Posts Tagged ‘Church’

Middle Eastern Asylum Seekers Forced to Use Food Banks or Starve

May 8, 2017

I heard this from my mother after she came back from church yesterday. It’s one of those stories which makes you wonder what’s wrong with the people of this country. And the minister, who told it, made it very clear he thought something ought to be done about the poverty being inflicted on the poor and desperate right NOW.

One of the ministers at our local church also helps out at one of the city’s food banks. He told mum that one of the people, who is now forced to use it is a female asylum seeker from one of the war-torn countries in the Middle East. The woman was married with a husband and child, who she had left behind. Fortunately, when she arrived here she was able to claim benefits.

That is until she was joined by the rest of her family. This should have been a joyful reunion. Another family given sanctuary from fear and murder in Blighty. And I dare say for a time it was, until the DWP told the lady that, as her circumstances were changed, she was no longer entitled to benefits.

And so, like over a hundred thousand other people in this miserable country, she was forced to come to the food bank or starve.

The minister was upset and outraged by this obvious injustice. And it’s just one of a hundred thousand others. I’ve reblogged pieces before from some of the great sites and pages on the Web by people, who work in food banks, or who otherwise have contact with those who do, or are forced to use them.

The people, who come to them are genuinely desperate. They don’t use them, as the Tories have lied ad nauseam, because it’s free food. You need to be referred by your local jobcentre because you have no money. And thanks to the government’s determination to brand every job- and asylum seeker a potential scrounger, and throw them off benefits, an increasing number are. And all so the government can appeal to the embittered souls, who read the Daily Heil, and play up to the growing anti-immigrant sentiment in this country.

Except, contrary to all the lies put out by the Tory press, these people aren’t taking our jobs. They do jobs we don’t want to do, as shown in the film, Dirty Pretty Things. Many of them are also highly educated people, frequently with technical backgrounds, whose skills this country needs.

They also are a net contributor to what remains of our welfare state. Immigrants and asylum seekers pay into through taxes and NI contributions, but are less likely to be on benefits than the traditional population.

As for the fears that we shall be overwhelmed with them, they impression I have had is that they really don’t want to leave the homelands. They have genuinely been driven out because of real threats against their lives and those of their families. When the wars in their native countries end, or the oppressive regime is overthrown, they’ll be only too glad to go back.

But you ain’t going to hear about this from the likes of the Scum, the Mail, and the Express. You’re just going to hear tales of violent criminals sponging off the system, or of militant Islamists trying to islamicize the place by stealth.

Not only is this playing up to the worst aspects of the national psyche, it also has a more obscure, but equally important role in promoting the interests of right-wing parties like the Tories and UKIP, before their decimation in the election last week. Playing on fears of immigrants helps divide the working class, just as portraying the rest of the genuinely poor and desperate as scroungers, and trade unionists as evil troublemakers determined to wreck the country. Since the collapse of Communism the Tories and their lickspittles in the press haven’t been able to claim that they’re all the tools of Moscow. this might come back, though, with the new Cold War and the determined campaign to blame everything on Putin. At the moment, however, they’re just content to harp on about the ‘Winter of Discontent’ and the ’70s.

And as they do, it helps keep working people from uniting with others, who are deliberately being kept poor and desperate so that May, and Blair and Thatcher before her, could give tax cuts and a supply of cheap, disposable labour to big business.

It’s time people saw through the lies and propaganda, and realised their common interests with the long term unemployed, the disabled, and asylum seekers, everyone who is sneered at and demonised by the Tories and the neoliberals in the Labour party.

We shouldn’t need food banks. We should have a decent benefit system, which gave people what they need to survive, and recognised that the people, who are out of work, have been thrown there due to a rigged economic system and collapsing jobs market.

Jesus in the Food Bank Queue

December 9, 2016

I’ve been attending the Advent course run by one of the ministers at our local church. The theme is hospitality in the Bible and the early church, and the obligation this lays upon modern Christians to live and work for the poor, the marginalised and strangers. Last night one of the texts studied was Christ’s words ‘For as you do to the least of them, you do to me’. Christ made clear that the people, who will be saved at the Last Judgement, will be those who fed, clothed and tended Him when He was in need. By which He meant the poor, the hungry, the sick and the outcast.

