Human Rights in a post-Brexit era

Barbara Kentish


Sr Liz O’Donohoe with 3 students from Queen Mary College who study Human Rights

Around 60 people took part in the Westminster Justice and Peace annual day on Human Rights on Saturday October 28th. The Commission had decided that in this uncertain European transition period, it was time to reflect on the state of human rights across the continent, particularly, but not only, with reference to the migrant and refugee phenomenon. The session began with prayers around the Lampedusa Cross, symbol of welcome onto European shores.


Julie Ward says EU is a Peace Project

Julie Ward MEP for the North West opened with the emphatic statement that the EU was first and foremost a Peace project in its conception, not simply a set of trading agreements. She pointed out in passing that there was not a European refugee crisis, as it is called, but a crisis of solidarity and humanity. Julie came late to politics, only becoming an MEP in 2014 after much campaigning through the arts, on, amongst other things, women’s issues and trafficking. She expressed outrage that no guarantees had been made to EU citizens living abroad whether in the UK or other EU countries. The so-called ‘Henry VIII law would short-circuit discussion and implement government wishes without challenge. The EU is a powerful human rights institution, and while we will remain with the Convention on Human Rights, we will leave the Charter of Fundamental Rights which strengthens many basic rights including those concerning data protection, children, disability, and workplace discrimination. The global achievements of the EU on human rights are not reported back sufficiently in the UK.

Patrick Riordan says the ground of human dignity is the basis of all rights

Dr Patrick Riordan SJ, lecturer in philosophy at Heythrop College, gave a scholarly examination of what we mean by rights, which, he explained, are discussed in very different registers. Lawyers talk about rights as principles to be defended legally. Philosophers try to establish whether there are intrinsic rights to being human, such as for water, air, food, while rights can also be claimed by individuals simply because they have a very strong wish for something. As to the question of why we believe in rights, this depends on what we believe to be the origin of human dignity, – which Christians see as deriving from our being made in God’s image. The dignity of the human provides the common language of rights.


Nicolette Busuttil of JRS reminded us that standing up for rights costs us personally

Nicolette Busuttil, of the Jesuit Refugee Service, gave a vivid presentation of the relationship of her work to the rights which for many asylum seekers, are being violated: rights to safety, to work, to have a home, to asylum from persecution and so on. She spoke honestly of how reaching out to refugees can touch us in a very personal way: a man claiming asylum had had to be admitted to hospital for a serious medical procedure, and rang her shortly beforehand, to ask if he could name her as the next-of-kin. He had no-one near to hand when in such a vulnerable situation. Reaching out demands faith and courage, and defending rights becomes a very practical matter.


l to r Fr Joe Ryan, Julie Ward MEP, Dr Patrick Riordan SJ, Nicolette Busuttil, JRS, Barbara Kentish

After a delicious lunch provided by St John Vianney parish caterers, participants chose from a variety of workshops on action for human rights by partner agencies: the Apostleship of the Sea, the Catholic Association for Racial Justice, the London Catholic Worker, Safe Passage, London Mining Network, Haringey Migrant Support Network and Taxpayers against Poverty, and Human Rights in a Brazilian community.


Lent Cookbook Now Available

Lenten Cookbook

Thank you to all who contributed a recipe (or two!) to our new vegetarian cookbook, which is now available to order in time for Lent. Eating meat puts a huge strain on the Earth’s resources, and also contributes a large number of carbon emissions to the atmosphere. Therefore, we suggest going veggie for Lent. The 40 recipes in this book are a good place to start.

Also available are our ‘Paris Diaries’, a photo journal of our exciting cycle ride to Paris for the UN conference on climate change. It features a written account of the ride as well as an in depth reflection written by our chair Fr Joe Ryan.

Get the books for £3 each or £5 for both. Download an order form here.

The Paris Diaries – Cycling Pilgrimage

Danny Bonnett, a wind turbine engineer from Bristol and a cycling pilgrim, shares his experiences of the road to Paris.

London Victoria

The group get ready to take the train to Newhaven

Day 1 – Newhaven to Dieppe

Mileage: almost nil.

