Thursday, 31 January 2008

Kenyan Quakers appeal for peace

The Quaker leadership of Kenya gathered together in Sheywe Guest House in Kakamega between 24th and 27th
January 2008 and issued an OPEN LETTER To the Leaders and Citizens of Kenya...
Which includes the following appeal:

# We appeal to you engage in reconciliation among and rehabilitation of displaced people, integrating them back into the places from which they were displaced, not sending them to other parts of the country.
# We remind you that this country and its land belongs to all of us. Let us not destroy it for by doing so, we put our own future generations in jeopardy. We need a negotiated social contract to live together as Kenyans.
# We urge you to resolve problems in a peaceful way, because we know that there is hope for peace in this country.
# We warn you to desist from rumour-mongering which increases hostility and uncertainty, and urge you to use modern means of communication for positive ends.
# We know that those most affected by this conflict and violence are women, children, disabled and the aged. We must address their suffering, and protect and care for them.
# We encourage every Kenyan to look for “that of God” in every person and to treat life as sacred.
# As Kenyans, we urge you to uphold our core national values, practice forgiveness and embrace reconciliation.

and ...
To our fellow Christians and other Religious groups:

* As people of faith, we must not engage in violence and revenge because if we do so we betray our faith in God.
* We invite you to join us in praying for deliverance from evil spirits which are at work in our country, and continue to intercede for Kenya.

As a peace church, we are involved in humanitarian, spiritual and social/economic empowerment of our people. We urge everyone to take time to assist his/her neighbour in order to bring normalcy to the affected people, affirming truth, justice, peace and reconciliation in our nation.

More news of Quakers' current experiences in Kenya can be found at:

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Money matters - or does it?

As we reflect on misuse of public funds - with current scrutiny on one Conservative MP's decision to employ his son as a researcher, a piece on the Ekklesia website highlights a situation of significantly larger financial significance:
"The giant arms company BAE Systems is so far over budget with two of its latest projects that they will cost UK taxpayers £2.2 billion more than expected, a government report acknowledges. Peace campaigners say it is a scandal.
"The figure is revealed in a report by the House of Commons Defence Select Committee, which looks at BAE's contracts with the Ministry of Defence. The Committee found that the budget for BAE's Astute Submarines has increased by 47% and the budget for BAE's Type 45 Destroyer ships by 18 per cent."

and on a similar theme, Jeni Russell in the Guardian ... "We rage at Hain and Conway but miss the real profligacy: MPs' much-publicised transgressions are as nothing against the gross waste of public money on PFIs and consultancy" ... in which she illustrates her argument thus:

"... misjudgments, like many of the PFI contracts, or Brown's decision in 2003 to sell a stake in the MoD's research arm, QinetiQ, demonstrate the government's continued tendency to be shockingly naive when it negotiates with the private sector. Within three years, that company had been floated for £1.3bn, giving its directors a return of 20,000% on their investment. The government got an annual return of 14% on its stake, while the private company got 112%."

Monday, 28 January 2008

Building Peace - Tackling Racism

I'm meeting tomorrow with the Project Group planning our next conference to look at peace and racism concerns together.

Building Peace - Tackling Racism
is taking place in Huddersfield on 15th March.

There's still quite a bit of work to do and lots more bookings (we hope and expect) still to arrive, but we're very excited about the range and quality of speakers and issue-group leaders we've got to help with the day.

We're exploring the possibility of having some sort of video record made of the day, so that we can share the feel of the event with a wider audience.

And I hope to be able to post more details in advance on this blog.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Priorities and more practical suggestions

... and on the same theme as my previous entry, International Peace Bureau's latest publication "Whose Priorities" highlights the work of a range of campaigning groups in promoting human security through non-military means:

Here's the blurb from their website
Whose Priorities
A guide for campaigners on military and social spending
by Colin Archer IPB Secretary-General
This book is a follow-up to IPB's earlier volume Warfare or Welfare? Disarmament for Development in the 21st Century.While that work attempted to describe the nature of the problems facing us, the new publication sketches out some approaches to campaigning in opposition to militarism, and offers summary accounts of 18 projects undertaken by civil society groups around the world.

