll find a prayer from the Church of Scotland and the Baptist, Methodist and United Reformed Churches which you may wish to use. You’ll also find some action points.

  • Archbishop of Canterbury

    Excerpt: “It is heartening to see voter turnout increase at this election and I offer my prayers and good wishes to all those elected to Parliament, to all who put themselves forward as candidates and to the countless many who make our democratic process work so well.

    I encourage all Christians, and people of all faiths and no faith, to hold our political leaders in their thoughts and prayers at this time. My prayer is that they may know the love and presence of God, made known through Jesus Christ, as they continue their discussions and prepare to take on the weighty responsibility of leadership.”

  • President and Vice-President of Methodist Conference

    Excerpt: “Today we are grateful that the people of the United Kingdom are able to debate and vote peacefully, and to elect our leaders democratically…

    We invite you to pray for those working to form a government and for all of our newly elected MPs, that they may represent constituents’ concerns and interests in the House of Commons with wisdom, compassion and dedication. We also ask you to remember all those who make the democratic process possible, from council officials to those who put themselves forward for election, often at great personal cost.

    A hung Parliament is a reminder that politics does not end with elections. As the Government is formed, at a time of uncertainty for our country, we call on all members of Parliament to act in ways that will build a society with the common good at its heart. We commit ourselves and ask the Methodist people to be active participants in our democracy, encouraging and challenging those who have been elected. We are called particularly to advocate for the needs of the most vulnerable in our society and world.

    Finally, we rejoice in God’s promise that the Kingdom of God is coming, and recognise that it is also ushered in today when we embrace principles of justice, mercy and peace; may we continue to do so.”

  • Baptist General Secretary

    Excerpt: “The General Election is over, though the reality that has emerged is one of uncertainty. This will no doubt have an unsettling effect on our national life, and perhaps more than ever, as God’s people, we can draw strength from the words of the Psalmist:

    Nations are in an uproar . . .  kingdoms totter;
    The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge
    . . . . . Be still and know that I am God!         [from Psalm 46]

    Let us pray in the days ahead for everyone involved in the various discussions and negotiations that will seek to form a Government. Our vision of the Kingdom of God has much to say about the political issues of our day, but it also points us to higher realities that transcend earthly politics. Our calling to be beacons of hope has particular significance at this time ….

    Whoever eventually forms our Government will face a significant and demanding task, and irrespective of our political allegiances, will need our prayers as they seek to lead our nations forward.

    Our calling as a Gospel people is to proclaim those messages of justice and righteousness that are central to the Kingdom of God … much will depend not only on the perspectives and actions of the Government that is formed but how we, as Christians along with other citizens, engage in the life of our communities and nation as things go forward.

    Uncertainty may well prevail in the earthly realm, but we can draw strength and encourage others to do the same, by recognising the eternal and unassailable realities of our faith. As we gather for worship in the coming days, I encourage Baptist congregations to pray for our United Kingdom and all who hold responsibility and office in public life. But as we do so, let us also not become so pre-occupied with our own situation, that we lose sight of the needs and challenges of the wider world.”

  • Evangelical Alliance

    Excerpt: “We are praying for all those elected to serve in the House of Commons following the general election, for those who are not returning to parliament, and for those who have campaigned in the election – not just candidates but volunteers and supporters …

    Across the UK the election has produced shocks…The shocks make the future precarious, but times of crisis can also be times of opportunity, and for Christians such times are always times of responsibility. The uncertainty that the general election has brought shows us that we have four key responsibilities at this time.

    The first is to pray for peace and unity in our society. The second is for the Church to witness peace and unity to our society, sharing our faith in Jesus as the hope of the nations. The third is to cast a vision for what kind of society we would like to see – a common good in which love, truth, freedom and justice can flourish. And the fourth is for Christians to step up to the plate and get more involved in leading change in our society, because opting out is not an option.”

