Ed Miliband launches Labour's election campaign

Just now in Salford, Ed Miliband launched the Labour Party's campaign for the general election. Below, you can read what he had to say. If you have any thoughts on it, start a conversation at the bottom of this page.

 

Thank you Amina and thank you Narveshwar, Claire, Amman, Adrian and Sarah for those amazing stories.

The five people we have just heard from are why we are here today to launch our campaign for the general election.

Each of them remind us that we’re here not just to fly the flag of our Party, because in 2015, a victory for our Party is not nearly enough.

We’re fighting for something much bigger.

We’re fighting for a Britain where every day working people are properly rewarded once again.

We’re fighting for a Britain where every young person, whatever their background, can begin their working lives with a future that promises to be better, not worse, than their parents’.

We’re fighting for a Britain where everyone plays by fair rules, including the most powerful like energy companies and the banks.

We’re fighting for a Britain that deals with its debts responsibly, without shredding our NHS and vital public services.

We’re fighting for a true recovery and real, enduring prosperity that extends to the kitchen tables of all working families across Britain.

We’re fighting to be the kind of country that we all know we have it in ourselves to be.

More just, more equal and more prosperous.

And we’re going to fight that fight in the right way.

We will offer hope, not falsehoods.

We know the depths of our values matter more than the depth of our opponents’ pockets.

We will win this election, not by buying up thousands of poster sites, but by having millions of conversations.

I am going to be leading those conversations in village halls, community centres, workplaces right across the country, starting this very week and every week from now until the election.

I want you to be doing the same.

This year we will be making our case, explaining our vision, house by house, street by street, town by town.

Our campaign is setting the goal of holding four million conversations with people in just four months about how we change our country.

That is almost twice the number we’ve ever done before.

It is more than any British political party has ever done before.

And in every single one of those conversations, we will be talking directly with people on their doorstep.

And we will be reminding people what is at stake:

In this election there is a choice not just between parties but between two competing visions of how our country can succeed.

A Tory plan that believes we can succeed with just a few at the top doing well.

Or a plan – Labour’s plan for Britain’s future – that puts working people first.

1. The Tory Failure

For five years, the Tories have shown us their idea.

If we just strip the Government to its bare bones, give in to the powerful interests and give huge tax cuts to the very wealthiest, then all of Britain will somehow benefit.

And judging from what David Cameron said last week, they really think it has been a great success.

But that tells you all you need to know about what they think success looks like.

Because think about what has actually happened.

Millionaires have reaped huge benefits from the Tory plan.

There is no doubt about that.

But working people in our country are worse off.

Much worse off.

For the first time since the 1920s, working people will be worse off at the end of a government than they were at the beginning.

Zero hour contracts have exploded, driving wages down across our country, and have allowed some firms to play havoc with people’s lives.

The energy companies have doubled the profit they make from each family and the average bill has gone up £300 a year.

And most inexcusable is the shortchanging of the greatest hope for our future, our children, who this Government is failing to prepare for the challenges of the 21st Century.

At a time when education and training are critical to the chances of earning a decent wage—and to the long-term success of our country– tuition fees have trebled and apprenticeships for young people are actually falling.

And they call all of that a success.

We’re a country of food banks and bank bonuses.

A country where social mobility goes backwards and privilege is rewarded.

Where millionaires have had their taxes cut and millions pay more.

And they call that a success.

Well, I don’t.

And the British people don’t either.

And think what has happened to our NHS.

Longer to wait to see your GP.

Longer to wait in A&E.

Longer to wait for an operation.

An NHS without time to care.

The Tories have damaged the NHS in these five years.

Give them five more and the NHS as we know it just won’t be there.

Well, we won’t let that happen.

They’ve even failed on the one thing they claim to care about most.

The deficit.

David Cameron promised to eliminate the deficit by 2015.

Well, 2015 is now here.

And so is the deficit.

And the deficit is still here for a very simple reason: because it turns out if you depress wages and lack any real economic plan other than tax cuts for the wealthy, it doesn’t just fail working people, it fails to balance the books.

So this Tory experiment has been tried.

And the verdict is in.

By the measures of household budgets, prospects for our children, preserving the most vital public services and dealing with our nation’s debts, the Tory experiment has failed.

Theirs is not a record to run on.

Theirs is a record to run from.

And what is their plan for the next five years?

We learnt that on Friday.

More of the same.

Keep driving along the road to nowhere.

But press down on the accelerator.

Imagine what another five years would mean for you and your family.

The Tories telling you about the good economic news.

But you and your family not having enough to pay the bills at the end of each month.

The Tories telling you that there has never been more opportunity for young people.

But your son or daughter can’t afford to go to university and the only other option is a zero hours job.

The Tories telling you there is a housing boom.

But you not being able to afford a home of your own.

