09 May 2007

Release Alan Johnston by Virginia

Alan Johnston the BBC journalist was kidnapped in Gaza on the 12th March. He has reported from Gaza for the last 3 years when most Western journalists had already left the country. He has done a great deal to ensure that the suffering of the Palestinian people has not been forgotten.

Having been through the experience of our friend Norman Kember being kidnapped last year, we can imagine a little how Mr Johnston's family and friends are feeling. We hope the tape shown on Al Jazeera today is a sign that he is still alive and that he will be released soon.

Remember the suffering of the people of Palestine.

Remember Alan Johnston.

BAE Systems AGM - by Chris

Once again the annual general meeting of BAE Systems (or British Aerospace as it used to be back in the day...) comes around - a regular event on our calendar - I have probably been about 15 times over the past twenty years! Its the one opportunity to go head-to-head with the board of directors of Europe's largest arms company and ask them 'pertinent questions'. This year the hot topic is corruption and time and time again the Chair and Chief Executive are pressed on the issue. After being regular shot hateful looks by Mike Turner for over an hour (whilst being artfully ignored by Chairman Dick Olver) I finally gets in a question (which is of course dry, witty, erudite and barbed) and manage to wrestle out of Dick Olver the revelation that he has met, and will no doubt meet Gordon Brown again in the future. Mike Turner suddenly becomes inscrutable.

I find myself torn between between on the one hand marvelling that these occasions actually happen - we can walk up to, shake hands with (if one is so inclined) and talk to the senior management of one of the worlds largest arms companies (does this only happen in Britain?) and on the other hand reeling and railing at how people can talk in such a bland and matter-of-fact way about 'products' whose purpose is to main, destroy and kill. Only 364 days to the next one - see you there.

08 May 2007

Something to Celebrate by Virgina

Well it doesn't happen very often does it? But today we have something to celebrate. Powersharing restored at Stormont, the bitterest of enemies sitting down together in devolved government, and Ian Paisley LAUGHING with Martin McGuinness. Who'd have thought it? It seemed as if the violence and anguish of Northern Ireland would always be with us. The killings from all side of the conflict, the collusion of the British government, the sectarian hatred, it could have gone on for ever.

But it didn't and it hasn't because people took a risk for peace. The IRA initiating talks, John Major agreeing to them, all the parties sitting down to negotiate the Good Friday Agreement, the people of Northern Ireland for voting on that agreement. Tony Blair, Mo Mowlam, John Hume, David Trimble, Gerry Adams, Martin McGuiness, Ian Paisley and many more have argued, listened, shifted position, compromised and learnt to live with their differences.

We salute their courage tonight and we wish them well. Shared government will not be without it's problems, but if Ian Paisley can sit down with Martin McGuiness after all these years of bitter violence - well anything's possible.

01 May 2007

Fr. Martin Newell Jailed

Our good friend Fr, Martin Newell was imprisoned today for 14 days for non-payment of a fine relating to the same action that Chris was sent to prison for in January.

Martin gave a good account of his reasons to the magistrate arguing that his work with refugees here in the UK naturally leads him to oppose war and conflict which creates so many refugees. He argued that as Christians we have to take regard for "whatever we do for the lesat of these" as Christ put it and those are the main victims of the war in Iraq.

UPDATE: We have heard that Martin is in Brixton Prison and hopefully will be released on Friday becasue of the Bank Holiday