St Andrew's

Psalter Lane

Church

Peace and Justice

Peace and Justice

 

 

Justice and Peace News

for St Andrews Psalter Lane

January 2024

 

With so much happening in the field of justice and peace, it seems an important time to provide dedicated information on a regular basis, rather than weekly in the notices or quarterly as in Nexus. We are, after all, called to be a justice seeking church. So here are some current items, some of which will include links to further information.

Please let me know if you want me to include anything.

 

Being a Church of Sanctuary

Several members have asked for some ideas of how to follow up their house group study about becoming a Church of Sanctuary.

There has been a massive increase in homelessness among refugees who have recently been granted leave to remain. This was raised at the web based meeting on refugees late last year, after the government reduced from 4 to 1 week the grace period before eviction following the grant of refugee status.

In a recent article in The Big Issue, Blessan Babu, who works at Sheffield City of Sanctuary, described the desperate situation in the city. ‘The trauma is absolutely huge. People shiver as they are sitting in front of us. They burst into tears and cry’ Read all about it here:
https://www.bigissue.com/news/social-justice/refugee-homeless-crisis-sheffield-spring/

At the time of writing, the Rwanda legislation is working its way through parliament (or not). Here is a piece by Ian Dunt, a well-known commentator and journalist in the Independent, that throws some light on the government statements about the numbers of asylum seekers being processed. Smoke and mirrors comes to mind though his title is a little more racy! https://iandunt.substack.com/p/stripping-out-the-bullshit-from-the (asylum debate)

The grapevine of news on the asylum front suggests that the government is quietly shelving its idea of acquiring more barges to house asylum seekers. Meanwhile Doctors of the World report that the conditions in the Wethersfield ex army camp of asylum seekers are leading to major mental health problems. A joint service between Doctors of the World and Doctors Without Borders (MSF)  is concerned that many of those placed there fall into the categories of those who should never been paced in remote locations.  https://msf.org.uk/article/msf-launches-uk-operations-treat-people-seeking-asylum

To keep in touch with news on refugees and asylum seekers, it may be helpful if house group members share the task of following some of the key organisations ( and also please  keep me updated – there is too much happening!)

Try Care 4 Calais

Free Movement

Safe Passage

Right to Remain

The Refugee Council

 

Poverty

The big news on the poverty front is the imminent opening of the Breadline exhibition at Highfield Trinity Church. This will be on 9th February at 7.00 pm, after which the exhibition will be open from 11.00 am – 7.00 pm every day except Sunday. The exhibition will remain there for 2 weeks with a possible extension to 3 weeks. There will be visits from projects in various parts of Sheffield.

Four important points:

  1. Visit the exhibition
  2. Please sign up to help with the event. There will be detailed guidance for volunteers.
  3. There will be a Question Time event at 7pm on Friday 16th February, featuring a panel of people with detailed knowledge of aspects of poverty in Sheffield
  4. There will be an interfaith discussion on poverty at 7 pm on Thursday 22nd February. This will include representatives from a range of faiths.
  5. Other events during the fortnight will be announced week by week.

Alongside our own events, Sunday 12th February is Church Action on Poverty Sunday. Events for that day will be announced in the notices.

 

Please encourage friends and neighbours to visit.

 

There are indications that possible tax cuts in the next budget will be funded by cuts in benefit payments (though these are not likely to affect pensions). The key target will be people on disability benefits. There will be protests!

 

GAZA

The situation in Gaza continues to deteriorate with casualties as great as at any previous time. Just because it is no longer in the headlines does not mean it has gone away. There seem to be no signs of progress towards another pause in the fighting and even less towards a cease fire. In reality it appears that there is a significant majority in most parts of Europe for a ceasefire although that is less certain in Germany.

Of those for whom we invite prayers every week, all are still alive though contact is intermittent.

 

One of the consequences of such a huge influx of people into the small city of Rafah is that inflation has taken is toll on every aspect of living. Contact with people working for UNRWA, the UN agency established in 1949 as a short term measure following the NAKBA, reveals desperation on all counts. Food trucks arriving in Rafah have been effectively hijacked by starving people. There is no possibility to deliver food or medical supplies to those people still living, somehow, in the north of the Gaza strip. Most people with jobs are no longer being paid (that includes Rana who was on maternity leave at the start of October, and Bahzad whose clinic was bombed).