Post-Election Prayer from the Church of Scotland and Baptist, Methodist and United Reformed Churches

Lord of all,
Amid the uncertainty of these results
We thank you for the democracy we have in this country.
We ask that you grant all those who have been elected the wisdom and compassion needed to govern.
May this become a society in which all people are enabled to flourish and live life in all its fullness.
Help us to play our part in building that society,
By holding those elected to account and by working with them towards the common good.
And Lord, today as always we pray for justice;
Justice in the here and now and justice in our shared future-
Oceans of justice.
Amen

Action Point: In addition to praying for your MP, can you set up a meeting with him/her  to discuss key issues? From the 1st to the 9th of July, the Climate Coalition is organising a Week of Action, where people are encouraged to speak to their MPs about climate change. There are resources here. Hope for the Future has also prepared a guide to building a relationship with your MP on climate change. We think it’s the best thing we’ve seen in some time – and we have some copies to give away. If you’d like one, get in touch.

Philippines

In Marawi City, on the island of Mindanao,  battle continues between the government of the Philippines and an apparent coalition of militant groups, dominated by the Abu Sayyaf and Maute groups, that has affiliated with the Islamic State.  Several hundred group members attacked Marawi City on the 23rd of May; they remain in control of a small portion of the city after more than two weeks of fighting.  Official figures suggest that the violence has claimed the lives of over 200 people, including government forces, militants, and civilians. The militants are also continuing to hold a Catholic priest and other hostages, whom they are alleged to be using as human shields.

According to the government of the Philippines, mobile phone footage shows the militants’ aim was to separate the area from the Philippines and to run it as an Islamic state. In the process of taking the area, the militants have targeted Christian civilians and their properties, taking hostages and circulating videos that show the destruction of the Catholic cathedral. They also have committed violence against Muslims who opposed their extremist teaching. The President has responded by invoking martial law over the totality of Mindanao; the army is fighting to retake the city, using both ground troops and bombings from the air.

Areas for prayer include:

  • Immediate humanitarian and reconstruction needs
  • Countering hatred
  • The need for peace and development in the region
  • The President’s – and wider government’s – response

Immediate humanitarian needs

Most people have now escaped from or been rescued from the city. The latest UNOCHA report estimates that some 290,000 people have been displaced by the conflict. Most are staying with host families, but over 39,000 are in evacuation centres.

According to an ACT Alliance briefing, initial data gathered by Christian Aid partner Ecosystems Work for Essential Benefits shows that “at least 65% of the internally displaced persons are women and children,” as many men have stayed to guard properties or have gone to other locations to find jobs or funds. An assessment of needs in some evacuation centres suggested more food was needed, as well as pointing to an urgent need for mosquito nets, sleeping mats, cooking utensils and water and sanitary facilities. The assessment also pointed to a need for spaces that meet the cultural needs of the displaced population – and expressed concern that young and elderly people were at particular risk of illness.

Please pray:

  • for the safety and well-being of those who remain trapped in the city
  • for wisdom and courage for those who are trying to help them
  • in thanksgiving for the rescue/escape of those who have been able to leave
  • in thanksgiving for the hospitality of families and the work of local government, agencies and individuals to support people who have been displaced
  • that all displaced people will be able to access the food, housing, medical treatment, and water and sanitary facilities that they need
  • for people whose sense of displacement is exacerbated by conditions which are very different to those from which they are accustomed.
  • for all who are working to provide humanitarian relief. Pray especially for the work of Christians and Christian institutions working in such a sensitive situation. Ask that God will grant leaders and workers wisdom and discernment as they seek to assist all who come to them.

Countering hatred

While there are (see below) longstanding interreligious tensions in Mindanao, there is also a long history of interreligious cooperation. Indeed one of the clearest calls for justice for the Moro Muslims was written by the current Catholic Archbishop of Cotabato, Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, and the Catholic Bishop Prelate for Marawi recently commented that local Muslims had never supported extremists because “they knew exactly what the consequences would be to the culture of people, to the way of life. The people of Marawi have always been very peaceful.”

The growth of groups that have pledged loyalty to the Islamic State is, however, worrying, as is the increased presence of non-Filipino jihadis among those involved in the fighting. There are strong concerns that the number of foreigners wishing to fight in the Philippines will increase, and that the militants will radicalise disaffected young people. There are also concerns that videos – such as the one showing the cathedral’s destruction and others that show the impact of government bombs on Muslim civilians – will be used to foment hatred among all groups. The Armed Forces of the Philippines have requested that people not circulate the videos on social media.