He talked about how he had visited a church in Washington D.C. He pointed out that not all of the city is like the White House and the government buildings. Beyond this well-kept, affluent area is are districts of the most desperate poverty. The church he’d visited had maintained a food line for the area’s poor. He stated that these were people, who were forced to use it to make ends meet until their next paycheque came. He was particularly impressed by one of the women serving at this food bank. Every morning she prayed to serve Jesus when she saw him again in the queue that day. She didn’t mean she literally saw Him, but as He was present in the poor peeps, who turned up for their food. It was a powerful, modern application of Christ’s teaching.

He also produced quotations from the Early Church Fathers about the Christian duty to work for the poor, even when personal charity was being undermined somewhat by the institutional charity – hospitals, hostels, orphanages and monasteries of the late Roman Empire after Constantine’s conversion. Hippolytus, for example, advised that every citizen, who was able should build a guest chamber on to their house. And one of the other Church Fathers described one of the hospitals as a city for the poor, by which they could meet the rich as equals.

These are very strong, challenging demands for Christians to practise the charity taught in the Bible, and to seek out, identify with and support ‘the fatherless, the widow and the foreigner’, and bring to their feasts ‘the poor, the lame and the blind’.

Unfortunately, Contemporary neoliberal politics since Thatcher and Reagan has demanded that the institutional care provided by the state should be cut back, with disastrous results. They believed that this would strengthen the Church by forcing people to fall back on private charity. Hence we now have the spectacle of various charities actively seeking out government contracts, and fully supporting the hideous policies of sanctioning and marginalisation that are forcing more people into poverty, misery, starvation and, in extreme cases, death. And the charities themselves are under threat. The figures provided by the Trussell Trust of the numbers of people using their food banks have been attacked by the Tories for the simply reason that they give the lie to their propaganda that austerity – meaning benefit cuts and wage freezes – have somehow made people better off.

I fully support the charities and their workers, who do genuinely work for the poor. One of the most acute accounts of what it is like to work at the sharp end trying to aid those pushed into need by the government’s policies comes from the blogs and vlogs of people working in food banks. I’ve reblogged some of these. But private charity isn’t enough. We need the support of the state, and active welfare policies to empower the poor, disabled and marginalised, including the working class.

As for Theresa May, and her claims to be guided by her Christian faith, before she does so, she should meditate very much on how Our Lord is present in the poor. She may well do so. But I’ve seen no evidence of her doing anything genuinely to alleviate poverty.

Vox Political Against Islamophobia and the ISIS Terror Attacks You Don’t Hear About

March 25, 2016

Daesh’s Muslim Victims

Mike over at Vox Political has put up a couple of posts keeping the Brussels attacks in perspective. The attacks, as well as those in Paris, were a horrible atrocity committed by fanatics with no conscience or respect for the lives of innocents. But Mike also reminds us that there have also been Muslim victims of Daesh’s terror campaign, that have not received anywhere near the same amount of coverage and outrage. These people too deserve our sympathy, and we should also be outraged and disgusted at their suffering.

Mike has put up a list showing the numbers of people killed by ISIS’ thugs and butchers, not just in Brussels, Paris and San Diego, but also in Yemen, Tunisia, Ankara in Turkey, Afghanistan, Beirut, Libya and Baghdad. The atrocities committed in these places have also killed tens and hundreds of people. And Mike’s article reminds us that globally, ISIS have killed far more Muslims than non-Muslims. But it’s sad and unjust that their deaths haven’t received the same amount of coverage. For many papers, these atrocities aren’t frontline news.
This is needs to change if we are all to stand together to defeat these monsters.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/03/24/why-concentrate-on-brussels-daesh-killings-of-muslims-far-outnumber-attacks-on-the-west/

Chris Herbert, Anti-Islamophobic Army Vet

Mike has also put up another piece on the disabled ex-squaddie, Chris Herbert. Herbert lost a leg fighting in Iraq. Despite that, he has come very firmly out against hatred of Muslims, citing his experience of the kindness of the Muslim medical professionals and others who treated him for his injury. He states that people have been trying to get him to add his voice attacking Muslims, but he has refused. Go read the article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/03/25/after-the-brussels-attacks-heres-an-antidote-to-the-anti-muslim-hatred-were-seeing/