 

There will be a vigil for peace at St Marks Broomhill on Sunday evening at 8 pm, after the Taizé prayers at 7pm.

There is also a vigil for health workers at the town hall on Friday at 6.30 pm. The name of every health worker killed is read. It is incredibly moving.

 

Those of you who wish to make donations will find a range of organisations needing funds. Those with ‘feet on the ground’ or direct contact with people there would be Medical Aid for Palestine www.map.org.uk

 

Amos Trust www.amostrust.org

 

 And MSF www.msf.org.uk

 

Sheffield’s own fundraising efforts, for the distribution of food and blankets in the Khan Younis area have been remarkable. The proceeds of the forthcoming book by the Guardian newspaper’s Gaza Diary will in part be donated to these funds. The diary makes heartbreaking reading.

 

For those wishing to read more, a useful book is The 100 years war on Palestine by Rashid Khalidi

 

Also

https://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/world/israel/64132/all-that-remains by Avi Shlain, Professor emeritus of history at Oxford, an Iraqi Jew

 and

https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v46/n02/conor-gearty/short-cuts

by Conor Gearty, Professor of Law at LSE

 

 

These feel like very troubled times and some readers may appreciate the possibility of daily meditations and other sources of support.

Red Letter Christians provide a daily meditation on line.

 

https://redletterchristians.org.uk/

 

There are also Facebook networks of Red letter Christians in Manchester and Birmingham

 

JPIT, The Methodist Justice and Peace information group, provides weekly newsletters: https://jpit.uk/

 

Finally, any comments and feedback will be welcome! Send them to me at

Anne.hollows@gmail.com

 

From Anne Hollows:

I’ve started listening to the “Fixing Britain with Louise Casey” Radio 4 mini-series https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/series/m001tr23 By its nature, these are more focussed on government policy/ ways of working than grassroots action, but from the perspective of someone who has been at the heart of positive change. The first two focus on rough sleeping and food banks, which plenty of people at SAPL are involved in. It would be interesting to hear what you make of it.

 

Life on the Breadline  This week has seen headlines of increasing cases of malnutrition in Sheffield as well as research showing that over 30% of children in Sheffield are living in poverty, one of the 4 highest numbers in Yorkshire and Humber. Not for many years has the level of poverty caused so much concern.

By now you should all be aware that the remarkable Life on the Breadline’ exhibition is coming to Highfield Trinity Church for the official opening next Friday and open to the public thereafter.

The exhibition tells stories and poses challenges from a groundbreaking research project listening to churches and neighbourhoods affected by the age of austerity. It will start conversations, hear and amplify voices of people with lived experience of poverty, create space for people to tell their own stories, and reflect on how we should personally and collectively respond to what we are hearing.

This is a joint venture between SAPL and Highfield Trinity.

We urgently need you to sign up for volunteering to host sessions at Highfield Trinity. Highfield are providing one volunteer for each session and we need to be able to support that with as many volunteers as possible. So far it seems we have only three or four volunteers. The exhibition is open between Saturday 10th and Wednesday 21st inclusive, apart from Sundays.  Stewarding is in 2 hour slots from 11am  to 1pm,  1pm to 3pm, 3pm to 5pm and 5pm to 7pm. Please help! If you can offer to help, please contact Peter Egginton who is preparing the rota as soon as possible - Email  eggman298@virginmedia.com

Key events during the two week period:

Friday 16th February at 7pm: Ask the Panel  - a Question Time style event when there will be opportunities to ask the panel of experts about different aspects of poverty – on food, heating and mental health among other issues. Should we still need food banks? Should we be pressing for an increase in benefits? Why are so many children hungry?

Thursday 22nd February at 7pm: An interfaith forum to explore how different faith communities respond to the problem of poverty.

And of course, make sure that you visit the exhibition and feel free to make your comments and observations on what you see.

 

The International Justice Mission Prayer for Justice

February 9th at 7.30pm at Sheffield Network Church, 6 Gilpin St, Sheffield S6 3BL.

