18th August 2019

Christian Concern for One World


Readings for this week :


* Isaiah 5:1-7 <https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/texts.php?id=275#hebrew_reading> and Psalm 80:1-2, 8-19 <https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/texts.php?id=275#psalm_reading>

* Jeremiah 23:23-29 <https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/texts.php?id=275#hebrew_oth_reading> and Psalm 82 <https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/texts.php?id=275#psalm_oth_reading>

* Hebrews 11:29-12:2 <https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/texts.php?id=275#epistle_reading>

* Luke 12:49-56 <https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/texts.php?id=275#gospel_reading>


Verses for meditation:


"Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law."

(Luke 12:51-53)


Reflection on the verses:


"Hear then again His words: 'Or think you that I am come to give peace upon earth? I tell you, no, but division.' And yet Christ is our peace, according to the Scriptures. 'He has broken down the middle wall: He has united the two people in one now man, so making peace: and has reconciled both in one body unto the Father.' He has united the things below to them that are above: how therefore did He not come to give peace upon earth? What then say we to these things?


Peace is an honourable and truly excellent thing when given by God. For the prophets also say; 'Lord, grant us peace: for You have given us all things.' But not every peace necessarily is free from blame: there is sometimes, so to speak, an unsafe peace, and which separates from the love of God those who, without discretion or examination, set too high a value upon it. As for instance: the determination to avoid evil men. and refuse to be at peace with them - by which I mean the not submitting to entertain the same sentiments as they do - is a thing profitable and useful to us. And in like manner the opposite course is injurious to those who have believed in Christ, and attained to the knowledge of His mystery: to such it is unprofitable to be willing to follow the same sentiments as those who wander away from the right path...."


Cyril of Alexandria, Sermons on Luke, Sermon XCIV <http://bit.ly/2H17MGq>







Coming Up This Fortnight



For prayer before, during or after the events...


19 August World Humanitarian Day

2019 theme: Women Humanitarians. Pray for humanitarian workers/efforts worldwide. Info from UN <http://bit.ly/2KfHdzi>



23 August International Day for Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition

Materials from Human Rights Education Assn <http://bit.ly/1OTVpvm> ; Stop the Traffik <http://bit.ly/1eWavi4> ; Clewer Initiative <http://bit.ly/2EcFrsL>


August 24-26, 2019 G7 Leaders' Summit (Biarritz, France)

Theme: 'A G7 fighting inequality' Official Website <http://www.bit.ly/2skx9LD>



25 to 30 August 2019 World Water Week

Theme: "Water for society including all" Info from World Water Week website <http://bit.ly/1bAQvtr> and Water Aid <http://bit.ly/2m0kSrW>


30 Aug International Day of the Disappeared

Materials from Global Dimension <http://bit.ly/2ABj9yq> and the UN <http://bit.ly/1a6n9Hi>




Items for Prayer



Our last prayer email included a piece on climate action - it seems to have had some issues in getting through to some people's inboxes. If you'd like to read the email, it's online here <http://bit.ly/2z6oeAH> .



World Humanitarian Day


Monday 19 August is the UN's World Humanitarian Day: this year's theme is 'Women Humanitarians'. In its introduction to the day, the UN offers a reminder <http://bit.ly/2KfHdzi> that women humanitarians are often "the unsung heroes who have long been working on the front lines in their own communities in some of the most difficult terrains ..." as well as forming part of the global network of aid workers who come to the assistance of people in communities not their own. "Women," it says, "make up a large number of those who risk their own lives to save others. They are often the first to respond and the last to leave."



A recent Nature article <https://go.nature.com/2Maw6d4> on the Ebola response in the DRC highlighted two such women - Marie-Roseline Darnycka Bélizaire, a Haitian epidemiologist, and Marie-Claire Kolié, a Guinean doctor. Bélizaire is one of the people who communicates information about the Ebola virus when it first appears in a community - a difficult task given levels of mistrust surrounding the disease and the response to it. Kolié is involved in treating people who have contracted Ebola. "[Working on the DRC Ebola response] is very intense," says Bélizaire, "but I am totally devoted to serving the people."



