Nov 23

Death Cafe

This is the transcript of the video above – check against delivery.

What are these ‘death cafe’s’ all about, are they good or bad? And what do we make of the Church of England’s ‘grave talk’ project?

One paper said that over five hundred death cafe events have taken place to date across the UK and further afield, including the US, Australia and New Zealand.

The objective of a death cafe, so its people say, is ‘to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives.’

According to the death cafe website, ‘At a Death Cafe people, often strangers, gather to eat cake, drink tea and discuss death.’

Cakes with black icing and skulls form a big part of Death Cafe, apparently.

Cakes with black icing and skulls form a big part of Death Cafe, apparently.

Yes, Cake seems to play a big part, especially cakes with black icing and skulls on them served on plates with skull motifs.

In Manchester, funeral director Hugh O’Brien hosted a death cafe event in Heaton Moor.  He said there was “a British reticence about death”.  “Everyone seems to be afraid of it,” he went on.

With a finite, in this case a truly finite – market to work in, I’m surprised funeral directors aren’t falling over each other to host these obvious marketing opportunities.

Anyway, the death cafe originator, one Jonathan Underwood from Hackney, is right now, in November 2015, selling shares for a permanent Death Cafe in London.

He thinks his project is the best thing he can do to make a better planet.

Mr Underwood has said there should be no fear about discussing death, and this is his reason: “you don’t get pregnant by talking about sex,” he says, “so why would talking about death make you die?”

I’m sorry old boy, but that is a non-sequitor. You can quite easily feel sexy by talking about sex, and talking about getting pregnant, especially talking positively about it, CAN help a couple have the child they so earnestly want.

In the same way, talking about death, especially talking enthusiatically about it, can hasten it. That’s a basic spiritual principle.

The Church of England’s ‘Grave Talk’ is different, because, as its website says, the Christian faith ‘holds the hope that death is not the end’.

A parish can put on a ‘grave talk’ evening to help people planning or going to a funeral, to have a conversation about death and dying, or to help with grief and loss of a loved one.

For me, that’s a good work, with an emphasis quite different from death cafe.

Let’s face it, we’ve just had an MP trying – and failing, thank God – to bring in an Assisted Dying Bill in this country, there are people going to some ghastly overseas clinic to commit suicide, and a growing suicide cult among young people led to seventy-nine deaths in Bridgend in Wales over just a five-year period.

Teenagers are taking their lives because of bullying, and suicide is the most common cause of death for men under thirty-five in Britain.

Death Cafe protagonists will deny their project has anything to do with promoting suicide. But even if it is just a sales pitch for undertakers, popularising the idea of death, glamorising it with skulls and black icing, won’t exactly help vulnerable teenagers.

Our lives are more than the matter of our death, or anyone else’s. Being obsessed about death, at any level, is simply not healthy for individuals, or society.

In the Bible, Jacob says he is about to be gathered to his fathers. He blesses his children and gives directions for his place of burial. And that’s it.

You see, the overwhelming principle in the Bible is that of life. God told the people of Israel:

Deut 30:19 I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.

People need life cafes, not death cafes, to be honest. And, thank God, we have quite a few of those. They are often held in a building with a spire on the top, or just in a hall, on a Sunday morning, and quite often they have a cross outside. There’s probably one near you. It’s called a church. Chances are, you’ll find someone inside who knows the author of life, one Jesus Christ. And if you get to know him too, death won’t hold any fear for you at all.


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Nov 17

Islamic Human Rights Commission

A report published today claims Muslims in the UK live in ‘an environment of hate’ – and the government is to blame.

The so-called ‘Islamic Human Rights Commission’ in a press release about today’s launch of its report ‘Environment of Hate: The New Normal for Muslims in the UK’ describes the UK “as an ever developing ‘Stasi state’ rife with hatred for the ‘suspect’ Muslim community. The authors examine the construction of an environment where Muslims are feared and loathed.”

This claim by the absurdly named ‘Commission’ – it’s just a pressure group – that the UK is like East Germany in its treatment of Muslims and Islam is preposterous. Our broadcast media and institutions from politicians to the police fall over themselves to present Islam as a peaceful religion and its adherents as loyal, law- abiding citizens.

The Islamic Human Rights Commission have been developing what they call the ‘Domination Hate Model of Intercultural Relations’. This says “hate crimes do not occur in a vacuum. Perpetrators are themselves victim citizens who have been mobilised by structural forces; namely the government and the media.”

The only problem is, that is rubbish.

Apart from the profligate and pointless ‘Prevent’ programme and the Terrorism Act, which actually concerns many of us, the government have done nothing inimical to Muslims. Establishment politicians are constant in their praise of Islam, stressing how the terrorists have misinterpreted it. The broadcast media, with the possible exception of Channel 4 Dispatches and the occasional Panorama programme, is overwhelmingly supportive of Islam and Muslims.

It is only some sections of the press which are antipathetic. Even then, if Muslim teachers did not beat children learning the Quran, if local authorities did not celebrate Eid rather than Christmas, if school boards did not try to turn their schools into Islamic enclaves, if Muslims did not write graffiti in Jewish cemeteries, there would be nothing to report.

Negative images of Muslims and Islam come not from our government and the British broadcast media at all. The problem for Muslims is all the honest material about Islam all over the internet, mainly on YouTube and Facebook.
Videos made by Islamic State themselves of their agents beheading captives, of tearing down crosses outside churches, other videos of Muslims rioting in Croatia, spouting hatred against Jews on Al-Quds Day in London (ironically organised by IHRC on behalf of Stop the War), attacking soldiers returning from Afghanistan in East London, bombing and shooting people in Nairobi and Garissa, constant killing in Baghdad, the bombs in Istanbul and Beirut and now the atrocities in Paris, it just goes on and on.

