Give a Child a Future

schoolbook

There are quite a few blog posts floating around my head at the moment, but I have been too busy and/or too tired to actually write them. This is just a quick post to provide a link to the ONE campaign’s petition calling for education for refugees, the following is from an email I received earlier today:

Every child deserves an education. But right now, well over 3 million refugee children aren’t just away from their homes, they’re out of school.

The impact of this is devastating, with children often forced to work and, in some cases, having to agree to child marriages in order to survive.

These children have already lost their homes. They shouldn’t lose their futures, too.

This September, our leaders will be meeting in New York to discuss the global refugee crisis – they need to put education at the heart of that conversation. Sign the petition and let’s help these children get the future they deserve.

Thank you for reading, and thank you for signing.

Sam, the Recipient of Crumbs

I sat there in the office all morning and only a few Negroes came in, although the teenagers on the streets with ballot boxes were having better luck… The longer I sat there, the madder I got… If Negroes truly wanted to vote, they would have come in the office and done so. “They know it’s just a freedom vote,” I thought. “They also know Aaron Henry is a Negro. After three weeks of walking and talking until we were collapsing in the streets, these are the results we get… Until we can come up with some good sound plans to help the Negroes solve their immediate problems – that is, a way to get a little food into their bellies, a roof over their heads, and a few coins in their pockets – we will be talking forever. They will never stop being scared of Mr. Charlie until we are able to replace the crumbs that Mr. Charlie is giving them. Until we can say, ‘Here is a job, Sam. Work hard and stand up and be a man.’ Not until we can do that or find some way for Sam to do that, will Sam stand up. If we don’t, Sam will forever be a boy, an uncle or just plain Sam, the recipient of crumbs.”

~ *’Coming of Age in Mississippi’ by Anne Moody

Good intentions, the best of intentions = not worth much when people are hungry, or homeless. A person’s dignity cannot be realised when they’re unable to provide for themselves and their family. I am reminded of Thérèse of Lisieux – I can’t remember the exact quote and I can’t recall which book it’s from(!) but she wrote that, although every one of us is sinful and broken, we have a God-breathed dignity that means that we can stand before Him (and before the world), small as we are, without shame. We should treat one another in the same way, especially those who are suffering. God gives some of us more than enough so that we can share – and I don’t just mean handouts, I mean treating one another with the respect that a God-imbued dignity deserves.

*’Coming of Age in Mississippi’ is an incredible book. It is the autobiographical account of a young woman’s life in rural Mississippi as a black, abused child, and how she grew up into a strong, determined woman who decided to take a stand against injustice. I’ve been the victim of abuse (though not racism) so can relate to an extent, but the fact that Anne Moody chose to put herself in harm’s way to advocate for the rights of black people in Mississippi and elsewhere is nothing short of amazing. She is no saint – and paints no one else as saints either, just as the complex beings that we all are, even when we have the best of intentions. That makes this book all the better! It is an honest, detailed account of one person’s experiences in the mid-20th century and imho should be required reading for anyone who thinks they understand what constitutes racism and/or misogyny (especially if they have, by default, experienced neither). 

‘A Call to Action’

As everyone knows, young people are bombarded with normalised violence through highly realistic video games that take the player through many hours of simulated combat and criminal behaviour. In addition [the internet], movies, television, magazines and music videos are full of demeaning depictions of women. These games and media make us less sensitive to violence and the debasement of women, so we are more inclined to accommodate them in real life. 

Jimmy Carter, A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence and Power

This really is an excellent book. Carter expresses difficult concepts with ease and has a straightforwardness of manner that is actually quite rare. He writes with intelligence, depth of knowledge and integrity.

I don’t want my daughters growing up believing that their value lies in the way they look on the outside rather than what’s on the inside. I don’t want them to believe that their bodies are worth more than their spirit. I don’t want my son growing up believing that it doesn’t matter if he enjoys looking at a woman’s body as if she exists for his ‘enjoyment’. I want my children to know that their bodies are beautiful, but also that their bodies are a gift to be treasured and treated with respect and dignity. I want them to know that every person – mind, body and spirit – is made in the image of God, and it is for this reason that Jesus taught us to love one another, and to offer respect to every individual’s God-breathed humanity.

