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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.’
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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.

Paris Agreement, International Migrants Day – 18 December 2015

This week:

  • The Paris Agreement
  • International Migrants Day – Welcome the Stranger

As we prepare for the coming of Christ, we encounter, in this week’s Revised Common Lectionary readings, the Virgin Mary’s magnificent hymn of praise to God, often called the Magnificat. Rejoicing in God’s faithfulness and abundant gifts, the song anticipates the overturning of the ways of the world. Can we take time this week to read it daily, rejoicing in the promises it offers and praying for the coming of the Kingdom?
____________________________________________________________________________

The Paris Agreement

“This is a small gavel, but I think it can do great things” said Laurent Fabius, the president of the Paris climate talks, as the conference formally adopted the Paris Agreement.

Was he right? Throughout this year, people have been asking us: “Is this climate conference going to be different from all the failures?” “Can we stay below 2 degrees?”  “And is there hope?”

Here are our thoughts, for reflection and prayer, on how the Paris Agreement relates to those questions. Read the top line to get the basics, the paragraphs underneath to get more detail, and the box at the end for prayer points.

Even without an agreement, Paris would have been different from previous climate talks.Two things stood out before the conference even started. Firstly, the climate action plans (INDCs) that countries had submitted, while not enough to hold temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius (best estimates are 2.7 to 3.7 degrees), are enough to bring us out of the disastrous “business as usual” trajectory down which we’ve been heading.  And secondly, Christiana Figueres and the Peruvian (COP 20) and French (COP 21) teams did an amazing job of bringing a wide range of groups into the UNFCCC process – not just the nation states that are ‘parties’ to it, but also businesses, civil society groups, financiers, faith groups, cities and regional governments. Many of these are moving faster towards a low-carbon world than nation states are. Their inclusion both reinforced the importance of these groups’ own efforts – the renewables initiatives launched were particularly notable – and also created an environment where action seemed possible.

And now we have the Paris Agreement – the first universal climate treaty, including some 195 countries. That really is a difference … and has wider significance. As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted, “every country in the world,” not just the developed countries, “has pledged to curb their emissions, strengthen resilience and act internationally and domestically to address climate change.” And while the document itself is far from perfect it has been agreed by all the parties in an unprecedented display of cooperation. Again, good process helped:  the French and the UNFCCC Secretariat did a brilliant job in their diplomacy. But to get an agreement, there had to be a general will for shared, multilateral action – a sense that blocs that have long held very different positions could work together and that at least some level of solidarity was possible. In an often fragmented world, the fact that countries had that sense and were prepared to act on it offers hope … and not just for the fight against climate change.

The Paris Agreement leaves the door open for us to stay well below 2 degrees – and indeed possibly at the 1.5 degree limit.  Since Copenhagen, countries have been saying that the goal is to hold warming below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels. Some scientists, however, feel that the pace of dangerous impacts increases well before we reach 2 degrees (cf this article) – and vulnerable states, such as the Pacific islands, have argued that for them a 1.5 degree goal is a matter of survival. The agreement sets a clear goal of keeping the global average temperature rise well below – not just below – 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels and “pursu[ing] efforts  to limit the  temperature  increase to 1.5 °C above  pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.”

The agreement signals a clear shift towards a low-carbon world. The temperature target is ambitious and can’t be met unless there’s a significant and relatively rapid shift in how we produce and use energy. While some are waiting to see what actions countries take, there’s a sense in many quarters that the agreement – combined with the announcements on funding for renewables made earlier during the talks – sends a clear signal that the future lies with clean energy, and that coal in particular has no future. That changes the narrative about what is ‘realistic’ and should trigger investment flows into low-carbon, rather than high-carbon technologies.

But  the agreement needs to be hugely strengthened over time to keep us well below 2 – let alone at 1.5 – degrees … and time is short. The concrete detail on how we achieve the temperature goals doesn’t match the goals’ ambition. The agreement mentions achieving global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions “as soon as possible” without giving a specific target. It talks about achieving a “balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases” in the second half of the century. And it talks about getting countries to up the ambition of their emissions targets on a regular basis, starting with a dialogue in 2018 and with regular stocktakes every five years from 2023 onwards. These all represent progress – but they’re not yet strong enough: Professor Myles Allen, for example, argues that to stabilise at 1.5 degrees, we would need emissions to peak now, and commitments to increase radically very soon.  That said, getting  the upward review mechanism was a triumph, and one that had looked unlikely not all that long ago. And its existence allows for stronger, faster action.

