Some Recent Parliamentary Replies On North Korea and details of three forthcoming meetings in Parliament about North Korea. Also, October Questions and Answers about Sudan.

north-korean-refugeesSome Recent Parliamentary Replies On North Korea

north-korea-imagesnorth korea executions

 

Also See

https://davidalton.net/2016/09/09/parliamentary-debate-on-freedom-of-religion-or-belief-september-8-full-text-and-link-to-tv-recording-syria-iraq-north-korea-sudan-iran-pakistan-saudi-arabia-china-india-burma/

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2542):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports about the reflagging of North Korean ships in Tanzania; and whether they have raised that issue at the UN Security Council. (HL2542)

Tabled on: 24 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

The Government is aware of such reports and have raised concerns this year with the Tanzanian Government about their shipping register. We continue to have discussions with partner states, and the UN Panel of Experts on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), regarding the misuse of country flags by ships connected to the DPRK. We take such misuse seriously and urge all countries to abide by UN Security Council resolutions. UN Security Council Resolution 2270 calls upon Member States to de-register any vessel that is owned, operated or crewed by the DPRK, and not to register any such vessels that have been de-registered by another Member State.

Date and time of answer: 03 Nov 2016 at 15:33

Baroness Williams of Trafford, the Home Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2084):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to ensure that UK-owned companies do not facilitate the forced labour of North Korean nationals. (HL2084)

Tabled on: 10 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Williams of Trafford:

Current trade between the UK and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is minimal and covered by an overarching provision that any activities should satisfy existing UN and EU sanctions. These refer to restriction in the export of goods and financial assistance, which may contribute to the development of the DPRK’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 introduced a landmark transparency in supply chains provision. This requires all commercial organisations operating in the UK with a turnover of £36m or more to set out what steps they have taken to prevent modern slavery in their business and supply chains each year. This mandatory reporting will allow consumers, investors, campaigners and others to scrutinise the activities of businesses and call businesses to account if they are not doing enough, including in relation to North Korean nationals.

Date and time of answer: 24 Oct 2016 at 14:29.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2192):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answers by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 8 June (HL359) and 16 June (HL388) on the subject of violence against women and girls, whether the British Embassy in Pyongyang or the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have raised the issue of rape and sexual violence of women and girls by North Korean public officials with North Korea since June 2016. (HL2192)

Tabled on: 11 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

We have not raised this specific issue since the previous answers (HL359 and HL388) in June 2016. However, we continue to raise our concerns on human rights directly with the regime of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Most recently, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office my Honourable Friend the member for Reading West (Mr Sharma), summoned the Ambassador for the DPRK to the Foreign Commonwealth Office, where Mr Sharma made clear our concerns that the regime was prioritising its nuclear and ballistic missile programme ahead of the welfare of its people. In addition, we are currently working with partners at the UN General Assembly Third Committee on a strong resolution to maintain international attention on the human rights situation in the DPRK.

Date and time of answer: 21 Oct 2016 at 14:54.

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2193):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 16 June (HL392), whether the British Embassy in North Korea had presented a copy of the report of the UN Commission of Inquiry on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to North Korean officials by 10 October. (HL2193)

Tabled on: 11 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

As stated in answer HL392, the British Embassy in Pyongyang presented the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) with a statement supporting the UN Commission of Inquiry’s (COI) findings from the former Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my Rt Hon. Friend the Member for East Devon (Mr Swire). This statement was rejected by the MFA. The DPRK is fully aware of the COI report’s findings, but refuses to substantively engage on human rights issues and regularly denounces the UN COI report as a politically motivated fabrication.

Date and time of answer: 21 Oct 2016 at 14:54.

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2194):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what are their reasons for not imposing human rights sanctions against designated North Korean persons suspected of mass human rights violations and crimes against humanity. (HL2194)

Tabled on: 11 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

We continue to have discussions with international partners about ways to increase the pressure on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to improve its appalling human rights record. We are currently discussing a response to the DPRK’s nuclear and ballistic missile programme at the UN Security Council. We are also discussing a further resolution on DPRK human rights at the UN General Assembly Third Committee to maintain the focus of international attention on their appalling human rights record.

We will always consider the full range of measures at our disposal and carefully consider the impact and benefits of sanctions measures before they are imposed. These considerations include our ability to defend the legality of the sanctions should they be challenged under EU law and the likelihood of achieving our objective of a denuclearised DPRK which abides by international norms and respects the human rights of its citizens.

Date and time of answer: 20 Oct 2016 at 15:15.

 

 

 

Lord Young of Cookham, HM Treasury, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2086):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the government of North Korea, or any of its state-owned companies, has access to the London Stock Exchange or holds financial interests in the UK. (HL2086)

Tabled on: 10 October 2016

Answer:
Lord Young of Cookham:

As part of UN and EU sanctions, banks are required to close existing branches, subsidiaries or accounts in North Korea where it has been determined that they contribute to North Korea’s ballistic missile programmes. The sanctions also prohibit any commercial activity by the Government of North Korea (including legal persons, entities or bodies owned or controlled by them).

Assets owned or controlled in the EU by designated DPRK persons, entities or bodies, including government bodies, are subject to an asset freeze and cannot be traded on the London Stock Exchange. A list of designations which has been placed in the Library includes a number of DPRK government and state-owned bodies. HM Treasury implements these financial sanctions in the UK. Non-compliance with financial sanctions is a criminal offence and HM Treasury works closely with law enforcement to ensure sanctions breaches are dealt with appropriately. For reasons of confidentiality, the Treasury does not make public the details of individual reports of frozen assets.

Date and time of answer: 24 Oct 2016 at 14:49.

Lord Price, Department for International Trade, provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2087):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the number of companies owned by UK nationals or headquartered in the UK which conduct business with the government of North Korea or any of its state-owned companies. (HL2087)

Tabled on: 10 October 2016

Answer:
Lord Price:

The Government does not have data on the number of companies owned by UK nationals or headquartered in the UK which conduct business with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

Data on the value of trade between the UK and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is published by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). In 2015 the total bilateral trade in goods between the UK and the DPRK was $814,700.

Date and time of answer: 24 Oct 2016 at 15:47.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2192):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answers by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 8 June (HL359) and 16 June (HL388) on the subject of violence against women and girls, whether the British Embassy in Pyongyang or the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have raised the issue of rape and sexual violence of women and girls by North Korean public officials with North Korea since June 2016. (HL2192)

Tabled on: 11 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

We have not raised this specific issue since the previous answers (HL359 and HL388) in June 2016. However, we continue to raise our concerns on human rights directly with the regime of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Most recently, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office my Honourable Friend the member for Reading West (Mr Sharma), summoned the Ambassador for the DPRK to the Foreign Commonwealth Office, where Mr Sharma made clear our concerns that the regime was prioritising its nuclear and ballistic missile programme ahead of the welfare of its people. In addition, we are currently working with partners at the UN General Assembly Third Committee on a strong resolution to maintain international attention on the human rights situation in the DPRK.

Date and time of answer: 21 Oct 2016 at 14:54.

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2193):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 16 June (HL392), whether the British Embassy in North Korea had presented a copy of the report of the UN Commission of Inquiry on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to North Korean officials by 10 October. (HL2193)

Tabled on: 11 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

As stated in answer HL392, the British Embassy in Pyongyang presented the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) with a statement supporting the UN Commission of Inquiry’s (COI) findings from the former Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my Rt Hon. Friend the Member for East Devon (Mr Swire). This statement was rejected by the MFA. The DPRK is fully aware of the COI report’s findings, but refuses to substantively engage on human rights issues and regularly denounces the UN COI report as a politically motivated fabrication.

Date and time of answer: 21 Oct 2016 at 14:54.

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2194):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what are their reasons for not imposing human rights sanctions against designated North Korean persons suspected of mass human rights violations and crimes against humanity. (HL2194)

Tabled on: 11 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

We continue to have discussions with international partners about ways to increase the pressure on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to improve its appalling human rights record. We are currently discussing a response to the DPRK’s nuclear and ballistic missile programme at the UN Security Council. We are also discussing a further resolution on DPRK human rights at the UN General Assembly Third Committee to maintain the focus of international attention on their appalling human rights record.

We will always consider the full range of measures at our disposal and carefully consider the impact and benefits of sanctions measures before they are imposed. These considerations include our ability to defend the legality of the sanctions should they be challenged under EU law and the likelihood of achieving our objective of a denuclearised DPRK which abides by international norms and respects the human rights of its citizens.

Date and time of answer: 20 Oct 2016 at 15:15.

 

 

 

 

Department for International Trade

North Korea: Sanctions

Lords

HL2088

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the effect of the United States’ North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2016 (H.R. 757) on UK-owned businesses and UK nationals which conduct business with the government of North Korea or its state-owned companies.

A

Answered by: Lord Price

Answered on: 20 October 2016

The Government has made no such assessment.

 

 

Q

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Asked on: 10 October 2016

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

North Korea: Refugees

Lords

HL2085

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports that the government of China has recently breached the United Nations Refugee Convention by refouling 30 North Koreans without giving them an opportunity to claim asylum nor to meet representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

A

Answered by: Baroness Anelay of St Johns

Answered on: 19 October 2016

We are aware of reports of thirty North Koreans being sent back to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) after a period of detention in China.

Despite claims by the DPRK authorities that forcibly repatriated refugees are well treated and reintegrated into DPRK society, reports suggest that they are often mistreated by the authorities.

We will raise the issue of non -refoulement at the next UK-China Human rights Dialogue, scheduled to take place this month.

 

 

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Asked on: 10 October 2016

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

North Korea: Overseas Aid

Lords

HL2089

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they ensure that funds spent by the British Embassy in Pyongyang or funds dispersed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for North Korea activities are not diverted by the government of North Korea for use in its nuclear programme or human rights abuses.

A

Answered by: Baroness Anelay of St Johns

Answered on: 19 October 2016

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) projects in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) are usually delivered through international Non-Governmental Organisations who operate in-country and are aimed at assisting some of the most vulnerable groups in North Korean society. Before selecting an implementing partner relevant due diligence checks are carried out which include, but are not limited to, obtaining assurances about: training provided to staff in relation to reporting bribery and corruption; how those concerns are shared with donors; and what policies, principles and procedures the organisation has in place to regulate its own conduct.

In line with standard FCO project requirements detailed budgets are required for all projects and these are carefully checked to ensure both in-country and other costs are reasonable. Project implementers are required to provide financial reports and originals or copies of all invoices and receipts, as well as a Project Completion Report containing a detailed breakdown of all expenditure during the project period. The final payment on any project is only released after submission of a satisfactory Project Completion Report.

 

 

Q

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Asked on: 11 October 2016

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

North Korea: Refugees

Lords

HL2195

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they intend to raise the issue of stateless North Koreans with the government of China; and what steps they plan to take to aid stateless North Koreans in need if the government of China is unwilling to assist them.

A

Answered by: Baroness Anelay of St Johns

Answered on: 19 October 2016

We are aware of reports of thirty North Koreans being sent back to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) after a period of detention in China.

Despite claims by the DPRK authorities that forcibly repatriated refugees are well treated and reintegrated into DPRK society, reports suggest that they are often mistreated by the authorities.

We will raise the issue of non-refoulement at the next UK-China Human rights Dialogue, scheduled to take place this month.

 

 

AWAITING REPLY

Q

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Asked on: 11 October 2016

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

North Korea: Sexual Offences

Lords

HL2192

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answers by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 8 June (HL359) and 16 June (HL388) on the subject of violence against women and girls, whether the British Embassy in Pyongyang or the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have raised the issue of rape and sexual violence of women and girls by North Korean public officials with North Korea since June 2016.

 

Q

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Asked on: 11 October 2016

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

North Korea: Human Rights

Lords

HL2193

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 16 June (HL392), whether the British Embassy in North Korea had presented a copy of the report of the UN Commission of Inquiry on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to North Korean officials by 10 October.

 

Q

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Asked on: 11 October 2016

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

North Korea: Human Rights

Lords

HL2194

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what are their reasons for not imposing human rights sanctions against designated North Korean persons suspected of mass human rights violations and crimes against humanity.

 

Q

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Asked on: 11 October 2016

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

North Korea: Embassies

Lords

HL2196

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what are the direct costs of the British Embassy in Pyongyang, broken down into (1) locally employed staff, (2) estate expenditure, (3) security, (4) vehicle costs, (5) travel, (6) subsistence and (7) allowances; and what is the cost of Foreign and Commonwealth Office funded activities broken down by individual projects in North Korea for 2016.

 

Q

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Asked on: 10 October 2016

Home Office

Forced Labour: North Korea

Lords

HL2084

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to ensure that UK-owned companies do not facilitate the forced labour of North Korean nationals.

 

Q

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Asked on: 10 October 2016

HM Treasury

Financial Services: North Korea

Lords

HL2086

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the government of North Korea, or any of its state-owned companies, has access to the London Stock Exchange or holds financial interests in the UK.

 

Q

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Asked on: 10 October 2016

Department for International Trade

Overseas Trade: North Korea

Lords

HL2087

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the number of companies owned by UK nationals or headquartered in the UK which conduct business with the government of North Korea or any of its state-owned companies.

 

 

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

North Korea: Nuclear Weapons

Lords

HL1899

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the report by Siegfried Hecker, published on 12 September, concluding that North Korea will have enough material for about 20 nuclear bombs by the end of this year, that it has expanded uranium enrichment facilities, and that it has stockpiled plutonium.

A

Answered by: Baroness Anelay of St Johns

Answered on: 28 September 2016

We have made clear our deep concern at and condemnation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) nuclear programme. We take into account all sources of information when assessing it. As the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my Hon. Friend the Member for Reading West (Alok Sharma) made clear in his remarks to the UN Security Council on 23 September, that the United Kingdom condemns the recent nuclear test conducted by the DPRK, which is a direct violation of binding Security Council Resolutions. The DPRK must comply with its obligations under all relevant UN Security Council Resolutions, including abandoning all nuclear weapons and nuclear programmes in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner.

