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Latvia parks

SiguldaGauja National Park, Sigulda
About fifty kilometres east of the capital, Sigulda serves as the main gateway to this ninety thousand hectare conversation project. Created to protect the river valley of the Gauja, the park is home to numerous historic towns and buildings as well as a breathtaking landscape and the vast and varied flora and fauna of the area. An ideal location for walking, hiking, horse riding, canoeing, biking and boating, there is also cross-country skiing and bobsleighing during winter. Furthermore, if you do base yourself in Sigulda, only an hour by train from Riga, you can also avail of the ballooning and bungee jumping facilities in the town. As you can see the park has something to appeal to all its visitors and really should not be missed.

RundaleRundale Palace, Bauska
South of Riga on the main route from the capital to Vilnius you will find the town of Bauska and about twelve kilometres outside the town is Rastrelli’s Rundale Palace. Built in the mid eighteenth century as a summer residence for the dukes of Courland, the palace contains some of the finest examples of Baroque and Rococo art in the country. Home to 138 rooms which store some 36,000 items, the palace is guaranteed to impress. From its crystal chandeliers to its frescoes by native Italian artists, and of course the fantastic gardens and fountains, this place will leave you spellbound. And, numerous buses serve the area leaving you with no excuses not to visit.

JumalaBeaches, Jurmala
Now this is a surprise for any of you who thought you might miss out on a beach holiday by picking Latvia as a destination. Along the coast, west of Riga you will find thirty-kilometre stretch of unspoilt beaches and resorts where you can catch up on your tanning. As well as this Jurmala which translates as Seashore is unlike other European beach destinations as the region is never crowded and there’s not a skyscraper or high rise building in sight. And, if you tire of the beach (some do apparently), there is a host of forests, museums and galleries and pubs and restaurants to keep you occupied. With numerous trains per hour from Riga, getting there is no problem but dragging yourself away might be.

KuldigaKuldiga
Built on the banks of the Venta River in Kurzeme, Kuldiga is one of the oldest, best-preserved and picturesque towns in Latvia. Believed to stand on the site of an original Cour settlement dating from Viking times, it was first mentioned in historical documents in 1242. As well as playing host to a number of historical buildings including numerous churches and the remains of an ancient castle which was once the site of fierce Latvian tribal battles, the town is also home to one of Europe’s widest waterfalls with a span of about nine hundred feet. Lying 150 kilometres west of the capital, it is easily reached by bus.

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Behind Closed Doors – Churches Together in England

A TWO-YEAR STUDY of the grow­ing problem of sexual violence and trafficking has identified a need for Black Pentecostal Churches in the UK to do more to tackle it.

The report, Behind Closed Doors, was funded by Churches Together -in England (CTE).

It calls for the raising of awareness among churches of the early signs of abuse, to encourage increased reporting to police, and the development of theological re­sources to challenge some of the voices among church leaders who support the gender inequality underpinning violence against women.

The report, by the Revd Dr Carrie Pemberton Ford, Director of the Cambridge Centre for Applied Re­search in Human Trafficking, says: “The power and gender imbalance in leadership in some of our Pentecostal church members seriously affects reporting and re­cognition of the criminality and complete unacceptability of.violence against women and children per­petrated in society and consequently present in our churches.”

The chair of the CTE, the Revd Dr David Cornick, said that Pentecostal Churches offered a “unique bridge” between British and African culture in the UK.

He said: “We have rejoiced in the growth of migrant Christian com­munities in our midst. . . In the last few years there has been a marked increase in trafficking from Nigeria and other West African countries. That means that we have churches in our membership who are likely to have encountered (probably un­knowingly) women caught up in this awful experience.”

Women brought into domestic servitude in the UK are frequent victims of sexual abuse “behind the closed door of the domestic space”, the report says.

It also acknowledges concerns among West African church com­munities over reporting suspected offences, particularly given the pub­lic mood on cutting migration.

With many victims being of West African descent the report cites challenges and opportunities for the growing Pentecostal congregations peopled and led by West and Central Africans in Britain.  Bishop Eric Brown, Pentecostal President of Churches Together in England remarks, “In recent years Pentecostal churches have experienced exponential growth in this country and around the world as communities where people have found solace and a space to thrive. It is important that our churches are aware of the signs of those caught up in this immoral trade and are therefore able to extend the love and care that are imperatives of the Gospel of Jesus Christ”.

Among the report’s recommendations are awareness-raising among churches of the early indicators of domestic servitude, trafficking for sexual exploitation, trafficking for criminal business such as begging, and for those working with Vietnamese and Asian communities the presence of urban cannabis farms.  Advocacy for better mitigation of the forces which drive trafficking, training of key church personnel around issues of domestic abuse and gender based violence alongside trafficking abuses, with recommendations for developing resilient and resourced multi-agency collaboration at local, national and international levels are included in this far reaching report.

Theological Resources

There has been a repeated request during this encounter with the churches to develop materials which engage some of the highly gendered and disempowering narratives which can underscore domestic violence, sexual exploitation, safeguarding breaches in household discipline and which have their exploitative entrails cast up in human-trafficking narratives.