Women and Life in Occupied Raqqah

There are also a number of fascinating, but grim documentaries on Youtube on what life is actually like in Raqqah in Syria for those, who are unfortunate enough to be under ISIS’ perverted rule. This includes meting out flogging to women, who are out unaccompanied by a close male relative or another woman, including 13 year old girls; the judicial murders called ‘executions’ held in one of the town’s roundabouts; and throwing gay men off tower blocks. In addition to this, they closed down the local Christian church and turned it into their wretched headquarters, and blew up a beautiful ancient mosque. I’ve no idea why. Possibly the imam was too much of a peacenik, and the puritan hardliners decided that the stunning azure blue tiles covering the onion dome were a distraction, rather than a work of beauty pointing to that of the Divine (Latif – The Beautiful, is, I understand, one of the 99 Names of Allah in Islam).
Whatever, ISIS are an affront to human civilisation, and the dignity of God’s human world.

Two Films Urging the Cancellation of Third World Debt

March 17, 2016

At the Lent Course run by one of the priests at my local church last week, we were shown these two films urging the cancellation of the crushing debt of the Developing World.

The second video features a number of famous faces. The only two I recognised were Alun Michael, who amongst other things has starred in the series about a group of elderly rozzers solving old crimes, New Tricks, and the comedian Marcus Brigstocke. Both show its fundamental iniquity. The second video actually makes you question our collective priorities and the whole moral foundation of the banking system. After all, when the money given to bail out AIG is £170,000,000,000 + – the amount equal to the whole of Africa south of the Sahara, it’s a blindingly fair and good question why we are giving money to these banksters, but not willing to cancel such a terrible financial black hole to the world’s neediest peoples.

And there’s another disturbing statistic in there: for ever pound given in aid, we get seven pounds back. As our priest said, ‘It makes you wonder who’s carrying whom.’ Indeed. I used to do voluntary work at the former Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol. One evening there was a presentation given by a man, who had traced the early route in southern Africa used by one of the great Victorian pioneer explorers. He said at one point he had been taken ill, and had had to be carried across one stretch of the country by one of their African crew. He stated that at the man stopped carrying him, because he became acutely uncomfortable about the situation and how it resembled, metaphorically, Africa bearing the West.

After watching those videos, I’m convinced that the reason it’s allowed to go on, is because it’s just another way of the rich West screwing money out of the Developing World, just as we did under imperialism. It’s a disgusting situation, whether you’re religious or not. And I hope whatever our personal religious beliefs, we can find some way of changing this situation, before too many more people die in the poverty, squalor and starvation that this toxic debt is creating.

Hope Not Hate: Polish Fascist To Visit Britain

March 9, 2016

Dzien dobry mojym polskim przyjacielom! Which I hope means ‘Good morning to my Polish friends. One of the great events that have changed the world for the better in my lifetime has been the fall of the Iron Curtain. I really do think it’s great that people from eastern and western Europe can meet in peace and friendship, and visit and go to work and open businesses in each others’ countries. What worries me, is the rise of the extreme Right across Europe.

Hope Not Hate, the anti-racist, anti-religious extremism magazine posted up on their website yesterday the news that a Polish Fascist, Marian Kowalski, was coming to Britain in April to try and drum up recruits from the Polish community over here. See their report at http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/blog/insider/polish-fascist-to-speak-at-rallies-in-england-4794. Britain has benefited from its links to Poland and Polish workers. One of my uncles was Polish and Bristol has a Polish church. A few years ago, the Polish community in Bristol put on a display in the Central Library, showing some of their nation’s history and culture. Amongst the pilots who fought in the skies to keep this country free during the Second World War, most of the enemy aircraft shot down were by the Free Poles serving in the RAF. My old college also ran for a few years an exchange with a Polish college. The people I know, who went over there were impressed by their Polish exchange partners’ hard work. They told me that Britain had was greatly respected in Poland, because of the way we had stood and fought with them against the Nazi invasion that launched the Second World War.

