Archive for UK and World News

The Poor and Lame – Should we Stand?

On the 31st August a major protest took place against Atos, an organisation which has been accused of deliberately targeting disabled people for the removal of benefits under instruction from the Government.

Christians were also part of this protest, as Christianity Uncut stood in solidarity with disabled people and able-d persons who were engaging in this protest, and in the words of Symon Hill, an associate director of the Ekklesia think-tank:

“Jesus said he had come to bring good news to the poor. Atos bring bad news to the poor. David Cameron is welcoming the Paralympics while snatching away the livelihood of thousands of disabled people. Ministers could save billions by cracking down on corporate tax-dodging and ditching Trident, instead of  attacking the poorest members of society. Many Christians recognise that there can be no neutrality in the face of injustice. Now is the time to act on that conviction.”

There were some scuffles at the protest and, though by-and-large peaceful, some people were injured. There were reports that as the police made an apparently aggressive move to force protesters from outside the doors of the Atos building some of those present, including disabled protesters, were crushed by the forced back-stepping by those near the building.

However, Symon Hill has informed me that there was a great atmosphere of solidarity and encouragement at the protests and that many of those involved greatly appreciated the presence of Christians prepared to stand for those less able in our society.

I am keen that those protesting are supported in their democratic right to engage in dissent whilst at the same time encouraging the police to take a softer line in their public order policing, and would encourage those Christians who would want to bring a peace-loving aspect to expressions of political dissatisfaction – whilst equally encouraging those of all faiths and none who feel passionately enough to take to the streets in a peaceful manner.

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Praying Christians Dragged From “House of Prayer”

In the early hours of Tuesday 28th February the Occupy LSX camp was evicted from the land outside St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Although reports indicate that the eviction was largely peaceful, there are statements that some protesters were kicked and dragged by police.

The eviction had been expected, and according to the Guardian the majority of protesters packed up their belongings and began to leave before the forcible eviction began.

The “Ring of Prayer”, organised by Christianity Uncut, took place, although many Christians (including Giles Fraser, the Canon Chancellor of St. Paul’s who resigned over plans for eviction) were prevented from entering the area.

According to Christianity Uncut the Christians who were kneeling and praying on the steps of the cathedral were dragged away by police, and Jonathan Bartley, director of the Christian think-tank Ekklesia, is reported as testifying that he was kicked repeatedly by police and then dragged away.

The situation where Christians engaged in peaceful prayer are dragged from a supposed “house of God” is reminiscent of scenes not seen since the great religious reformations and political revolutions of the past.  As such, though the alleged collusion of the Cathedral authorities shows that many who are called by the Name of Christ are having difficulties deciding on whether to support the system of Western capitalism or the system of service and sacrifice, there is a strong movement of both Christians and non-Christians that will not be silenced.

The opportunity for Christians to connect with those who truly care about our society has never been greater, nor been so important.

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A Wonderful Example in Egypt

The news that has been coming in from Egypt has rarely been positive over the past week.

Protests, which initially began at Tahrir Square following Friday prayers on the 18th November, have escalated through the week and on the following Friday it was estimated that over 100,000 Egyptians took part in the “Friday of the Last Chance” at Tahrir calling on the military junta to step aside and allow the revolution to be completed.

Protests also spread to many other parts of Egypt and at Tahrir there were many reports of injuries and deaths from a brutal crackdown by security forces which included the use of tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition.

Yet amongst this grievous news of fresh oppression in the Egyptian capital stories also emerged of a wonderful harmony and comradeship.

The security forces had begun to target the makeshift clinic set up in Tahrir Square and the many wounded and injured had nowhere to find refuge and treatment as the attacks from police and the interior security forces rained down.

In the midst of this suffering there has been a good news story, as both a church and a mosque have opened their doors and have been using their buildings as clinics where doctors and other health professionals have been able to treat those who have been hurt in the demonstrations.

Ahram Online has reported that the evangelical church on the outskirts of Tahrir Square has become a makeshift hospital as the pastor and church members have been unable to ignore the great needs of the injured protesters.

Ahram Online reports:

Pastor Sameh Morris of the Evangelical Church says that staff members decided to turn the prayer grounds into a hospital after security forces began targeting Tahrir’s field hospitals.

“We were worried that the protesters would not have anyone to treat them, and we simply could not keep the church doors closed in this time of need,” Pastor Morris says. “One of the miracles Jesus did was that he healed the sick, and I believe that it is my duty as a human being, as a Christian and as an Egyptian to help those who are wounded.”

A nearby mosque has also been opened up for use as a hospital and both the church and the mosque have been co-operating with each other to ensure that the injured are cared for.

Christians in Egypt have often faced severe persecution, and that situation is on-going, yet they have also been an important part of the protests for democracy and stories and pictures of Christians protecting Muslim demonstrators whilst they meet their daily prayer duties have been iconic.

Whilst the protests and strikes that are taking place in the UK cannot be said to be fully supported by many Christians in the country, and we should certainly not equate the sufferings of UK protesters with the injuries and deaths the Egyptians have faced, I believe that we can look to the actions of Pastor Morris’ church and have our heart warmed and our attitude challenged.

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