This is an area of great sensitivity and must fully engage with the whole community –pastors, prophets, choir directors, bishops and the executive leaders of the wider communities.

The form of these resources should not be constrained to books,though some more considered theological work, relating the challenges of contemporary society to the central and important paradigms of the particular church community’s faith and core beliefs, isimportant to undertake.

Requests have been raised around developing:

Choral inputs – new songs raising awareness and underpinning a rearticulation of mutual respect across gender complementarity embedded in equality

Bible themes with clear articulation around how gender inequality, social justice, children’s safety, international inequalities, all forms of disempowerment, refusal of violence against the person and ideas around submission, silencing and enslavement are brought forward in the scriptures

Cartoon-based narratives of ‘Godly’ responses to modern dilemmas being experienced by BMC members’ communities, particularly in relation to gangs, sexual exploitation, sexual consent, prostitution, domestic servitude, domestic abuse, irregular migration and lack of amnesty, household discipline and safeguarding

Prayers and meditations for use in cell groups

The curating of films and the development of a team of ‘facilitators’ who can assist in embedding the learning of the films for congregations and rendering some ransformative changes

Practical books of instruction for discipleship, addressing contemporary challenges for parents, youth (male and female) and the challenges of living trans-nationally

YouTube shorts on a cluster of issues, for sharing across phone-based networks, which will start to emerge as church members with film and media skills become involved

Involvement in Freedom Sunday and other initiatives arising in Nigeria and West Africa and the extended dioceses of different bishops in this fast-moving and fluid church structure.

The first is the old-fashioned pyramid or hierarchy. There are major organizers, many of whom are in Lagos, and are linked with significant numbers of criminal operations elsewhere in the world. These are crime barons, often members of the elite and members of government, who benefit from activities that they coordinate or support. They are also among the beneficiaries of the proceeds of crime that come back to Nigeria. They protect those proceeds from seizure under Nigeria’s very poorly implemented money laundering laws.

The second type of structure is the flexible network. Many Nigerian criminal organizations are relatively small, and they are based around bonds created by family membership, tribal affinity, or personal friendship. These groups operate within a larger network that resembles trade associations rather than traditional Mafia hierarchies. The fluid network provides support, structure and potential connections.

The third type of group is the self-contained cell in which there are a few people with specific responsibilities and a clear cut division of labour.

These cells are independent entities and take the initiative in generating and exploiting criminal opportunities.

why women may stay in violent relationships, including:

Ø fear of retaliation

Ø lack of alternative means of economic support

Ø concern for their children

Ø lack of support from family and friends (we include here disapproval from primary social or faith networks)

Ø stigma or fear of losing custody of children in divorce

Ø‘love’ and the hope that the partner will change.

 

One of the ‘restraining’ texts was clearly identified in two of our training events as

I Corinthians 7:16.  Here Paul calls on those who found themselves in marriages with unbelieving partners to stay with them, unless the unbelieving partner leaves, on the basis that neither partner knows what the future might hold in terms of the potential for change. ‘How do you know, wives, that you will not change your husband?’ is a source of guilt for women if they consider leaving the abusive situation; the obverse in the letter ‘How do you know, husbands, that you will not save your wives?’ is rarely cited and, interestingly, was ignored in the pastoral advice proffered during a number of conversations on the subject of domestic abuse undertaken during this research.

This notwithstanding that the issue of men being abused within their marriages did emerge as an area which church members – both male and female – raised with some rapidity whenever the topic of gender-based violence and abuse was raised.

Another frequently cited text is Ephesians 5:22: Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, just as Christ is the head of the church, His body, of which He is the Saviour. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

These texts are particularly problematic in a culture where public honouring of the paradigm of obedience to one’s husband, submission to his will ‘in everything’, persistence in prayer and ‘wiping out sins’ through ‘forgiveness’ is one of the great

obligations and, indeed, ministries open to women.

In a short video clip, shared across the social media networks where conversations around headship, infidelity, prostitution and wife and husband beating were discussed, one Ghanaian counsellorannounced that an African woman is required to ‘treat her husband as a God’.

This posting caused a range of views but none which completely dethroned the male and none which discussed what happens when the ‘God’ turns out to be a demon.

All of these texts–and ways of referencing headship, god likeness, submission to the male–serve to evolve and reinforce a culture of gendered inequality in relation to designated genders of power and authority: male husbands and, more often than not, male leaders in the churches. Consequently, the recognised default situation is for women not to disclose, not to report and not to leave their husband, partner or father of their children (despite violence taking place within the household environment)

A range of responses was evoked from a group that comprised both male and female leaders, pastors and prophets when posed the question:

What should a woman do if she is hit by her husband?

We do not have people that believe in our God. If you look at the UK, we are where we are today due to satanic government legislations: don’t smack, don’t tell off, we end up with little monsters that threaten their parents.

Professional kid stabbers. We have gay legislations. We end up in Sodom and Gomorrah. Now they have come to our church to erode Sunday school, yet we will say it does not matter – it sure does!

