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Westminster Hall debate highlights persecution of Christians in the Middle East: The Church of England Newspaper, November 22, 2013 November 25, 2013

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Christians are in danger of being driven out of the Middle East, MP Fiona Bruce warned last week, urging the British government to aid the victims of the campaign of terror waged by militant Islamists.

In remarks made at a Westminster Hall Adjournment Debate on the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, Mrs. Bruce, the member for Congleton (Cons.) highlighted findings of a newly released report prepared by the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).  The report, “Persecuted and Forgotten? A Report on Christians oppressed for their Faith 2011-2013”, found that intolerance had grown in 20 of the 30 countries surveyed.

“In virtually every country in and around the [Middle East], Christians report suffering either high, high to extreme, or extreme persecution,” she said.

Christians “have suffered from a domino effect of violence that began in Iraq, spread to Syria and overshadows Egypt, leaving the survival of the Church in jeopardy.”

“We should be crying out with the same abhorrence and horror that we feel about the atrocities towards Jews on Kristallnacht and on other occasions during the Second World War,” she said.

The member for Upper Bann, David Simpson (DUP) told the gathering ““Every hour, a Christian is tortured and murdered somewhere in the world.”

“Surely, in this day and age, something more can be done to protect people and their faith,” he said.

David Burrowes MP said: “The term ‘Christian persecution’ is sometimes bandied about carelessly… if there is Christian persecution in this country then at worst its victim is likely to be sued, but in the Middle East the victim will be killed. That is the stark reality that we are facing…”

The member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West, Tom Geatrex (Lab.) warned of problems facing Christians in Malaysia, where a court “has effectively outlawed the Bible, particularly in the eastern states of Malaysia”, after ruling that the word “Allah” may only be used in the context of the Muslim faith.

Other members of Parliament spoke of the persecution Christians faced in Iran, Egypt, Syria and Turkey. Mrs. Bruce observed the problem of militant Islam was not confined to the Middle East. “Western Muslims are going to fight alongside jihadists in Syria… returning home to become potential jihadists themselves.”

“Western countries are not fully grappling with this problem,” she said.

Foreign Office Minister, Hugo Swire MP, said the government was aware of the problem and noted that “protecting human rights, including religious freedom, is an important part of British foreign policy.”

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Bishop urges govt not to arm Syrian rebels: The Church of England Newspaper, June 23, 2013 p 7. June 27, 2013

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Arming Syria’s rebels will make a bad situation worse, the Bishop of Bristol has warned. “The history of the Middle East seems to be that today’s allies are tomorrow’s enemies.  Remember Iraq”, the Rt Rev Mike Hill wrote on his blog at the diocesan website on 14 June 2013.

The situation in Syria was bleak he observed. The Civil War between the asylum regime and the Islamist dominated opposition has led to 90,000 deaths. The use of chemical weapons by the regime was a “truly shocking way for any Government to behave and is totally inexcusable, “ and could escalate beyond the bounds of Syria.

“When I heard that our Government had been complicit in lifting the ban on sending arms to the ‘rebels’ in Syria, I was worried,” Bishop Hill wrote.

“Surely such a move brings with it some unmanageable risks.  Will sending more lethal weapons in to Syria mean more deaths not less?  What kind of Trojan Horse is the rebel movement?  What different interests lurk within their ranks? There is plenty of evidence that both sides of this conflict have been involved in atrocities.  How do we guarantee that these arms will only fall into the hands of ‘moderates’?  What will happen to all these weapons when, please God, the fighting comes to an end?  These are questions that need to be answered,” before arms are sent to Syria, he said.

The best way forward “is to work with Syria’s allies to bring about a ceasefire,” he argued.

While negotiations have so far failed to end the fighting “I would rather we kept trying this course of action rather than send more weapons to a bewilderingly complex situation.”

“I have seen first-hand the disorder that follows civil war.  Even when conflict ends, people retain their weapons, ‘just in case…’  The result is a violent and potentially ungovernable society.  Syria already has this and it’s time for the international community to bring this bloodshed to an end, not add to it or sow the seeds for future instability,” Bishop Hill said.

West Indian bishops call for push back against Cameron’s gay agenda: The Church of England Newspaper, May 5, 2013 p 7. May 7, 2013

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The House of Bishops of the Church the Province of the West Indies (CPWI) has urged Caribbean political leaders to reject demands of the government of Prime Minister David Cameron and the Obama administration that it legalize gay rights and gay marriage.

In a statement released on 25 April 2013 at the close of the meeting in Barbados, the bishops said “the dangling of a carrot of economic assistance to faltering economies” in return for supporting the gay agenda “should be seen for what it is worth and should be resisted by people and government alike.”

At the October 2011 Commonwealth heads of Government meeting in Australia Mr. Cameron threatened countries that did not conform to his government’s views on homosexuality with losing aid payments. On 6 Dec 2011 Pres. Obama directed US government agencies working with overseas governments and organizations to push the administration’s support for the gay agenda.

The West Indian bishops reiterated their belief in marriage “defined as a faithful, committed, permanent and legally sanctioned relationship between a man and a woman” and said same-sex marriage was “totally unacceptable on theological and cultural grounds.”

“Matters related to human sexuality have been elevated to the level of human rights” by the US and Britain “and are being promulgated as positions which must be accepted globally.”

Britain could no longer dictate its morality to the people Caribbean. “The threat and use of economic sanctions are not new experiences for us, neither is the claim to a superior morality convincing for peoples who have known the experience of chattel slavery in our past.  While claiming to invoke human rights as the basis for such imposition, we submit that the same principle must allow us the right to affirm our cultural and religious convictions regarding our definitions of that most basic of social institutions, marriage,” the bishops said.

 

Massacre in Damascus: The Church of England Newspaper, April 29, 2013 May 1, 2013

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Six days of fighting in Damascus’s Jdaidet Artouz and Jdaidet Al-Fadel suburbs have killed several hundred civilians, anti-regime activists have claimed. The deaths follow an offensive by troops and irregular militias loyal to President Bashar al-Assad to secure the capital and open the roads south to the city of Dara’a.

On 22 April 2013 the Foreign Secretary said the reports of the massacre underscored the urgent need to bring the conflict in Syria to an end.

“I am appalled by the reports of the killing by Syrian Government forces of dozens of people, including women and children, in the town of Jdaidet Al-Fadl, a suburb of Damascus. This is yet another reminder of the callous brutality of the Assad regime and the terrible climate of impunity inside Syria,” said William Hague.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 80 had died, but said the death toll could be as high as 250. Another activist group put the number at 483.

On 17 April 2013 a meeting of Christian NGOs in Istanbul called the Religious Liberty Partnership (RLP) released a statement urging the U.N. Special Envoy for Syria to pay particular attention to the country’s “vulnerable ethnic and religious minorities”.

“Religious liberty organisations are united in their concern for the plight of Christians and other minorities in Syria,” said Paul Robinson, the chief executive of Release International. “We believe the international community must act now to protect them. And we are calling on Christian leaders around the world to unite in calling for prayer for peace for this troubled nation.”

Foreign Office reports no govt persecution of Christians in the Sudan: The Church of England Newspaper, June 17, 2012 p 5. June 19, 2012

Posted by geoconger in British Foreign Policy, Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church of the Sudan, House of Lords.
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Bishop Ezekiel Kondo of Khartoum and Archbishop Rowan Williams

The Foreign Office reports there is no evidence of an anti-Christian pogrom being waged by the National Islamic Front government in Khartoum.

In a written statement given in response to a question from the Bishop of Bath and Wells, Foreign Office Minister Lord Howell on 23 May 2012 said “We have no evidence that there is a state orchestrated campaign against Christians. However, recent rhetoric by government leaders on the north-south conflict has led to tension between communities and fear of attacks against South Sudanese in Sudan, many of whom are Christians.”

The government’s view of the conditions in Sudan is at odds with reports from Sudanese Christians and NGOs. Southern Christians living in the North were stripped of their Sudanese citizenship and are being expelled to the South, forcing hundreds of thousands into refugee settlement. In a 12 Oct 2011 speech to university students in Khartoum, President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan stated: “Ninety-eight percent of the people are Muslims and the new constitution will reflect this. The official religion will be Islam and Islamic law the main source [of the constitution]. We call it a Muslim state.”

Last year Bishop Ezekiel Kondo of Khartoum reported that in his home province, South Kordifan, now on the Khartoum government’s side of the border between North and South, the Islamist government was engaged in the religious cleansing of the province, driving Christian Nuba across the border and burning the region’s principle town of Abyei.

The violence prompted a statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams. “Numerous villages have been bombed. More than 53,000 people have been driven from their homes. The new Anglican cathedral in Kadugli has been burned down,” Dr. Williams reported, adding that “many brutal killings are being reported.”

However in his statement to Parliament last month, the minister said the British government was “very concerned by a recent attack on a church in Khartoum, although there was no evidence of state involvement. We welcome the announcement from the Ministry of Religious Guidance and Endowments of an investigation into the incident and urge them to ensure this enquiry is thorough, independent and timely. We continue to remind the Government of Sudan of their obligation to protect all of their civilians, including those in religious groups.”

In response to a second question from Bishop Peter Prince concerning the disputed border provinces, Lord Howell said the British government had pressed both sides to come to the negotiating table.

“We are also encouraging the Government in Sudan to put in place a political process of constitutional reform that will address the needs and views of all its people, including those in the conflict affected states of Southern Kordofan, Blue Nile and Abyei,” Lord Howell said.

In May 2011, the Sudanese army occupied Abyei following a three-day clash with South Sudanese troops. Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported that a dispute over who could vote in the independence referendum in the state led to the clashes. Sudan had argued that the Miseriya, a nomadic northern tribe that roam into Abyei in order to feed and water their livestock, should be included in the referendum, while South Sudan maintained that only the Ngok Dinka people who reside in Abyei should participate.