Department for International Development

North Korea: Floods

Lords

HL1900

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what humanitarian aid they are providing to injured and displaced persons in North Korea following the recent flooding in that country.

A

Answered by: Baroness Anelay of St Johns

Answered on: 27 September 2016

The UK supports organisations such as the UN through core contributions. UN agencies are delivering humanitarian assistance to people affected.

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

Asked on: 05 September 2016

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

North Korea: Guided Weapons

Lords

HL1544

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether, following North Korea’s launch of three ballistic missiles on 5 September, the UN Security Council will be convened to consider the implications of that launch and an international response.

A

Answered by: Baroness Anelay of St Johns

Answered on: 15 September 2016

The UN Security Council (UNSC) met on 6 September to discuss a response to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) ballistic missiles launches on 5 September. The UNSC subsequently issued a statement condemning these launches as a flagrant violation of UN Security Council Resolutions. The UK strongly supports this statement, as we have with previous UNSC statements condemning DPRK provocations in 2016. We will continue to discuss at the UNSC, and with close partners, further measures in response to the DPRK’s destabilising and provocative actions.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

North Korea: Guided Weapons

Lords

HL1543

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of North Korea’s launch of three ballistic missiles on 5 September.

A

Answered by: Baroness Anelay of St Johns

Answered on: 12 September 2016

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) ballistic missile launches of 5 September are a clear violation of multiple UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs). The DPRK’s repeated provocations in 2016 are a threat to regional stability and international security. The UN Security Council statement of 6 September, which the UK fully supports, clearly demonstrates that the international community is united and will not tolerate this destabilising behaviour. We urge the DPRK to abide by UNSCRs and return to credible and authentic discussions on its nuclear and ballistic missile programme.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

North Korea: Sanctions

Lords

HL1077

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the US Treasury decision to impose sanctions on North Korean senior officials in the light of reported human rights abuses; and whether they plan to impose similar sanctions.

A

Answered by: Baroness Anelay of St Johns

Answered on: 26 July 2016

The US decision to designate senior members of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) regime follows its decision to introduce the US North Korea Sanctions Policy Enhancement Act in February 2016. The British Government shares the objective of maintaining pressure on the DPRK to fulfil its international human rights obligations and is deeply concerned by the human rights situation in the DPRK. It regularly consults with partners such as the US, the EU and regional partners on the best way to achieve this.

 

Latest

  • Forthcoming Meetings On North Korea
  •  north-korea-human-rightsnorth korea executions
    • Fiona Bruce MP will chair a meeting on November 2nd at 17:00 in Committee Room 20, the Houses of Parliament: Jieun Baek, a Ph.D. candidate in Public Policy at the University of Oxford, will address the All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea on how North Korea’s information underground — the network of citizens who take extraordinary risks by circulating illicit content such as foreign films, television shows, soap operas, books, and encyclopedias — have fostered an awareness of life outside North Korea and affected the social and political consciousness of North Koreans.

     

    • Lord Alton of Liverpool will chair a meeting on November 8th at 17:00 in Committee Room 21, the Houses of Parliament — This event will contain two presentations:
    • First, College Student’s Alliance for North Korean Human Rights (also known as YoungNK — a South Korean-based not-for-profit organisation which seeks to engage young people on North Korean human rights), in partnership with the European Alliance for Human Rights in North Korea, will speak about their programmes that creatively engage South Koreans on North Korean human rights.
    • Second, Seung Hoon Chae, a Ph.D. candidate in Politics at Nuffield College, University of Oxford, will speak on the causes behind the activism of North Korean refugees, especially those based in the UK. Seung Hoon will present a case study of North Korean refugees in the UK and suggest that the voices of North Korean refugees are determined more by who a person is today than who that person was at the point of exiting North Korea.

     

    • Geoffrey Clifton-Brown will chair a meeting on  November 17th at 17:00 in Committee Room 17, the Houses of Parliament: A screening of the film ‘While They Watched’, a retrospectively-styled documentary that looks back at the crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Government of North Korea. Reflecting on a famous assertion concerning the Nazi regime of ‘Never Again’, the film will draw on interviews with social scientists, North Korean exiles, NGOs and governmental bodies to ask the question: How have the atrocities of North Korea been allowed to happen?
  • Details from James Burt jamesburtappg@gmail.comWebsite: www.appgnk.orgTwitter: @APPGNorthKoreaFacebook: facebook.com/appg.nkVisit the All Party Group on North Korea Web Site for Details of forthcoming events:

    http://appgnk.org/gallery/

    and visit:

    https://davidalton.net/2016/02/27/parliamentary-debate-on-the-security-and-human-rights-challenges-on-the-korean-peninsula-following-north-koreas-recent-nuclear-test

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Sudan Questions And  Answers – October 2016

chemical-weapons-attacks

 

sudan stop the genocidedarfur

 

Question for Short Debate

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress has been made in securing peace, progress, human rights and good governance in Sudan. (25 October)

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2613):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what estimate they have made of the percentage of the gross domestic product of Sudan which is used on (1) its army and security sector; and (2) developing basic infrastructure. (HL2613)

Tabled on: 25 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

It is not possible to estimate with a high degree of certainty the percentage of Sudan’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) spent on security and development as the Government of Sudan does not publish the national budget. From figures provided by the World Bank in 2014, we are aware that 5 per cent of Sudan’s GDP was spent on pro-poor expenditures, which includes spending on infrastructure.

Date and time of answer: 03 Nov 2016 at 15:44.

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2616):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to support the international Criminal Court and its work in Sudan. (HL2616)

Tabled on: 25 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

The UK supports UN Security Council Resolution 1593, which urges all States to cooperate fully with the International Criminal Court (ICC) and its Prosecutor with regards to the situation in Darfur. The UK fully respects the ICC as an independent organisation; it is the responsibility of the Office of the Prosecutor of the Court to take forward the investigation.

Date and time of answer: 03 Nov 2016 at 15:44.

 

 

Baroness Williams of Trafford, the Home Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2617):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether it is their policy to repatriate non-Arab Darfuri asylum seekers from the UK to Khartoum; and what account is taken when making such decisions, of the needs of those who believe that their human rights, especially the right to freedom of religion or belief, will be violated. (HL2617)

Tabled on: 25 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Williams of Trafford:

All protection claims, including claims based on the right to freedom of religion or belief, are carefully considered on their individual facts and merits, in accordance with our obligations under the Refugee Convention and European Convention on Human Rights. They are assessed against available country of origin information, which is obtained from a range of reliable sources, including reputable media outlets; local, national and international organisations, including human rights organisations; and information from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Where people establish a genuine need for protection, we will grant it. If they are found not to need our protection, we expect them to leave the country voluntarily. Where they do not, we will seek to enforce their departure. Enforced removals are carried out in the most sensitive way possible, treating those being removed with respect and courtesy.

Date and time of answer: 04 Nov 2016 at 09:33.

 

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2541):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports that ammunition used by Boko Haram in Nigeria is manufactured in Sudan; that Boko Haram buys its weapons from Al-Geneina City, Darfur; and that Boko Haram uses Sudan as a transit country to link with Saudi Arabia. (HL2541)

Tabled on: 24 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

We are not aware of any specific reports that Boko Haram uses Sudanese-manufactured ammunition; that Boko Haram buys weapons from Al-Geneina City; or that Boko Haram uses Sudan as a transit country to link with Saudi Arabia.

We fully support the EU arms embargo on Sudan and the UN arms embargo on Darfur, and we are fully committed to supporting Nigeria and its neighbours in the fight against Boko Haram.

Date and time of answer: 02 Nov 2016 at 17:03.

 

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2625):

Question:
Baroness Cox to ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the risk of the government of Sudan becoming a secondary or tertiary beneficiary of funding dedicated to the Better Migration Management Fund. (HL2625)

Tabled on: 25 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

All EU funds committed to the Better Migration Management project are managed by Member States’ Development Agencies or International Organisations. No funding will be channelled through the beneficiary countries’ government structures, directly or indirectly. The EU and the consortium of EU Member States will retain responsibility for the implementation of the project and activities will be carried out by experts from EU Member States, international organisations and non-governmental organisations.

Date and time of answer: 02 Nov 2016 at 17:11.

 

 

Lord Bates, the Department for International Development, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2380):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the risks and potential human rights infringements arising from the repatriation of refugees from Sudan to Eritrea. (HL2380)

Tabled on: 18 October 2016

Answer:
Lord Bates:

Refugees and irregular migrants in the Horn of Africa are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation not only by people smugglers and traffickers but also by government authorities. The UK is using its position as current chair of The Khartoum Process to push for international agreement around improving the conditions of migrants in the Horn of Africa.

The Khartoum Process is a regional initiative bringing together the Governments of Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan and Libya and the EU, the UK, Italy, France, Germany and Malta to better manage migration in the region, including the protection of irregular migrants. The Khartoum Process has a strong emphasis on the protection of migrant rights and is at the centre of a plan of action agreed between African nations, the EU and EU member states.

The UK Government has voiced concern for the wellbeing of refugees returned to Eritrea from Sudan with both governments will continue to press them to treat refugees and asylum seekers according to international law.

 

 

Lord Bates, the Department for International Development, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2379):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many (1) internally displaced persons, and (2) refugees from other countries, there are in Sudan. (HL2379)

Tabled on: 18 October 2016

Answer:
Lord Bates:

According to figures from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), there are a total of 3.2 million internally displaced people in Sudan, of which 2.6 million are long term displaced in Darfur alone (as stated in the attached).

OCHA also estimates that Sudan hosts a total of 386,283 refugees from neighbouring countries.

The following documents were submitted as part of the answer and are appended to this email:

  1. File name: PQHL2379 attachment.pdf
    Description: PQHL2379 attachment

Date and time of answer: 31 Oct 2016 at 16:56.

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2612):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the role of Iran and North Korea in the building of factories for the production of munitions and weapons in Sudan. (HL2612)

Tabled on: 25 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

We are aware of claims that these countries may have previously cooperated with Sudan in the manufacture and trade of weapons. We continue to fully support the EU arms embargo on Sudan as well as the UN arms embargo specifically on Darfur.

Date and time of answer: 03 Nov 2016 at 15:45.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2381):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the indictment of Omar al Bashir for genocide and human rights abuses in Sudan, what is the current level of engagement with the Sudanese regime and whether that level of engagement has increased, or is planned to increase. (HL2381)

Tabled on: 18 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

In order to maximise our ability to persuade all parties to the conflicts in Sudan to end the fighting and allow the Sudanese people the security and development they deserve, we need to have a greater level of direct engagement with the government of Sudan. For that reason, we have started a Strategic Dialogue with the government of Sudan, which provides a necessary platform for us to raise issues of concern, including human rights, and at the same time explore possibilities for cooperation on a wide range of UK interests. The Strategic Dialogue process does not change our position of maintaining only‘essential contact’ with President Bashir, given his outstanding arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court (ICC). The UK remains a firm supporter of the ICC and encourages all States to act on its indictment.

Date and time of answer: 31 Oct 2016 at 13:46.

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2382):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is the priority given to the promotion of democracy and human rights within the UK–Sudanese strategic dialogue; and what assessment they have made of (1) the reliability of the Sudanese regime as a reliable partner with a shared agenda, and (2) the extent to which the strategic dialogue will embolden the regime in Sudan to continue with their current policies. (HL2382)

Tabled on: 18 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

Improving human rights remains one of our policy priorities in Sudan, and therefore discussions of human rights issues are a key part of the UK-Sudan Strategic Dialogue. At the last round of talks on 10/11 October, a representative from the Sudan Advisory Council for Human Rights accompanied the Sudanese delegation.

In a number of areas we fundamentally disagree with the government of Sudan; however, in others our interests are much more closely aligned. We assess that direct engagement through the Strategic Dialogue process provides better opportunities to raise issues of bilateral concern, as well as to look at strategic questions such as the resolution of internal conflicts, regional security and migration. We keep this policy under regular review.

Date and time of answer: 31 Oct 2016 at 14:09.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2383):

Question: To ask Her Majesty’s Government why, in the last year, there has been a reduction in the number of UK and EU statements on human rights violations in Sudan. (HL2383)

Tabled on: 18 October 2016

Answer: Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

Sudan remains a Human Rights Priority Country for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as outlined in the FCO’s last annual Human Rights and Democracy Report published in July 2016. We regularly raise our human rights concerns directly with the government of Sudan in London, Khartoum and New York as part of our ongoing dialogue. Most recently, human rights issues were a key theme of the Strategic Dialogue that took place in London in on 10/11 October.

We consider our response to all reports of human rights violations carefully, in consultation with our EU and troika partners and with human rights organisations on the ground, and respond in the way we judge to be the most effective in conveying our concerns to the government of Sudan. We also support the established UN mechanisms in their efforts to improve the situation in Sudan.

Date and time of answer: 31 Oct 2016 at 14:42.

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2339):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what role armed militias play in enforcing Sudan’s commitments under the Khartoum Process; whether they are being used to enforce border controls and to capture migrants; and what action the regime took, under its commitments in the Doha Document for Peace, 2012, to disarm militias. (HL2339)

Tabled on: 17 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

We are concerned by the reported use of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) to tackle migration in Sudan and have raised these concerns with the government of Sudan, most recently during the visit of the UK Special Representative to Sudan and South Sudan in September. We have also made clear that our cooperation on migration will necessarily be guided by our human rights principles. The EU has also raised the role of the RSF with the government of Sudan and has made absolutely clear that no funding aligned with the Khartoum Process will be provided to them.