This is domestic violence –to be able to save the life of the woman in quesion she should call the police and any further intervention can then follow.

If the man fears God he won’t hit his wife at all, but because of the family or what we are people or seniors within the family and church would like to intervene – may God open our eyes.

Church counselling should be part of the pre marriage counselling and not simply after the woman is being battered –too late!

I am enjoying this discussion and everyone’s contribution. There is a suggestion that a seminar should take place where our women will be educated on how to manage and hold your homes. This is lacking in our orthodox churches. The husbands need to attend as well to learn a few caring methods. (Male pastor)

I will never condone a wife beater because emotional injury don’t always heal – so call the police to let him know it’s not acceptable and it’s a crime  because if one recommend church counselling and he beat her to death one day, who’s to blame? The wife or the minister?

It is a very weak man who strikes at a woman or even raises his voice at her. Whether physical, emotional or psychological abuse, the woman should not  condone any form of abuse at all . After all what makes a man is the ability to live successfully under the same roof with a woman despite their ****.  (Male pastor)

The problem that we have in the church is that the majority of our men leaders are hypocrites. Excuse my fancy words.

Church leaders – men will start talking about submission – which blow up the matter even more. I do not think it is difficult to address if we are ready to speak the truth

(Female pastor)

I will never advocate for the police to be invited. No. The word of God is against it and so it should be. The woman can leave if her life or that of her children is in danger. She can go to a refuge. If the refuge calls the police for her, well that is fine. (Female leader)

It is something very, very difficult and shameful.  As a wife you have a job to do to satisfy your husband. If you are being hit, if your husband is attacking you the question is raised –‘is everything OK in the bedroom? Are you provoking him? You who are his wife, you need to LOOK at what you are doing and do not provoke him.

Pray to the Lord to assist you, and you will receive strength from Him – Lord have mercy.

This is NOT something we tend to talk about in Church, at least not when the men are around.  We might have a little play put on to show a husband drinking, wasting money on gambling or on ‘girlfriends’ and parties – and we laugh, or we look at one another –and recognise. But we don’t look at the way the control works, the expectations of what ‘the good wife’ should be doing, the shouting, the

slaps, and,well, the rape – we think that the wife she should always be available –

so really there is no rape is there? It’s really difficult, and it’s something which is hidden from ‘public’ show. It is talked about between sisters our girlfriends, but not with the men. And you  now, it is expected that you sort out your own marriage if you can. (Female pastor in training and survivor of abuse)

The report is online here

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THE LAST WORD AND THE WORD AFTER THAT: tale of faith, love and doubt, and a new kind of Christianity – BRIAN D. McLAREN

This the final part of Brian McLaren’s ‘New Kind of Christian’ trilogy, told through the story of conversations between a pastor and his daughter’s high school science teacher,

The quotations from Dente weren’t really necessary.

He seems to think that gays and trans. are part of the same issue.

His derivation of ‘pharisee’ is very dodgy.

Quotations:

“Is there a better alternative to either of these polarities: a just God without mercy for all or a merciful God without justice for all? Could our views of hell (whichever extreme you choose) be the symptoms of a deeper set of problems -misunderstanding about what God’s justice is, misunderstandings about God’s purpose in creating the world, deep misunderstandings about what kind of person God is?”

“… like the millions of others, young and old, who have given up on Christianity because our way of talking about hell sounds absolutely wacky. `God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life,’ we say, `and he’ll fry your butt in hell forever unless you do or believe the right thing.’ `God is a loving father,’ we say, `but he’ll treat you with a cruelty that no human father has ever been guilty of-eternal conscious torture.’ No wonder Christianity-or at least that version of it-is a dying religion in so many places in the world.”

The word destructive is often associated with the word de-constructive, but the association is erroneous. Deconstruction is not destruction; it is hope. It arises from the belief that sometimes, our constructed laws get in the way of unseen justice, our undeconstructed words get in the way of communication, our institutions get in the way of the purposes for which they were constructed, our formulations get in the way of meaning, our curricula get in the way of learning. In those cases, one must deconstruct laws, words, institutions, formulations, or curricula in the hope that something better will appear once the construc­tions-become-obstructions have been taken apart.

And of course, there are plenty of sex-obsessed gay folk just as there are heterosexual folk, which is understandable because the loneliness and isolation for gays can be crushing. Rejection causes people to act out, you know?

I will die one day and from

My life, God will harvest some

Good fruit. Much God will discard

Husks, leaves, stems, purpose

All be torn away and burned

Or left to rot and nourish

Seeds unborn. All judged good will

 Flourish; to God be returned,

All that ripened sweet and strong.

Good fruit saved, forgotten wrong.

 Daniel, do you really think God is like a petty human being, full of anger and revenge? Do you think God wants to inflict torture on people to retaliate for their wrongs? Do you think God would require us to forgive and then be unwilling to do the same?”

I’d heard this sort of argument before. “Of course not, Neil. I’m sure if God sends people to hell, it’s not because he gets any pleasure in it.”