Events: a few episodes of queasiness, great hospitality in Dieppe, and a great tour of historic churches – if only we had known how cold it was going to be!  Our hosts were so welcoming it was lovely. Continue reading

Green Party MEP gives support to Paris cycle ride

Jean Lambert MEP

Barbara Kentish and Fr Joe Ryan with Jean Lambert, MEP

Barbara Kentish and Fr Joe Ryan met with Jean Lambert, London’s Green Party MEP, on Friday 13th November at her London offices to discuss our pilgrimage to Paris as well as our hopes for the climate change talks.

She was very helpful and supportive, giving guidance and providing us with excellent background knowledge of the conference: Continue reading

Interfaith vigil commemorates victims of Paris attacks

Paris vigil

Praying for Paris

On the evening of Sunday 16th November, around 100 people braved the cold to attend an interfaith candlelit vigil in memory of those who lost their lives in the horrific attacks in Paris last Friday.

The event, organised by Citizens UK, took place on the riverbanks next to City Hall and was attended by representatives of Jewish, Muslim and Christian faith groups. Participants stood in solidarity with Parisians, lighting a candle to burn through the darkness.

Barbara Kentish, who represented Justice and Peace with Fr Joe Ryan, said: “We all felt that there was a strong sense of solidarity with our sister capital city. This attack was also an attack on the multicultural values of London.”

Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Paris.

Cycling pilgrimage to Paris is just around the corner

Phase 1 of cycle ride

Barbara Kentish and Fr Joe Ryan in front of Westminster Cathedral at the launch of the pilgrimage

With only two weeks to go until our small band of intrepid cyclists pedal to Paris, we are making our last minute preparations, oiling our bike chains and stocking up on puncture repair kits.

There are 17 cyclists in total who will be making the journey, and they represent a diverse group of people of all ages and from different walks of life. We have Catholics, Anglicans, Baptists and Quakers, who have all been inspired to show their support for the upcoming UN climate talks and to lend their voices to the thousands of people who will converge on France’s capital to call for action to lower global carbon emissions. Continue reading

Westminster Justice & Peace Annual Day 2015

Laudato Si’ – On Care for our Common Home

Fr Joe with J&P supporters

Fr Joe Ryan with J&P supporters

Nine  years after  Columban theologian Sean McDonagh first addressed the Diocesan Justice and Peace Commission he returned to give a wonderfully enriching overview of Pope Francis’s letter, Laudato Si’.  Over seventy people from across the diocese attended the occasion at St John Vianney Parish Centre In Tottenham, as Father Sean rolled out gem after gem of the encyclical, published in May, with illustrations from his own observations and experiences of over 40 years speaking out for the environment.  Continue reading

Enfield Winter Night Shelter

On the 7th of July we attended a thanksgiving service at Enfield Baptist Church for the Enfield and Haringey Night Shelter which was followed by a general meeting. Last winter churches in both boroughs offered their premises on a rota basis so that twelve homeless people (normally about eight men and four women) from each borough had a roof over their head, as well as an evening meal and breakfast during the winter. All the guests were referred to the umbrella organisation, All People All Places, as being suitable for a church-run shelter run by volunteers.

There were talks from various volunteers including from St Alphege’s, Edmonton and St Luke’s, Clay Hill, Enfield. Both said it was a joy to share God’s love in a practical way, as well as getting to know their fellow volunteers. Homeless people are referred from various statutory and voluntary bodies. Although neither church has a particularly large congregation, both found that it was easy to enlist volunteers, and that lots of food was donated. As there is already a well tried and tested structure for the way that the shelter is run, the individual shelters are never starting from scratch. Volunteers work in three shifts and then there is the preparation and clearing up afterwards. The overall impression one gained from the volunteers was that they were looking forward eagerly to being of service next winter, in which there will be a shelter specifically for Enfield, open over a three-month period from December to March. So volunteer churches and individuals are needed.

Josie & Malcolm Green,  Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St George’s Parish Enfield

Welwyn Garden City examines Climate Change

Welwyn Garden City Peace Plaque in the Peace Garden

Welwyn Garden City Peace Plaque in the Peace Garden

Justice and Peace has been praying and fasting for the Climate for several months now, and Welwyn Garden City hosted the July 1st event, only a few days after Pope Francis’s encyclical (Laudato Si) was published. Over 60 people, from various Hertfordshire parishes, gathered at Our Lady Queen of Apostles church. Continue reading