Category Archives: Politics

Around the web this week

A few things that have got me thinking and musing this week.

Justice and phones
What’s your phone got to do with a war?

Via Robin Peake

One of a few helpful pieces from Tearfund Rhythms on phones and conflict minerals. One of the reasons why I bought a Fairphone – topic of a future blog!

 

Football
Breaking news: Fifa say Hell will host 2026 World Cup

Via Gary Lineker

Great piece from the Telegraph on the farce that is FIFA.

 

Politics
Experiments show this is the best way to win campaigns. But is anyone actually doing it?

Via Tom Baker

From the US – What is the most effective form of political campaigning and why is it not used as it should be? I resonated with this in terms of my likelihood to vote for candidates I have the opportunity to engage with on the doorstep.

Thank heavens for Justin Welby

Via Pete Greig

How Lambeth Palace is worth listening to again and Justin Welby’s taking on of Wonga and payday loan companies by providing an alternative.

Sweden’s Prostitution Solution: Why Hasn’t Anyone Tried This Before?

How the Swedes have tackled traficking with incredible results.

 

Young people, riots and character
The New Politics of Character

Via Robin Peake

The results of a study into young people participating in riots in London revealed that the key factor was not lack of money or lack of morality but lack of character. What follows is an interesting discussion on defining and developing character in young people.

Cities
For the sake of our cities, it’s time to make town planning cool again

On the need for visionary planner more passionate about flourishing than bowing to the whims of developers.

Leadership, change and church
“The Top Ten Reasons This will Never Work”: On Leading Change in the Church

Via David Fitch

Despite my not being a fan of numbered lists there is some helpful stuff in here on  leading change in churches and some of the many objections…

A quote

And finally a couple of tunes for the weekend…

Leonard Cohen – Did I Ever Love You?

And Springsteen from Dublin back in 2006 – When the Saints Go Marching In

 

 

On language, and Vinoth Ramachandra on the use of ‘terrorist’

Political language – and with variations this is true of all political parties from conservatives to anarchists – is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. (George Orwell)

I read Vinoth Ramachandra’s wonderful and provocative book ‘Subverting Global Myths’ a few years ago. Some of what he has written on terrorism I have found profoundly challenging.  It’s certainly relevant at the moment although this may not be the best time to post this!

For most of the nineteenth century, however the word terrorist came to refer to all revolutionaries who threatened the monarchies of Europe…

..it was after World War 2, when the British and French empires found themselves vulnerable to nationalist agitation in their colonies that terrorism came to be used exclusively of acts of political violence committed by nonstate actors. The newly independent states of Asia and Africa took over this definition of terrorism and applied it in subsequent years to all those militant guerrilla organisations that challenged state authority. The use of force for political ends, whether in the context of declared war or otherwise, is inextricably bound up with terror… [he goes on to cite examples in Algeria and his homeland of Sri Lanka]

Unless we proscribe to the naive belief that governments do not engage in acts of terror against their own citizens, let alone the civilian populations of other nations, the one-sided use of terrorism by the world’s media is baffling. Violent actions by the Israeli army or Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians are never described as ‘terrorist’ but the term is routinely used in large sections of the Western media for violent acts undertaken against Israelis. Surely journalistic integrity requires that the term terrorism should either be dropped for its vagueness or used even-handedly to embrace all organised acts of terror, including those by governments. The terms militant, guerrilla or insurgent do not carry the same connotations of evil that terrorist does; and hence the hijacking of that term by governments who want to scapegoat those who challenge their legitimacy. ‘Terrorism’ is always what our enemies do….

Many of us who live in societies that have been traumatised by decades of terrorist and counter-terrorist violence slowly become desensitised to it. We are tempted  to justify brutal retaliation by the police and military whenever their our own security is shattered by a bomb attack. We have seen how ‘terrorist’ suspects in most countries are treated neither as prisoners of war nor as criminals. In either case they would come under protective judicial procedures. The category to which they are reduced is that of the subhuman, and so they can be tortured and executed without qualm. This is an affront to the inherent human dignity tat they share with us.

The language that we use is powerful in making those who are different from us into the ‘other’. I know this only too well from my upbringing in Northern Ireland. Even a comment today made in a Facebook debate on Gaza (referring to Hamas) reinforces this:

they don’t value human life we do

They.