After the Sudanese Army entered the province, approximately 130,000 Ngok Dinka residents were displaced to the south and forced to seek assistance from aid agencies. Last week Sudan agreed to honour UN Security Council Resolution 2046 and pulled its troops out of Abyei.

CSW’s Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston said his organization welcomed the troop withdrawal. But the resumption of peace talks “must not be allowed to obscure the Sudanese government’s responsibility for the creation of humanitarian crises not only in Abyei, but also in Darfur and most recently, in the Nuba Mountains, where access is being denied to a civilian population that is deliberately targeted by the military and faces imminent starvation.”

Lord Howell told Parliament the UK has worked hard to “ensure United Nations Security Council Resolution 2046, which supports the roadmap, dealt with Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile State under a Chapter VII mandate.”

“We continue to remind the Government of Sudan of their obligation to protect civilians and allow humanitarian access to both states. I welcomed the news that South Sudan have withdrawn their remaining security forces from Abyei on 11 May, and we now urge the Sudanese security forces to do the same,” the minister said.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Church plea for the MeK: The Church of England Newspaper, March 2, 2012, p 3. March 7, 2012

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Camp Liberty

The Archbishop of Armagh and six bishops of the Church of England have endorsed a public letter printed in the Guardian last week calling for the government to forestall a tragedy in Iraqi, as the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki begins moving 3,400 Iranian political refugees from their home in Camp Ashraf to Camp Liberty – “a new base that amounts to nothing more than a prison.”

Archbishop Alan Harper, joined by the Bishops of Bath & Wells, St. Albans, Oxford, Gibraltar, Stepney and Hull, along with the former Bishop of Oxford Lord Harries, leaders of the bar, members of Parliament and senior academics, stated Camp Liberty “is to be surrounded by a 4m-high wall, its residents will not have freedom of movement inside or outside the camp or access to their lawyers and family members, while sanitation, water and eating facilities are limited.”

The signatories to the 23 February 2012 letter said that they had “watched in horror” the refugees’ treatment at the hands of the Iraqi government and were concerned for their safety.

The Iraqi government has stated it will move the Iranian exiles, members of the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MeK) to Camp Liberty by April 2012.  The MeK, allies of Saddam Hussein during the Iraq-Iraq war, is considered a terrorist organization by Iran and its members subject to arrest and imprisonment.

Following the U.S.-led conquest of Iraq in 2003, MeK members living in Iraq acquired “protected persons” status.  However as coalition forces withdrew from Iraq and the regime strengthened its ties with Iran, tensions mounted such that in April 2011 Iraqi troops attacked Camp Ashraf killing 34 and injuring 325.

Baghdad signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the UN in December 2011 agreeing to transfer the MeK to a temporary transit facility where United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) would begin the process of their resettlement outside of Iraq.

However, the MeK members sent to Camp Liberty have been subject to police surveillance, harassment from members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and poor living conditions.  The open letter called upon government and the UN to “stand by the Camp Ashraf residents and protect their internationally recognised rights” and not “merely watch the Iraqi PM make a mockery of the UN and the principles it stands for.”

Government foreign policy isn’t working Clare Short claims: The Church of England Newspaper, March 2, 2012 p 3. March 7, 2012

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A “fair” foreign policy coupled with aid was a moral duty, Clare Short, told a meeting at Ripon Cathedral last week.  And it was also the “intelligent” thing to do the former Secretary of State for International Development and Labour MP for Birmingham Ladywood said in the first of this year’s St. Wilfred lectures on the theme of “Questions of Right and Wrong – the role of faith in contemporary society”.

In her 23 Feb 2012 talk, Ms. Short addressed the question “Aid – moral duty or national self interest?”  She opened her talk by asserting that giving aid was often a cloak for poor foreign policy choices.  “What is in our ‘intelligent self interest’ in a safer, more sustainable world which will be a better place for everyone, for all our grandchildren, is also what is morally right.”

“By the time New Labour got to Iraq, and the disgraceful air traffic control British Aerospace sale to Tanzania that was authorized by the British government, and the disgraceful Saudi Arms deals, that you could say there was all this ‘dirty stuff’ going on over here but we could say ‘oh we’ve got a lovely development policy over here’, and then something’s going wrong with morality. Because if you are using [aid] to camouflage other behaviour that is completely questionable then that’s not a moral outlook and I don’t believe that it is an intelligent self-interested outlook either.”

“What is morally right and what is in our intelligent self-interest is the same thing,” Ms. Short argued.

Britain was “on the wrong track in its foreign policy,” she claimed, stating that it had “made some good moves in its development policy – but you can’t be doing the wrong thing over here and the right thing over there, and then say we ‘belong with the sheep rather than with the goats’.”

“And if you won’t change that strategy for moral reasons, then the equivalent, perhaps, of ‘burning in hell for all time’ would be to see that ugly, divided, conflict- ridden world of suffering where we have to draw a circle round ourselves and try to protect ourselves from the turbulence and trouble that will otherwise come upon us,” the former minister argued.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Arab Spring a security threat to Britain, Defence Chief warns: The Church of England Newspaper, December 23, 2011 p 6. December 23, 2011

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General Sir David Richards

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Arab Spring could lead to outbreaks of Islamist unrest in Britain, the Chief of the Defence Staff has warned.

In a lecture given to the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) on 14 December 2011,General Sir David Richards said radicalization born of the regime changes across the Middle East might well pose a domestic security threat for the U.K.

However, the collapse of the euro was Britain’s most immediate danger.  “I am clear that the single biggest strategic risk facing the UK today is economic rather than military,” Sir David said.

“This is why the eurozone crisis is of such huge importance,” he said, as “no country can defend itself if bankrupt.”

In his year in review address to the RUSI, the defence chief highlighted Britain’s strategic risks and opportunities.  The United States’ new strategic focus on Asia had lead to a refinement of the special relationship between the U.S. and U.K.  “I know this does not mean it will turn its back on Europe and NATO but countries this side of the pond need to think through what this means to us,” he said.

“NATO is the bedrock of our security,” Sir David said, and had “guaranteed peace in Europe for 60 years and, as Libya and Afghanistan demonstrate, enables us to project power efficiently in concert with others to pursue our national interests.”

But a changing world will see “new groupings” emerge.  “The most obvious is our alliance with the French,” he said, adding that military ties were now stronger than the “Entente Cordiale of a century ago.”

The military alliance with France was a “vehicle for joint action.  Libya sealed this for us and demonstrated the benefits to Britain, Europe and NATO of having a solid Franco-British core.”

He added that the UK “will require other carefully chosen alliances over the coming decade through which to influence the strategic landscape and help determine the outcome of fast moving crises, all at minimum cost. “

The nature of the risks facing Britain was also changing. “What is happening in Syria is in many experts view becoming a proxy conflict between Shia Iranians and Sunni Arabs,” Sir David said.

There was also the “risk that the Arab awakening leads to fissures and internal conflict that could be exported, including militant Islamism,” he said.

Departing from his prepared speech the general added that militant Islam and the Arab world have “diasporas reaching back to this country, as does Pakistan and other states struggling with instability.”

Qaddafi ousted: The Church of England Newspaper, Aug 24, 2011 August 24, 2011

Posted by geoconger in British Foreign Policy, Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East.
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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Two days after rebel troops breached the defense perimeter around Tripoli, the situation in the Libyan capital remains uncertain, with Christ the King Anglican Church reporting attacks against the city’s Catholic Church and sporadic violence.

The four decade rule of Libyan leader Col. Muammar Qaddafi appears to have come to an end on Aug 21 after rebel troops entered the city after encountering what was reported as only light resistance from the Khamis brigade commanded by one of Qaddafi’s sons.

Col. Qaddafi’s whereabouts remain unknown, and rebel troops have surrounded the Bab al-Azizya—the presidential compound.  Western television networks have broadcast anti-Qaddafi celebrations in the city’s Green Square, and on Aug 22 the rebel coalition’s Transitional National Council chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil reported that two of the Libyan leader’s sons, including heir-apparent Saif al-Islam had been captured.

However, on Aug 23 Saif al-Islam surprised foreign journalists when he visited their hotel in the heart of the city, disputing claims he was a prisoner of the rebels.  The regime continues to control the national television network and pro-Qaddafi military units remained in control of pockets of the city.

US President Barack Obama welcomed the collapse of the Qaddafi regime, saying his government would “continue to stay in close coordination with the TNC. We will continue to insist that the basic rights of the Libyan people are respected.”

On Aug 22, Prime Minister David Cameron stated “the latest information is that the vast majority of Tripoli is now controlled by free Libyan fighters, although fighting continues – and some of it is extremely fierce.”

Qaddafi’s “regime is falling apart and in full retreat,” Mr. Cameron said, adding “our task now is to do all we can to support the will of the Libyan people, which is for an effective transition to a free, democratic and inclusive Libya.”

While Libya appears to be free of the Qaddafi regime, foreign policy experts are not optimistic the new regime will be democratic or inclusive.   Jonathan Schanzer of Washington’s Foundation for the Defense of Democracy predicted a “bigger battle” may be on the horizon.

“Qaddafi exploited tribal hatreds in Libya for four decades. He also robbed the country of any semblance of civil society. Now, after months of fighting, the country is awash with weapons. There should also be concerns about the ideology that will ultimately characterize the new Libya, when the guns have gone quiet. Qaddafi’s Green Book, a bizarre amalgam of socialism and Islam, was the ideology he imposed on Libya. Nobody there ever embraced it, but other ideologies were effectively banned. With Qaddafi’s ouster, we open Pandora’s Box,” Mr. Schanzer said.

In an email from the worn torn city to the Bishop of Egypt, the Rev. Hamdy Doud, an associate vicar of Christ the King Church in Tripoli, wrote: “At last, things are getting better” and internet communications have been restored.

“We praise the Lord for our safety here in Tripoli in such difficult situation,” Mr. Doud wrote.

“Now all people here are so glad of experiencing improvements and developments. But we still need to pray for the current transitional time to witness safe consequences of development. The Catholic Church was stolen by force last night, but we thank God that nobody was hurt. For the time being it is not safe to move around, and it will take us some time, but we are glad of having some relief,” he wrote.