Within this context, religious and political leaders are working to counter messages of hate. Filipino Muslim leaders have condemned the destruction of the Catholic cathedral, noting: “Let it be known to all that Islam commands all Muslims even in war time to protect places of worship … what this terrorist group has done is un-Islamic and a blatant disrespect and disregard of the teachings of Islam.”  Similarly the political leaders of the Moro National Liberation Front and Moro Islamic Liberation Front have called on the militants to release the hostages that they are holding.

There are also many reported instances of continuing neighbourly collaboration among those of different faiths. One local Muslim leader, for example, hid over seventy Christians in his basement before leading them in an escape from the city.

The Interreligious Solidarity for Peace and the Zamboanga Peace and Security Forum commented: “While these events have manifested the worst of the self-styled oppressors and threat groups that have hostaged the residents of Marawi, they have brought out the courage and peace-loving character of our people … Muslims protecting Christians in ways that show that we are One Mindanao….”

Please pray:

  • In thanksgiving for Muslims and Christians who are seeking to build bridges through public statements condemning the harm done to their neighbours
  • In thanksgiving for people who have taken enormous risks to protect their neighbours. Pray for their safety and well-being.
  • That those who seek to advance an agenda of violence by fomenting hatred and radicalising young people will not succeed. Pray, too, that their own hearts may be turned from violence and hatred.

The need for peace and development in the region

To counter hatred, however, work also needs to be done on some of the region’s major issues.

The battle around Marawi doesn’t occur in a vacuum: Mindanao has been an area of conflict for centuries, with Muslims in the island’s western area resisting Spanish colonisers from the 16th century onwards. A 2005 World Bank paper referred to it as the ‘second-oldest conflict on earth’.

Following colonisation by the US, attempts by the US and subsequently the government of the Philippines to control the area by resettling Christians from other parts of the Philippines reduced the landholdings of the Moro Muslims to 17% of the territory they had once possessed and encouraged a complex of ethnically, religiously, and economically based tensions. These were exacerbated by the central government’s encouragement of mining and logging in Mindanao for export purposes, and by human rights abuses. From the late 1960s onwards, there have been a series of armed struggles, the first of which was sparked by the killing of a number of Muslim military trainees. Over the decades, the various conflicts have led to over one hundred thousand deaths (estimates range widely), millions of people displaced, and immense damage to people’s lives and livelihoods.

The Government has committed to rebuilding Marawi after its capture, and stated that it “will do everything to ensure normalcy and to deliver services to support the people’s aspirations for a comfortable life.” It’s not just, though, a question of rebuilding what the insurgents have destroyed. There is widespread recognition that for lasting peace to occur, greater self-determination and efforts to redress the socio-economic injustices that have plagued Mindanao will be needed. The peace process, which has faltered under President Rodrigo Duterte, needs to be restarted and the framework for a self-governing region agreed in 2012 implemented. There needs to be greater justice in the use of natural resources. And greater priority needs to be given to the region’s development. The development needs are serious: in the Philippines overall, the poverty incidence in 2015 was 21.6%; in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao [ARMM] , the rates were recently estimated as being about 48.2%. In Lanao del Sur, the ARMM province of which Marawi City is the capital, the poverty incidence is 74.3%.

Christian Monsod, a Filipino lawyer who helped frame the 1987 constitution notes: “The youth is restless and being seduced by the thought of the caliphate … the solution is not martial law but to speed up the peace process and to go into projects that would show the Muslim youth there is a better way to improve their lives.”

Please pray:

  • for reconciliation and peacebuilding that recognises past injustices and works to reconcile – and provide justice for – all communities in Mindanao
  • for justice in the use of natural resources in Mindanao and throughout the Philippines, especially with regard to the rights of minorities and indigenous people
  • for transparent and effective work to rebuild Marawi and to relieve the poverty that afflicts so many people in the region
  • for the work and witness of Christians as they seek to demonstrate God’s reconciling love in the region

The President’s – and wider government’s – response

President Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao has caused great anxiety given the current President’s human rights record and the way in which martial law was used by Ferdinand Marcos to establish a dictatorship. Concerns were exacerbated when the President said that “To those who have experienced martial law, it would not be any different from what President Marcos did … I’ll be harsh.”

The Catholic Bishops of Mindanao have issued a letter in response to requests for pastoral guidance. Calling on all people to work for peace, they note many questions surrounding martial law, state that it must be temporary, promise to be vigilant, and “exhort everyone to be calm in the face of Martial Law, to be obedient to the just commands of lawful authority, and not to provoke violent reaction.” They also “urge the government to remove the causes of terrorism, such as poverty and injustice, through just and accountable governance focused solely on the common good.”