There is no getting away from the fact that the overwhelming majority of terrorists in the world are Muslim. There is no hiding that gangs of Muslim young men were convicted of the rape of young, insecure non-Muslim girls in town after town in the UK. There is no escaping the reality that all the recent cases of electoral fraud here have involved Muslims. There is no gain-saying that in case after case of restaurant and take-away food hygiene, it is Muslim establishments that are being fined. The Muslim community in this land needs to clean up its own act. Literally, in some aspects.

Finally, in the wake of the carnage in Paris, the ‘Islamic Human Rights Commission’ blames not Muslim terrorists but ‘unethical western foreign policy in the Middle East’. I have been at the forefront of objecting to British incursions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria and to our Government’s support of the catastrophic ‘Arab Spring’. But when Muslims blame ‘the West’ for the actions of other Muslims, is it any wonder that the rest of us react with loathing for Islam and all it stands for?

Here is a word about the Islamic Human Rights Commission:

Isa 59:3 For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness. 4 None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity.

And here is one for them:

Mark 1:15 The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.


Nov 16

Cornwall Council in discrimination case

Exeter County Court

Exeter County Court

A local council has won a secret trial after being sued for discrimination by a father under the Human Rights Act.

The father, whom we cannot name, is opposed to same-sex marriage and abortion and is suing Cornwall Council after its social services department intervened to prevent contact between him and his son, now five.

He alleges that they discriminated against him on the grounds of his beliefs after a social worker interrogated him about his opposition to abortion and gay-marriage.


A court hearing held on 23rd October decided that the case should be held at its substantive hearing in December in secret rather than in open court.  Cornwall Council wanted the hearing to be in secret.  The father, known to this ministry, wanted it to be heard in the open, so that the media, including Christian Voice, could report on it.

The father says the social worker voiced ‘concerns’ to do with his faith that were ‘insurmountable’ and told him that because of his unacceptable ‘beliefs’, openly posted on a blog, it was the social worker’s ‘duty’ to ensure that he never saw his son again.  He has not seen his son for two and a half years.

The father, who is separated from the child’s mother, initially referred his son to social services because of concerns that the mother was not keeping to a written agreement about contact.


At previous hearings the father defeated two applications to strike out his claim, which began in March 2014, and two applications for summary judgment against him.

The father told Christian Voice: ‘Whether you agree with the social worker’s decision or not, it is surely wrong that such an important issue as this should be decided in a secret trial.  The issue to be decided is whether social workers should be allowed to deprive a child of one of his parents because that parent holds strong moral Christian beliefs which differ from those of the Government.’

There was a good degree of support from the public, particularly from the claimant’s church.


The circuit judge hearing the application was His Honour Judge Cotter QC. HHJ Cotter heard, considered, then dismissed representations from the media.

READ: Exod 23:6; Lev 19:15; Deut 1:17; 1Kings 3:28; 1Chron 18:14; Job 37:23; Psalm 82:3, 89:14; Prov 31:4-5; Isa 59:4,14; Ezek 45:9; John 7:24; Acts 23:35; Romans 13:4; Rev 20:4.

PRAY: that justice may be done and may be seen to be done in this case.  Pray also for wisdom for the father and for Christian Voice in the matter of an appeal.


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Nov 16

Evangelist in Court

Northampton Magistrates Court where Bill edwards is on trial on 19th and 20th November 2015

Northampton Magistrates Court where evangelist Bill Edwards is on trial twice this month: on 19th and 20th November 2015

STOP PRESS 20/11/2015:





Article continues:

Another Christian evangelist is in court on alleged public order offences.

Bill Edwards, well-known to this ministry for his tireless efforts for the Gospel, is to face magistrates in Northampton twice this month, on 19th November and then again the following day, 20th November.  The cases will both be heard at 10.00am at Northampton Magistrates Court, Campbell Square, Northampton, NN1 3EB.  Both charges have been laid under the Public Order Act 1986.


Mr Edwards has told Christian Voice he values prayer more than actual physical presence.  He said: ‘Obviously I will be glad of support by Christians at either of the court cases but it is a very long way for folk like you to come and prayer for the Lord’s help is, of course, more important.’

Despite that, members local to Northampton will surely want to support him, and those who can reach the court will wish to demonstrate how serious their prayers are by being there in person.


The first charge relates to a peaceful protest Bill Edwards carried out outside the house of local MP Andrea Leadsom (Conservative) in the village of Slapton on 18th July.

Mr Edwards said: ‘I did not expect to be arrested and planned after an hour to move to another village for door to door evangelism. I did try to inform Northamptonshire Police beforehand about the protest but was unable to get through in time before I left home.  I told Mrs. Leadsom why I was there and spoke to her husband and children and their friends.’  He is charged under Sections 4A and 5 of the Public Order Act.


The following day the evangelist is charged under Sections 5 and 6 of the Act. Mr Edwards told us: ‘The second arrest and charge occurred after I carried a banner against homosexuals outside a primary school in Brackley on July 21st. There was a great deal of anger and physical opposition from certain people and again I was surprised with the outcome.  Both of my banners employed words of Scripture.’

A personal note:

Evangelists like Bill Edwards are rare.  They often do things others of us wouldn’t.  I should probably content myself with writing to my MP or asking to lobby him at the House of Commons.  I am not sure, even if he refused to meet me, that I should protest outside his home.  If I did, of course, I should expect him to have a thicker and more avuncular skin than the average person and should be extremely surprised if he were to call the police.

