busy…

over the last couple of weeks, more and more opportunities for community ministry have come my way – chance encounters with local authority figures and local agencies, more formalised “community networking events” opening up huge possibilities for the church, and also affirming what the church is already doing in this place.

Some of this has been fantastic- opportunities to be innovative and think beyond individual remits, to look at how we can collaborate in care & service with those who live in this community. Some of it unfortunately has been the more bland “this is what we do and nothing is going to change that”. unfortunately for the conservative thinkers and the organisational dinosaurs – their budgets will change it, whether they like it or not.

The truth is, stuff needs to change. local government agencies need to work across boundaries and remits in order to develop a more realistic, financially viable and whole-person centred service. And the church needs to be involved in that, to value what is, and to help form what can be, rather than providing “Christian” versions of stuff that works. to surround the good with thankfull and hopeful prayer, and to aid in the changes to the stuff that doesn’t.

I despise the “Big Society” agenda pushers and hobby-horsers, finding much of the political language of it distatestful and occasionally downright dishonest. But language of co-operation, collaboration, of seeking to work with and talk with people (rather than “at” or “for”) seems a good thing, regardless of financial climate and budget cuts. One of the biggest hurdles will be getting past the institutional barriers of information sharing, whilst still maintaining privacy and dignity of the individual – but that is starting and it is good!

Rima Update

Nicked without apology from Gadgetvicar’s blog (and I know he won’t mind in the slightest!):

Many readers will know about the St Silas’ couple who are fostering a young Eritrean asylum seeker, Rima Andmariam. They are on television (BBC1) in Scotland only on Wednesday 19th May at 22:45. The programme is called “Truth, Lies, and Asylum Seekers” and is a full-length documentary about the situations of three asylum seekers in Glasgow. The story of their family is one of the three. It is also available on Sky 971.

With a new Parliament and a new Government and a new Home Secretary there is a fresh opportunity to bring Rima’s case to the attention of new Ministers.

Robert and Alison write:

Our campaign is entering a new critical phase. Rima will turn 18 on 1st July, and the law covering her situation changes. There is a good chance that the Border Agency will try to deport her soon after then if we have not managed some progress either legally or politically beforehand. However, we have new MPs and a new UK government is in power, so now we are able to resume campaigning.

Thanks to your support, our MP, John Robertson, did write to the former Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, on Rima’s behalf just before Parliament was dissolved, asking that at the very least she be given the opportunity to claim asylum in the UK. Unfortunately the reply he received simply announced that with Parliament being dissolved and the election period imminent no action could be taken. In addition, Catherine Stihler, our MEP, raised a question in the European Parliament (thanks to Rima’s friend Douglas, aged 8) and has received a full and helpful reply from President Barroso, President of the European Commisson.

A new range of letters is suggested, depending on who was elected to Westminster in your constituency. We do not believe at this stage that we need more letters to MSPs or the Scottish Government at the moment, but Scots may wish to write to the new Scottish Secretary as well as to their MP. This is especially worth while given the announcement by the new Prime Minister, David Cameron, that there will be full co-operation with then Scottish Government on all issues. Please do personalise the letters as much as you feel able, and have time for. The more individual a letter the more impact it makes on all of these politicians and their administrative assistants.

Sample letters are available at:

http://www.letrimastay.org.uk/

ACTIONS

As a first priority please write to the new Home Secretary, Theresa May. See Letter A

If your MP was re-elected, then you could use one of this range of letters:

B1 – If they have already expressed support

B2 – If they have expressed support and you know they have had a reply from the Home Office

B3 – if they have refused to express support

If your MP has now become a Government minister, it is well worth congratulating them on that also. To our surprise, a number of Cabinet Ministers in the previous Government were very positive in their replies to constituents, so there is no reason why the same should not apply to the new ones. You might mention this to them, to encourage a positive response. If you have friends in the constituency of the new Home Secretary (Theresa May, Maidenhead) or Immigration Minister (Damien Green, Ashford), could you ask them particularly to write to them as their constituency MP.

If you have a new MP, then you should use letter C1. MP’s who have been helping us with our campaign have informed us that where new MP’s have been elected then previous files are closed. So where there are new MP’s I’m afraid we need to start again, on the ground.

If, as a Scot, you want to write to the new Scottish Secretary, Danny Alexander, you could use letter C2.

We are also printing up a new Postcard, addressed to Theresa May. Let us know if you would like some of these for your friends and contacts to use.

Please also send hard copies of all your letters to Rima’s named UKBA ‘case worker’:-

Liam Fenning,

Third Country Unit, UKBA

7th Floor

Green Park House

29 Wellesley Road

Croydon

Surrey CR0 2AJ

did it make a difference?

so we all went and voted – lots of us anyway.  and now we have the largely expected hung parliament.  Its going to be interesting to see which way the libdems hop as the offers for coalition com flying their way.  I’m hoping they dont go with the tories, although that would give a largely blue team some legitimacy in Scotland, as the libs did reasonably well in the north.

Why dont the Scots want the tories, after 12 years of labour power and Blairite politics?  The answer to that lies in the long memories up here – closing the mines, being experimented on with community charge and poll tax, the sense of increased isolation from decision making.  Lots of anger and hurt still abound in the Scottish towns and villages which  lost so many services, people and any sense of community in those times and since.  And fear that with a blue team in leadership more of the same will happen. Not surprising, and the industrial north of England is wary for the same, or similar reasons.

Whatever happens over the next few days, its a time to pray for those who will lead – that they will care more about the people they are serving than their own sense of importance, that they will lead with integrity, courage and justice to get us through the tough times we are in.  Whoever ends up resident in Downing Street and sitting in the front benches at Westminster is going to have a tough job convincing themselves and us that they can do something useful.

The Iron Wall

Tomorrow Night (Monday 15 march) Kathy Galloway (Christian Aid Scotland and the Iona Community) will be in Jordanhill Parish Church introducing The Iron Wall .  Following the duccumentary she will chair discussion of the issues it highlights regarding Israeli/Palestionian partition and settlement building, and how this affects the peace process.  7pm Memorial Hall, all are welcome.

asylum issues

Letter back today from John Robertson, MP for NW Glasgow, concerning Rima. No promises made (of course), but he is on board and fully aware of the situation, and awaiting updates on the case. See news of Rima’s case here

Meanwhile other families struggle – one family in Glasgow jumping to their deaths from the 15th floor of the Red Road flats after being told their application to remain had been refused, it seems.  The full story is not yet known, but such desperation is heartbreaking!

The manner in which people are assessed, informed and held in this country needs to change, before more desperate and vulnerable people make the choice between death or return to what they have fled. We need to remember that not all asylum seekers are simply here on an “economic ticket” as some would have us believe – but that their reasons for coming to our shores are varied, desperate and nearly always enveloped in vulnerability and fear.

see also Fr kenny and Gadgetvicar for more info.

Scotland’s shame

another news story of children being held at Dungavel Deportation Detention Centre.  Seven years on from the big campaigns and the vote at Holyrood to end child detention in Dungavel, nothing has changed and it is heartbreaking.  Its an adult facility, with the various problems of adult incarceration mingled with the fears of being shipped off to God knows where (or  back to the place where life was worse!)  Surrounded by high fencing and razorwire, for a few days maybe, possibly longer – even one day is too long for frightened and vulnerable bairns, and I dont care how pretty the’ve made it seem on the inside!  Kids deserve better than this in a country where they hoped for help.  There has to be a better solution for families and children who haven’t managed to gain leave to stay in this country.