To prevent abuses like Marcos’, the 1987 Constitution provides mechanisms for the other branches of government to overturn the executive’s declaration of martial law: “Congress (the Senate and House combined), voting jointly, on a majority vote, may revoke such proclamation; and
 The Supreme Court, upon a suit of any citizen questioning the sufficiency of the basis of martial law, must promulgate its decision on such suit 30 days after filing.
”

At least three Catholic bishops have joined a petition “asking the Supreme Court to compel Congress to hold a joint session and review” the imposition of martial law on the whole of Mindanao. They state that they are doing this not because they are wholly opposed to martial law, but to determine whether it’s necessary for the whole island and to provide checks and balances to the executive branch. This is one of several petitions; the President has said that he will abide by the Supreme Court’s decisions.

Many commentators have expressed the concern that President Duterte’s instincts may tend more towards the use of military power than ‘soft’ power through peacemaking, arguing that while the former is necessary to restore order, the latter is important to create a climate for peace.

Please pray:

  • for wisdom for President Duterte as he decides on responses to the situation in Mindanao
  • that martial law may be used only within legal boundaries
  • for those who will monitor the human rights situation under martial law and those who are working to ensure that constitutional processes are followed
  • for wisdom for the Supreme Court

CCOW Sponsored Walk 

On the 22nd of July, CCOW will be holding our annual sponsored walk. It’s always a very convivial event, with an excellent walk (arranged by Colin Cockshaw), good company, and a pleasant pub lunch along the way. This time Colin’s arranged a route in the Henley area; the start and finish will be accessible both by car and by train.

If you’d like to join in, you can sign up on Eventbrite. We’d love to have your company. And if you can’t make the event but would like to donate to CCOW, please feel free to do that!

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

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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.
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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.

French Elections – 23 April 2017

In this week’s prayer email:

  • French Elections – A French Christian Perspective

The Easter readings speak of the great joy of those around Christ at His resurrection, as they begin to understand what has happened. This week’s  Revised Common Lectionary readings show the next stages – the disciples continue to deepen their own understanding and begin to communicate the Good News with the wider world. Pray that we ‘who have not seen and yet have come to believe’ may deepen our faith in these Eastertide weeks – and may share that faith with others.

French Elections – A French Christian Perspective

The first round of the French elections takes place this Sunday. Five major candidates are  running: the two who receive the most votes will go through to a second round of polling on the 7th of May.

Over the past year, many countries have seen campaigns and votes that broke with convention. The French election fits within this trend. The two major parties, which have governed the country since the establishment of the Fifth Republic in 1958, have lost voting share and may not be represented in May; candidates who have created new parties and movements are surging; and the polls show the top four candidates – François Fillon of Les Républicains (centre-right) , Marine Le Pen of the Front National (far right), Emanuel Macron running for his own party En Marche (centrist) and Jean Luc Mélenchon running for his own movement La France Insoumise (far left) – so closely grouped that it is impossible to predict who will go forward to the final round.

The election involves many specific policy issues (FT summary; Le Monde summary; Le Figaro summary) candidates differ on taxation and government spending, regulations on business and employment, the role of trade and globalisation, the nature of the public sector, immigration policy, approaches to national security, and social questions such as healthcare, housing policy, the role of religion and religious symbols, the nature of the family, and the structure and nature of the educational system. Underlying these – and often debated in themselves – are fundamental questions about national identity: should France be part of the European Union? Or not?  Who is ‘French’? Who is not?  What is the role of the past? What is the role of the state?

While the churches have refrained from endorsing any particular candidacy, they have been calling on their members to engage with the underlying issues, to vote – and to make their voting choices in a way that is consonant with their beliefs. Statements and study documents issued by the [Catholic] Bishops Conference of France (see below), French Protestant Federation (statement), and the National Council of Evangelicals in France (English summary; French study document) have highlighted what each group thinks are the main issues in question.

We are hugely grateful to the Roman Catholic deacon Jean-Claude Chipiloff, from the parish of Nuits-Saint-Georges in the Diocese of Dijon, who has shared the reflection below with us, to help inform our prayers:

In the Autumn of 2016, the Standing Committee of the [Catholic] Bishops Conference of France published a booklet called ‘Rediscovering the meaning of politics in a changing world’.

