One of the things we are about as a church is to be "Serving and Sending Out". Yesterday I had the privilege of hosting a meeting with four representatives of two mission agencies, and a lay leader from St Silas' as we explored with a member of the congregation the possibility of God calling him to serve in another culture. It could be an excellent partnership. I believe this could be the first of many such new partnerships. It will continue our long history of partnering with mission work around the world.
Similarly, we want to see people being released into all sorts of ministry (including ordained ministry) here in the UK. But.......being sent out begins a little closer to home. Last Sunday morning (and this coming Sunday evening!) we looked at the sending out of the 72 disciples. One thing that struck me was that the disciples were to declare to those who were healed, as well as those who are simply antagonistic, "The Kingdom of God is near". It means that the followers of Jesus take the Kingdom of God with them wherever they go. It's not contained in a building, or a ritual, or a special person - the Kingdom Of God is not far from people at all, for it is wherever we are placed. An awesome responsibility and a great joy. I think I'll try mentioning that in conversation today.............
I had a quiet evening in last night and was so tired I fancied a relaxing no-brainer kind of entertainment, so ended up watching the box (or should that now be panel?). It turned out to be a stimulating geek fest with The Sky at Night (on "Is there life on other worlds?" - I'm a sucker for that), followed by Horizon on the subject of dark flow. Both were fascinating programmes.
The highlight was earlier on in the evening - Professor Brian Cox presents Wonders of the Solar System, the BBC's latest HD-fest that looks at what it says on the tin. I'd love his job! The only word to describe the programme is stunning. The youthful Cox explains and enthuses, the visuals are beautiful, and the music fits gloriously. See the first episode about the Sun on iPlayer. Take a look, and give thanks to the wonder-full Creator:
I heard a Conservative Party representative on Radio 4's PM programme saying that the Tories should aim to reduce immigration if they come to power. One can only imagine what they'll do with asylum seekers.
The strange thing to me is that most of the population of the UK is to some extent descended from economic migrants or those fleeing oppressive regimes. Celts, Picts, Romans, Jutes, Angles, Saxons, Vikings, Normans, Africans (throught the slave trade), Indians (during the colonial period), and all sorts of Europeans during the 19th Century, have all come to live on these islands. Some came to conquer, some were forced, but all have made their home here and contributed to this island's life. What's different today? I guess it can only be the fear that immigrants arriving here will simply leech from our social security system, married to xenophobia and a sense for politicians that going soft on immigration is a vote loser.
Why do Christians take such an interest in this? Is it because they are naive and believe every sob story? Sometimes we are (and naivete is not always a bad thing), but I hope we are driven by something like this:
For the Lord your God
is the God of gods and Lord of lords. He is the great God, the mighty
and awesome God, who shows no partiality and cannot be bribed.
He ensures that orphans and widows receive justice. He shows love to
the foreigners living among you and gives them food and clothing. So you, too, must show love to foreigners, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.Deuteronomy 10:19 (NLT)
Now, I wonder who would like to win my vote in a few months time?
PLEASE ATTEND IN SUPPORT
OF THE RED ROAD RESIDENTS AT BRAND STREET REPORTING CENTRE 11 AM TUESDAY 9 MARCH
DEMAND A PUBLIC ENQUIRY INTO THE RED ROAD SUICIDES QUESTIONS TO
BE ASKED IN SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT AT FIRST MINISTERS QUESTIONS ON THURSDAY 11
MARCH 2010 ASK QUESTIONS OF YOUR ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES ABOUT THE WAY THE
CURRENT UK ASYLUM SYSTEM OPERATES AND DEMAND AN OVERHAUL TO THEIR BARBARIC
PRACTICES (please copy your emails or correspondece to firstname.lastname@example.org )
Residents of Red Road
have asked for help with a demonstration outside the UK Borders Agency, (Home
Office) at Festival Court , 200 Brand Street , Govan, Glasgow (next to Cessnock
underground and off Paisley Road West , Glasgow ) on Tuesday 9th March in memory
of the family who committed suicide on Sunday morning from one of the tower
blocks in Red Road .