The government of Sudan has undertaken some of its disarmament commitments under the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD), but together with our international partners we continue to urge them to do more. The UK is a member of the DDPD’s Implementation Follow-Up Commission (IFC), which we use to press for progress on disarmament and other areas of the DDPD’s implementation. The most recent meeting of the IFC was in May 2016.

Date and time of answer: 26 Oct 2016 at 16:01.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2338):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what procedures have been put in place to ensure that EU funds committed to the Khartoum Process are not embezzled by corrupt officials; and whether they have investigated whether there has been collusion between Sudanese security officials and human traffickers. (HL2338)

Tabled on: 17 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

All EU funds committed to the Khartoum Process are managed by Member States’ Development Agencies or International Organisations. No funding will be channelled through the beneficiary countries’ government structures.

We are deeply concerned by the reports of collusion between Sudanese security officials and human traffickers, and have raised this issue directly with the government of Sudan as part of our wider engagement on migration. The UK is supporting the Sudanese judiciary to implement new anti-trafficking legislation by helping them improve their understanding of both this and the UN Trafficking in Persons Protocol.

Date and time of answer: 26 Oct 2016 at 16:00.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2336):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports that ammunition used by Boko Haram in Nigeria is manufactured in Sudan. (HL2336)

Tabled on: 17 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

We are not aware of any reports that Sudanese-manufactured ammunition has been used by Boko Haram. We fully support the EU arms embargo on Sudan as well as the UN arms embargo on Darfur.

Date and time of answer: 26 Oct 2016 at 15:53.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2337):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they intend to evaluate the use of €46 million earmarked for the Khartoum Process; what benchmarks and agreed criteria have been developed to guide the Process; and what procedures have been put in place to monitor, audit, and review the efficacy of the Process. (HL2337)

Tabled on: 17 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

The Khartoum Process does not have a defined single fund, but draws from several different sources of EU funding; including the Better Migration Management Fund and the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa.

The UK, as the current Chair of the Khartoum Process, works closely with the Secretariat to maintain a map of current and proposed projects, and ensure effective coordination and monitoring. The European Commission has responsibility for assessing implementation against the Valetta benchmarks and outcomes, and conducting the full audit and review of the EU funding programmes.

Date and time of answer: 26 Oct 2016 at 15:53.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2335):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government when the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Sudan Unit and the British Ambassador to the Republic of Sudan last engaged with opposition groups in Sudan, in particular those members of the Sudan Call alliance; and, following the signing of the Sudan Roadmap Agreement, whether a delegation from the Sudan Call alliance will be invited to London in order to deepen political engagement with that group. (HL2335)

Tabled on: 17 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

Both the UK Special Representative to Sudan and South Sudan and Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Sudan engage with opposition groups regularly, most recently at a joint meeting with the Sudan Call alliance of opposition groups in Khartoum in September. The UK Special Representative also met with representatives of the National Umma Party, including Sadiq El Mahdi, in Addis Ababa on 23 September. We will continue to develop our relations with these groups both in Sudan and elsewhere.

Date and time of answer: 26 Oct 2016 at 15:52.

 

 darfur

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Save The Congo:49 pro-democracy protesters killed and President Kabila tries to cling to power, ​crushing those who are calling on him to step down and retire honourably​. See the video; sign the petition. Government Minister’s Reply.

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Speak Up For The Women Of The Congo

sAVE THE CONGO

See:

https://davidalton.net/2013/12/01/roscoe-lecture-save-the-congo-and-the-story-of-e-d-morel-vava-tampa-and-details-of-the-next-two-roscoe-lectures-in-liverpool-with-baronesstanni-grey-thomspon-dbe-and-diane-lees-director-gener/

October 2016: British Government Responds. See Minister’s Letter: scan0031

This week marks the killing, exactly one month ago, of 49 pro-democracy protesters in the streets of Kinshasa – and 2 months to the end of President Kabila’s second and last constitutional mandate. But he is attempting to cling to power and crushing those who are calling on him to step down and retire honourably

 

Vava Tampa and Save the Congo have launched a new campaign:#KabilaMustGo, to refocus the world’s attention on Congo -.

 

Please look at the campaign video and consider signing their petition calling on the AU,

EU and UNSC to help put an end to Mr Kabila’s ruthless efforts to cling to power and to push for, and support, strategies and policies that will ensure that Mr Kabila steps down from power by 19 December 2016 as constitutionally mandated and a transitional government is put in place until a new president can be elected.

 

Campaign video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VY9lBZrbHNk

 

Petition: http://savethecongo.org.uk/#!/sign

 

Please share the video on social media using hashtag #KabilaMustGo and do sign and ask your friends and families to also sign their petition.

 

 

Parliament hears first hand accounts about the situation in Aleppo and in Pakistan. Wednesday November 23rd has been declared “Red Wednesday” – when Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral will be lit in red to commemorate the men, women and children who are dying because of their faith or beliefs.

On Monday October 17th, at a time of deepening crisis in SYRIA and PAKISTAN, AID TO THE CHURCH IN NEED  held  a briefing with eye-witness testimonies from two of their project partners.

wp_20161017_17_00_30_pro 

 PAKISTAN: ARCHBISHOP SEBASTIAN SHAW of Lahore.

Head of the largest Catholic diocese in Pakistan, he led the

Church’s response to the Easter Day 2016 Lahore Massacre

and other atrocities affecting Christians and other minorities.

ARCHBISHOP SEBASTIAN SHAWSISTER ANNIE DEMERJIAN

SYRIA: SISTER ANNIE DEMERJIAN of Aleppo.

Providing emergency help in areas worst-affected

by violence and acute poverty, Sister Annie leads

a team of volunteers who go house-to-house, providing

food, shelter and medicine at great risk to their safety.

ALEPPO’S Sister Annie Demerjian described the “death, destruction and violence” engulfing the city at a Parliamentary meeting yesterday (Monday) organised to highlight the work of Christians ministering in places of suffering.

Giving first-hand witness at London’s Houses of Parliament organised by Aid to the Church in Need, Sister Annie described the day-to-day struggle for food, clean water, electricity and fuel in western Aleppo where she provides emergency help thanks to the international Catholic charity.

The meeting, chaired by human rights activist Lord Alton of Liverpool, also heard from Archbishop Shaw from Lahore, who highlighted the problem of constant discrimination and acts of persecution affecting Christians in Pakistan.

First to speak was Sister Annie, who said: “People in Aleppo are tired. [There is a] lack of basic essentials… water, medicine, food and fuel shortages.

“Aleppo is a broken city [with] death, destruction and violence”.

Describing the warring parties as “monsters… devouring one another”, Sister Annie went on to describe the pleas of thousands of Syrian children who have drawn pictures to express their desire for peace.

The Sister also highlighted the hardships suffered by civilians being “without basic resources”.

Describing the plight endured by “most families in Aleppo”, she praised ACN benefactors for working with her to provide “food, blankets, clothes, shoes and dignity” to thousands of children in Aleppo and Hassake, another city in northern Syria.

She described how “many people [were] without light”, as they could not afford electricity in Aleppo, because of the “exploitations by traders”.

Sister Annie said this shortage meant that “thousands of families are without fuel… facing [this] winter without heating”.

She stated how, on one of her visits to the most vulnerable in the city, she found an elderly couple in Aleppo sleeping on the floor.

It turned out that they had sold their bed for a few litres of oil to provide a few hours of heating.

Sister Annie stressed the “psychological damage… a pain greater than that of the physical pain”.

She described the need to “re-integrate back into society… a lost generation [of young people in Syria] where death is an everyday experience”.

Describing how, since the war began in March 2011, Christians in Aleppo have dwindled from more than 200,000 to less than 35,000 today, the Sister added that “everyone is afraid… we lost people we knew. The Church community has [now] become so small that we all know each other”.

She concluded: “Our world is a gift… we require a globalisation of solidarity… [not] indifference”.

Archbishop Shaw of Lahore, Pakistan thanked ACN for translating the Catechism of the Catholic Church into Urdu, enabling Catholics to learn more about their religion.

He described Catholics in Pakistan as: “vibrant, open and patriotic – [people] wanting a better society”.

The Archbishop outlined the prejudice against Christians and also other minority religions, whereby one Muslim is valued in status to that of two Christians.

The public school textbooks in the Pakistani public school curriculum reflect ‘hate’ material, he quoted one such example directly exposing this problem: “We are Muslim… others are infidels”.  

He added that by Muslims and Christians “listening and respecting [each other]… all religions can work together for peace” and forward inter-faith and ecumenical dialogue in Pakistan.

————————————————————————Wednesday November 23rd has been declared “Red Wednesday” – when Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral will be lit in red to commemorate the men, women and children who are dying because of their faith or beliefs. Organised by the charity, Aid to the Church In Need, people are encouraged to display red on their Facebook sites, to wear something red that day, and to encourage local churches and schools to light up too.

 

Chemical Weapons and Systematic Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity In Sudan. Sale of Arms To Saudi Arabia and Civilian Deaths in The Yemen – Government Policy Questioned in Parliament. Save the Children report from Yemen.

 

  

Disclaimer:This youtube video of Ali Kosheib, an indicted war criminal and former militia leader in Darfur, boasts about using chemical weapons.  It has not been verified and a credible translation has yet to be provided. However, Amnesty International have issued a report authenticating chemical weapons attacks (see below)

fullsizerender

Letter to The Times October 8th 2016

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Sudan Questions And  Answers – October 2016

chemical-weapons-attacks

sudan stop the genocidedarfur

Written Questions

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the role of Iran and North Korea in the building of factories for the production of munitions and weapons in Sudan.   HL2612

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government what estimate they have made of the percentage of the gross domestic product of Sudan which is used on (1) its army and security sector; and (2) developing basic infrastructure.   HL2613

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their estimate of the percentage of the population of Sudan living below the poverty line; how many persons are estimated to be living as refugees or displaced people in Sudan; and what has been the total UK aid funding for Sudan since the State’s creation.   HL2614

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government what percentage of the UK aid budget for Sudan is used to promote freedom of religion or belief; and what assessment they have made of the penalties imposed by Sudanese courts if a man or woman exercises their right to change their beliefs.
HL2615

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to support the international Criminal Court and its work in Sudan.   HL2616

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government whether it is their policy to repatriate non-Arab Darfuri asylum seekers from the UK to Khartoum; and what account is taken when making such decisions, of the needs of those who believe that their human rights, especially the right to freedom of religion or belief, will be violated.   HL2617

Question for Short Debate

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress has been made in securing peace, progress, human rights and good governance in Sudan. (25 October)

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2339):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what role armed militias play in enforcing Sudan’s commitments under the Khartoum Process; whether they are being used to enforce border controls and to capture migrants; and what action the regime took, under its commitments in the Doha Document for Peace, 2012, to disarm militias. (HL2339)

Tabled on: 17 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

We are concerned by the reported use of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) to tackle migration in Sudan and have raised these concerns with the government of Sudan, most recently during the visit of the UK Special Representative to Sudan and South Sudan in September. We have also made clear that our cooperation on migration will necessarily be guided by our human rights principles. The EU has also raised the role of the RSF with the government of Sudan and has made absolutely clear that no funding aligned with the Khartoum Process will be provided to them.

The government of Sudan has undertaken some of its disarmament commitments under the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD), but together with our international partners we continue to urge them to do more. The UK is a member of the DDPD’s Implementation Follow-Up Commission (IFC), which we use to press for progress on disarmament and other areas of the DDPD’s implementation. The most recent meeting of the IFC was in May 2016.

Date and time of answer: 26 Oct 2016 at 16:01.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2338):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what procedures have been put in place to ensure that EU funds committed to the Khartoum Process are not embezzled by corrupt officials; and whether they have investigated whether there has been collusion between Sudanese security officials and human traffickers. (HL2338)

Tabled on: 17 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

All EU funds committed to the Khartoum Process are managed by Member States’ Development Agencies or International Organisations. No funding will be channelled through the beneficiary countries’ government structures.

We are deeply concerned by the reports of collusion between Sudanese security officials and human traffickers, and have raised this issue directly with the government of Sudan as part of our wider engagement on migration. The UK is supporting the Sudanese judiciary to implement new anti-trafficking legislation by helping them improve their understanding of both this and the UN Trafficking in Persons Protocol.

Date and time of answer: 26 Oct 2016 at 16:00.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2336):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports that ammunition used by Boko Haram in Nigeria is manufactured in Sudan. (HL2336)

Tabled on: 17 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

We are not aware of any reports that Sudanese-manufactured ammunition has been used by Boko Haram. We fully support the EU arms embargo on Sudan as well as the UN arms embargo on Darfur.

Date and time of answer: 26 Oct 2016 at 15:53.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2337):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they intend to evaluate the use of €46 million earmarked for the Khartoum Process; what benchmarks and agreed criteria have been developed to guide the Process; and what procedures have been put in place to monitor, audit, and review the efficacy of the Process. (HL2337)

Tabled on: 17 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

The Khartoum Process does not have a defined single fund, but draws from several different sources of EU funding; including the Better Migration Management Fund and the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa.

The UK, as the current Chair of the Khartoum Process, works closely with the Secretariat to maintain a map of current and proposed projects, and ensure effective coordination and monitoring. The European Commission has responsibility for assessing implementation against the Valetta benchmarks and outcomes, and conducting the full audit and review of the EU funding programmes.

Date and time of answer: 26 Oct 2016 at 15:53.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2335):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government when the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Sudan Unit and the British Ambassador to the Republic of Sudan last engaged with opposition groups in Sudan, in particular those members of the Sudan Call alliance; and, following the signing of the Sudan Roadmap Agreement, whether a delegation from the Sudan Call alliance will be invited to London in order to deepen political engagement with that group. (HL2335)

Tabled on: 17 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

Both the UK Special Representative to Sudan and South Sudan and Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Sudan engage with opposition groups regularly, most recently at a joint meeting with the Sudan Call alliance of opposition groups in Khartoum in September. The UK Special Representative also met with representatives of the National Umma Party, including Sadiq El Mahdi, in Addis Ababa on 23 September. We will continue to develop our relations with these groups both in Sudan and elsewhere.

