Iraq and ISIS

Christians are suffering and dying in Iraq. The terrorist group Islamic State (IS, formerly known as ISIS) is killing them, displacing them and seizing their properties. Now Iraq’s ancient Yazidi community is experiencing similar abuses.

This is a catastrophe for the people of Iraq and the region and if left unchecked it could also have profound implications for freedom and democracy across the globe. Religious freedom is a fundamental right that has been described as a ‘litmus test’ for the depth of democracy. That’s why attacks on this right cannot be ignored.

We believe that if Western governments allow groups like IS to persecute populations with impunity, it will set a dangerous precedent in global affairs. The situation in Iraq is particularly important because Western governments were complicit in creating the vacuum into which the terrorists have now stepped. It is unacceptable for Western governments that embarked on the process of bringing freedom and human rights to Iraq to continue neglecting this situation. It is vital that all of Iraq’s religious and ethnic minorities are guaranteed a future in their country.

The UN Secretary General and Security Council have urged international assistance for the Iraqi government and people. Therefore, we call upon our own government to provide practical assistance for those displaced by the current violence who wish to remain in their country. We also echo the call of the Church of England for Iraqi Christian refugees and those from other minority communities who wish to escape persecution to be granted asylum in the United Kingdom in accordance with the international refugee convention.

Events in Iraq form part of a broader pattern of increasing persecution of Christians and other religious minorities. In many countries, including Syria, Iran, Nigeria, Mali, CAR, Sudan, Libya, Algeria, Egypt, Indonesia, Kenya, Somalia and Afghanistan, well-armed Islamist extremists are not only persecuting Christians severely, but are also violating the rights of all who do not share their restrictive dogma. The international community must unite and take action to stem the seemingly inexorable advance of violent insurgencies that use religion to justify their severe violations of fundamental freedoms and their wanton disregard for human dignity. Western governments have a responsibility to play a leading role in this action. And taking a stand on Iraq needs to be the starting point.

Farage Skewered At Last

Nigel Farage

Nigel FarageIt’s been a while since I blogged. Apologies! I’ve been very busy with the day job and also standing as Labour’s candidate in Coldharbour and New Eltham for the local elections which take place on Thursday. I was going to wait until after polling day to blog again but I couldn’t resist sharing this video of Nigel Farage at last being held to task live on radio.

Given the number of conversations I’ve had in Eltham clarifying Ukip’s position on things like workers’ rights and maternity pay, I’m delighted to see this and felt the need to share. Enjoy!

He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.

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Originally posted on Rob Carr:

February 10th means a lot of things to different people. As a history graduate, I tend to think in terms of historic periods. For those who studied the Middle Ages, February 10th 1098 is when the Crusaders took Antioch. Military historians will tell you February 10th 1916 is when Conscription began in Britain. February 10th 1964 is the day Dylan released the Times they are a-Changing. But for me, 10th February will always be the day my Dad died. It was one year ago today. He passed away peacefully in the brilliant Marie Curie Hospice surrounded by family and friends. He had fought cancer for 8 months. If he was a politician, celebrity, business leader, literary, musical, or artistic giant, then he would have got an obituary in the broadsheets. But he was none of those things. He was just an ordinary working class hero, like millions of others.

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To God Himself We Cannot Give A Holier Name

fist-bump

Rob Carr:

I hate Father’s Day these days. But such is life.

Originally posted on Rob Carr:

Readers who’ve been around this blog a while will know that I repost one piece twice a year. 10th of February and the third Sunday in June. That’s the anniversary of the death of my dad and Father’s Day. I’m a fairly optimistic happy person but both of those days are immensely sad to me. I wish I’d spent more time telling my Dad all the stuff that I say in the post. But I guess most children feel that way after they lose a parent. If you’re seeing your dad today, think of all us who can’t, and tell him you love him. I apologise if you’re sick of reading said post but it’s important to me. Anyway, here it is.

He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.

February 10th means a lot of things to different people. As a…

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Another Day At The Coalface

Queen's Speech

Today is an odd day to be working in Parliament. I mean most days are fairly odd around here, but today the oddness quotient has been stepped up a gear.

Queen's Speech
Queen’s Speech

It’s the Queen’s Speech today and that means lots of pomp and ceremony. The state coaches will be out along with marching bands, ermine cloaks and crown jewels. It makes for a colourful display for any tourists waiting out in the drizzle of Whitehall or Parliament Square. And it’s not too bad on television either. We British do ceremonial occasions  very well, after all.