(formerly St Thomas Philadelphia)

IJM, throughout February, have arranged ‘Prayer for Justice’ meetings in over 15 cities across the UK as part of IJM’s Pray for Justice Tour 2024 to spend time worshipping our God, to hear stories of the outworking of prayer in some of the world’s darkest situations, to praise God for miraculous breakthroughs and to raise our voices as one in prayer to God.

There is no booking for the event, just turn up.

If you have any other queries or comments please contact Stephen Priestley on sr1802@hotmail.com or 07930220140.  You can also find out more about the IJM Prayer for Justice Tour 2024 here

 

 

Friends of the Holy Land is a non-political Christian Charity. Our mission is to secure a resilient and enduring Christian community in the West Bank, Gaza, Israel and Jordan - the part of the world that Christians call the Holy Land. To read their response to the situation in Gaza, see https://www.friendsoftheholyland.org.uk/our-response-to-gaza

 

 

President and Vice-President of the Methodist Church update on the situation in the Middle East

As deaths and injuries of civilians continue to rise in the Israel-Hamas conflict, we are heartbroken to see the devastation this is having on so many people living in the region. We believe in a God who weeps, and, alongside the Holy Spirit our Comforter, our hearts are breaking with all those whose loved ones have had their lives brutally cut short, for the terror felt by Israeli families, and the unimaginable wait that many face for news of the people being held hostage. We watch in horror as Gazan civilians flee for their lives, unable to leave Gaza and trapped in the midst of a violent and unpredictable conflict.

The situation may feel overwhelming; so much information, so much misinformation and so much misery. Where is our hope? Watching and reading news reports can leave us confused and feeling helpless. What can we do? As members of the Methodist Church we have witnessed the plight of the Palestinian people’s oppression for many years and have sought to encourage those on all sides who are working for lasting peace with justice in the region.

Now we pray for all those people and groups we have met: Daoud Nasser from the Tent of Nations and the recipient of the World Methodist Peace Prize in 2018; Rabbi Nava Hefetz from Rabbis for Human Rights, the Wi’am Peace and Reconciliation Centre in Bethlehem; the staff of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme for Palestine and Israel, and the countless people and families in Gaza and the West Bank who we, as a Church, have supported over the years. We uphold them, praying for their safety, asking for God’s protection and comfort. And we pray for those who have the power to effect change – that they will use this privilege wisely and well to put a swift end to this violence and aggression. We undertake to continue to pray that the beautiful peace of the Prince of Peace will manifest in our world, and we pledge ourselves once again to respond to the Gospel of God’s love in Christ and to live out this discipleship in our worship and mission.

We call on the UK Government to do all it can to encourage dialogue between Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt and states in the wider region. We urge our Government to use its influence to end the siege of Gaza that is depriving its population of water and food, and to call on all parties to abide by international humanitarian law.

The Revd Gill Newton, President; Deacon Kerry Scarlett, Vice President  

 

As well as praying, there is a list of suggested actions we can take – see here

 

News from Gaza, and a request for prayer

Anne Hollows writes:

[Caitlin’s] dear friend and research assistant Rana, made the journey south to Rafah with her two small children, Hannah (2) and Mohammed (3 months) but it was so chaotic she returned to Gaza city to be with her husband and family. She told Caitlin that she was dressing the children in their best clothes so that if they were pulled from the rubble, people would know they were from a good family.

Please pray for them and all the other children and if possible, donate to Medical Aid for Palestine who have released all their supplies in Gaza and have much more waiting to be allowed through the crossing from Egypt. They have a lot of staff on the ground.

#CeasefireNow in the Gaza Strip and Israel petition

Over 300 charities from across the globe have signed the #CeasefireNow petition, an open call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and Israel to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe and further loss of innocent lives.

The open letter, reproduced in part below, calls on all Heads of State, the UN Security Council, and actors on the ground, to prioritize the preservation of human life above all else.

 

Individuals can also sign the petition at https://www.change.org/p/ceasefirenow-open-call-for-an-immediate-ceasefire-in-occupied-palestinian-territory  where you will also find the full text of the letter and a list of signatories.

