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Quakers welcome vote on Palestinian statehood

Tue, 2014-10-14 14:07

Quakers in Britain have welcomed the House of Commons’ emphatic support for Palestinian statehood.

Quakers in Britain have welcomed the House of Commons’ emphatic support for Palestinian statehood.

MPs yesterday (13 October) voted by 274 to 12 in favour of the motion "this House believes that the government should recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel", which ws then amended to include the words "as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution".

Many Quakers wrote to their MPs ahead of the Commons’ debate urging recognition of the state as a vital step towards justice and peace for Palestine and Israel.

The decision to call for the government to recognise Palestine as a nation state was made by two thousand Quakers at Yearly Meeting Gathering in August, held at the University of Bath. They also called for a comprehensive arms embargo on all sides in the conflict and for an end to Israel’s blockade of Gaza and occupation of Palestine.

The statement read:

At this time of sombre anniversaries, as we observe the centenary of the outbreak of World War I and the anniversaries of nuclear bombs dropped on the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki we find our Quaker testimonies to peace and equality again compel us to speak out.

,em>The hostilities in Gaza are the latest eruption of the deep and long-running conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Root causes of this conflict, including the structural violence of occupation, must be addressed. Such violence damages all the people of the region. The present time, with its faltering ceasefires and talks, is a time of both crisis and opportunity.

From our long-standing Quaker experience of working on this issue in Palestine, Israel and Britain, and from listening to the testimony of Quakers in Ramallah, we are convinced that the UK Government has a real role to play. A starting place would be for the UK to recognise Palestine as a nation state on the same basis as it recognises Israel. We note that 134 states have already recognised the State of Palestine.

The UK Government should also play its part in creating a real opportunity for peace by drawing groups such as Hamas into the political process and thus away from violent resistance to the occupation. We have seen around the world how those once labelled as terrorists can come to be recognised for their statesmanship. It is our view that freeing elected Palestinian leaders now held as political prisoners would help Palestine to develop as a flourishing economic, political and civil society.

The international community remains complicit in the conflict for as long as it fails to make full use of the mechanisms provided by international law, to hold all parties to account for their actions. Under international law, at all times, all parties should distinguish between civilians and combatants, though as Quakers we place equal value on every human life. The Israeli Government's ongoing blockade of Gaza and its apparent collective punishment of the people must end, as must indiscriminate fire by all sides.

Amid the present crisis, we are reminded that the people of the West Bank, living under Israeli occupation face restrictions on movement; loss of land and water; demolitions; the continuing building of settlements; detention without trial and violence by settlers and the Israeli military. Such suffering often sows seeds of future violence.

The anniversary of World War I reminds us how easily militarised societies can slide into armed conflict and become blind to the alternatives to war. At such times, the international community has a responsibility to avoid fuelling the conflict. We join others in asking for a comprehensive arms embargo on Israel, Hamas and armed Palestinian groups. Quakers in Britain ask the UK Government to take a lead on this by halting arms exports to Israel.

As we, among other Nobel Peace Laureates, have said, 'The conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis will only be resolved when Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territory is ended and the inherent equality, worth, and dignity of all is realised’. Peacebuilding is a long and demanding path to take, but an essential one.

Quakers in Britain feel called to act alongside others to address the roots of violence. We continue to uphold Quakers in the region and those working nonviolently for peace and human rights within Israel and Palestine. Quakers will continue to challenge anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, as we oppose all forms of prejudice. We long for – and will work for – a time when the deep fear experienced on all sides is replaced by security and a just peace.

* Quakers’ commitment to working for peace in the region is through the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). This is a World Council of Churches (WCC) initiative which was established in 2002 in response to a call made by the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, and Palestinian and Israeli NGOs. Since August 2002, about 1,000 ecumenical accompaniers from more than 20 countries have served in Israel and Palestinian territories. More than 160 of these EAs were from Britain and Ireland.

* Quakers are known formally as the Religious Society of Friends.

* Around 23,000 people attend 478 Quaker meetings in Britain. Their commitment to equality, justice, peace, simplicity and truth challenges them to seek positive social and legislative change.

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Tribal people living on Indian tiger reserve face eviction 

Tue, 2014-10-14 12:39

Tribespeople living inside a tiger reserve in India are being “threatened” and “cheated” into leaving their ancestral land in the name of tiger 'conservation'.

Tribespeople living inside a tiger reserve in India are being “threatened” and “cheated” into leaving their ancestral land in the name of tiger 'conservation' – even though there is no evidence that they harm the wildlife, and they desperately want to stay on their land, says Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights.