The prime minister stated Britain was ready to assist with the transition to democracy.  “We have a strong mission already in Benghazi consisting of Foreign Office, military and aid specialists, and we will establish a British diplomatic presence in Tripoli as soon as it is safe and practical to do so.

“Six months ago this country took the difficult decision to commit our military to support the people of Libya,” Mr. Cameron said.

“I said at the time that this action was necessary, legal and right – and I still believe that today.

“It was necessary because Qaddafi was going to slaughter his own people – and that massacre of thousands of innocent people was averted.

“Legal, because we secured a Resolution from the United Nations, and have always acted according to that Resolution. “

“And right, because the Libyan people deserve to shape their own future, just as the people of Egypt and Tunisia are now doing,” the prime minister said.

Govt backs Jerusalem bishop in residency row: The Church of England Newspaper, April 1, 2011 p 9. April 1, 2011

Posted by geoconger in British Foreign Policy, Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East, Israel.
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Bishop Riah Abu al-Abbas

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The government has given its backing to the Bishop in Jerusalem, the Rt. Rev. Suheil Dawani, in his dispute with the Government of Israel over the bishop’s right to visit Jerusalem.  However, the intervention by the Foreign Office appears not to have shifted the Israeli government’s views, which may be driven more by factional battles within the diocese, than the Arab-Israeli dispute.

In a written statement released on March 28 in response to a query from the former Bishop of Oxford, Lord Harries, Foreign Office minister Lord Howell stated the government was “very concerned” by the revocation of Bishop Dawani’s residency permit.

The Foreign Secretary, William Hague had “raised this with the Prime Minister of Israel last November. Our embassy in Tel Aviv continues to press regularly,” Lord Howell said.

On March 3, the Diocese of Jerusalem released a statement saying that “all Anglican bishops” in Jerusalem, who had not held Israeli passports, historically had been “granted residency permits to allow them to live in Jerusalem where the Bishop’s residence, diocesan offices and cathedral are located.”

The bishop and his family had renewed their permits in 2008 and 2009, but when they attempted to renew their permits last year, the bishop was told by the Ministry of the Interior that his documents would not be renewed.  The government said “Bishop Suheil acted with the Palestinian Authority in transferring lands owned by Jewish people to the Palestinians and also helped to register lands of Jewish people in the name of the Church.”

“There were further allegations that documents were forged by the Bishop. The letter also stated that Bishop Dawani and his family should leave the country immediately,” the diocese reported.

Bishop Suheil Dawani

Bishop Dawani responded that the allegations leveled against him were false,.  His letters protesting his innocence of the charges have so far gone unanswered nor have his accusers been publicly identified.  On advice of legal counsel last month the bishop filed suit in a Jerusalem court seeking legal redress.

The diocese stated that private representations had been made on the bishop’s behalf by the UK and US governments, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Chief Rabbi of Israel and other Anglican leaders with the Prime Minister’s office, but so far had no effect on the dispute.

The bishop’s residency dispute appears to have begun at the same time as the long-drawn out legal dispute between Bishop Dawani and his predecessor, Bishop Riah Abu al-Assal, came to a close.

Last year, an Israeli court banned Bishop Riah, an Arab Israeli, from trespassing on diocesan property and has rejected his claims of ownership of a church school in Nazareth.  Over the course of the three year battle, charges and counter charges of fraud, forgery and violence were leveled against the bishops by their partisan opponents.

The Jerusalem bishops’ battle centered round a dispute over Christ Church School in Nazareth.  Shortly before his retirement in March 2007, Bishop Riah established a charitable trust staffed by members of his family and sought to transfer the assets and administration of the diocese’s Christ Church School over to the “Bishop Riah Educational Campus.”

The diocese said Bishop Riah had collected tuition fees from the students while the school’s expenses, including staff salaries, were being paid by the diocese.  In his court filings Bishop Riah countered that he had provided the funds for building the school, which employed his son as headmaster, and that he had raised funds for the school in his personal rather than episcopal capacity.

Following attempts at mediation, the diocese brought suit against Bishop Riah and his family trust for possession of the school and the tuition fees, and on Jan 22, 2008 a magistrate court granted the diocese control of the assets pending final adjudication.  In April 2010 a final decision was handed down by the Israeli courts on the real estate.  It denied Bishop Riah all rights and access “without express written permission of the diocesan Bishop Suheil Dawani,” or involvement “at all in any matter, without exception, in the matters of church and the school.”

Bishop Dawani’s troubles with the Ministry of the Interior began shortly after the court handed down its decision in the Christ Church Nazareth school case.

British Muslims told not to fight in Iraq: CEN 11.27.09 p 6. December 7, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Arms Control/Defense/Peace Issues, British Foreign Policy, Church of England Newspaper, Iran, Iraq.
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The Director of the Islamic Centre of England has called for British Muslims serving in the armed forces to quit the services, as it is ‘haram’, forbidden for them to fight fellow Muslims.

In an interview with the Times, Abdolhossein Moezi , who serves as Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s Special Envoy to Britain said Muslims could not serve in Western armies when those armies were engaged in fighting Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Not only do I not accept it for Muslims to go there, I don’t accept non-Muslims to go there as well. We say that Muslims are not allowed to go and kill Muslims. Do you think Christians are allowed to go and kill Muslims?” Moezi told the Times last week.

Moezi explained that his role as leader of the Islamic Centre was to provide spiritual guidance to all British Muslims, encouraging them to become good British citizens. “My personal belief is that if Muslim migrants are better Muslims in this society, they can shape their individual lives in a better way and could be better members to this society,” Moezi said.

The Iranian cleric’s call is not likely to carry great weight in the British Muslim community, as the vast majority of British Muslims are Sunni and do not recognize the spiritual authority of Shia leaders such as Moezi.

Scottish bishops oppose Trident: CEN 7.31.09 p 7. July 31, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Arms Control/Defense/Peace Issues, British Foreign Policy, Church of England Newspaper, Scottish Episcopal Church.
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The Bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) have written Prime Minister Gordon Brown urging the government to forgo its plans of replacing the Trident nuclear weapons system.

Last week the College of Bishops also endorsed a letter prepared by the convener of the SEC’s church in society committee the Rev. Ian Barcroft that called upon the government to place the decommissioning of Trident “on the table” at next May’s meeting of the Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference.

“It is very difficult to defend the possession of weapons of mass destruction with a conditional intent to use them in terms of traditional Christian teaching,” Mr. Barcroft stated, adding that that it was impossible for Christian pacifists to accept Trident. Christians who believe that nuclear arms have a legitimate place in the country’s arsenal “would only do so in the context of a firm commitment to moving towards disarmament and ending reliance on weapons of mass destruction,” he said.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper’s Religious Intelligence section.

Scottish bishops oppose Trident

British politicians join Burma campaign: CEN 5.11.09 May 11, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Myanmar, British Foreign Policy, Church of England Newspaper, Persecution, Politics.
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William Hague, Neil Kinnock and Lord Steel have lent their support to Christian Solidarity Worldwide’s (CSW) ChangeforBurma petition, which calls upon the UN Security Council to bring Burma’s military junta before the International Criminal Court to answer for its crimes against humanity, and for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to make the release of the regime’s 2100 political prisoners one of his top priorities.

Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague MP (pictured), who led the Conservative Party from 1997-2001 last month endorsed the petition saying, “In the wake of the shocking prison sentences imposed on activists in Burma, and the regime’s continuing crimes against humanity, it is vital that we do everything in our power to summon up the will of the international community to influence the junta in Burma and seek the release of all political prisoners.”

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

British politicians join Burma campaign

Treasury orders Kunonga assets frozen: CEN 2.27.09 p 6. March 2, 2009

Posted by geoconger in British Foreign Policy, Church of England Newspaper, Zimbabwe.
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The Rt. Rev. Nolbert Kunonga

The Rt. Rev. Nolbert Kunonga

The Treasury has ordered British banks to freeze any funds or assets held by the former Bishop of Harare, Dr. Nolbert Kunonga.

On Jan 27, the government released a “Financial Sanctions Notification” stating that in conjunction with European Commission Regulation No 77/2009 “all funds or economic resources belonging” to 27 individuals and 36 corporations tied to the regime of Zimbabwe strongman Robert Mugabe “must be frozen.”

Number 13 on the list is Dr. Kunonga, whom the Treasury describes as a “self-appointed Anglican Bishop” whose “followers have been backed by the police in committing acts of violence.”

In 2002 the US State Department and the EU ordered a ban on Dr. Kunonga’s movements, forbidding his entry into Europe or the US. The 2009 Treasury circular stated that “no funds or economic resources are to be made available, directly or indirectly, to or for the benefit” of Dr. Kunonga or the list of banned regime supporters.

“Financial institutions and other bodies and persons in the UK are required to check whether they maintain any accounts or otherwise hold any funds or economic resources for the persons named and, if so, they should report to the Treasury details of all funds or economic resources that they have frozen in accordance with Article 6 of Regulation 314/2004,” the circular stated.

A long time ally of the regime, Dr. Kunonga is the only clergyman sanctioned by the EU or the US for his complicity with the crimes of the Mugabe regime. In a 2004 report the US State Department said that the Mugabe regime had “bypassed canonical law to install” Dr. Kunonga as Bishop of Harare and had rewarded him for his loyalty to the regime. “In October 2003, Kunonga seized a formerly white-owned farm ten miles from Harare and evicted fifty black workers to make way for his own staff.”

On Feb 12 Dr. Kunonga gave the invocation at the swearing in of the country’s new government. Reading from Ezekiel Chapter 37, Dr. Kunonga likened the fragile coalition of President Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party and the opposition MDC led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to the “valley of dry bones.”

The coalition government was “the work of God to make Zimbabweans speak with one voice and govern and control their own destiny,” Dr. Kunonga told the small audience at Harare’s State House.

