You can protect children

Our leaders with responsibility for keeping our children safe in our communities are continuing to abdicate responsibility and are relying on children to protect themselves.

Yesterday another gang of men was found guilty of abuse, rape and prostituting girls in Aylesbury.  But the Director of Children’s Services in Buckinghamshire said – “We know a great deal more about Child Sexual Exploitation now, I hope young people…will have the same courage to come forward.”

We cannot put the responsibility on young people to come forward!  Abuse and slavery is manipulative and messy.  You cannot rely on victims to be able to process objectively what is happening to them and then know how to respond appropriately to raise a disclosure!

It is interesting that in the Bible, one of the problems Moses had in getting the people of Israel free from slavery in Egypt was that they wouldn’t listen to him ‘because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery.’ (Exodus 6:9)  If as a society we care about children who are at risk of being sexually exploited then we must take responsibility for the problem.  Whoever you are you can equip yourself and those around you to be able to spot the signs that a child or a vulnerable adult may be being abused.

At the very least you can read this brief overview from the NHS which includes things you can do to prevent exploitation before it even happens.  The NSPCC has more information here. Don’t assume that other people are doing something about this.  You could be the person who spots the signs that a child in your street, school, church, family, or anywhere, is being exploited.

You could be even more proactive by volunteering your time to help at a local youth group or even opening up your home to a child or as a Host family for vulnerable teenagers.

Our children are children – we should take responsibility for protecting them.

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How to solve the immigration crisis

It seems that the immigration debate has been building up a greater head of steam this year – all the bluster of the election along with the sad and worrying crises we have seen in the Mediterranean and the port of Calais.  Murderous high profile violence such as the massacre in Tunisia adds to the confusion and anger.

The news story overnight of migrants ‘storming’ the Channel Tunnel generates warlike imagery that only heightens our sense of fear and defensiveness, as we imagine brown skinned foreigners streaming through the tunnel claiming benefits, abusing the NHS and forming sex gangs.

We’re caught in a difficult position.  We want to have compassion on those in difficult situations but we see the strain with which our public services are already under – not to mention how we hate the thought of being taken advantage of by those who need no asylum but just want to live an economically more advantageous life.  We could debate the various approaches the Home Office could take but I honestly think even with the best ideas at our borders and in our legislation would barely be a sticking plaster solution.

We live in a huge and glorious world rammed with incredible opportunities and resources.  Yet what we reap in terms of immigration concerns is only the result of generations of selfish and greedy foreign policy.  We have exploited the riches of Africa and Asia, turned brothers against one another, and now complain when these damaged continents overflow with people desperate for a bit of what we took from them.  Globalisation and technological advances mean the whole world can look on as we flaunt our gadgets, cars and entertainment.

The problems that occur from people wishing to move from one country to another cannot be solved in this generation.  A stand against migration now is only going to condemn your own grandchildren to face increased tensions and issues.  If we wish to make our own country a better place then we have to start by addressing our superiority complex and begin to understand that we must help others to prosper and thrive.  Only when we seriously attend to our foreign policy, radically turn it upside down and treat our fellow human with respect and love will we begin to see the a reduction in the numbers trying to get into the UK.  Except by then, we’ll recognise the humanity in our fellow humans and be hungry to exchange our lives, culture and opportunities with our brothers and sisters from all over the world!

Posh London street to be blessed with Montenegrin footfall

I must admit I love it when the underdog manages to ruffle the feathers of a few supreme peacocks.  This article from the London Evening Standard describes a row in some posh London back street with lots of clean white houses.  It all centres around Montenegro moving their embassy to the street without planning permission.  Probably not the wisest thing to do but the objections are very funny, if not also very sad.

“We don’t want emotionally unstable people attracted to the street”

A few responses from me:

  • Who do they think they are?  Is the way of the world that if you are rich enough you don’t have to see normal people with normal problems?  Very sad.
  • As if a bunch of upper class London residents are not going to be emotionally unstable already!?
  • Did they not read the client list of the hotel at the nearby Baglioni Hotel – Beyonce, Jay-Z and Lindsay Lohan.  I’m not one to judge but the objecting residents may want to pass similar concerns on to Kensington & Chelsea Borough Council about this establishment also!
  • I assume the complainants haven’t don’t much research and so their concern about ’emotionally unstable people’ may just be the tip of the iceberg.  Let’s hope they don’t get into conversations with any visiting Montenegrins – as it does take a bit of getting to know the Montenegrin way to realise that what can appear to be some blazing row about to explode into violence, is in fact just a helpful discussion to help understand one another’s perspective.  Nothing to worry about but a little alarming when you are in the middle of it.

2015 General Election: You can still make a difference!

With the majority of constituency results announced it is clear that we will be seeing a Conservative formed government.  The polls leading up to yesterday’s election had the Tories and Labour neck and neck but I was expecting that many of our population would put an X by their Conservative candidate within the privacy of the voting booth.  We’re a rich country which means those in work will always be fairly comfortable and it’s difficult for people to vote against that and to stick up for the vulnerable.