The Tories telling you that the NHS has been protected.

But you not being able to get your operation in time, and the only choice on offer is to go private.

And it’s not just short-term calamities that their policies will wreak.

It’s the long-term impact on our country, as well.

As sure as night follows day, an economy built on the success of a few will never prosper for long.

Britain can do better than this.

Britain must do better than this.

And Britain will do better than this.

2. Labour’s Plan for Britain’s Future

And we will show in the coming months that it doesn’t need to be this way.

Our plan is based on one simple truth – a truth so different from the Tories’ idea – that when your family succeeds, Britain succeeds too.

That’s why it is a plan that puts working people first.

It is a plan that makes real those principles that I talked about at the start.

The principles we’re fighting for.

It is a plan that says that all those who go out to work are as important and valuable to our country as those who get the six figure bonuses.

That means raising the minimum wage to over £8 an hour and dealing with the scandal of zero hour contracts.

It means supporting the wealth creating businesses of the future, in Green industries, that create those good jobs that reward hard work.

In an era of hard choices, it means putting cuts in business rates for small firms that will create most of the jobs of the future, ahead of further tax cuts for large corporations.

Ours is a plan also that says there is nothing more important for our country than opportunities for the young.

We are told by this Government that they are pro-business.

Yet we know that our country is hundreds of thousands short of the number of engineers businesses demand.

And we see this problem throughout our economy: well paid jobs, gone wanting, for people who have the necessary education and training to fill them.

So we will have a revolution in vocational education, so that as many young people leave school to do an apprenticeship as currently go to university.

This, and not slashing wages, is how you win the jobs of the future.

Britain won’t succeed with a Tory race to the bottom.

We need to run a race to the top.

And under a Labour government Britain will win that race.

Our plan is a plan that says that everyone should play by fair rules, and the most powerful interests in our country should be held to account.

Businesses large and small are the lifeblood of our economy.

But the banks and the energy companies have had things their way for too long and need to serve Britain properly.

We will require these businesses to operate in a competitive way, and Britain—all of Britain—will be the better for it.

No more broken markets that work for a few but undermine our economy.

And ours is a plan that will preserve our most vital public services.

Knowing that our NHS is our nation’s greatest treasure, to be protected and nurtured for generations to come.

A guaranteed GP appointment within 48 hours.

A one-week wait for cancer tests.

And a £2.5 billion Time To Care fund to support more midwives, care workers, doctors and nurses.

Yes, assuring decent, timely health care has a cost.

And that’s why we have proposed a Mansion Tax for the very richest to protect and improve the NHS for our entire country.

Something the Tories would never do.

Because we believe that those with the broadest shoulders should bear the greatest burden.

And that is just one example of our plan making different choices than this Government.

And it is by making different choices that we will deal with the deficit responsibly and still meet the obligations to our country’s future.

Ours is a plan to cut the deficit every year and balance the books as soon as possible in the next parliament.

And until that happens it does mean, outside protected areas, spending will be falling, not rising, department by department.

With no proposals in our manifesto funded by additional borrowing.

Not a single one.

Those of us who believe that government has a positive role to play in our nation’s future, know we have a special obligation:

To challenge government to do its work and deliver its services in innovative and more cost-effective ways.

Showing we can do more with less, just like great Labour councils are doing across the country.

Making better decisions, making sure that every pound really counts.

And giving power back to local people.

Ending a century of centralization in our country.

And our plan will also confront other hard truths.

Three million British jobs rest on commerce and trade within the European Union.

Exiting the EU would damage British jobs, British families, British businesses.

I understand the politics that has led the Prime Minister to play risky irresponsible games on the European Union, allowing his party to drift towards exit.

But I won’t.

If you want to know what chaos and a threat to prosperity looks like, just imagine a Tory government riven apart after the next election on Europe.

We must demand reform from Europe—a European Union that works better for Britain.

But make no mistake: exit from the EU would be a dramatic mistake for our country and our economy.

So, whatever the politics, I will not join those who cynically offer exit as a realistic plan for our future or the future of Britain’s working families.

And confronting hard truths extends to the challenge of immigration.

I am the son of immigrants, who came here with nothing.

They benefitted from the opportunities that Britain had to offer and built a life for our family.

And their story is not unique.

For generations, hard-working immigrants, eager to make their way, have helped build our country.

But this party will never again dismiss people’s concerns about immigration.

Britain should not—cannot— close ourselves off from those who can contribute to our economy and our country.

But people want to know that there are fair rules.

Fair rules so that benefits should be earned, so people must contribute before they claim.

And fair rules to prevent businesses from recruiting at slave wages, exploiting migrant labour to undercut pay and conditions.

So this is our plan:

Rewarding hard work and tackling the cost of living crisis.

Providing education and opportunity for all our young people, upon whom Britain’s future relies.