Bélizaire and Kolié's work is not only intense but dangerous: facilities involved with the women's work have been attacked, and colleagues wounded or killed. In this they are part of a disturbing trend: overall, there is a perception that the danger to humanitarian workers has been increasing <http://bit.ly/33B7nUK> in recent years, and health workers are among those most at risk <http://bit.ly/2YG65ch> . There is grave concern not only about the situation in the DRC but also in other areas, especially the Eastern Mediterranean region, where, as of July, the regional World Health Organization (WHO) Director reported <http://bit.ly/2ZONDdV> that there had been "an average of more than one attack [on health care] every day: hundreds of health workers have been killed, injured or assaulted, hospitals have been damaged and destroyed, and ambulances have been forced out of service". Many of these attacks are deliberate, in contravention of both the Geneva Convention and international humanitarian and human rights law.


One situation that currently particularly requires prayer is in Syria. Briefings recently delivered to the UN Securty Council paint a horrifying picture. For example, Susannah Sirkin, Director of Policy at Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), stated <http://bit.ly/2yRwnJ2> : "Since the beginning of the conflict in Syria, the ongoing assault on health care facilities and personnel has been a defining factor and a deliberate, inhumane, illegal strategy of war ... From March 2011 through July 2019, PHR corroborated 578 attacks on at least 350 separate facilities and we documented the killing of 890 medical personnel." The vast majority of these attacks 91 percent were, Sirkin noted, perpetrated by the Syrian government and allied forces (including Russian forces). The period since 29 April this year, when the Syrian government forces and their Russian allies intensified their attacks on rebel-held areas <http://bit.ly/2MVAhci> in northeast Syria, has been particularly deadly. According to Sirkin, "since then, PHR has received reports of 46 attacks on health care facilities; so far, using PHR’s rigorous methodology, we have confirmed 16 of them and are still counting."


What is particularly concerning is that these attacks are taking place despite many of the facilities in question being part of the United Nation's 'deconfliction process' <http://bit.ly/2GTPoPB> , whereby coordinates of key civilian facilities are given to UNOCHA <http://bit.ly/2YUI0h7> to be distributed to all combatants in order to ensure that the sites are protected. Sirkin stated: "The Syrian and Russian governments know the exact location of most health facilities, and yet they continue targeting them...At least 14 facilities have been hit, according to SAMS (Syrian American Medical Society), in spite of having shared their coordinates with belligerents through OCHA’s so-called de-confliction mechanism." UNOCHA's Mark Lowcock, also testifying to the Security Council, noted <http://bit.ly/2YUKDQ4> : "Whether the information provided through the deconfliction system is is being used by the parties to protect civilian facilities from attack or to target them for attack is an extremely important question." Many officials and organisations, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights <http://bit.ly/2YUKDQ4> , PHR, MSF and Amnesty <http://bit.ly/2H01nLm> , have given statements that suggest they view the targeting as deliberate, and potentially a war crime.



Getting the UN Security Council as a body to respond to this issue has been impossible, given Russia's presence on it. In response to the testimonies heard by the Security Council, however, two thirds of the Council's members, including the UK, formally petitioned the UN Secretary General <https://reut.rs/33nAz1g> to "consider launching an internal U.N. investigation into attacks that have damaged or destroyed U.N.-supported facilities in northwest Syria." The Secretary General has agreed to establish a Board of Inquiry <http://bit.ly/2YY93ns> to investigate. This is a positive development insofar as it sends a signal that those who violate international law and commit crimes can be held accountable <http://bit.ly/2GZCakm> , but more needs to happen to assist people being harmed by the regular bombing of civilian targets. Physicians for Human Rights has asked <http://bit.ly/2ySQW7S> the UN to do more "to ensure this violence ends before more innocent lives are lost."



