Spring Appeal for Calais migrant children

Spring Appeal 2018-3            After raising nearly £16000 for the Maria Skobstova House in Calais last Autumn we are opening up the appeal once again as the work goes on to reach out to young people adrift in Northern France, set on reaching the UK. On our European pilgrimage we were fortunate to meet dedicated Secours Catholique volunteers helping and monitoring the situation, which some have been doing for many years. Dismantling the ‘Jungle’ has not meant an end to the migrants’ quest to reach the UK – only a riskier environment. See our appeal leaflet for more details.


Not too late to celebrate Fairtrade

Fairtrade Fortnight started on February 26th and closes on March 11th.  So it is not too late to celebrate!  Although we were very disappointed that Sainsburys have abandoned the Fairtrade label for their own brands, you can still find some Fairtrade tea in the higher end category, Taste the Difference, as well as the various filter coffees.  Sainsburys have, in the face of the tea protests, perhaps, committed to keeping their Fairtrade bananas, which is excellent news for the small Windward Islands such as St Lucia and Dominica.   Aldi’s and Lidl have some great Fairtrade chocolate, and Waitrose continue their Fairtrade commitment.

Barbara Kentish, Cropped 3-1

Here in the Westminster Diocese, we can count an amazing 103 parishes which have signed up to Fairtrade justice for producers.  They serve Fairtrade tea and coffee at parish functions, promote Fairtrade in other ways, and hold an event once a year to celebrate it.  This CAN be during the fortnight, but also can feature at other times.  No time is a bad time to publicise Fairtrade.   With only a handful, FIVE, more parishes, we can qualify to be a Fairtrade diocese. Maybe your parish is on the brink of signing up.  TELL US ABOUT IT!

And if you still haven’t organised a celebration, just have a Sunday  coffee morning or a Saturday tea party.  Other ideas through the year are liturgies, films, talks, games, or cake sales, as in my own parish.

Lobbying: less developed countries are at huge risk as all our trade deals are being renegotiated.  Find out what is happening to tropical products in course of our Brexit negotiations.  Producers of sugar, cotton, metals, cocoa, may all be at even more risk in the months and years to come.  Ask MPs about trade with poorer countries post – Brexit.  Traidcraft have a campaigning department which can help with the facts.  www.traidcraft.org.uk  Fairtrade-logo

Update from Calais by Seeking Sanctuary

We are including this news update on our website to spread the word about the situation in Calais. The original article appeared on the Seeking Sanctuary website – click here to visit and find out more about their work. We will be holding a Spring appeal for the Calais Catholic Worker, Maria Skobtsova House, after Easter – watch out for more details!

UPDATE: The hazards of seeking sanctuary

Dear Friends

seekingsanctuaryAs we started to prepare this update, news came through of a 16 year old boy who has been blinded in one eye through police use of rubber bullets. The boy was shot during the attack with gas and rubber bullets against refugees who were trying to recuperate their possessions before the police destroyed their tents set up near the food distribution place in rue Verrotieres. He suffered severe injuries to his face and there is a risk for his remaining eye. And on recent form, he’ll sent straight back to the appalling squalor of wasteland where he has been staying. The two friends who accompanied him to make a complaint at the Police Station were themselves arrested for several hours. All this just after the French President’s visit to Calais. It is in the context of reports that the Police have become particularly heavy handed during the daily distribution of food and clothes. It seems that they were determined to break up the tents which provide a minimum of basic shelter and were not hesitating to use pepper spray to render the tents and blankets unusable.

So why the surge in arrivals in Calais, currently estimated to take the number there over 800? In part this is due to a cruel deception on the part of UK and French politicians. The news that the UK had agreed to be more flexible in accepting child migrants under the Dubs agreement and speed up the processing of applications travelled fast, with the result that many young people had their hopes raised, and made for Calais, only for them to be dashed. The new UK/French ‘accord’ has yet to bring any visible results. We are also very disturbed by the inter-racial violence being reported – it is a sad fact that violence increases when those involved lose all dignity and sense of hope. Apparently trafficking gangs run by Afghans are angry when Eritreans get into lorries that they plan to use for profit, or attract attention to areas where they wish to operate. Whatever the origin of this dispute, interest from traffickers seems to have lead to gunfire and several serious injuries.