“Zimbabweans today are being called to create a situation that is tolerable and acceptable to us all,” Dr. Kunonga said to the new leaders in the service broadcast to the nation. “The leaders have no choice but to make things work. It’s time to bury the past and continue with what is progressive and beneficial to us all.”

Northern Ireland Veterans at St Paul’s Service: CEN 8.29.08 p 6. August 29, 2008

Posted by geoconger in British Foreign Policy, Church of England, Church of England Newspaper.
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St Paul’s Cathedral will play host for veterans and members of the armed forces at a service of remembrance on Sept 10 honouring veterans who served in Northern Ireland. Known as “Operation Banner”, the deployment of troops in Northern Ireland from 1969 to 2007 was the longest campaign in British military history.

Over the course of 38 years, over 300,000 members of the armed forces served in Northern Ireland, with over 1000 killed and 6,116 wounded. Of the dead, 763 soldiers and three Ministry of Defence civilian employees were killed in terrorist attacks.

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall will attend the ceremony at St Paul’s and the reception at the Guildhall. Prince Charles will take the Royal salute as 700 veterans of the campaign parade past the cathedral. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Baroness Margaret Thatcher, Secretary of State for Defence Des Browne, Chief of Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, leaders of the opposition, former ministers and military leaders and 2000 veterans will attend the ceremony.

The service will give thanks to all those who served, the Ministry of Defence stated, “paying tribute to the military and civilian personnel who lost their lives, and the courage and sacrifice of the Armed Forces and their families, while bringing greater peace and prosperity in Northern Ireland.”

Minister says religion will remain important: CEN 6.13.08 p 5. June 17, 2008

Posted by geoconger in British Foreign Policy, Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, EU, Politics.
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RELIGION will continue to play an important part as an agent for progressive social change in the “post-modern, model state,” the British Minister for Europe Jim Murphy told a Foreign Office seminar on ‘Faith in Europe’ last week.

“We need to acknowledge the communitarian vigour of religious life,” Jim Murphy, the member for East Renfrewshire, (Lab.) said on June 2 at Lancaster House, and “celebrate it, because community is another European value.”

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

Religion 'important for future of Europe'

Mugabe attacks Anglican Archbishops: CEN 6.06.08 p 8. June 8, 2008

Posted by geoconger in British Foreign Policy, Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Zimbabwe.
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THE GOVERNMENT of Zimbabwe strongman Robert Mugabe has denounced the Archbishops of Canterbury and York as tools of British foreign policy. In a June 2 article published in the government-backed Harare Herald, Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said the Archbishops’ plea for peace in Zimbabwe was an unwarranted interference in his country’s sovereignty.

On April 24, Dr Rowan Williams and Dr John Sentamu called upon the “heads of Christian denominations in Zimbabwe and our brother Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Rev Thabo Makgoba, for the government of South Africa, the SADC region and the United Nations to act effectively” to help resolve the social and humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

Mugabe attacks Anglican Archbishops

Blair’s new mission: peace through faith: CEN 6.06.08 p 5. June 7, 2008

Posted by geoconger in British Foreign Policy, Church of England Newspaper, NGOs, Politics.
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FORMER Prime Minister Tony Blair launched his “Tony Blair Faith Foundation” in New York last week to combat poverty, war and bring harmony to the world religions.

“The characteristic of today’s world is change. The consequence is a world opening up and becoming inter-dependent,” Mr Blair said on May 30. “The conclusion is that we make sense of this inter-dependence through peaceful co-existence and working together to resolve common challenges.”

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

Tony Blair launches new Faith Foundation

Political storm over Dalai Lama’s Lambeth invitation: CEN 5.23.08 p 4. May 22, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Archbishop of Canterbury, British Foreign Policy, Buddhism, China, Church of England Newspaper, Politics.
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THE GOVERNMENT’S decision to receive the Dalai Lama at Lambeth Palace rather than at 10 Downing Street has spawned protest from Tibet activists and criticism the government is appeasing China.

The exiled spiritual and political leader of Tibet began an 11-day tour of Britain on May 20, but will only meet Prime Minister Gordon Brown on May 23 at a reception at Lambeth Palace, prompting shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague to tell The Times that Gordon Brown “should be prepared to meet all leaders in Downing Street.”

Former Liberal-Democratic leader Sir Menzies Campbell also noted there was “no reason” why the Prime Minister should not see the Dalai Lama “at No 10.” The “suspicion must be that he is responding to the Chinese Government,” he said.

Controversies over Western governmental cowardice in the face of aggressive Chinese lobbying have followed the Dalai Lama as he toured Europe this month. His May 19 meeting in Berlin with German Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul prompted a war of words within Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Cabinet between those keen on pursuing cordial relations with Peking, and those supportive of the Dalai Lama’s calls for democracy and freedom in
Tibet.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier declined to meet with the Dalai Lama and criticized his cabinet colleague’s actions. A government memorandum leaked to the German magazine Der Spiegel reported that China’s foreign minister warned that his country’s good relations with Germany could be jeopardized “through reckless actions.”

Chinese embassy spokesman Junhui Zhang told German broadcaster ARD his government was “absolutely against” any meeting between the Dalai Lama and European government leaders.

Meeting the Dalia Lama at a reception where he is the guest of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and not the Dalai Lama’s host, will insulate the government from China’s official wrath, analysts note, as the meeting will be between spiritual leaders rather than political leaders.

Anne Holmes, Acting Director of Free Tibet Campaign urged the government to reconsider its decision. “By meeting the Dalai Lama at Lambeth Palace Brown has signalled his determination to appease the Chinese government,” she argued.

“The overwhelming message from Tibetans during recent protests inside Tibet was for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet, showing that he is still considered the legitimate voice of the Tibetan people and that he holds the key to a lasting negotiated settlement,” she said.

A spokesman for the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams declined to comment on the circumstances leading to the Dalai Lama’s invitation to Lambeth, but noted that several British
religious leaders had been invited to the reception.

Church opposition to Kosovo independence: CEN 4.25.08 April 25, 2008

Posted by geoconger in British Foreign Policy, Church of England Newspaper, Politics, Serbian Orthodox.
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The head of the Serbian Orthodox Church has denounced the cession of Kosovo as unjust and a violation of Serbia’s cultural, social and political integrity.

“In these times of Easter joy and the divine mercy for all, the Serbian Orthodox Church especially dwells on human injustice and violence of the power-wielders over Kosovo and Metohija, over Serbia, and the entire Serb nation,” His Holiness Patriarch Paul of Belgrade said in his Easter Pastoral. Released on April 19, the pastoral letter will be read in Serbian Churches on April 27 — Easter Sunday in the Orthodox Church calendar.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper’s Religious Intelligence section.

Church opposition to Kosovo independence

Pope strip-search row: CEN 4.25.08 p 6. April 24, 2008

Posted by geoconger in British Foreign Policy, Church of England Newspaper, Coptic Orthodox.
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Security staffers at London’s Heathrow airport have sparked a diplomatic row between Britain and Egypt, after they ordered the Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church to undergo a body search before boarding his flight home to Egypt.

Pope Shenouda III was visiting Britain to consecrate St. George’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Stevenage, Hertfordshire and to pay a pastoral call on the country’s Copts. While preparing to board his flight home to Egypt on March 30, British Airport Authority staffers at Heathrow ordered him to submit to a body search when he entered the VIP lounge.

Egypt’s Ambassador to Britain, who had accompanied Shenouda to the airport, protested saying Shenouda held an Egyptian diplomatic passport. Citing a new Home Office policy that permitted snap searches of all travelers, save for heads of state, the BAA staffers insisted on frisking the 84-year head of Egypt’s 7.5 million Copts.

Following a standoff, a supervisor agreed to forgo the search, provided Shenouda passed through a metal detector.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry responded to the incident by issuing a diplomatic note to British Ambassador Dominic Asquith, saying it would order body searches of the Archbishop of Canterbury and all British diplomats entering Egypt, if the incident were repeated.

“We will apply the principle of reciprocity and treat British representatives the same way,” Deputy Foreign Minister Wafaa Bassim told the upper house of Egypt’s parliament last week, which passed a resolution demanding an official explanation from Britain for the diplomatic “affront.”

Foreign Minister Ahmad Aboul Ghait has also instructed Egyptian diplomats to boycott Heathrow airport and transit through Paris when en route to Washington or New York.

On April 15, Mr. Asquith met with Shenouda and offered his government’s apology, saying Britain had the “highest respect, esteem and affection” for him. There had been “no intention at all to offend His Holiness” Mr. Asquith said. “We regret any other impressions that might have been deduced.”

However, Egypt’s tabloid press has taken up the Coptic Pope’s case, speculating there was a “conspiracy” to “insult” Shenouda in retaliation to his harsh anti-Israel statements and opposition to the war in Iraq.

UK applauds resumed fuel flow to Gaza: JP 1.11.08 January 14, 2008

Posted by geoconger in British Foreign Policy, Israel, Jerusalem Post.
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Britain on Friday applauded Israel’s decision to restore diesel fuel supply to the Gaza Strip to normal levels.

In a statement, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Minister for International Development Douglas Alexander said the UK welcomed “Israel’s recent decision to increase the supply of industrial diesel and continues to urge them to lift all restrictions on fuel with immediate effect.”

Read it all in The Jerusalem Post.

EU ‘not to blame for Britain’s woes,’ says Archbishop: CEN 12.16.07 December 17, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Archbishop of York, British Foreign Policy, Church of England Newspaper, EU, House of Lords.
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Don’t blame the EU for Britain’s troubles, the Archbishop of York told the House of Lords on Dec 5.

“May we please stop blaming the EU for all our ills?” Dr. John Sentamu said during a debate on the European Council meeting in Lisbon. “We are responsible for our economic policy, education, health, security and international affairs. If those policies are not working out, please do not look over the border and blame others; what we are not doing is our own fault, because we are responsible here.”