Subtext – ‘we’ are better than ‘them’ or in personal cases ‘I’ am better than ‘you’.

In conflict it is only too easy to demonise the other ‘other side’ and forget they too are people of dignity created in the image of God. Vinoth’s words remind me of the importance of trying to pause and be careful about my language, whether it be conflict on an interpersonal level or an international one.

Reflections on having spent last week in Kyiv

Each year Innovista’s international leadership team meets in Ukraine. The last two years we met in Lviv. This year it was to Kyiv. A revolution in the week/days before you are supposed to travel always sharpens the mind. In my case constantly checking the news, hoping we would still meet. Not just because I like a little danger but also because this is always a significant time for us as an organisation. On Thursday after over 70 people had been killed things began to calm down and the decision was made to go ahead with our meeting. We arrived in Kyiv on Monday.

For a country that had just experienced a revolution things appeared very normal. The only signs of something happening on our hour-long journey to the seminary on the outskirts of the city we were based in a joint checkpoint between police and protesters and two burnt out army trucks.

On the Tuesday evening we visited Maidan – Independence square in Kyiv. The following day  I wrote:

 Given what happened just 6 days ago it’s remarkable how peaceful it is. There is a sense of quiet awe and remembrance. One of the more bizarre things I noticed were that the pavements are surprisingly clean and tidy! the sea change that has happened could be summed up by the reaction of one protester when we entered one of their large tents “take photos, there are no secrets anymore”.  Amazing.

A few reflections a week later.

This is not just a change in politicians – real change is intended

From journalists putting aside the chance for an exclusive in the public interest – delaying publication of the huge cache of incriminating documents found in Yanukovych’s mansion in order to make them public – yanukovychleaks.org to joint roadblocks with protesters and police together, ensuring police take no bribes. The stand-in president and politicians were informed there would be an end to politicians having motorcades that shut down local traffic for 20 minutes periods. “That’s not how we do things anymore”. The comment about no secrets another example.  The ‘Maidan’ are seeking to end the abuse of power and transform it into serving the population.

The most remarkable thing is how these changes have taken place so quickly

We were able to walk into and around the HQ of the protesters. Incredible.

The people, tired of corruption have risen up and are getting involved in and overseeing all aspects of life. Real change is intended. If Putin and Russia allow it…

The church is near the centre, not on the periphery

This aspect surprised me. On the main square (Maidan) is a stage from which most of us have seen some of the speeches from opposition leaders and protesters.

What isn’t reported is that on the hour, every hour church leaders (Orthodox and Protestant) lead prayers for the nation. The girl who served us breakfast in the seminary was leading worship through the night during the protests. Behind the stage is a prayer tent where churches have come together and are offering prayer 24-7. One of my colleagues in Ukraine volunteered during the protests sorting and distributing medical supplies.  You’ve seen some of the famous pictures of priests standing in the gap between protesters and police.

Life goes on

Prices are rising yes but life is also going on as normal. Just days after a revolution I would have expected a breakdown in public services. Yet as a visitor everything seemed to be functioning as normal.

Putin and Russia are doing their best to derail and cannot be trusted

It’s no secret the revolution and prospect of closer ties with Europe is disastrous to Russia’s geopolitical designs as is being demonstrated in Crimea. When there we heard stories of Russian agitation and passports being handed out in the east of the country – providing Russia an excuse to step in and protect the interests of their citizens. Exactly what happened in Georgia. Of course Russian politicians last week denied any agitation. Lies. A friend told how Russian state media reported how ‘extremists’ had shot and killed a medic. Later they switched over to CNN and the same medic was being interviewed on her survival having being shot by a police sniper. Last week my Ukrainian colleagues were fearful about Russia’s response. This week we are seeing it in its full horror as Russia annexes Crimea.

Significant days for Ukraine. Dangerous days both for Ukraine and the whole of Europe.

What will the ‘West’ do?

As someone who has a vested interest, here on western edge of Europe I feel helpless. I want to step in and do something but what?

If you’re the praying sort EAUK have announced a week of prayer for Crimea.