As for the school, I know how liberal many parents are these days and have myself been shouted at when trying to encourage parents to protect their children from homosexual propaganda.  In that situation, one really would expect the school’s head teacher to call the police, but would expect the police to defuse the situation on their arrival rather than start arresting people.

On the other hand, for some years now the police have been arresting evangelists for so-called ‘homophobic’ language, to the extent that even the National Secular Society became embarrassed by the negative publicity around assaults on our freedom of speech and joined the Christian Institute to call for a change in the law.

But despite that high-profile joint campaign by the National Secular Society and the Christian Institute to draw the teeth of the Public Order Act by removing the word ‘insulting’ from the list of behaviours it made illegal, nothing has actually changed.  The police appear to carrying on with ‘business as usual’.

That is why, although Bill Edwards’ approach might differ from my own (although I too was arrested under the same Act of Parliament for witnessing outside Cardiff ‘Mardi Gras’ in 2006), I am honoured to stand with him and to show the magistrates that at least one of his brothers in Christ supports him enough to turn up on the day.

READ: Deut 31:6; Psalm 103:6; Jer 1:17, 5:14; Luke 12:11-12; Acts 4:18-20; Rom 10:8; 3John 1:17.

PRAY: Thank the Lord for evangelists who are prepared to risk arrest for preaching the Gospel. Pray that Bill Edwards finds favour with the magistrates.  Pray for his solicitor, Michael Phillips, to be a good and effective advocate.  Pray for much support from local Christians.  Pray for Bill Edwards, as he says, ‘that the Lord will be glorified whatever the outcomes … and that I may witness a good confession against the homofascism and antichrist attitude of the authorities of our country.’

SUPPPORT: Come to Northampton Magistrates Court, Campbell Square, Northampton, NN1 3EB at 10.00am on Thursday 19th and Friday 20th November.


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Nov 04

What is the Gender Pay Gap?

David Cameron working out the gender pay gap.

David Cameron working out the gender pay gap.

The UK Government is going to force firms to reveal the bonuses they pay to men and to women.

Apparently, in the UK, a woman on average earns around 80p for every £1 earned by a man. The Government will also make it a legal requirement for every company with more than 250 employees to publish the difference between the average pay of their male and female employees.

Earlier this year, business hit a target for the percentage of women on company boards. That was set at twenty-five percent by government adviser Lord Davies. Be in no doubt he will want that to go to fifty percent.

Our Prime Minister, Mr Cameron, has said: “You can’t have true opportunity without equality. There is no place for a pay gap in today’s society and we are delivering on our promises to address it.”

Maria Miller MP, who chairs the Commons Women and Equalities Committee chimed in, launching an inquiry by her committee into government strategy on reducing the difference between what women and men are paid.

Mrs Miller said unequal pay was predominantly a problem that affected women over forty and that measures already announced by the government did not account for this group.

I saw a video recently in which one Mike Buchanan was pointing to research indicating that having loads of women on company boards impacted negatively on their profitability.


But I think my disquiet is more with the principle that gender pay equality is either achievable or desirable.

You see, in the beginning, God created the man, gave him some work, and then created the woman to be a helper for him. The pattern of a man as the head of the household, providing outside the home and women caring within it is still one which chimes with people and to which they aspire.

Even in what we regard as the most primitive societies, women stay near the camp, keeping their home smart, gathering stuff, looking after the children, while the men go out and hunt.  The women usually cook what the men bring back.

Most women, in all the surveys I have seen, would rather be at home looking after their children than out at work. But sadly we have too many single-parent families today, and most of those are headed by a mother, and in two-parent households, governments have organised things so that today so many families need two incomes to survive.


I also want to suggest that this ‘gender pay gap’ might actually be a myth. After all, it’s illegal to pay a man more than a woman for doing an equivalent job.

So how do the Government come up with their 80% figure? Well, they just take a average of what every man earns and compare it with the average of what every woman earns, then round it up to the nearest 10%.

But men do more dirty and dangerous jobs, that pay more – and kill many of them. Many women – probably too many for the government’s liking – actually want to bring up their own children. Taking time out of a career inevitably impacts on earning ability.

And when you read about the real differences between men and women, you find that men are more driven and focused on achievements, while women are more concerned with relationships.

Lastly, if more men than women prioritise work, as the figures seem to show, won’t that, coupled with natural testosterone-fueled ambition, impact on relative earnings?


According to the Office for National Statistics, the gender pay gap is actually 9.4% for full-time employees. It only rises to 19.1% (not 20%) when part-time employees are included. And for part-time employees, they say, ‘the higher rate of pay for women than men results in a ‘negative’ gender pay gap’. The Government are not campaigning to address that problem, or seeking to raise the pay of young men to equal that of young women.

According to the Guardian newspaper, there is a negative gender pay gap among the young. ‘The pay gap is low or slightly reversed among 18 to 39-year-olds, but the gap for hourly earnings grows from the age of 40 onwards, reaching its highest point for women in their 50s’, said the paper. This is precisely the point where women are taking time out of their career for family reasons and men are nearing the peak of theirs.

The Government protest that after decades of equal pay acts, Britain still has the sixth-highest pay gap between men and women in the EU. But even this claim is highly simplistic.

The European Commission say: ‘A high pay gap is usually characteristic of a labour market which is highly segregated, meaning that women are more concentrated in a restricted number of sectors and/or professions (e.g. Czech Republic, Estonia and Finland), or in which a significant proportion of women work part-time (e.g. Germany and Austria)’. Both of those, to a certain extent, would apply to the United Kingdom.