Date and time of answer: 26 Oct 2016 at 15:52.

 

 darfur

 

Questions answered on October 10th

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL1991):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, when considering trade, diplomatic, political and other bilateral links with the Republic of Sudan, what weight they attach to (1) the Amnesty International report on the use of chemical weapons in Darfur; (2) the Médecins Sans Frontières 2000 report Living Under Aerial Bombardment; (3) the Human Rights Watch 2015 report concerning the use of cluster bombs; (4) reports in 2016 of aerial bombardment in Blue Nile and South Kordofan; and (5) the outstanding warrants for the arrest of Sudanese leaders on genocide charges. (HL1991)

Tabled on: 03 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

Our primary focus, in both our political engagement and the work of the Department for International Development, is to support the peaceful development of the country allowing ordinary Sudanese people to have a voice in their future. The first step in this process would be a cessation of hostilities and unrestricted humanitarian access to all areas of the country, including Darfur and the Two Areas of Blue Nile and South Kordofan. We consider all the information at our disposal, including the reports referred to, when assessing the situation on the ground and regularly raise our concerns about violations of human rights and international humanitarian law directly with the government of Sudan, and in international fora where appropriate. We remain a firm supporter of the International Criminal Court and encourage all States to act on its indictments.

Date and time of answer: 11 Oct 2016 at 16:59.

————————————————————————

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL1990):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the Amnesty International report on the use of chemical weapons in Darfur; whether they intend to ask the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to open an investigation; and what representations they have made, or plan to make, to the Sudanese Ambassador to London in the light of that report. (HL1990)

Tabled on: 03 October 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

We are concerned by the allegations of the use of chemical weapons in Sudan and we are aware that the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is looking into these. The use of chemical weapons under any circumstances is contrary to international law and we wholly condemned it. We were also concerned to read the other allegations made in the Amnesty International report, which highlight the need for access to conflict-affected areas. We see ensuring access for the UN/AU Peacekeeping Mission throughout Darfur as the most important next step and have raised this in the context of the report with the Sudanese in London, Khartoum and New York.

Date and time of answer: 11 Oct 2016 at 16:58.


Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL1989):

Question: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 11 May (HL8212), what steps they are taking to ensure that the human rights of Christian pastors in Sudan are protected, in the light of the ongoing detention of Reverend Hasan Kodi Taour. (HL1989)

Tabled on: 03 October 2016

This question was grouped with the following question(s) for answer:

  1. To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the government of Sudan about the arrest and continuing detention of Reverend Hasan Kodi Taour, Reverend Kuwa Shamal Kori, Abdelmonim Abdelmawla and Petr Jasek. (HL1988) Tabled on: 03 October 2016

Answer: Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

We are aware that the four men in question remain in detention. Officials from our Embassy in Khartoum were present in court to observe the most recent hearing on 26 September, and are in close contact with the lawyers representing the defendants. We regularly raise our concerns over this case with the government of Sudan, most recently during the visit of the UK Special Representative for Sudan and South Sudan to Khartoum in September. We will continue to monitor this case closely.

More widely, freedom of religion or belief remains a consistent theme in our ongoing human rights dialogue with the government of Sudan. We consistently call on them to ensure all legislation is consistent with the commitment to their citizens in the Interim Constitution of 2005, within which religious freedom is enshrined.

Date and time of answer: 11 Oct 2016 at 16:58.


Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL1988):

Question: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the government of Sudan about the arrest and continuing detention of Reverend Hasan Kodi Taour, Reverend Kuwa Shamal Kori, Abdelmonim Abdelmawla and Petr Jasek. (HL1988)

Tabled on: 03 October 2016

This question was grouped with the following question(s) for answer:

  1. To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 11 May (HL8212), what steps they are taking to ensure that the human rights of Christian pastors in Sudan are protected, in the light of the ongoing detention of Reverend Hasan Kodi Taour. (HL1989) Tabled on: 03 October 2016

Answer: Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

We are aware that the four men in question remain in detention. Officials from our Embassy in Khartoum were present in court to observe the most recent hearing on 26 September, and are in close contact with the lawyers representing the defendants. We regularly raise our concerns over this case with the government of Sudan, most recently during the visit of the UK Special Representative for Sudan and South Sudan to Khartoum in September. We will continue to monitor this case closely.

More widely, freedom of religion or belief remains a consistent theme in our ongoing human rights dialogue with the government of Sudan. We consistently call on them to ensure all legislation is consistent with the commitment to their citizens in the Interim Constitution of 2005, within which religious freedom is enshrined.

Date and time of answer: 11 Oct 2016 at 16:58.

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Questions tabled on October 11th 2016.

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government:

 

When did the Foreign Office Sudan Unit and the British Ambassador to the Republic of Sudan last engage with opposition groups in Sudan, in particular, Sudan Call, and following Sudan Call’s decision to sign the Sudanese Roadmap Agreement whether their delegation will be invited to London in order to deepen political engagement with them.

 What assessment they have made of reports that ammunition used by Boko Haram in Nigeria is manufactured in Sudan; that Boko Haram buys its weapons from Al-Geneina City, Darfur; and that Boko Haram use Sudan as a transit country to link with Saudi Arabia.

 How they intend to evaluate the use of 46 million Euros earmarked for the Khartoum Process; what benchmarks and agreed criteria have been developed to guide the Khartoum Process; and what procedures have been put in place to monitor, audit, and review the efficacy of the process.

 Whether Sudan remains 165 out of 168 countries in the Transparency International (2015) corruption perceptions index; what procedures have been put in place to ensure that EU funds committed to the Khartoum Process are not embezzled by corrupt officials; and whether they have investigated whether there has been collusion between Sudanese security officials and human traffickers.

 What role do armed militias play in enforcing Sudan’s commitments under the Khartoum Process; whether they are being used to enforce border controls and to capture migrants; and what action the regime took, under its commitments in the Doha Document for Peace, 2012, to disarm militias.    

 How they reconcile their policy of stepped-up engagement with the regime of Omar al Bashir, indicted for genocide by the International Criminal Court, with reports of the regime’s use of chemical weapons, the burning of 170 villages, reports of mass displacement, mass rape, the continued crackdown on civil society, the arrest of dissidents, and the denial of access by humanitarian agencies.

 What percentage of the 640,000 refugees in Sudan in 2015, identified by UNHCR , are Sudanese by origin; from what other countries do these refugees originate;  what consideration is being given to the risks and human rights infringements involved in the repatriation of refugees from Sudan to Eritrea.

 What place does the promotion of democracy and human rights have within the UK’s new “UK-Sudan Strategic Strategy”; why, in the last year,  has there been a reduction in UK and EU statements on grave human rights violations in Sudan;  what factors have led the UK to see Sudan as a reliable partner with a shared agenda; and whether they have considered whether the UK-Sudan Strategic Dialogue will embolden the regime to continue with their current policies.

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 Sudan:  twenty first century genocide 

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Parliamentary Question on the Sale of Arms to Saudi Arabia and the deaths of civilians in Yemen.

13 October 2016

Question

11.35 am

Asked by

  • Lord Alton of Liverpool
  • To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether, in the light of the killing of 140 people following a Saudi air strike on a funeral in Yemen, they are reassessing the licensing of United Kingdom weapons sales to Saudi Arabia since the conflict in Yemen began.
  • The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Department for International Development (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con)
  • My Lords, the UK Government are deeply concerned by the conflict in Yemen, including recent events in Sanaa. As part of the careful risk assessment for the licensing of arms exports to Saudi Arabia, we keep the situation under careful and continued review. All export licence applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis against the consolidated EU and national arms and export licensing criteria, taking account of all relevant factors at the time of the application.
  • Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
  • My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. Following the deaths of the 140 people attending a funeral last week and the 4,000 civilians who have died in the Yemen and fearful of being indicted for complicity in war crimes, our allies in the United States have ordered a full review of their arms sales policies to Saudi Arabia. Given that the United Kingdom has licensed £3.3 billion of weapons sales to the Saudis since the conflict in the Yemen began, will the Minister explain to us why we are not also having a comprehensive review?
  • Baroness Anelay of St Johns
  • My Lords, as I sought to outline, although I did not go into detail in the first response, we look at these matters thoroughly every single time, so we have consolidated criteria by which we operate every single application. That applies to all export applications, not only to those where it would be at first sight obvious that any material might be involved in conflict. I can add for the noble Lord that my honourable friend Tobias Ellwood, the Minister for the Middle East, has travelled overnight to Saudi Arabia to have meetings with Yemeni and Saudi leaders, including Yemeni President Hadi, as the UK along with others have expressed our concerns over the continuing conflict. Discussions will focus on the air strike on the funeral hall in Sanaa on Saturday and on the attempts to revive the political process.
  • Lord Campbell-Savours (Lab)
  • My Lords, what action will be taken against those civil servants and officials who deliberately misled Ministers into believing that arms being sold by British companies were not being used in the Yemen when they knew the contrary to be true and they were deliberately misleading Ministers? In so far as they cannot be held in contempt, because they did not give that evidence to Select Committees of Parliament, what action will be taken against them?
  • Baroness Anelay of St Johns
  • My Lords, I am not aware that there was a misleading. I am just guessing, but I think that the noble Lord may be referring back to a Written Ministerial Statement in September that sought to correct a series of PQs and Westminster Hall debates about alleged breaches of humanitarian law. The noble Lord shows his assent to my assumption. I read out as a Statement here an Answer to an Urgent Question in another place which made it clear that policy was not changed; the fact was that changes were made to ensure that the parliamentary record was consistent and that it accurately reflects policy. There was no need to change the information that I gave to this House, and I stress that. I am not aware that I have been misled by officials at any time.
  • Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD)
  • My Lords, we welcome Mr Ellwood’s visit to Saudi Arabia. We all understand the dependence of the British arms industry on sales to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf—of course, that dependence can only increase as we leave the European single market and walk away from co-operation in European defence procurement—but the Saudi Government seem to be becoming increasingly sectarian in terms of the split between Sunni and Shia, and Saudi money continues to flow to places such as Pakistan, Indonesia, and Britain to support radical Islamic views, rather than moderate Muslim views. Is it not time that the British Government conducted an overall review of their rather dependent relationship with Saudi Arabia and took more control of it?
  • Baroness Anelay of St Johns
  • My Lords, the noble Lord, with whom I enjoyed working on these matters, always has a really strong global view of issues, and I value that. What I can say is that when we were at the Human Rights Council—I hasten to add that that is not the royal “we”; the UK Government were there and I attended for a week, courtesy of the Chief Whip giving me a slip to do so—we were pleased to be able to reach strong consensus on the Yemen resolution, when a resolution had been brought forward by Saudi Arabia that would have been counterproductive. So there are ways in which the UK can work with the like-minded in places such as the Human Rights Council to focus attention on the need for Saudi Arabia to take account of wider views of its actions.
  • Lord Singh of Wimbledon (CB)
  • My Lords, bomb fragments found at the scene of the funeral carnage were those from an Mk 82 American guided bomb. Saudi Arabia is one of the most barbaric countries in the world, with beheadings, amputations and the enslavement of women, while, at the same time, exporting its medieval version of Islam to neighbouring countries such as Syria, Sudan and Yemen. Can the Minister give me a good reason why the West—principally the United States and ourselves—supplies some £7 billion-worth of arms to Saudi Arabia each year? I might add that boosting our trade by exporting the means of mass killings is not a good reason.
  • Baroness Anelay of St Johns
  • My Lords, we comply with international humanitarian law, but I say strongly that I understand the sense of outrage felt by the noble Lord about the killings being suffered by the people of Yemen. I undertake that the UK will continue to press as strongly as we are able in the diplomatic sphere to achieve a peaceful resolution but, in the meantime, continue the aid that we provide there.

 See the Save The Children Report:

 yemen-october_2016

 

You Tube Link to the Warsaw Lectures on Article 18 and Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Interviews and a Commemorative Visit to the Tomb and Museum of Blessed Jerzy Popiełuszko – Poland’s Martyr for Religious and Political Freedom; and Visit to the Centre for Totalitarian Studies

The links below take you to the Warsaw lecture and presentation which the organisers have made available on youtube.

Article 18 lecture (English version): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-mNu3FCd5cM&feature=youtu.be

Presentation (A matter of life and death): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3uA6mwt2jhE&feature=youtu.be

There is also a Polish translation of the main lecture available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APZrXXrvm-Y&t=65s

This link is to an interview on Polish television about J.R.R.Tolkien:

http://vod.tvp.pl/9667367/lord-david-alton

An interview conducted by Barbara Stefańska has also been published at:

http://pl.aleteia.org/2016/11/13/dla-zbrodniarzy-z-isis-potrzeba-trybunalu-norymberskiego/

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“An Article of Faith” and “A Matter of Life And Death – and laws of unintended consequences.”

Before giving Warsaw Lectures on Article 3 and Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights there was a Commemorative Visit to the Tomb and Museum of Blessed Jerzy Popiełuszko – -Poland’s Martyr for Religious and Political Freedom.

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerzy_Popie%C5%82uszko

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Further pictures from the exhibition follow the links:


 

Article 3 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares the right to Life –  the absolute of every person to life; while Article 18 declares the right of every person to hold or to freely change their religious or other beliefs

 

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Article 18article 18 an orphaned right

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October 2016: Warsaw Lecture: Article 18 – An Article of Faith

warsaw-lecture – to view powerpoint presentation

warsaw-lecture – to read the text

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The Story of Poland’s Martyr for Religious and Political Freedom – A Story for our Times – A Modern Martyr for Article 18: “Overcome evil with good….”