Fair rules for everyone in our country, from top to bottom.

Protecting our NHS.

All built on solid economic foundations.

A plan that puts working people first.

And this plan is not simply about a fairer society.

It is also about a more prosperous one.

Because only by putting working people first can we use the talents of all and succeed as a country.

The Tories think we succeed with a few at the top doing well.

We know we prosper together.

3. The Choice and the Campaign

In the next four months, there will be the usual sound and fury.

But it will all actually come down to something rather simple.

Who we are.

How we want to live together.

And how we succeed as a nation.

This is nothing less than a once in a generation fight about who our country works for.

It is a choice between a Tory plan where only a few at the top can succeed and our public services are threatened.

Or a Labour plan that puts working people first, deals with the deficit and protects our NHS.

We have a Government that will say: stick to their plan.

They really think this is as good as it gets.

That’s because they’re the pessimists about what is achievable for Britain and the British people.

And between now and the election, they will find all kinds of ways to tell you that change isn’t possible.

Just as the pessimists have always done down the years.

That change that puts working people first can’t be done.

But I don’t believe them.

And I don’t think you should believe them either.

We’ve done it before as a country in the face of even greater challenges and we can do it again.

It is seventy years this year since Britain won the Second World War and went on to win the peace.

Think about what they were facing.

That generation didn’t sit back and put up with what it had seen before.

With the dark days of the depression.

The negativity that said there was no other way.

Instead, they started to rebuild.

Rebuild with an economy that works for all working people.

Rebuild by honouring everyone who works hard.

Rebuild by standing up to the powerful forces, those who need to be held to account.

Rebuild by dealing with our debts responsibly for the good of the next generation.

Rebuild by protecting our vital public services, including our NHS.

That’s what our plan for Britain’s future will do.

That will be our task again.

Let’s go out and fight for the chance to make it happen.

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Church leading the way on fight against hunger

foodbank.jpgA shocking 913,138 people in the UK were given three days emergency food and support between 2013 and 2014.  The expanding need for food banks is a ‘phenomenon’ most of us have heard about, but little has been heard from Parliament in terms of practical and clear solutions. It seems a first stage in this battle for change has finally occurred, and it’s the church leading the way.

 

A report, ‘Feeding Britain’ has been published today. It is the result of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger in the United Kingdom, led by Labour MP Frank Field, The Bishop of Truro and largely funded by the Archbishop’s charitable trust. Right from the start the report is clear there needs to be urgent action from our politicians asserting “this simple but devastating fact that hunger stalks this country should confront each of the main political parties with a most basic and fundamental challenge”.

 

It can be difficult to understand the struggle of those using food banks in this country but Welby tries to emphasise the embarrassment and difficulty families in this situation face in an article he wrote for the Mail on Sunday. He describes a family he met, “they were hungry, and ashamed to be hungry”. It seems from articles like these, and from reading the report, that the further the food crisis in this country is researched the more urgent the need to tackle it appears.  Clearly, less time should be wasted explaining who is to blame and all attention should be placed on what can be done to tackle this.

 

The report calls for a £150 million state backed system to combat hunger called ‘Feeding Britain’. This would link together all the organisations and charities currently helping those suffering from hunger and would also call for an increase in the amount of waste food these groups receive, which is currently just 2%. It would also include eight members from the relevant cabinet offices attributed with food provision. The report also goes on to identify benefit sanctions as the single biggest reason for the poor resorting to food banks, highlighting a loss in the margin of income which once allowed families to survive financial crisis.

 

The Arch bishop has urged that the practical recommendations of the report be taken on by politicians, highlighting the need for a wide range of support for the hungry. He also touched on the harshness of benefit sanctions, pointing to a story where a man stopped to help someone on the street “missed his appointment and lost his benefits”. He also makes a point of asserting that having a job does not necessarily take people out of the risk of turning to food banks anymore.

 

The response to the report, and the Archbishop’s comments have been varied. A Cabinet Office spokesperson responded to these comments and the ideas in the report arguing “sticking to this Government’s long term economic plan is the best way to improve living standards”. A Tory has also been reported as arguing the increase in use of the food banks is a result of their higher publicity although it’s clear from the report this is not true. Nick Clegg, on the other hand,  has responded suggesting a ‘traffic light system’ should be put in place so that people get warnings before their benefits are sanctioned.

 

Time and time again the bible tells us God wants us to help the poor. Jesus came not to be served, but to serve – that should be the churches' objective too. This report has put serving others at its heart. Plastered over many newspaper pages this morning, and inevitably filling the conversations, and attention of many key politicians today is what the church has said about the hungry in this nation. The Church has said this needs to end, and the Government and the media have heard – let’s hope these fantastic starting points for a framework to support the work of food banks and tackle hunger at its base are implemented, and soon.