The bodies of the family, a couple and their son,
were found at the bottom of a 31-storey block at 63 Petershill Drive ,
Springburn, Glasgow, on Sunday morning. We understand they were asylum-seekers
who had received a negative decision from the UK Borders Agency
According to the Unity Centre in Govan, Strathclyde police
visited the family's flat on the 15th floor last Friday to tell them their
asylum case had been refused and they would have to leave the flat. It is common
for the police only to come to the door of a refused asylum seeker at the
request of the landlord after the family have refused to leave their
So far, the YMCA who were landlords for the three are
refusing to comment to the media. (The YMCA has a highly profitable contract
with the UK Borders Agency to house asylum seekers in the Red Road flats, which
are some of Glasgow 's worst housing stock).
It is difficult to
understand why it has taken the police more than 24 hours to identify the three
people as all asylum seekers are repeatedly asked to give their finger-prints by
the Home Office and their landlords, the YMCA, should be able to tell the police
who was living in the flat at the time.
At the moment, the Home Office
are saying they are not prepared to comment, however it has been known for
asylum seekers to be so desperate that they jump from their windows if they
think they are about be detained in a dawn raid by the Home Office's Enforcement
Team. Neighbours have said that they thought the Home Office had been banging on
the door on Sunday morning when the family jumped.
Action in Housing's staff are confronted with the reality of asylum seekers
coming into the office crying or upset because they have just been told they
must leave the country. Then their money and housing is stopped a week later. We
run a hardship fund and give out small amounts of cash for food and arrange free
shelter in the homes of our volunteers. There is a great deal of mental strain
and it is normal currency for people to talk about ending their lives as a
viable alternative to destitution or removal.
After years of waiting on a
decision, and putting your life and the lives of your family on hold, it's a big
shock to be systematically stripped of each and every one of your basic human
rights of food, shelter and work by the asylum system, and then face the daily
terror of destitution or possible removal in the early hours. Then it's easy to
see why someone would consider suicide preferable to returning to an unsafe
We believe there should be a public inquiry into these deaths,
and the impact of the UK Borders Agency and their terror campaign - disguised as
asylum policy - on the lives of asylum seekers who have lived here for years but
live in permanent fear of destitution, detention and removal. Many asylum
seekers flee persecution or death, only to be terrorised by the prospect of
removal back to an unsafe country, and in the process face destitution or long
term detention. The current asylum system is based on the false premise that all
asylum seekers are bogus. We need a complete rethink.
PLEASE, PLEASE ACT
This case, and many others, raise serious questions about the way the
UK asylum system operates in this country. Members of the public have a right to
know if we have a fair asylum system, or one which terrorises vulnerable people
to the point they would take their own lives. Please demand the following
questions are answered and write to your MSP, MP, the First Minister, the
Scottish Secretary and the home Secretary:
Please copy your
correspondence to email@example.com. Email addresses are at the end
of this email.
1. Who were the family and what was their background in
the UK ?
2. Demand a public enquiry into the suicides and in particular
the details of all communications the UK Borders Agency had with the
3. What communications did the YMCA and Strathclyde Police have
with the family?
4. We want to know the Home Office arrangements for the
deceased. Have the relatives of the deceased been informed? What plans does the
UKBA have to remove their bodies to their countries of origin? (We know of cases
where the bodies of dead asylum seekers have been left unclaimed in mortuaries
for years, this charity has had to step in to raise funds for the return of the
dead to their families for a proper burial).
5. Neighbours have stated
that on Saturday evening, a few hours before the suicide, the family were seen
taking bags out of the flat. We believe they were planning to escape removal,
not commit suicide, and that happened on the Sunday morning which drove them to
make the decision to build a pyre of furniture on the veranda and throw
themselves from their fifteenth floor. We want to know if the Home Office
Removal vans were in the vicinity. We want to know if UK Borders Agency removal
officials were in the vicinity of 63 Petershill Drive . Were they, as has been
suggested, knocking at the door of the suicide victims at 63 Petershill Drive,
Springburn on Sunday morning with a view to removing the family?
are innocent children still being locked up like criminals in Scotland ? Many
asylum seekers who report weekly to Brand Street reporting centre don't know if
this or the next week they will simply not be allowed to leave. Only on Friday,
Stephanie Ovrawah went to pick up her twin six year old sons, Joshua and Joel,
from Cranhill Primary School in Glasgow before going to "sign" at Brand Street
Reporting Centre. The family have been Glasgow residents since the children were
babies. They were immediately detained with the children still in their school
uniforms, no goodbyes to their neighbours or school friends, no chance to pick
up their belongings from home; they were just taken to Dungavel Removal Centre
and then to Yarls Wood Removal centre, where they currently await their fate.