It therefore amazes me that anyone in eastern Europe, and particular Poland, should support the Fascist right in any way whatsoever. I’ve blogged on this issue before. A day or so ago I put up a couple of pieces from Hitler’s Mein Kampf, Goebbel’s Diary and a Russian soldier describing the horrific atrocities and maltreatment the Nazis inflicted on Poles, and the other Slavonic peoples of eastern Europe. Hitler also made his contempt for the peoples of eastern Europe and his plans to enslave them very clear in his Table Talk, which was recorded by Martin Bormann. An English edition of this was published by Oxford University Press in 1988.

Here’s what the Fuehrer said about the Slavs:

It’s not a mere chance that the inventor of anarchism was a Russian. Unless other peoples, beginning with the Vikings, had imported some rudiments of organisation into Russian humanity, the Russians would still be living like rabbits. One cannot change rabbits into bees or ants. These insects have the faculty of living in a state of society – but rabbits haven’t.

If left to himself, the Slav would never have emerged from the narrowest of family communities. (p. 24)

The Slav people are not destined to live a cleanly life. They know it, and we would be wrong to persuade them of the contrary. It was we who, in 1918, created the Baltic countries and the Ukraine. We must likewise prevent them from returning to Christianity. That would be a grave fault, for it would be giving them a form of organisation.

I am not a partisan, either, of a university at Kiev. It’s better not to teach them to read. They won’t love us for tormenting them with schools. Even to give them a locomotive to drive would be a mistake. And what stupidity it would be on our part to proceed to a distribution of land! In spite of that, we’ll see to it that the natives live better than they’ve lived hitherto. We’ll find amongst them the human material that’s indispensable for tilling the soil. (Ibid).

As for the ridiculous hundred million Slavs, we will mould the best of them to the shape that suits us, and we will isolate the rest of them in their own pig-sties; and anyone who talks about cherishing the local inhabitant and civilising him, goes straight off into a concentration camp!

At harvest time we will set up markets at all the centres of any importance. There we will buy up all the cereals and fruit, and sell the more trashy products of our own manufacture. In this way we shall receive for these goods of ours a return considerably greater than their intrinsic value. The profit will be pocketed by the Reich to defray the price of the campaign. (p. 617).

And here’s Hitler sneer about the Poles:

‘As regards the Pole, it’s lucky for us that he’s idle, stupid and vain’. (p. 234).

This was how the Nazis regarded Poles and the other eastern European peoples, Czechs, Slovaks, Belorussians, Ukrainians and Great Russians – as sub-humans to be exploited and worked to death as slave labourers for the Reich. I’m acutely aware that the Poles have had to fight for their freedom against foreign domination in a way which Britain has been extremely fortunate not to have had to undergo. Nevertheless, Fascism and Nazism don’t have anything to offer anybody, except brutality, exploitation and mass murder. The last thing the peoples of Europe, in Britain, Poland, Germany or anywhere need is another set of fanatics trying breed hatred in the name of a perverted patriotism.

Shock! Horror! Northern Mosque Gives Money to Somerset Church

January 20, 2015

And now a bit of good news. Last Sunday’s Songs of Praise contained a little bit on Muchelney, one of the villages in Somerset. It’s on the Somerset levels, and so suffered from the flooding last year. Much of that part of the county is reclaimed land, and until it was drained from the Middle Ages onwards, the area around Glastonbury was marshland. Several of the villages in the area, like Muchelney, have place names ending in ‘ey’. This is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word ieg, meaning an island. Muchelney and other villages like it got their names from the fact that they were originally islands of firm land amongst the bogs and marshes.

Muchelney is one of the most historic villages in Somerset. It has the remains of an abbey, and the church itself contains a beautiful painted ceiling from the 17th century. It shows angels in the ruffs worn during the reigns of Queen Elizabeth and James I, with speech bubbles urging the onlooker to ‘fly hither’ and ‘com to Jesus’. It ain’t the Sistine Chapel, but it is a fine example of the kind of art that adorned British churches before the Reformation. I recommend anyone with an interest in medieval, ecclesiastical or folk art to have a look at it if they’re in that part of Somerset, whether they’re religious or not.