In September 2014, members of the Munda tribe in Similipal Tiger Reserve in Odisha state met with India’s Forest Department, after promises that their rights to their forest would be recognised.

But the villagers reported to Survival International that they felt “threatened” and “cheated” into signing an eviction document drawn up by the foresters. They reported that they weren’t aware of what the document said (most do not read or write Oriya, the language it was written in), and were only later told that there was no land available for them to be moved to.

A Munda man said, “We were cheated [into signing this paper] and are now very afraid of the consequences.”

Another, Telenga Hassa, said, “We would rather die than leave the village. The forest department is pressurising us to go – they are giving a lot of threats to us, saying things like, ‘If you try to stay we will lodge many police cases against you, we will say that you are Maoists and we’ll arrest you.’”

Tribal peoples are better at looking after their environments than anyone else, says Survival, and India’s Forest Rights Act recognises their right to live in and from the forests, and to manage and protect them.

But across India, tribal peoples are being illegally evicted from their ancestral homelands in the name of conservation, particularly for tiger reserves. In addition to threats and harassment, they are promised land, housing and money as compensation, but often receive little or nothing.

Only three villages of the Kol and Munda tribes remain inside Similipal Tiger Reserve. Thirty-two families of the Khadia tribe were evicted and moved to a resettlement village outside of the forest in December 2013. Without access to the forest’s produce, and no adequate housing, they are forced to live in miserable conditions under plastic sheets, and rely on government handouts for their survival.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said today (14 October), “Many of the forests where tigers survive in India have been cared for by tribal people, who are better at looking after their environment than anyone else. But now the government is using threats and tricks to force the tribespeople out in the name of conservation, and leaving them in squalor. What’s worse, the tribes’ forests are opened up to thousands of tourists each year, and poaching and illegal logging are rampant. It’s time the conservation industry spoke out against this injustice.”

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UK Government begins Eurostar rail sell-off

Mon, 2014-10-13 19:10

The government is seeking bids for its shares in the Eurostar cross-Channel train service as part of plans to raise £20 billion in selling state assets by 2020.

The government has announced that it is seeking bids for its shareholding in the Eurostar cross-Channel train service as part of its plans to raise up to £20 billion in the sale of state assets by 2020.

The majority shareholder, with a holding 55 per cent, is the French state railway SNCF. The Belgian state rail operator SNCB holds five per cent and the UK government's stake is 40 per cent.

A bidding document from the banker UBS reports Eurostar passenger numbers and revenue as increasing each year since its inception in 1994, reaching 10.1million and £857million respectively in 2013. it expects new services to Amsterdam and Lyon and a planned investment in rolling stock to increase capacity by 20 per cent.

The proposed sell-off has been criticised by the unions. Frances O'Grady, General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) said: “Eurostar has thrived under public ownership, returning millions in profits each year to the Treasury. However, now it too has become a victim of the government’s ‘private works best’ market dogma.

“Privatisation has been a disaster for the UK’s railways. Train firms rely upon public subsidies to turn a profit, virtually all of which ends up in shareholders’ pockets, rather than being re-invested back into the network.

“By choosing to ignore this evidence ministers are once again putting the interests of private companies and shareholders before those of passengers and taxpayers.”

The General Secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport workers union (RMT), Mick Cash called the proposed sale "a gross act of betrayal of the British people".

He added: "The French and Belgians think we are insane knocking off such a valuable and strategic infrastructure asset."

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UN chief urges end to 'cycle of building and destroying' in Gaza

Mon, 2014-10-13 11:06

The UN Secretary-General has urged all parties to the war in Gaza to address the root causes of the conflict to break the “cycle of building and destroying”.

At a conference on the reconstruction of Gaza, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged all parties to last summer's war to address the root causes of the protracted conflict to prevent the “cycle of building and destroying” from becoming a ritual.

“We are here to stand with the people of Gaza who have endured a terrible summer of suffering,” said Mr Ban in his remarks to the Cairo Conference on Gaza attended by the President of the State of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas, and several foreign ministers including those from Egypt, and Norway.

Mr Ban's spokesperson announced that the UN Chief will visit Gaza on Tuesday (14 October) to help advance reconstruction efforts.

More than 2,100 Palestinians were killed in the recent 51-day conflict, along with more than 70 Israelis. Almost one-third of Gaza's population was uprooted from their homes and entire neighbourhoods were flattened.

The Secretary-General recalled how in 2009, the international community gathered in Sharm el-Sheikh in the wake of another devastating war in Gaza.