 

Open letter

#CeasefireNow: Open Call for an Immediate Ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and Israel to Prevent a Humanitarian Catastrophe and Further Loss of Innocent Lives

We have witnessed unfathomable death and destruction in the Gaza Strip and Israel. Thousands of people have been killed, injured, displaced, and nearly two hundred remain held hostage, including children and elderly.

In Gaza, the UN has said that water, food, fuel, medical supplies, and even body bags, are running out due to the siege. The UN warned that people – particularly young children – will soon start dying of severe dehydration. Neighbourhoods have been destroyed and turned into complete rubble. Palestinians in search of safety have nowhere to go. Many of those who relocated from northern Gaza to the south after the relocation order by the Israeli army were reportedly bombed as they attempted to flee or once they arrived in southern Gaza.

The events of the last week have led us to the precipice of a humanitarian catastrophe and the world can no longer wait to act. It is our collective responsibility.

 

On Sunday, October 15th, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator to the Occupied Palestinian Territory appealed to all parties to the conflict, and to Member States with influence, to urgently agree to a humanitarian ceasefire.

 

 

 

 

Fighting the Anti-Refugee Laws in our communities

In July 2023, the passing into law of the Illegal Migration Act created a near-total ban on seeking safety in the UK.  But against huge odds and in the face of the UK Government’s determination to push through these cruel and divisive measures, communities across the country have united to fight this anti-refugee bill and defend the right to seek safety. As we face the implementation of this Act and the continued fight against the #AntiRefugeeLaws, it’s important to look back and recognise how our communities and local leaders have mobilised, and recognise our growing collective strength and power as we move forward to repeal this appalling Act. 

Go to https://asylummatters.org/2023/07/26/fighting-the-anti-refugee-laws-in-our-communities/  to see what has been done already, and information on how to take further action.

 

The recent event 'How to talk about asylum' was recorded and is now available on YouTube. More events are being planned, so watch this space!

 

City of Sanctuary is looking for passionate and dedicated individuals to join their Board of Trustees, and also for the Treasurer position.  As a trustee, you will play a key role in guiding and supporting the organization as they work towards creating a city that is safe and welcoming for people seeking sanctuary. All details of these posts can be found on the Sheffield City of Sanctuary website

 

Church Leaders have signed a joint statement expressing opposition to the government’s new ‘Illegal Migration Bill’. To see what they said, see here

 

Maintaining hope and solidarity in the face of hostile rhetoric - please read the City of Sanctuary Sheffield article here.

 

Safeguarding people who are LGBT+ within the Methodist Church

This webinar, held on 24th January 2023, is now available to watch here.

You can read the the answers to the questions or comments posed in the Q&A function during the webinar, along with links to some helpful organisations, here.

 

 

From the Methodist Church website

On the Situation of the Palestinians

The situation of Palestinians in the Israeli-governed Holy Land is significantly worse today than it was a decade ago, according to an international delegation of Methodist leaders who just completed a five-day visit marking the 10th anniversary of the Jerusalem-based Methodist Liaison Office (MLO).

The group represented the three organizations that sponsor the Office, which provides information on conditions in Palestine/Israel to Methodists visiting the area and to constituents around the world. The partners are the World Methodist Council, the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church, and the Methodist Church in Britain.

The delegation members talked to Palestinian Christians, Israeli human rights groups and Jewish representatives. They visited groups and projects supported by the MLO and heard first-hand how Palestinians are affected day to day by the Israeli occupation. They also heard from six non-governmental organizations (NGOS) that have been shut down by the Israeli government on charges of links to terrorist organizations.

 

Their joint statement said:

“During our visit we have been shocked by the violence we have witnessed, the growth in the number of illegal settlements, and the number of young Palestinians who are being forced to leave their homes. We are distressed to hear the number of our sisters and brothers in the area has significantly decreased which is devastating for a Christian presence in the Holy Land.

“We are bewildered by the apparent lack of desire by the Israeli Government to find a way to ensure that all communities live peacefully alongside each other, and by the disproportionate responses shown by the security services. We watched as tear gas rained down on a small group of teenagers in a refugee camp who had been throwing rocks.

