When Sara was 14, she left home and joined the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Attracted to the group’s Marxist ideology and in search of acceptance, Sara joined FARC to bring about a Colombian revolution. Years later she was urged by fellow guerrillas to denounce her family, who had become Christians; they knew the gospel ran counter to their violent ideology. But Sara left FARC, rejoined her family, got married, and now places her trust in Christ. Because God saved her from a violent life, she feels compelled to share His Word with others who have given their lives to the guerrilla group. She and her husband now distribute Bibles to youth. Their ministry has not gone unnoticed, as FARC leaders have threatened them many times.
An old video has appeared on social media of Premier League football star Angel Gomes being prayed for to be healed of pain from football-related injuries four years ago. When Gomes was 16 and captain of the England national under-17 team, he visited TB Joshua's Synagogue Church of All Nations for a service. The video shows a controversial prophet praying for healing which resulted in Gomes jogging, shaking his legs and squatting showing he was healed of pain. This week Gomes received questions about the 2016 video and replied saying he was from a Christian family and was going through some pain issues. ‘From the outside looking in it looks crazy, but I was just practising my faith.’ He added that he didn't really need to explain himself but a lot of people were asking him what the video was about, I was just practising my faith’.
About 1.3m children in England will be able to claim free school meal vouchers in the summer holidays, after a campaign by footballer Marcus Rashford. The Manchester United forward, 22, welcomed the six-week voucher for eligible children, saying, ‘Look at what we can do when we come together’. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the move was a ‘welcome u-turn’. Boris Johnson praised Mr Rashford's ‘contribution to the debate around poverty’. During the lockdown the government has been providing vouchers to families whose children qualify for free meals, but had insisted this would not continue outside term time. However, following an open letter by Rashford, who had needed free school meals himself, and a petition signed by 266,000, this decision was reversed.
In May the CofE’s General Synod was cancelled, but now an informal Zoom Synod will convene for a virtual meeting on 11 July. The term of the current General Synod has been extended for a year. Synod officers continue to explore options to enable them to transact business remotely if it is not possible to meet in person. July's meeting will include a session to discuss the CoE's coronavirus policies.
Brexit talks started in earnest on 15 June with an online meeting between Boris Johnson and EU leaders. There are only six months left to negotiate, sign and seal the UK's future relationship with its biggest and closest trade partner, but the talks have all but stalled due to disagreements on fisheries. Politicians and business leaders in the UK and Europe are calling for negotiations to be prolonged in the light of the pandemic. The UK originally had until June to extend the transition period, but now a statement says that the EU and UK plan ‘to intensify the talks in July and create the most conducive conditions for concluding and ratifying a deal before the end of 2020: this should include, if possible, finding an early understanding on the principles underlying any agreement.’
England contains many diverse, multicultural cities, and the current uprisings spectacularly play out in them. The movement’s heart is about injustices that go back decades - and centuries - with global foundations. Many parts of the UK have deep issues with racism that have long needed to be challenged, talked about, rectified and healed. On 15 June Boris Johnson announced plans to create a cross-government commission to examine racial inequality and the disparities experienced by minority ethnic groups in education, health and the criminal justice system. He said he could not ignore the strength of feeling shown by tens of thousands of people who had demonstrated in London and other cities across the UK. He said, ‘It is no use just saying that we have made huge progress in tackling racism. There is much more that we need to do; and we will.’
The Department of Education (DE) is considering two-week summer schools in late July for pupils going into years 5, 6 and 7. No school or organisation will be obliged to run one; they are entirely voluntary and subject to funding being available and the agreement of the executive teaching unions. Schools will be asked how many pupils they could take on a ratio of one teacher per seven pupils. Possible financial support may be available to schools already running their own summer schools (for current year 4, 5 and 6 pupils). Other proposals being considered are extra online lessons in literacy and numeracy for pupils going into year 7 who need extra support, and virtual learning if they have IT access.
Scotland's unemployment rate is now the highest in the UK, having risen by 30,000 to 127,000 between February and April as a result of the pandemic. Many people will be feeling a deep sense of anxiety about their livelihoods. The UK’s Scottish secretary Alister Jack said the impact of coronavirus was clearly seen in the latest figures, which are ‘expected to continue for some time’. There is no obvious reason why Scottish unemployment should have risen so much, although it could be the downturn in oil and gas consumption, or a bigger dependence on tourism jobs. The UK government is providing comprehensive coronavirus support packages to help people get through this unprecedented pandemic. We can pray for redundant young people and those already on company loans and universal credit.