With the UK General Election just weeks away – a quick, largely election-themed E-Coracle, with loads of resources.
At least three Iona Community members are standing in the May election: member Danus Skene for the SNP in Orkney and Shetland, associate Kim Long for the Greens in Glasgow East, and associate Peter McColl for the Greens in Edinburgh East …
CTBI General Election update and resources, from associate Niall Cooper of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland
A quick update in relation to Churches Together in Britain and Ireland’s preparations for the General Election:
Local hustings events
With just weeks to go to the General Election, we already have details of events taking place in more than 30 constituencies registered on the website, and further events are being added all the time. The guide to organising a hustings event is available here.
Churches’ General Election Resources
In addition to CTBI’s own 2020 Vision of the Good Society discussion statement/document, a host of other church resources and briefings are now available on the website at https://ctbielections.org.uk/resources, including:
Who Is My Neighbour?: the pastoral letter from the Church of England House of Bishops, which was widely reported and discussed in the media.
Faith in Politics, from the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church and the Church of Scotland, provides briefings on 16 key issues for the election.
Catholic Church in England and Wales Bishops’ Letter: The Catholic Bishops have released a letter addressed to Catholics across England and Wales suggesting how they might approach voting in the General Election. Over 500,000 copies have been sent to parishes.
Black Church Political Mobilisation: A Manifesto for Action: A document aimed at mobilising the Black Church constituency and to encourage churches to fully engage with the wider sociopolitical issues it raises.
Show Up: The Show Up campaign aims to encourage positive Christian engagement in the run-up to, and beyond, the 2015 General Election. Organised by Christians in Politics, the website includes a range of videos, resources and information on the main political parties and their Christian affiliate organisations, and how Christians can get involved.
– Niall Cooper
QuakerVote: Guidance, resources and information
And some helpful election resources from the Quakers:
The People of the Cross?, a reflection by Alastair McIntosh
The Cross today might seem obscure. Not so, in the so-called ‘Islamic’ State’s recent video of beheading twenty-one Coptic Christians. Its captions make two mentions.
The first proclaims: ‘A Message Signed with Blood to the Nation of the Cross.’ The red jumpsuits worn by the impending martyrs evoke Guantánamo Bay. They define the nation in question, its shadow side played out in cultic drama. They define our nation too, by special relationship.
Consider how militant Islam might see America and Britain. Historically, we have colonised them more deeply than almost any other part of the world. George W. Bush launched his War on Terror as a ‘crusade’. Initially the war in Afghanistan was code-named Operation Infinite Justice – an attribute that usurps the place of God. Tony Blair reportedly felt these wars to be a duty of his faith. So does the British state. Dieu et mon droit. Lest we forget.
Fast forward to 2009, and it was revealed that Donald Rumsfeld’s top secret daily defence briefings on Iraq to President Bush were decorated with Bible verses. A year later, ABC News broke the story that Trijicon rifle sights – widely used by both the US and British forces – had Bible references coded into their etched-on model numbers.
Such idolatrous appropriation of the Christian faith by the god of war has left the Cross itself crucified. Islam, too, is in the dock, mangled in the violent spiral. The followers of Allah – that beautiful sense of God ‘the Beneficent, the Merciful … the Cherisher of the Worlds’ – yearn to be more faithfully heard. The Muslim Council of Britain could not be clearer. Since the Charlie Hebdo massacre, its website has carried this message:
‘Nothing justifies the taking of life. Those who have killed in the name of our religion today claim to be avenging the insults made against Prophet Muhammad, upon whom be peace. But nothing is more immoral, offensive and insulting against our beloved Prophet than such a callous act of murder.’
The second mention of the Cross in the beheading video speaks of Christians as ‘the People of the Cross’. Well, there’s an accolade! Writing for a trending website, Fr John Parker points out that John the Baptist was just the first of many early Christians who were murdered by beheading. Other innocents were massacred at birth, crucified, stoned, ripped apart and roasted alive. And yet, this gentle Orthodox priest reminds us: ‘The saints prayed for their torturers, and relentlessly clung to Christ. To my knowledge, there are no recorded acts of violence returned for violence.’
From such soil as this our various Christian peace testimonies have grown. Here is the Cross that radiates divine compassion – the cosmic karuna that absorbs and transfigures all the violence of the world. Hell shrinks before such love. Resurrection is intrinsic, for such is the reality that stands outside of space of time.
A line left in a letter from Norman Macleod, an old lobster fisherman, a south Harris Presbyterian, echoes through my mind.
‘My God, Alastair, inhabiteth eternity.’
Imagine, if you or I were led along some lonely beach, its waves awash with martyrs’ blood. Single file. Jumpsuits.
How might we plead before our executioners? What testimony might we leave, to echo and transfigure in their dreams?
Would we merely shiver? Or might we quake?
Whither our peace testimonies today?
Let these beheadings be a wake-up call.
Je suis … the People of the Cross.
First published in The Friend
Alastair McIntosh is a Director of GalGael Trust in Govan (www.galgael.org), and is the Quaker representative on the Board of the Iona Community. His books include Soil and Soul (2001), Hell and High Water (2008), Island Spirituality (2013) and Parables of Northern Seed: Anthology from BBC’s Thought for the Day, Wild Goose Publications, 2014, www.ionabooks.com
Prayer for polling day, by member Elaine Gisbourne
To vote today I needed:
a legacy of campaigning women,
freedom from intimidation,
more than one candidate.
To vote today I needed:
understanding enough to make a choice,
a spirit of empowerment.
And so, using a stubby pencil tied with string,
in solidarity with those who cannot,
I made the sign of the cross.
O God, whose Kingdom is of justice and democracy –
where all are equal in your love,
and the voice of the least is exalted
over the clamour of the powerful –
whatever our politics,
may we always be mindful of those
who are still denied the right,
or deprived of the freedom,
to have their vote counted.
Elaine Gisbourne, from Like Leaves to the Sun: Prayers from the Iona Community, Neil Paynter (Ed.), Wild Goose Publications