I’m disappointed.  However, political involvement is not limited to voting in a General Election.  We all have a new or a newly re-elected MP who is accountable to us, the same goes for our local Councillors.  Engage with your MP and with your Councillors, get to know them and ensure they make your voice heard.  Even if they don’t represent your political views they are still your public servant.

There are also opportunities for those who feel powerless in an election to come together and make a collected voice heard through marches, letter writing and other peaceful protests.  If you feel helpless now then resolve to continue to campaign for the issues that are important to you.

Personally, I am most gutted for those who are more vulnerable for various reasons – the young, the elderly, the poor, the homeless, the unemployed, the disenfranchised, the asylum seeker, the looked after children, the disabled, those with mental illness, the addicts…..  These categories don’t generally vote Conservative, if they vote at all, and will undoubtedly be further down trodden.  If this bothers you then get ready to serve these people in your local community.  They may not be able to rely on their government for support and empowerment but they must be able to rely on their neighbours.

We spend a lot of time talking about our politicians but even once elected they do not have to be the ones who direct and shape our country.  Stand up and make a difference!

May 7th…..Remember the poor

Where will you put your X on May 7th?  How are you going to decide?

If you have a secure job and want what is best economically for you then without doubt you should be voting Conservative.  You won’t go wrong with Labour or Lib Dem either.  If you are comfortable now then stick with the political establishment and nothing is going to change much – the colour flying over Downing Street might be different but our social landscape will remain the same.

However, if your desire is to see the poorest and most vulnerable in our society protected and empowered then maybe think of an alternative to the political establishment – and I’m not talking about the purple migrant bashers.  I would suggest that if you have a care and hope for those excluded from society then consideration should be given to a Green or Independent vote or maybe a spoiled ballot.

As a follower of Jesus I cannot bring myself to vote for my own needs and comforts.  “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4)  If you love Jesus, if you love your fellow human – then don’t waste your vote selfishly.  Maybe you will come to a different political conclusion to me but do vote with your conscience.

West Bromwich vicar, Neil Robbie, has written a great and succinct post commenting on political thought processes with a different twist on who the poor could be.  Definitely worth a read for just 1 minute of your time.

If you have an hour then do invest it in listening to the late Simon Pettit’s biblical mandate for the poor.  This was recorded in 1998 and was a real watershed moment for the Newfrontiers famly of churches that I belong to – it provides a great introductory foundation on Christian teaching regarding the poor.

Election and Poor

The Kingdom of God is here…..in Wednesbury!

If you’re not from the West Midlands  then chances are you have not heard of Wednesbury – unless you are an Ikea anorak.  Even most people in the West Midlands don’t seem to know much about the place.  Wednesbury is a small town of about 24,000 just off the M6 in the Black Country, situated between the bigger towns of Walsall, West Bromwich and Wolverhampton.  And only 20 minutes from Birmingham.

We have lived here for just over 12 months and we moved here because this is where God’s trail of breadcrumbs has led us.  We’re passionate about the local church have been helping to plant and lead Grace Church in Wolverhampton since 2011.  We are now beginning to gather a team to partner with us in planting a church here in Wednesbury.  It is a wonderful little town with a rich and proud heritage, a great community spirit and home to the tallest rugby posts in the world!

World’s Tallest Rugby Posts

At a first viewing it seems that Wednesbury’s rich Christian heritage is in it’s past but our perception is that the Kingdom of God is here under the surface.  The local church leaders are working hard but there is a great need for more Christian mission in this town.  There is a great need for those who follow Jesus to serve him and his church here in Wednesbury.

Are you passionate about Christian mission?

Do you enjoy getting stuck into local community life?

If so, why not give some prayer and consideration to making a big call and joining us!?  I can guarantee you would make a real difference here.  Do get in touch if you want to find out more.

Riots in Wednesbury at the preaching of John Wesley!

Do not fear the Paris attacks

Please, understand that what happened in Paris in the last few days was not:

  • Muslims attacking non-Muslims
  • Islam against the West
  • Anti-semitic
  • An attack on free speech
  • War

What happened was evil.  It was carried out by people who have most likely been exposed to evil themselves but have chosen to allow that evil to take root and bear horrible and terrible fruit.

Living in Western Europe is no more dangerous today than it was at the start of the week.  You are many more times likely to be killed driving your car than you are at the hands of a random murderer.  We have nothing to fear.

Sadly, and dangerously, the media seem to be loving it.  The coverage has been relentless, speculative and sensationalised.  The attacks were horrific but if they had not been reported, or at least not been hyped up, then the strange stirring of fear would not have been provoked in our communities.

Every day across the world similar and worse things happen but we do not hear about them.  Today 16 people have been killed in a bomb attack in a Nigerian marketplace.  You, I, and even someone sitting in a Paris suburb, have as much to fear from the attack in Nigeria as we do the attacks in Paris.  If you allow the Paris attacks to settle bitterness, fear, suspicion or hatred in you then you could be at the top of the slippery slope of allowing evil to bear fruit in your own life.  If you spread or indulge the scaremongering in conversation or on social media then you are actively helping evil spread like a deadly virus.

We all have so much in common.  To hate or fear other humans quite simply robs you of your own identity.  Do your bit – love your neighbour and love the stranger.