Westminster Justice & Peace among those attending first Ethical Investment Webinar

Report from Independent Catholic News

Operation Noah and partner organisations hosted the first part of a webinar series on Catholic investment for an integral ecology on Tuesday, 22 September. The series is sponsored by Operation Noah, CAFOD, Global Catholic Climate Movement, the Catholic Impact Investing Collaborative, the Conference of Religious, Association of Provincial Bursars, Trocaire, National Justice & Peace Network and Justice & Peace Scotland.

The first webinar, entitled Fossil fuel divestment: Accelerating the clean energy transition, brought together Catholic organisations to learn more and share experiences of divesting from the fossil fuel industry and supporting a just recovery from Covid-19. Speakers included Fr Augusto Zampini, Dr Lorna Gold, Stephen Power SJ and Sr Susan Francois CSJP.

More than 200 participants from around the world attended, including provincials, bursars and other members of Catholic religious orders, diocesan financial trustees and lay people.

The second webinar in the series, on Wednesday 21 October, will focus on impact investing, exploring how Catholic organisations can make investments with positive environmental and social impacts.

Earlier this week, the Vatican’s first-ever set of comprehensive environmental guidelines, including an endorsement of fossil fuel divestment, were made available in English. The Vatican guidelines on Journeying Towards Care for Our Common Home: Five Years After Laudato Sì, include the following recommendation (on p.177-178): ‘Promote ethical, responsible, and integral criteria for invesment decision making, taking care not to support companies that harm human or social ecology (for example, through abortion or the arms trade), or environmental ecology (for example, through the use of fossil fuels)’.

More than 190 Catholic organisations around the world have now made commitments to divest from fossil fuels. In May 2020, 42 institutions (including 21 from the UK) announced their decision to divest from fossil fuels. The group included Jesuits in Britain, Sisters of St Joseph of Peace (UK) and the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton, which became the third Catholic diocese in England and Wales to divest.

Fr Augusto Zampini, Co-Secretary of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, provided the theological underpinnings for the Vatican’s recommendation decision to divest, framing the issue in the context of a just recovery from Covid-19. He said: “We need to divest from what is damaging and invest in what is not damaging, in what makes a positive social and environmental impact.’ He linked fossil fuel divestment to making resources available to finance renewable and circular sources of energy.”

Dr Lorna Gold, Vice Chair of the Global Catholic Climate Movement, shared how the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference divested from fossil fuels in 2018. She reminded participants that at this time of the global response to Covid-19, there is also a “waking up to the beauty of life which is the essence of an integral ecology, and translating it into hope filled action is what moving our capital or investment is all about.”

Stephen Power SJ, former Treasurer of Jesuits in Britain who manages the Jesuits’ ethical investment strategy, shared the practical steps taken by Jesuits in Britain in divesting from fossil fuels in February 2020. He highlighted the financial risk of investing in fossil fuels, as investors risk being left with “stranded assets”. He added: ‘It is important not to forget the prophetic [statement]… We need to keep bolstering ourselves with what Laudato Si’ helps us to remember… Pope Francis notes the climate being a common good belonging to all.”

Sr Susan Francois CSJP, Assistant Congregation Leader and Congregation Treasurer of the Sisters of St Joseph of Peace, shared how the UK region’s decision to divest was informed by the congregation’s charism. She said: “We are called to a conversion of heart and a change in behaviour. So our decision making must put sustainability of ecosystems before profit.’ She shared how this approach had also resulted in better financial performance.”

James Buchanan, Bright Now Campaign Manager at Operation Noah shared key findings of the report Church investments in major oil companies: Paris compliant or Paris defiant? He highlighted that major oil companies are continuing to explore for new reserves of fossil fuels, despite the vast majority of known reserves needing to remain in the ground, as Pope Francis highlighted to oil company CEOs in 2018.

Operation Noah and the Global Catholic Climate Movement invited Catholic religious orders and dioceses to join the next global divestment announcement for faith organisations in November 2020.

The webinar is available to watch again and can be viewed here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=XoSWjJQMnjU

Webinar Part 2: Investment for a green recovery: Innovation in impact investing takes place on Wednesday 21 October.

Register to join here: www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/part-2-investment-for-a-green-recovery-innovation-in-impact-investing-registration-118552167725

Delivering the petition on human rights on the French-UK borders

By Barbara Kentish, Westminster Justice & Peace Commission Lead on Refugees and Migrants

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Delivering letter at the French Embassy

Five of us, obeying government guidelines on numbers, delivered our letter and petition as promised, to the French Embassy this morning. Pat Gaffney from Pax Christi, Fr Dominic Robinson SJ from Justice and Peace, Brother Johannes from London Catholic Worker, Fr Joe Ryan from West Green Tottenham parish and myself took the hundreds of signatures and our letter asking for French-British collaboration for a humanitarian outcome to the small-boat Channel crossings. We succeeded in handing it over to officials at the French Embassy in leafy Knightsbridge and had a pleasant walk across the park to the Home Office in Marsham Street. Here we found a very closed door. The head security officer told us, after he had investigated, that delivering petitions could only be done if accompanied by a solicitor! We had emailed earlier in the week, with copy of our letter, but this was not enough: you need your solicitor to go along too, so after a friendly chat with the security man, we beat a retreat. Rather like the rules on COVID 19, the UK Home Office can be extremely unpredictable. We will make an appointment of course, but this could be a long wait!