The result is a growing number of very vulnerable young people who are at risk of being trafficked and sold into modern slavery. (We are often struck by the paradox of the firmness of the rhetoric against modern slavery here in the UK and our failure to denounce the abuse and trafficking of children just 20 miles from our shores). Hence the petition initiated by UNICEF calling on the authorities to reunite children – you will find details here.

Death is also a probability. Back in June 2009, 59 young Chinese were found dead in the back of a lorry in Dover. Since then the total deaths on either side of the Channel have risen to over 200, as people attempt to reach the UK in order to claim asylum – which can be done only on British soil.

And yet in all the squalor of the current situation, human dignity and optimism can still prevail. On his recent visit to Calais, Phil was pleased to see the new Day Centre near the centre of Calais run by Secours Catholique in full operation. People could relax, chat, learn new skills and play board games or get their hair cut in a warm hall, with a video cinema running in a small room alongside and a separate space for women to meet and upcycle damaged garments, which the young men had been proud to show off in a fashion show video. Phil was accompanied by young people from the ‘Bruderhof’ Community in South East Kent, to deliver blankets that they had made and spend time as volunteers with the Refugee Community Kitchen and the Warehouse.

The Catholic Worker House had been filled far beyond comfortable capacity with young people desperate to get away from the recent inter-racial violence. And we were delighted to provide three key organisations with the proceeds (€1320) of a very generous Christmas collection by a Catholic Parish in Suffolk. And for the future, if you are able to organise a collection, however modest, we will recommend NGO’s which can make best use of the money and arrange payment as required.

And so the future – will there be an amelioration of the situation in 2018? Only if those of us who feel passionate about the issues continue to put pressure on those in authority who can make a difference – on both sides of the Channel. The few children who have so far reached the UK were only admitted after huge pressure from those felt it their duty to make their voice heard.

Ben as a local Councillor recently took part in his local Holocaust Memorial Day observance – and was reminded of the remarkable efforts of Sir Nicholas Winton in the 1930’s to bring children out of danger into the UK through the ‘kindertransports’. It’s this kind of initiative that we need again in the turbulent and often intolerant nature of our politics over 70 years later.

Fairtrade Fortnight – February 26th to March 11th

We are SO close to being a Fairtrade Diocese!  Out of the 108 parishes needed, we have reached 103.  Could yours be the vital clinching number 108?!  If you are already Fairtrade, don’t forget to organise an event during the fortnight – see below.

Our Big ‘Ask’

Could everyone hold a ‘Big Brew’ during the Fortnight, and send a picture in?  Teaparties or coffee mornings across the diocese using Fairtrade goods, would be a great way to celebrate the diocese’s Fairtrade commitment.   We could collate your pictures on our Facebook page for all to enjoy.   And don’t forget to tweet your pictures with #westminsterbigbrew

Building Britain’s Welcome – a training with Safe Passage

As part of the Refugees Welcome initiative, Safe Passage (linked with Citizens UK and supported by Justice and Peace), will hold training on February 24th at Camden School for Girls in North London.  Workshops will range from how to campaign in the forthcoming local elections, to how to involve your MP, run ESOL classes, fundraise and more.  SafePassage Sign up via link:  https://actionnetwork.org/events/building-britains-welcome

Fairtrade Fortnight 2018: Monday 26 February – Sunday 11 March

Along with other good news in the Justice and Peace world, we are delighted to tell you that the diocese is only 7 or 8 parishes short of being eligible to be a Fairtrade Diocese.  For this status, we have to have over half of our parishes signed up to Fairtrade, which they have been doing little by little, over the last few years, by sending their registration forms to CAFOD and receiving a certificate.

We were so pleased to sign up Newman House, the University parish, as number 100, but now need a further few to tip over the halfway mark (there are 214 parishes in the Westminster Diocese).

If your parish IS signed up, thanks so much for being a beacon for trade justice!  Do keep it going.  If NOT, please think of signing up to this international effort to ensure that producers in developing countries get a fair deal.