 The famous piano… More photos hereDSCN0280

A song, a poem and a quote as we wait for ‘peace on earth’

As a son of Belfast, now living ‘across the border’ in Dublin it pains me to read of the violence scarring my hometown these past few days. The sadness I feel is offset by the hope I experienced today with a bunch of young leaders, full of passion and potential, committed to making their worlds, and the world a better place. Committed to seeing God’s kingdom fleshed out. Prepared for the waiting that involves.

Yesterday I met two Welsh tourists, gutted that their trip to Belfast had been called off due to safety concerns. I then tried to explain to a friend some of the reasons behind what was happening without making it sound too crazy.

In advent we wait for the hope that is to come. Tonight we decorated our Christmas tree. Near the top hangs the word ‘peace’. Tonight I feel sadness as I wait and pray for peace in my hometown. The song, poem and quote were posted by 3 different friends. All seemed to resonate tonight…

 A song – Stephen (David Ford)

 

A poem – Christmas Bells (Henry Wadsworth)

And in despair I bowed my head;

‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said;

‘For hate is strong,

And mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!’

 

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

‘God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!

The Wrong shall fail,

The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men!’

The full poem can be found here.

 

A quote – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.

From this blog, written about a different context but that seems to apply, whose writer goes on to add:

Just because you didn’t get what you want doesn’t mean that you are “persecuted”. It means you can’t have everything.

Just because you got outvoted by a majority in a democratic election does not mean you are “persecuted”. It means you got outvoted.

Just because you can no longer rely on a previously enjoyed advantage does not mean that you are “persecuted”. It simply means that existing laws are now being enforced and you can no longer pretend they don’t apply to you because you are part of a previously privileged group.

And they claim the Orange Order isn’t sectarian?

The Orange Order is opening disciplinary procedures against two of its members – the politicians Tom Elliot and Danny Kennedy for attending the funeral of murdered PSNI Officer Ronan Kerr.  It follows a complaint made by members of an Orange Lodge (interestingly called ‘Total Abstinence’).

I had to double take when I read this, living in Dublin puts some of the issues I grew up with in a great deal of perspective.

The reason? Because members of the Orange Order are banned from attending Catholic masses and in so attending they have apparently:

“sold their principles for political expediency”

It seems crazy that two politicians who in their attendance of the funeral are reaching out and walking some of the steps of reconciliation between the communities, who are showing respect, should be censured in this way and indeed be accused of political expediency.

What can we do to bring an end to this sectarianism that pollutes the north? What is the role of the church in speaking up and speaking prophetically? What is the role of the ‘chaplains’ of the Orange Order to be held to account by their denominations?

It seems as if the Orange Order is still living in a fear and siege mentality – afraid of the pollution that will come from the ‘papists’. Maybe it’s time for them to re-examine their ‘Protestant faith’ and take some time to soak in the the words of Jesus who is at it’s centre. They are welcome to take a trip down the road to see that of the ‘threats’ (if such language is even appropriate) to their ‘faith’, the Catholic church doesn’t exactly have the influence it once had. But then if the Catholic church is not a threat, and their identity is rooted in opposition to that church then who are they?

Perhaps that is the issue. When we find our identity in opposition to an ‘other’ we define ourselves by what we are not. When that ‘other’ wanes in power or influence we are left with an identity crisis. Perhaps a legitimate question is ‘is there a future for the Orange Order?’.

Some last minute electioneering

Strange that apart from Joan Collins (the postal worker, although the actress standing in Dublin south central would be interesting) the independant candidates election material (that comes via the postal system) only arrived yesterday while Fine Gael have been bombarding us with recycling propoganda and posters.

Watching the leaders debate a couple of nights ago didn’t exactly fill me with confidence.

I found Micheal Martin extremely irritating and rude -insisting he should get to finish his point while constantly interrupting Enda, who seemed to need to learn to speak up for himself. Eamon seemed to be putting a lot of distance between himself and the other two, and at least did take Micheal to task for claiming the other parties had no credibility, which seemed just a little hypocritical.

But we all know elections should be about policies not personalities or “we’ve always voted for x”. Votomatic takes you through a number of questions to see where you align on a selection of policies. From the facebook comments it seems a lot of people are more aligned with Sinn Fein than they’d like to be…