“We pledged our support. We expressed our commitment. We resolved to rebuild. And yet here we are again. The cycle of building and destroying has continued – only worse,” said Mr Ban.

This time around, dozens of schools, hospitals and clinics were destroyed or damaged. UN facilities sheltering women and children were hit, resulting in many casualties. Eleven staff members of the UN were killed in the course of the conflict.

Meanwhile rockets fired by Hamas and other armed groups from Gaza continued to be fired indiscriminately causing fear, panic and suffering, said Mr Ban. Children of Gaza who have not yet reached grade three have already lived through three wars.

To respond effectively, the UN and partners in Palestine are working with the Palestinian Government to develop the 'Gaza Crisis Appeal'. The 'UN Support Plan for the Transformation of the Gaza Strip' amounts to about $2.1 billion for early recovery and reconstruction efforts.

But ultimately, the successful reconstruction of Gaza requires a strong political foundation, said M. Ban, adding that the comprehensive reconciliation agreement reached in Cairo on 25 September was a promising first step.

Mr Ban pledged UN support for the Government of National Consensus as it manages Gaza's reconstruction needs and said he was encouraged by the recent historic Palestinian unity government meeting in Gaza led by Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.

Promoting an environment conducive for peace must include an investigation into potential violations of international humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict, Mr Ban added.

It was equally important to make the most of the opportunity presented by the forthcoming Cairo talks, strengthen the ceasefire to return to broader peace talks and refrain from unilateral actions which only exacerbate tensions and resentment.

“Gaza remains a tinderbox,” said Mr Ban, reiterating the need to address the root causes of the recent hostilities: a restrictive occupation that has lasted almost half a century, the continued denial of Palestinian rights and the lack of tangible progress in peace negotiations.

All parties must come together to chart a clear course towards a just and final peace – including achieving a full lifting of the blockade, ensuring Israel's legitimate security concerns; and establishing two States living side by side in peace and security.

“I do not want my successors or yours to make conferences such as this a ritual: building and destroying – and then expecting the international community to foot the bill,” the Secretary-General said.

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Independent MSP joins Scottish Green surge

Sat, 2014-10-11 23:44

Independent MSP John Finnie has joined the Scottish Greens. He was received rapturously at their annual conference in Inverness.

Independent MSP John Finnie has joined the Scottish Greens. He was received rapturously at their annual conference in Inverness.

The Greens, who were a key part of the Yes Scotland independence campaign, have nearly quadrupled their membership to 7,000 since the referendum, while the SNP have increased to over 80,000 and the Scottish Socialists have enlisted some 3,000 people.

Mr Finnie was elected in 2011 as an SNP list MSP for the Highlands and Islands region, having previously represented the Inverness Ness-side ward on Highland Council since 2007. He left the SNP in October 2012 over their decision to support NATO membership and has represented the region as an independent MSP since then.

His decision gives the Greens three MSPs in the Scottish Parliament, though Mr Finnie will retain the independent label until elections in 2016. The party are hoping for ten or more in the 2016 Holyrood elections, as well as seeking to make inroads to Westminster at the UK general election next year.

Patrick Harvie MSP, co-convenor of the Scottish Green Party, said: “The Green MSPs have found much to work on with John Finnie since 2012, when he left the SNP and joined the group of Greens and independent MSPs at Holyrood, and it gives me great pleasure to know he’ll be working with us from now on as a member of the Scottish Greens. Even before the SNP’s decision to support membership of a nuclear alliance, it was clear that he shares a commitment to Green values, and I know he will be a credit to the Scottish Green Party at Holyrood. The Scottish Greens have seen an unprecedented surge in membership over the last month. To be able to tell Conference this morning that John is the latest of those new members is therefore an extraordinary privilege.

“John’s decision to join the Scottish Greens comes at an excellent time. As a country, as a Parliament, and as a party, we face significant challenges on austerity and inequality, on further devolution, and on building a just low-carbon economy. Working alongside him we will aim to make a real difference on all those issues, to hold both governments to account, and to campaign for an stronger Green group at Holyrood after May 2016.”

John Finnie MSP commented: “I would like to thank the Scottish Greens for my welcome to the party today, which has been warm, generous, and enthusiastic. I’ve been a Green all my life; I just didn’t know it. Working and campaigning alongside Greens, I’ve seen that my values are Green values: social and environmental justice, democracy and integrity, internationalism and peace. Receiving my membership card today feels like a homecoming.