The BBC’s Mark Easton asked ‘which jobs have more women than men‘, and he linked to a 2012 report from the House of Commons Library. (Click on the PDF to see the full report).

Another pay gap is never talked about.  It is the gap between what people earn in the private sector and in the public sector.  According to ONS: ‘Private sector earnings have remained consistently at around 85% of public sector earnings since 2009.’


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Oct 08

Jeremy and the Privy Council

Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn

Every leader of the opposition becomes a Privy Councillor and Jeremy Corbyn will be no exception, even if he is a life-long republican and joining involves kneeling before the Queen.

The Privy Council’s role is to advise the Queen in carrying out her duties, such as the exercise of prerogative powers and other functions assigned to them by Acts of Parliament, we understand.

But the Council is also privy to highly-classified security information and matters that frankly us ordinary folk never get to know about.

It’s quite an exclusive club.

Today it was reported that Mr Corbyn had another appointment which meant he could not attend today’s meeting.  It’s been big news, but no-one should interpret his absence as a snub.  Out of six hundred members, fewer than a dozen normally attend, although, as leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, Mr Corbyn should be there in future.

Each person asked to be a privy councilllor takes this oath (or an affirmation version of it, is they object to Almighty God.  The candidate is asked, in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen:

You do swear by Almighty God to be a true and faithful Servant unto the Queen’s Majesty, as one of Her Majesty’s Privy Council. You will not know or understand of any manner of thing to be attempted, done, or spoken against Her Majesty’s Person, Honour, Crown, or Dignity Royal, but you will lett and withstand the same to the uttermost of your Power, and either cause it to be revealed to Her Majesty Herself, or to such of Her Privy Council as shall advertise Her Majesty of the same. You will, in all things to be moved, treated, and debated in Council, faithfully and truly declare your Mind and Opinion, according to your Heart and Conscience; and will keep secret all Matters committed and revealed unto you, or that shall be treated of secretly in Council. And if any of the said Treaties or Counsels shall touch any of the Counsellors, you will not reveal it unto him, but will keep the same until such time as, by the Consent of Her Majesty, or of the Council, Publication shall be made thereof. You will to your uttermost bear Faith and Allegiance unto the Queen’s Majesty; and will assist and defend all Jurisdictions, Pre-eminences, and Authorities, granted to Her Majesty, and annexed to the Crown by Acts of Parliament, or otherwise, against all Foreign Princes, Persons, Prelates, States, or Potentates. And generally in all things you will do as a faithful and true Servant ought to do to Her Majesty. So help you God.


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Oct 06

Syria – Sense and Compassion

The Russian air strikes in Syria have set fur flying in Westminster.  But despite the strutting ministers, some people are speaking with sense and compassion, among them former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr George Carey and Crispin Blunt, a little-known MP who chairs one of the most influential select committees in the House of Commons.

Firstly, on Sunday 4th of October 2015, former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr George Carey was reported saying that the United Kingdom has a responsibility to Syrian Christians.

Lord Carey said: “Time is running out for Christians in the region. Successive UK governments have failed to do enough to support minority communities in the Middle East and now sadly, many Christians have concluded they have no future in a region where they have lived for nearly two thousand years.”

He did not condemn Russia’s air strikes, but our Defence Secretary did.  Michael Fallon MP said Mr Putin was targeting the ‘Free Syrian Army’ and claimed: “He’s shoring up Assad and perpetuating the suffering.”

But also over the weekend, the Chairman of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee said that Britain and the US were getting “in the way” of solving the Syrian civil war by calling for Assad to step down.

Mr Crispin Blunt MP said it was not “helpful” for David Cameron to compare Assad’s regime with the actions of ISIS terrorists. And he said the West was “in no position to complain” about Russian airstrikes in Syria.

We reported last month that Mr Blunt’s committee heard from experts on Syria, among them learned professors and journalists who agreed that Mr Fallon’s ‘Free Syrian Army’ is a busted flush and that the the Syrian Opposition is now totally dominated by Islamic State and Al Qaeda offshoots like the Al Nusra Front.

Much as one might dislike Bashar Al-Assad, said one expert, if he goes Syria implodes. There is no other guarantor of stability. It’s Assad or the Deluge, said another.

So when Mr Fallon complains that the Russians are shoring up Assad, I respond on the video, ‘You mean, they are preventing Syria from becoming a failed state like Libya is after our intervention? How inconsiderate of them.’

Our Government, including the previous gung-ho foreign secretary William, now Lord, Hague, bear much of the responsibility for the mass displacement of people by encouraging, supplying, training, even arming, Syrian rebel groups. It is we who have perpetuated the suffering, not Assad.

The sadness is, we can’t trust either our government or that of the US to tell us the truth.

The word of God tells us to support Christian brothers and sisters and to pray for our leaders. So I’m praying to hear from Mr Cameron that he is prepared to prioritise asylum to Syrian Christians, and that he will work humbly with Syria and its allies to defeat Islamic State and bring stability to Syria – and Iraq – so that the Christians, and the other minorities, can return to areas they and their ancestors have lived in, as Dr Carey reminded us, for two thousand years.

Please take a look at the video above and see if it is the prophetic voice I am praying it will be:


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Sep 19

‘Putin’ makes Elton John’s Day

Elton John promoting sodomy.

Elton John promoting sodomy through his ‘Aids Foundation’.

Sir Elton John was on the receiving end of a prank this week after expressing a desire last Sunday to lobby Russia’s President Vladimir Putin over Russia’s antipathy to advancing the cause of sodomy.

The singer had already been promoting gay rights in Ukraine, where he was on tour.

