By Captain Annette Booth
A year ago, I attended a meeting about asylum seeking in the UK and learnt that many people were being housed near me in the North-West of England by the Home Office. Individuals and families were placed in shared accommodation, most with little English language, whilst they awaited their asylum decisions.
I asked what the best way was to make contact, and was told to knock on doors and ask people directly. I went home dismayed and began to pray that God would help these hidden people find their way to us, at The Salvation Army Corps in Bootle.
And they started to come….
Continue reading “Refugee Week 2: ‘And they started to come…’ – welcoming refugees at Bootle Salvation Army”
by Lieutenant Sam Tomlin
When I was advertising the information evening for the community sponsorship of refugees in our local community, I put a post on our local community Facebook page. One of the first responses I had was from a lady who said something along the lines of: ‘Why are you letting these people in when our people don’t have anywhere to live?’ Someone else piped up calling her a racist bigot who didn’t care about the horrors Syrian refugees had been through, and this continued back and forth for a few hours until the moderator took the discussion down.
To whom do we owe our love? Two competing answers to this question were rehearsed in this short Facebook exchange which seemed to encapsulate the divisions that had been building for decades in Western nations, brought to light so evidently with Brexit and Trump. Continue reading “Refugee Week 1: Why Should Christians Welcome Refugees?”
By Nick Coke
This article first appeared in the January-February 2017 edition of ‘The Officer’ magazine and is re-published with permission.
Bob Dylan is my hero. There, I’ve gone and said it! Some might laugh at the suggestion, others cringe and perhaps there are even those who wonder who on earth he is. Let me help you understand.
Bob Dylan is an American singer and songwriter, born Robert Zimmerman in Minnesota in 1941. Rising to prominence as a folk singer, he is accredited as a pioneer of the 1960s counterculture and the voice of a generation. His early songs accompanied the civil rights movement, and he even shared a stage with Martin Luther King on the day the Rev King delivered his ‘I have a dream’ speech in 1963.
Continue reading “The Times they are a-changin’”
We’re delighted to announce that Marching Towards Justice (Marchando Hacia La Justicia) is now available in Spanish. It can be downloaded for free here on The Centre of Theology and Community website. Thanks to our friends in The Salvation Army USA Eastern territory for their support!
By Major Nick Coke
Look at this photo. What do you see? It’s a typical Christmas scene – The Salvation Army band out carolling. ‘It’s not Christmas until I’ve heard the Salvation Army band’, I can almost hear someone say. It looks a little chilly but even from this distance I can sense that warm, fuzzy feeling inside as the music rises and falls in my imagination. Strangely comforting, hopeful, beautiful.
Now take another look, but let’s turn the photo around. Same band, different perspective. This is not your usual carolling gig. This is a band playing carols for justice outside the Houses of Parliament. On this night they played for unaccompanied refugee children who remain stranded far from home.
Standing nearby as the band played, I sensed the power of the Christmas story confronting a dark world in which children flee war and poverty only to be turned away. Together with 400 others from a wide spectrum of faith and civil society organizations we called on Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, to ensure Britain plays its part in welcoming 1000 children to our shores. This year we’re up to 800, but surely we can make room for a few more this Christmas. There is room in the inn! There are those ready and willing to give shelter and a warm welcome.
Together we sang a few especially adapted carols, accompanied by the band. New words to favourite tunes – here’s one:
‘In the bleak midwinter
Far away from home;
Children sleep as refugees
Scared and alone;
Snow is falling, snow on snow
In the bleak mid-winter
Not that long ago.
The streets they cannot hold them
Nor makeshift camps sustain;
The fear is that they’ll flee away
While confusion reigns:
In this bleak mid-winter
No stable place will do
Each child needs a place of rest,
Just like me and you.
What can we give them,
Civilians as we are?
If I were an MP
I would write a law;
If I were prime minister
I would do my part;
Yet what we can we give them –
A welcome from the heart.’
Here’s a thought. Why not use these words at a carol service this Sunday? And as you do, consider what you can do to help unaccompanied refugee children. Restart The Rescue Christmas Carols can be downloaded by clicking the link and a petition signed here.