Chapter 7 of this document is called ‘The question of meaning’. Here is an extract:

‘Over the past fifty years or so, the question of meaning has, little by little, been abandoned in political discourse. Politics has become ‘managerial’, more the supplier and protector of ever expanding individual and personal rights than of collective projects. Management-type speeches have accompanied the advancement, growth and development of our country – but without concerning themselves with the ‘why’. Economic wealth and the consumer society have facilitated this marginalisation of the question of meaning.’

In a climate where politics is greatly discredited, twenty or so Catholic movements published on 13th April an opinion piece calling believers to ‘make their vote consistent with their convictions’ before the first round of presidential elections.

With less than a week to go before the first round of voting, I am very concerned about the way the campaign for this 2017 presidential election campaign is developing:

  • Two of the main candidates are the subject of judicial proceedings
  • The candidates of the two political parties which have governed France since 1958 are not certain of making it through to the second round of voting
  • Nationalist populism (far right) and the far left are appealing to a significant number of voters
  • The theme of leaving the European Union is catching on. But the European Union has been a factor contributing to peace and the economic development of Europe since 1945.
  • Abstention is appealing to an important number of voters
  • Key themes have been forgotten, such as :
    • The fight against unemployment
    • Fraternité and solidarity
    • Care for the marginalised
    • Welcome for refugees
    • International solidarity

I have the impression that a certain number of my compatriots are withdrawing fearfully into their own shells. I feel that this is due to the lack of a long-term programme on the part of the different candidates. The president of the Republic is elected for five years. None of the candidates is promoting a plan for beyond five years. Politics has become a profession; it’s no longer seen as public service. As those who have recently served terms as presidents of the Republic have failed to restore hope to the French, more and more voters are turning to candidates who have never been elected to office. You’d need to be very clever to say who the two candidates in contention for the second round of voting will be …

I feel rather sad when I see what has happened to political life in France. But nonetheless, I continue to hope, as my country has considerable resources. It has always found a way to recover … and it will do so again.

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, 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.

We are very grateful to Canon Tony Dickinson, European Contact for the Diocese of Oxford, for putting us in touch with Jean-Claude Chipiloff and others, and for assisting us in finding Christian materials relating to the election.

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)

US Environmental Deregulation, Brexit, Transparency, South Korea: 12 March 2017

In this week’s email:

  • US Environmental Deregulation
  • Short Notes: Brexit, Good News in Transparency, Humanitarian Crisis, South Korea

Many people feel simply overwhelmed by what’s going on around the world. It’s easy to understand why. But the Gospel in this week’s Revised Common Lectionary readings reminds us of the amazing truth that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” God’s plan involves the salvation of the kosmos – the whole of creation. We can take comfort from that – and ask for the grace to participate in God’s marvelous work.

Photo Credit: Riverkeeper, photographed by Patsy Wooters. Retrieved from Flickr and used under Creative Commons License. The Riverkeeper Movement helps to protect the United States’ waterways from pollution and environmental degradation – Riverkeeper supporters are also at the forefront of campaigning for environmental protection.
US Environmental Deregulation

During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump pledged to sweep away a slew of environmental regulations and policy, including ‘cancelling’ the Paris climate agreement – causing deep concern amongst climate scientists and environmentalists.

Since he took office more than 90 regulations – including environmental regulations – have been delayed, suspended or reversed by federal agencies and Congress in what the New York Times describes as “one of the most significant shifts in regulatory policy in recent decades”. Changes to regulations are normal when administrations change (especially if there is also a change in party), but the scale of the change is not. Curtis C Copeland, a specialist in regulatory policy, has said, “By any empirical measure, it is a level of activity that has never been seen. It is unprecedented.”

Some of the measures that have been revoked so far by congressional resolution and presidential signature included the Stream Protection Rule, which restricted coal companies from dumping mining waste into streams and waterways, and the Securities and Exchange Commission’s rule implementing a requirement that companies listed in the US publish what they pay to US and foreign governments for extracting oil, gas and minerals. The latter was designed to help people hold their governments accountable for revenues from extractive industries..