The Fairtrade Foundation tells us …

‘For hundreds of years, we were taught to serve, to be workers. Now with Fairtrade, we are entrepreneurs’ Marcial Quintero, member of Coobana, a Fairtrade banana co-operative in Panama.

Fairtrade-logoIt’s a scandalous reality that millions of farmers and workers are still being ripped off despite working hard to provide the products we love. Unfairness in global trade is rooted in centuries of exploitation.  Yet across the globe, Marcial and hard-working producers like him are unravelling this legacy.  They’re fighting for a fair deal, supported by Fairtrade, earning their way out of poverty and transforming their communities.

Our Big ‘Ask’

Could everyone hold a ‘Big Brew’ during the Fortnight, and send a picture in?  Teaparties or coffee mornings across the diocese using Fairtrade goods, would be a great way to celebrate the diocese’s  Fairtrade commitment.   We could collate your pictures on our Facebook page for all to enjoy. And don’t forget to tweet your pictures with #westminsterbigbrew.

A big thank you to all who have stuck with this campaign for so long.  Slow and steady ……

Ethiopian hymns, the Dubs amendment and bivvy bags – Update on Calais

PrayerSpaceOn Sunday evening in Calais I was present at an Ethiopan Orthodox community service, at which a ‘Calais migrant’ officiated for his compatriots. Young men were quiet, prayerful, but sang powerfully their well-known hymns.

I was representing Westminster Justice and Peace which has supported the Catholic Worker house there for over 2 years, and which has just run an appeal for unaccompanied migrant children. Our astonishing success (£13000 plus) supports this fragile facility. Although, while our help is important, Brother Johannes maintains that the young people’s resilience is the priority. Regular prayers in the House support their identity and faith in this time of trial.

When we started raising money, it was seen as an emergency, one-off action. We are having to revise our assessment, and to understand that supporting refugees in Nord/Pas de Calais as the region is called, may be for the longterm. Calais is far from empty of refugees. With the burning of the Grande Synthe camp at Dunkirk and earlier razing of the Jungle, many camp in the dunes or woods, while the Calais authorities are taking aggressive steps to prevent another mass informal camp growing up. We reported back in September that the national police are raiding the Calais region to move migrants on, sometimes violently, even with pepper gas (Nobody should live like this, by the Human Trafficking Foundation details the situation).

The UK border sited on the other side of the Channel disguises the reality that there a huge metal grid, called by French human rights groups the ‘Wall of Shame’, ‘protecting’ the UK from invasions, but in practice preventing legitimate and urgent asylum being offered.

It is hard to know the numbers involved, and counting a population on the move is difficult but according to the Guardian,

‘The charity Help Refugees conducts monthly headcounts and estimates that there are at least 600 migrants in Calais, around 300 in Dunkirk and another 200 in small camps along the coast. The Refugee Community Kitchen, which cooks food for people living in small groups in wasteland around Calais and Dunkirk, says it is distributing 2,500 meals a day… The Calais prefecture said that it believed there were 450 migrants in the Calais area’. (Guardian 10th Aug 2017)

The Catholic Worker Drop-in centre was recently offering 100 showers a week as well as clothes washes in an impressive turnaround. On my visit I helped fold laundry which seemed to come in never-ending bundles.

The recent good news reported in ICN about better processing of young people was very welcome. Safe Passage organiser Juliet Kilpin wrote to us after our lobby of MPs,

‘I have some great news to share with you. Today the UK and French governments announced that they have opened a centre near Calais to enable the proper processing of unaccompanied child refugees. Children will be able to claim asylum safely and legally. While this centre is open, children with family in the UK won’t have to risk their lives making dangerous attempts to cross the channel to be with loved ones. Instead they will be able to have their case considered by British authorities in Calais. We understand that children with no family in the UK will also be able to be assessed at this new centre.’