Guest post by Cadet Lottie Milner
Last July, as a young adult member of The Salvation Army Corps in Stepney, I was invited to take part in a BBC Radio 4 recorded discussion, marking the launch into the Citizens UK Commission into Islam, Participation and Public Life. Gathered together in a room in the East London Mosque were a group of young people from different backgrounds, responding to comments made by David Cameron in his speech about extremism, and discussing the young British Muslim identity. I heard a cry of pain graciously articulated amongst those present that I had not fully recognised before. My eyes were opened for the first time to how multi-faceted the issues facing British Muslims are. We could never have imagined the situation that we see now, a year later.
Continue reading “Us Together: Commission on Islam, Participation and Public Life.”
Salvationists from 9 corps across London joined with friends and neighbours in a powerful act of solidarity in anxious times. Here’s a reflection from someone who took part.
Guest post by Lieutenant Lee Raggett
Yesterday London Citizens joined together to stand outside 30 stations across London to change a dark narrative that has been stirring in the city. Some say it’s a result of the ‘leave’ decision – others say that it’s been there all along. We stood because we believe in a different story!
I stood because my friend A was told to ‘f off back to Poland’ – she’s German and she works hard helping mums to be and sitting with new mums through difficult early days of parenting. I stood because I heard the British-African lady crying into her phone in fear of hatred. I stood because I saw the young Polish mum take abuse at the checkout. I couldn’t change her attackers hatred but I could show her love. I stood because I believe that in the end love is stronger than hate.
Continue reading “#LoveLondon. #NoPlaceforHate.”
by Nick Coke and John Clifton
Let’s get a few things straight from the outset.
One of us voted in, the other out. Neither of us are racist, nor are we members of a sneering elite. We’re not interested in blame, counter-blame or accusation. We agree on this: neither remaining in nor leaving the EU is the answer to all the questions that the people of the UK are asking.
We both live in London although we’re not from London. One of us grew up in the post-industrial north of England, the other in various countries around the world. We have both spent years investing in people at all levels of society because that’s what Salvation Army officers are called to do. We both love Jesus and try to follow him. We both love politics and get involved where we are.
Whilst we voted differently we share a vision of what’s next in a post-Brexit Britain. It is not theory. We know it works because we’ve done it, experienced it, seen people empowered by it, tasted God’s kingdom in it and seen communities changed by it. We describe it here as a picture of hope.
And, of course, hope is an action.
Continue reading “Five Ways to Live Post-Brexit”
Guest Post by Captain Emma Scott
“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” Deitrich Bonhoeffer
A week on from the Orlando shooting, in a bar where people who identify as being part of the LGBTQI community, having tweeted, retweeted, facebooked and commented on Facebook I find myself unable to not say more.
Last week Nick Coke posted about social justice, what it is and why we should be involved in it. Having read this article before I think I had not previously registered the quote he makes “We don’t do social justice – we live justly.” And yet I find myself asking whether this really is the case? Do I live my life as if justice is the only way to go? From an early age I have been fascinated by justice and equality and as an adult this has only deepened. My heart physically hurt last week as I heard about the shootings in Orlando and yet as I began reading social media it only set about causing more pain because my friends, people I love, felt unheard, they felt unrepresented in the reporting and they felt alone. What pained me even more was that my friends who are part of my faith and church felt this way too. BBC Newsbeat posted an article by Amelia Butterfly who wrote that Dr Paul Colton the “Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross…says when many religious people do not “include LGBT people” in daily life, “prayers are shallow”.
Continue reading “I can’t stay silent”
This article first appeared in the Salvationist magazine and is published with permission.
By Nick Coke
I hear the same question all the time. Essentially it’s this: I know we should fight for social justice, but how do we actually do it?