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Warsaw Lecture:  Article 18: An article of faith

 

 

The lodestar, or navigation point, for my lecture today is Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights –promulgated in the aftermath of the defining horrors of the Holocaust.

 

Article 18 insists that:

 

“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

 

The declaration’s stated objective was to realise,

“a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations”.

 

However, with the passage of time, the declaration has acquired a normative character within general international law. Eleanor Roosevelt, the formidable chairman of the drafting committee, argued that freedom of religion was one of the four essential freedoms of mankind.

 

In her words:

“Religious freedom cannot just mean Protestant freedom; it must be freedom of all religious people”, and she rejoiced in having friends from all faiths and all races.

 

Article 18 emerged from the infamies of the 20th century—from the Armenian genocide to the defining depredations of Stalin’s gulags and Hitler’s concentration camps; from the pestilential nature of persecution, demonisation, scapegoating and hateful prejudice; and, notwithstanding violence associated with religion, it emerged from ideology, nation and race. It was the bloodiest century in human history with the loss of 100 million lives.

 

The four great murderers of the 20th century—Mao, Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot—were united by their hatred of religious faith.

 

Yet, how quickly we forget. In today’s lecture I want to examine examples of contemporary genocide, persecution and discrimination, all of which demonstrate how Article 18 is honoured daily only in its breach: why words matter and deeds to follow words matter even more ; and what happens when we fail to take our Article 18 duties seriously.

 

I will talk first about Genocide and then about Persecution – how one can flow from the other and the culture of indifference and impunity which allows both to occur on a vast scale.

 

GENOCIDE

 

Last year I read Franz Werfel’s novel, The Forty Days of Musa Dagh, published in 1933, based on a true story about the Armenian genocide. His books were burnt by the Nazis, no doubt to try to erase humanity’s memory, Hitler having famously asked, “Who now remembers the Armenians?”

 

The Armenian deportations and genocide claimed the lives of an estimated 1.5 million Armenian Christians. Werfel tells the story of several thousand Christians who took refuge on the mountain of Musa Dagh. The intervention of the French navy led to their dramatic rescue.

 

A hundred years later – in a further cruel twist of the systematic persecution of difference – the Yazidis besieged on a different mountain, Mount Sinjar, were saved, but what has happened to them and to the Christians of Syria and Iraq illustrates how that slow burn genocide initiated by the Ottoman Turks – and which has its Genesis in persecution and discrimination and in the violation of Article 18  -continues to this day – and how we, who enjoy so many freedoms, so often choose to look the other way.

 

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has called on those of us who enjoy freedom of speech and belief to speak out more clearly on behalf of the Christians in the Middle East warning as long ago as 2007 that: “Churches in the Middle East are threatened in their very existence”.

 

Pope Francis has explicitly said that Christians are subject to genocide, while His Royal Highness the Princes of Wales has condemned these events as “horrendous and heart-breaking” persecution, and speaking of his anguish at the plight of Christianity in the Middle East, in the region of its birth, he described events in Syria and Iraq as an “indescribable tragedy”.

 

Yet, despite the warning and words Christians in Iraq say:

“The attacks on Christians continue and the world remains totally silent. It’s as if we had been swallowed up by the night”.

 

Not only is Iraq-Mesopotamia-the cradle of civilisation, it forms an essential part of the cradle of Christianity. The scriptures celebrate the great city of Nineveh, the waters of Babylon and Ur of the Chaldeans. Today, the cradle of the ancient churches is the scene of their asphyxiation and annihilation.

 

In 1914, Christians made up a quarter of that region’s population. Now they are less than 5%. Archbishop Bashar Warda of Irbil, during a meeting that I chaired in the British Parliament two years ago, underlined their traumatic, degrading and inhuman treatment, pleading with the international community to provide protection.

 

Where genocide has occurred, we have an obligation to prevent, protect and to punish. Our obligations are set out in the preamble to the sixth recital of the 1998 Rome statute of the International Criminal Court, which recalls that, “it is the duty of every State to exercise its criminal jurisdiction over those responsible for international crimes”, while the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide states that the obligation each state thus has to prevent and to punish the crime of genocide is not territorially limited by the convention.

 

Genocide is defined in Article 2 of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide as follows:

“In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group”.

 

In 1948, while Article 18 was being promulgated, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. It was in the wake of some of the worst atrocities in history. It was the culmination of years of campaigning by the Jewish lawyer, Raphael Lemkin, and recognised that “international co-operation” was needed, “to liberate mankind from such an odious scourge”.

 

When countries added their signature to the Convention it laid them the moral and legal duty to, “undertake to prevent and to punish”, genocide—surely the crime above all crimes.

 

Yet all the minorities in the Middle East, whose very existence is under direct and immediate threat, have received from western governments is a woolly undertaking that they will collect evidence.

I visited the genocide sites in Rwanda—a salutary and chilling experience.

 

I am always struck that President Clinton and British Ministers of the day say that their failure to identify and take action to prevent that genocide, which led to the loss of 1 million Tutsi lives, was their worst foreign affairs mistake. In the past two years, two serving British Foreign Secretaries have similarly lamented the failure of the international community to decry the genocides in both Rwanda and Bosnia quickly enough, despite the overwhelming and compelling evidence that existed.

 

William ( Lord) Hague, speaking as Foreign Secretary on the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, said:

“The truth is that our ability to prevent conflict is still hampered by a gap between the commitments states have made and the reality of their actions”.

 

His successor, Mr Philip Hammond, said last year that the horror of Srebrenica,

“demands that we all try to understand why those who placed their hope in the international community on the eve of genocide found that those hopes were dashed”.

 

The reality has been that once it is recognised that genocide is being committed, serious legal obligations follow, and states have proved reluctant to engage with their responsibilities. There are really only two options here.

 

If there is no genocide, our obligations under the genocide convention have not been triggered, but if there is, how could we sleep at night having disregarded the chilling lessons of past genocides and endless equivocating? Instead of doing everything in our power to bring this unmitigated suffering to an end, are we content simply to let these matters pass?

Last year I chaired a meeting in Parliament attended by Syrians and the Archbishop of Aleppo. We were told how, in a village outside Aleppo, ISIS cut the tops off the fingers of a 14 year-old boy because his Christian father refused to convert. They then crucified the boy and killed the father. That same week, a mass grave of Yazidis was uncovered near Sinjar. Months ago, a former Yazidi MP, speaking in Parliament said that she could not understand why the West had not declared these events a genocide.

 

This genocide includes assassinations of church leaders, mass murders, torture, kidnapping for ransom, the sexual enslavement and systematic rape of Christian girls and women, forcible conversions, the destruction of churches, monasteries, cemeteries and Christian artefacts and theft of lands and wealth from Christian clergy and laity alike.

 

The caliphate has made public statements taking credit for the mass murder of Christians and expressing its intent to eliminate these minority communities and other groups, such as homosexuals, from its territory.

 

Antoine Audo, the Chaldean Bishop of Aleppo, has said that two-thirds of Syrian Christians had either been killed or driven away from his country. Zainab Bangura, the United Nations special representative on sexual violence in conflict, has authenticated reports of Christian and Yazidi females—girls aged one to seven—being sold, with the youngest carrying the highest price tag.

 

One 80-year-old Christian woman who stayed in Nineveh was reportedly burned alive. In another Christian family, the mother and 12 year-old daughter were raped by ISIS militants, leading the father, who was forced to watch, to commit suicide. One refugee described how she witnessed ISIS crucify her husband on the door of their home.

More than two years ago, on 23 July 2014, I warned in an opinion piece in the Times:

“The last Christian has been expelled from Mosul … The light of religious freedom, along with the entire Christian presence, has been extinguished in the Bible’s ‘great city of Nineveh’ … This follows the uncompromising ultimatum by the jihadists of Isis to convert or die”.

 

I said that,

 

“the world must wake up urgently to the plight of the ancient churches throughout the region who are faced with the threat of mass murder and mass displacement”.

 

But the world did not wake up and for those caught up in these barbaric events, the stakes are utterly existential.

 

Genocide is never a word to be used lightly and is not determined by the number of people killed but by specific genocidal intent. The position of my country’s Government has been to insist that declarations of genocide are not made by them but by the international judicial system, yet there has been no referral of any evidence by the Government to any court in Britain or elsewhere.

 

And while this macabre game of pass the parcel of responsibility continues people are being ruthlessly targeted, and so is their culture and history.

 

ISIS has obliterated Mosul’s ancient, stone-walled monastery of St Elijah, dating from the sixth century, where monks had etched “chi rho”, the first Greek letters of the word “Kristos”. This attempt to eradicate memory has been accompanied by the obliteration of those whose beliefs do not comply with theirs. Last year, 200 Assyrian Christians in the Khabour river valley were kidnapped and jihadi websites showed graphic executions of some of the group, warning that others would be executed if the ransoms remained unpaid. Last year, the ancient Saint Eliane monastery in central Syria, which was founded more than 1,500 years ago, was destroyed by ISIS and dozens of Syriac Christians were abducted.

 

Last year, a UN report said that ISIS continues, “to deliberately and wantonly loot and destroy places of religious and cultural significance … which ISIS considers as un-Islamic. Generally, these sites are looted before being destroyed”.

 

Along with the Yazidi community, Christians have been told to convert or die. Children have been seized, propagandised and indoctrinated with jihadist ideology.

 

That UN report warns that the situation continues to deteriorate, saying:

“UNAMI/OHCHR continues to have grave concerns for the welfare and safety of those held in ISIL captivity”.

 

The United Nations report states that that ISIS is holding 3,500 slaves hostage, mainly women and children. It said that ISIS has committed acts that, “amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and possibly genocide”, against minority groups, and that ISIS’s “systematic and widespread violence”, including beheadings, shootings and burnings, was “staggering”.

 

Mass graves honeycomb part of the region. A British Government Minister told me:

“We are aware of reports that mass graves have been discovered … at least one of which was allegedly booby trapped by Daesh”.

 

Murder is accompanied by other horrors. Young Yazidi women and girls have been abducted by ISIS, suffering horrific and prolonged sexual abuse. They were imprisoned for months on end, beaten, burnt and exposed to daily rape and torture. Horrifyingly, some of those victims were as young as nine. Sadly, some girls have taken their own lives in desperate attempts to escape the horrors of captivity.

 

Little wonder that a former Yazidi MP told me that she could not understand why the West had not declared these events a genocide and why we had remained silent.

 

In a leading article the Times newspaper said the destruction of Christians from the Middle East “now amounts to nothing less than genocide…That crime, most hideously demonstrated by the Nazis, now enjoins others to take active steps to protect the victims.”

 

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, the Rt.Hon. Boris Johnson said “Isis are engaged in what can only be called genocide …..though for some baffling reason the Foreign Office still hesitates to use the term genocide.”

 

Now that he is the UK’s Foreign Secretary perhaps he will replace bafflement with clarity and words with actions – insisting on the upholding of the rule of law.

 

In the battle of ideas, the rule of law is the best antidote to ISIS. Capturing and holding those responsible for these atrocities to account—whether in Syria, Paris, Tunisia, the Sinai or elsewhere—would underline the justice of our actions, and the declaration of genocide should have preceded further military action. We should name this for what it is.

 

While Governments have been failing to act, Parliamentarians and Legislators have spoken out and made explicit declarations.

In Strasbourg, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted a resolution condemning the actions of Daesh/ISIS in the Middle East as genocide. The resolution, “Foreign Fighters in Syria and Iraq”, states that ISIS, “has perpetrated acts of genocide and other serious crimes punishable under international law”.

The European Parliament passed a similar resolution. So has the American House of Representatives, the Australian House of Representatives and the British House of Commons.

 

Hillary Clinton says that although she had been reluctant to use the term “genocide” there is, she said, now “enough evidence” for her to use that word to denounce the murders of religious minorities by the jihadi group. Mrs Clinton said:

“What is happening is genocide, deliberately aimed at destroying not only the lives but wiping out the existence of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East in territory controlled by ISIS”.

 

 

Congress and the State Department have received a 300-page report detailing more than 1,000 instances of ISIS deliberately massacring, killing, torturing, enslaving, kidnapping or raping Christians. It had similar evidence about the plight of Yazidis, along with the findings of the International Association of Genocide Scholars.

 

The American House of Representatives, by 393 votes to zero, declared that grotesque and targeted beheadings, enslavement, mass rape and other atrocities against Christians and other minorities indeed constitute a genocide:

 

“the atrocities committed against Christians and other ethnic and religious minorities targeted specifically for religious reasons are, and are hereby declared to be, ‘crimes against humanity’, and ‘genocide’”.

 

On behalf of the White House, Secretary of State John Kerry, said: “Naming these crimes is important”, and that Daesh, in targeting these minorities with the purpose of their annihilation, is,

“genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology and by actions”— in what it says, what it believes and, indeed, what it does. He called for criminal charges to be brought against those responsible.

The UK’s former commander of our armed forced and the former head of our intelligence service were among those who signed a letter to the Prime Minister which stated:

“There is no doubt in our minds that the targeting of Christians and other religious minorities by Daesh falls within that definition”.

 

The letter insisted:

“This is not simply a matter of semantics. There would be two main benefits from the acceptance by the UN that genocide is being perpetrated”.

 

The first is that those responsible would one day face a day of judicial reckoning, and the second is that it would require the 147 states who have signed the convention to step up to the plate and,

“face up to their duty to take the necessary action to ‘prevent and punish’ the perpetrators”.

 

Yet, despite all of the words western Governments, like the British simply seek to avoid their duty to act:

 “It is a long-standing Government policy that any judgements on whether genocide has occurred are a matter for the international judicial system rather than governments or other non-judicial bodies”.