Turned back from the Home Office

There is still time to sign the petition until we get an appointment with Ms Priti Patel’s elusive staff!

Meanwhile, our friends on the other side of the Channel in Calais demonstrate for human rights in their city today (Saturday, 26 September.) We wish them well, and pray that they will be heard as they claim not only rights for migrants, but also for themselves, so they don’t pick up the infections.

Sign the petition here: www.change.org/p/demand-that-the-french-and-uk-governments-recognise-people-s-human-rights-and-safe-routes-to-asylum

Housing and Homelessness Media Statement

Homeless Jesus, Farm Street Jesuit Church, Mayfair, London, UK

Fr Dominic Robinson SJ, Parish Priest of Farm Street and Chair of the Justice and Peace Commission said, “During the pandemic Central London Catholic Churches Homeless Services have worked with other faith groups, agencies, hospitality businesses and Westminster City Council to feed and provide showers, clothing and human care for some 300 homeless left on the streets of London.”

Colette Joyce, Co-ordinator of the Justice and Peace Commission, commented, “We are very concerned that, while there was a real success story at the beginning of lockdown with about 90% of homeless people given a temporary hotel place, as this crisis continues to unfold, we are witnessing more and more new destitute on the streets who are losing jobs, livelihoods and homes as a direct result of the pandemic. With night shelters closed, day centres and public services operating greatly reduced services, we are seeing the beginnings of a new underclass who, through no fault of their own, find themselves without a safety net in their hour of need.”

Fr Dominic added, “With the lifting of the ban on evictions from rented property, the end of the furlough scheme, and no move from national government on giving a reprieve to those with no recourse to public funds, the numbers of homeless on the streets and on the fragile line between just managing and destitution will get worse and worse.  It promises to be a huge humanitarian crisis on a grand scale.  Everybody wants to end rough sleeping forever – homeless agencies, faith groups, local authorities – and the united effort over the summer has shown we can work well together and find solutions.” 

Charities, such as Shelter, have taken steps this week to update their services with advice and guidance for those who now face eviction or have become newly homeless, but the support available is limited.

The Jesuit Refugee Service is calling attention, in particular, to the plight of thousands of people recently refused asylum who are now facing evictions from Home Office accommodation (as reported in The Guardian on 19/08/20). Evictions were paused in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Evictions recommence at the same time as the government is discussing fresh lockdown measures due to a rise in COVID-19 cases.

Sarah Teather, JRS UK’s director, said: “Manufactured homelessness should never be considered an acceptable tool of immigration enforcement, and it is deeply troubling that anyone should face renewed homelessness in the middle of a global pandemic.”

With the possibility of a second lockdown looming in some form, we continue to call for a temporary reprieve for the duration of the pandemic from the no recourse to public funds rules so that Councils, housing associations and charities can respond to all those who present as homeless. We further urge an immediate halt to the evictions of asylum seekers from hostels who have nowhere else to go. The ban on evictions of other tenants should be reinstated immediately in the event of any increase of pandemic measures. With Citizens UK, we ask those with the power to do so to provide these concessions and to avert a further crisis which will overwhelm all who want to help. 

Everyone in society deserves to be treated with dignity and respect and we need to put policies in place so that together we can ensure this. 

Statement from the Jesuit Refugee Service

Statement from Citizens UK

Bishop MacAleenan prays at Dover Migrants Memorial

Report from Independent Catholic News

Bishop Paul McAleenan visited Dover on Tuesday to meet with some of those working to help people who have arrived there to claim asylum. The gathering was organised by Seeking Sanctuary and hosted by the parish priest, Fr Jeff Cridland.

A TV team preparing for a coming episode of ‘Songs of Praise’ was also in Dover on the same day. Deb Barry posted the following reflection on the Care4Humanity’ Facebook page.

Bishop Paul is the Catholic bishop who leads on migration issues for fellow bishops in England and Wales wanted to meet with the organisations working with refugees. Care4humanity was asked to participate in the discussion groups, along with other local faith and community leaders, representatives from the Anglican diocese of Canterbruy, Seeking Sanctuary, KRAN and Samphire (organisations supporting refugees in Kent).

Key messages that everyone agreed on today included the need to remember that each of these refugees is an individual, they have an identity and their own unique story. Youth can play a really instrumental role in humanitarian work and advocacy, they are our future leaders and can be mobilized now to help refugees in so many ways and be a real example of peace and acceptance. Refugee work continues to be a global issue and we need to work across countries, faiths, governments, civil society and ethnicity, only as we come together in peace and a desire to truly help each other, can we find lasting solutions.