“I have no ill will towards the SNP, a substantial minority of whom voted with me to oppose NATO membership. But the project of building a fairer and more sustainable Scotland isn’t the exclusive property of one party, or even any group of parties, and I would urge others who share my views to take the next step and join the Greens as I have done.

"I’ll continue to sit as an independent MSP for the rest of this parliament, voting for the manifesto commitments I stood on, and voting with my conscience and judgement in all other votes, as I have done since becoming an independent. I’ll be putting my name forward to be selected as a Green candidate for the Highlands and Islands for 2016, a decision which will be for the local branch to make,” he concluded.

* More from Ekklesia on Scotland and the referendum: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/scottishindependence

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Lending boom threatens new debt crises in poor countries

Sat, 2014-10-11 23:33

New figures predict that current rates of lending could lead to debts becoming unsustainable in many impoverished countries over the next decade.

New figures released this week predict that current rates of lending could lead to debts becoming unsustainable in many impoverished countries over the next decade, just a few years after some had debts cancelled.

Based on analysis of official IMF and World Bank data, the Jubilee Debt Campaign has calculated that two-thirds of impoverished countries face large increases in the share of government income spent on debt payments over the next ten years.

On average, current lending levels will lead to increases of between 85 per cent and 250 per cent in the share of income spent on debt payments, depending on whether economies grow rapidly, or are impacted by economic shocks.

Even if high growth rates are achieved, a quarter of impoverished countries would still see the share of government income spent on debt payments increase rapidly.

Sarah-Jayne Clifton, Director of the Jubilee Debt Campaign, said: “There is a real risk that today’s lending boom is sowing the seeds of a new debt crisis in the developing world, threatening to reverse recent gains in the fight against poverty and inequality.

"The $130 billion of debt cancellation agreed in the 2000s has given countries in Africa and Latin America valuable breathing space to spend scarce government funds on fighting poverty and providing essential public services. But the failure to reform the global debt system so that the root causes of debt crises are addressed means history may be set to repeat itself.”

The figures are based on IMF and World Bank Debt Sustainability Assessments carried out over the last year for 43 impoverished countries.

For these countries, 50 per cent of lending is currently from multilateral institutions such as the IMF, World Bank and African Development Bank; 33 per cent from other governments and 17 per cent from the private sector.

For this sample of 43 countries, Jubilee Debt Campaign has calculated the number of countries where debt payments increase by more than five percentage points of government income for three possible scenarios for the next decade.

The calculations show that:
* 11 countries (26 per cent) are at risk even if IMF and World Bank predictions of continuous high economic growth over the next decade are met.
* 25 countries (58 per cent) are at risk if IMF and World Bank estimates of one economic shock over the next decade actually take place.
* 29 countries (67 per cent) are at risk if growth is lower than IMF and World Bank predictions, but still substantial.

For example, Ghana’s external debt payments are predicted by the IMF and World Bank to increase from 12 per cent of government income today to 25 per cent by 2023 even if the economy grows by 5.6 per cent a year. If the West African country suffers one economic shock, debt payments would increase to 37 per cent of income. If the country experiences lower economic growth over the next decade, payments would rise to 50 per cent of government income.

In Haiti, debt payments are predicted to increase from three per cent of income today to 14 per cent by 2024. However, with one economic shock they rise to 22 per cent of income, and 31 per cent if growth is lower.

Both Ghana and Haiti had some debts cancelled in 2004 and 2009 respectively. However, in both cases debt payments are predicted to be a greater share of government income by the 2020s than they were before countries received debt relief. In total, of the 25 countries in the study which have had some debts cancelled, between 28 per cent and 64 per cent will have debt payments as high or higher than before debt relief over the next decade, depending on how economies perform.

Sarah-Jayne Clifton continued: “The shocking thing is that public bodies like the World Bank are leading the lending boom, not just reckless private lenders hunting for returns. Urgent measures are needed now to prevent a new debt crisis, including less aid money being given as ‘loans’, and the creation of a fair, independent and comprehensive debt arbitration process so that irresponsible lenders know they will no longer be bailed out for their reckless actions.”

The Jubilee Debt Campaign is part of a global movement demanding freedom from the slavery of unjust debts and a new financial system that puts people first.

* Read the full research report here (*.PDF Adobe Acrobat document): http://jubileedebt.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Lending-boom-resear...

* Jubilee Debt Campaign: http://jubileedebt.org.uk

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Unlock Democracy launches 'real recall' for MPs report

Sat, 2014-10-11 02:24

Unlock Democracy has published a report recommending that voters, not a UK parliamentary committee, be given the power to recall their MP.