“Ah, you’ve learned the ‘hell’s door is locked from the inside’ argument. It’s certainly a step in the right direction, but poor God. Isn’t he in a tough situation?” Then Neil paused, baiting me, I knew, with his irony, but just before I was going to respond, he added, “You don’t think he’s stuck in some higher mechanism, do you?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked.

“A lot of modern people forget that our talk of God as judge is metaphorical. In other words, to call God a judge is to make use of a figure of speech, a metaphor, which requires that there be a physical thing to which God is being com­pared. I think we talked about this before, years ago. Modern Christians assume that the kinds of judges back in biblical times are equivalent to the kinds of judges there are in today’s world, but that’s a terribly mistaken assumption.” I looked at him and lifted my head slightly, signaling him to keep talking. “In early biblical times, there was no such thing as a complex court system or jury or constitution or annotated legal code or judicial precedent or nation-state. The judge was—one hoped—la wise, honest, and brave person who helped people resolve disputes and seek justice. It’s true, certain kings like Hammurabi tried to raise the standard of `judgemanship’ by promoting standardized codes with standardized punishments, and in a way, the Jewish Torah is a further elaboration on this theme. But modern judges are so different. They’re really court. mid­level bureaucrats, accountable to mechanisms of the  This is the only way modern conservative Christans can keep believing in both a loving God and horrific hell.i God is a de­cent judge stuck in a rigid, heartless system.”

“Anyway, Scripture can’t self-interpret, so that brings rea­son in. You have to try to make sense of the texts with intellec­tual integrity. And your reason has to deal fairly with tradition and experience too. Chesterton used to say- that tradition is the democracy of the dead. It reminds us not to be prejudiced against voices just because they’re not here anymore.”

I’d heard that before and nodded, then added something I’d heard Neil say before—what I guessed he was about to say next: “But I know that the voice of tradition has usually been a baritone voice, as you say, white European male. That’s why tra­dition has to extend to hear minority reports—what do you always call them?”

“Voices from the margins,” Neil said, “the voices of the other. Voices from the poor and weak and oppressed and for­’ gotten. And all of this has to be integrated with our own expe­rience, with how our beliefs work out in our daily lives, with what kind of fruit they bear.”

 the Hebrew word Sheol was translated as hell in the King James Version. But that was a mistake. Sheol simply meant the place of the dead, the grave. There was no idea of an immortal soul involved and certainly no idea of dif­ferent destinations for the good and the evil.”

 “Nearly all the cultures of the Euphrates valley had stories of the underworld, or the place the dead, which was a kind of shadowy place, dry, barren….”Once down there, Ereshkigal wouldn’t let you leave, so you would have to promise to send someone back in your place as a substitute—weird resonances with some Christian atone­ment theology, I know.

 “There will be a final cosmic battle between G and Evil, and Evil will lose. A savior figure named Sosh will go into hell and rescue and forgive everyone who is penitent, after they go through some kind of ordeal involving molten metal. Hell will then be destroyed, along with any un­repentant people left in it, I guess. All the souls of the just and the penitent who are forgiven will be reunited with bodies and will return to earth to live forever.”

Plato has Socrates say—right be­fore his suicide-1f death were a release from everything, it would be a boon for the wicked, because by dying they would be released not only from the body but also from their own wickedness together with the soul.’ I think he’s saying, ‘Look, it’s important to believe in postmortem punishment; otherwise wicked people will feel that they can get away with wickedness.

As long as they die before being brought to justice, crime pays—unless there’s an afterlife with judgment.'”

 For Jesus, good meant forgiving =nets and reconciling them to the community. For the Phar­isees, good meant explaining why the poor and sick deserved to be poor and sick and blaming scapegoats for the bad status quo. For Jesus, good meant helping the poor and healing the sick and seeking through love to transform the status quo. So for Jesus, good is always compassionate and. . .”

Neil interrupted, “As soon as you say that, I think about Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount, where he quotes Leviticus and says, ‘Be perfect as your Father in heaven is per­fect.’ Jesus has just told them to love their enemies, and he has said how God blesses the good and evil alike with rain. It’s in that context that he says be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect. .”

Now I interrupted. “You mean, Jesus is saying, ‘Your Fa­ther in heaven has a compassionate perfection. Mercy is part of God’s justice. Kindness is part of God’s righteousness. But the righteousness of you Pharisees is cold, exacting, heartless, merciless.’

“Not just how individual souls will be saved but instead how the world will be saved. When I say ‘saved,’ I mean not just from hell, and not just from God’s wrath either. After all, God’s wrath is a good thing, a saving thing. No, Daniel, the gospel is about how the world will be saved from human sin and all that goes with it—human greed, human lust, human pride, human oppression, human hypocrisy and dishonesty, human violence and racism, human chauvinism, human injus­tice.