There’s more work to be done on climate finance, too. The agreement reaffirms the pledge from developed countries to mobilise $100 billion a year by 2020 to enable developing countries to adapt to climate impacts and to undertake clean development. It extends the commitment to provide $100 billion/yr until 2025 and sets that figure as a floor for climate finance to be undertaken by “the parties” (ie potentially not just developed countries) from 2025 onwards. It also invites those developing countries that are in a position to do so to contribute earlier to climate finance for those who are poorer.

That’s better than it might have been – but the language is pretty woolly, and it’s unclear how it will be implemented. Two big questions are (a) what counts as “climate finance,” which is very contentious, and (b) the impact of climate finance on other areas of aid. The key here feels as if it will be both convincing developed countries that climate finance is actually an area of opportunity – the more resilient the world becomes, the more everyone benefits – and ensuring that we don’t see climate finance pledges met by the kind of diversion of aid funds that leaves other priorities wanting. And yes, while those figures sound huge, they’re not really adequate to the task – can countries be convinced to mobilise more?

And while it was great to see ‘loss and damage’ enter the agreement, there needs to be some money behind it. The developing countries most vulnerable to climate impacts were glad to see a separate article for ‘loss and damage’ – which recognises that some vulnerable countries will suffer climate-related losses (irreparable impacts) and damages (reparable impacts) that go beyond anything to which they can adapt. It’s an important recognition of the reality of their situations. The agreement also invites cooperation to help them cope – but there’s not much concrete in the way of funding.

Overall, we’d call the agreement a framework for hope. As climate activist Bill McKibben said, “This didn’t save the planet but it may have saved the chance of saving the planet.” A universal agreement means that climate change is no longer some people’s issue – it’s everyone’s issue. There’s a clear acknowledgement that the time for discussing climate change as if it were hypothetical or uncertain to exist is over. And there’s a framework for action – the various goals give us something with which to hold governments, businesses and ourselves to account.

If countries implement what they’ve agreed to and take stronger, rapid action on emissions cuts and financial pledges; if the agreement inspires action for climate justice at every level – from the most local to the global …  then we can look to a very hopeful future.

We all are a vital part of helping to fulfil that hope. What we do now – in terms of our own lifestyle choices, our advocacy with government, our prayer and our continuing to work with other Christians and others around the globe – really matters. It will not only make a huge difference locally, but will also help our countries to take the steps they need to take. And each country’s steps make it easier for other countries to take their own steps. We can be part of building a virtuous cycle.

For those of us in the UK, that’s a particularly important role right now. One of the few sadnesses of the COP was realising the extent to which the UK was seen as having gone from being a leader on climate change to being a country that was backtracking on commitments. If that’s going to change, we need to be among those who are changing it. We have our calling to care for creation and for our neighbours; we have the Paris Agreement; we have each other; and we have hope in God, who created and loves the world. Change is possible.

Christian leadership mattered at Paris. Our prayer and action as Christians mattered at Paris. And both will continue to matter.

Both before and at the climate talks, Christian leadership helped to reframe the negotiations – to move them away from being simply about economic options, historic and future responsibilities and power dynamics towards a vision of a future in which care for creation and care for our neighbour is at the heart of our common action. The best-known contribution was the Pope’s Laudato Si’, the impact of which is well documented. But contributions from the Greek Orthodox patriarch, the Lausanne Movement, the Anglican Communion bishops, the Lutheran World Federation, the reformed churches, Methodists, Baptists, and the churches of France working ecumenically (just for a start) were also vital.

But it wasn’t just about leaders.

“To those who walked, to those who prayed … ” this is the opening of Christiana Figueres’ “Open Letter of Gratitude to All” who helped work for the Paris Agreement. Figueres was moved to tears when faith leaders, including church leaders, met with her after celebrating the climate pilgrimages to Paris and handed over faith group petitions, signed by almost 2 million people. The knowledge that people were praying clearly mattered to her – and to the talks.