As the UK parliament prepares to debate the government’s plans for recall, political reform group Unlock Democracy has published a report recommending that voters, not a parliamentary committee, be given the power to recall their MP.

The report, 'Real Recall: a blueprint for recall in the UK', uses international experience of recall to illustrate how it could work in the UK.

Under the Westminster government’s proposals, a committee of MPs must decide that one of their number is guilty of “serious wrongdoing” before a recall can take place.

These plans will neither empower voters nor rebuild public confidence in Parliament, says Unlock Democracy. The report recommends that voters be given the power to vote to recall their MP for any reason.

The report addresses how recall would work in a party-based system like Westminster, examining case studies where recall would strengthen the individual accountability of MPs without compromising the collective accountability of a government at the ballot box. These include misconduct, failure to represent constituents, crossing the floor and breaking electoral promises.

The report recommends a three stage recall process:
1. Recall petition: recall supporters must gather the signatures of 20 per cent of voters registered in the constituency in 90 days
2. Recall referendum: a successful petition triggers a referendum, where a simple majority recalls the MP
3. By-election: a successful referendum vacates the MP’s seat and a by-election is held to replace them

Commenting on the launch of the report, Alexandra Runswick, director of Unlock Democracy, said: “After the expenses scandal, the government promised to give voters the power to recall their MP, but their proposals shut the public out of the process. They have designed a system so restrictive that it is almost certain never to be used. Once again the government has raised expectations of democratic reform and once again they have failed to deliver.

"This report shows that there is an alternative, real recall, which makes MPs individually accountable to voters. Recall would act as a safety valve, empowering voters when a majority have lost faith in their MP and reinforcing the link between an MP and their constituents.

"We call on MPs to trust voters and support real recall," she concluded.

* Real Recall: a blueprint for recall in the UK (*.PDF document): http://unlockdemocracy.org.uk/page/-/publications/Real_Recall.pdf

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Academics back dismissed faculty at troubled Episcopal seminary

Sat, 2014-10-11 00:39

Over 900 academics say they will not teach or lecture at General Theological Seminary in New York after most of its faculty were summarily dismissed.

US academics, including leading theologians, say they will not teach or lecture at General Theological Seminary (GTS) in New York after most of its faculty were summarily dismissed in a dispute a fortnight ago.

The latest to rescind is leading Christian ethicist Stanley Hauerwas, professor emeritus of divinity and law at Duke Divinity School in North Carolina, who has declined a series of prestigious lectures he was scheduled to give at the New York institution in November this year.

Over 900 scholars from across the United States, and a number of international colleagues, have signed a letter of support for the eight sacked faculty members at the troubled Episcopal Church seminary.

Those who declare they will not be involved with GTS until the situation is resolved justly include other notable figures such as James H. Cone of Union Theological Seminary (a leading figure in Black theology), Gary Dorrien of Union Theological Seminary, and Francis Schüssler Fiorenza of the Harvard Divinity School.

Eight of the ten full-time faculty members teaching at General Theological Seminary reported very serious problems with the seminary's administration through a number of channels some time ago.

Among their complaints were that the Dean and President shared a student’s academic records with people who were not authorised to see them, which would violate federal academic privacy law. They also complained about diminishing changes to the seminary's pattern of prayer and worship, high-handed behaviour, and ways of speaking that demeaned women and minority groups.

After being ignored "for months", they say, the eight faculty members wrote directly to the seminary's board of trustees about "a hostile work environment" overseen by the Very Rev Kurt Dunkle, and then undertook a legal work stoppage. A further letter to the board set out their concerns in direct terms. The board of trustees responded by accepting the faculty's 'resignations' when in fact and law no resignations had been tendered, thereby summarily dismissing them. Replacement staff are being hired.

The dismissed faculty members are Dr Joshua Davis, the Rev Mitties McDonald DeChamplain, Dr Deirdre Good, Dr David Hurd, Dr Andrew Irving, the Rev Andrew Kadel, the Rev Dr Amy Bentley Lamborn, and the Rev Dr Patrick Malloy. They have received overwhelming support from church members and fellow academics, and have established a 'Safe Seminary' website, a Facebook page with 1,100+ members, plus a twitter account (@safeseminary).

So far 210 individuals have subscribed £30,000 to a fund which aims to raise £40,000 by 15 October. "The purpose of this fundraiser is to provide them a small amount of financial assistance at this time and also to provide a platform for the larger community to show their support for their cause," says supporter Adam Wood.

GTS is a flagship seminary which has produced generations of bishops and noted theologians, and is the only Episcopal seminary overseen by the national church.