Neil nodded. “He also speaks of being thrown into Gehenna, which was a garbage dump with a terrible reputation where carcasses were cremated along with garbage. In fact, one of the main words translated as hell in the New Testament is that word Gehenna. Does that mean that people will very literally be deposited in that trash dump outside Jerusalem? And he talks about a place where worms don’t die—a place of perpetual decay, I guess you’d say. Do you believe in literal eternal worms? Why be literal in one place and not another? Besides, all these images can’t be taken literally at the same time—I mean, you can’t have literal fire and darkness, right? So don’t they all suggest waste, decay, regret, and sorrow? Isn’t that what anyone would feel if he spent his whole life on accumulating possessions or wealth or knowledge or power but missed out on life to the full in the kingdom of God? He would have wasted his life! He would have failed to become the glorious person he could have become and instead become something crabby and cramped and ingrown J and dark and shabby and selfish. Wouldn’t that make you weep and gnash your teeth? Isn’t a garbage dump the perfect imagery to use for that kind of waste? It sounds to me like hell is one image Jesus uses among many others.”

 “The reader of the Word cannot select out comfortable passages and ignore those that make us uneasy. . . . Yes, I know a chill comes over you on hearing these things. But what am I to do? . . . Ordained as we are to the ministry of the word, we must cause our hearers discomfort when it is necessary for them to hear. We do this not arbitrar­ily but under command.” Chrysostom

 Lewis suggests that the act of closing in on the self and rejecting God causes souls to shrink or decay into something less and less human, which may suggest that their capacity for suffering decreases.

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Tackling Financial Exclusion – Financial Inclusion Commission, House of Lords

Theresa May talks of  ‘A Country That Works For Everyone ‘

THE poorest and most vulnerable people in the UK are “spiralling un­necessarily into debt and financial exclusion” as a result of the Govern­ment’s welfare reforms, and its “de­pressing” lack of financial services, a: A country that works for everyone?, published by the financial-exclusion select committee at the end of last month, concludes that the Govern­ment is failing to offer “fair” access to financial services — such as a bank account, loans, and support and advice concerning savings, bor­rowing, and debt — to ,a “sizeable” proportion of the UK.

People on low benefits, the un­employed, the young, the elderly, and those with disabilities, or who are mentally unwell, are the most likely to miss out on these services because they are not being offered the facilities, support, or capital to improve their finances, the report says. This creates a “vicious cycle” for those who are forced to rely on “high-cost and suboptimal prod­ucts” such as high-interest loans, pay-as-you-go mobile phones, and pre-pay energy meters.

“Christians Against Poverty (CAP) noted that those experiencing deprivation are not set up to engage well with financial services as they are lacking monetary resources, support, confidence, and import­antly, financial choices,” it says.

People in rural areas often have poor internet access. Just 38 per cent of over 75-year-olds have used the internet in the past month, the report says, and one third of people over 80 do not trust or use cash machines, much less the internet (93 per cent). Disabled access to banks or building societies is also inadequate, it says. One in eight disabled people report problems.

1.7m people in the UK do not have a bank account, further estimates suggest at least 600,000 older people are financially excluded. Homeless people and children in care are vulnerable, as they cannot always provide the identification needed to open a bank account, the committee warned. One in six people who have bank accounts struggle to understand their bills; others do not understand the inter­est charged on loans, or how to save, use credit cards, pay tax, and man­age debt.  All too often, disabled customers are being failed by banks who are not adjusting their communications and procedures to serve them properly, she said. The committee had been told of banks contacting deaf people by phone and sending written PIN numbers to blind people instead of using Braille.

The report recommends that all primary-school children in England are taught how to use and benefit from financial services in the UK, as is currently the case in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The Money Advice Service, which is due to close later this year, should be replaced by an equally “effective and impartial” tool, it says, and the Government should work with banks to offer courses on online banking, and other life skills.

The Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart, who is a member of the select committee, and of the Banking Standards Board, said: “Now is the time to put these practical recommendations into practice so that all members of society can participate and con­tribute to a flourishing UK.”

