Thursday, November 20, 2008

Tackling the DR Congo crisis

I am supporting Amnesty International's call for action to avert the continuing crisis facing the DR Congo.

That means welcoming the commitment that Gordon Brown has made to support a request put to the UN Security Council by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to add a further 3,000 soldiers to the 17,000 strong force currently stationed in the DRC.

It also means urging the UK to encourage other members of the UN Security Council to also offer their support by the time they next meet to discuss the deployment of peacekeepers later this month.

In particular it means urging the UK and other Security Council members to act and agree to:

1. Urgently reinforce MONUC peacekeeping contingents in North-Kivu province and in the Ituri and Haut-Uélé districts of Orientale province· Urge all parties to the conflict to ensure that humanitarian aid agencies are not hindered in their work to provide aid to displaced people,

2.Press the governments of the DRC and Rwanda to refrain from providing moral or material support to armed groups operating in eastern DRC. · Assert that justice and an end to impunity must now have a central place in the search for durable peace in the Great Lakes Region.

Please join the campaign and encourage Government action on this by visiting:

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Today the regime sentenced 14 leading democracy activists in Burma to 65 years in prison. If they are forced to serve their full terms, they will die in jail. The sentences were handed down at around 1pm, behind closed doors in Insein prison special court in Rangoon. Family members were not allowed to attend the hearing. The sentences today relate to only five charges. They are all charged with a total of 21 charges and face further sentences as their trials continue. Those sentenced are all prominent members of the 88 Generation Students group, which led the peaceful demonstrations last September.In a separate hearing held in Insein prison special court, labour activist Su Su Nwe was sentenced to 12 years and 6 months. Take action.

Please send an email to the UN Security Council urging Ban Ki-moon to visit Burma and make the release of political prisoners his top priority:

Only yesterday EU foreign ministers met and called for the release of all political prisoners. The EU promised to increase pressure on the regime if there was no progress to reform, but despite the situation getting worse they have taken no action. The UN must act. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is due to visit Burma in December, but there are fears he may back out of the visit because of the difficulties in negotiating with the regime. These sentences make it all the more important that Ban Ki-moon goes ahead with his visit. Despite 37 visits to Burma by UN envoys, things have only got worse. His personal engagement on Burma is needed.

Take action.Send an email to the UN Security Council urging Ban Ki-moon to visit Burma and make the release of political prisoners his top priority. Take action here:

Thank you for your support.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Democratic Republic of Congo

Democratic Republic of Congo

The Democratic Republic of Congo has gone from being the world’s bloodiest forgotten conflict since the Second World War to headline news around the globe in a matter of days.

A flare-up in fighting between rebel and government forces has left the east of the country in a calamitous condition.

Despite a ceasefire holding, Tearfund partner HEAL Africa describes the situation as a tinderbox.

HEAL Africa runs a hospital in Goma, the capital of conflict-hit North Kivu province, and has seen evidence of rapes and torture.

Staff are treating all manner of wounds and injuries inflicted on people from both rebel and government forces as well as bandits. They are showing the compassion of the local church in a situation where many aid agencies have had to halt their work.

The conflict goes back many years but reignited in August with the breakdown of a peace agreement. According to who you ask, it has its roots in Hutu-Tutsi ethnic tensions or stems from a desire to control the country’s abundant natural resources.

Please use the following points to guide your prayers

• Please pray for lasting peace in North Kivu and that international pressure is effective in stopping the fighting and suffering. Pray that the UN peacekeeping force is able to play a more involved role.

• Please pray that the hearts of rebel leaders, the DRC president and government and Rwandan president and government are softened, so that they see the suffering of conflict-affected people and look for a peaceful solution instead of being dominated by their political, economic and military interests.

• Pray that the security situation improves quickly so aid agencies and Tearfund partners can help more civilians caught up in the conflict.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

a new dawn

Barack Obama has succeeded in bringing together a broad-based movement for change (not just hoping for change but being the change) . Focusing on the issues of the day including economic downturn, the war on terror and wider social justice issues such as access to heath-care and education, Obama has given the Democrats confidence and purpose- 2 vital elements in any political campaign. Added to that, his inspiring rhetoric, a clear narrative and a well-funded, hyper-efficient, organised grassroots operation have mobilised millions of people across the world to join him in his journey. Many politicians attract support, few genuinely inspire people.

Like others across the globe, I was moved by the momentous scenes played out across the US-the queues of people to vote, the sheer enthusiasm of the voters (not always evident in UK elections!) and unbridled joy of his victory. In particular, the reactions of the older generations of african-americans who still bear the scars of the civil rights struggle will remain in my memory for ever.

Realising the uncertainty and pain caused by recession, the Democrats have rightly called for celebrations to be principled and brief and rightly expectations need to be managed but today is a day for celebration and optimism. An American peace worker has declared: "Before, we said 'yes we can.' Yesterday, we cried 'yes we did.' Today, it's 'now we will." In politics winning elections is often seen as the triumphant culmination of a campaign when it is actually the beginning. Gaining power is one thing, using it positively can be harder.

My prayer is that I will look back in years to come and remember where I was the night Barack Obama made hope for change a reality.