Muchelney was one of the villages affected by the floods. According to Songs of Praise, however, they received £16,000 from one of the mosques ‘oop north’ to help them repair the damage. It was the largest single donation they’ve ever had, and was obviously very gratefully received by the church.

I mention this because it shows two things. Firstly, it clearly demonstrates that not every Muslim organisation in this country is a hotbed of terrorism, no matter what Farage and Murdoch may say. Actually, not by a very long chalk. One of the newsletters of one of the organisations devoted Christian-Muslim interfaith dialogue pointed to a community of nuns that continued to live and worship together after their premises had been taken over by a mosque. It also makes a more general point that people of faith generally in this country aren’t out to slit each other’s throats, despite the attacks on mosques carried by the stormtroopers of Britain First in the name of Christianity. As regards them, Hope Not Hate has made the point that despite their boast that they are protecting Christians and Christianity from Islam, none of their members seems to have put their foot in a church.

Medieval Nubian Churches and Monasteries: Arminna West

June 26, 2013

Despite its great age, the ground plan of the church at Arminna West had survived almost completely intact except for the south sacristy when it was examined by archaeologists in the three years from 1961 to 1963. The surviving walls were mostly under a meter in height. Nevertheless, the excavators were able to reconstruct much of its original structure and history. A diagram of of the church as it was found by the archaeologists is shown below. South is in the top right hand corner.

Arminna Basic Church 1

The church was originally 11.25 meters long, but the east and west side were both of different widths. The east side was 8.1 meters while the west end was 8.4 meters. The walls were composed of mudbrick. The church had an altar (1), which may have had a wooden top, such as those at Ar-Rammal, the northern church near Adindan and Church on the Mastaba at Faras. In front of this were two mud brick pillars (2). Running between them was the stone base for an altar screen. The sill for another altar screen was found on the north side of the altar. The groove for a third screen ran from the north pillar to the north wall, separating the vestibule from the north aisle. It also had an apse, consisting of two curving brick walls on the east side of the church (3). Flanking this were the south and north sacristies (5 and 6 respectively). The south sacristy was probably a baptistry. It held a sandstone font in its south-east corner. This was rectangular, but with an uneven base. Near its front end it had a stone spout and a hole in the bottom, which was lined with lead. This probably held the pipe that drained the font. The font was originally covered with pink plaster. West of the north sacristy was the vestibule. South of this was the ambo or pulpit (8). There were two chambers either side of the nave (10 and 12), with the socket for a door at the entrance to the northwest chamber (11). The room held steps or a low bench (9). It also held a platform of brick and stone to take a stairway. This would either have led to the roof to a second storey, though this unlikely given the church’s small size. Two small pieces of parchment with the remains of a text in Coptic were found in this room, suggesting that it had been a scriptorium. There was a side chapel on the north side of the church (14). This room had had a barrel-vaulted roof, which, along with its walls, had been covered in paintings. Running along the church’s south and east sides was a low mastaba (15 and 16). This had been cut through for a passage to the south entrance with a stone sill (13). The building also had an annex containing a low bench on its northeast side (17). Only one other room like this to have been found is at the church at Ukma. The low bench suggests it is an extension of the north sacristy, though it is not really known what it was used for. Built on to the church’s west end was another room (18). Like room 17, it is not known what this room was used for, although it is believed that it was used for some purpose associated with the church. Although the walls were cleared, the room itself was not excavated.

The church was basilican in form, but had been gradually modified and altered during the centuries it was in use. The archaeologists excavating the church believed that it had been built in three phases, which will be examined in the next post.

Source

Bruce G. Trigger, The Late Nubian Settlement at Arminna West (New Haven and Philadelphia: The Peabody Museum of Natural History of Yale University/ The University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania 1967)