The Department of the Interior said on 22nd February that it would suspend enforcement of new standards on how fossil fuel companies pay royalties for oil, gas or coal extracted from federal lands – a measure that had been expected to yield up to $85 million annually. The reversal came just five days after a request from lawyers representing the National Mining Association, the American Petroleum Institute and other fossil fuel trade groups.

Scott Pruitt, the newly appointed director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), acceded on 24 February to requests from the mining industry for a 120 day extension to the comment period on a proposed new rule that would mandate that companies set aside money for future possible cleanups of their mines. The EPA has also withdrawn its request that the oil and gas industry submit data, including data on methane emissions, that would have helped to develop controls on methane and other greenhouse gases.

President Trump has signed an executive order that will begin the lengthy process of replacing the previous administration’s Clean Water Rule (also known as the Waters of the US Rule) – an as-yet unimplemented rule meant to clarify which streams and wetlands fall under federal clean water protections, but which concerned people who felt it expanded the EPA’s powers and could leave farmers and ranchers, among others, open to prosecution. The President is also to issue an order next week ending a moratorium on leasing federal lands for coal production and directing the EPA to “revise or rescind”  President Obama’s Clean Power Plan (explainer), which aims to reduce carbon dioxide levels from existing power plants by 32% relative to 2005 levels, and which was one of the lynchpins of the US’ Paris commitments. In both these, he has the support of Scott Pruitt. Mr Pruitt, who this week caused a furore by stating that he “would not agree that [human activity] is a primary contributor to the global warming that we see … we don’t know that yet … we need to continue the debate..,” recently cited both the Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the United States rule as being ripe for dismantling.

What else is potentially on the horizon? Following widespread appeals from the automotive industry, announcements are thought to be imminent that the Trump administration will reopen a review of federal regulations on vehicle pollution, which President Obama’s administration had moved forward at speed after the presidential elections. The regulations would “lock in” standards agreed with the auto industry in 2011, which would require car manufacturers to increase the fuel efficiency of their fleet to an average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 (from the current average of 36 miles per gallon) – effectively pushing manufacturers to develop electric vehicles in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Perhaps even more significantly, there are indications that the White House is preparing to attack the ‘California waiver’ which allows the state to set higher standards – which are then also widely used by other states.

In addition, budget cuts proposed by the Office of Management and Budget would, if adopted, affect the EPA, other government agencies’ environmental research, and US contributions to international climate finance. There are reports (here and here) that the White House has made initial proposals which reduce EPA funding by 24%. Heavy cuts to scientific research in other agencies are also evident: for example, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would face reductions to its research arm totaling $126 million (26 per cent of its current budget), and NOAA’s satellite division, which helps inform weather forecasts and track climate change, would face a proposed $513 million drop, or a 22 per cent budget cut. Equally serious are the proposed cuts to development assistance. The initial proposals from the Office of Management and Budget would reportedly reduce economic and development assistance by 61% and, the Washington Post states, “eliminate all funding for the Green Climate Fund and bilateral climate change funding.”

In some cases what is proposed may not become reality, may be delayed, or may have less impact than would at first appear. Unravelling the Clean Water Rule will be a long and complex process, open to contest. Undoing the SEC’s rule for implementing the Cardin-Lugar provisions on transparency affects US-registered companies for the moment and sends a terrible message about the US government’s unwillingness to fight corruption, but it doesn’t invalidate the law behind the Rule – and the reality is, as this week’s decisions by the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative showed, that so many countries are now taking action in this area that the US can’t, by itself, wholly undo progress. Other areas are liable to be fought: Several of the proposed budget cuts are already seeing opposition from the agencies themselves, who will feed back to the president before the White House’s final budget request is made, from retired military leaders, and from congressional leaders who will be responsible for actually shaping the budget resolutions and appropriations bills that determine final spending. Some concerned Republicans have already shown a willingness to vote for environmental regulation. And California has been clear that it would fight attempts to interfere with its vehicle emissions standards.

But some actions have an immediate environmental impact and many proposals, even if not wholly or quickly implemented, have the potential seriously to affect the US’s ability to meet its Paris commitments on emissions and climate finance. Changes that interfere with Paris commitments present problems at several levels, including the impact on the physical environment that comes from one of the world’s biggest per capita polluters not reducing its emissions and the impact on the global political climate of the US’s refusing to take action on its own or to help others. There is also reason for considerable concern for the impact on standards in other countries. The US’ new trade policy clearly states that it will seek to attack regulations by trading partners that it regards as “unjustifiable, or unreasonable or discriminatory, and [that] burdens or restricts United States commerce.” In a context where the US government seems to regard a great deal of environmental legislation as burdensome, it is to be anticipated that it will, in trade negotiations and in managing trade disputes, seek to represent other countries’ attempts to legislate as burdensome … and to undermine them.

