Boris Johnson has announced that the Department for International Development (DfID) and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) will be merged. A new government department will be created. CSW is concerned as each department has a distinct, essential mandate. It said any proposed changes must not advance economic and security interests at the expense of poverty alleviation, humanitarian assistance, and the promotion of human rights The merger, to be made during a rise in global poverty caused by coronavirus and reconstituting the only department with a humanitarian focus, could be devastating. Another concern is that this announcement pre-empted the outcome of a defence, security and foreign policy review. CSW is urging the Government to await its conclusion before implementing any changes.
In just over a fortnight 33,000 people have used the crowdfunding website GoFundMe to donate to Black Lives Matter UK, known as @BLMUK and formally ‘verified’ by Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other sites carrying its content. BLMUK is influential and suddenly rich, having raised almost a million pounds in two weeks. Donors assume BLMUK exists to lobby against racism, but it can use its finances to pursue extreme aims which have nothing to do with racial equality. Their GoFundMe statement explains their commitment to dismantle imperialism, capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy and more. Those crowdfunding BLMUK are probably unaware that their donations could be spent in pursuit of abolishing capitalism or disbanding the police. BLMUK uses social networking to support BDS which calls for a boycott of Israel over its treatment of Palestinians.
With effect from 4 July, where it is not possible to stay 2m apart, people should stay ‘one metre plus’. Churches may open for prayers, services, and weddings for a maximum of 30 people, subject to social distancing and no singing. Restaurants and pubs will offer hospitality with table service only and limited contact between staff and customers, who must give contact details on arrival. Hotels, B&Bs, cottages, campsites, and caravan parks can also reopen; people can stay away from home for the first time since March. Other restrictions for meeting indoors and outdoors are being eased, as long as businesses protect the public from risk of infection. Sadly thousands of sun-seekers flocked to the beach at Southend just one day after the announcement, completely disregarding all rules by sitting or standing close together on a packed beach. See
After further easing of lockdown measures, health leaders are calling for an urgent review to determine whether the UK is properly prepared for the ‘real risk’ of a second wave. In an open letter published in the British Medical Journal, ministers were warned that urgent action would be needed to prevent further loss of life. The presidents of the Royal Colleges of Surgeons, Nursing, Physicians, and GPs all signed the letter which stated, ‘While the future shape of the pandemic in the UK is hard to predict, the available evidence indicates that local flare-ups are increasingly likely and a second wave a real risk. Many elements of the infrastructure needed to contain the virus are beginning to be put in place, but substantial challenges remain.’ The chair of the BMA urged ministers to set up a cross-party group with a ‘constructive, non-partisan, four nations approach’, tasked with developing practical recommendations. Pray that the public calmly consider this warning and act wisely.
On the night of 24 June, police officers were summoned to Brixton, following residents’ complaints about noise and violence at an illegal street party. A dispersal order had been put in place that day, so the police tried to encourage the crowd to leave. The event continued, more officers arrived, and the group became hostile. Social media showed officers being chased and assaulted by an angry crowd During the clashes, 22 officers were injured, two hospitalised, police vehicles damaged, and four people were arrested. The London mayor said, ‘Large gatherings during Covid-19 are deeply irresponsible and risk others' lives.’ A vast number of residents not taking part in the disorder were disturbed all night by the noise. We can pray that the police are able to identify and arrest all who caused the chaos.
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.
Two bishops have asked the Government to help prevent the annexation of the West Bank. Israel is preparing to annex parts from 1 July, but the Catholic bishop of Clifton and the Anglican bishop of Southwark said the annexation plans were not supported by local communities and the situation is rapidly deteriorating. ‘Annexation would only bring more conflict, suffering and division’, they said. Their comments follow strong criticism of the plans from the Archbishop of Canterbury and Cardinal Vincent Nichols. They said in letters to the Israeli ambassador and prime minister that they unambiguously support the fundamental right of Israel's citizens to live in peace and safety and ‘pray for peace and flourishing for our brothers and sisters in Christ in Israel and Palestine and all living in the Holy Land.’
In the aftermath of China's new national security law for Hong Kong, which ends the autonomy of the former British colony, the US, UK, Australia and Canada immediately protested. However the EU representative for foreign affairs ruled out sanctions against China and decided not to use its leverage as the world’s biggest trade bloc to support Hong Kong. The French foreign minister announced that Europe must not get carried away in a clash between US and China, and that ‘a new cold war’ must be avoided. The German parliament said, ‘A policy aimed at isolating China is not in Germany's or Europe's interests’. A European diplomat confessed that Europe is sacrificing Hong Kong to protect its economic relationship and investments in China.