Recommendations

  1. Designate a senior minister as the government lead on financial inclusion, and financial capability, with the title of ‘Minister for Financial Health’
  2. Establish a Ministerial champion for financial inclusion in each interested Department and in all devolved administrations
  3. Establish an independent, expert group to report to the Minister for Financial Health on emerging issues and on progress toward financial inclusion, similar to the Financial Inclusion Taskforce
  4. Place a statutory duty on the Financial Conduct Authority to promote financial inclusion as one of its core objectives
  5. Establish an independent, industry-funded think tank to work with consumer groups, tackle regulatory challenges and facilitate innovation in the interests of financially excluded consumers
  6. The Competition and Markets Authority to promote transparent pricing as part of its investigation into retail banking
  7. The new Payment Systems Regulator to ensure Direct Debits and Faster Payments are accessible to small organisations and new entrants
  8. Regulators to ensure payment mechanisms are responsive to the needs of all consumers
  9. The Department for Work and Pensions to promote inclusive alternatives to the Post Office Card Account to support the introduction of Universal Credit, which meet the new basic bank account industry standard agreed by HM Treasury, including electronic payment facilities
  10. The Financial Conduct Authority to promote greater consistency and accessibility in identity requirements for opening a bank account, and the Cabinet Office to continue to work with industry to deliver a world-leading digital identity that supports financial inclusion
  11. Government to enable the use of public sector and non-traditional data incredit scoring, with safeguards, to make access to financial services easier for excluded groups
  12. Government to lead a collective effort with retail banks and others to promote wider data disclosure and to fill the low income credit gap which has been widened by departing payday lenders
  13. Promote measures to make community finance institutions more sustainable, such as government lifting the APR cap on credit unions, lenders and investors developing a better understanding of business models and risk, and community lenders attracting a wider customer base
  14. Adapt Scotland’s Debt Arrangement Scheme for the whole United Kingdom, with frozen interest, reduced arrangement fees, more breathing space, reduced time on the credit file and the offer of financial skills training
  15. Promote a more coherent approach to customer-focused debt advice through better coordination and clear regulatory guidance
  16. Rebalance government subsidies for savers to ensure everyone is encouraged to save, introduce auto-enrolment for workplace savings schemes and conduct a feasibility study into which savings models work best for people on low incomes
  17. Government to conduct a robust evaluation of ‘Pension Wise’ to ensure that everyone has access to an affordable, objective service that is fit for purpose
  18. The Department for Work and Pensions to work with the industry to deliver a Swedish-style pensions dashboard to help people understand the prospective real value of their consolidated public, private and occupational pension income
  19. The Financial Conduct Authority, using its proposed new financial inclusion objective, to ensure that risk profiles, premiums and refusals of cover in the personal insurance market are based on accurate information
  20. The Treasury to lead a debate on suitable and affordable protection for consumers unable to obtain personal insurance through the market
  21. Provide financial skills training from primary school through to retirement, including at key life stages and events, and covering cultural as well as technical aspects of money management
  22. Develop a robust, outcomes-based evaluation of how to improve financial capability, with resources to enable it, developed with industry, government, consumer groups and civil society, and coordinated by a reformed Money Advice Service

The report urges the Government to create a Minister for Financial Inclusion to impose its recom­mendations.

It’s online here

 

 

Riga, Latvia – chuches

Riga prot cathDom Cathedral

Dating back to 1211, the red brick Dom (or Dome) Protestant Cathedral is a highlight of the historic center of Riga. The cathedral is situated near the Western Daugava River and boasts an incredible organ with over 6,500 pipes built in 1844, stained glass windows and a beautifully whitewashed interior. There are regular concerts held on the organ, and the cathedral also has its own boy’s choir that gives regular performances.

First mentioned in 1226 chronicles, this is one of the oldest places of worship in Riga. First it was Lutheran then it belonged to the Catholic Order of Jesuits, and after that – Swedish garrison. It has been a catholic cathedral since 1922. St Jacob’s church is the only church in Riga which still has a Gothic tower – the peculiarity which used to be characteristic for all churches in this city. The steeple also deserves attention. There is an interesting legend behind the bell hanging outside. “Bell of Wretched Sinners”, as this was called, rang by itself when an unfaithful wife passed by.

the largest cathedral in the Baltic, – the long construction, which continued through several centuries, and numerous reconstructions, this cathedral represents a mixture of Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque and other styles. Its famous organ, created in 1883-1884 and complete with 6,768 pipes, is the fourth largest organ in the world. International organ music festivals and foreign musicians’ guest concerts are regularly held here.

Contact Details 1 Doma laukums, Old Riga, Riga, LV-1050

Phone Number: 735 6699
Admission: Free

R iga RO

Riga RO 2Russian Orthodox Cathedral Address Brīvības bulv 23, New town

Riga domSt Peter’s Address Skāņu iela, Old Town Phone tel: 2722 9426  (info) Keyword views, religious/spiritual, Unesco World Heritage  19 Skārņu iela, Old Riga, Riga, LV-1050

Rīga’s skyline centrepiece is gothic St Peter’s, thought to be about 800 years old. Don’t miss the view from its famed spire, which has been rebuilt three times in the same baroque form. Legend has it that in 1667 builders threw glass from the top – the number of pieces it broke into was the number of years it would stand. It landed on straw and didn’t break, and a year later it burned down. The spire’s current incarnation dates to 1973.

Riga Dom 2Mentioned for the first time way back in 1209, St. Peter’s Church is home to a 103-metre spire which offers unequalled views of the city itself and out over the Baltic. Despite the fact that it was mentioned almost eight hundred years ago it has undergone quite a few face lifts and renovations in the centuries which have elapsed since then. The tower in particular has been through a pretty rough time and collapsed for the first time in 1666, the last time was on St. Peter’s Day in 1941. Following the last collapse, however, the tower was left in disrepair for thirty years but thankfully it has been restored perfectly, complete with an observation platform for those visiting the city. Other churches in Riga which are also well worth checking out include the Dome Cathedral, St. Jon’s and St. Jacob’s.

St. Peter’s cathedral, first mentioned in 1209, is one of the oldest and most precious architectural monuments. This beautiful Gothic church was added to the UNESCO world heritage list in 1997. The church’s original wooden tower has been burnt several times in the course of history, and the church itself was severely damaged in 1941 during the war. From 1954 – 1973 the building was restored with a new tower reconstructed out of metal. The clock on the tower symbolizes vigilance and guards the city from evil. There are two observation grounds in the tower – at the height of 57m and 72m, the latter one is open to visitors. St. Peter’s cathedral is a Lutheran church. Nowadays, apart from the services held on Sundays at 10a, regular exhibitions and concerts take place in the church.