In terms of theological, devotional and motivational material urging us forward in the fight we have never had it so good. The biblical mandate for action is being preached with new fervour in the light of austerity, political upheaval and the refugee crisis. Resources are plentiful – campaign material regularly finds its way into our letterbox, email inbox and social media feeds. Dutifully we follow the instructions to pray, fundraise, get informed and click on the link to another petition website. Online activity in the cause of social change has led to the coining of a new word – ‘clicktivism’. Apparently we’re clicking like we’ve never clicked before. Yet beneath it all comes that nagging question – is any of this really making a difference? It all feels so detached. There’s surely more to justice-seeking than this.
Ten years ago those nagging doubts started my journey towards a more active justice-seeking faith. What follows are four lessons I have learnt along the way. I share them with the hope they might provoke and encourage you a little.
LIVING A JUST LIFE
The beginning of justice-seeking is neither an action nor a programme. As an officer once reminded me: ‘We don’t do social justice – we live justly.’ In Salvation Army theology it springs from our holiness teaching, where the inner life of a believer, orientated around a relationship with God, spills over into public life. Faith may be personal but it’s never private. The inner working of our hearts is manifested in hundreds of actions and decisions we make every day. Living a just life begins with how we treat others, who we include, how we use our wealth and time. This applies to those closest to us, neighbours and work colleagues, our corps family and, by extension, the whole of humanity. The rather wonderful truth I’ve discovered is that the more I’ve chased personal holiness the more compelled I’ve been to seek a just world and the more justice-seeking I’ve engaged with the more convicted I’ve been about personal transformation.
MOVING TO THE EDGES
While justice begins with God, it clearly involves people. In the Exodus story the groans of the Israelite slaves rise up before God and initiate a social justice movement (Exodus 2:23–25). In today’s world we constantly hear the groans for ourselves – the low-paid worker at the food bank, the refugee, the homeless and the discriminated against. Most of us long to end such suffering. The uncomfortable truth, however, is that real justice-seeking compels us to move to the edges and experience first-hand the sufferings of others before we can act. There really is no other way. Of course when we get there we discover God is well ahead of us.
In justice-seeking circles I hear the phrase ‘being a voice for the voiceless’ over and over again. But true justice- seeking demands something more costly and sacrificial than speaking on someone’s behalf from a safe distance. Far better to stand with someone as they find a voice of their own. To sit with the homeless person who just got
evicted unfairly, to listen to the asylum seeker who was mistreated at the immigration centre, to turn up at the mosque that has just been daubed with anti-Muslim graffiti. When we personally connect with the issue then we really start to get stuck in.
FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT
Once personally involved in the sufferings of others, it is tempting to offer charity and stop there. We meet the need, bandage the wound and move on. Most likely people will call us saints.
Justice-seeking, however, walks a different path as we seek to move beyond the sticking plaster to tackle the root cause. Careful analysis is required to unearth the issue, to research in detail the layers behind it and to identify those with power to change things. When working for change, moments will come when we face challenge. Earthly and spiritual powers will do their best to block our way. Disturbing the status quo or pointing out an injustice will not always make us friends. No longer will
everyone call us saints and some will consider us troublemakers. This is often where we begin to falter. We like to be popular. History, however, reminds us that justice is always, always a struggle. We must purposely and prayerfully push on.
POLITICS, BUT NOT AS YOU KNOW IT
The final stage is to move from a protest voice on the margins into the corridors of power, where decisions are made. Forcing your way into this space can happen only when we organise ourselves to be powerful enough for decision-makers to take notice. This is the work of politics – not party politics – but community-based, people politics. And this is where corps and centres come into their own. After all, we know our communities and, in most cases, we have been a constant presence for generations. Almost every local expression is connecting directly with those who suffer injustice and, crucially, we are collectives who exist to transform the world! In a society where institutional
life is waning, it positions us in an extraordinary place to be justice- seekers.
When we look at our neighbourhoods we soon discover others who share our concerns for justice: faith organisations, schools, community groups. The work of building broad and powerful alliances of justice-seekers will position us around the table where we can speak truth to power and be heard.
The good news is that I hear stories of Salvationists increasingly joining in exactly this kind of grassroots justice- seeking and of powerful transformational results. My prayer is that we grasp the moment presented to us. May God bless us with his holy discomfort to live the just life.