As Christians, our prayer was a response to God’s loving outreach to humanity and encompassed both petition and an act of witness: by it we laid our concerns before our all-powerful and all-loving God, attested to our faith in God, spoke about God’s role in creation, and recognised God’s call to the churches to care for creation.

We were praying for an agreement that, as Pray4COP21 put it would “help the whole global community to put aside selfishness and to walk together in ways that bring peace, show love for neighbours near and far, and reconcile us all with the beautiful creation that God has given us to cherish.” The Paris Agreement is far from perfect, but it has the potential to offer that help. Now we pray that its potential may be realised.

Our prayers are taken from the final prayers of Pray4COP21. Please:

  • Give thanks for the precious gift of Creation and our neighbours with whom we share it:
  • Pray that this agreement will truly help us to care for our common home and for each other.
  • Give thanks for the skill and commitment of the UN and French teams who guided the COP21 conference, and for the sense of cooperation that made countries willing to work together
  • Pray for the next steps along the journey that goverrnments and others must take. Ask that God will guide them in fulfilling their commitments justly and in raising their ambition to meet the needs of the world.
  • Pray for the next steps along the journey that each of us must take, asking God to give us the grace to speak and live in ways that reflect God’s love and justice,
  • Pray that we can work together for God’s glory, the good of the earth and the good of all our neighbours.

From “A Christian prayer in union with creation”

Triune Lord, wondrous community of infinite love,
teach us to contemplate you
in the beauty of the universe,
for all things speak of you.
Awaken our praise and thankfulness
for every being that you have made.
Give us the grace to feel profoundly joined
to everything that is.

God of love, show us our place in this world
as channels of your love for all the creatures of this earth,
for not one of them is forgotten in your sight.
Enlighten those who possess power and money
that they may avoid the sin of indifference,
that they may love the common good, advance the weak,
and care for this world in which we live.

The poor and the earth are crying out.
O Lord, seize us with your power and light,
help us to protect all life,
to prepare for a better future,
for the coming of your Kingdom
Of justice, peace, love and beauty.

Praise be to you!

Amen.

Pope Francis, Laudato Si’, contributed to Pray4COP21 by the Global Catholic Climate Movement



International Migrants Day: Welcoming the Stranger

This past Friday, 18th December, was International Migrants Day. With so much attention being paid to migrant routes through the EU we may feel well acquainted with the issues. But refugees in Europe are only a small part of the global picture (and even the local one).

The majority of migrants are not refugees (those who have fled their home countries because of conflict or persecution) nor are they forced migrants (a broader category including both refugees and those forced to move due to extreme poverty, climate change or natural disasters). At the close of 2013 UN figures estimated that there were 235 million migrants globally. Most were economic migrants seeking employment. Many are simply pursuing work in countries with similar economies and opportunities to their own. But just over one third were moving from South to North, from regions with an average wage of $3,300 to nations where wages average just over ten times that figure. As inequality increases these numbers are increasing. Often their increased earnings go to fund family in their home countries. Figures from 2006 show that migrants sent home $300 billion (often in small amounts of $100 or so), almost three times the amount developed countries gave to developing nations in aid that year.

Forced migration is also increasing rapidly. It is well know that the violence in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan and North Africa has swelled the number of refugees to around 60 million, the highest figure on record. But the problem is not only the significant numbers of displaced people, but that people are remaining in poor temporary accommodation (including refugee camps) for long periods of time and their chances of returning home are becoming less likely. In Al Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan 80,000 Syrian refugees are living in temporary accommodation, some for up to 3 1/2 years. But it is Africa which has the greatest number of refugees and some of the longest displacements. Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya hosts 400,000 refugees (mostly Somali) and is 24 years old. Many residents of these camps are unable to move home or to move on to a more permanent living situation. Last year 126,800 refugees (globally) returned to their home country and 103,000 were permanently settled by the UN but 6.4 million were known to be living in long term (5 years or more) exile without a permanent solution.