Two days later, Sir Elton had switched from saying the president’s stance was ‘ridiculous’, ‘isolating and prejudiced’ to praising him for ‘reaching out’ by apparently phoning the ageing pop star out of the blue.

The only problem was, the president’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov told reporters that reports of a conversation were “not true”.

“I don’t know who spoke to Elton John but President Putin did not speak to him,” he said.  “… most importantly we didn’t receive any proposals to meet.”

He added: “If the president does get such a signal from Elton John, the president has always been open to discuss any… human rights problems, any issues. He is always ready to clarify the real situation.”

The ‘real situation’ is that Russia has passed a law outlawing homosexual propaganda to protect its young people.

‘Wonderful moment’ in Elton’s life

'Vovan' (right) and 'Lexus'

‘Vovan’ (right) and ‘Lexus’

The next day, one Vladimir Krasnov, known as “Vovan”, admitted that he made the call with his sidekick Alexei Stolyarov, known as “Lexus”.

Vovan told the BBC and Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, “Alexei has excellent English so he played Dmitry Peskov and translated our conversation. And I was Vladimir Putin.”

“It turned out that Elton John was really expecting that call, so he really believed he was talking to the people we said we were,” he said, adding that the singer had been in a London recording studio at the time of the call.

The recording and a transcript were gleefully added to the Russia Today website.

Sir Elton told the pranksters that he was ‘extremely honored’ to be called.  ‘It is a great privilege to be able to speak to one of the most influential people in the world. It’s amazing,’ he continued.

The singer concluded the call by saying to Lexus, “Please thank him for his time and tell him he’s made my day. It’s a very wonderful moment in my life.”

“He really believed he was talking to the people we said we were,” said Vladimir Krasnov, known as “Vovan”.

Propaganda point

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin

By Thursday, the musician was putting a brave face on his discomfort, saying he still wanted to speak to President Putin and then deciding to make a propaganda point out of it.

On his Instagram account, John posted a picture of a man with a bloodied face, whom we were to assume had acquired the injury from someone opposed to sodomy. John said: “Pranks are funny. Homophobia, however, is never funny.”

What is even less funny is authority figures like teachers telling children there is nothing wrong with being homosexual and encouraging them to turn a transient phase which they would otherwise grow out of into an ‘orientation’ which they will never shake off.

It also isn’t funny when entertainers use their considerable following to promote a pro-sodomy agenda.

We can but pray that Vladimir Putin will continue to keep Russian young people safe from the machinations of campaigning homosexuals like Elton John.

Sep 18

Assad essential to UK security

Andrew Parker, head of MI5, the UK Security Service.

Andrew Parker, head of MI5, the UK Security Service.

The head of Britain’s Security Service has said that the ‘situation in Syria’ affects the threat of terrorism in the UK.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on 17th September 2015, MI5 Director General Andrew Parker said terrorism is ‘a threat which is continuing to grow largely because of the situation in Syria and how that affects our security.’

Last week, the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee heard compelling evidence that without President Assad, Syria would become a ‘failed state’ like Iraq and Libya.

It follows that President Assad is essential not just to defeat Islamic State, but his presence and a victory for the Syrian armed forces is necessary to minimise the threat to domestic UK security.


‘The shape of the threat we face today has changed in some ways because it is driven from conflict zones and the way people react to that,’ continued Mr Parker.

UK border police at Heathrow. But what of the militants who have slipped in unknown to them, or those entering illegally?

UK border police at Heathrow. But what of the militants who have slipped in unknown to them, or those entering illegally?

‘Because of the internet and the way terrorists use social media, including from Syria and the way we all live our lives using the smart phones in our pockets – the terrorists do the same.’

In answer to a question about the likelihood of extremists among ‘the migrants and refugees who are coming into Europe at the moment’, Mr Parker said guardedly he was ‘aware’ of that threat, but said he was concentrating at the moment on returning UK-based Islamic State fighters, who are probably already on MI5’s radar:

‘Of course it’s MI5’s job with others to monitor where the terrorists may be and how they are operating and how they are moving … we take an interest in those who have been to Syria and are coming back. So as far as the flow of migrants and refugees go of course it’s something we are aware of, it isn’t as we speak today the main focus of where the threat is coming from’.


Professor Eugene Rogan

Professor Eugene Rogan

Either way, the unrest in Syria, which was encouraged by the United Kingdom, specifically by then-Foreign Secretary, the recently-ennobled William Hague, is putting at risk the safety of the people of the United Kingdom.

Foreign Affairs Select Committee member Mark Hendrick MP asked witnesses about what he described as ‘the so-called Arab Spring, that seems to have gone totally out of direction in a way that nobody would have predicted.’  Professor Eugene Rogan, Director of the Middle East Centre in Oxford, gave this response:

Professor Rogan: ‘I say this with a shared distaste for Bashar al-Assad and his methods of government, but I do believe he is an essential man. The policies based around the idea that Bashar al-Assad must go are ill-advised. They are unrealistic because those who advocate them do not have a champion they would put forward in his place and because recent history has shown us that when the state collapses you get a failed state.

Julien Barnes-Dacey appearing before the Foreign Affairs Select Committee.

Julien Barnes-Dacey appearing before the Foreign Affairs Select Committee.

‘State-building in the context of a failed state has given us Afghanistan and Somalia, and great difficulties in Iraq—and Libya and Yemen right now. Seeing Syria go the route of another failed state seems to me to be the greatest threat to our interests, as an American, and to yours as Britons, because when the state is gone in Syria the Islamic State will take its place, and it will then be a reality as an Islamic state—we will not quibble over Daesh, and so on. It will be the caliphate that they declare it to be. I think that it is now Bashar al-Assad or the deluge.’