 

How, then, can we pray? We can start by praying:

  • That all people may begin to understand the seriousness of damage caused to our common home
  • That this understanding may create a political atmosphere in which politicians can no longer expect to receive approval for activities that enable such damage to proceed
  • For agency staff as they work through the rollbacks and proposed budget cuts – that they would have wisdom as they scrutinise the proposals, and be guided to respond in ways that further the common good
  • For legislators as they work through resolutions – that they too would be given wisdom and courage in their scrutiny and in their responses.
  • For scientists, public interest groups and others as they analyse, publicise and seek to minimise the harm the proposals could cause – that they would have the resource, energy and communication skills they need.
  • For all who are fighting for the good of the planet within the administration  – that they would be empowered to speak and their voices heard, even in the face of powerful opposing interest groups.
  • For a change of heart for President Trump and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt – that they would truly understand the reality and dangers of climate change and would be convinced and convicted of the need to act.
  • That, whatever the US decides to do about its Paris commitments and participation in the Paris Agreement, other nations will hold firm in doing what they need to do for the common good
Action Point: Could you join with the group that is praying for care of creation each of the first 100 days of the new administration?


Short Notes: Brexit, Good News in Transparency, Humanitarian Crisis, South Korea

Brexit

UK media outlets are reporting that following the return of the Brexit bill from the House of Lords with two amendments, Prime Minister Theresa May will seek to have an unamended bill passed by both houses; Brexit Minister David Davis has written that he will “will ask MPs to send it [the bill] back[to Lords] in its original, straightforward form.” The media suggest that if the bill is passed by both houses on Monday, the Prime Minister could trigger Article 50 very shortly thereafter.

Please pray for all parliamentarians and civil servants involved in these processes, asking God to grant them wisdom to discern and courage to act for the common good.

Pray that whatever happens around Brexit in the next few days, we as a nation can proceed in a way that shows integrity: refusing to misrepresent facts or other people’s opinions, maintaining a concern for the good of all UK residents, and offering a commitment to good governance, justice and equity in our relations with all nations.
Transparency

Good news! Please give thanks for the recent decision by the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative’s (EITI) International Board to require extractive industry companies to publish their payments to governments via ‘project-level reporting’. The requirement will be implemented for reports for fiscal years ending on or after 31 December 2018.

As the transparency-focused organisation Global Witness noted, this “means that citizens in 51 countries, from Nigeria to Colombia to Myanmar, will have access to much more detailed information about vital oil and mining revenues.”

EITI had actually introduced a reporting requirement in 2013, with the aim of ensuring that communities in resource-rich areas would be able to hold officials to account for the money paid in return for access to their resources. Project level reporting is important, because without it, it’s hard for communities to trace what has been paid to whom with respect to particular assets. Oil companies that participate in EITI agreed to such reporting with the proviso that there be consistency between EITI’s reporting requirements and the requirements for project-level reporting under EU and US transparency rules. But the American Petroleum Institute (whose members include some of the same oil companies) then proceeded to sue the SEC to prevent implementation of the US rule – and oil companies argued that the EITI requirements couldn’t be implemented until the US rule went into effect.

The SEC eventually issued and implemented a rule in 2016, which was met with considerable approbation as a victory for transparency. But the rule was revoked by Congress a few weeks ago. At that point the question became, as transparency expert Daniel Kaufmann put it, whether the response of other parties involved in regulating the extractive industries would be one of “contagion or containment.” The EITI board decided on containment, refusing to be cowed by the revocation of the SEC rule and calling on “each country [to] devise and apply a definition of the term project that is consistent with relevant national laws and systems as well as international norms,” such as the rules adopted, for example, by the EU and Canada.

Give thanks for this victory for transparency. Pray that countries will implement it well, and that it will contribute to the fight against corruption and kleptocracy around the world.