The chair of the GTS board of trustees, Bishop Mark Sisk, has agreed to a board meeting with the eight faculty members on 16 October, but has pointedly refused to rescind their sackings, which he persists in regarding as 'resignations'.

"I am aware that the faculty has made a constructive response that might offer a way forward. As things now stand, if there is no possibility of reconciliation, I would find it very difficult to give the Paddock Lectures," said Professor Hauerwas on 10 October.

“Bishop Sisk’s letter in return offered little hope that a resolution would be possible between the faculty and administrators,” he added. “I very much regret that this is the case.”

The board has attempted to "give the appearance of offering a conciliatory hand to the eight striking faculty members without actually engaging in a sincere effort at reconciliation", the sacked staff stated on 6 October.

In a further statement issued on 9 October they declared: "We are dismayed by the response of our church’s leaders to the situation at General Theological Seminary. When the eight of us brought to the Board of Trustees what we believe are extremely important issues affecting the fundamental life and mission of our seminary, we expected them to follow the procedures set out in both the seminary handbooks and our church canons. We believed they would establish a safe and non-hostile environment in which to carry out an impartial investigation. Instead, neither these procedures nor the substance of our concerns was honoured. We received only a compassionless and intimidating demand that we cooperate with a corporate law firm’s investigation.

"Even now, as we have lost our jobs for continuing to plead that these matters be addressed honourably, we cannot believe that our Presiding Bishop, the entire House of Bishops, and the good people who serve as trustees of GTS truly intend to punish those who have brought these issues to their attention. Nor do we think that they actually want to support and defend an environment of fear and anxiety that so many have told us they experience as humiliating. If they did intend to do these things, what message are they sending to Episcopal clergy and lay-persons? What would this say about the church’s respect for the vulnerable all around our country? What would this say about the moral conscience of our church’s leaders?

"We continue to hope – and believe – that our trust and confidence in the commitment to mercy and justice of the leaders of this great church are well founded, even if those qualities are not yet clearly evident. We have now agreed to a meeting with the Board of Trustees and stand ready to return to our work once they are prepared to reinstate us", say the faculty members, who have become known as 'the GTS8'.

During the 2013-14 school year, General Theological Seminary enrolled 70 students and had $10.6 million in expenditures and $27 million in investments, according to the Association of Theological Schools, reports Religion News Service. GTS had faced some $40 million of debt that it has been attempting to pay down through property sales and redevelopment.

* Safe Seminary website: http://www.safeseminary.org/

* Fund to support the GTS8: http://www.youcaring.com/help-a-neighbor/support-the-gts8/243315

* 'Reinstate the faculty unjustly dismissed from General Theological Seminary', by Simon Barrow, Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/20932

* Facebook page to promote a general petition for reinstatement of the eight GTS faculty: https://www.facebook.com/events/331354327039048/

* GTS8 general petition direct, on Change.org: http://www.change.org/p/board-of-trustees-of-general-theological-seminar...

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UKIP leader accused of 'ignorance' on HIV, migration and health

Fri, 2014-10-10 15:47

Nigel Farage has been accused of peddling prejudice masquerading as fact in recent comments about migrants with HIV and so-called 'health tourists'.

Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP, has been accused of peddling prejudice masquerading as fact in recent comments about people with HIV and so-called 'health tourists'.

Britain's oldest, most established HIV-AIDS charity, the Terrence Higgins Trust, told RT.com today that the UKIP chief, currently celebrating a by-election victory that returned a Conservative defector to Westminster, had demonstrated an “outrageous lack of understanding” by demanding that migrants with HIV should be barred from the UK.

Mr Farage made his remarks during an interview with Newsweek Europe, published a few hours after UKIP’s win in Clacton.

This morning he also said that he wanted to tackle alleged "health and benefits tourism" by immigrants.

But Dr Rosemary Gillespie, CEO of the Terrence Higgins Trust, said Farage’s logic on HIV and immigration was “draconian” and “ridiculous”.

She and human rights campaigners, along with the World Health Organisation (WHO), stress that the virus should not be used to discriminate against people.

“It is to the UK’s credit that for more than three decades successive governments, no matter their political stamp, have refused to put in place border controls against people living with HIV,” she declared.

“Major international organisations, including the United Nations, agree that such draconian measures would have no impact on the epidemic. In bracketing those living with the condition with murderers, and suggesting there is no place for them in his vision of Britain, Mr Farage has stooped to a new level of ignorance," Dr Gillespie concluded.

Less than one per cent of people in Britain who were born elsewhere have contracted HIV, and people from the UK who have the virus also seek and gain treatment elsewhere.