Joshua (6) said today, "I miss my friend Taylor. I miss Mrs O'Brien and Mr
Downs. They are our teachers. They said they are sending us back. I don't know
this Africa ... My mum says we didn't do anything wrong. They shout at us and a
guard hit my brother. We want to leave, this is a prison and a dump… I want to
go back to school tomorrow and see my friends Taylor, Rhys and Keegan.
7. We want questions raised in the Scottish parliament asto why the
barbarism of the UK asylum system is allowed to operate on Scottish soil. What
is the Scottish Government going to do to put a stop to this once and for
Please write to the following people to demand answers about this
case and the way the asylum system operates. Please copy your correspondence to
Write to your MSP, MP and
MEP. To find out who your local representative is, just enter your postcode in
https://www.writetothem.com/ and email them from the
Action in Housing Ltd is a Scottish wide charity working with communities,
housing providers, voluntary organisations and faith groups to enable everyone
to have an equal chance to live in good quality, affordable and safe homes, free
from discrimination and the fear of racial harassment and violence. We offer
advice, information and support to people from new migrant, refugee and minority
ethnic communities. We run a free, confidential and impartial casework service
for those facing poverty, homelessness, racism or poor housing. We run a
Hardship Fund and provide emergency shelter and practical resources for
destitute asylum seekers and their families. We provide volunteering and
sessional work opportunities. We support human rights and anti-racist campaigns.
We inform social policy from a user-led perspective As a charity, Positive
Action in Housing depends on donations. Please help us by making a single or
monthly donation. Alternatively, donate online via your internet banking,
through PayPal, or make a donation quickly, easily and securely online now via
JustGiving. The flats at Petershill Drive are run by the YMCA under a
contract with the UKBA. It is not known exactly how much money the YMCA makes
per asylum seeker from that contract. Hundreds of refused asylum seekers in
Glasgow rely on Positive Action in Housing when they are forced into destitution
because of the UK government's insistence that they return to unsafe countries.
Through our destitution project, Lifeline, our caseworkers arrange for destitute
clients to stay in the homes of our volunteers, and arrange practical support
such as clothes, sleeping bags, food, shelter and befriending, as well as access
to legal and housing support. We have a database of volunteers who provide free
shelter in their homes. We rely on donations to pay towards the hardship
fund. We provide a Hardship Fund which gives out small sums of cash for food
and hostel accommodation (£1500 per month). In 2009, we gave out over 700
destitution payments totalling £18,020 to prevent people going hungry or
becoming street homeless. In 2009, we assisted 975 households. Out of this,
276 were destitute asylum seekers. This represents a 25% increase since 2008. We
provided 1,368 nights of shelter through hostels (554 nights) and volunteers
(814 nights). 128 people (55%) were in the process of lodging a fresh claim or a
judicial review when they were made destitute. We assisted destitute asylum
seekers from 44 countries including the following: Iran (15%), Iraq (14%),
Somalia ( 9%), Zimbabwe (8%), China (8%), Dem Rep of Congo (7%) and Sudan
Following the Bishop of Liverpool's address to his diocesan synod last Saturday, Andrew Goddard has published a helpful critical appraisal of what he said. James Jones' thoughts are significant in that he has strong evangelical credentials, and his comments reflect a change in his thinking which many evangelicals will find difficult to accept.
The pastors' Bible reading group continues to meet weekly in Starbucks on Byres Road. This morning we were on 1 Kings. My shares: Wise Solomon being not so wise (too many wives leading to too many gods: "his wives turned his heart after other gods and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God" - Chapter 11:4), the difficulties of surrounding ourselves with "Yes" people and the responsibility of the prophet to go against the flow, risking a slap in the face of the process (Chapter 22).
It's such an encouraging time. We meet for an hour, do the business, and maybe share briefly other matters, though most of the time we rush off to get on with stuff. Helpful this morning to linger and hear of a mission trip to India and discuss what the best time strategically for a Sunday service is (my answer - there isn't one - too early misses the long-lie-in people, too late means the day is taken up by church. However, if I was starting from scratch, I'd go with early - 9 or 10am).