“I call it BSE-always blaming someone else, instead of taking responsibility for ourselves,” he said.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

Bishop of Harare lashes out at the Queen’s role: CEN 12.07.07 p 8. December 6, 2007

Posted by geoconger in British Foreign Policy, Church of England Newspaper, Zimbabwe.
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kunonga-2.jpgThe controversial Bishop of Harare was in Uganda last week, lending his name and office in support of Zimbabwe strongman Robert Mugabe during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

While Dr. Nolbert Kunonga’s ties to the Mugabe regime continue to hold, support among the clergy of the diocese appears to be falling away, as several churches are closing their doors to him.

On Nov 21, Dr. Kunonga led a group of Mugabe loyalists and “war veterans” in an attempted disruption of a talk by Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai at Kampala’s Grand Imperial Hotel.

Midway through the presentation sponsored by the Royal Commonwealth Society on the situation in Zimbabwe, Dr. Kunonga and his men rose, denouncing Tsvangirai as a puppet of white colonialists and walked out of the meeting.

Speaking to journalists in the hallway, Dr. Kunonga said “The West should stop demonising Mr. Mugabe. He is a man who democratically redistributed land which the white man had taken away,” according to an account printed in the Daily Monitor.

The MDC leader was a tool of “the interests of the white farmer” and did not speak for the “ordinary Zimbabwean,” Dr. Kunonga charged. Robert Mugabe was the democratically elected leader of Zimbabwe, the bishop said, adding there “are no human rights abuses in Zimbabwe at all.”

Britain was behind a campaign of lies, smearing Zimbabwe, Dr. Kunonga said, who singled out Queen Elizabeth for special opprobrium. The Queen was the “greatest exploiter of all times” and is “just a magic of the West,” he said.

While his stock remains high with the Mugabe regime, who in 2005 gave him a farm confiscated from a white commercial farmer, Dr. Kunonga appears to be losing the support of his diocese.

The London-based expatriate newspaper The Zimbabwean reported that on Nov 25, Mai Kunonga, the wife of Bishop Kunonga, was rebuffed by the clergy of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Harare when she attempted to sit on the bishop’s throne during Sunday Eucharist services.

Mrs. Kunonga was rebuffed at two other churches that Sunday, The Zimbabwean reported, and subsequent threats issued by her husband have not persuaded the clergy to accept his authority.

Published in The Church of England Newspaper.

American intellectuals question Dr. Williams: CEN 11.30.07 p 8. November 30, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Archbishop of Canterbury, British Foreign Policy, Church of England Newspaper, Iraq, Israel, Politics.
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The Archbishop of Canterbury has sparked a firestorm of controversy over comments he gave to a British Muslim magazine attacking Anglo-American policy in Iraq and lauding the British Raj.

In an interview published in Emel Dr. Rowan Williams said America had lost the moral high ground it had in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks in New York.

“We have only one global hegemonic power at the moment,” he said. America was “not accumulating territory; it is trying to accumulate influence and control. That’s not working.”

This was the “the worst of all worlds,” he said, adding that “it is one thing to take over a territory and then pour energy and resources into administering it and normalising it.”

“Rightly or wrongly that’s what the British Empire did – in India for example. It is another thing to go in on the assumption that a quick burst of violent action will somehow clear the decks and that you can move on and other people will put things back together -Iraq for example.” Dr. Williams told the Muslim lifestyle magazine.

He also condemned Israel’s security wall, designed to halt Palestinian terror attacks against civilians. “Whatever justification given for the existence of the wall, the human cost is colossal,” he said.

The archbishop was also less than sanguine about the state of Western civilization, noting that “Our modern western definition of humanity is clearly not working very well.” There was “something about western modernity which really does eat away at the soul, lamenting the cultural mindset to “speed us up” or that we have “to fix everything.”

A self-professed “hairy lefty,” Dr. Williams’ opposition to the Anglo-American overthrow of Saddam Hussein is long standing, and his comments reflect “nothing new” aides to the Archbishop tell The Church of England Newspaper.

However, the Archbishop’s foreign policy comments have been dismissed as naïve and historically and intellectually incoherent. Indian newspapers have scoffed at Dr. Williams’ suggestion that the British Raj was a benign influence, motivated by the ‘white man’s burden’.

davis_hanson.jpgWriting on the website of the US conservative magazine the National Review, Prof. Victor Davis Hanson urged Dr. Williams to “read a little history about the British experience in India before he offers politically-correct but historically laughable sermons like the one he gave to a Muslim ‘lifestyle’ magazine.”

A Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford and syndicated political columnist, Dr. Hanson disputed Dr. Williams’ conclusions and suggested his concerns about the decline of the West were misplaced.

“If he is worried about the soul of civilization in general, and the U.S. in particular, he might equally ask his Muslim interviewers about the status of women in the Muslim world, polygamy, female circumcision, the existence of slavery in the Sudan, the status of free expression and dissent, and religious tolerance—he should try to visit Mecca on his next goodwill, interfaith tour.”john-bolton.jpg

The US government rejected as factually inaccurate Dr. Williams’ claims. The US was the “largest donor of aid of any country in the world” and poured “billions of dollars of financial, technical, and medical assistance” into Iraq a statement released by the US embassy in London said.

The former American ambassador to the UN, John Bolton told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme Dr. Williams’ comments were “incoherent” and urged him to “concentrate on his day job”.

Aides to the Archbishop denied Dr. Williams’ disparaging comments about the US and Israel were purposely released two days ahead of the latest round of Middle East peace talks.

Government urged to invest in inter-faith dialogue to combat terror threat: CEN 11.25.07 November 25, 2007

Posted by geoconger in British Foreign Policy, Church of England Newspaper, House of Lords, Interfaith, Multiculturalism.
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INTERFAITH dialogue is a worthwhile investment in the war against Islamist terrorism, the Bishop of St Albans has said.

Speaking in response to the Prime Minister’s national security speech to the House of Commons, Bishop Christopher Herbert told the House of Lords the government would benefit from the experiences of the church’s interfaith dialogue.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

Government urged to invest in inter-faith dialogue to combat terror threat

UK Palestinians put heat on Brown over JNF patronage: JP 10.14.07 October 15, 2007

Posted by geoconger in British Foreign Policy, British Jewry, Israel, Jerusalem Post.
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Palestinian activists in Britain are pressuring Prime Minister Gordon Brown to step down as patron of the Jewish National Fund UK, claiming the JNF’s refusal to sell land in Israel to Arabs is a discriminatory practice that taints the prime minister.

“Scottish public opinion, if made aware of the true nature of the JNF, would join us in condemning your association with such an organization,” the Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign said in an October 13 letter to the prime minister.

Read it all in the Jerusalem Post.

Brown’s Palestinian Plea: CEN 10.12.07 p 9. October 12, 2007

Posted by geoconger in British Foreign Policy, Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Israel.
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gordon_brown_portrait.jpgThree senior bishops have urged Prime Minister Gordon Brown to pursue “justice” and pressure Israel to change its security policies towards the Palestinians.

In a letter made public last week, the Bishops of Coventry, Exeter and Winchester stated the prime minister would be “horrified” by the Israeli government’s “segregation wall”, which had cut off Palestinians from their farms and water supply.

“Justice and a viable supply of food and water” was the “best future” for Palestine, they argued.  The current Israeli policy of separation left many Arabs with no choice but to “emigrate and flee what they understand is oppression, apartheid and persecution.”

The Bishop of Coventrey, the Rt. Rev. Colin Bennetts of Coventry, the Bishop of Exeter, the Rt. Rev. Michael Langrish and the Bishop of Winchester, the Rt. Rev. Michael Scott-Joynt urged Gordon Brown to press for a two-state solution.

However a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel “will soon become an impossibility unless international pressure is brought to bear on the Israeli government to change its policy with respect to the occupied territories,” they argued.

Simon McIlwaine of the pressure group Anglican Friends of Israel chided the bishops as naïve, noting that most Israelis support a two-state solution, so long as their security is not threatened.

“What more do the Bishops expect Israel to do?” he asked, challenging the bishops to be evenhanded in their criticism and address the “genocidal agenda” of Hamas and the “culture of anti-Semitism” of the Palestinian Authority.

The Bishops released their June 13 letter to the Prime Minister, after having had no answer to it and a September 24 follow-up note.  Last Thursday, Downing Street said it would respond in due course.

Bishop Langrish told the BBC the publication of their letter was not designed to embarrass the prime minister, but “we were asking him to clarify the approach of the government in this area.”

In an Oct 8 press conference, the Prime Minister stated the government’s policy was a “two state solution” where “the Israelis have a viable border where they can live in peace, secure in the knowledge that the people of Israel are safe from terrorism and from attack.”

The government also sought to “encourage a viable Palestinian state. And one of the reasons that we believe a Palestinian state would work better is if we have the economic support that would give people jobs and give people therefore that kind of hope of economic prosperity for the future. That is the policy of the government,” Mr. Brown said.

Archbishop: “Don’t bomb Iran”: CEN 10.12.07 p 8. October 10, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Archbishop of Canterbury, Arms Control/Defense/Peace Issues, British Foreign Policy, Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East, Iran.
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ahmadinejad-un.jpgThe Archbishop of Canterbury has denounced suggestions of a preemptive military strike against Iran’s nuclear weapons programme, saying it would upset the region’s security balance and bring misery to its peoples.

Speaking to the BBC after his return from Damascus, Dr. Williams said that “When people talk about further destabilisation of the region – and you read some American political advisers speaking of action against Syria and Iran – I can only say that I regard that as criminal, ignorant and potentially murderous folly.”

“We do hear talk from some quarters of action against Syria and Iran. I can’t understand what planet such persons are living on, when you see the conditions that are already there,” he said.

In a statement released upon his return from Syria, Dr. Williams described as ‘heartbreaking and harrowing’ a meeting he held in Syria with 200 Christian Iraqi refugees. He told the refugees he would share their plight with the West, and upon return to Britain said their situation required urgent attention.

“Security that will enable these people to return to Iraq depends on a settlement for the whole of that country guaranteeing the liberty and dignity of every minority.”