The Churches and Monasteries of Medieval Nubia: The Church at Arminna West

June 25, 2013

The Town of Arminna West

One of the Nubian churches excavated by archaeologists was that of Arminna West. This township lay on the west bank of the Nile directly opposite Khor Usha in the middle of the modern Arminna East, a large and prosperous town on the east side of the river, four km south of Toshka, ten km south of the post boat station at Duki Dawur and 26 km north of Abu Simbel. The township was 600 m in length and 300 m in width. It was excavated in preparation for the construction of the Aswan dam from 1961 to 1963. During the Classic Christian period at Arminna West, between 850 to 1100, the town had a population of between 100 to 200 people. It had large, finely built houses with eight or more rooms and barrel vaulted roofs, which were well plastered. These were probably occupied by nuclear families, rather than extended clan groups. The houses in medieval Nubian villages are located extremely near to each other. This, however, may have been due to the fact that ancient Nubian society was highly integrated, rather than for defensive reasons. Under a treaty with the Ummayyad caliph Abdallah ibn Saad in 652, Nubia traded 400 slaves with Egypt annually in return for cloth, horses and food. This trade nearly vanished completely from the middle of the eighth century, possibly due to the overthrow of the Ummayyads by the succeeding Abbasid dynasty, though there was a brief revival around 1000. The Nubians also imported wine from the Egyptian monasteries. There is also evidence of animal herding in Arminna West during the Classic and Late Christian phases of the town’s history. A map of the town’s remains from its Classic Christian phase is shown below.

Arminna Township

The church lay about 54 m north of the town, as shown below.

Arminna Church and Town 1

Sources

Bruce G. Trigger, The Late Nubian Settlement at Arminna West (New Haven and Philadelphia: The Peabody Museum of Natural History of Yale University/ The University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania 1967)

Kent R. Weeks, The Classic Christian Townsite at Arminna West (New Haven and Philadelphia: The Peabody Museum of Natural History of Yale University/ The University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania 1967).

A Coptic Funeral Inscription from Medieval Nubia

May 4, 2013

One of the great medieval African civilisations was Christian Nubia. Centred on the thin strip of land running for the first to the sixth cataract of the Nile in what is now the Sudan, the Nubians possessed a written language from the sixth century AD. In 550 a local king, Eirpanome, appears to have converted the pagan temple at Dendur into a church. Christian Nubia survived until the sixteenth century, when the kingdom of Alwa declined following the conquest of Soba by the Muslim kingdom of Fung.

Between 1961 and 1963 the area around Arminna was excavated by the Universities of Pennsylvania and Yale as part of UNESCO’s campaign to save the ancient monuments in the region. The archaeologists uncovered the remains of the medieval town and a church. This church contained several inscriptions, including one in Greek and another in Coptic, the language of the Egyptian Christian church. The Greek inscription commemorated a person called Marieo. Its first 19 lines were the Greek Orthodox prayer for the dead, which is still used today. It read:

‘God of spirits and all flesh, You who have trod under death and have rendered ineffectual the devil, and have given life to Your world, rest the soul of Your departed servant (named) in a place of verdure, in a place of refreshment; therein grief, pain, and mourning have fled. Pardon every sin done by him in word, or deed, or thought, since You are a good God and love mankind, because there is no man who will live and will not sin. For You alone are outside sin, Your justice is justice forever, and Your word is truth, because You are the resurrection, the life, and the repose of Your departed servant (name), Christ our God, and to you we send up glory with Your everlasting Father and all-holy and good and life-giving Sppirit, now and always and forever. Amen’ Above the inscription, running from left to right, were a cross, an alpha and omega, and the sign of the fish.

The coptic inscription was situated inside the church’s apse. It had been set up by the parents of a woman named Maria. The inscription reads:

‘According to the statement which the Creator spoke, “Adam thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt (lit. she will) again return,” such was the way in which the blessed Maria went to rest, who was the daughter of Ptoou and the daughter of Mariam in the month of Hathor in the year (of the martyrs) 637. Her years were 39. The good god will give her rest in the bosom of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob beneath the treat of life, which is in the paradise of joy with all his saints, who cried out, “Amen, so be it, Amen”‘.

These two inscriptions show the contacts medieval Christian Nubia had with the other Christian churches, and the touching concern its citizens felt to raise monuments to their deceased relatives.

Sources

Niall Finneran, The Archaeology of Christianity in Africa (Brimscombe Port: Tempus 2002)

Bruce G. Trigger, The Late Nubian Settlement at Arminna West (New Haven and Philadelphia: The Peabody Museum of Natural History of Yale University/ The University Museum of of the University of Pennsylvania 1967).