It is clear that those who are currently displaced by conflict, persecution or climate change (a factor which is expected to force between 50 and 200 million from their homes by 2050) will continue to face challenges for many years as they are forced to find ways to live in host communities for long periods of time often without a permanent legal status, with inadequate accommodation, a lack of language skills, little money and poor employment prospects.

The significant and increasing numbers of migrants together with the relationship between migration and issues of trade, climate, conflict and human rights means migration will be a key global issue in the decades ahead. The Churches Commission for Migrants in Europe argues that migration should also be a central issue for the Church:
‘Thinking about migration is not a marginal theological undertaking but touches central points of every theological reflection: What is humankind? What does it mean to be obliged to this God of the Old and New Testament? How can our confused human history be reconciled with a divine plan? How are theology and ethics related? And what, after all, is the task of the church?’
In other words, a coherent and faithful Christian response to migrants begins with understanding our relationship to migrants in light of God’s creation and relationship to us. Any practical response we can offer should come out of this understanding.

Welcoming the Stranger

One strand of theological reflection around migration involves the idea of ‘welcoming the stranger.’

This is an ethical imperative we see throughout the Bible. In Leviticus 19:34, for example, we read that ‘the alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.’

The central part of this verse (together with others, see Exodus 22:21, Deuteronomy 10:19)reminds us that the migrants ‘strangeness’ is actually a point of similarity for the Israelites who were also once migrants. In the New Testament we also see a sense of God’s people as a migrant community. Christians are to know themselves to be strangers in the world, a people who live in the world but are not of it, whose citizenship is in heaven (Hebrews 12:23). This understanding of ourselves as displaced people might encourage us to empathise with, and find common ground with, migrants. But it might also encourage us to hold our goods and land more lightly, knowing ourselves to be temporary guardians rather than owners.

Leviticus also reminds us that we are not to treat aliens or migrants according to their label, instead we are to treat them as citizens, as one of us. As numbers of migrants increase there is a tendency to forget that the headline figures are made up of millions of individuals with rich and varied identities with often tragic stories of loss and hardship. As countries struggle to deal with forced migrants they may also rely on labels (‘illegal immigrants’) which dehumanise and seek to place a distance between ‘us’ and ‘them’. For Christians our theology might encourage us to forgo unhelpful labels and seek to treat migrants as citizens, one of our own, with a shared identity based  in our foundational belief that all are made in the image of God.

This verse in Leviticus also contains an implicit reminder that it was the Lord God who reached out to Israel and brought the people out of Egypt. In Christ we too know God’s movement towards us and our call to mirror that movement in seeking to be those who spread the good news, who reach out to others. As we seek to respond to migrants, it is right that we should step out in welcome and move towards those who are displaced, not wait for them to bring their needs to us.

This stepping out in welcome will not only be for the good of those we seek to serve. Responses to migration from the UN, development agencies and researchers have recently been seeking to emphasise the positive contributions forced migrant communities can make to their host countries (often with an economic focus). Pope Francis has also noted that migration is ‘a significant “sign of the times”, a challenge to be discovered and utilised in our work to renew humanity and proclaim the gospel of peace.’ As we seek to welcome the stranger we can also expect to reap rewards as we see God at work in restoring humanity.

Even if we accept the call to welcome the stranger, we might still ask what form this welcome should take. Whether a Christian response to migrants must entail open borders which allow free access for all. We hope to address these difficult issues soon, in the meantime you may wish to access the Bible Societies resource which looks at a number of ethical approaches to borders.

Please pray:

  • for the safety and well-being of who have migrated, for whatever reason.
  • that the church may witness to the dignity of all people by its welcome for all people
  • that we may recognise our identity as pilgrims and migrants in this world, holding all things lightly except our faith


Some theological reflections on migration include:

Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, Asylum Theology
Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, Mission Migrants and Refugees
Churches Commission for Migrants in Europe, Theological Reflections on Migration: A CCME Reader
Jubilee Centre, The Famine, the Foreigner and the Threshing Floor [A reading of the book of Ruth in terms of immigration]
Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, The Love of Christ Towards Migrants

Resources

Praying in Times of Extreme Weather

Praying in Times of Extreme Weather is a  gathering of prayer points and links to online prayer material for use before, during or after an extreme weather event. It includes materials that can be used by those directly affected and/or by those praying for them. Download it here.