Julien Barnes-Dacey, Senior Policy Fellow, Middle East and North Africa programme, European Council on Foreign Relations, agreed: ‘He is a guarantor. I think that is analytically correct. With Assad going, there are no guarantees of what comes next. … If (the question) remains pivoted on the person of Assad, it will continue to fail.’


Patrick Cockburn, Middle East correspondent, The Independent

Patrick Cockburn, Middle East correspondent, The Independent

The Foreign Affairs Select Committee also heard from Patrick Cockburn, Middle East correspondent of The Independent, and freelance reporter James Harkin.

The transcript is here and is very well worth reading to understand the realities in Syria.

In an exchange which contradicted all the UK Government would have us believe, Mr Cockburn told a stunned Michael Gapes MP that there are no longer ‘numerous fighting groups’ in Syria, as Mr Gapes believed:

‘The armed opposition in Syria is dominated by Islamic State, which now holds more than half the country, and al-Qaeda type movements such as the official representative of al-Qaeda, Jabhat al-Nusra, or Ahrar al-Sham and the others are now dominant in the armed opposition, and there are not too many others. The Free Syrian Army and others that people used to talk about are very weak these days,’ said Mr Cockburn.

Al Jazeera reports that the United State’s plan to train thousands of ‘moderate’ Syrians to fight Islamic State is in shambles, with only sixty having been trained and only four or five of them left.

Freelance journalist and Syria expert James Harkin.

Freelance journalist and Syria expert James Harkin.

Nadhim Zahawi MP asked James Harkin: ‘Very briefly, what secular or moderate groups have any major role now in the fighting or in the political arena (in Syria)?’

This was Mr Harkin’s response: ‘As I see it, the secular or moderate groups that we support are still ensconced in hotels in Istanbul, having nice lunches three or four years later. These people are largely meaningless to any political settlement, and that really should not be the question we are asking. We should be asking what Syrian people want, rather than who can be our friends’.


The Committee chairman, Crispin Blunt MP, asked, ‘if the regime did collapse, what would be the consequences?’

Patrick Cockburn responded: ‘Well, we’ve got 4 million refugees already. I think you would probably have about the same number coming out, or trying to get out if they could. Most of the minorities would cut and run. So too would people associated with the army or with the Government, and a lot of the Sunni. You would have mass panic. Can you imagine what it would be like if Daesh entered Damascus or started taking other cities? I think you would have mass population movements. I think it would be very bad.’

James Harkin added: ‘As Patrick says, whether you are an Alawite or a Christian or a Shi’a, the people I speak to there do not particularly hold great store by analytic detail about hundreds and hundreds of different factions, they just see that these people are out to kill them, because they are heretics.’


Astonishingly, even as the committee was hearing this evidence, David Cameron was preparing to tell the House of Commons at Prime Minister’s questions that ‘Assad must go’.  Does the UK government have no access to anyone who knows anything about Syria?

Former British Ambassador to Syria, Peter Ford.

Former British Ambassador to Syria, Peter Ford.

Even back in April, the UK’s former ambassador to Syria Peter Ford denounced Mr Cameron’s attitude as ‘arrogant’ and ‘reckless’ in the Guardian saying that, ‘If David Cameron had had his way, we could have been embroiled by now, more than we already are, in yet another Middle East war. As it is, his Syria policy has still backfired, contributing to the rise of jihadism in our own back yard.  If (he) had had his way, the jihadis could be in control of Damascus by now. Where is the accountability?’

The fact is, the more the UK and the US have undermined President Assad, the worse the situation in Syria has become, and the more refugees have been generated, not just from the Christian, Shi’a, Alawite, Druze and Kurdish minorities that the President has protected from the Syrian Sunni Muslim majority down the years, but also from newly radicalised but now displaced Syrian Sunnis, who threaten UK security.

More encouraging than Mr Cameron’s bluster was the contradictory evidence his new Foreign Secretary gave to the Select Committee as Mr Cameron was speaking.  Rt Hon Philip Hammond signalled that the UK had actually retreated from its position of demanding that President Assad should relinquish power as a pre-requisite for UK assistance, according to this report in the Times of Israel.

The Foreign Secretary told the Committee that the solution of the crisis in Syria should be political rather than military, adding that London had sent a message to Russia and Iran, two countries backing the Assad regime, that it would be willing to consider a plan that sees Assad stay in power temporarily.


Author and ex-SAS sergeant Chris Ryan

Author and ex-SAS sergeant Chris Ryan

The policy shift came as Ex-SAS and writer Chris Ryan has said that the UK must work with Syria, Russia and Iran if there is to be any hope of defeating Islamic State.

The novelist, who fought in the first Gulf War, said in the Daily Express:

“The best idea would be to hit them both sides with Europe and the United States one side and Russia on the other. The longer we wait, the stronger ISIS will get.”

Russia and Iran are President Assad’s strongest Allies.  The Russians and Chinese have repeatedly blocked UN resolutions critical of the Syrian regime and have consistently opposed ‘regime change’.

It may be difficult to see how matters could be worse in Syria, and yet, as the Professor Rogan said, it President Assad were to be toppled, Syria would descend into the mayhem of Libya and the situation, especially for the Christians who remain there would be even worse and the refugee crisis unimaginable.  Patrick Cockburn said ‘You would have mass panic … it would be very bad.’

We must give thanks to Almighty God for the stance taken by Russia and China and for the support Syria has received from Iran.  Not least, we must thank God for the vote in the House of Commons in August 2013 in which MPs refused to allow the UK Government to bomb President Assad’s forces.