 

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Buxton leadership programme

The Buxton Leadership Programme is currently open for applications for the September 2015 intake.

This is a year-long paid (London Living Wage) internship programme run by the Centre for Theology & Community which combines a placement in Parliament with a community organising placement based at an inner-city Church.

It's a great opportunity for Christians who are interested in public life but feel the need to connect traditional big P politics with local grass-roots and faith-based social action.

For more information please go to http://www.theology-centre.org.uk/projects/training/buxton-leadership-programme

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Jubilee Economics

Jubilee-economics.jpg“Woe to you who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is room for no one but you, and you are left to live alone in the midst of the land!”

Isaiah 5:8

 

 

 

 

The Jubilee Debt campaign has produced a excellent booklet entitled ‘Jubilee Economics – Biblical teaching and financial crisis’ The booklet is free and contains six bible studies on faith and economics.

These include:

  • 1) ‘Good news for the poor’: Why debts should sometimes not be paid

  • 2) ‘Debt jubilees’: What causes positive changes to happen

  • 3) ‘Hoarding wealth’: How inequality causes financial crises

  • 4) ‘Tax injustice’: How rich people are made poor

  • 5) ‘Breaking the mould’: Gender inequality

  • 6) ‘Forgive us our debts’ Who really owes who?

The booklet is a practical resource that challenges and allows us to reflect on how we view money and the economy in light of Jesus teaching.  It is well worth getting a copy.

For further information go to http://jubileedebt.org.uk/reports-briefings/briefing/jubilee-economics-biblical-teaching-financial-crisis

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Our trip to Manchester

If you came to visit us last month in Manchester, we hope you had a great time. We had some fascinating events and got some great feedback from the people who came along. For those who couldn't make it, here's a brief report to give you a flavour. Hopefully, you'll be able to join us in Brighton in 2015!!

Sunday

 

DSCF1603-copy.jpgThe Labour Party began its annual conference in Manchester with a church service. Delegates joined local worshippers at St Ann's Church, where they heard Ruth Valerio, of Christian environmental charity A Rocha UK, call for people to aim to live consistently with their faith. Highlighting Labour's work to combat climate change while in government, she suggested the Party had gone quiet on the issue and that "Labour needs to be noisier on climate change."  http://www.christiansontheleft.org.uk/labour_party_service_where_policy_and_lifestyle_meet

 

During the service, prayers were said for the people of Scotland following the referendum, and Tearfund representatives led prayers for the wider world.

Labour leader Ed Miliband spoke to worshippers after the service, praising the work of Christians on the Left in encouraging more DSCF1698-copy.jpgpeople to become involved in politics. He identified Christians on the Left as "the ethical beating heart of our movement".

Andy Flannagan, Director of Christians on the Left, said:

"Starting conference with a church service is a good way to reflect and check our priorities ahead of a hectic few days. We heard a strong call to put our faith into practice in all parts of our lives, and to speak out too. Climate change is an issue we have a duty to address now, for future generations. Throughout the conference week, Christians on the Left are sharing how faith and politics go together."

During the conference Christians on the left echoed calls made by the Archbishop of Canterbury and other church leaders, for greater support for Christians and other minorities in Iraq and Syria. We also proposed a Contemporary Resolution on the issue, which can be found alongside an article by Political communications Officer Stephen Beer http://www.christiansontheleft.org.uk/we_need_to_take_a_stand

On Sunday evening Christians on the Left held a candlelit vigil for Christians and other minorities persecuted in Iraq and Syria, hearing stories from representatives from OpenDoors Uk. Prayers were also said for the wider Middle East, including Israel/Palestine. 

 

Monday

 

DSCF1799-copy.jpgJohn Denham MP joined us for a lunchtime event entitled ‘Why labour needs faith’ with FaithAction and Sikhs for Labour, where there was an encouraging collective voice from the representatives of all the major faiths.  Daniel Singleton from faith in action made the case that faith is too significant to ignore.’ With John Denham suggesting that with the size of constituency that faith represents, it would be foolish of any government to ignore the contribution faith groups make.

 

At 4:30pm the official party Faith Reception was held. It was so popular that people struggled to get into the event.  This was followed by our evening meeting with Prison Fellowship on Restorative Justice. We heard Inspiring transformative stories from those helped by the restorative justice work of Prison Fellowship - all heard and affirmed strongly by Shadow Prisons Minister Jenny Chapman MP. DSCF1843-copy.jpg

 

 

Tuesday

 

Tuesday began with the annual Christians on the Left conference prayer breakfast. This year we held it with International Justice Mission which works to secure justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation, and other forms of violent oppression.  We were also pleased to be joined by Free Church leaders who were visiting the conference.

 

DSCF1931-copy.jpgIt was great to hear of justice and freedom being worked out, not only as a concept but also in reality.