 

Humanitarian Crisis

The UN Under Secretary-General for humanitarian affairs, Stephen O’Brien, reported to the Security Council on Friday. We reprint below the close of his speech:

“We stand at a critical point in history. Already at the beginning of the year we are facing the
largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the United Nations. Now, more than 20 million
people across four countries [Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan, Northeastern Nigeria] face starvation and famine. Without collective and coordinated global efforts, people will simply starve to death. Many more will suffer and die from disease. Children stunted and out of school. Livelihoods, futures and hope will be lost. Communities’ resilience rapidly wilting away. Development gains reversed. Many will be displaced and will continue to move in search for survival, creating ever more instability across entire regions. The warning call and appeal for action by the Secretary-General can thus not be understated. It was right to take the risk and sound the alarm early, not wait for the pictures of emaciated dying children or the world’s TV screens to mobilise a reaction and the funds.

The UN and humanitarian partners are responding. We have strategic, coordinated and prioritised plans in every country. We have the right leadership and heroic, dedicated teams on
the ground. We are working hand-in-hand with development partners to marry the immediate
life-saving with longer term sustainable development. We are ready to scale up. This is frankly
not the time to ask for more detail or use that postponing phrase, what would you prioritize?
Every life on the edge of famine and death is equally worth saving.

Now we need the international community and this Council to act:

First and foremost, act quickly to tackle the precipitating factors of famine. Preserving and
restoring normal access to food and ensuring all parties’ compliance with international
humanitarian law are key.

Second, with sufficient and timely financial support, humanitarians can still help to prevent the worst-case scenario. To do this, humanitarians require safe, full and unimpeded access to people in need. Parties to the conflict must respect this fundamental tenet of IHL (international humanitarian law) and those with influence over the parties must exert that influence now.

Third, stop the fighting. To continue on the path of war and military conquest is –I think we all know –to guarantee failure, humiliation and moral turpitude, and will bear the responsibility  for the millions who face hunger and deprivation on an incalculable scale because of it.

Allow me to very briefly sum up. The situation for people in each country is dire and without a
major international response, the situation will get worse. All four countries have one thing in
common: conflict. This means we –you –have the possibility to prevent –and end –further
misery and suffering. The UN and its partners are ready to scale up. But we need the access and the funds to do more. It is all preventable. It is possible to avert this crisis, to avert these famines, to avert these looming human catastrophes.”

Please pray:

  • for all who are hungry and especially all who know the pain of not being able to feed those dependent on them
  • that those individuals and groups who are creating conflict in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and North-Eastern Nigeria will turn from war to peace. Pray for an end to Boko Haram and Al Shabaab’s activities not only in the countries most affected, but also in neighbouring countries in the Lake Chad basin and Kenya.
  • for wisdom, courage and strength for the people who are working against the odds to bring stability, justice, transparency and peace to their countries. Pray especially for the work of reconciliation being undertaken by the churches in South Sudan.
  • that the international community will meet the funding shortfalls for humanitarian assistance (thus far, according to Mr O’Brien, only 6% of funding needed for Yemen in 2017 has been received, and only roughly 1/3 of what is needed in the Lake Chad region has even been pledged)
  • for an end to Saudi use of cluster bombs in Yemen – and an end to their delaying shipments of humanitarian assistance. Pray too that the UK Government, whose Ministry of Defence has noted more than 250 allegations of international humanitarian law violations in the Saudi campaign and whose head of the Government’s Export Control Organisation recommended suspending sales, will review its decision to sell arms to Saudi Arabia.

Action Point: Could you donate to appeals (CAFOD, Christian Aid, Tearfund) to assist partners working on these humanitarian crises?

South Korea

Please pray for the people of South Korea as they deal with political uncertainty in their country.

The South Korean constitutional court last week upheld the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye, who has now left office and who faces potential trial for her role in alleged corruption.

The orderly working of the country’s political system is indicative of the democracy’s strength, but there remains considerable uncertainty about who will win elections (which must be held within 60 days) and how they will handle issues relating to the tense regional situation, including relationships with North Korea (which has been carrying out strategic missile tests), US installation of an anti-missile defense, and China’s concerns about the installation.

The President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea called on South Koreans to “build a stable country through harmony and through this … to overcome the confrontation and tension among Koreans.”

Please pray for wisdom and discernment for the South Korean electorate and politicians in the coming weeks.