Inside Parliament, though, the place is packed with people hamming it up in their best outfits in case Liz might spot them and not be pleased with their turnout or something. I understand the parliamentary doorkeepers in full regalia, and even the police officers in full dress blues with their medals and white gloves. The bit I find hilarious are the – predominantly tory – members and staff in the tailcoats and pinstripe trousers of morning dress. And the ladies are going to town too. I’ve never seen so many big hats in a canteen before.

I imagine if Ascot had a restaurant with a good cooked breakfast, it’d look a lot like what I saw this morning. It seemed to my innocent eye as if there was a bit of a competition for the biggest and grandest hat too. Some of them looked like they needed scaffolding!

I love working in and around Parliament. I see all sorts of weird things. I get to go to cool receptions, I’ve literally bumped into Hollywood legends – and Hugh Grant – and I’ve seen some unusual old traditions taking place as they have done for hundreds of years. But, to me, this place is mostly an office. A place of work. So when the big hats and tailcoats turn up, it still amazes me.

Oh well, another day at the coalface…

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An Easter Reflection

Easter

As a Christian, my faith plays an important role in all my life including my work in Parliament. Today is Maundy Thursday and my mind has turned to Easter. As we approached the Easter recess, MPs were debating the budget in Parliament and I couldn’t help but reflect on the huge compassion of God.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

EasterGod had so much compassion for humanity that he became flesh and went voluntarily to his death, and death on a cross at that, to pay for the sins of humanity. That is, surely, the ultimate act of compassion and it makes me think about the compassion people deserve and need in our society today. Whether that’s parcels from foodbanks, clothes from churches, or food and warmth from night shelters, there’s a lot of compassion needed and visible in society today.

As a parliamentary aide, it makes me pause for thought and look at how we address those problems and care for the needs of those who cannot care for themselves. I look at the cross in awe, wonder at the compassion of God, and compare that to the compassion of men and women and, in particular, our current government.

Jesus taught us to

do unto others as we would have them do unto us (Matthew 7:12). 

Philosophers might call it the ethic of reciprocity and even people with no faith refer to this as the golden rule. To me, though, it forms the centre of my faith. Jesus taught, in Matthew 22, that

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

It is the thought of this compassion to my neighbours around the country which motivates me to do my best to help them here in Parliament or campaigning around the country.

Another message of Easter is Hope. The resurrection and the forgiveness of sin fills Christians with hope. As Cardinal Hume said:

The great gift of Easter is hope – Christian hope which makes us have that confidence in God, in his ultimate triumph, and in his goodness and love, which nothing can shake.

I constantly hope that I do the best I can for the MPs I support, for their constituents,and for the wider country. I hope that, as a Labour Party campaigner, I can help stem the tide of measures this conservative-led government is bringing forward which are creating unnecessary suffering and worry to the poorest in our society. I see groups organising against injustice and am hopeful for the future. I see NGOs fighting oppression, poverty, and hunger, and am hopeful for the future. I see my colleagues campaigning for equality of opportunity and am hopeful for the future.

The final thing that Easter brings to mind is transformation. It is the feast of transformation as death gave way to life for Jesus and also the time of year when other things transform. Dark nights become light. Cold winter gives way (we hope!) to warmer Spring. Death’s victory is removed in the seasonal burst of new life whether of fresh crocus’s bursting through or new lambs being born.

In Westminster, my mind turns to transformation of a different sort. I work hard to ensure the transformation of society for the better. I want to see a society where every baby born has the same opportunities, where every child gets an equal education, where patients in one part of the country get the same quality of treatment as those in another.  A society where people are allowed to get a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work, and where the government is investing in growth to create jobs for those that don’t have them. A society where the sick, disabled, unemployed, and poor are treated with respect and fairness. That really will take a huge transformation. But I look to the cross and am filled again with compassion and hope and know that transformation is possible.

Holy Week Begins

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A lot of my non-Christian friends think Christmas is the most important part of the Christian calendar. Of course, the birth of Jesus is important. But he wouldn’t be the Christ without the death and resurrection on Easter Sunday. So this time of year is really important and I’ll have a fuller than usual week of worship, which will include Easter Day, Good Friday, Maundy Thursday, and started today with Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday, if you’re not familiar, is when Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a colt and was cheered as the Lord. Nowadays, it’s when we start to contemplate, as believers, what it was that Jesus did for us. It’s hard to explain, so here’s a video that might help. If you see me looking contemplative this week, you’ll know why…