Monday, December 25, 2006

Happy Christmas

As we celebrate Christmas, we pray for the hungry, the sick, the lonely, the homeless, the refugee, the unsettled and the captive. We pray too for peace in the world, especially in Israel and Palastine, Iraq, Somalia, Ethiopia, Afhanistan, Iran and Sudan and all those working for the common good. Also, community, world and faith and church leaders, politicians and people of influence and all those who proclaim the message of God's kingdom.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Remember Bethlehem this Christmas

As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, it is right to spare a thought for Bethlehem and its inhabitants and pray for peace in 2007 and beyond.

The so called "peace wall" in and around Bethlehem has reduced the district to its urban core. It severs the built-up areas from thousands of acres of agricultural land and water resources. There are 27 Israeli settlements in the Bethlehem district built on land confiscated from Bethlehem’s private owners. It is predicted that once the wall is complete Bethlehem will lose 70% of its territory altogether.

A system of cement walls, electric fences, settlers only roads and checkpoints creates a prison-like environment for the people of Bethlehem. The World Bank cites the closure regime as the direct cause of the humanitarian crisis.

70% of the population in Bethlehem lives below the poverty line. Unemployment is higher than 60%. Tourism, which accounts for 65% of the Bethlehem economy is now almost entirely controlled by Israeli companies, meaning that the few tourists that come to Bethlehem don’t stay for more than a few hours. The Hotel Association in Bethlehem has reported that only 2.5% of rooms were booked in 2005 in comparison to 22.1% in 2000.

The Christian population in Bethlehem accounts for 41.3% of the population in Bethlehem town proper and 26% in the whole district. Following Israeli invasions in 2001-2002, Bethlehem lost 10% of it Christian population as 3000 Christians left the city. UNOCHA report, December 2004:
The emigration of Christians is a serious threat to Palestine’s mixed heritage which embraced diversity for centuries.

The Jerusalem-Bethlehem dioceses of the Latin (Catholic), Anglican and Armenian Churches – in common with the Eastern Orthodox and Syriac Orthodox Churches – is centred on the various cathedrals of Jerusalem. The Israeli wall cuts these ancient diocese into parcels, separating churchmen from their congregations and families from each other.

The short road between Bethlehem and Jerusalem has always been the great high road of the Christian faith, linking as it does the cities of Our Lord’s birth and resurrection. It has been trodden by countless millions of pilgrims in the last 2,000 years. We are dismayed that the road between Bethlehem and Jerusalem is now closed to the great majority of Palestinians, Christian and Muslim, and passable only with much inconvenience and expenditure of time by pilgrims visiting the Holy Land. We view this closure and the barrier being built around Bethlehem as a grave injustice to its people, a serious threat to its economic life and social fabric, and an affront to all Christians.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Norfolk churches campaign to save local post offices

The Church of England and the Methodist Church in Norfolk are uniting to throw their weight behind a new campaign to help save rural post offices.

The campaign, which is being spearheaded by the Revd Lorna Allies, the new Rural Adviser for the Anglicans and Methodists in Norfolk, encourages Christians to turn their backs on the internet and telephone, and return to their local post offices to buy their stamps, collect their pensions and renew their vehicle licences. Leaflets encouraging churchgoers to make an effort to sustain their local post office for as long as some – even just a few - of their neighbours need it are being distributed to Church of England and Methodist congregations and the campaign has the strong support of the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James and the Chairman of the East Anglia District of the Methodist Church, the Revd Graham Thompson. It also has the backing of the Church Leaders of all the Christian denominations in Norfolk.

“We are encouraging our congregations to take seriously the threat to the Post Office Network and to support those who most need their local post office by giving it their custom,” said the Revd Graham Thompson. “It may not be convenient to do so, but by some personal involvement and sacrifice we hope to be able to make some difference to each local situation. The challenge for each church and chapel-goer is to make as much use as they can of their local post office in the hope of keeping it alive for others.”

The Bishop of Norwich said, “Post offices provide some of the social and economic glue that keeps rural communities together. They’re under threat. Part of the threat is that we don’t use them enough. That can change. Our Rural Adviser has challenged us with some simple ways in which church members, and others too, can show how much we value our post offices and our concern for those who depend on them. I wish this campaign well.”

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Remember Darfur-Take Action

This is the second global day for Darfur, when the broad based crisis action coalition will focus on the wide scale rape and sexual violence that has been perpetrated in this conflict - saying stop the rape, stop the killing and send the UN peacekeepers now.
Surely enough is enough-it is time for action. Write letters, sign petitions, demonstrate.
All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Tory arrogance in North Norfolk

The new Tory candidiate for North Norfolk may have been in place for less than a week, but his arrogance has already embarassed and upset local constituents. Trevor Ivory has promised that he "can't wait to get rid of that nasty Mr Lamb. Give me just one election to beat him." Who does he think he is?
At this rate Norman Lamb's 10,606 majority will be rising on a daily baisis.

Mr Ivory is no stranger to controvesy after being forced to apologise for his call for Tony Blair to commit suicide to raise Labour morale! What a pleasant man (not!).