Monday, August 28, 2006

[14.22 GMT] School student interest in religion raises problem of complusion (Ekklesia, 28/08/06) - including my comments on the situation of Religious Education in schools. Once again, the policy debate is unhelpfully fixed by those who want to push a particular religious or anti-religious line in public education. Or those who confuse the role of educational institutions in a plural society (which is to provide a phenomenological understanding of the belief systems that shape and influence us) with the role of faith communities (which promote formation in, and communication of, specific traditions). We all need some better ways forward.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

[12.16 GMT] Liberation after Christendom October 13-15, 2006 - A d-i-y style weekend on subversion, spirituality and struggle. All welcome. Email me for more details.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

[12.18 GMT] Life in the political twighlight zone. The UK parliamentary recess is often used to allow policy to go under the radar, as with the current war on terror and Middle East questions. What's more, the notion of 'a break' rarely extends to more than a brief respite in the debilitating round of backbiting politics-as-usual. The recess, whch now runs from July to October, could be developed in a much more radical way, this article argues ... by reflecting on the now-hidden meaning of the Jewish and Christian Sabbath tradition. And by thinking about civic, not just parliamentary, forums.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

[11.00 GMT] Snakes on a plane, flies on a plain... a small contribution to what, in Britain, is called 'the silly season' for journalism. Hopefully the long-suffering residents of Wiltshire will not feel too cheaply dealt with.

Friday, August 18, 2006


Rowan Williams identifies 'the religious issue' with typical clarity and vigour in a review article in The Tablet, 10 November 2001: “Freud was wrong. The fundamental problem we human beings face is not how to negotiate with the voice and image of the Father, but how to stop ourselves regarding our brothers and sisters as displaced 'fathers'. We have one real Father, the transcendent source of our identity: a father who is not part of the competitive world in which the power of one means the weakness of another. What we must learn is how to live fraternally with human beings. The chief task of human maturing, therefore, is to get beyond ascribing sacred authority to other human beings, with all the rebellion and resentment, the longing to invert existing power relations rather than transform them that this involves, and rediscover the inclusive and hospitably eucharistic love – fraternity, in other words – that allows us to live together without murder. This is precisely what Jesus once and for all makes possible by his teaching, his death and his resurrection. This is the Gospel; this is what the sacraments enact.”

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

[05.34 GMT] I may have quoted this before, but it bears repetition - and reminds me that I must go and see the new(ish) movie Silent Voices about the tragedy of El Salvador in the 1980s and the extraordinary resilience of the human spirit. "Even when they call us mad, when they call us subversives and communists and all the epithets they put on us, we know we only preach the subversive witness of the Beatitudes, which have turned everything upside down"— the late Archbishop Oscar Romero

Friday, August 11, 2006

[21.18 GMT] ON LETTING GO... "Our invitation as we go out into the world, is to lay down our fear and love the world. Lay down our sword and shield, and seek out the image of God's beloved in the people we find it hardest to love. Lay down our narrow self-interest, and heal the hurting and fill the hungry and set the prisoners free. Lay down our need for power and control, and bow to the image of God's beloved in the weakest, the poorest, and the most excluded."
Presiding Bishop-elect of the Episcopal Church, USA, Katharine Jefferts Schori
Christian Peacemaker Teams activists face court charge for Israel military aid vigil and protest (Ekklesia).

Thursday, August 10, 2006


Following on from yesterday's post... the "asylum debate" in the UK rumbles on ominously: the latest instalment being new Home Secretary John Reid's hectoring stance towards those (a minority, so it's good to see they have some impact in Daily Mail-land) who believe that many of the assumptions of the "debate" are brutal, ignorant and racist -- which, frankly, they are.

One of the many disturbing features of the news coverage about migration, refugees and asylum in the papers that shape governing opinion on the subject in Britain (the tabloids and the conservative broadsheets) is the extent to which they overlook both global trends and the particular stories and experiences of people at the sharp end.

For the stories behind the news, you need to see publications like CTBI's Asylum Voices (by Andrew Bradstock and Arlington Trotman)... or go to the website of the aforementioned Praxis, the admirable multi-agency centre for displaced people in East London - the location, by history and tradition, of those placed 'outside the gate' by kings and rulers in the capital.

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006


The London agency Praxis, which is inclusive of people of all faiths and none in its way of working, runs a series of stats and facts on refugees and asylum seekers across the banner on its site. They are very apposite and read as follows:

* 95 per cent of refugees worldwide never reach wealthy nations like Britain.
* Refugee population of Middle East and North Africa – 43 per cent. Sub-Saharan Africa – 22 per cent. South Asia – 18 per cent. And Europe? … 8 per cent.
* Of the 12 million refugees in the world, 7 million have been confined to camps or segregated settlements.
* In 2001, Canada granted protection to 97 per cent of Afghan asylum seekers. Britain granted protection to 19 per cent.
* Under the 1951 United Nations Convention on Refugees, anyone has the right to apply for asylum and remain until a decision has been made.
* There is no such thing as an ‘illegal asylum seeker’.

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