Please pray (quotations taken from the Eastern Mediterranean WHO director's report cited above):


* for the safety, well-being and effectiveness of all humanitarian workers, especially those "who risk their lives every day to help millions of people made vulnerable by conflict"


* in thanksgiving for the women and men who give so much in helping others


* for "all parties to conflict to remember their obligations under International Humanitarian law, and international human rights laws, to ensure the protection of health care"

* for "Member States and members of the international community to continuously hold all perpetrators to account"

* for a just and peaceful settlement of the conflicts that endanger so many civilians and those who seek to help them

* for the investigation into the bombing of healthcare facilities to result in measures that reduce the sense of impunity



Additional viewing: MSF video - 'Not a target' <http://bit.ly/2MTtLTh> . Contains material that viewers will find disturbing - but a powerful presentation of the dangers healthcare workers face, and a powerful call to action.


Additional reading: 'Impunity Remains: Attacks on Healthcare in 23 Countries in Conflict' <http://bit.ly/2MThP3Z> (2018 Annual Report from the Safeguarding Health in Conflict coalition)






Short Notes



Sarah Topol's article, 'The Schoolteacher and the Genocide' <https://nyti.ms/2KUbiU9> is an extraordinary weaving together of the larger history of the Rohingya and the history of one man - a schoolteacher whose patience, enthusiasm for learning, and hard work enabled him to begin a school for the Rohingya children of his village. Please do read it. And please pray for 'Futhu' and all who, like him, have suffered in the waves of ethnic cleansing <https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2019/country-chapters/burma> that have blighted the Rohingya's lives for decades. Please also give to agencies (CAFOD <http://bit.ly/2FcWVq0> , Christian Aid <http://bit.ly/2m3ToBI> and Tearfund <http://bit.ly/2ZaQ3Cg> among them) that are working to support the over 730,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.



Hong Kong

Please continue to pray for Hong Kong. Church leaders are calling for prayer <http://bit.ly/2KGF4wB> as the protests escalate and clashes between protestors and the police grow in numbers and intensity. Pray for wisdom for protestors and those in the Hong Kong government, and for a solution that maintains justice and freedom in Hong Kong.




Earlier this summr, police in the Philippines charged <https://nyti.ms/2HdO6z7> thirty-six prominent Filipinos, including Vice President Leni Robredo, four Catholic bishops and other church leaders, with plotting against President Rodrigo Duterte - charges that are widely viewed as politically motivated, and which one of the accused bishops described <http://bit.ly/2Z3FBkn> as "pure harassment and an effort on the part of the [police] to do not their sworn duty but what they think will be pleasing to the higher authorities" Noting a pattern of attacks on the church - whose leaders have offered principled opposition to Duterte's human rights abuses <http://bit.ly/2ZfyRfi> - the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines condemned the charges <http://bit.ly/2P3LCcS> and also called on the government to cease the practice of 'red-flagging' missionaries <http://bit.ly/2OZdcrD> , endangering their lives by accusing them of being communist terrorists. Please pray for Christians who are upholding the sanctity of life and calling for justice in the Philippines. Pray also for journalists who try to hold the government to account, who are similarly facing many dangers: one leading campaigning journalist, for example, is facing multiple cases <http://bit.ly/2TH99ip> , and an American journalist who reported on community action was recently shot and critically wounded <http://bit.ly/2TH966d> . Pray that the power of God's justice and love will transform situations that seem bleak.