This was indeed hopeful, as was the Parliamentary debate on unaccompanied minors shortly afterwards and available via the Safe Passage link: http://safepassage.org.uk/news_posts/parliament-debate-on-calais-and-unaccompanied-minors-in-europe/

If you need your faith in Parliamentary procedure boosted, do watch this debate. We must of course hold government to account on this. Meanwhile, many agencies are championing the rights of migrants on our border, here, and across the Channel:

“Safe Passage” and “Help Refugees” are helping Lord Alf Dubs to call for full implementation of both his amendment to the 2016 Immigration Act (meant to allow 3,000 minors to come to the UK) and the EU’s Dublin III Regulation (allowing children to join family in UK). Seeking Sanctuary continues to take clothing and sleeping bags across to Calais, while the Auberge des Migrants, Secours Catholique, Care4Calais and others continue to battle with the Calais authorities for the right to distribute food, water and clothing on the streets. Have a look at all of their impressive work online.

As previously, we suggest that those who want to take goods should look at the Seeking Sanctuary website for current ‘asks’, and if willing to take goods to Calais, should head for the Auberge des Migrants. We at Justice and Peace will shortly launch a Christmas appeal for the Catholic Worker house, and send a new list of requirements, including sleeping bags and ‘bivvy bags’ to enable sleeping outdoors on the Calais coast. This is a serious humanitarian situation which looks set to run and run.

Pope Francis rewiews urgent call to COP23 Bonn Climate Conference

Pope Francis has sent a letter to participants in the COP-23 UN Convention on climate change, taking place in Bonn, Germany on 6-17 November. The letter was sent to Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama of the Fiji Islands, which is officially hosting the event, and was read out to COP-23 participants.

In the letter Pope Francis congratulates the world leaders present at the COP-23 event and invited them “to maintain a high level of cooperation.”

He renews his “urgent call” for renewed dialogue “on how we are building the future of the planet,” saying: “We need an exchange that unites us all,” he said, “because the environmental challenge we are experiencing, and its human roots, regards us all, and affects us all.” The Pope warned participants not to fall into “four perverse attitudes” regarding the future of the planet: “denial, indifference, resignation and trust in inadequate solutions.”

Finally, Pope Francis sent his well-wishes that the COP-23 would be “inspired by the same collaborative and prophetic spirit manifested during the COP-21” event at which the historic Paris agreement was signed.

The official translation of the Pope’s message follows:


Nearly two years ago, the international community gathered within this UNFCCC forum, with most of its highest government representatives, and after a long and complex debate arrived at the adoption of the historic Paris Agreement. It saw the achievement of consensus on the need to launch a shared strategy to counteract one of the most worrying phenomena our humanity is experiencing: climate change.

The will to follow this consensus was highlighted by the speed with which the Paris Agreement entered into force, less than a year after its adoption.

The Agreement indicates a clear path of transition to a low- or zero-carbon model of economic development, encouraging solidarity and leveraging the strong links between combating climate change and poverty. This transition is further solicited by the climatic urgency that requires greater commitment from the countries, some of which must endeavour to take a leading role in this transition, bearing in mind the needs of the most vulnerable populations.

These days you are gathered in Bonn to carry out another important phase of the Paris Agreement: the process of defining and constructing guidelines, rules and institutional mechanisms so that it may be truly effective and capable of contributing to the achievement of the complex objectives it proposes. In such a path, it is necessary to maintain a high level of cooperation.

From this perspective, I would like to reaffirm my urgent call to renew dialogue on how we are building the future of the planet. We need an exchange that unites us all, because the environmental challenge we are experiencing, and its human roots, regards us all, and affects us all. […] Unfortunately, many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis are often frustrated for various reasons ranging from denial of the problem to indifference, comfortable resignation, or blind trust in technical solutions (cf. Encyclical Laudato si’, 14).

We should avoid falling into the trap of these four perverse attitudes, which certainly do not help honest research or sincere and productive dialogue on building the future of our planet: denial, indifference, resignation and trust in inadequate solutions.

Moreover, we cannot limit ourselves only to the economic and technological dimension: technical solutions are necessary but not sufficient; it is essential and desirable to carefully consider the ethical and social impacts and impacts of the new paradigm of

development and progress in the short, medium and long term.

