Tag Archive for human rights

St. Paul’s Cathedral and Occupy – Reply to Joint Letter

Last week Church Peace, along with 14 other initial signatories including Simon Barrow (of Ekklesia think-tank), Rev. George Pitcher (journalist and minister) and numerous other prominent academics and clergy, wrote to the Chapter of St. Paul’s Cathedral.  82 further names were added to this on the letter published on this blog.

Our request was that the Cathedral make a public statement saying that they oppose a forcible eviction of the Occupy camp situated outside St. Paul’s.

Church Peace has now received a reply to this letter from the Rt. Rev. Michael Colclough, the Canon in Residence at the cathedral.

This comes as the application for appeal from the Occupy camp against the eviction by the City of London Corporation has been heard by the Court of Appeal.  After submissions from the appellants and the Corporation had been heard, the court adjourned and reserved judgement until the 22nd February.

The reply to our letter makes no mention of the primary purpose of our writing.  It is polite and makes a statement of defence of St. Paul’s well-known stance.  It is frustrating that the Canon has stated that:

We very much agree with Occupy and the Corporation about the priority of caring for vulnerable people whenever and however the camp disbands.

This fails to acknowledge that it is Occupy that has been raising the issue of protecting the vulnerable and has made requests for assurances that the Corporation has not responded to.  It is also disappointing that a forceful removal has been re-framed as “disbanding”.

There is, however, a positive aspect to this letter, in that the Cathedral Chapter have committed themselves to continuing to speak with the camp and seek a satisfactory and peaceful outcome, and they have said that “we are also discussing with Occupy how assemblies might continue to meet periodically outside the cathedral.”

Yet time is running short for a peaceful solution.  Occupy, as a group, are committed to peaceful resistance of any eviction, as are a large group of Christian believers who have signed the “Ring of Prayer” pledge.  Whilst the protest is peaceful; St. Paul’s are advocating for a peaceful and periodic assembly; and the Corporation is seeking a forceful and ugly confrontation based on the principle that tents cannot be used as a means of protest, Church Peace will be continuing to ask all concerned that a value-based and ethical compromise be found.

The full letter received from Rt Rev. Michael Colclough, Canon Pastor of St. Paul’s Cathedral, can be viewed here.

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Ring of Prayer and Prayer Vigils

Christianity Uncut, a group of Christians that are campaigning against the Coalition government’s austerity policies, has organised a well-publicized “Ring of Prayer” for the protection of and solidarity with Occupy London Stock Exchange, or Occupy LSX.

The pledge which interested Christians are asked to sign is as follows:

I stand in solidarity with people of all religions and none who are resisting economic injustice with active non-violence.

In the event of Occupy London Stock Exchange being evicted, I intend to go to the camp to worship and to join with others in forming a ring of prayer.

I will seek to act in a spirit of love towards all concerned.

It has currently been signed by over 300 people and a list has been started enabling notification should the eviction take place at short notice.

More details here…

Prayer Vigils

As well as the Ring of Prayer, some groups have said that they will hold prayer vigils timed to coincide with any eviction taking place.

Currently we are aware of two groups endeavouring to hold vigils in Cambridge and Bradford.

I would also like to organise one in Eastbourne, East Sussex.

If you have any further details on these prayer vigils; are setting one up in your own locality; or would like to be part of one in Eastbourne, please do comment below or email admin@churchpeace.org.uk.

With many thanks.

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Occupy London and the Right to Protest

This was originally published on the Rabel Christian Civil Liberties page on Google Plus.

Occupy London and the Right to Protest
The Occupy movement in London has brought to a head the limits to protest in the UK and has also challenged the Church on whether to support protest or the status quo

The court case judgement, passed last Wednesday, which effectively stated that an occupation form of protest is not protected by the human rights of freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, has markedly raised the stakes in the Occupy movement in the UK.
Already, plans are being pursued which would make occupation of buildings a criminal offence, even if they had remained empty and neglected for years, and now the decision has been made that, although a continuous protest could be held at a location, there would have to be a night-time pause in the protest with a resumption in the morning.
The potential of this is to make a semi-permanent camp, such as OccupyLSX, an illegal protest, and given that the causes and aims of Occupy require a semi-permanent camp, this will be a new low in the right to protest in the UK. Previous occupation protests, such as the women peace activists at Greenham Common, went on for many years.

The Church
The role of the Church has also been brought into focus, and there are deep divisions in the role the Church should play. Many Christians have sided with the Occupiers and have pledged to form a “ring of prayer” around Occupy LSX should eviction go ahead.
Yet others have come out firmly against the methods of Occupy and support eviction.
The question that should be on every Christian’s heart, however, is not which side we should support, but which course of action is most in-keeping with Christ’s teaching. Should we protect the “sale of doves and pigeons” and defend the “money-changers” over the real need to urgently reform the political and econmic structures of Western consumerism? Should the need to be submissive to the authorities trump the need to take action against economic injustice? Should we support only government condoned forms of democratic expression?

What are your views on this? Please do comment and share.

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