Reblog: “Ain’t I a Woman?” (video)

‘Sojourner Truth was an African-American abolitionist and women’s rights activist. Truth was born into slavery in Swartekill, Ulster County, New York, but escaped with her infant daughter to freedom in 1826.’ (wikipedia)

I have read a lot about slavery and the history of slavery. William Wilberforce is a personal hero, someone whom I find inspiring as an abolitionist and as a Christian.

I know less about Sojourner Truth, but you can hear what an incredible woman she was in her own words as spoken here by Nkechi.

Thank you, Laura, for posting this.

Laura Droege's blog

This was too awesome not to share. Actress Nkechi reenacts Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech for a TEDx talk.

(I’m hoping that I’m not violating copyright. The video gave the option to share on various social media sites, including Blogger; so hopefully I’m in the clear.) 

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Lent: As the Father has Loved

‘1968. Jerusalem. Brother Andrew had spent a decade visiting the church in Communist lands. He had built a team to help him. But the success of God’s Smuggler meant he was now too well known and could not return to those countries. A visit to Israel brought him face to face with the conflict between Muslim, Jew and Christian in the Middle East. He read again Christ’s messages to the church in Revelation. ‘To him who overcomes…’ [Revelation 3:7-13]

“But most of the churches in that letter had not ‘overcome’. They no longer existed. Individual churches could die… I knew then that my mission was to seek out the living church in the Middle East, learn about her condition and needs, and do whatever I could do to strengthen her.”

The core of Brother Andrew’s message is love. “Here’s what we need to remember: I Sincerely Love All Muslims.” Or ISLAM for short.’

from Open Doors email

as part of the Step of Yes series

Amen. ‘I Sincerely Love All Muslims’ – ‘Islam’ for short.

*********

This morning I had a cup of tea brought to me by my wonderful husband. The mug containing the tea was printed with the words ‘Love was His meaning’ over and over. How amazing  – no, how beautiful – that I should be sipping my tea from that mug and reading the above from Open Doors. A gentle reminder that God is good when times are good and God is good when times are bad.

‘Would you know your Lord’s meaning in this thing? Know it well, love was his meaning. Who showed it to you? Love. What did he show you? Love. Why did he show it? For love. Keep yourself therein and you shall know and understand more in the same. But you shall never know nor understand any other thing, forever.’

from Revelations of Divine Love

by Julian of Norwich

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.

John 15:9 (NRSVA)

UK: Shut Down this Rape ‘Guru’ (a message from Avaaz)

‘In Japan he told his students, “Dude, just grab her.” In some seminars he teaches men how to choke women. In another class caught on video he told men they need to “short circuit the emotional and logical mind” of women — to get them into bed against their consent. He’s an evangelist of rape culture, and he’s coming to the UK in a week — unless we shut him down.

A self-described American “pick up artist,” Julien Blanc earns thousands for his sick classes, and in a week he’s scheduled to teach a sold out “boot camp” in London. But Julien is running into a PR problem: campaigns in Australia, Canada, Japan and Brazil have just taken off, asking governments to keep him out — and Australia revoked his visa this week! Now a new petition in the UK is taking off, calling on the Home Office to deny him a visa. It’s the perfect moment to jump on board and put him and his sexist snake oil operation out of business for good.

To allow this man into the UK sends a message that women are objects to be manipulated and preyed on, and it legitimises sexual assault. Not on our watch.Sign now, share with everybody you know, and let’s add the UK to the list of proud countries standing up for the rights of women.’

from Avaaz.

To read more and to add your name to the petition, please click here.

I’d be interested to know how this relates to laws in the UK about incitement to hatred and/or violence. Mind you, victims’ rights are often forgotten in favour of the ‘rights’ of convicted criminals… but this isn’t about me; it’s about my country and it’s about standing up for what is right. Sometimes the best way of doing right is to be seen to be doing right.

Help Save Mohammad from Execution

Mohammad, an Edinburgh grandfather on death row for blasphemy in Pakistan, is in a critical condition. He was shot by a prison guard and remains at risk of further violence. Mohammad has a documented history of mental illness and has been charged with blasphemy after becoming delusional. It is a tragic case. Tomorrow, Jasmine, Mohammad’s daughter is taking a petition to Downing Street (please see the link below).