 

Christians on the Left volunteers also took part in a 5 Live radio debate on Tuesday morning.

 

 

 

 

The big event at Conference on Tuesday of course was Ed Miliband's speech. In a wide ranging speech, he focused on working together to build a better future for the country. He made six key pledges on how Labour would make this happen if elected in May 2015. http://www.labour.org.uk/blog/entry/2014-labour-conference-speech

 

On Tuesday evening we brought together Labour Party members and others to discuss what a manifesto for the common good should look like in 2020. Rushanara Ali talked us through the challenges facing communities. Naill Cooper of Church Action on Poverty helped organise us, as we discussed inequality and climate change. Our fringe meeting was a great example of how we work - bringing faith & politics together & being a bridge between church and politics

 

Iraq and Syria

 

Stephen Beer and fellow Christians on the left delegate Helen Dennis worked at Conference to highlight the plight of persecuted minorities in Iraq and Syria. Although the resolution on the issue was not debated, Stephen was able to question our shadow foreign, defence, and international development secretaries at a delegates briefing and call for more action on humanitarian aid and provision for asylum. Christians on the Left will continue to campaign on this issue.

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LABOUR PARTY SERVICE: WHERE POLICY AND LIFESTYLE MEET

ruth2.jpgOn Sunday 21st September, delegates for the labour party conference joined local worshippers at St Ann's Church, where they heard Ruth Valerio, of Christian environmental charity A Rocha UK, call for people to aim to live consistently with their faith.

Below is the text from her excellent talk.

"LABOUR PARTY SERVICE: WHERE POLICY AND LIFESTYLE MEET"

 Intro

Good morning everyone and congratulations on making it so early, it’s lovely to be here.

 I want to talk this morning about the story of Joseph

I’ve got two daughters – 14 and 11- and they’re discovering nostalgia, a trip down memory-lane. They’re enjoying remembering things they used to like, getting stuff out and enjoying them again (I went into our TV room the other day to discover Jemba watching Tellytubbies with great excitement!).

 One of the areas they’re having great fun over is music: listening to things they used to love listening to when they were little  - things I thought I’d never have to listen to these things again…!).

So, my journey to Greenbelt this year was spent listening to the Mr Men and Little Misses (and even a bit of S Club 7 – how on earth did that get into the car?!).

On the journey back we had to listen to ‘Joseph and His Technicoloured Dreamcoat’ (believe me I know all the words), and it got me thinking as I listened (again…!) to the story unfolding.

 As the Labour Party Conf begins this morning, there are three things that I see coming out for us from this story.

 Firstly, I see in Joseph a person who was called to save lives

(‘What you meant for harm, God meant for good, for the saving of many lives’ Gen. 50:20)

 Joseph was called to save lives: not just that of his own and his family, or even of the nation that he lived in, but the lives of all the nations effected by the famine.

One of the things that Labour has been so good at is reaching beyond individual self-interest to demonstrating a real concern for global issues of poverty and injustice:

Creating DFID, putting us as a country on track to spending .7% of GNI on aid, Blair’s ‘Commission for Africa’ before the 2005 Gleneagles Summit, Gordon Brown’s continuing emphasis on global education, and so on, were all fruit of Labour putting the needs of developing countries at the heart of its agenda.

This morning I want to remind you of that and encourage you not to forget your calling to be putting the needs of the poorest in our world central to what you do.

I know there are a whole host of important issues pressing for attention over the next few day: lots of things on the agenda, the press is full of things this morning; you’ve got a manifesto to work on, leadership questions to wrestle with, the NHS to consider etc. But in the midst of all these things, remember that you are here to serve the needs of the poorest of the poor, around the world and also here in the UK.

It’s a key part of what the Gospel of Jesus is all about.

Secondly, I see the wisdom of Pharoah: because he took notice of his dreams and heeded the warning that they contained.

Did you look at your Twitter feed this morning? Mine was full of the Climate March.

In just a few hours, hundreds of thousands of people around the world will be marching, calling on their political leaders to take meaningful action on climate change in the upcoming talks. I’d be there myself with my children if I wasn’t here. Greg is going to the march in Chichester  (although sadly I can guarantee there won’t be many at that one!!!).

My favourite line in ‘Joseph’ is when Joseph says to Pharoah: ‘that dream you saw in your pyjamas is a long-range forecast for your farmers’.

Isn’t that brilliant?! What a fantastic line!

It strikes me as ironic that all it needed for Pharoah to take action against climate disaster were some kooky dreams. We have the best scientific analysis and consensus this world has ever seen and still we do not act. I’d like to pray for some dreams for our global leaders tonight that might wake them up and shake them up and cause them to take action!

As Labour you were responsible for bringing in the first Climate Change Act in 2008, establishing the world’s first legally binding carbon targets; you established DECC, Brown commissioned the first Stern Review and put serious effort into Copenhagen in 2009, during which time of course, the very lovely Ed Miliband was Sec of State.