As to whether the UK should now enter into a bombing campaign against Islamic State in Syria, there was agreement among the witnesses that bombing alone would do little against Islamic State.

Mr Cockburn observed: ‘Where the Americans are supporting the Syrian Kurds and their militia, who are well disciplined and well organised, with air strikes, that is where Daesh (Islamic State) have suffered defeats. At Kobane, they lost about 2,000 men in a four-and-a-half-month siege. At another place, called Hasaka, also in the north-east, they also suffered a defeat, but there was a combination of efficient ground troops and American air strikes.’

He went on: ‘a lot of air missions by the Americans do not find a target. But above all, what you need is people on the ground who are calling in air strikes and who can see ISIS. If you don’t have that, it doesn’t really work very effectively. For the air strikes to work, you need people on the ground, giving the co-ordinates of exactly where Daesh is, and then they can hit those targets immediately.’

But Professor Rogan had a different and important take, telling Yasmin Qureshi MP:

‘Ms Qureshi, if I could put one plea forward, it would be to prioritise the sending of bricks rather than bombs to Syria, because I do not see how further air strikes or military action is going to do anything except further destroy the urban fabric of Syria. I tried to find some figures before coming to this meeting, and the most recent I could find suggest that 1.4 million Syrian homes have been destroyed. It is not West London prices—say it is £50,000 a unit—but that is £60 billion to rebuild the houses Syrians need to go home.

Professor Raymond Hinnebusch, Professor of International Relations and Middle East Politics and Director of the Centre for Syrian Studies, University of St Andrews.

Prof. Raymond Hinnebusch.

‘You were asking previously what Syrians want. They don’t want to be in Europe. They don’t want to be in England, Germany or Hungary. They want to be home. The sooner we adopt policies that prioritise the needs of Syrians and provide not a safe haven but a safe habitat for them, with schools, hospitals and homes, the better, but that takes bricks, not bombs.’


There will have to be a rebuilding effort when this conflict is over, but while Professor Raymond Hinnebusch, Professor of International Relations and Middle East Politics and Director of the Centre for Syrian Studies at the University of St Andrews agreed with Professor Rogan’s plea for a political settlement, it is difficult to see how that might happen.

Patrick Cockburn said: ‘… unfortunately the armed opposition is controlled at this stage by people who do not really want to talk, but want to win’.

There can be little prospect of negotiation with Al-Nusra and none at all with Islamic State, so even though bombing their positions might run the risk of radicalising even more Sunnis against those they will see as infidel invaders, there is no choice but to embark on smart bombing backed up by ground forces if Islamic State is to be defeated. Then, and only then, can those genuinely sympathetic to Syria and its people begin to discuss a long-term settlement in that country.


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Sep 16

Refugees, Migrants, Activists, Terrorists

Joseph and Mary take Jesus down to Egypt to seek refuge from Herod's persecution.

Joseph and Mary take Jesus down to Egypt to seek refuge from Herod’s persecution. (as depicted in 1650 by Bartolome Esteban Murillo, 1618-1682)

With more and more people crossing the Mediterranean Sea and Turkey into the southern and eastern borders of Europe, what would be a Christian response from the United Kingdom to what can be described as an exodus of Biblical proportions, as one might say, from the Middle East?

Much depends on whether such people are viewed as refugees, as economic migrants, as Muslim activists or – heaven forbid – as terrorists.

The Holy Family famously went down to Egypt to escape Herod’s persecution.  They were refugees.  They sought refuge.  Almost two thousand years earlier,  Jacob and his family were welcomed into Egypt at a time of famine.  They were refugees from hardship and also economic migrants who actually improved Egypt with their animal husbandry skills. A ‘mixed multitude’ came out of Egypt with Israel under Moses.  They were migrants.  They sought a better economic life.

The Israelites, of course, were fleeing Egyptian persecution, but they would go on to conquer Canaan within fifty years by force of arms, which is perhaps a less comforting precedent.

Even then, we struggle to find in the Bible those who appear to seek refuge or trading positions only to work to destabilise the host nation from within.

That may be because, from ancient Egypt, through Israel to Rome, those who tried to introduce foreign belief systems, let alone those who mounted uprisings against established governments, were not made welcome, to put it mildly.


David Cameron meets Syrian refugees in Lebanon

Prime Minister David Cameron talking to Syrian refugees in a camp in Lebanon

So we should support the Prime Minister’s decision to take genuine refugees from the camps on the Syrian border. That must mean he should extend the hand of welcome to Syrian and Iraqi Christian families, who, incidentally, most accurately fit his own description of those who are most vulnerable.

We also recognise that having encouraged the uprising in Syria which has to date led to loss of life for 200,000 and the destruction of the homes and livelihoods of millions, the United Kingdom bears a great deal of responsibility for the current crisis.  So we have a moral duty to help those forced from their homes.

Only Russia, China and Iran, by supporting the Syrian government, flawed as it undoubtedly is, have prevented even worse bloodshed and displacement and we thank God for their stand in the United Nations and in the region.

As our government is now finding out, there is such as thing as ‘unintended consequences’.


The language used to described the travellers is important and our media are well aware of this.  Call them Refugees and there will be sympathy.  Call them migrants and there is suspicion.  Call them activists – or even ‘Muslims’ – and the hostility starts.

Many of us in Christian circles will be sympathetic to the plight of refugees on the grounds of hospitality.  Those who are pointing to the benefits of migrants are having a struggle in a nation like Britain which is seemingly already swamped by mainly Muslim immigrants, many entering illegally, over the last twenty years.  Floods of economic migrants from the EU’s newer members has not helped that perception.

Refugees - migrants - arriving at Munich station,

Refugees, or migrants, arriving in Munich.