At the conclusion of the meetings, we then went down to Dover promenade where we met with the BBC Songs of Praise crew. We stood by the memorials to those who had lost their lives while making that crossing from France to the UK in order to seek sanctuary. The Bishop then said a prayer at the memorial and reminded all of us of the importance of each of these people’s lives. He prayed that people would be able to understand and assist those who have journeyed for a new and better life. He also prayed for all those who help, the policy makers and the opinion formers.

It was lovely to be able to stand together today, technology has allowed us to still operate during this time, but seeing so many people social distancing and standing in a circle today was a great strength.

We are excited at Care4Humanity to continue to work with so many different groups of people and stand together in peace to bring change.

The programme that includes the material filmed in Dover is scheduled to be aired on Songs of Praise on 11th October 2020 in the UK

Bishop McAleenan gave us this short reflection and prayer.

Listen

Soundcloud

Reflection

My name’s Bishop Paul McAleenan and I’m responsible for migrants and refugees for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

Yesterday was 15 September, the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows – Mary who stood beneath the Cross as her son was dying. The Cross of Jesus and Our Lady of Sorrows always go together.

Here in Dover, it has been most edifying to meet those who, like Our Blessed Lady, have thrown in their lot with the refugees and are willing to support them, speak on their behalf and advocate for their cause.

On this beautiful afternoon, I met so many people who spoke movingly about their work and their intention to continue to spread the message that it’s so necessary for us to support migrants and refugees. Through their work, meeting with refugees, they have discovered the truth – that they are God’s children. We are all brothers and sisters in Jesus and we support them.

Let us pray.

We pray for volunteers who work for refugees here in the Dover area and in northern France, and for those who go to the rescue of those in danger.

We pray for policy-makers and opinion-formers.

May they provide a system whereby no-one needs to risk their lives in the quest for safety and freedom.

This prayer we make through Christ Our Lord who stretched out His hand to Peter on the Sea of Galilee and gives us the will to do likewise on the English coast.

Amen.

I thank you for joining me in this reflection and I ask you to continue to pray for migrants and refugees – and to remind you that on 27 September it’s the World Day of Prayer for Migrants and Refugees.

Text from Catholic Bishop’s Conference of England and Wales

Season of Creation Video Competition

Prizes have been agreed for the Season of Creation video competition in the Diocese of Westminster. Winning Schools and Parishes will get garden centre vouchers worth First Prize=£250, Second Prize=£100, Third Prize=£50. We would love to see how your school or your parish cares for creation. Get creative and get your entries in by 1st October. Winners announced on 4th October for the Feast of St Francis of Assisi.

Entries can be uploaded directly online

Anticipating the Pope’s New Encyclical ‘Fratelli tutti’

Here is an excellent 3-minute video report summarising the basic points of Pope Francis’ new encyclical Fratelli tutti, due to be published on 3rd October 2020, the Vigil of the Feast of St Francis of Assisi. The encyclical, it seems, will focus on issues of justice defining the Church’s mission as we emerge from the pandemic. It is expected that the encyclical will consolidate the teaching on solidarity and respect for the earth’s resources which Pope Francis has been delivering during his weekly catecheses at the Papal Audiences this month.

We look forward to using this teaching to help inform and shape our action and reflection throughout the Diocese in the coming months.

The message so far is that the Pope is proposing 3 pillars:

1) Saying no to selfishness
2) Spreading hope
3) Taking action

Death in the Channel

Death of young Sudanese man on Calais coast as he tries to reach the UK – Report by Barbara Kentish

The memorial plaques on the Dover seafront are a respectful reminder of the tragic deaths which now occur far too often in the English Channel between France and England, as people try to reach our shores.  Representatives of Westminster Justice and Peace have taken part in remembrance services there, including just two months ago for the 20th anniversary of the 58 Chinese migrants found dead in a lorry at Dover, so that those who die far from home are given the dignity they deserve. 

Now floral tributes have been laid at the newest memorial in memory of Abdulfatah Hamdallah (known as “Wadji”).  He was a young man from Sudan  who drowned while attempting to cross the Channel from France to seek asylum in the UK a few days ago.   The wreath, in the colours of the Sudanese flag, carries a message based upon his last Facebook post: “On the palm of fate we walk, and don’t know what’s written. Your’s was written too short, may your freedom in the Hereafter long live”.

Ben Bano, Co-Director of Seeking Sanctuary, and partner, through People Not Walls, with Justice and Peace,  commented: `This tragic death reminds us  of the risks that desperate  people take in order to find sanctuary. A life full of  hope and  opportunity has been lost, like many others who have in recent years. Let us mourn them and remember them – in the words of Pope Francis, “Every migrant has a name, a face and a story.”

French NGOs, some now having to organise a funeral, and welcome mourning relatives from overseas,  will mount a protest  on September 26th against the denial of basic water, food and sanitation to those fleeing persecution on the north coast.  Here in England we plan to do the same.  People wonder why so many little boats are arriving on our shores.  Humanitarian abuses on the north coast of France raise instead  the question as to why more don’t come, and whether we will see further tragedies, such as that of Abdulfatah Hamdallah.  May all those who are travelling at such risk reach safe havens.