It’s time now for Labour to get noisy again about climate change, to heed the long-range (and short-range) forecast for our farmers that we are constantly being given by climate scientists.

With the General Election looming, the UN Development Summit next September, and next December’s COP meeting, I want to call on Labour at this conference to set out a strong stall on what climate action looks like, to make it central to the manifesto, and to remember that we need to bring ecology, economy and human flourishing together in order to deliver for society.

To me, if we are going to do this, climate action has to move beyond carbon emissions targets. Let’s face it, despite all our targets our emissions have been rising not going down. We can set all the targets we want but they’ll do nothing unless we:

-          challenge continued fossil fuel extraction

-          challenge continued consumption.

This is unpopular I know, but it gets to the heart of the issues around climate change.

Again, a full understanding of the Gospel of Jesus  (which sees redemption and salvation as encompassing the whole creation and not only human beings) can ask for nothing less.

3. But, finally, there’s one problem with talking about Joseph: it’s a lovely story isn’t it, that makes a great story in Sunday School, but it ends on a sour note because he got caught up in the very system that should have been there to help others. (look at Gen 47:13-21 and see how Joseph ended up effectively putting the whole nation into slavery and dispossessing them of their land.)

He got caught up in the power and the fame and the privilege and the prestige. And the story of Joseph contains this sour note as he ends up using the good that he is doing actually to build a better life to his own advantage.

In essence, he forgot what he was called to do.

If we want politics to look different, we have to live different and not just talk. There is a challenge here (for all of us, but particularly those of you here who are MPs and Parliamentary Candidates) not to allow yourselves to become disengaged from your communities but to bring your whole lives in line with what you want your policies to be; living with integrity on the ground what you are saying in public.

That might mean making some tough lifestyle choices. It might mean choosing to stay in the house that you’re living in rather than moving upwardly to a nicer one (or maybe for some of you who have made that move already you might need to move back down again…). It might mean changing the sorts of people who you have round for dinner. It might mean taking time regularly simply just to walk around parts of your constituency, noting what’s going on around you – detail that can be missed if you’re hurrying from meeting to meeting in a car. You’ll know what it means for you in your situation.

Conclusion

So, let’s be like Joseph: called to save lives

Let’s be like Pharoah: taking notice of the climate predictions and acting wisely.

And let’s make sure that we live with integrity and bring policy and lifestyle together.

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We need to take a stand

Who-is-Isis-017.jpgHorrific stories are continuing to emerge from Iraq and Syria. It is time to take a bigger and bolder stand, through actions as well as words. That’s what Christians on the Left calls for in our resolution to Labour Conference.

 

We are hoping and praying that the latest British hostage threatened by ISIL will be released, along with others held captive. The executions of western hostages are very public examples of the atrocities this group is committing on a large scale. Across large parts of Syria and Iraq, innocent people are being murdered, kidnapped, and persecuted. The terror is focused on minorities, particularly Christians. Our friends in the NGO community report that over a million people have been displaced, with hundreds of thousands in hastily erected tents in Northern Iraq (see reports from Tearfund and Christian Aid for example). Christians have been executed, reportedly including by crucifixion. Others have been forced to renounce their faith at gunpoint. Women have been ‘divorced’ from their husbands and sold as sex slaves.  Children have been kidnapped to be raised as adherents to ISIL’s extremist ideology.

 

As Archbishop of Canterbury Revd Justin Welby said last month:

“What we are seeing in Iraq violates brutally people’s rights to freedom of religion and belief, as set out under Article 18 of the Displaced-Yazidi-people-013.jpgUniversal Declaration of Human Rights. It is extremely important that aid efforts are supported and that those who have been displaced are able to find safety. I believe that, like France, the United Kingdom’s doors should be open to refugees, as they have been throughout history. The international community must document human rights abuses being committed in northern Iraq so that future prosecutions can take place. It is important and necessary for the international community to challenge the culture of impunity which has allowed these atrocities to take place.”

 

He later described the atrocities as “off the scale of human horror.” It is particularly sobering to recall that fellow British citizens are some of the perpetrators.

 

Christians have been targeted, as have been people in other minorities including Muslims and Yazidis.

 

Some countries are taking action, by providing humanitarian aid for example, but at the moment it is unlikely to be enough. More aid is desperately needed – and we must ensure it gets to where it is needed. The UK is one of those nations providing assistance but it is hampered by at least three factors. The government does not have a clear foreign and defence policy (as seen in recent article-2665670-1F09949300000578-823_964x845.jpgconfusion between the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary regarding airstrikes). The government is also wary of acting without the support of other countries in the region. Finally, it is probably unsure of how much support there is in the UK for taking more action.