Meanwhile, the National Health Action Party has produced what it calls "a handy factsheet about immigrants and health tourism to help counter the UKIP lies" on the subject.

It points out that a majority of migrants who come to the UK are young, healthy, in work and not only pay taxes, but contribute more to the economy than they take out.

Meanwhile, twice as many overseas visitors pay to use the NHS as access it free, while more British people get treatment abroad than visitors or immigrants get treatment in the UK.

Non-UK citizens receiving medical services, at a cost of just 0.6 per cent of the NHS budget, generate millions for NHS and the wider economy, and the British Medical Association warns that income from charging migrants will be less than the cost of administration.

Indeed, say critics of UKIP's attempt to whip up anti-immigrant sentiment, the NHS would collapse without migrants, since more than a third of current registered doctors completed their primary medical qualification outside the UK.

* The NHAP fact sheet I can be found here: http://nhap.org/a-handy-factsheet-about-immigrants-and-health-tourism/

* Terrence Higgins Trust: http://www.tht.org.uk

* Analysis of UKIP: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/ukip

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Justice and peace inspires Latin American communicators

Fri, 2014-10-10 15:20

A 'pilgrimage of justice and peace' theme has triggered robust discussions on cooperation among Christian communication organisations.

The theme 'pilgrimage of justice and peace' has triggered robust discussions on furthering cooperation among Christian communication organisations in a seminar sponsored by the World Council of Churches (WCC).

The seminar was held at the biannual assembly of the Latin American and Caribbean Agency of Communication (ALC) from 3 to 5 October in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The call for a 'pilgrimage of justice and peace' was issued by the WCC 10th Assembly in Busan, Republic of Korea, 2013.

Founded in 1994, the ALC reaches some 10,000 readers daily through its news releases published in three languages and its social media outlets. The agency is currently striving to obtain financial support to continue working. These constraints were discussed at the ALC assembly. The Rev Leonardo Daniel Felix, director of the ALC, believes that the seminar was a “chance to envisage new possibilities of collaboration improving the quality of the materials produced by the ecumenical news agency.”

“We have discovered new prospects and potential for future strategic alliances with communication partners. Such alliances can enable new forms of mutual cooperation and wider coverage of themes that inform, raise awareness and improve advocacy actions undertaken by the churches and ecumenical organisations in the region,” said Felix.

The seminar, coordinated by Dr Marcelo Schneider, WCC communications liaison for Latin America, addressed how “a pilgrimage of justice and peace” can inspire communicators to enhance dissemination of news from the churches in Latin America and the Caribbean.

“The WCC’s communication references to the pilgrimage, as well as strategies used in social media, are extremely relevant for the communicators in Latin America,” said Schneider. “From the WCC communications perspective, our role is not only to get our news visible, but also to empower spaces where all of us can share our stories,” he added.

To engage local communicators in promoting a pilgrimage of justice and peace, a joint WCC-ALC collaboration was developed at the WCC Busan Assembly by the WCC communications director Mark Beach and the ALC director The Rev Leonardo Daniel Felix.

“This initiative was both a concrete contribution and an encouragement in strengthening Christian communications,” said the Rev Daniel Favaro from the Evangelical Methodist Church of Argentina. “This collaboration was of great help for us in finding unified criteria for sharing our content regionally with our ecumenical partners meeting requirements of media,” added Favaro, who is a WCC Central Committee member and ALC board member.

The ALC, which has recently launched a new website (www.alc-noticias.net) is formed by the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI), the Alliance of Presbyterian and Reformed Churches in Latin America (AIPRAL), the Regional Ecumenical Center for Advisory and Service (CREAS), the Lutheran Forum of Communicators (FLC) and the World Association for Christian Communication (WACC).

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Categories: News syndication

New report reveals abuse of hundreds of Bushmen in Botswana

Fri, 2014-10-10 10:48

A new report from Survival International reveals hundreds of cases of beatings, arrests and abuses of Kalahari Bushmen at the hands of wildlife officers and police.

A new report from Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights, has revealed hundreds of cases of beatings, arrests and abuses suffered by the Kalahari Bushmen in Botswana at the hands of wildlife officers and police.

The report, They have killed me: the persecution of Botswana’s Bushmen 1992- 2014 details over 200 cases of violent abuse recorded between 1992 and 2014, including a Bushman who died after being tortured; a child shot in the stomach after his father refused police entry to his hut without a warrant; and a Bushman who was buried alive for killing an antelope.

