Displaying items by tag: Parliament
Politics is concerned with serving the common good, weighing and developing solutions, stewarding resources in the public interest; music touches our experiences, tastes and emotions. Boris Johnson’s description of the NHS as ‘powered by love’ following his recovery from coronavirus was notable in its departure from this pattern. His tribute conveyed something out of the ordinary, reflecting an insight derived not from briefings or expert analysis, but through relationship and direct personal experience. Churches have more in common with music than politics. The greatest Christian commandments have to do with love for God and for other people. One expression of love is kindness, which we have seen in abundance during the coronavirus pandemic. Martin Luther King Jr said, ‘Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.’
A petition launched by evangelist David Hathaway calls on the Prime Minister to hold a national day of prayer in response to the pandemic. For details, see David said, ‘Historically, only prayer has delivered this nation in a time of crisis, as seen both in WW1 in 1918 and even more so in WW2. When we have no human answer to the coronavirus which has devastated both health and our economy, we must seek God’s answer.’ The petition’s opening statement asks for churches to be open for prayer and worship without restriction for the day: ‘We ask you to remember and recognise the strong Christian heritage of this nation and the power of prayer, which is greater than any other power on earth.’ A separate petition, launched by Susan Hawkes in March and also calling for a national day of prayer, has received over 65,600 signatures.
Report on Nigeria to UK Parliament
“The incessant killing is more dangerous than Coronavirus” …The words of a community leader in central Nigeria – after coronavirus had reached his country – after an April attack in which nine people died, including a pregnant woman and her three year old.
His reaction is one of several testimonies – frequently harrowing to read, let alone to have experienced – that feature in an Inquiry into the scale of death and destruction caused by conflict occurring along the Christian-Muslim faultline running across the ‘Middle Belt’ of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation.
The Inquiry is published today, 15 June, by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for International Freedom of Religion or Belief of the UK Parliament; it has been taking evidence since autumn 2018.
(However, since the Coronavirus pandemic, violence appears to have grown even as international media have been otherwise occupied).
“APPG members have been alarmed by the dramatic and escalating violence in Nigeria characterised as the farmer-herder conflict. This violence has manifested along ideological lines, as the herders are predominantly ethnic Fulani Muslims and the farmers are predominantly Christians. There has been significant debate about what factors are driving and exacerbating this crisis. Therefore, the APPG launched a parliamentary inquiry to help develop a nuanced understanding of the drivers of violence”.
The resulting report ‘Nigeria: Unfolding Genocide?’ points out that the violence has claimed the lives of thousands of people and displaced hundreds of thousands more. It has caused untold human and economic devastation and heightened existing ethno-religious tensions. “The [age old farmer-herder] conflict has evolved from spontaneous reactions to provocations and now to deadlier planned attacks” it quotes the International Crisis Group as saying.
Despite the scale of the violence, the conflict is much less well known internationally than the 10 year long Boko Haram insurgency which has claimed over 30,000 lives (112 Chibok girls are still ‘missing’ after 6 years) and now its offshoot Islamic State West African Province’s (ISWAP) atrocities. These also feature in the APPG report and appear to have escalated in recent weeks and months. (In the latest Boko Haram-linked incidents this past week, over a hundred have died and hundreds more been injured; a UN humanitarian hub and a police station were reported burned down).
However, this APPG report echoes the Global Terrorist Index (GTI) 2019 by the Institute for Economics and Peace, which indicates that the primary driver of the increase in violence in sub-Saharan Africa is a rise in activity in Nigeria attributed, not to Boko Haram, ISWAP or Ansar ul Islam, but to Fulani militant extremists. In 2018, it appears Fulani extremists were responsible for the majority of terror-related deaths in Nigeria.
Its geographical footprint is also larger, with conflict manifesting in more States. According to global NGO, Search for Common Ground (SfCG), “between 1 January 2019 and 1 January 2020, inter-communal violence represented the most severe threat to civilian lives in Nigeria.”
In his report for the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office a year ago, the Bishop of Truro concluded “the religious dimension is a significantly exacerbating factor” in clashes between farmers and herders and “targeted violence against Christian communities in the context of worship suggests that religion plays a key part.”
The Nigerian Government’s attempts to resolve the ethno-religious conflict have been ineffective; there seems to be no end in sight. The long-term consequences of failure to reduce the violence are severe, says the Inquiry: “There is the enormous cost in terms of human lives but there is also the potential for economic collapse, famine, further mass displacement of civilians and even more conflict, as the two major religious groups in the country become increasingly polarised”.
Pray: that the perpetrators of these atrocities will be brought to justice.
Pray: for the victims and families of these terrorist attacks.
Pray: for a breakthrough in the efforts of the Nigerian government to broker lasting peace in the region.
Pray: that the world community will come together to bring about pressure on the Nigerian politicians to deal with the situation at all levels.