Ebola Update

There has been both bad and good news this week. Among the bad news was that two people with Ebola, a woman and her young son, travelled to Mwenga in South Kivu, a province that had hitherto not had any Ebola cases. Their story <http://bit.ly/2Zae4h2> illustrates the complexities behind the statistics: the woman had been living with a family in the Beni health zone in North Kivu. One of the family members was identified as having contracted Ebola, and the woman was placed under observation as a high-risk contact. Shortly thereafter she became symptomatic and fled. She was found with her 5-year-old daughter and seven-month-old son near the border with Uganda. As she was being sent back to Beni, she escaped the response teams and, changing her identity four times, passed through several cities - Butembo, Goma, and Bukavu - on her way to her home. The mother has died; the baby is being treated. Please pray for the family and all who may have come into contact with them. Pray, too, that the teams are successful in identifying and vaccinating all the relevant contacts, so that the disease does not spread more widely into South Kivu. And please continue praying all people affected by the epidemic, which has killed almost 2000 people, and all working on prevention and treatment.



Among the good news was the announcement that a trial of different Ebola medications <http://bit.ly/2MnZ3Cn> seems to show <http://bit.ly/30h6aQg> that two drugs have the potential to increase survival rates among patients who receive a high standard of care, especially for patients who start treatment early and have a low viral load <http://bit.ly/31L9VO8> . The apparent increase in survival rates was marked enough that the ongoing trial has been altered, so that the two drugs in question will be tested against each other, and two other drugs that were part of the original trial will be dropped. Dr Anthony Faucci, director of the US institute that developed one of the successful drugs explained their significance <http://bit.ly/30h6aQg> : "We feel that with agents such as these … that we may be able to improve the survival of people with Ebola and … might even make people more enthusiastic about coming for care ... Because when you have something to offer an individual, it makes it much more likely that you might get to them early. And the earlier the better, as in any disease." Please give thanks for these new developments and pray that the trial may help to save lives now and in the future. Give thanks for the skill and commitment of all who helped to develop the drugs, and all who have been labouring to run a complex trial under difficult and often dangerous circumstances. Give thanks, too, for all who are working to maintain standards of care for treatment of Ebola patients, as this is also a vital factor <http://bit.ly/31L9VO8> in giving people a good chance of recovery.









For Prayerful Action




Our focus this week has been on healthcare in Syria, but one of the other areas where healthcare has been under attack is Yemen <http://bit.ly/33rdKd1> . Could you donate to MSF <http://bit.ly/2yz0zIW> or others who are seeking to assist with the healthcare infrastructure there? Another such area is Gaza: could you perhaps donate to Embrace the Middle East <http://bit.ly/2ONUzH6> or USPG, which support healthcare there?



Friday the 23rd is a day for remembering the slave trade - and giving thanks for all those who prayed and worked for its abolition. Modern slavery, however, is still all-too-much with us, including in the UK. Could you and your church use the Clewer Initiative's 'Safe Car Wash' app <http://bit.ly/2OY5dew> to find out what some of the potential signs of modern slavery at car washes are ... and to report any concerns if you have them?








Resources to help you pray and act



Season of Creation Resources - What's happening in our world?




If we - and our churches - are going to make care for creation a priority, we need to be able to explain why it should be ... and that means having solid information about what's happening now and what may happen in the future. Different people think and learn in different ways, so here are a variety of resources that can help us learn and communicate more about what's going on. This is a starter-for-ten ... more will be available on our website shortly. And do let us know your favourites!




Framing the narrative - some powerful pieces of work that shape a story




If you want to get an overview of what's happening, why and what it means for us today and in the future, film can be amazing. The past few years have produced some brilliant films and television programmes that highlight the interlinked challenges that face our planet, what might happen, and what we can do to effect change:



* David Attenborough's Climate Change: The Full Facts <http://bit.ly/31ORNDk>


* David Attenborough's Blue Planet 2: I-player <https://bbc.in/2HdCjAL> , clip: The Future of The Oceans <http://bit.ly/31NSP2m>

* UN's Plastic Ocean <http://bit.ly/2MpUxDa>

* Chasing Coral <http://bit.ly/30cen8s> and Chasing Ice <http://bit.ly/2OXQAb5>





Where can I find some basic videos of the science behind climate change?


Got five minutes?