“During our tenth anniversary service in Jerusalem we were sad that many of our Palestinian partners were unable to join us because they were not issued with the travel permits required by the Israeli Government for a worship service just six miles away.

“We visited the Tent of Nations, recipient of the World Methodist Peace Prize Award in 2018 and heard of their 32-year struggle to stay on the land they have farmed for 100 years. They have suffered violent attacks to the land they own and on family but continue faithfully to only adopt non-violent resistance.

"Every person we met urged us to return to our homes and tell everyone what we had seen, and in honoring this we call on Methodists worldwide to work for peace in the Middle East, whether that is by lobbying politicians or supporting groups who work for peace. We urge all governments to support measures that respect international law and to resist actions that attempt to normalize the illegal occupation. 

“We also call on all Methodists who are visiting the region to not only visit the Holy sites, but to meet Palestinians and Christians who are most affected by the occupation while they are there so they can hear and see first-hand what their lives are like. The MLO is keen to arrange such encounters. We ask all Methodists and Christians worldwide to continue to hold everyone affected by the situation in their prayers.”

 

Talk of invasion is grossly exaggerated The graph below shows the numbers of asylum seekers received per capita of population across Europe. As you can see, the U.K. figure puts us at the bottom of the league. We’re the graph to include countries in Africa, or adjacent to conflict areas such as Turkey or Jordan, the position of Europe as a whole would be much lower. Please share this widely and tell your friends. These emotive terms such as invasion or swarm are designed to create a moral panic. 

 

 

Can You Help Those Most Affected By The Cost Of Living Crisis? This will be a bleak winter for many low income families.. The South Yorkshire Community Foundation (SYCF) has set up a Cost of Living Fund, which gives grants to community groups that help to reduce food and fuel poverty eg food banks. The Diocese of Sheffield’s Board of Faith and Justice urges people who can afford to do so to donate to this Fund (or a comparable charity).

People, could you donate all or part of the following Government provisions:

*All households are receiving £400 energy bill discount in 6 instalments this winter.

* Households in bands (A) to (D) should already have received £150 Council Tax rebate.

* Pensioners will receive a £300 Cost of Living Payment alongside their Winter Fuel

Payment.

If you would like to donate to the SYCF Cost of Living Fund, please look up

https://www.sycf.org.uk/southyorkshirecostoflivingfund/

 

Churches respond to risk to benefit levels  The Methodist Church in Britain, the United Reformed Church and the Baptist Union of Great Britain respond to the proposal to limit the uprating of benefits, risking a real terms cut to benefit levels:

The social security system should prevent families from being pushed into hardship, yet foodbanks are facing rapidly rising demand and almost half of claimants receiving Universal Credit report skipping meals to make ends meet. The value of benefits has declined for the last decade and already an average family of four relying on Universal Credit will be £1,400 worse off this winter than last – despite the interventions already put in place. Against this background it would be outrageous to erode benefits further.

For months we have called on government to provide targeted support to the lowest income households, who are at the sharp end of rising costs. Without that additional help huge numbers of families – particularly families with children – will face impossible choices to make ends meet. The proposal to link benefits to wages rather than prices would mean the largest real terms cut in benefits ever at a time when low-income families are already facing increased hardship. Such a decision would lack both compassion and morality.

At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus declared “I have come to bring good news to the poor”. We cannot stay quiet when vital support to the communities we are part of is threatened. We call on the Government to reaffirm its commitment to uprate benefits in line with prices and to provide targeted support to those families who are at the sharpest end of the cost of living crisis.

Signed by

Revd Fiona Bennett, Moderator of General Assembly, United Reformed Church

Revd Graham Thompson, President of the Methodist Conference, The Methodist Church in Britain

Revd Lynn Green, General Secretary, Baptist Union of Great Britain

 

 

Missing people in Ukraine  Some of you will remember the Nexus article by Bel Trew about the rebuilding of a church in Beirut. Bel has spent much of the last 8 months in Ukraine and the first item in this broadcast is about her work on missing people in Ukraine. 
https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m001d57b?partner=uk.co.bbc&origin=share-mobile

Anne Hollows

 

 

 

 

 

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