According to 38 Degrees (a non-party-aligned political action group), a Downing Street spokeswoman said yesterday that “the PM has been following the case closely.” More than 70,000 people have signed the petition to save Mohammad. Please would you consider signing it too?

https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/bringmohammadhome

Please would you also pray for Mohammad and for his family here in the UK. They must be feeling desperate right now.

Sample Letter

I wrote this post (click to open in a new tab) a little while ago about why Christians should be involved in politics, and what form being ‘involved’ in politics can take. Prompted by an email from Christian charity Tearfund, I emailed my local MP about the issue of climate change. I nearly didn’t do it, as my MP is proudly against a proposed wind farm (I don’t know the circumstances but I suspect it’s probably nimbyism). I prayed about it and this parable came to mind:

 

Then [Jesus] gave them an illustration to show that they must always pray and never lose heart.

“Once upon a time,” he said, “there was a magistrate in a town who had neither fear of God nor respect for his fellow-men. There was a widow in the town who kept coming to him, saying, ‘Please protect me from the man who is trying to ruin me.’ And for a long time he refused. But later he said to himself, ‘Although I don’t fear God and have no respect for men, yet this woman is such a nuisance that I shall give judgement in her favour, or else her continual visits will be the death of me!’”

Then the Lord said, “Notice how this dishonest magistrate behaved. Do you suppose God, patient as he is, will not see justice done for his chosen, who appeal to him day and night? I assure you he will not delay in seeing justice done. Yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find men on earth who believe in him?”

Luke 18:1-8 (JB Phillips)

First, I decided to pray for my MP, which is something that hadn’t occurred to me before. Second, I decided to be persistent in my letters, just like the widow. He can’t ignore me forever – and I have a feeling that my innate tendency to stubbornness persistence will prove useful.

MPs have websites where you can find their address and email address. Here is the email that I sent to my MP, which could be used as a sample letter or email:

 

Dear [insert name]

As a Christian I care deeply about the world’s poor, particularly those living in extreme poverty. I also care about the ‘green and pleasant land’ we call home. I am writing because I want to ask you to take action on climate change. Climate change will affect the poorest most. There will also be more frequent episodes of extreme weather events such as the snow experienced in 2010, the weeks of rain in 2012 and the recent devastating floods. All this will have an impact not just on the world’s poorest but on our own people and economy too.

It is not too late. If we take action now, the worst case scenario can be avoided. Please take the time to read the latest IPCC report summaries. This is probably the greatest political issue facing the world in our generation.

You can read the report here: http://1.usa.gov/1hR6qr1

Please also push for a strong manifesto commitment from your party to say what they will do to reduce our economy’s reliance on fossil fuels, particularly by increasing low carbon energy sources and driving energy efficiency, as the report says we need to. The UK is Europe’s windiest country. Wind, water and sun are much more secure ways of achieving reliable sources of energy for the British economy than buying coal and oil from Russia or Qatar.

I wish you a restful time off over the Easter recess. May I also take the opportunity to wish you Easter blessings and to let you know that our family is praying for you, as our MP.

Many thanks

[insert name and address]

Choices: Making a Difference

During the lead up to Easter known as Lent the ancient practice of fasting is observed. Fasting is designed to reorient our focus back to where it should be, away from the distractions (and sins) we so easily find ourselves falling into. Isaiah has some very interesting words on the nature of fasting that God desires:

Look, you serve your own interest on your fast-day,
    and oppress all your workers…

Is not this the fast that I choose:
    to loose the bonds of injustice,
to let the oppressed go free,
to share your bread with the hungry,
    and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
    and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

Isaiah 58: 3,6,7 (NRSVA)

 

I want to focus here on the link between God’s ‘fasting’ and politics. Things can get pretty heated around election time. Who one votes for is almost on a par with whether one is a follower of Christ or not (or so certain people would have you believe). I personally am extremely wary of placing politics anywhere near on a par with Christ as I can see how easy it would be to fashion for myself something that becomes more important than Jesus himself, i.e. to make an ‘idol’ of politicians, political parties or political ideals. I also, personally speaking, prefer to keep my political inclinations to myself. I consider the right to a secret ballot just as important as democracy itself. Also worth noting is that this prized thing which we call democracy, and over which wars are fought and men, women and children have been killed, is not in any way ‘biblical’ (and ‘biblical’ is often a term used by those advocating ‘I’m right and you’re wrong’ so I generally steer clear of the word). To get to the point: democracy as we know it, where every adult gets to vote, is very much a 20th century invention.