This is a frustrating and circular argument. Which international courts and judges should decide, on the basis of what process and in considering what evidence?  Government Ministers told me

“We are not submitting any evidence of possible genocide against Yazidis and Christians to international courts, nor have we been asked to”.

As for referring this matter to the International Criminal Court, I was told:

“I understand that, as the matter stands, Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor, has determined not to take these matters forward”.

Little wonder that John Pontifex of the charity Aid to the Church in Need, who was recently in Syria says:

“Christians feel that they have been abandoned by the West as a whole, why they have been left to face the worst that extremism can throw at them…. we must throw a lifeline of hope and show that there are people who care about what has happened and are determined to bring these people to justice, sending a signal very clearly that the world will not tolerate this butchery”.

 

Governments should now be both collecting the evidence—the names; the dates; the photographs of atrocities; the numbers killed, tortured, abducted or sold into sexual slavery; the accounts of forced conversions; the churches, shrines and manuscripts destroyed—but also triggering the process of bringing the perpetrators to justice and to name this for what it is. Words matter.

 

History proves that once the word “genocide” is used to designate heinous and targeted crimes against sections of humanity, as in Yugoslavia or Cambodia, it is followed by swift international action to stop those atrocities. The Khmer Rouge prosecution continues and includes charges of genocide against the Cham and Vietnamese people, so there are precedents.

 

We also have a duty to protect as well as to prevent and to  prosecute those who are victims of genocide. Even for those who successfully flee we give no priority for asylum to the victims of genocide.

 

Illustrative of this is the recent revelation in the United States of what Nina Shea has called “a Gross injustice’ –  of 10,000 Syrian refugees begging accepted in the US, of whom, only 56 are Christian. In the UK official policy does not even designate these victims of genocide as “vulnerable persons” for the purpose of western aid.

 

How ironic when we seem to have an open door policy for some who have been  involved in Jihadism but lock the door to their victims.

Persecuted minorities are frequently too frightened to enter refugee camps where they are once again hunted down; some have been thrown overboard from boats seeking to reach Europe; others who have got to Europe have described how they have been targeted by Islamists.

 

Our failure to re-examine our asylum rules to reflect the lethal threats faced by families and individuals fleeing their native homelands is a disgrace.

 

Helping the vulnerable should not be about the misplaced free-for-all which was mistakenly promoted by Germany: nor is it about quotas or the unseemly bidding war about how many people any particular country can be expected to take. Instead, our asylum policies should focus on people being subjected to genocide and prioritise their asylum claims. Our first priority should always be those who have been singled out because of their religion, ethnicity or race.

 

Although many people have been caught up in the suffering in Syria and Iraq, we have particular obligations, under the provisions of the Genocide Convention, to assist these minority groups first.

 

We also know that those who have been targeted do not represent a security threat to Europe or other countries and that, unlike for other categories of people, there are no countries in the region where they will be secure in the long term. They have nowhere to go.

 

I recently heard from Assyrian Christians who had been told that it may take up to six years to process their asylum applications. Many Christian refugees in Lebanon are not even registered with UNHCR, too fearful even to go into the camps. In the context of continuing threats to their security, impoverishment, lack of access to work or schooling and no hope of a home, these delays are undoubtedly contributing to the decision of many to undertake hazardous journeys.

 

Speaking on Holocaust Memorial Day Major General Tim Cross said:

“Crucially, the various minorities in the region are suffering terribly. There can be no doubt that genocide is being carried out on Yazidi and Christian communities—and the West/international community’s failure to recognise what is happening will be to our collective shame in years to come”. And he went on to point to the irony that while we are neglecting our duty to protect these minorities we have been opening the door to others who may threaten the very fabric of our society.

 

Major General Cross quoted the Lebanese Prime Minister, who told the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, that he believed that for every 1,000 migrants entering Europe illegally there are at least two extremists—inner-core jihadis—which means that around 16,000 IS fighters have probably entered Europe over the last year or so. While we have been doing this, we have failed to protect those to whom we have a specific duty under international law. Major General Cross said: “Our dilemma is how we separate ‘values’ and ‘interests’”.

 

Many suffer, but this is about those who have been singled out and our duty under the genocide convention to protect them. Victims of genocide should be given priority in asylum applications.

 

If no Government is willing to name this for what it is or to take this forward then the genocide convention becomes nothing more than window dressing and is an insult to the intention of the original drafters and ratifiers as “never again” inevitably repeats itself over and over again.

 

The international community needs to close the gap between the commitment we made in ratifying the 1948 genocide convention and the reality of our actions. If an international law, defined by treaty, is being flouted, and if hundreds of thousands of innocent people who are entitled to rely on the protection of that law are being killed, and millions are being driven from their homes, it is absolutely incumbent on the signatories to that treaty to take action to ensure that it is enforced and to honour its duties.

 

Sadly, however, to date the issue has not been high on the agenda of the leaders of more than 100 nations that are signatories to the genocide convention.

 

Of what use are Conventions are Proclamations of Articles such as Article 18 if there is no basis for enforcement?

 

Rights are meaningless unless those whose rights are being infringed have access to a remedy.

 

It is our belief in the rule of law that marks us at as radically different from ISIS or others responsible for these crimes and we must  make a step change by moving beyond aerial bombardment to a consideration of justice, to demand that, under our commitment to the rule of law, however long it takes, we will bring those responsible for abhorrent mass executions, sexual slavery, rape and other forms of gender-based violence, torture, mutilation and the enlistment and forced recruitment of children to justice.

 

It was a Liverpool lawyer,  Hartley Shawcross, who was British   Attorney General and at the end of World War Two. He was  Chief Prosecutor for the War Crimes Trials at Nuremburg.

In his closing speech at Nuremburg Shawcross remarked, “In all our countries, when perhaps in the heat of passion or for other motives which impair restraint, some individual is killed, the murder becomes a sensation. Our compassion is roused, nor do we rest until the criminal is punished and the rule of law vindicated. Shall we do less when not one but 12 million men and women and children are done to death, not in battle, not in passion, but in a cold calculated deliberate attempt to destroy nations and races.”  

Shawcross reminded his generation that such tyranny and brutality could only be resisted in the future not simply by “military alliances but firmly on the rules of law.”

This passionate belief in the upholding of law and in the administration of justice is central to the upholding of civilised values; to the maintenance of human rights and hard won liberties. The rule of law determines the way in which we govern ourselves.  It is the bedrock of the parliamentary system and the corner stone of our democratic institutions. Without it we all descend into chaos.

And are we going to settle for less in other nations?

 

 

I said that I would also say something about other violations of Article 18 that may fall short of genocide but represent a serious attack on the right of the freedom to believe, not to believe or to change belief.

 

PERSECUTION

 

All over the world, from North Korea to Pakistan, Article 18 is “an orphaned right”, a flouted right, a right that is contemptuously ignored  –  evident in new concentration camps and gulags , abductions, rape, imprisonment, persecution, public flogging, mass murder, beheadings and the mass displacement of millions of people.

Article 18 is a universal right but all over the world and in dozens of other jurisdictions Article 18 is not worth the paper on which it is written.

 

A principal argument that I want to advance today is that Governments must reclaim their patrimony of Article 18; argue that it be given greater political and diplomatic priority; insist on the importance of religious literacy as a competence; discuss the crossover between freedom of religion and belief and a nation’s prosperity and stability; and reflect on the suffering of those denied this foundational freedom.

 

The annual Pew study found that in the countries which face violations of Article 18 – in which 74% of the world’s population lives – there were serious restrictions on religious freedom, whether caused by government policies or the hostile acts of individuals, organizations or groups within society.  Pew found that of the 185 nations studied, religious repression was recorded in 151 of them.

 

Although Christians are persecuted in every country where there are violations of Article 18—from Syria and Iraq, to Sudan, Pakistan, Eritrea, Nigeria, Egypt, Iran, North Korea and many other countries—Muslims, and others, suffer too, especially in the religious wars raging between Sunnis and Shias, so reminiscent of 17th-century Europe.

 

But it does not end there.

 

 

Think, too, of those who have no religious belief, such as Alexander Aan, who was imprisoned in Indonesia for two years after saying he did not believe in God. Article 18 is also about the right not to believe. Think, too, of Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian atheist and blogger sentenced to 1,000 public lashes for publicly expressing his atheism. That has been condemned by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights as,

“a form of cruel and inhuman punishment”.

 

It is risible, and makes mockery of Article 18, that Saudi Arabia – which is responsible for so many violations of human rights and allows no religious pluralism, has been given a key UN  human rights role leading Raif Badawi’s wife to comment that handing the role to Faisal bin Hassan Trad, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador at the UN in Geneva, was effectively “a green light to start flogging [him] again”.

 

It was Pope John Paul II who said that if Saudi Arabia – which has exported Wahhabism worldwide – was so keen to build a mosque in Rome he would expect to see permission granted for a church, at least one, to be built in Saudi Arabia. His point was that there must be reciprocity and that we who insist on respect for difference in our own countries must insist on respect for difference in every jurisdiction. Yet, many countries erect laws and practices which prevent this.

 

 

One quarter of the world’s countries have blasphemy laws – and the more than one in 10 that have laws penalizing apostasy. Both laws are used to falsely accuse, intimidate, and persecute those who dare to hold beliefs that are different from the prescribed beliefs of the regime.

 

This leads, to a death sentence in cases like that of Pakistan’s Asia Bibi; to public beatings, as with Raif Badawi.

In Iran – where there were almost 1000 executions last year (including the execution of Baha’is) –  flagrant disrespect for Article 18 has led to the imprisonment of  Saeed Abedini, imprisoned for 10 years for “undermining national security” by hosting Christian gatherings in his home; Baha’is in Iran have seen their cemeteries have desecrated; 136 Baha’is are in prison, some since 2008. As “unprotected infidels” they can be attacked with impunity.

 

Repression against Christians in Iran includes: waves of arrests and detentions; raids on church gatherings; raids on social gatherings; harsh interrogations; physical and psychological torture, including demands to recant and to identify other Christians; extended detentions without charge; violations of due process; convictions for ill-defined crimes or on falsified political charges; economic targeting through exorbitant bail demands; and threats of execution for apostasy.

 

Violation of Article 18 has led to Chinese Catholics like the late Bishop Cosmas Shi Enxiang, who died last year at 94 years of age, having spent to spend half his life in prison; to Chinese Protestants, since the beginning of 2016, seeing 49 of their churches defaced or destroyed, crosses removed and a pastor’s wife crushed to death in the rubble as she pleaded with the authorities to desist. Last month I attended the premiere of “The Bleeding Edge” – hosted by Mr.Speaker in the House of Commons – and which draws attention to the harvesting of organs of Falun Gong practitioners in China. In 2009, I visited Tibet and published the report Breaking the Deadlock. In highlighting the religious dimension, I argued:

“Any attempts to resolve the political situation … must take due account is of the profound spiritual life of Tibetan people”.

 

 

Think too of countries like Nigeria, Sudan and Kenya.

 

Think, in Sudan of the barbaric treatment of Meriam Ibrahim, – a young mother of two was charged, and sentenced to death for apostasy and 100 lashes for adultery. Having refused to renounce her faith, she was forced to give birth shackled in a prison cell in Khartoum.

 

Meriam Ibrahim was ultimately freed but her case is not an isolated one. Archaic and cruel laws lead to stonings and lashings, with Al-Jazeera reporting that in one recent year, 43,000 women were publicly flogged.

 

And, meanwhile, Sudan’s leaders, indicted by the International criminal court for genocide, continue to carry out their bombing of Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile – home to many who do not share the regime’s religious ideology.

 

In Nigeria think of the 200 schoolgirls abducted in Chibok by Boko Haram – whose jihadist ideology also seeks to stamp out difference and to eradicate diversity.

 

In Egypt, as honorary president of the UK Copts, I have seen the way in which Copts were targeted by the Muslim Brotherhood. In the single largest attack on Christians in Egypt since the 14th century, more than 50 churches were bombed or burnt. It was Egypt’s Kristallnacht. And who can ever forget the execution by ISIS of Egyptian Copts in Libya – after they refused to renounce their faith?

 

 

I have seen, first hand, contempt for Article 18 in many other situations: in the degrading detention centres in South East Asia where fleeing Pakistani Christians and Ahmadis are incarcerated; among Rohingya Muslims persecuted in Burma. In March 2013, I visited a village just outside Naypyidaw. In the charred embers of a burnt-out madrasah, I took statements from the few Muslims who had not fled. I met Rohingya Muslims and heard from ethnic Kachin and Chin Christians facing terrible persecution. Proposed new legislation to restrict religious conversions and interreligious marriage will hardly help; practical initiatives countering hate speech and intolerance might.

 

Elsewhere in Asia, religious intolerance is rising, too, for example in Indonesia. There are also threats to Article 18 in India, with a BJP attack on an evangelical church in Uttar Pradesh ; in Sri Lanka, where anti-Muslim violence has erupted; in Bangladesh, where nuns were brutally attacked and beaten and atheists murdered; in Malaysia, where a court has ruled that only Muslims can use the term “Allah”, even though Christians have traditionally also used that same term in their texts and in their languages; and in Brunei, where a full Sharia penal code is being introduced.

 

In Laos and Vietnam, the situation is perilous:  Article 18 is under threat in almost every corner of the world.

 

And there is one corner we often forget, North Korea, a country which I have visited four times and have written about in my book on North Korea. The United Nations Commission of Inquiry into North Korea  concluded that “there is an almost complete denial of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as the rights to of freedom of opinion, expression, information and association”. The regime, its says,“considers the spread of Christianity a particularly severe threat”, and, as a result,“Christians are prohibited from practising their religion and are persecuted”; Severe punishments are inflicted on “people caught practising Christianity”.

 

I have chaired evidence taking session where we have been given horrific accounts of life in North Korea’s gulags – where around 300,000 people are incarcerated- and of the use of torture and public executions.