Full text available here. Published 2007, 76pp, A4

Words into action

Two things have caught my eye today.

Firstly, a new briefing from the Oxford Research Group (ORG), written by Chris Abbott: An Uncertain Future: Law Enforcement, National Security and Climate Change
I've not read it yet, but the blurb on their website says:
"Climate change will have serious environmental, socio-economic and security consequences for both developed and developing nations alike. This report explores these consequences and demonstrates that they will present new challenges to governments trying to maintain domestic stability. [and that these] ... risks of climate change demand a rethink of current approaches to security and the development of sustainable ways of achieving that security, with an emphasis on preventative rather than reactive strategies."

Some of the alternative approaches are doubtless part of the agendas of the range of campaigning groups putting on an interestin event on 2nd February in Newcastle: " Change in Progress is an exciting [so they say!] initiative by some of Britain's leading campaigning organisations. We are collaborating to offer a unique day of training, designed to help you:
* develop new skills and hone existing ones
* meet like-minded activists from other networks and campaigns
* share experiences, inspiration and enthusiasm for taking action on the issues you care about"

Pooling ideas and resources in this way seems a really good (even exciting) practical step forward in tackling the range of diverse but connected issues that Chris Abbott, Paul Rogers and co have been raising in the publications of the ORG. And how good to have it happening in the north. I hope it goes well.

Monday, 21 January 2008

.. and not forgetting the big 5 0

CND is marking its fiftieth anniversary with two events this spring. The first being a conference and the second a major action at Aldermaston.

Global Summit for a Nuclear Weapons-Free World 16-17th February: Laying the practical, technical and political groundwork for a nuclear weapons-free world

The bomb stops here: Surround the base at Aldermaston Easter Monday, 24th March, at 12 noon. ...

It's likely there will be a co-ordinated Quaker presence at Aldermaston - watch this space ... or this one

Judicial review

Important one to watch out for next month, from the CAAT website:

"The Government is facing a judicial review of its deicision to cut short a corruption inquiry into BAE's Saudi arms deals. From 14th-15th February, the High Court will consider if the decision was illegal. The case has been brought by CAAT and The Corner House."

and with some crucial background material in Bribing for Britain:

"Written by author and trade unionist Tim Webb, Bribing for Britain pulls together the major events and players in the SFO-BAE-Saudi Arabia story, provides the necessary context and analysis, and presents it in one accessible, highly readable account."

"Beyond Terror" reaches beyond usual suspects

It was interesting to read on the Oxford Research Group's website of the far-reaching take-up of the book - nationally and internationally - it had published by Random House last year, Beyond Terror.

The key challenge now is to sustain the focus on the four key areas that the book highlights ...

# Climate change
# Competition over resources
# Marginalisation of the majority world
# Global militarisation

... and to be constantly looking for imaginative ways of tackling these and of raising awareness and discussion of them amongst decision-makers /shapers and general public alike. That's up to all of us and there's bound to be something we can each do.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Website update

I've just spent an hour or so updating the Northern Friends Peace Board website. In particular, I've put quite a lot of stuff onto the Calendar page and put up the new issue of The Peace Board , our newsletter. Hope this is of interest.

Recruitment under scrutiny

David Gee's report, Informed choice? Armed forces recruitment practice in the United Kingdom, was launched yesterday and seems to have made quite a lot of waves. The MoD aren't chuffed, unsurprisingly.

The main website for the report seems to have struggled with the demand placed on it over the past 24 hours and as I write, I've still not been able to look at it. But a copy of the Exec summary of the report is also available here.

This has certainly opened up the debate, (see the article and comments on the BBC news site) and the thoroughness of the report will make it difficult for the military establishment to dismiss too readily.

Also, not forgetting the complementary materials at Before You Sign Up - now with lots of useful information for all concerned.