Riga SJSt John’s Church, dating back to the 13th century, was built as a chapel and part of the Dominican monastery (Jāņa Sēta). During the Reformation period it served first as a stable and later as Riga’s armoury. In 1582 it became a Lutheran church. According to the legend, two monks were voluntarily bricked into the southern wall and spent all their lives making a plea to Heaven to save the church from any invasion or disaster. Service is held on Sundays. 24 Skārņu iela, Old Riga, Riga, LV-1050

Riga ST 2St. John’s church was built in the Dominican monastery after 1234, first intended as a chapel. After expulsion of the Dominicans in the period of Reformation, the building was privately owned – it was used as a furniture workshop and later as a weapon arsenal. In 1582 it became a part of the Latvian parish. In 1587-89 the eastern part of the altar was added. In the 15th century two monks were immured here of their own free will. Only a small window in the wall to pass them food and drinks was left. The spot where the monks were walled up, and subsequently buried, can be easily seen today, mar ked by a cruciform barred aperture in the wall.

St. John’s church was built in the Dominican monastery after 1234, first intended as a chapel. After expulsion of the Dominicans in the period of Reformation, the building was privately owned – it was used as a furniture workshop and later as a weapon arsenal. In 1582 it became a part of the Latvian parish. In 1587-89 the eastern part of the altar was added. In the 15th century two monks were immured here of their own free will. Only a small window in the wall to pass them food and drinks was left. The spot where the monks were walled up, and subsequently buried, can be easily seen today, marked by a cruciform barred aperture in the wall.

AglonaAglona Basilica

Aglona Basilica is Latvia’s most important pilgrimage site and the leading Roman Catholic shrine in the nation. The church was built in 1699, but it’s since been engulfed by an enormous courtyard that was created for Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1993.

Aglona 2One of the basilica’s 10 altars guards a miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary, said to have saved Aglona from the plague in 1708.

Every year on Ascension Day (15 August) pilgrims gather here. A candlelight procession the night before precedes the religious celebration.

Riga SSSt. Saviour’s Church: (H-1) A little piece of Britain in Latvia. This Gothic-styled church, built in 1857, was constructed on ten meters of gravel brought from Britain by English merchants. The church, at Anglikanu 2a, belongs to the Church of England. English-language services every Sunday. t Saviour Anglikanu iela 2A, Riga LV 1050 Church Website: http://www.anglicanriga.lv T: +371 722 2259 (Church Office)
Riga SS 2E: info@anglicanriga.lv Chaplain: The Reverend Dr Juris Calitis Address as for Church  T&F: +371 721 1390 (Home)  T&F: +371 721 1288 (University Faculty of Theology) email: juris.calitis@lu.lv or teoldept@latnet.lv Holy Communion – recognisable, just, as an Anglican liturgy but with a Lutheran style – organ interludes; also unpunctual –  1100

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Bristol Independent Labour Party: Men, Women and the Opposition to War by June Hannam

Unlike other books in this series, this one is well-written and edited, as befits the profession of the author.

It is a surprise to learn that Bristol university was a hotbed of radicalism. Now, conservatism holds sway.

During World War One a significant minority of women and men throughout the country took part in a peace movement. They demanded the democratic control of foreign policy, a negotiated peace and a just, non- punitive settlement at the end of the conflict. They also joined with the wider labour movement to oppose conscription. The nature of the anti- war movement, its leadership and the alliances made varied from city to city. In Bristol it was socialists of the Independent Labour Party who provided much of the energy and personnel for the campaign. This pamphlet explores the activities and ideas of women and men of the ILP, including Walter Ayles, Annie Townley and Mabel Tothill. It examines the significance of friendship ties and cross party alliances, some of which were forged in the pre-war suffrage campaign. It also assesses the impact of peace activism on labour and gender politics in the city.

Quotations:

she said that war ‘was the greatest set back to progress and social reform…the destruction of life was an insult to the mothers of all nations. The enemy were God’s people as well as ourselves’. In an impassioned speech she pleaded ‘let us tell the men that we will not bring babies into the world to be killed….They should tell the conscriptionists that unless they could have free born babies they would not have them born slaves’.

Later in the year the University of Bristol also came under attack for ‘pro­-Germanism’. A petition was sent to the City Council complaining about .pacifist propaganda amongst the staff, while Dr Geraldine Hodgson expressed similar views in a letter to the press in which she criticised staff at the University Settlement at Barton Hill, including Mabel Tothill, for using the Settlement for ‘semi-secret’ peace activities.”