Pray: against the powers of darkness that they will be overcome IJN.
MPs voted on 1 February 2018 to approve the renovation work at the Houses of Parliament, which will entail their moving out. The building is a safety risk for all those who work in it, and urgent action is needed. As well as the fire threat, it is vulnerable because of an antiquated sewage system and areas riddled with asbestos. Plans have been reviewed due to the impact of coronavirus on public finances. Although the move, if it happens, is expected to take place around 2025, we can pray for decisions being made now. Boris Johnson has suggested that Parliament could move to York while the Palace of Westminster undergoes renovation: see.
Rupa Huq MP raised the topic of buffer zones at abortion clinics, to help protect women who attend clinics from intimidation, saying the bill was about women being able to present themselves for healthcare, not abortion. Fiona Bruce responded, ‘Such a law would damage free speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, the right to protest peaceably, and the right to receive information’. The comments were part of a ten-minute rule bill, where a backbench MP makes the case for a new bill and another MP can oppose it. They rarely become law but bring publicity to an issue. This bill passed, but is not guaranteed further Parliament debating time unless the Government chooses to make it progress. The bill’s demands are not around abortion, but are about women presenting themselves for healthcare without intimidation.
Parliamentary prayer breakfast leaders in Europe, MPs, and MEPs are to have a time of prayer between 7 and 8am BST on Friday 26 June. They intend to implore God from the parliaments of Europe to rebuild our societies on His strong foundation. They say, ‘Let us humble ourselves, and pray in the name of Jesus for our countries, Europe, and the world. From the Atlantic to the Urals, from the North Sea to the Mediterranean, may history say of us that “they remembered that God was their Rock, that God Most High was their Redeemer” (Psalm 78:35).’ If you feel a strong sense of urgency about the new present and the near future you may want to watch live and join together with Christians across Europe here
After the Supreme Court had decided that the proroguing of Parliament was illegal, MPs returned to the Commons on 25 September for an evening of inflamed rhetoric with debate resorting to a session of offensive, dangerous language. The BBC reported, ‘We are seeing the raw conflict that had to play out, the fight Theresa May delayed but couldn't make disappear. Politics moves so fast, it's impossible to tell if the cries of horror in SW1 will fade to nothing, or how far they have reached beyond Westminster's bubble. The situation is ever-shifting and could transform within days. It is almost impossible to imagine this group of politicians being able to agree on much.’ Let us pray according to Proverbs 15 for gentle answers to turn away wrath, for God to adorn MP’s tongues with wisdom, and knowledge and for the eyes of the Lord to reach every corner of parliament, prompting calm considerations and restraint. May the Houses of Parliament produce great treasures of domestic debate, spoken by wise lips and spreading knowledge.
800+ health professionals have written to the secretary of state opposing the Northern Ireland liberalisation of abortion laws. Doctors, nurses, and midwives say their consciences will not allow them to stay silent. They want reassurance as ‘conscientious objectors’ that they will not have to perform or assist abortions. Abortion restrictions will be drastically reduced unless the Stormont assembly is restored by 21 October. In July MPs passed the Executive Formation Act, placing a duty on the government to provide access to abortion in Northern Ireland. Those who signed the letter said their concern was for pregnant mothers and their unborn children. As Christians, it is their firmly held belief that abortion is the ‘unjust and violent taking of human life’. There are two strands to this argument: the unborn child is a human being with value and worth, and women in crisis pregnancies need compassionate care.
The Queen will suspend Parliament in September and open a new parliamentary session on 14 October, when Boris Johnson will set out his agenda. This prorogation leaves less time for MPs to pass any new Brexit laws; the Speaker, John Bercow, called the move an outrage. There are many conflicting opinions about this move. We can pray and declare that the voices carrying godly wisdom will be heard above every other voice. May the public recognise in the melee of opinions what is true and just, discerning when a decision made on behalf of the nation is upright, wise and based on facts (see Proverbs 8:7-9). Father, may the United Kingdom be a crown of splendour in Your hand, no longer isolated from Your purposes, but united with Your Kingdom plans directing all You have called, gifted and prepared for such a time as this.
MPs debated the Gemma White report of bullying incidents in the Commons on 17 July. Coincidentally, a day after another inquiry found that staff were ‘bullied and harassed’ by ‘known offenders’ in the House of Lords. The commons decided to allow the parliamentary complaints scheme to investigate historical allegations of bullying and harassment incidents, which date from before June 2017. It comes after a report said that there was a ‘significant problem’ of MPs bullying and harassing staff, including some making unwanted sexual advances. Fewer than 30 MPs were in attendance at the debate, where the Commons Leader said MPs must ‘bring forward much needed change at the earliest possible opportunity’. Pray for the lewd, aggressive and intimidating behaviour by certain MPs and senior staff that has been tolerated and concealed for years to be finally revealed and offenders to be publicly condemned.