The Bushmen were illegally evicted from their ancestral homeland in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in the name of 'conservation'. They are accused of 'poaching' because they hunt their food, and face arrests and beatings, torture and death at the hands of wildlife officers and paramilitary police. (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/17800)

The US State Department has labeled Botswana’s discrimination against the Bushmen a “principal human rights concern” and the government has been condemned nationally and internationally by Botswana’s High Court, the United Nations, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, Motswana political activist and former Robben Island prisoner Michael Dingake, the BBC’s John Simpson and many more.

The Central Kalahari Game Reserve was created as a ”place of sanctuary” for the Bushmen to continue their way of life as hunter-gatherers in 1961. But after diamonds were discovered in the reserve in the 1980s, the government began to force the Bushmen off their ancestral homeland.

Tribal peoples like the Bushmen are better at looking after their environment than anyone else, but Botswana’s President Ian Khama has justified their persecution in the name of "conservation”, while allowing diamond mining and fracking exploration to go ahead in the reserve.

A 2006 High Court ruling upheld the Bushmen’s right to live and hunt inside the reserve, but the government has imposed a nationwide hunting ban, effectively starving them off their land. Meanwhile, rich trophy hunters are encouraged to hunt protected species on private game ranches.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said, “All these crimes were committed in the name of ‘conservation’ but no conservation organisation has stood up for the Bushmen. Now they are accused of ‘poaching’ because they hunt their food; Bushman families risk starvation to remain on their ancestral land, while the government encourages fee-paying big game hunters. NGO giant Conservation International welcomes President Khama to its board. Prince William’s anti-poaching coalition, United for Wildlife, invites him as an honored guest, and even asks him to host its next meeting, yet he is directly responsible for trying to finish off the last hunting Bushmen in Africa. Survival is fighting these abuses. It’s time the secrets of the conservation industry were exposed.”

* Read the report They have killed me: the persecution of Botswana’s Bushmen 1992- 2014 here: http://assets.survivalinternational.org/documents/1287/they-have-killed-...

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Categories: News syndication

UKIP, saviour of the establishment

Fri, 2014-10-10 10:16
Categories: News syndication

Legal action begins against BIS over UK arms sales to Israel

Fri, 2014-10-10 09:41

Campaign Against Arms Trade has instructed law firm Leigh Day to pursue an application for judicial review over the UK government's refusal to revoke arms export licences to Israel.

Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) has instructed law firm Leigh Day to pursue an application for judicial review to challenge the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) decision not to suspend or revoke 12 existing licences for the export of arms/components to Israel.

The decision followed a review which was overseen by Vince Cable MP and the Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) which identified 12 licences for components that could be part of equipment used by the Israel Defence Forces in Gaza. However, BIS decided that it would not even suspend these licences unless "significant hostilities" resumed.

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has indicated that grave breaches of international humanitarian law and other serious breaches of international law may have occurred during ‘Operation Protective Edge’, which was launched on 8 July 2014 against the population of Gaza, killing over 1900 people.

The wider legal basis for the legal action is outlined in the letter to BIS. All the correspondence between CAAT and BIS is available on the CAAT website.

Andrew Smith from CAAT, said: "The UK government's response to the bombardment of Gaza was unacceptable. Vince Cable himself oversaw a review that identified 12 licences for arms that he accepted were likely to have been used in Gaza. He refused to even suspend them at the time, saying that he would only do so if the violence continued.

"The violence continued, more people died, and yet he failed to follow through on his word. This wasn't the first time UK weapons have been used against Gaza, so the licences should never have been granted in the first place.

"This is yet another example of the UK government doing everything in its power to promote and facilitate arms sales despite terrible ramifications for human rights. Arms sales don't just provide military support to the recipient, they imply a strong level of political support too."

Rosa Curling, from the law firm Leigh Day, who represents CAAT, said: "The decision by BIS not to suspend or revoke the twelve existing licences is unlawful. The review that was conducted by the department was flawed as it envisaged considering whether weapons 'have been’ used at the point at which 'significant hostilities' resume. This is too late.

"The licensing criteria are very clear, that licences should be revoked if there is a 'clear risk' that equipment ‘might' be used in violation of international humanitarian law or internal repression. This must be assessed at the time the licensing decision is made.

"The Government must now look at this with urgency and comply with the law on arms export to ensure that UK arms are not responsible for breaches of international law."

Since 2010 the UK government has licensed £42 million worth of military licences to Israel, including targeting systems and drone components.

* Correspondence between CAAT and BIS http://www.caat.org.uk/resources/countries/israel/legal/

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Categories: News syndication