Displaying items by tag: Parliament
The Church of England has urged the Government to ensure age verification systems are put in place to protect under-18s from online pornography. The widespread availability of porn to children means they are growing up in a culture where violent, degrading and harmful sexual activity is being normalised. In 2017, porn checks were approved by Parliament under the Digital Economy Act but plans to implement them were abandoned in 2019 when the Government claimed they would be covered by future legislation. The abandoned Online Safety Bill stated, ‘pornographic websites could face large fines and risk being blocked if they do not have age verification systems in place to prevent children from accessing content.’ But now the Government announced, ‘further parliamentary consideration of the Bill is delayed until after the summer recess.’
The Conservative Party is looking into reports that a male Tory frontbencher watched pornography on his phone in the House of Commons debating chamber. Christian charity CARE said the ‘harms’ of pornography are ‘truly distressing’ and the political class must take account of porn's harms. A 2018 report found over 24,000 attempts to access pornographic websites from parliamentary computers. CARE said that members of parliament watching pornography openly in and around the House of Commons, in front of colleagues, shows a cavalier attitude that ignores the feelings of others and displays a disturbing lack of empathy for victims. The porn industry publishes videos of underage and non-consensual sex, rape, violence, and other vile behaviours. Children are damaged through encountering porn online. This MP appears not to care. The harms of the porn industry, and pornography consumption, are truly distressing. Our political class must recognise and take account of them.
There needs to be more and better laws and legislation to safeguard children from online sexual exploitation. Later this month the Online Safety Bill will be debated in Westminster as it enters its second reading. The bill will require online platforms to take action to improve child protection. Pray for consensus on the importance of further strengthening child protection, particularly in preventing the livestreaming of child abuse.
The government continues facing pressure over gatherings in and around Downing Street during lockdowns. The police are investigating 12 parties and on April 12th issued 50+ fines, with more to come. Boris and Carrie Johnson and the chancellor are among those fined; making Boris the first serving prime minister to be caught breaking the law. All three apologised, but bereaved families called their actions ‘truly shameless’ with ‘simply no way’ they could continue in their jobs. Labour MPs also want the PM and Mr Sunak to quit. Mr Johnson said he felt ‘an even greater sense of obligation to deliver’, while the chancellor said he was ‘focused on delivering for the British people’. Amanda McEgan, whose daughter died during the pandemic, said the prime minister's conduct during lockdowns made restrictions on the 19-year-old's funeral ‘more hurtful’. Boris said he accepted ‘in all sincerity that people had the right to expect better’ from him.
Many people took the time to write to their MP to oppose an amendment that would completely decriminalise abortion in the UK and support pro-life amendments to the Health and Care Bill. The amendment to decriminalise abortion was withdrawn before it could even go to a vote, and there was strong support for the amendments even though they were withdrawn. Also the second reading of the Down’s Syndrome Bill was approved in the House of Commons, meaning that people with Down’s syndrome would be recognised as a minority group of people. This would ensure that they are not neglected and their abilities are recognised.
The High Court has found the government acted unlawfully when it gave a contract worth £560,000 to a company run by friends of the PM's former chief adviser Dominic Cummings. Ministers have denied any favouritism was shown towards the market research agency Public First. But the judge decided a failure to consider other firms could be seen as suggesting a ‘real danger’ of bias. Cummings wanted the contract to be given to a firm whose bosses, Rachel Wolf and James Frayne, were former colleagues of himself and Michael Gove.
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.