Lambeth Palace has also denied the veracity of accounts printed by the official Syrian news agency, SANA, of Dr. Williams’ trip to Damascus. SANA reported that in talks with the Archbishop, the Grand Mufti of Syria “pointed out the Israeli suppressive practices in the occupied Palestinian territories which violated all religious laws and international norms, reviewing what Iraq is witnessing of ordeals and catastrophes under the occupation.”

Dr. Williams’ office denied this took place, saying his talks with the Grand Mufti “concerned issues internal to Syria and focussed on the secular character of the Syrian constitution.”

Worries expressed over Archbishop’s trip to Syria: CEN 9.28.07 p 6 September 28, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Archbishop of Canterbury, British Foreign Policy, Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East, Israel, Lebanon, Roman Catholic Church.
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assad-jp-ii.jpgWorries that political machinations may erupt are casting a pall of concern over the Archbishop of Canterbury’s trip to Syria and Jerusalem this week.

On Sept 21 the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams flew from the US House of Bishops’ Meeting in New Orleans to Armenia to visit the Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church, His Holiness Karekin II.

Dr. Williams will meet with civic, religious and cultural leaders on his Armenian excursion. Trips to a prison for women and children are planned, as well as a visit to lay a wreath at the Armenian Genocide Memorial, the Tsitsernakaberd, which overlooks the capital of Yerevan.

The Genocide memorial consists of a 44-meter tall stele and a circle of 12 smaller stele, symbolizing the 12 ‘lost’ Armenian provinces of Turkey, surrounding an eternal flame, with a 100 meter wall along the perimeter inscribed with the names of villages where Turkish troops murdered Armenian civilians in 1915. Approximately 600,000 Armenians died from starvation, disease or murder at the hands of Turkish troops.

However, the modern Turkish government has denied that genocide took place. Turkish Ambassador to the US Nabi Şensoy in 2006 argued the Armenian claims of genocide “have never been historically or legally substantiated.” Christians in Turkey have come under increased pressure from Islamist groups and the government in recent years. Too strong a statement by Dr. Williams will inflame Turkish anti-Christian sentiments, while too soft a response could insult his hosts, it is feared.

Dr. Williams will then travel to Damascus and Beirut, returning to Britain for the House of Bishops meeting. While the itinerary of his trip to the Lebanon remanded incomplete as of the time of his departure, Dr. Williams will meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Muslim leaders in Damascus.

Jewish leaders have expressed private concern that Dr. Williams’ meeting with Assad will repeat the errors of Pope John Paul II’s 2001 visit to Syria where he failed to respond to oral attacks on Israel by President Assad; the grand mufti of Syria, Ahmed Kuftaro; and other Syrian officials.

In his welcoming address, Assad said Israelis were murdering and torturing Palestinians and compared Israeli “aggression” against Christian and Muslim holy sites to the betrayal and torture of Christ. During the pope’s visit to the Mosque of the Umayyads the grand mufti called for Christians and Muslims to stand together against the “atrocious aggression” of Jews and Zionists.

The pope’s failure to respond directly to the comments caused outrage in Israel and the US and set back Roman Catholic – Jewish relations for a period. The delicate state of Anglican-Jewish relations, damaged by General Synod’s call for divestment from corporations profiting from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, and currently under repair through a dialogue commission between the Chief Rabbis and Dr. Williams, may be tested by Anglican reticence in the face of Syrian rhetoric.

Comment at Covenant-Communion 

Bishops back Prime Minister’s snub to conference over Mugabe: CEN 9.14.07 p 6. September 13, 2007

Posted by geoconger in British Foreign Policy, Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Zimbabwe.
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Bishops of the Church of England have backed the government’s stance on Zimbabwe, supporting Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s refusal to attend the December Africa-EU summit in Lisbon if Zimbabwe strongman Robert Mugabe comes.

Last Friday, Foreign Secretary David Miliband told an informal gathering of EU foreign ministers in the Portuguese town of Viana do Castelo of the prime minister’s decision. Speaking to the press on Sep 8 Mr. Miliband noted “I don’t think anyone wants to be part of a media circus in December.”

Invitations to the Dec 8-9 summit in Lisbon have not been sent, Portuguese European Affairs Minister Manuel Lobo Atunes said. However, Portugal, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, has said that it has no intention of discriminating against President Mugabe. Inviting the Zimbabwe strongman to Lisbon, however, would require a lifting of the EU travel ban on President Mugabe.

African leaders have insisted Mugabe attend any EU-Africa summit. The issue has hampered the EU’s relations with Africa and delayed holding a follow up meeting to the first EU-Africa summit in 2000.

The Bishop of Southwark, the Rt. Rev. Tom Butler told The Church of England Newspaper he “personally would prefer to see an empty chair at the EU-Africa summit rather than give any authority to the policies of the Mugabe regime.”

Bishop Butler, whose diocese has formal links with three Zimbabwean dioceses, urged the government to put “pressure on Zimbabwe,” but said that any such action will be “presented as ‘the ex-colonialist regime seeking to interfere in an independent Zimbabwe’.”

The Bishop of Croyden, Nick Baines, noted Mugabe remained a hero to may Africans, even those who think him a “complete disaster.” They will “support him over against white ex-colonialists and America.”

This has been “disastrous because it means that the plight of Zimbabwe cannot be properly addressed and the ‘problem’ faced. Mugabe knows this and exploits it with an arrogance that is breathtaking to the West and deplorably admirable to Africans who know what is wrong but cannot address it.”

Zimbabwe was a “disaster,” Bishop Baines said, and “change in the regime is urgently needed. But the impetus for this is going to have to come from African leaders, not white westerners.”

The EU-Africa impasse was in many ways similar to the disputes within the Anglican Communion, Bishop Baines told CEN. “There are those in the EU who believe that you get nowhere if you don’t talk to people” and have urged Britain to back down over its Mugabe ban.

This was “a bit like the Anglican Communion and some people refusing to sit around a table with those with whom they disagree. Others believe that to sit with them implies acceptance of their position or status and therefore betrays those who suffer under the regime,” Bishop Baines said.

The Anglican Church had contributed to the problem he noted. Archbishop Bernard Malango’s “questionable behaviour” in support of the Bishop of Harare, Dr. Nolbert Kunonga and “therefore Mugabe, is a moral issue greater, to my mind, than that of the sexual ethics that sees him travel around the world as a hero of conservative opinion.”

“The church is seriously weakened by its inability because of [Bishop] Kunonga and [Archbishop] Malango to speak with one voice in these fearsomely difficult days in Zimbabwe,” Bishop Baines said.

Attempts to address the situation in Zimbabwe by the Sept 6-8 meeting of the General Synod of Central Africa were defeated. Resolutions on Zimbabwe proposed by the Bishop of Botswana, Trevor Mwamba, were defeated by a bloc led by Dr. Kunonga, who argued the church had no business meddling in political affairs.

Burmese Action Promised: CEN 9.07.07 p 9. September 7, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Myanmar, British Foreign Policy, Church of England Newspaper.
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Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) and the Burma Campaign UK have called for a national day of prayer on Sept 9 in response to the Rangoon government’s recent crackdown on democracy activists. The British government has also issued a strong protest and called for international action on Burma.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he “deeply deplore[d] the Burmese government’s violent suppression of peaceful demonstrations,” and called upon the government to release “all those detained merely for protesting at the hardship imposed on them by the government’s economic mismanagement and failure to uphold fundamental human rights.”

The Prime Minister’s Sept 2 statement restated the British government’s call for the release of “all political prisoners, including Nobel Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi who has now spent almost 12 years of her life under house arrest.”

The government stated that it would ask the UN Security Council to take up the issue “at the earliest opportunity.” “It is time for the UN human rights bodies to give this alarming situation the attention it so patently deserves,” he said.

CSW reports that hundreds have marched “almost every day since 19 August in protest at the military regime’s decision to raise fuel prices by 500 per cent.”

The peaceful protests had been met with a “brutal crackdown,” it said. “Demonstrators, including women, have been beaten up with iron rods and bamboo sticks by the police and the junta’s proxy mobs. Almost all the leading pro-democracy activists have been detained, and may be sentenced to up to 20 years in jail.”

CSW’s National Director, Stuart Windsor, said “We are calling for Christians around the country to join in a special day of prayer” on Sept 9 “in solidarity with the people of Burma who continue to show extraordinary courage and dignity, risking attack, arrest, torture and even death to protest peacefully at the injustice of the military regime.”

Orthodox Church’s Blessing for Moscow’s Military: CEN 8.31.07 p 6. August 30, 2007

Posted by geoconger in British Foreign Policy, Church of England Newspaper, Russian Orthodox.
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typhoon-intercept-on-aug-17.jpg

An RAF Typhoon tracking a Bear over the North Sea on Aug 17. Photo: MoD

Relics of a legendary saint and military commander have been deposited by the Russian Orthodox Church in the chapel of the Russian Long Range Air Force. The Aug 20 religious ceremony also commemorated the resumption by Moscow of long range bomber patrols.

Representing Patriarch Alexy II, Bishop Amvrosy of Bronnitsy delivered the relics of St. Alexander Nevsky and offered the Church’s greetings on the occasion of the resumption of strategic air patrols against NATO. The ceremony at St. Elijah’s Chapel in Moscow is the most recent example of the Russian Orthodox Church’s close association with the nationalist policies of President Vladimir Putin.

On Aug 8 a Russian Tu-95 ‘Bear’ bomber over flew the US naval base on the Pacific island of Guam, prompting a scramble by US fighters from the Seventh Fleet to escort the bomber out of US air space. While on Aug 17, two Typhoon fighters from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire intercepted and shadowed a ‘Bear’ detected by early warning radar over the North Sea.

President Putin on Sunday defended Russia’s resumption of strategic air patrols. “In 1992, Russia unilaterally ended flights by its strategic aircraft to distant military patrol areas. Unfortunately, our example was not followed by everyone,” he said.

“Patrolling will take place in areas of busy shipping” and of strategic economic importance to the Russian Federation, President Putin said.

The Russian leader’s announcement came at the close of joint military exercises held by the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a mutual security organization consisting of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan created in 2001 as a counterbalance to NATO.

“The long range air force personnel face difficult tasks these days,” the Deputy Commander of the Long Range Air Force, Major General Anatoly Zhikharev told the Interfax news agency.

“The Orthodox Church is with us to help and support us. Today we are receiving another shrine, so that there will be not only St. Theodore Ushakov’s relics but also St. Alexander Nevsky’s in our chapel,” he said.

The air force leader stated all of Russia’s strategic bombers had been blessed by the Church. “When the aircraft is named, they bless her.”

In addition to the Long Range Air Force, St. Alexander Nevsky is the patron saint of the FSB, Russia’s internal security service and successor to the KGB. St. Barbara is the patron saint of the Strategic Rocket Forces, St Anthony serves as the patron saint of the treasury police, St. Vladimir is the patron of the MVD (Ministry of the Interior troops), while St. Ilya Muromets is patron saint to Russia’s Border Guards.


UK blocks Israel arms deals for fear of rights violations: JPost 8.14.07 August 13, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Arms Control/Defense/Peace Issues, British Foreign Policy, Diplomatic & Foreign Affairs, Israel, Jerusalem Post.
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The British government has blocked almost one third of British military exports to Israel this year, citing possible threats to regional stability and fears the equipment might facilitate human rights violations.

According to official figures, the value of UK military sales arms to Israel declined by one third last year, and has fallen by a drastic 75 percent since 2005.

“There is evidence that the British government’s export control policy to Israel may have been tightened up,” said Parliament’s new 2007 Strategic Export Controls report, issued by the Quadrapartite Commission, which comprises representatives from four ministries.

The change in policy, said the report, reflects a convergence of government attitudes with its own official guidelines.

The report comes amid a period of uncertainty in Anglo-Israeli relations.

Read it all in The Jerusalem Post

Churches Welcome Poverty Campaign: CEN 8.10.07 p 4. August 9, 2007

Posted by geoconger in British Foreign Policy, Church of England Newspaper, Development/Economics/Govt Finances, Scottish Episcopal Church.
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The Scottish Episcopal Church has joined the Archbishop of York and other church leaders in applauding Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s call for greater international efforts to combat global poverty.

 

The Church in Society Committee of the SEC applauded the Prime Minister’s July 31 speech to the UN in an Aug 3 statement.

 

“As a Christian community, we are committed to a Gospel message of care and support for the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters,” the committee said.

 

“We believe that the quality of a society can be measured by the respect shown to its weakest members. As members of a global society, we have an obligation to do whatever is in our power to ensure that significant progress is made towards meeting the MDG’s at least by 2015, and earlier if at all possible.”

 

“The Anglican Communion has made achievement of the goals a priority,” the SEC said, pledging that it would do “its part in this important work.”

 

While on a tour of Western Australia, Dr. Sentamu commended the Prime Minister’s UN speech as a “sign of hope” that action on global poverty was “imminent.”

 

Mr. Brown told the UN the Millennium Development Goals were a century away from being achieved. This was a “global emergency,” he argued that called for a “coalition of conscience” and a “coalition of justice” which would lead to globalization becoming “a force for justice on a global scale.”

Bishop calls for fidelity to the Commonwealth over the EU: CEN 7.27.07 p6. July 26, 2007

Posted by geoconger in British Foreign Policy, Church of England Newspaper, Development/Economics/Govt Finances, EU, House of Lords.
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The Bishop of Norwich has urged the government not to abandon its obligations to the Commonwealth by subordinating British trade policy to the EU.

Speaking during a Lords debate on the Commonwealth on July 18, Bishop Graham James argued EU trade negotiations with the developing nations of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP) were skewed in favor of the West.

“I know well that the teaching in the Sermon on the Mount is that the poor are blessed, but we do not increase their blessing by making them poorer,” he said. Keeping a “high doctrine of the Commonwealth” could prevent impoverishing its members during the current round of trade talks.

Harkening to the 1926 Imperial Conference which stated the Commonwealth countries were those “autonomous communities within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs,” Bishop James stated this was the “spirit” which continued to animate the Commonwealth.

“It is an extraordinary ideal to live up to, one that is not exactly easy when member states vary so much in economic power, resources and wealth,” he said.

Current trade negotiations between the EU and the ACP countries threatened the economic integrity of some Commonwealth nations. “Many Commonwealth countries” believe the will be “worse off”, he said and “fear” that “EU aid will be dangled as a carrot and waved as a stick if African countries, in particular, do not open up their markets to European companies in the area of service provision and government procurement.”

“How does our part in this EU process reflect our Commonwealth aspiration[s],” Bishop James asked the government.

Last month the Anglican Church of Kenya called upon its government to reject an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the EU and Kenya, saying free trade with Europe would not be fair trade.

“Trade should be at the service of people and not for profit,” the Kenyan church said.

“Hence trade policies should enhance people’s livelihoods through the protection of human rights. It is for this reason that we the church representatives affirm the principles of justice, equity and protection of human rights. These principles should guide any trade policy making and agreements,” they said.

 

George Carey: “Religion Central to Terrorism Debate”: CEN 7.19.07 p 4. July 19, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Archbishop of Canterbury, British Foreign Policy, Church of England Newspaper, Islam, Multiculturalism.
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Lord Carey has criticized attempts to airbrush religion out of the debate on terrorism, telling the All Party Parliamentary Group on Tackling Terrorism that an understanding of the religious dynamic was essential in defeating Islamist terrorism.

The government had to take care in avoiding “two dangers,” the former Archbishop of Canterbury said on July10 at Westminster .

“One is to tar all Muslims with the brush of extremism and Islamism. The second is to airbrush Islam out of the picture by suggesting that Islamists do not represent Muslims. They do represent many Muslims but not all, and possibly not the majority. Not all Islamists are terrorists, but Islamism will always be a threat to the values and traditions of a western democracy,” Lord Carey said.

His comments come in the wake of Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s ban on using the word “Muslim” by his cabinet colleagues in ­connection with the ­terrorism crisis. Following the Glasgow airport attack the prime minister also instructed the cabinet that the phrase “war on terror” was to be dropped, in what is believed to be a bid to avoid giving offense to Muslims.

Lord Carey, who has taken an active leadership role in Christian-Muslim dialogue since his retirement as Archbishop of Canterbury, told the Parliamentary committee that the “religious component” was essential in understanding the “causes of Islamist terrorism.”

The West consistently failed to comprehend the “religious dimension” motivating terrorists, and policies that avoided this component were doomed to failure.”

“Islamist terrorism” was an international phenomenon that was “indiscriminate in its victims,” he said, noting that it was appropriate to “use a term like ‘Islamist’ to describe it rather than a more neutral term because its ideology is deeply theological. To separate the words ‘terrorist’ and ‘Islamist’ is to ignore the fact that Islam is being interpreted in such a way to lend justification to violence.”

Committee members Mohammed Sarwar MP and Lord Ahmed challenged Lord Carey’s linkage of “Islamist” and “terrorist”, arguing that not all Muslims were terrorists. The former Archbishop agreed, but said it was “vital to recognise what we are up against. The enemy is not Islam, the religion, or Muslims, the people. It is an ideology that distorts a faith.”

Defeating Islamist terrorism began with strengthening the position of “moderates in Muslim communities and starve the radicals of oxygen.” A nuanced security response was also important as “spying” was “not the answer,” as “many Muslim communities feel that they are under siege and threatened on all sides, they need affirmation and encouragement to participate in wider society.”

Lord Carey urged the registration of all Mosques, requiring foreign Imams be properly trained and fluent in English before being permitted to immigrate to Britain , requiring faith schools to adhere to state curriculums, and resisting demands for parallel legal structures for Muslims. “Sharia courts should not replace civil courts,” he argued.

It was necessary to “empower and facilitate religious dialogue at every level,” Lord Carey argued. “There are already a host of dialogues taking place and no more are needed,” he said, “butt it is important for governments, intelligence communities and Parliamentarians to hear from those experienced in interfaith dialogue about the directions of this dialogue, about the current movements in Islam.”

Winning over the “hearts and minds” of the Muslim world “requires a holistic response” and supporting and funding “scholarship which is engaging in the work of exploring democratic and secularising traditions within Islam,” Lord Carey said.

Rushdie Award Upsets Pakistan Churches: CEN 7.06.07 p 6. July 6, 2007

Posted by geoconger in British Foreign Policy, Church of England Newspaper, Church of Pakistan, Islam.
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Church leaders in Pakistan have condemned the award of a knighthood to author Salman Rushdie saying the government honour could provoke violence against Christians.The award was a “very bad decision” the general secretary of the National Council of Churches in Pakistan, Victor Azariah, told Ecumenical News International on June 28 as “such insensitive decisions will only worsen the anti-Christian feelings in the Muslim world.”

“Revenge attacks against Christians in Pakistan could take place like they did last year,” Fr Aftab James Paul, the director of the Roman Catholic National Commission for Interfaith Harmony and Ecumenism in Pakistan, told Asia News.

Reaction to the award has been fierce in Pakistan. “We deplore the decision of the British government to knight him,” a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said, while the lower house of parliament unanimously passed a government-backed resolution calling Rushdie a “blasphemer.”

Pakistan’s minister of religious affairs, Mohammed Ijaz ul-Haq, son of the late dictator General Zia ul-Haq, endorsed suicide bombing against Britain as a response. “If someone exploded a bomb on his body, he would be right to do so unless the British government apologizes and withdraws the ‘sir’ title.” He told the Pakistani parliament that “If someone commits suicide bombing to protect the honor of the Prophet Muhammad, his act is justified.”

The Foreign Office Other has issued a statement of “deep concern,” through its High Commissioner in Islamabad, but noted the minister’s threat will not harm a “very good relationship” with Pakistan and has not blocked a private visit by ul-Haq to Britain.

The death threats against Salman Rushdie bagan in 1989 when Ayatollah Khomeini issued a ‘fatwah’ stating that “the author of the book entitled The Satanic Verses – which has been compiled, printed, and published in opposition to Islam, the Prophet, and the Qur’an and all those involved in its publication who were aware of its content, are sentenced to death. I call on all zealous Muslims to execute them quickly.”

The death sentence remains in force. Last week Iran’s speaker of parliament, Gholamali Haddadadel, threatened that Muslims “will not leave this imprudent and shameless act without response,” while Iran’s Foreign Ministry Director for Europe, Ebrahim Rahimpour, was quoted as saying by the state-run IRNA news agency “this insulting, suspicious and improper act by the British government is an obvious example of fighting against Islam.”

Chilling Message that Predicted Bomb Plots: CEN 7.06.07 p 1. July 5, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Al Qaeda, British Foreign Policy, Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East, Iraq.
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Hints that an al-Qaeda doctors’ plot to attack Britain were being planned were given to the vicar of Baghdad, Canon Andrew White in May.

In an email to supporters from Baghdad dated July 3, Canon White, the executive director for the Foundation for Reconciliation and Relief in the Middle East and vicar of St George’s Memorial Church in Baghdad, stated that “just over
two months ago” he had informed his supporters in the West “that I had the worst meeting of my life. I said I have seen the Devil today.”

He went on: “I met this awful man in Amman,” Jordan, who he called the Devil’. “I even refused to continue the meeting and told the Sheikh who had brought him to me never to let me meet him again,” he wrote.

The ‘Devil’ told Canon White “that they were going to start killing in the UK then the USA. One sentence I remembered but did not understand was ‘those who cure you will kill you’.”

Canon White stated he did not comprehend the meaning of the phrase at that time, but in light of the attacks in Glasgow and arrest of several foreign doctors allegedly behind the plot “those terrible words ‘those who cure you will kill you’
suddenly made sense.”

The ‘Devil’, Canon White subsequently learned was an Iraqi Sunni living in Syria and a senior al-Qaeda leader. Details of the meeting were passed to the Foreign Office, he said.

It remains the worst meeting that I have ever had. I hope I never have one like it again,” Canon White stated.

No More EU Powers: CEN 6.22.07 p 5. June 22, 2007

Posted by geoconger in British Foreign Policy, Church of England Newspaper, EU, House of Lords.
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The Bishop of Chester has cautioned against ceding further legislative authority to an autocratic and unaccountable bureaucracy in Brussels.


“We need an EU which recognises the limits to its own political, social and legislative competence to shape too many details in the lives of its citizens,” Dr. Peter Foster said in the June 14 Lords debate on the European Union and Britain.

The Lords debate comes one week before the June 21-22 EU summit in Brussels where. EU president Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, has pushed for reconsideration of an EU constitution. However last week Merkel told the German parliament objections by Poland, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic made an agreement unlikely.

 

Lord Howe of Aberavon, the former Conservative cabinet minister, argued against Britain holding a referendum on an EU constitution during the Lords debate, saying if Britain wanted to play a leading role in Europe the government must “compromise”.

“That would be as true for a Conservative government as it will be now for a Labour government. And if it is to be considered by a Conservative opposition that intends to be in government, then they need to recognise the case for compromise is just as strong.” Lord Howe said.

 

Lord Triesman, the junior Foreign Office minister, said: “If there were a fundamental change, and it was a constitution that was fundamental, it will be put to the British people.”

 

The Bishop of Chester reminded the Lords the Christian political theory held that good government was limited government. Citing Augustine’ City of God, Dr. Forster stated “all human structures and institutions are at best incomplete and point to a different and better future in God’s time.”

 

The belief in the “relativity of all political systems” promoted the “values of tolerance and openness to others which perhaps are the key European values in our heritage. Good government always has to recognise the limits of its governance,” he said.

Israel Academic Boycott Attacked: CEN 6.22.07 p 5. June 21, 2007

Posted by geoconger in British Foreign Policy, Church of England Newspaper, Diplomatic & Foreign Affairs, House of Lords, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Israel.
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The Bishop of Chester has denounced the call made by the University and College Union [UCU] for a boycott of Israel and has condemned Palestinian suicide bombings.

Dr. Peter Forster told the House of Lords on June 12 the boycotts “will be either ineffective or counter-productive, and we are nowhere near a situation where that would be helpful.”

His comments came during a debate last week on the government’s response to the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Anti-Semitism and its implications for higher education introduced by Baroness Deech, the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

Russian Orthodox Back Putin Against US’s Euro-Missile Shield: CEN 6.15.07 p 6. June 16, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Arms Control/Defense/Peace Issues, British Foreign Policy, Church of England Newspaper, Russian Orthodox.
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The Russian Orthodox Church has backed President Vladimir Putin’s opposition to US plans to install a missile defence shield in Eastern Europe.

The head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations Metropolitan Kyrill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad urged religious leaders last week to stand with the Russian Orthodox Church in opposing an American “arms race” in Europe.U.S. plans to install an anti-missile defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland were a threat to a “peaceful future” for Europe, Kyrill said to European church leaders in Cologne on June 5, according to a transcript published on the internet by the Moscow Patriarchate.

Russian Orthdodox Church backs Putin against US missile plans

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

UK experts wary of preemptive Iran hit: JP 5.25.07 May 25, 2007

Posted by geoconger in British Foreign Policy, Iran, Israel, Jerusalem Post.
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A preemptive military strike would accelerate and not stop the production of a nuclear weapon by Teheran, Iran experts have told the British government.

Teheran is “between five and 10 years” away from producing a nuclear weapon, Dr. Frank Barnaby of the Oxford Research Group told the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee during hearings Wednesday on the foreign policy implications of Iran’s nuclear program.

Read the rest of the article in the Jerusalem Post

Bishop Hits Out at Evil Cluster Bombs: CEN 5.25.07 p4. May 25, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Arms Control/Defense/Peace Issues, British Foreign Policy, Church of England, House of Lords.
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Leicester Bishop Tim Stevens has challenged the government’s decision to stockpile M85 cluster bombs, telling the House of Lords the weapons were an unconscionable evil.“

I speak as one deeply troubled that the United Kingdom military is using these M85 weapons in my name,” Bishop Stevens said on May 17, rejecting government claims that cluster bombs were a legitimate part of the military’s arsenal.

Bishop hits out at 'evil' cluster bombs

Read the full story at The Church of England Newspaper

Archbishop’s Sri Lanka Peace Plea: CEN May 4, 2007. May 4, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Archbishop of Canterbury, British Foreign Policy, Church of Ceylon, Church of England Newspaper.
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Christians must stand apart and become beacons of hope and peace in the midst of war, the Archbishop of Canterbury said during his visit to Sri Lanka yesterday.

Preaching at the Cathedral Church of Christ the King in Kurunegala, Dr Rowan Williams stated: “When we find ourselves in the middle of conflict, of suffering, and even of despair, we as Christians have to say ‘we have food to give’. “And the food that we have to give is the promise that forgiveness is possible, that reconciliation is possible.”

Archbishop’s Sri Lanka peace plea

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

Europe—Majority Supports Strike on Iran: JP 4.08.07 April 8, 2007

Posted by geoconger in British Foreign Policy, Iran, Jerusalem Post.
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Over half of Europeans would support a preemptive military strike to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, a poll released last week by a London think-tank reports.

A survey commissioned by the pro-business think tank, Open Europe, found that a majority of those surveyed in 18 EU member states including France and Britain, backed military action as an option in dealing with the threat of Iranian nuclear proliferation, while majorities in 9 nations including Germany and Spain were opposed.

Read it all in the Jerusalem Post.

Israel urged to end nuclear ambiguity: JP 3.12.07 March 12, 2007

Posted by geoconger in British Foreign Policy, Iran, Israel, Jerusalem Post.
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Israel should pursue a strategy of “open nuclear deterrence” towards Iran if international attempts to curtail Teheran’s nuclear ambitions fail, a London think tank argues in a report to be released Monday.

Openly declaring its nuclear weapons stockpile and laying out the conditions of their use in the event of an Iranian attack is an option worth considering, a report published by the Royal Institute for International Affairs (Chatham House) stated, “if it is conceded that diplomatic efforts are doomed to fail, yet the price of war is too high.”

Read it all in the Jerusalem Post.

Afghani FM — Rogue Pakistani agents boosting Taliban: JP 2.04.07 February 4, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Afghanistan, British Foreign Policy, Jerusalem Post.
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Rogue elements of Pakistan’s military intelligence service, the ISI, have reequipped the Taliban and are seeking to destabilize Afghanistan, the country’s foreign minister claimed Friday.

While on a two-day visit to London, Afghan Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta told the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) that “within Pakistan’s military intelligence establishment there is a very powerful circle who are seeking a protracted Afghanistan, not an independent Afghanistan.”

Read it all in the Jerusalem Post.

UK Conservative Leader talks tough on Iran: JP 2.01.07 February 2, 2007

Posted by geoconger in British Foreign Policy, Iran, Jerusalem Post.
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The West should not rule out the use of military force against Iran, William Hague, the British Conservative party’s shadow foreign secretary, said this week.

In an address to the Royal Institute for International Affairs (Chatham House) outlining the foreign policy the Conservatives would follow if they oust Labor, he called for “peaceful pressure” and tough financial sanctions against the regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to help end Teheran’s nuclear ambitions.

Read it all in the Jerusalem Post.

‘Fighting terror is like fighting crime, not another army’: JP 9.28.06 September 28, 2006

Posted by geoconger in Al Qaeda, British Foreign Policy, Jerusalem Post.
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“Fighting terror is rather like fighting crime, not like fighting another army,” Vice-Premier Shimon Peres told a London think tank on Wednesday in a speech urging a strategic re-thinking of Israel’s military and economic priorities.

“Neither force nor diplomacy can resolve the long-standing tensions in the region as peace would come through sustained economic growth,” Peres told the Royal Institute for International Affairs (Chatham House).

Read it all in the Jerusalem Post.