 

The Labour Party should provide some clarity on the latter point. We need to make a clear statement of support for those people in Iraq and Syria who are suffering now. And we need to press for action to back up those words.  After all, “faith without deeds is useless” (James 2:20). We should start with Archbishop Welby’s call for action. That means more sustained humanitarian aid and the offer of asylum to those most in danger. There also needs to be more resources to enable the international community to document human rights abuses and bring people to justice. Finally, if we can prevent more massacres, and if we can be confident we will not make things worse, we should do so. If we can protect, we should. Or at least, let us have that debate – and quickly – so we know when we should intervene. The terrible errors over the invasion of Iraq should not make us forget bitter lessons from inaction in Rwanda and Srebenica. Whatever our opinion on that particular issue, on the persecution of minorities in Iraq and Syria, we need to take a stand.

 

 

Stephen Beer

Stephen Beer is our Political Communications officer and a Christians on the Left delegate to this year’s Labour Party Conference. He blogs at www.stephenbeer.com .

 

 

Christians on the Left has a Contemporary Resolution approved for ballot at Labour Conference this Sunday.  Please support it and urge your Labour friends to do so too.

 

The resolution reads as follows:

 

 

Labour Party Conference 2014

Contemporary Resolution 

 

Conference notes the rapid advances made over the summer by ISIL, also known as Islamic State or ISIS, in Iraq and Syria. This organisation is motivated by an extremist ideology that is contrary to mainstream religious faith. ISIL has systematically targeted minority Christian, Muslim, Yazidi and other communities. It has brutally slaughtered many, often via beheadings or crucifixions. It has kidnapped and abused women, and driven people from their homes. Thousands are now homeless, having been forced from homes where their families have lived and practised their faith for thousands of years. This continues a trend seen throughout the Middle East in recent years.

 

Conference condemns unreservedly the actions of ISIL and in particular the atrocities it is committing. Conference calls on the UK government and the international community to substantially increase the humanitarian aid effort to the region, via both airdrops and conventional means, and ensure targeted aid is sustained.  We call on the government to play its part to protect minorities under attack or facing oppression, and to work alongside organisations in the area promoting religious tolerance. Conference calls on the government to allocate asylum places to some of the most in need, in line with our European partners. We stand together with oppressed and powerless minorities that have been targeted, and with all those working for peace, unity, and tolerance in the Middle East.

 

 

 

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Uncover the hidden plague the world has missed

Sometimes when we see the reality of the suffering in the world around us, we want to close our eyes and forget what we’ve seen. Because if we were to acknowledge the plague of violence that has swept across our world, we would feel compelled to act.

That was the experience of Gary Haugen, founder of International Justice Mission. Upon serving in Rwanda as the United Nations’ Director of Investigations following the genocide, he was so impacted by all that he saw, that he had to act. His response was to found IJM, a global organisation that protects the poor from violence throughout the developing world.

Why violence? Because the threat of violence is part of everyday life for the poor; it’s as much a part of poverty as hunger, disease or homelessness. Because it is devastating our global efforts to end poverty; the poorest are so poor because their justice systems don’t protect them from violent people. 

This reality has been proven true for millions of children, women and men.

THIS IS THEIR EVERYDAY

Mariamma* had been working in a brick factory for years. She couldn’t leave the factory and was beaten by the man who owns her. Everything about this is completely illegal, but the man who hadenslaved her made no effort to hide what hewas doing — because exploiting an impoverished woman like Mariamma is ordinary.

In Mariamma’s own words:

“The cruelty — we have to take it, because we don’t have money or power. The police will believe [our owner] and not us because we are slaves…”

Laura* was only 10 years old, but already knew that every day held reasons to fear violence. In the slum where she lived, most daily tasks weren’t safe:
Her community wasn’t safe: she was on her way to the community toilet when she wassexually assaulted by a neighbour.
The walk to school wasn’t safe: She was on her way to class when she was assaulted again — by a different neighbour.
And even her home wasn’t safe: she was trapped in a nightmare of relentless abuse from her own father.

Susan* is a Ugandan grandmother who wasviolently thrown from her home by a man determined to take her small patch of land.It’s a common nightmare for many women in her community. When Susan left her home for a night to attend a wedding in another village, her neighbour literally toredown her home, so he could take the little patch of land it sat on.

An elderly woman already bearing the heavy burdens of trying to scratch out survival for herself and her grandkids, what could Susan do? There was no one standing up for women like her.Thrown from her home, she had no shelter, no place to grow food and no garden for income.

Nonita* was lured from her hometown by traffickers promising a high-paying job, but she soon learned it was a lie. Nonita realised she would be forced to line up in a room to be sold to men for sex, she said she was “shocked and terrified.”