When the press refused to publish correspondence referring to ill treatment at Horfield prison the committee distributed a leaflet detailing the complaints. These included solitary confinement, a diet of bread and water, the removal of Bibles and being forced to wear Khaki…. Mabel Tothill, who wrote the circular, was anxious to draw attention to the fact that the difficulties that the men had endured showed how serious their beliefs were.'” During 1916 peace campaigners encountered even more hostility than before. Outdoor meetings were smashed up and the ILP offices were raided by police who took the minute books……, there were emotional as well as physical costs to opposition which were felt by family and friends, and the human costs can be seen time and again through individual stories. Thus Isaac Britton was fined 40/- for harbouring his son, a bootmaker of the same name, who was viewed as an absentee when he refused to turn up for military service.n8 The younger man then served two sentences, one for a year in Maidstone. When Walter Ayles was imprisoned Bertha had to bring up their young son on her own for over two years, while also making long journeys to visit her husband as he was moved from prison to prison. The health of Annie Townley’s husband, Ernest, was damaged when he was ‘knocked about’ at a demonstration in London in 1916, and the Labour Leader reported that he ‘has never been quite well since’.119 He was later arrested as a conscientious objector and some indication of the life of a married couple who were also political activ­ists can be glimpsed when Ernest asked for a few hours remand because his `wife was attending the Labour Party conference in Nottingham. He was granted 24 hours.

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The Lammy Review

This is an independent review of the treatment of, and outcomes for, BAME individuals in the Criminal Justice System.

It concludes that BAME individuals “still face bias — including overt discrimination — in parts of the justice system”.

The author, the Labour MP for Tottenham, David Lammy, argues that while progress has been made in society, the CJS “bucks the trend”. Despite making up just 14 per cent of the population, BAME men and women make up 25 per cent of prisoners. His “biggest concern” is with the youth justice system. He notes that, over the last five years 22,000 BAME children have had their names added to the Police National Database, including for minor offences, imperilling their future job prospects.

“Behind many young offenders are adults who either neglect or exploit them,” he writes. “The youth justice systems appear to have given up on parenting.” Last year, just 189 parenting orders were issued. Many parents “feel helpless about their children being exploited and drawn into criminality.”

“The factors behind BAME over-representation begin long before a guilty plea, court appearance, or prison sentence,” Mr Lammy said. “Communities must take greater responsibility for the care and development of their people — failing to do so only damages society as a whole.”

Among his 35 recommendations is that youth-offender panels should be renamed Local Justice Panels, which would take place in communities and have “a stronger emphasis on parenting, involve selected community members, and have the power to hold other local services to account for their role in a child’s rehabilitation”.

The Bishop to Prisons, the Rt Revd James Langstaff, who is Bishop of Rochester, said that churches were “well placed” to facilitate these. The report evidenced “what I think a lot of people kind of knew at gut level was the case: there is a hugely disproportionate presence of BAME people, especially young people, within the CSJ.” The Church had a part to play in addressing the challenge, he said, “not least because many of these people who have found themselves in this situation will be people who at various stages in life have got church connections”.

The report also calls for the roll-out of a “deferred prosecution” model, allowing low-level offenders to receive targeted rehabilitation before entering a plea. Those successfully completing rehabilitation programmes would see their charges dropped. On Tuesday, the Bishop of Kensington, Dr Graham Tomlin, said that chaplaincies and prison ministries could play a helpful part in this, and churches with a “good multi-ethnic mix can play an especially significant role in this process”.

The Vicar of St Matthew’s, Borstal, the Revd Anne Bennett, a former chaplain at Cookham Wood, a Young Offenders Institution, said that the report made “uncomfortable reading”.

The report painted a “bleak picture of growing up as a young black person”, she said. “Young people who have been systematically failed by the adults around them are held solely responsible for their crimes.” The Church had “much to offer”, including parenting support, advocacy, and practical help for disaffected young people.

“Getting young youth off the streets and into decent youth clubs is a small step, but one we can and should be doing. A gospel of hope and love can stand up against the bleak cycle of offending and reoffending, offering as it does an affirmation of every person’s unique value.” Priests must “speak truth to power, speaking out against poverty, racism, and the systematic failures of our public services, and standing up for young people in care and in custody.” They should remember and visit young people in prison, offer support on release, and engage in community chaplaincy. “We must address the fact that the church itself does not model equality and our own senior ranks are disproportionately white and male,” she added.

A key finding is that the rate of BAME defendants are more likely to plead guilty in Crown Courts than white defendants, which is attributed to their having more confidence in the fairness of juries than in that of magistrates’ courts. “Throughout this review, I met offenders — mostly Black young men – who described how they regretted their initial not-guilty plea,” writes Mr Lammy.

The report says that many BAME prisoners “believe they are actively discriminated against, and this is contributing to a desire to rebel rather than reform”. Part of the answer, Mr Lammy suggests, is addressing the lack of diversity among prison officers. Sentencing remarks should be made public, he suggests, to “demystify decision-making processes”.

Dr Tomlin, who is a regular visitor to London prisons, said: “I accept that more could be done to build trust with BAME offenders.”

The report highlights that, overall, the charging decisions taken by the CPS are “broadly proportionate”, that BAME staff account for 19 per cent of its staff, and that juries — including all white juries — do not deliver different results for BAME and white defendants.

It’s online here

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