From a prayer letter sent to European intercessors: ‘The British Empire once believed “the sun would never set” based on a firm belief that God was with us because of our faith built on Christian values. The Church can no longer say, “British values are Christian values”. To be British is no longer to be Christian. UK’s leaders increasingly move us further away from the Biblical values that once underpinned both our democratic and legal systems, which were envied by much of the world. I paint a gloomy picture of the nation I love, but if we are to pray effectively in the current worldwide pandemic, I believe nations should be questioning their values and morals. Do we first love God and secondly love our neighbour as ourselves? The future of the UK depends on the next few months. Pray for the national day of prayer currently being proposed. Pray also that the European Union of Prayer meeting will still be allowed in London from 26 to 30 October with current Covid 19 restrictions. May God make a way with a reduced number of participants.’

When Fr Pier Luigi Maccalli, now 59, was kidnapped two years ago by unknown armed men from his parish of Bamoanga, it left the communities he had served for 11 years in shock. Now he is understood to have been freed in northern Mali with four other hostages also held by Islamist extremists. The new Malian transitional government met the hostages. Their release, and that of some suspected militants, fuelled expectations of an imminent prisoner swap. It is not clear if ransoms were paid.

This week the International Justice Mission invites us to join in praising God for a huge step forward in the class-action lawsuit that IJM Kenya helped bring against police, demanding greater accountability. One of the requests in the petition has been granted, and the court has ordered the inspector general to investigate 22 cases of police killings that were documented and presented as part of this petition. This case is important because it shows that the Kenyan government can be held accountable for the actions of its officers.

On 14 October England’s chief medical officer said a three-tier alert level system would not be enough to get on top of the coronavirus, and local authorities on very high alert would likely have to introduce further restrictions. On 21 September the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) warned that failure to implement tighter coronavirus restrictions would have ‘catastrophic consequences’. SAGE recommended the imposition of a two-week ‘circuit-breaker’ lockdown to curb coronavirus spread, but the Government ignored this advice (see) Meanwhile England’s three-tier restriction system has begun, with most areas currently in the lowest tier. Northern Ireland will extend the half-term holidays for schools, as well as other new measures aimed at curbing the virus spread. Wales is considering a short circuit-breaker lockdown.

The prime minister is hoping for some progress at the current EU Council summit in Brussels before revealing whether he wants the trade deal talks to continue. The two-day summit is the EU’s first Brexit meeting since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The talks began on 15 October, the day that the PM previously set as his final cut-off point for an agreement. However, on the previous da he indicated he would ‘reflect’ on the outcome of the summit before making a decision. Stark differences still remain between the two sides on fishing, and the EU wants a deal, but not at ‘any price’. France is adamant it should maintain long-term access to British waters as part of any trade deal; ‘Britain's demands for annual negotiations over fishing quotas are unacceptable’. Pray for God to give Downing Street wisdom and strength over politically sensitive issues.

A scheme to allow family members to regularly visit loved ones in care homes will be piloted in England. The trial will allow a relative or friend to be treated as a key worker and given frequent access, while abiding by the same rules as staff - weekly testing and wearing PPE. Campaigners said the value of regular contact to dementia patients would be huge, but action was needed immediately. All face-to-face care home visits were banned during the height of the first wave of the pandemic. While current guidance in England allows visits on a ‘limited basis’ where alternative arrangements are not possible, visits have been severely curtailed or prohibited entirely in those areas subject to enhanced restrictions. The care homes will determine their own policies, following the advice of local public health officials and carrying out dynamic risk assessments on the impact of visits on residents and staff.

The number of secondary schools in England sending home pupils because of Covid is increasing rather than diminishing. 21% of secondary schools are not fully open - up from 18% the previous week and 8% in mid-September. This is usually because they have sent home pupils in response to Covid cases. About 7% of primary schools had to send home pupils, up from 5%. These weekly figures from the Department for Education show a worsening picture for secondary schools being disrupted by the pandemic, with the highest figure for groups of pupils being sent home since schools went back in the autumn. Pray for the teachers having difficulty operating in the midst of rising infection rates. Pray for God to give them the stamina and wisdom to successfully balance complex control measures while delivering education for those in school as well as those who are self-isolating at home.

The co-chair of the new anti-racism taskforce, the Revd Sonia Barron, has said that the Church of England must not just ‘pay lip-service’ to issues of racism. On 13 October the Church announced the launch of a taskforce, which will propose actions that the Church should take to promote greater racial equality across the Church. The work of the group will include sifting through 160 recommendations that already exist, most of them made by the Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns (CMEAC) since 1985, and identifying any that have been ignored and could be implemented. Their recommendations will be presented to the Archbishops’ Racism Action Commission, which will be launched in spring 2021.

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