 

Among those giving evidence was Hea Woo. She gave a graphic and powerful account of her time inside a camp -where torture and beatings are routine, and where prisoners were so hungry they were reduced to eating rats, snakes, or even searching for grains in cow dung. She said that in such places “the dignity of human life counted for nothing. The guards told us that we are not human beings, we are just prisoners, so we don’t have any right to love. We were just animals. Even if people died there, they didn’t let the family members outside know”

Voices like Hae Woo’s are a radical counter point to a regime which, when it speaks, does so with a mixture of braggadocio and blackmail – alternating between threats to blow us to kingdom come and demands that we stay quiet about gulags which executes and incarcerates and e vast numbers of its own people.

We can see these killings either as a display of strength or the actions of a weak regime, paranoically trying to cling to power at all costs. Of course, the creation of mass fear is a time-honoured technique of dictators from Nero and Caligula to Ceausescu and Stalin.

 

And it brings to mind my first visits to Poland, Russia, Romania Albania and the Ukraine. In Lviv I met with Bishop Pavlo Vasylk who had spent 18 years in prison, in Prem, and the Ivan Gel, the chairman of the committee of the defence of the Greek Catholic church who had spent 17 years in jail    I met a young priest who had been sent to Chernobyl to clear radio-active waste as a punishment for being caught celebrating the liturgies in the open. It helped to remind me how precious the freedoms are which we enjoy in our own country and the liberties that we prize, but how fragile those things can be.

Stalin, of course, once mockingly asked “How many battalions does the Pope have?” The election of a Polish Pope in 1978 and the crucial role which he and the churches played in eastern Europe in challenging Marxist totalitarian regimes more than provides the answer.

During a visit to Albania I saw the abandoned mausoleum which Albania’s Marxist dictator, Enver Hoxha, had erected in the heart of Tirana. Hoxha had committed himself to the eradication of religion in Albania. Among the last of his victims was a priest who was executed in 1975 after conducting an illegal baptism. The marble mausoleum was being used as an unofficial ski slope by local children, while just over the road a new cathedral was being erected. The day before we arrived there the local archbishop ordained 10 deacons from among 100 young seminarians preparing for the priesthood.

But as Pope John Paul’s courage and fidelity demonstrated change from North Korea to Syria does not come about by itself. It was the former British Chief Rabbi, Dr Jonathan Sacks who, writing about the enormities which led to Dachau, Auschwitz and Belsen, said: “People ask where was God at Auschwitz? They should ask, where was man?”.

Dr Sacks rightly argues against quietism or pietistic faith and urges us towards political and civic engagement in speaking up for those who are persecuted and affirming Article 18.

 

As Britain commemorated the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, we should recall that, long before Article 18, it asserted the importance of religious freedom.

 

Societies which deny such freedoms are invariably unhappy societies. Research shows that there is a direct link between economic prosperity and religious freedom.

 

At their bloodiest worst such societies foment genocide against groups like the Chaldean and Assyrian Christians and Yazidis that I have already described.

 

But before it became genocide there was persecution – to which we were indifferent.  And, as is the case in Pakistan, we refuse to even use the word persecution preferring instead to talk about discrimination. But unless you stop it at source one invariably leads to the other.

 

Over the summer I was guest of honour at Liverpool’s refurbished Pakistan Centre. It was a wonderful evening of celebration.

 

Pakistan’s green and white flag was designed to represent the green of Islam and the white of the minorities

 

In 1947, Pakistan’s great statesman and founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah crafted a constitution which promised to uphold plurality and diversity and to protect all its citizens.  Jinnah said: “You may belong to any religion, caste or creed—that has nothing to do with the business of the State…Minorities, to whichever community they may belong, will be safeguarded. Their religion, faith or belief will be secure. There will be no interference of any kind with their freedom of worship. They will have their protection with regard to their religion, faith, their life and their culture. They will be, in all respects, the citizens of Pakistan without any distinction of caste and creed”

 

They are values not just for Pakistan but for us too. They are values under attack and we do one another no favours by failing to say so.

 

Whether judged against the backdrop of the assassination, five years ago, of the country’s Christian Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti – who questioned the blasphemy laws – or the orgy of bombings, killings, rapes, imprisonment and abductions, of which the Lahore massacre was the latest bloody and shocking example, Pakistan has allowed the systematic targeting of religious minorities in a culture of impunity.

 

A report on Pakistan which I launched in Parliament catalogues this systematic campaign and followed evidence taking sessions, witness statements, and a visit I made to a detention centre where escaping Pakistani Christians are held.

 

One escapee recounted how his friend, Basil – a pastor’s son – was targeted by Pakistani Islamists attempting to convert him.

 

He reminded them that there should be no compulsion in requiring religious adherence. Their response was to launch an arson attack on his home. The fire destroyed his home and Basil, his wife and daughter, aged 18 months, were burnt alive.

 

Following their deaths the assailants turned their attention to his friend.

 

He was attacked and beaten. He reported this to the police – who then informed the assailants of the complaint. The assailants telephoned him and said that they would kill him. He, his wife, and little girl, fled the country.

 

In the aftermath of this systematic campaign of visceral hatred there is little evidence that Pakistan’s contemporary leaders are doing anything whatsoever to uphold Jinnah’s vision – and, equally, there is little evidence that more than £1 billion of British aid, given over the past two years, is doing anything to support beleaguered minorities, often the poorest of the poor, or to promote religious freedom or peaceful co-existence.

 

The failure to prevent such egregious depredations, and to punish those responsible, is a major contributory factor in fomenting conflict.

 

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, says that the “most common feature” of Anglicanism worldwide is that of being persecuted. Twenty-four of the 37 Anglican provinces are in conflict or post-conflict areas. Referring to the 150 Kenyan Christians who were killed on Maundy Thursday last year, Justin Welby said:

“There have been so many martyrs in the last year … They are witnesses, unwilling, unjustly, wickedly, and they are martyrs in both senses of the word”.

 

His Holiness the Dalai Lama, calling for an end to violence against Muslims in Burma is emphatic that:

“The violence in Buddhist majority countries targeting religious minorities is completely unacceptable. I urge Buddhists in these countries to imagine an image of the Buddha before them before they commit such a crime”.

 

As those trying to escape such violations of Article 18 try to flee and escape their persecutors, we can see how the conflict contributes significantly to the refugee crisis – with 55 million people now living as refugees, asylum seekers or internally displaced persons, with a further 60 million people forcibly displaced.  Conversely, in those countries which promote freedom of religion or belief, there is a direct correlation with prosperity, stability, and the contentment and happiness of the populace. Where Article 18 is trampled on, the reverse is also true, as a cursory examination of the hobbled economies of countries such as North Korea and Eritrea immediately reveals

 

How right is the BBC’s courageous Chief Correspondent, Lyse Doucet, when she says: “If you don’t understand religion – including the abuse of religion – it’s becoming ever harder to understand our world.”  

 

Western Governments are often illiterate when it comes to religious faith – and so they don’t understand what motivates people to kill Christian students in Kenya, Shia Muslims praying in a mosque in Kuwait, Pakistani Anglicans celebrating the Eucharist in Peshawar; British tourists simply on holiday in Tunisia; or in trying to understand the dramatic rise in Christian persecution, the vilification of Islam – and a state of war between Sunnis and Shias – in some parts of  the world and, in Europe, the troubling reawakening of anti-Semitism. They just call it terror and we have developed a worrying moral equivalence or timidity to call evil by its name for fear of giving offence

 

 

Learning to live together in respect and tolerance – whether we have a religious faith or not – is truly the great challenge of our times and scholars, media, and policy makers need to promote far greater religious literacy and shape different priorities.

 

Jonathan (Lord) Sacks, in his brilliant critique, Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence, provides some valuable insights into the shared stories of the Abrahamic faiths—not least the displacement stories of Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Leah and Rachel, and Joseph and his brothers. He argues that these can be used to promote mutual respect, coexistence, reconciliation and the healing of history.

 

This underlines the urgent need for scholars from those faiths to combat the evil being committed in God’s name and to give emphasis to the ancient texts in a way which upholds the dignity of difference—the title of another of Jonathan Sacks’ books. In The Dignity of Difference he writes :

“The great faiths provide meaning and purpose for their adherents. The question is: can they make space for those who are not its adherents, who sing a different song, hear a different music, tell a different story? On that question, the fate of the 21st century may turn”.

 

If Jews, Muslims, Christians atheists and others are no longer to see one another as an existential threat such a narrative  – with Article 18 at its heart – must be capable of forestalling the unceasing incitements to hatred which pour from the internet and which capture the unformed minds.

 

The urgency of life and death  task was starkly underlined by the recent execution of the 84-year-old French priest Fr. Jacques Hamel and by the murder of the Glasgow shopkeeper, Asad Shah, who often reached out to Christian neighbours and customers. Tanveer Ahmed, allegedly drove up from Bradford to kill Mr. Shah because he was disrespectful of Islam. Mr. Shah was an Ahmadi who, in Pakistan, are denied citizenship unless they renounce their description of themselves as Muslims. Now, it seems, they are to be targeted in Britain too.

 

 

Europe, for all its faults, is a place in which adulterers are not flogged, gays are not executed, women are not stoned for not being veiled, churches are not burned, so-called apostates had not, until recently, been killed, and non-believers are not forced to convert or treated as ‘dhimmis’ or second-class citizens.

 

We who enjoy those freedoms here must work to achieve the same freedoms for all; and in that task Article 18 must remain our lodestar.  Perhaps we need a new Convention on Religious Freedom to sit alongside the Convention on Genocide – but if we promote such Conventions let’s dedicate ourselves to upholding and enforcing them too – and with universal application.

 

Article 18 is a foundational human right—many would say the foundational right—because, while there should be no hierarchy of rights and all rights are interdependent, without the freedom to choose, practise, share without coercion and change your beliefs, what freedom is there?

 

And what are the consequences when we fail to uphold this freedom?

 

In 1965, Dignitatis Humanae, the Second Vatican Council’s proclamation on religious freedom, said correctly that a society which promotes religious freedom will be enlivened and enriched and one that does not will decay.

 

But let me end where I began.

 

Eleanor Roosevelt, described the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights as,

“the international Magna Carta for all mankind”.

 

She said that Article 18 freedoms were to be one of the four essential freedoms of mankind.

 

Who can doubt that this essential freedom needs to be given far greater emphasis and priority in these troubled times?  Here in Warsaw no one really needs to be reminded of the admonition of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Protestant theologian who was executed by the Nazis and who said:

 

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act”.

——————————————————————————————————————————

 

David Alton – Professor the Lord Alton of Liverpool – has served in the British Parliament since 1979 and is an Independent Crossbench Peer.

The Lectures were delivered at the Centre for the Thought of John Paul IIhttp://www.centrumjp2.pl/en/about-us/

2016-visit-to-warsaw-and-to-the-museum-of-blessed-father-jerzy-popieluszko-13

Visit to the Centre for Totalitarian Studies in Warsaw:

 

 

Senator Rónán Mullen on the Life and Times of Joseph Mary Plunkett – during the centenary year of the Irish Easter Uprising

Speech on Joseph Mary Plunkett, delivered at Stonyhurst College, Lancashire, where Plunkett was educated

Thursday, 29th September, 2016

joseph-mary-plunkettsenator-ronan-mullen

——————————————-

I see His Blood Upon The Rose

I see his blood upon the rose
And in the stars the glory of his eyes,
His body gleams amid eternal snows,
His tears fall from the skies.

I see his face in every flower;
The thunder and the singing of the birds
Are but his voice—and carven by his power
Rocks are his written words.

All pathways by his feet are worn,
His strong heart stirs the ever-beating sea,
His crown of thorns is twined with every thorn,
His cross is every tree.

——————————————–

Senator Rónán Mullen

As Ireland commemorates the centenary of the Easter Rising — the event that sparked a popular movement towards independence from the United Kingdom one hundred years ago this year — the tendency has been to focus, perhaps somewhat simplistically, on the history of the participants and of the event itself.

 

But in the Easter Rising we find that history was born in literature. With the Celtic Revival in its latter days by 1916, and the rediscovery of national heroes from ancient myth, such as Cuchulain, permeating the popular imagination, it should not seem too surprising that a headmaster, a university professor, and an assortment of poets saw themselves — and became — the champions of Irish freedom. As the historian Standish O’Grady prophetically declared in the late nineteenth century: ‘We have now a literary movement, it is not very important; it will be followed by a political movement that will not be very important; then must come a military movement that will be important indeed.’[1]

 

The ideas crafted in the study took fire in the streets in 1916, and Joseph Mary Plunkett — poet, aesthete, military strategist, and rebel — offers a fascinating study of this nexus of thought and action. Plunkett is often mythologized as the hero who wed his sweetheart on the eve of his execution in May 1916, but I would like to frame this evening’s talk around not one but three women who profoundly shaped Plunkett’s life, and who are the subject of many poems he wrote.

 

Scholars, journalists, and cultural commentators are often troubled by what they perceive as an uncomfortable literary and religious fervour motivating the actions of the Rising’s leaders. I would like to put some context on that in Plunkett’s case.

 

Born into a wealthy family, Plunkett was the second eldest of seven children. His father was a Papal Count and Director of the National Museum, while his mother was something of a ‘property developer,’ owning numerous houses in Dublin city and beyond, living from their rents, and travelling abroad frequently.