Having said that, I cannot see how Christianity or Christians can be disengaged from politics. Like it or not, Jesus himself was a political figure. The occupied Israel of 2000 years ago was a hotbed of political resentment and various groups all searching for a new leader who would set Israel free. At that time, Jesus was perceived as a political figure despite his basic refusal to engage with those who wanted to attach to him their own desires and ideals (no wonder he got up people’s noses, he point-blank refused to engage with them in the manner they wanted). Jesus can even be said to have been a political subversive, but his subversiveness – being the embodiment of God’s Upside Down Kingdom – was totally unlike anything anyone had ever imagined. Jesus was subversive even to the subversives! We can confidently state that Jesus was a political radical. Even his death was that which was reserved for dissidents.

So what does that mean for those of us who claim to be his followers? How does this manifest itself in the 21st century? Our world is dominated by politics and although we must not allow politics to become our ‘idol’, we can’t escape the fact that we still live in a world where people are hungry, lonely, suffering, poor – a world where 19,000 children under the age of five die from preventable causes every day.

Every day.

God, help us.

How do we as Christians respond? Did Jesus have any words in this area? The answer is yes, quite a lot, actually. This is (in my opinion) his summary:

‘All the nations will be assembled before him and he will separate men from each other like a shepherd separating sheep from goats. He will place the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left.

“Then the king will say to those on his right ‘Come, you who have won my Father’s blessing! Take your inheritance—the kingdom reserved for you since the foundation of the world! For I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was lonely and you made me welcome. I was naked and you clothed me. I was ill and you came and looked after me. I was in prison and you came to see me there.”

“Then the true men will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and give you food? When did we see you thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you lonely and make you welcome, or see you naked and clothe you, or see you ill or in prison and go to see you?’

“And the king will reply, ‘I assure you that whatever you did for the humblest of my brothers you did for me.’

Matthew 25:32-40 (JB Phillips)

 

What is interesting in the context of the 21st century is that all of these things are affected by, and shaped by, the decisions of those in power. Which leads us back to politics.

While I personally find it impossible to align myself with any particular political affiliation (because there will undoubtedly come a time when one’s faith or one’s conscience clashes with the party political line) I do believe that Christians should be actively involved in politics. You may be wondering how one does this without political affiliation. I am ‘politically active’ in that I am a member of several pressure groups involved in lobbying both the UK parliament and overseas governments on cross-party issues. In particular I support Avaaz, CAAT, 38 Degrees and Tearfund (Tearfund engages in both helping the poor and lobbying parliament on their behalf). I have just come across another group called Labour Behind the Label, which seeks to promote awareness of the conditions in which garment factory workers carry out their work. I have just written an email to my local Member of Parliament (MP) asking him to sign a motion calling for the companies involved in the Bangladesh garment factory disaster in 2013 to pay the compensation the victims are due. Several big brands, including Benetton and Matalan, have yet to pay a penny. You can read more here.

If you find you’re not in a position to actively do very much by way of caring for the hungry/homeless/lonely, etc. (see Matthew 25, as quoted above), because you have other commitments or find yourself, like me, feeling the effects of ill health, one way you can still be active is by signing petitions and communicating with your government representative (here in the UK it is my MP whom I write to). It doesn’t take more than a minute to read the details of a petition and add your name. It doesn’t take more than a quarter of an hour to write an email or letter to your MP. For me, it’s good to know I can do something.

Two_Roads_Diverge_in_a_Green_Park,_In_the_Middle_Stand_an_Obelisk_01

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-

I took the one less travelled by,

And that has made all the difference.

from The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost