Report from Southern Dioceses Environment Network Meeting, 12th December 2022

Feedback on COP27, Advent and Planning for 2023

Neil Thorns, Director of Advocacy and Communications at CAFOD, gives feedback from COP27 which he attended as a delegate of the Holy See

Presentation by Neil Thorns, Director of Advocacy and Communications, CAFOD

Neil was a delegate for the Holy See (the Vatican) to COP26 and COP27. He told us that what was different about COP27 was that the Holy See had acceded to the Paris Agreement (2015) and so are now a party to the COP for the first time (as a State). This happened toward the end of October 2022 and it is worth noting that signing up comes with difficulties and challenges. It requires commitment. Preparation was minimal in terms of time, so the Vatican was not able to prepare this time in the way they probably will in future.

COPs have a direct impact influence on countries’ economies and policies, unlike e.g. The Sustainability Goals, which are voluntary. There are accountability and transparency mechanisms which is vital for the principles behind the COP and the impact it will have moving forward. What happens at COP matters because it has to be taken back to countries domestically.

The fault lines are clear between the countries that caused the climate crisis through historic emissions (UK, US, France, Germany etc.) and those that didn’t (Saudi Arabia, China, Brazil, India etc.) The common, yet differentiated, responsibilities between the two groups are held by some as a matter of principle and have political consequences.

At a COP there are actual negotiations and political signals (found primarily in the cover text).

THE GOOD

  • The cover text included food, rivers, nature-based solutions and right to a healthy environment for the first time.
  • Innovative financing options were part of the discussions and included in the cover text.
  • Negotiating streams dealt with:
  • Averting the climate crisis (mitigation) 
  • Minimising the harm from climate change (adaptation) 
  • Addressing the harm already done (loss and damage) 
  • A fund for loss and damage (compensation) has been agreed in principle and a transition group has been set up to work out the detail of how this is to be done.
  • Excellent expert report presented on reaching net zero and calling out greenwashing.
  • Sharm El-Sheikh Programme of Work established to take forward issues on food.

COP27 could have been worse – the first pavilion was a HUGE Saudi Arabian pavilion. Egypt was the president of COP27 and this first pavilion told a story of the influence the Saudi Arabians had on them.

THE BAD

Best expressed by Alok Sharma (UK COP26 President) in his closing remarks at COP27:


“Emissions peaking before 2025, as the science tells us is necessary.

Not in this text.

Clear follow-through on the phase down of coal.

Not in this text.

A clear commitment to phase out all fossil fuels.

Not in this text.

And the energy text, weakened, in the final minutes.

Friends, I said in Glasgow that the pulse of 1.5 degrees was weak.

Unfortunately, it remains on life support.”

Alok Sharma, COP27, Closing Remarks
  • The Climate crisis continues to hit people hard and fast.
  • The influence of fossil fuels companies took over.
  • No strengthening of 1.5 targets or phasing out fossil fuels, even though UK government strong stance on these negotiations. 
  • Climate finance – targets still not met from 2009 – big disappointment.
  • From CAFOD and Holy See point of view – disappointment with the narrow, productionist, approach to food systems. Nature/people outlook didn’t get a look in.

CAFOD, Holy See, and the Future 

The Holy See made a number of interventions.

  • Pressed for a comprehensive view of food systems, as found in Laudato Si’.
  • https://twitter.com/CAFOD/status/1592434466479542272 
  • Asked for separate financial mechanism for loss and damage. Taken notice of by other states. Thanked by the small island states for doing it.
  • Positive as a Catholic family for our voice to be heard.
  • In the build-up CAFOD had done work with partners. African Climate Dialogues. Brought partner voices into the COP.
  • Hope to be stronger and better prepared for the next COP. Early preparation is important.
  • It is important for us to think about pushing the UK Government.
  • We need to push on loss and damage, the food system as a national discussion (also the next CAFOD campaign.)

Q & A:  

  • What is the best way to push the UK government? Contacting MPs and being consistent is strong and don’t be afraid to send evidence. The more who speak the better – especially if they are Conservative. 
  • How does the work of the Holy See filter down through the Diocese level? If only – Being a part of the Holy See is seen as a government. A report will be done for the Bishops Conference of England and Wales by Neil Thorns and a suggestion has been made that the Holy See themselves do this but it is not simple. 
  • Was there a presence of other faiths? There are various groups recognised such as Indigenous groups, there is a strong representation of faith groups which is great to see. 
  • How influential are the side groups? Not one answer to this but if you see COP in the two ways – political/negotiating but then also the conversation that happens outside such as deals and agreements making traction.  
  • Has there been writing following COP27? Formal writing is not shared from my knowledge. Church globally sees this as important enough to take action – Bishops/Cardinals can be asked how we are translating the Paris agreement into our local realities. A bottom-up approach. 

Question: What is your response to Neil’s presentation? Where do you think we are now and what do you think will be important in 2023? 

Next Southern Dioceses Environment Network Meetings

Monday, 9 January  2023, 12.45-2.00pm  – Joint meeting

To start the year, the Northern Dioceses Environment Group and Southern Dioceses Environment Network will be meeting together to reflect on the challenges that lie ahead in 2023.

The meeting will hear from the Diocese of Salford that has been carrying out extensive surveys of all parish and diocesan buildings to develop a decarbonisation pathway and to help prioritise decarbonisation projects.

We will also get an update on the Guardians of Creation initiative with a focus on the engaging parishioners in the ‘ecological conversion’ we all need to make if we are to respond with urgency to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”

Monday          13 Feb             12.45-2.00pm            
Monday          13 March        12.45-2.00pm            

Monday          15 May            12.45-2.00pm         
Monday          12 June           12.45-2.00pm

Monday          10 July            12.45-2.00pm            
Monday          11 Sept           12.45-2.00pm

Monday          9 Oct               12.45-2.00pm
Monday          13 Nov            12.45-2.00p
m
Monday          11 Dec             12.45-2.00pm

KEY CLIMATE DATES
LINKS TO EVENTS & ORGANISATIONS

Resources

Journey to 2030 Updates:

‘Let Us Dream’ Activity Workshops

Advent resources to try and let us know your thoughts

New Journey to 2030 School Page

From the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales (CBCEW):

Bishops Conference Environment Resolutions – Autumn 2022

Bishop John’s Podcast on ‘Call of Creation’

Revised document: ‘Call of Creation’ (October 2022)

Advent with Jesuit Missions: 17-24 December: ‘See Beyond the Headlines’ – Sign up or login to help create a more just world this Christmas.

King Charles III Meets Aid to the Church in Need Representatives and Survivors of Persecution

l-r: Fr Alfred Ebalu, Fr Dominic Robinson SJ, Dr Caroline Hull and King Charles III © ACN

Source: Aid to the Church in Need

HM King Charles III met witnesses of Christian persecution yesterday (Thursday, 8th December) at an Advent event in London where Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) took part.

The King listened as Father Alfred Ebalu, a survivor of abduction, death threats and violence in Nigeria, highlighted growing persecution of Christians and others in Africa’s most populous country.

Father Ebalu’s testimony was followed by an overview of heightened persecution in other parts of Africa, where it is requested that details go unreported for fear of endangering the faithful there.

Leading the delegation was ACN (UK) National Director Dr Caroline Hull, alongside Father Dominic Robinson SJ, the charity’s UK National Ecclesiastical Assistant (chaplain) and John Pontifex, ACN (UK) Head of Press and Information, who introduced the witnesses.

The King was given an introduction to ACN’s Persecuted and Forgotten? A Report on Christians oppressed for their Faith 2020-22, launched ahead of last month’s #RedWednesday, the charity’s campaign on behalf of the suffering Church.

The meeting took place at King’s House, a centre of worship, community outreach and mission run by King’s Cross Church, where representatives of social action and welfare groups gathered alongside Christian charities to meet the King.

Other VIPs included the Most Rev Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who also met the ACN group, and Dame Sarah Mullally, the Bishop of London.

After the event, people packed into the nearby Ethiopian Christian Fellowship Church UK for an Advent service with Christmas music, prayers and blessings with input from King’s Cross Church, Archbishop Welby and Coptic Orthodox Archbishop Angaelos of London.

Friends and supporters of ACN were present at the service and the reception that followed.

After the event, Dr Hull said: “We are so grateful to the King for giving us the opportunity to introduce him to witnesses of Christian persecution. It’s so important that their stories be heard and our thanks go out to King’s House and all those who made the event such an important testimony to the vital role faith plays in our world today.”

LINK

Aid to the Church in Need: http://www.acnuk.org/

Posthumous Diocese of Westminster Award to Peace Campaigner Bruce Kent

Bruce Kent with the Pax Christi Banner

On Thursday 17 November, the Diocese of Westminster presented awards to eleven volunteers or groups of volunteers for their work in responding to needs in their parishes and communities. During the evening special mention was made of two individuals who had committed their lives to volunteering, and improving the lives of those around them. Bruce Kent, well known activist and campaigner for peace, and Libby Biberian, a volunteer at Caritas St Joseph’s.

Fr Joe Ryan, former Chair of Westminster Justice and Peace, gave this tribute to Bruce’s life and work:

“I have known Bruce Kent for over 50 years, firstly as a fellow-priest of the Archdiocese of Westminster. He was Secretary to Cardinal Hennan. As University Chaplain, he secured the premises at Gower Street and in priestly ministry I had always found him inspiring, encouraging and totally dedicated in his love of God and his fellow human beings. 

One can only stand in awe at the breadth and depth of his varied concerns for others.  

His vision was local but also there were no limits to his horizons. 

In five minutes how could anyone deal adequately with his involvement and leadership in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND): Abolition of War; Amnesty International; Pax Christi; Social Justice; Human Rights; Geneva Conventions; Rights of Prisoners; His extensive Letter Writing and Prompting notes to Leaders; Ethical Investments; Parish involvement….. and much more 

All this involvement done with sincerity, clarity and a sense of humour. 

Whether you were rich or poor; powerful or less-so; Bruce treated each person with the same dignity and respect. 

He was a gifted speaker with natural authority. He had a razor-sharp intellect always able to get to the kernel of his topic in the minimum of words. His clarity of thought and his Christian faith brought light and direction to many of us struggling with complex arguments around subjects like war and peace and the care of our planet. 

He was all the time probing as to the underlying causes of injustices and human tragedies. This was where many people saw him as a threat. It was like Archbishop Helder Camera who once said: 

“When I feed the hungry, they call a saint, but when I ask why the poor are hungry, they call me a communist” 

When I replaced Bruce as parish priest in St Aloysius, Somers Town (Euston), our friendship entered a new phase. I had seen the work he had done in the parish and beyond and found it all so inspirational and uplifting. Personally, I am very much in debt to Bruce also for his encouragement during me thirteen years as Chair of the Westminster Justice and Peace Commission. 

And a new image of Bruce!  I could see him as God’s ventriloquist or the ventriloquist of the Holy Spirit! One who spoke on behalf of others who had no voice of their own. Jesus needs our hands, our hearts and our voices today to proclaim the Gospel message with clarity and conviction. Bruce did this with distinction! 

As we celebrate this award, given posthumously, and accepted by Valerie, his wife, there are a few important items for us all. The best way to pay tribute to Bruce is to take up maybe just one of the many concerns he had in his life. His tireless concern for the poor, the marginalised, those in whatever need they find themselves, the asking of relevant questions – these are the ways we can keep Bruce’s memories alive”. 

Diocese of Westminster Volunteering Awards

Pax Christi

Report from Caritas Westminster Cost-of-Living Conference

Pat Fernandes (Advice for Renters) with Elroy and Laura from White City Parish, where a Community Hub has already been set up to promote social and economic inclusion

Source: Caritas Westminster

On Saturday, 12 November, 56 people from 38 parishes and schools across London and Herts came together to learn more about how they can support their communities in the current Cost of Living Crisis.

The conference was organised by Caritas Westminster alongside Advice for Renters as part of our response to the financial difficulties that are hitting many people in the Diocese at this time.

Sr Silvana Dallanegra, Financial Resilience Lead for Caritas Westminster, was one of the main organisers, with Pat Fernandes from Advice 4 Renters Money. She says: “Our aim wasn’t to tell people how grim things are – they know that already. Our aim was to equip and strengthen them with knowledge and resources around the solutions that are out there, and the organisations that can help. We also wanted to give them more confidence around how to have conversations with people who might be struggling, and how to support them in accessing the help and advice they need. And we also hoped everyone would get the chance to network, and begin learning from each other – which, judging by the buzz during group discussions and breaks, certainly happened!”

Attendees were able to attend a variety of workshops to learn more about debt, loan sharks, credit unions, saving energy and other solutions, in order to better support people in their communities. They were also told about Firm Foundations, our bespoke training programme for Money Champions, which we are planning to run again in 2023. Many of those who came are already helping people as members of the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP), and through provision of food, distribution of supermarket vouchers or other social outreach projects. Everyone said how informative, useful and eye-opening all the sessions had been.

Nicholas O’Donnell from Knebworth SVP said: “This was my first time at this type of event, and I loved the whole day. I have made some useful contacts and learned so many things which will help me in my work. I also benefitted from having Bishop Paul share some of his experience.”

Anne Lamont, from West Green parish told us that the day contained “An excellent range of information, plus the opportunity to network and share ideas – I only wish we could have had longer! I felt we were given practical ideas for action, and for living out Catholic Social Teaching. I’m taking all these ideas back to my parish’s Live Simply group, so that we can consider what practical support and advice we can offer to parishioners in need.”

Workshops were delivered by experts from Advice for Renters Money, Green Doctors, Illegal Money Lending Team, Community Money Advice, London Capital Credit Union and Acts 435, and attendees also had a chance to meet each other and share ideas. Caritas Westminster would also like to thank Andrew O’Neill and his staff at the conference venue: All Saints Catholic College in Ladbroke Grove.

Bishop Paul McAleenan, Chair of Caritas, was present throughout the day. Summing up at the end he commented on how he had been struck that the emphasis throughout – in the presentations and the discussions – was less on the issue or problem, and much more on the person at the heart of the matter. This, he felt, was a clear emphasis on each one’s God-given dignity and worth.

The conference took place on the eve of the World Day of the Poor – a day for to renewing commitment to solidarity with those in our community who are struggling or marginalised. This can be hard when we are all beginning to feel the pinch, but the Pope, in his message for World Day of the Poor 2022 says: “This is the moment for us not to lose heart but to renew our initial motivation. The work we have begun needs to be brought to completion with the same sense of responsibility.”

The conference on Saturday aimed to enable volunteers in social outreach projects to go beyond providing emergency support, to walking alongside people as they find ways to solve problems and reach their potential.

As the Pope also said in his message: “Where the poor are concerned, it is not talk that matters; what matters is rolling up our sleeves and putting our faith into practice through a direct involvement, one that cannot be delegated.”

LINK

Caritas Westminster – www.caritaswestminster.org.uk

Advice for Renters: https://adviceforrenters.org/about-us

COP27 Global Day of Action, London Mobilisation Report

Westminster Justice and Peace at the Global Day of Action, The Strand, London for COP27, 12th November 2022

COP27 GLOBAL DAY OF ACTION MOBILISATION, SATURDAY 12TH NOVEMBER, 11.30AM, LONDON

Westminster Justice & Peace joined CAFOD, the Southern Dioceses Environment Network, Christian Climate Action, Christian Aid, Tearfund, Quakers, Buddhists, Faith for the Climate and many other civic groups on Saturday 12th November for the Global Day of Action rally in Central London on the middle Saturday of COP27, the UN Climate Conference.

The faith bloc gathered at St John’s Church Waterloo, where they were welcomed by Rev Canon Giles Goddard and prayers were said in the garden, before moving to join a larger crowd outside the head office of oil giant Shell building on the Southbank.

Among these were health workers, scientists and campaigners highlighting the plight of climate refugees. Eco-Sikh called for a ‘Loss and Damage Fund Now’. Then thousands marched to Trafalgar Square for a rally.

Colette Joyce, coordinator of Westminster Justice & Peace Commission, who led the Westminster Justice & Peace group on the march said: “The urgency is growing with each year that passes, and so we can and must keep the pressure on to demand tangible results this time.”

Banners carried by pupils from St George’s Catholic Secondary School, Maida Vale

Report on Independent Catholic News

Report from Southern Dioceses Environment Network, Monday 10th October 2022 – COP27

Our first speaker was Paul Chitnis, Director of Jesuit Missions

  • Jesuit Missions is the Mission and Development Office of the Jesuits in Britain.
  • Based in Wimbledon.
  • Work in countries in Southern Africa, parts of India and Guyana.
  • Paul was previously Director of SCIAF, the development agency in Scotland, sister agency to CAFOD.
  • He was present at COP26, along with his colleague Colm Fahey.
  • He is not attending this year.
  • COP27 (6-18 November 2022) is taking place on the African continent for the first time.
  • One of the main drivers of hunger in Africa is climate change.
  • Seeing the impact of climate change everywhere, floods in Pakistan, droughts in Africa, fires in Australia.
  • The political context this year is significant. Attention of the world has been diverted by the war in Ukraine. The bandwidth of our political leaders for climate change has been reduced.
  • On the agenda for COP27 – as usual ‘adaptation’ and ‘mitigation’ measures.
  • There will also be an emphasis this year on’ loss and damage’ – compensation for losses due to climate change for which adaption is not possible.
  • World leaders were in attendance at COP26 which had an impact on the country negotiators and the civic society activists present. There are likely to be fewer world leaders present this time.
  • Finance will be key. The conference will succeed or fail depending on funding. ‘Follow the money’ – that is where the answer will be.
  • Has to work quite hard personally to remain optimistic after many years working for climate change. Only have to watch ‘Frozen Planet’ on a Sunday night to see the impacts. Faith communities have a role to play because they offer hope and he is hopeful.
  • Final question: What happens if we do not meet these targets from the Paris Agreement?

Paul’s presentation was complemented by a presentation from Bishop John Arnold, Bishop of Salford

  • Diocese of Salford Website
  • Evidence is overwhelming in terms of the climate damage that is happening.
  • Great damage being reported today from storms in Venezuela.
  • In September a climate disaster seemed to be reported every day.
  • Good news from some governments speaking up in the last few months Australia, New Zealand, US (although not consistently), Denmark, Singapore.
  • Encouraging because governments have to take the lead, industry has a part to play, and each of us individually must do our part.
  • Pope Francis is consistently encouraging.
  • Our government has not been helpful. During process of whittling down candidates for conservative party leader from 11 to 2 there was one mention of the environment by one candidate. Obsession with growth for the economy is misplaced. Helps neither the poor nor the environment. Hopefully restarting fracking will not happen. Local resistance in Lancashire.
  • First activity in Glasgow last year was a multi-faith prayer service in George Square. Each of 9 major faiths, including Pagans, led a prayer and he couldn’t disagree with any of it. All major faiths have a concern for the world in which we live.
  • 85% of the world population adhere to one of those faiths. Presents a real opportunity for faith leaders to conjure more enthusiasm.
  • Young people are so much more enthusiastic and learned. Schools love visiting the Laudato Si’ Centre in Salford. Over 100,000 turned up for the young people’s rally in Glasgow.
  • Deforestation Agreement was good but even as Brazil was signing the promise it was increasing deforestation of the Amazon by 15%.
  • Loss and Damage – $100 million sounds a lot but it is not. It is vital life-saving money. Up to 1 billion people might migrate by 2050 because of the loss of agricultural land and heading to the places that are able to produce food. Very short-sighted not to care for people already affected by climate change.
  • Disappointed that the Prime Minister has told King Charles not to go to COP-27. His long-standing commitment and experience would be helpful.
  • Haven’t seen much evidence that best intentions have been implemented. IPCC say at the moment we are heading for 3.2 degrees increase.
  • Good things – increasing understanding of the environment. More and more groups are aligning. Pope Francis film ‘The Letter’ gives a very clear appeal and should be recommended far and wide.
  • ‘We are jogging along but we need to be sprinting.’

Small Group Discussions…

We considered the question:

Sam Baker’s Walk2COP27 has started. It is a journey to gather people for a common cause. What would you talk about with a stranger to bring people together?

The Letter: Laudato Si’ Film Released 4th October 2022

We watched the trailer together on YouTube:

The full movie can be watched for free online: https://theletterfilm.org/watch/

Resources: Shared by John Paul de Quay

Read
‘Call of Creation’ (October 2022 Update) from the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales: https://www.cbcew.org.uk/the-call-of-creation

World Wildlife Fund Expectations for COP27:
https://wwf.panda.org/discover/our_focus/climate_and_energy_practice/cop27/

Watch
‘The Letter’ Movie: https://theletterfilm.org/watch/

Campaign
Bishop John Arnold calls for rethink on reversing fracking ban: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lancashire-63062304

Organise
https://journeyto2030.org/let-us-dream/ Order ‘Let Us Dream’ activity packs from Journey to 2030 to use with your church group / parish.

Southern Diocese Environment Network Future Meetings

Monday 14th November, 12.45-2.00pm, Prayer and Reflection for COP-27
Monday 12th December, 12.45-2.00pm, Feedback on COP-27, Advent, 2023

Website & Recordings from Previous Meetings
Southern Dioceses Environment Network

Key Climate Dates

West London Justice and Peace network learns about Catholic Union

By Maggie Beirne, Independent Catholic News

The West London Justice and Peace Network meets three times a year, bringing J&P activists together from a dozen or more parishes across West London. On Saturday 8 October, it was delighted to hear Nigel Parker – Director of the Catholic Union of Great Britain – talk about its work.

Established in 1870, only a few decades after Catholic Emancipation, when anti-Catholic discrimination was high, the Catholic Union was a voluntary organisation aimed at influencing public policies of interest to Catholics. At the outset, it probably consisted only of the ‘great and the good’ but it now has 1,300 members and it is open to all lay Catholics.

Nigel explained that it is non-party political and that its officers are elected to reflect all political parties. The current president is Sir Edward Leigh (a Conservative) who succeeded a Labour peer. Its website reports that it is “a membership organisation dedicated to the defence of Catholic values in parliament and public life, and the promotion of the common good”.

In practical terms, the Catholic Union makes submissions to parliament and government; it comments on current events; it meets with ministers and special advisers etc. It has a broad range of interests ranging from beginning to end of life issues to social justice, human rights, religious freedom issues. The staff team is small and the Union therefore makes a very conscious effort not to duplicate the work of other groups such as CSAN/CAFOD/ACN/PACT/SVP etc. but instead tries to add value to their efforts.

There is a particular emphasis on religious freedom and freedom of conscience, and it works via a mixture of education, public lectures, webinar events. In the fairly recent past, it has addressed issues such as: covid and the closure of churches; the murder of David Amess and the importance of access to last rites even (or especially) at crime scenes; hate speech legislation; Public Space Protection Orders (and protests outside abortion centres); freedom of conscience for pharmacists; the Bill of Rights Bill and other foreign and defence policies. The Catholic Union works alongside many other groups and tries to represent the many issues of concern to the 4.5m Catholics in the country.

Members of the Network were interested in how strategies and priorities are set by the Union; how at the parish level we can effectively lobby our public representatives; and more information about the Union’s work across the gamut of justice and peace issues. Nigel explained that membership gives access to a weekly parliamentary briefing; encourages active engagement via committees and monthly briefings; and includes an invitation to an annual summer gathering. Though they have consultative status with the Bishops’ Conference, and work closely with the bishops, they are a lay organisation and set their priorities according to the concerns of the Catholic laity across Great Britain.

Their website also carries detailed practical advice for those people wanting to lobby their local MP on concerns around refugees, climate justice, poverty, prisoners, racism or other J&P issues. Members of the West London J&P network reported on their efforts to influence local elected politicians on a broad array of social justice and peace issues, and how useful it was to learn how they might best cooperate with the Catholic Union, which is doing the same at the national level.

LINK

Catholic Union: www.catholicunion.org.uk

World Homeless Day Podcast, 10th October 2022

Central London Catholic Churches guest, Richard Jackson, talks to Jon Kuhrt (left) and Mick Clarke (right) at the Homeless Panel at Farm Street Church on 28th March 2022

In March 2022, Westminster Justice & Peace together with Central London Catholic Churches hosted a panel discussion at Farm Street Church entitled ‘Homelessness and the Pandemic: what have we learnt?’

Six months on, we invited our speakers from that panel to record their thoughts on where we are at now, especially with respect to homelessness in London. Listen to the podcast here.

Listen to the podcast, recorded for World Homeless Day 2022

Panel

Colette Joyce – Westminster Justice & Peace Co-ordinator (Chair)
Mick Clarke – CEO, The Passage
Fr Dominic Robinson SJ – Parish Priest, Farm Street
Richard & Nick – Central London Catholic Churches Homeless Service
Jon Kuhrt – Specialist Rough Sleeping Adviser at Department for Levelling Up,
Housing & Communities

More Photos from Homelessness and the Pandemic Panel, 28th March 2022

Report from ‘To Accompany Refugees’, Westminster Social Justice and Peace Forum, 17th September 2022

Watch Bishop Paul McAleenan’s Summary of the ‘To Accompany Refugees’ Forum meeting

On Saturday, 17th September people from around the Diocese of Westminster joined Bishop Nicholas Hudson and Bishop Paul McAleenan for the Westminster Social Justice and Peace Forum on Zoom.

The theme of the forum was ‘To Accompany Refugees’, and took place on the weekend proceeding World Day of Migrants and Refugees.

The forum was chaired by Bishop Nicholas Hudson who underlined that this was an opportunity to explore what the response in the ecclesial community in Westminster has been.

The session was opened in prayer by Barbara Kentish. Barbara adopted a prayer that she uses at the Justice and Peace Vigils that she organises outside of the Home Office. During the forum there were presentations from the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), Compassionate Communities, Newman Catholic College and St Bartholemew’s Church in St Albans.

Watch the Speaker Presentations

Megan Knowles, Communications and Development Manager for JRS UK, spoke about the experience of accompanying refugees in an increasingly hostile world. She spoke about the primary work of JRS being accompaniment, and specifically the accompaniment of people experiencing destitution as a result of being given no recourse to public funds. This looks like ‘being with, rather than doing for’. She spoke about how people at this point in the asylum system are in a ‘legal-limbo’, isolated with significantly reduced access to healthcare during a prolonged and anxiety inducing time. JRS supports in a variety of ways, including having a hosting scheme, a pantry and befriending.

Pattie Gercke is the Development Worker for Compassionate Communities, which is the social action arm of the Diocese of London. Pattie presented from the ecumenical perspective and how churches in the Diocese of London are engaged in the welcome of people seeking sanctuary. Ecumenism was a strong theme of the forum. Pattie shared that church response looked like practical support such as access to work, ESOL provision, hosting, education, healthcare, digital access, provision of food, clothing as well as legal and rights-based support. The value, however, of non-material forms of support was highlighted; for instance the importance of relationship, sitting, sharing space, listening and providing spaces of welcome. Further, it was highlighted that churches are repositories of social capital and that this social capital can be used to support integration. The importance of enabling a wider audience to hear the stories and theologies of people in the asylum system was discussed.

The forum then heard from Danny Coyle who presented the school experience, specifically the transformation of Newman Catholic College in Brent when they became a school of sanctuary. There had been an immediate positive effect of welcoming and integration sanctuary seeking pupils and their parents in the school. They developed a unique and bespoke curriculum to meet the needs of those coming from overseas from conflict zones. There was a particular focus on language which enables pupils to unlock other parts of the curriculum, which pupils were keen to embrace. The academic needs of pupils are placed alongside their emotional needs, and pupils are entered onto different pathways. The school has a Refugee Coordinator. Support of Caritas Westminster for the school’s annual Syria Summer Camp, where pupils take part in varied and enriching activities. These camps have gone from strength to strength with volunteers from a sanctuary seeking background being involved. The key takeaway was that if correct structures are put in place, refugee students and their families can flourish.

The final presentation came from Teresa Clarke who is a parishioner at St Bartholemew’s Parish in St Albans who is directly involved in refugee accompaniment through the Church’s conversation group. Teresa shared how ecumenical work, as well as responsiveness to the needs of the asylum seekers that they are supporting has transformed the project. The group provides emotional and practical support to asylum seeking men at a local hotel and works with 10% of residents. The value of engagement with local MPs was underlined, with the group having strong connections with Daisy Cooper MP. The group is part of a network with other churches in the area providing support. The group hold forums to hold the hotel to account with regards to need for good food and appropriate clothing for the guests. Alongside this the group held a refugees Information Exchange where asylum seekers shared experiences and information, offering help and support. There is a significant challenge of transport, where the location of Noake hotel is a barrier to asylum seekers making connections in the city. This lead to an initiative whereby spare bikes were donated, and so far, the project has received 55 bikes which are fully serviced by a bike mechanic.  Herts County Council are offering Bike Ability training while the conversation group support as they gain confidence in these sessions.

After the presentations, attendees went into breakout rooms with each of the speakers to discuss questions relating to the topics that had been presented. These were:

What are the most effective ways to assist refugee and migrant groups, what are the challenges and what else can we do?

It was an opportunity for discussion before joining back with the main group to share experiences, observations and questions.

Plenary Feedback

  • How to balance being with and doing with. Context of the whole person. How to accompany people who have and are experiencing trauma.
  • Partner with expert services.
  • How to support people, especially women facing domestic violence.
  • Ecumenical working and that how could operate
  • Joined up working between churches, looking at modeling St Albans, not working elsewhere necessarily.
  • Working alongside interfaith groups
  • Joined up working
  • Campaigning and advocacy more difficult, fundamental systems change – HO not listening.
  • Range of needs for refugees and asylum seekers, different circumstances and needs.
  • Challenges because of the cost of living. Need of financial assistance, winter, facing difficulties.
  • Challenges getting churches to communicate.
  • What else can we do – sharing information, what is going on where.
  • Need for greater awareness of what is going on for asylum seekers.
  • Hard to balance the media portrayal of refugee help as a very hard thing;
  • How to keep people compassionate enough to help?
  • Keep learning from other people and always try to be flexible;
  • The best answer to the question is to share experiences.
  • How to stop the work of helping people from being overwhelming?
  • Think of how we speak about these matters language wise.

The Forum was summed up by Bishop Paul McAleenan, lead bishop for Migrant Issues, saying ‘Refugees are not statistics, but heart and flesh, human beings who must be helped.’

Westminster Caritas Refugees and Migrants Mailing List

Rosa Lewis, the Caritas Westminster Lead for Refugees and Migrants, convenes a quarterly meeting for everyone in the Diocese of Westminster concerned about refugees and migrants. To be added to her mailing list please email rosalewis@rcdow.org.uk

Home Office Prayer Vigils

You are warmly invited to join Barbara Kentish (Westminster Justice & Peace), Br Johannes Maertens (London Catholic Worker) and others to participate at the vigils outside the Home Office or to pray along at home on the third Monday of every month, 12.30-1.30pm.

Next Vigil: Monday 17th October 2022, 12.30-1.30pm

Venue: Home Office, Marsham Street, SW1P 4DF

Contact: Barbarakentish@talktalk.net  or johanmaertens@hotmail.com    

At the vigils we remember:

  • those who have died trying to reach the UK. 
  • victims of the war in Ukraine.
  • workers with asylum seekers in detention centres.
  • those supporting homeless migrants.
  • those struggling to inject welcome and humanity into our legislation.

Links

Also reported on Independent Catholic News –
https://www.indcatholicnews.com/news/45517

Together With Refugees – Fill the Skies with Hope campaign, 23rd September – 9th November 2022. Coalition action across the UK to end the Rwanda Deportations plan.
https://togetherwithrefugees.org.uk/fill-the-skies-with-hope/

Bishop John Sherrington’s reflections on this year’s visit to Syria Summer Camp, hosted by Newman Catholic College
https://rcdow.org.uk/news/summer-camp-helps-refugee-children-find-a-safe-home/

Report from the Southern Dioceses Network Meeting 12th September 2022

Southern Dioceses Environment Network 12th September 2022: Presentation by Shanon Shah, Director, Faith for the Climate

We were delighted to welcome Shanon Shah, the Director of Faith for the Climate, as our guest speaker for the first meeting this term of the Southern Dioceses Environment Network.

Faith for the Climate is a network that aims to equip, inspire, and encourage faith inspired action on issues of climate change across the UK. All faiths and spiritualities are welcome.

Shanon Shah is a Malaysian Muslim who came to the UK in 2010. He joined the team at Faith for the Climate in 2020.

The organisation aims to unite those of faith together in the environmental justice space and to encourage learning from the different faith traditions. It was a way to target the UK government and show solidarity with those who suffer the worse impact of climate change despite doing the least to contribute.

The group meet regularly online with two priorities in the lead up to COP-26: new and additional money for loss and damage, ending fossil fuel subsidies. The UK government has made some progress with the second focus, therefore, most energy was focused on loss and damage.

Loss and Damage is part of the architecture of the Paris Agreement which includes three main pillars of climate action; mitigation of climate emissions, adaption to live with the impact of climate change, loss and damage. Loss and damage is when the impact of climate change is so severe that adaption/mitigation is not possible e.g. as a result of sea level rises, extreme weather events.

The UK government has historically blocked negotiations on loss and damage.

At COP-19, in 2013, the Warsaw international mechanism for Loss and damage was established in response to the typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. At COP-25 in Madrid, the Santiago network on loss and damage was established to implement the Warsaw mechanism. It called for richer countries to offer compensation. At COP-26, there was a push for clarity on how the Santiago network would be implemented.

The Glasgow Dialogue on Loss and Damage was established post COP-26. Many questions on how to address the issue are undecided, but it is climbing the agenda with the first awareness day last year. This is largely due to the efforts of faith communities.

The UK has faced financial difficulty this year due to the war in Ukraine, cost of living crisis etc. which has made it more difficult to talk about loss and damage. Despite our own issues we must not forget countries such as Pakistan which is now 1/3 under water with the displacement of 50 million people and 10 billion US dollars’ worth of damage. These poorer countries are suffering the worst effects of climate change despite contributing the least. The impacts of extreme weather events are far greater for them and they are still struggling with debt.

It seems only fair that the big polluters have the most responsibility to pay compensation for loss and damage. It is a moral issue that lies at the centre of many faiths; we are all interconnected.

The next Loss and Damage Awareness Day will be on the 22nd September; including a walk of witness to Parliament Square via the Shell headquarters. Gathering at St. John’s Church, Waterloo, 10.30am. It will join those doing an interfaith fast for loss and damage.

22 September – Loss and Damage Awareness Day
10.30am Meet at St John’s Waterloo, 73 Waterloo Rd, London SE1 8TY
11.30am Walk to the Shell headquarters for a vigil
12.00pm Walk to Parliament Square
Loss and Damage Day of Action London

We then broke into small groups to consider the question: “In what ways does the topic of Loss and Damage resonate with this year’s theme for the Season of Creation – Listen to the Voice of Creation?”

Links

Faith for the Climate
Loss and Damage Day of Action London
Southern Dioceses Environment Network
Key Climate Dates in 2022

The Journey to 2030 website has been revamped with several sections for new resources. Check it out at:

https://journeyto2030.org new homepage
https://journeyto2030.org/let-us-dream/ let us dream activity*
https://journeyto2030.org/getting-started-2/ The new getting started and resources page
https://journeyto2030.org/poster-activity/ – The ‘building a caring community’ activity poster page

*You can order packs of the ‘Let Us Dream’ activity to use with your church group / parish.

The next meeting of the Southern Dioceses Environment Network is on Monday 10th October, 12.45-2.00pm. Register with Eventbrite