“I have the right to stand up for myself. I have the right to be loved.” – Survivor ‘Bill of Rights’ written by Nonita and other survivors

All of the above are actual IJM client stories.  But for each of them, their story differed from those of millions of others in one crucial way: they have all been brought out of the darkness of everyday violence into the light of freedom andgiven hope for the future. They have all been able to make their voice heard so that justice can be proven possible. 

IJM protects the poor from violence by partnering with local authorities to: rescue victims; bring criminals to justice; restore survivors to safety and strength; and strengthenjustice systems, helping local law enforcement build a safe future that lasts.

YOU CAN HELP CHANGE THEIR EVERYDAY

We believe the work of justice begins with prayer. As we seek justice on behalf of others, we rely on a God of strength to help us do what is only possible with and through Him.

Join us at the Friends Meeting House, Manchester on Tuesday 23rd September for the Labour Party Conference Prayer Breakfast, led by IJM. Learn more about everyday violence, pray for an end to this hidden plague and be inspired to take up the call for justice. 

*A pseudonym has been used for the protection of this IJM client.

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Faith: too significant to ignore

In the FaithAction offices earlier this year, when we began knocking around ideas for a phrase to serve as a discussion starter, we had no idea of how potent it would become. What a difference a couple of months can make. When we first discussed ‘Too Significant to Ignore’, the Birmingham ‘Trojan Horse’ had not yet reared its head, the ‘Arab Spring’ could still be viewed as a positive thing, not many of us knew the Arabic symbol for N (Nazarene)and the Trussell Trust –they behind the nation’s Food Banks – seemed to be the only effective voice holding the Government reform agenda to account.

In spite of David Cameron’s declaration that Great Britain is a Christian countryfaith seemed to be far from the centre of the public discourse. This statement of personal opinion is very much in contrast with, for example, the Office of Faith-basedinitiatives in the White House, now an established part of bothRepublican and Democratic administrations.

Over the next few weeks, we will be talking more on the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Faith and Society’s work around the Covenant, which local authorities and local faith organisations are signing in commitment to work together to serve their communities.

But things have moved on. Faith, for better or worse, is too significant to ignoreAnd yet, again and again, faith is notplanned for, but merely reacted to; which is surely absurd fornon-government institutions that still serve as a point of connection for over half the population of the UK. Most of those who own a faith may not see this as a disadvantage, but as a key part of what makes them who they are. And, yes,some are willing to die for it! That doesn’t seem like something that should just be passed over.

And what of those Food Bank volunteers? Often, they are people of faith coming face-to-face with poverty and needsthat many of us struggle to comprehend as being part of UK society. It is a concern, maybe, for Conservative CentralOffice to see the older white middle class woman on TV; wearing Trussell Trust aprons, discussing the needy folk they meet every day, and looking awkward when asked about the state of benefits system.

Faith is not all fanaticism or flakiness – it cannot be confined to one day a week, and it can cause people to act outside of what can be considered their own best interest for a greater good. Here are some examples of people I know: Faith causes a Christian couple in London to open their home to strangers needing a bed for the night after sleeping rough; the Gurdwarain Birmingham (like so many throughout the UK,) feedswhoever comes to the door; those who give their time to mentoring young people who have never had a consistentadult interest in their lives. Then there are those who are risking their well-being overseas; pastors who won’t abandon their flock even in the face of Ebola in West Africa; those who are organising aid to respond to the needs in Syria and Iraq despite risk to life and reputation.

Faith has far more significance and impact for good, whichthis country has not yet grasped.

The Blue Labour movement in the Labour Party, with its roots in Christian Socialism and connection of family, flag andfaith, gives a prominence of consideration to the role faith can play in party politics.

Over the next little while, we will be challenging the politicalparties regarding their response and plan for faith. Why not join us and ask your local politicians the same?

Tell them that faith is too significant to ignore!

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Your message to Iraqi and Syrian Christians

"Please pray for us who had to leave their homes by force in Iraq because of the situation. Please pray for protection, peace and provision to our families." (Iraqi viewer of SAT-7)

Christian Satellite 7 which broadcasts into Iraq and Syria wants people to show support to the Christians of Iraq and Syria by writing prayers or a message of love which may get read out, or shown on screen to viewers in the region.

 “The Supreme Council of the Evangelical Community in Syria and Lebanon said the killings and religious "cleansing" by "the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)...verge on being a bona fide genocide", which combined with the "catastrophic" three-year conflict in Syria, have created an "existential threat" to Christians and other minorities in the Middle East.” (SAT-7)

If you wish to give a message of support go to http://www.sat7uk.org/Campaigns/loveIraq

Christians on the left will also be holding a prayer event 10pm to 10:30pm for the Middle East this Sunday 21st Sep. Those of us who are at Labour Party Conference will be meeting in Lincoln Square for a Candlelit Vigil. (Brazenose St, M2 5LN) - very close to the conference venue.

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