Nevertheless, it has been pointed out that ancient Rome encouraged economic migrants to settle there precisely because their economic activity and imported innovation skills increased the general prosperity of the empire.

Germany has announced a welcome to migrants for a similar reason.  Their population is ageing because Germans have in recent years had one of the lowest indigenous birth rates in the world, well below replacement level.  The question of who will fund the pensions of those about to retire now and for the next twenty years appears to have been answered.

But across the eastern and northern fringes of the European Union area, and without even mentioning possible Islamic State sleeper terrorists, long-established Christian nations are voicing concerns.


Hungary's new chain-link fence will need to be stronger than their temporary razor-wire effort.

Hungary’s new chain-link fence is stronger than their temporary razor-wire effort which had little effect on their border with Serbia.

The Hungarians are just finishing a fence topped with razor wire on their southern border with Serbia to keep out the flow of migrants.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban warned in September that the growing Muslim influx is threatening Europe’s “Christian roots”. Defending Hungary’s response to the migrant crisis, Mr Orban said his country did not want to admit large numbers of Muslims.

Slovakia will accept 200 asylum seekers under EU resettlement plans but insists all of them should be are Christians who have been persecuted in Syria.

Slovakia’s interior ministry said it will turn away Muslims because they will struggle to fit in if they have nowhere to worship.

Spokesman Ivan Metik said: “We could take 800 Muslims but we don’t have any mosques in Slovakia so how can Muslims be integrated if they are not going to like it here?”

That is not an argument the United Kingdom could make.


In Finland, Prime Minister Juha Sipila said he was willing to give up one of his houses to migrants, but his coalition partners are the anti-immigration Finns Party, who came second in April’s election.

Mr Sipila wrote on Twitter that he wanted “to develop Finland as an open, linguistically and culturally international country”.

Finns Party chief Timo Soini, who is Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, wrote on his blog last week that Christian and Yazidi minorities could be given priority as refugees. But he came under heavy criticism from the media and changed course in an interview on Monday.

Olli Immonen

Olli Immonen

But Some of his party colleagues are made of sterner stuff.  Jussi Halla-aho, a Finns Party MEP, said some members of society were not integrating well enough, adding there was a risk “the society begins to play by the rules of the Muslim minority rather than expecting the minority to play by the rules of the society”.

In July, Olli Immonen, one of the party’s MPs, wrote of what he called “this nightmare called multiculturalism” on his Facebook page, adding: “We will fight until the end for our homeland and one true Finnish nation.”

Finance Minister Alexander Stubb responded in a tweet: “Multiculturalism is an asset. That’s all I have to say.”

But is it an asset? In a survey in August, before the new talks on migrant quotas, most Finns, of whom 78% belong to the Lutheran Church, said in a survey they would rather live next to an alcohol rehabilitation centre than a mosque.


Many of our leaders make the mistake of seeing Islam as a religion.  It is, in fact, a political system.

In July 2015, the Daily Mirror commissioned a survey from pollsters ICM to find out how much support Islamic State actually enjoyed among British Muslims.  The results shocked even the Mirror.

The East London Mosque - the Daily Mirror claimed 50% of British Muslims support Islamic State.

The East London Mosque – the Daily Mirror claimed 50% of British Muslims support Islamic State.

Three percent of respondents in Britain were very favourable towards the Muslim terrorist group (which ICM called ISIS) and 6% were somewhat favourable. Female and male respondents had similar attitudes.

The pollsters did not ask people their religious affiliations, but when you consider that around 5% of the population is actually Muslim, rising to 10% of the under-25’s, and assuming that non-Muslims will not be at all supportive of Islamic State, the Mirror’s claim that ‘around half of Britain’s three million Muslims could be ISIS sympathisers’ may be an understatement.

Logically, the more Muslims come here, the more of our population will be Muslim activists, sympathetic to Islamic State or whichever hard-line aggressive Muslim terrorist group takes its place.  The same will be true in Germany, France, Italy or wherever Muslims end up.


Which leads to the last and least welcome category of those travelling across the Med and the Turkish peninsular, Muslim sleeper terrorists.

How many of the young men trying to enter Britain through Calais, or trudging through Europe, are genuine rfugees, and how many IS sleepers? No-one knows, but IS claim 'thousands'.

How many of the young men trying to enter Britain through Calais, or trudging through Europe, are genuine refugees, and how many are Islamic State sleepers? No-one knows, but IS claim ‘thousands’ across Europe as a whole.

Islamic State militants are claiming to have smuggled ‘thousands’ of activists into Europe disguised as refugees from the Syrian conflict.  It is certain that many will already have crossed illegally into the United Kingdom. A country like Germany, announcing a welcome to hundreds of thousands, will end up harbouring thousands of sleeping terrorists.

They will do nothing to frighten the horses and inadvertently stem the flow of migrants in the immediate future.  But there will come a day when the people of Hungary and Slovakia may be grateful for the stand their leaders took. Even in those places, acts of terrorism could take place, but it is easier for domestic security forces to keep an eye on thousands of Muslims than millions.

Even without actual IS terrorists, ordinary rank-and-file Muslims are inspired and emboldened by the idea of an Islamic caliphate and supportive of attempts to establish one.  It makes them feel good about being Muslim and bolsters ambitions that one day, maybe one day soon, their host country could embrace Islam.


Britain has done right to go to the refugee camps rather than encourage the people smugglers.

But our conclusion must be that Britain should take only Syrian and Iraqi Christian refugee families.

In such an event, we can have no doubt that British churches and individual Christians will go out of our way to house them and help them become established and prosperous in our land.


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