From this perspective, it is increasingly necessary to pay attention to education and lifestyles based on an integral ecology, capable of taking on a vision of honest research and open dialogue where the various dimensions of the Paris Agreement are intertwined. It is useful to remember that the Agreement recalls the “grave … ethical and moral responsibility to act without delay, in a manner as free as possible from political and economic pressures, setting aside particular interests and behaviour” (cf. Message to COP-22). This means, in effect, propagating a “responsible awareness” towards our common home (cf. Encyclical Laudato si’, 202; 231) through the contribution of all, in explaining the different forms of action and partnership between the various stakeholders, some of whom do not lack to highlight the ingenuity of the human being in favour of the common good.

While I send my greetings to you, Mr President, and to all the participants in this Conference, I hope that, with your authoritative guidance and that of the Fiji Islands, the work of these days will be inspired by the same collaborative and prophetic spirit manifested during the COP-21. This will enable an acceleration of awareness-raising and consolidate the will to make effective decisions to counteract the phenomenon of climate change while at the same time fighting poverty and promoting true human development as a whole. This commitment is supported by the wise providence of God Most High.

This post already appeared on ICN News

Shift in Church position on deterrence and possession of nuclear weapons

Source: Pax Christi

https://i0.wp.com/paxchristi.org.uk/wp/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Pat-Pope-300x217.jpgIt is not often that students, diplomats and Nobel peace laureates from around the world meet to reflect on how, together, we can work for a nuclear free world. This unique gathering was convened by the Dicastery Promoting Integral Human Development in Rome on 10 and 11 November. Pax Christi was a participant.

Pope Francis addressed the gathering in a speech that presented a shift in the position of the Church with regard to deterrence and the threat and possession of nuclear weapons. He said: ” … genuinely concerned by the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental effects of any employment of nuclear devices, if we also take into account the risk of accidental detonation as a result of error of any kind, the threat of their use, as well as their very possession, is to be firmly condemned…they exist in the service of a mentality of fear….

Later in the Conference Bishop McElroy, from San Diego said: “The Church’s fundamental goal in this transformation is to dispel the complacency that currently subverts and paralyzes international efforts at nuclear arms reductions, complacency based upon denial and the false assumption that the logic of nuclear deterrence and proliferation has not fundamentally changed in the past fifty years.”

The event also celebrated the awarding of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize to the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) for its work on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which was adopted in July 2017. Beatrice Finn, Director of ICAN spoke of the important role of people of faith as a constant life-light to campaigns such as this. Pax Christi, along with a host of other organisations and communities have been working with national governments and Church leaders to encourage ratification of the Treaty. This work will continue as the UK Government has resisted any participation in these negotiations.

Read the full text of the address by Pope Francis here:

Advent Declaration for Fossil Free Churches

This article first appeared on Independent Catholic News

By: Ellen Teague

Could your church join with other local churches and religious communities across the UK in making a commitment to divest from fossil fuels? In doing so, you can support the campaign for UK Churches to divest at a national level.

If your church has existing fossil fuel investments, this would involve a commitment to divest within five years. Churches without fossil fuel investments (for instance those with just a bank account) can make a divestment commitment by pledging not to invest in fossil fuels in the future.

Operation Noah, an ecumenical Christian organisation responding to the climate crisis, is expecting a joint divestment announcement will be made on the weekend of the First Sunday of Advent (Sunday 3 December). If your church would like to join the announcement, please let Operation Noah know by Thursday 30 November.

For more information or to register your divestment commitment, please email James Buchanan on james.buchanan@operationnoah.org.

The text of the Advent Declaration can be found below:

Advent Declaration for Fossil Free Churches

As we prepare for the coming of Christ into our lives this Christmas, we the undersigned wish for our investments to be a sign of hope, contributing to the flourishing of God’s creation, both now and for generations to come.

We support the campaign for fossil free Churches and, conscious of the impact of climate change on our sisters and brothers around the world – especially those living in poverty, we recognise the urgency of the need to shift from fossil fuels to a brighter, cleaner future.

Our church / religious community, [insert name here], therefore commits to divest any existing fossil fuel investments within the next five years (for churches with existing fossil fuel investments) and pledges not to invest in fossil fuels in the future.

For more information see: http://brightnow.org.uk/