Peace and Justice
Justice and Peace News
for St Andrews Psalter Lane
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:
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
Right to Remain
The Refugee Council
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:
- Visit the exhibition
- Please sign up to help with the event. There will be detailed guidance for volunteers.
- 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
- There will be an interfaith discussion on poverty at 7 pm on Thursday 22nd February. This will include representatives from a range of faiths.
- 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!
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
https://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/world/israel/64132/all-that-remains by Avi Shlain, Professor emeritus of history at Oxford, an Iraqi Jew
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.
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
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.
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.
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
If you would like to donate to the SYCF Cost of Living Fund, please look up
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.
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.