* Climate 101 - an introduction <http://bit.ly/31MHFuM> from US science educator Bill Nye (4+ mins)

* an animation <http://bit.ly/2KRX8CL> that explains climate change through the analogy of a steroid-taking athlete (2 mins)


* NASA video on the Greenhouse Effect <http://bit.ly/30ldyu8> (4+ mins)


Got ten or twenty minutes?



* the introduction to human influence on the climate system prepared by the IPCC <http://bit.ly/30e2wGS> (9 mins)


* a more scientific explanation of the Greenhouse Effect (9+mins) <http://bit.ly/2Hfu3A6>

* 'What if climate change is real?' <http://bit.ly/2TGGrON> Climate scientist and climate communicator extraordinaire Katharine Hayhoe delivers a TED talk that explaining climate basics


* 'Slaying the zombies of climate science' <http://bit.ly/2P0OhEf> - leading US climate scientist Dr Marshall Shepherd gives a very accessible lecture on climate science and how to deal with arguments against it



Got an hour?



* Paul Valdes- an introductory lecture on climate science <http://bit.ly/33RJqsq> - (1 hour)


* More in depth - but really worth watching. Myles Allen's brilliant hour-long introduction <http://bit.ly/2ZbSo07> to the history and science of climate change.





Want to dig deeper? Courses that will give you more in-depth knowledge



* UNCC E-Learn <http://bit.ly/2z5RgAq> (run by the One UN Climate Change Learning Partnership) has a variety of long and short courses, from short 2-hour courses on subjects like sustainable diet <http://bit.ly/2P25c9x> or human health and climate change <http://bit.ly/33D2EBL> , to a longer general introduction to climate change <http://bit.ly/2ZcDuq8> (excellent - six modules of about two hours: study as many or as few as you like). Free.


* There are also numerous courses on EdX <http://bit.ly/31WFS6v> (just enter 'climate' or 'biodiversity' into the search engine). You can 'audit' courses for free or pay (generally between £20 and £40) to do the course with assignments and a certificate of completion. Of the various courses, the SDGx Academy ones tend to be good. The University of British Columbia climate science course, University of Chicago climate modelling and MIT climate science courses are good, but because they are archived, you can only review the course content, not actually do the coursework.





Show me the facts! Pictures, graphs and videos to help you visualise and communicate




If you're a person who likes to see things in order to understand them, here are some terrific resources:



* Show your stripes <http://bit.ly/2IJIJJ4> - Ed Hawkins at the University of Reading is something of a climate communications legend, and 'Warming Stripes' is one of his best creations. Each picture shows annual average temperatures for a given location as stripes of colour - blue for cooler, red for hotter. No words - just a clear picture of trends. Can be customised, so you can see how your area relates to the global trend. Free to use.



* Take a look also at Zachary Labe's extraordinary sea-ice maps and graphs <http://bit.ly/2L5UQjN> , Emma Reed's really clear animation of sea level rise <http://bit.ly/2Hdp6rF> (her blog is also worth reading - lots of very accessible info on change in the oceans and how animals and people adapt to them), nifty NOAA video <http://bit.ly/2HbdzJk> showing how sea-level rise varies worldwide; the Scripps Keeling Curve graph <http://bit.ly/2P2jyqs> , which shows the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere



* The IPCC's 1.5 degree report graphics bank <http://bit.ly/2HcqjiY> has some really helpful material



* The New York Times gathered together some of its best climate graphics <https://nyti.ms/2Nd5xUc> with an interesting discussion on how best to use them ...



* Graphics are nice, but we need people in the picture, too. Want to show photos of climate causes, impacts, and solutions in a way that helps convince people to move into action? Climate Visuals, <http://bit.ly/2Ml1ntL> a project of Climate Outreach, has done research to find out what images are effective, and now has a bank of helpful images, some free to use.



* NASA Global Climate Change graphics and multimedia image bank <https://go.nasa.gov/2KSisrW> - great for communicating climate science: graphs, pictures and videos. All free to use.

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