 

Joseph developed TB as a child, and this left him with an eclectic sequence of schooling, with intermittent extended periods at home due to illness. He attended the Catholic University School in Dublin city centre, not far from his home; then, following a notion of his mother, a Marist school in Paris for a while; then Belvedere College, a well-known Jesuit school in Dublin; then St. George’s College, Weybridge with his two brothers. The final stop was Stonyhurst — he was here between 1906 and 1908. Stonyhurst College ran a third-level style philosophy and liberal arts course for young men who were unable to attend Oxford or Cambridge due to their Catholicism — although it must be said that such restrictions had been lifted by Plunkett’s time, and the course was eventually wound up in 1916. Joseph was almost 19 when he entered Stonyhurst — an age when many schoolboys, including those of you here this evening, would expect to have left the place.

Stonyhurst offered Plunkett a level of personal and intellectual independence he had not enjoyed before. Its young men were offered a chance to participate in the College’s Officer Training Corps, involving training in drilling and musketry. While Plunkett was not well enough to partake in this, he would have seen and heard of the goings-on from his fellow classmates. In this limited but interesting sense, we can see the coming together of intellectual and military activity in Joseph’s life at an early age.

 

Back in Ireland, Plunkett’s first collection of poetry appeared in 1911. It emphasises his enduring interest in his faith, and gave us the poem for which he is best remembered: I See His Blood Upon the Rose.
I see his blood upon the rose

And in the stars the glory of his eyes,

His body gleams amid eternal snows

His tears fall from the skies.

 

I see his face in every flower;

The thunder and the singing of the birds

Are but his voice — and carven by his power

Rocks are his written words.

 

All pathways by his feet are worn,

His strong heart stirs the ever-beating sea,

His crown of thorns is entwined with every thorn,

His cross is every tree.

 

The current Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, recently observed that ‘Each of the leading figures had a personal story of faith which accompanied them along their journey.’[2] In this regard, it is curious to observe the reticence among historians and commentators of the Rising to acknowledge or dwell upon this fact.[3] And yet the first words of the Proclamation of the Republic, the foundation text of Ireland’s independence, invoke the Almighty: ‘In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom.’ Even the indefatigable Scot,  James Connolly, prominent trade union activist, socialist, leader of the Rising, and atheist, was a deathbed convert to the Catholic Church. And Thomas MacDonagh, another signatory of the Proclamation and Plunkett’s closest friend, was a one-time seminarian.[4]

 

By far the most prominent poet and revolutionary to invoke faith and fatherland in the cause of Irish freedom was Patrick Pearse, effective leader of the Rising and announcer of the Proclamation upon the steps of the General Post Office in central Dublin on that Easter Monday morning.  Pearse was a schoolteacher, poet, and dramatist whose writings blended the sacrificial motifs of Christianity with his advocacy of Irish separatism. He foreshadowed the sacrificial aspect of his own death in his poetry long before his execution, lending a visionary aspect to popular memory of him, and a prophetic quality to his cause. Indeed, his early biographers produced accounts of his life that were almost hagiographic, and schoolchildren across the nation, from the earliest days of independence, were presented, whether in history books or in English or Irish lessons based on his verse, with the portrait of a heroic role-model, an exemplary Irish man of faith, courage, and learning, and something of a martyr.[5] I don’t think we can view Pearse’s faith and courage as insincere: he really was deeply affected by his religious commitments and by what he perceived to be Ireland’s political needs, as were all the revolutionaries. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the profound symbolism of the timing of the event itself. Originally scheduled for Easter Sunday, the commemoration of the rising of Christ and the central feast in the Church’s calendar, this was the day, in the minds of the Rising’s organisers, that Ireland too was to rise again. This religious symbolism perhaps raises some important and troubling questions about the theological underpinning, and perhaps the morality, of the Rising, and I hope to return to these later. For now, let us turn once more to young Joseph Mary Plunkett.

 

He has been immortalised in popular Irish history as the man who married his sweetheart, Grace Gifford, on the eve of his execution. But for many years the object of his affections was one Columba O’Carroll — Grace Gifford came much later. Plunkett first met Columba O’Carroll in 1910 when she was 17 and he was 22. Thus began a 5 year story of unrequited love. Columba became a muse for much of Plunkett’s poetry. The word columba is the Latin for a dove, and references to doves pattern many of his poems during the years of their courtship. He even founded a printing press in her honour in 1912 — the Columba Press — which allowed him more control over the production of his poetry.

 

But another woman features strongly in his verse — a woman who was to make substantial demands of him. The Little Black Rose Shall be Red at Last is dedicated to one Caitlín ní hUllacháin. Contrasting with the blood-stained rose we encountered in his other poem, it is Ireland that is mythologized here, not only as a rose, but as a woman. Cathleen is the Poor Old Woman, the Sean Bhean Bhocht in Irish/Gaelic, the allegorical personification for Ireland in folk tradition.[6] Plunkett does not portray Cathleen as a Sean Bhean Bhocht, however, but as a beautiful young woman with whom he is deeply in love. Cathleen was a well-known figure in the popular imagination by Plunkett’s time. W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory wrote a play bearing her name some years previously, in which Cathleen, the poor old woman of tradition, has lost her fields and shows up at a wedding urging the groom to fight for her cause. His decision to fight and die for her brings about her transformation into a young woman once more. Ireland, old and weak, is made young and vital again through Cathleen’s freedom.[7]

 

We find motifs of love, sacrifice, and ultimately death, as captured by Yeats and Gregory’s play, present in Plunkett’s poem too. ‘Because we share our sorrows and our joys / And all your dear and intimate thoughts are mine / We shall not fear the trumpets and the noise / Of battle, for we know our dreams divine.’ Considering the events of Easter 1916 that followed, the clamour of battle Plunkett alludes to here suggests a level of determination on his part to engage in violence for Cathleen’s cause. As Yeats’ play shows, Cathleen sets the bar high; violence and death are expected from her suitors. These sentiments are confirmed in the poem’s concluding lines which reveal Plunkett prepared to spill his own blood for her, and consequently for Ireland: ‘Praise God if this my blood fulfils the doom / When you, dark rose, shall redden into bloom.’

 

Plunkett began to get involved in the Irish Volunteer Army around 1913. Founded by Eoin MacNeill and Eamon de Valera in response to the establishment of the Ulster Volunteers in 1912, its stated aim was ‘to serve and maintain the rights and liberties common to the people of Ireland.’ The Volunteers were, in effect, something of an independent military force operating within the country. MacNeill was professor of Medieval History at University College, Dublin, and de Valera was a mathematics teacher at the Jesuit Belvedere College, so the Volunteers would not have seemed like a disreputable organisation, even if at that point most Irish Catholic people were on the side of a constitutional Home Rule nationalist agenda represented by the dominant Irish Parliamentary Party and its leader, John Redmond. By 1914, the Irish Volunteers had a membership of close to 200,000 people, most of whom would join the British Army to fight in the Great War. But that choice — to follow John Redmond’s call to go to the Western Front, fight for the freedom of small nations, and hope to be rewarded after the war by the entry into force of the Home Rule Bill passed in 1914, or to remain at home and fight for Irish independence —  dramatically split the Volunteers. The majority went to fight in Flanders, leaving a smaller force of around 15,000 nationalist members remaining in Ireland by 1916. Plunkett was, of course, if I may use the term, a ‘Remainer’.

 

Plunkett’s literary activity continued to develop in parallel with his growing political commitment. In 1913, he bought — with substantial assistance from his wealthy mother — an arts journal called the Irish Review, which had fallen into debt and whose owners were looking to sell out. As Plunkett become more involved in politics, the subheading of the Review soon changed from ‘Irish Culture, Art, and Science,’ to ‘Irish Politics, Literature, and Art.’ Where Irish literature had once been the journal’s primary interest, Irish politics was now its focal point. As might be expected, this politicization of a primarily literary publication had consequences. The Review’s increasing concerns with Volunteer matters and its promotion of a separatist politics led to its readership plummeting, since many of its readers were civil servants who could not risk being associated with the publication any longer.

 

This deterioration in itself says something about the support for separatist politics among Ireland’s middle classes. W.B. Yeats famously attacked the Irish middle class for its caution and apathy, witheringly accusing them of fumbling in the ‘greasy till,’ of adding ‘the halfpence to the pence / And prayer to shivering prayer’ until they had ‘dried the marrow from the bone.’ (September 1913). For Yeats, romantic Ireland was ‘dead and gone,’ and the country was now dominated by pragmatic, self-interested people without a vision. Yeats was taken by surprise by the passionate, romantic tragedy of the 1916 Rising, and it is in his poem Easter 1916 that he talks of how ‘All’s changed, changed utterly / A terrible beauty is born.’

 

But whatever about Yeats’ 1913 critique of the unromantic middle classes, it must be said most of the leaders of the revolution were themselves middle-class and well-to-do. ‘Aren’t they often?’, I hear some of you muse.[8] There was a school headmaster — Patrick Pearse, a university don — Eoin MacNeill, the son of a Papal Count — Joseph Mary Plunkett.

 

By late 1914, the Irish Review was in significant financial difficulty. Not only that, but spies from Dublin Castle, the seat of British administration in Ireland, were posing as poets and calling at the Plunketts’ Dublin homes, where the family were based, and from where Volunteer activity was taking place. The October 1914 edition was the last. Following the split in the Irish Volunteers earlier that year, with most of its membership siding with the constitutional nationalist John Redmond, and going off to war in Europe, Plunkett used the Review to rally the remaining separatist members, publishing ‘Twenty Plain Facts for Irishmen.’ The ‘Facts’ make clear the group’s official line on Redmondite constitutional nationalism and those men who had left to fight for the Crown in Europe’s trenches: ‘The Irish Volunteers have been organised, first, to secure the rights and liberties of all the people of Ireland and then to maintain those rights and liberties. No body, committee, or person has any right to use or to promise to use the efforts of the Irish Volunteers for any purpose other than the securing and the maintenance of the rights and liberties of the people of Ireland.’ Needless to say, following this publication, all copies of the Review were seized, bringing its run to an end.

 

Following the split, Plunkett joined what remained of the Irish Volunteers, becoming its Director of Military Operations. By Christmas of 1914, the organisation’s Military Council had settled on a date for its planned insurrection, and preparations began. Plunkett was sent to Germany in 1915 in search of arms and support. Because he was increasingly weakened by TB, he seemed the least likely instigator of violence among the leaders, and it was hoped that authorities would turn a blind eye to him, assuming he was travelling in order to recuperate. His diaries capture the colour of his circuitous travels. In Florence, he records his visit to one of Michelangelo’s most famous creations: ‘Yesterday I went out to have a look at David and then came back and read 66 of his songs. He was some writer as well as some fighter. I wonder which chilled me?’ David, of course, is the author of the Psalms, the 66 ‘songs’ that Plunkett says he read. David was also King of Israel. A poet and a warrior, he must have been a fascinating figure to Plunkett who aspired to being, and eventually became, both of these things himself.

 

Plunkett’s success in Germany was mixed: he secured an agreement for delivery of a cargo of arms to Ireland around the date of Easter 1916, but his attempts to form an Irish Brigade from Irish Prisoners of War in German camps met with little interest — another hint that all-out insurrection did not enjoy widespread popular support.

 

He was sent to the United States later that year to inform the Volunteers’ Irish-American contacts of their plans, but not before Columba, the object of his ongoing devotion, met him to say that their courtship was at an end. Columba had lost her brother in Gallipoli that summer, and her father did not approve of their match, what with Joseph vigorously plotting military activity and slowly perishing of tuberculosis. Plunkett spent his time in America struggling to deal with this rejection. His papers include three letters to her which he never sent. Written over the space of a week, thousands of miles from her, they trace his struggles to move on from her unrequited affections. The first records: ‘New York. Tuesday, September 7th 1915. […] I can speak the truth and say that man is God’s expression; art, poetry, life is man’s expression and you are my expression.’[9] Just as humankind is God’s creation, Columba is Plunkett’s creation, as in an artist’s sculpture or a poet’s verse. It seems that while Columba’s beauty and perfection had always been real to Plunkett, her person became real to him mainly through his poetry. His love for her seems to be that towards an idea or projection, an artist’s expression, rather than a love for the woman in herself. The lines offer a fascinating glimpse into the nature of the relationship between the two and, perhaps, hint at somewhat adolescent foundations, at least on Plunkett’s side. The second letter sees him engage in his own interior struggles with moving on: ‘I can’t just “be myself”,’ he writes; ‘Nobody can be themselves. They don’t. There is only one way to be oneself and that is to be nothing.’[10] Again, these lines hint at a certain immaturity in the nature of the relationship. But the melodrama and self-absorption also convey a certain nobility and sincerity: Columba was his everything, and her absence marks a new void in his existence. The third letter is notably more matter-of-fact: ‘September 13th New York, USA. […] It was my misfortune, it is my despair that the only hope for me lay beyond your understanding, buried in what was to you a foreign tongue. Only in my poems is there anything worthy of your love, and even the celestial glories of which I have written I seem to have obscured with my own murky personality. But I can at least praise God that I have seen his glory in you and have not kept silence.’[11] I think these lines hint most strongly of all at the communications problems that plagued their relationship. Plunkett’s verse remained a ‘foreign tongue’ to his beloved Columba. She remained his muse, and not his soul-mate, so to speak.

 

While Columba was Plunkett’s beloved throughout much of his life, he is best remembered for his marriage to Grace Gifford on the night before his execution in May 1916. Grace was one of 12 children from a strongly unionist family. Her mother was Anglican and her father Catholic. Grace was baptised into the Catholic Church shortly before Plunkett’s death, and he actually wrote a poem to mark the occasion. She made a living by drawing caricatures of prominent Dubliners. The final edition of the Irish Review in October 1914 featured a cartoon by her, so we can reasonably assume that the two knew one another in some capacity since then at least. Things obviously moved rather quickly. In September 1915, Plunkett, as we have seen, was rueing the departure of Columba from his life. By December, he had proposed to Grace. Their engagement was announced and their wedding was to take place some months later — on Easter Sunday, 1916.  But their marriage took place under poignantly different circumstances.

 

By any immediate estimation of the events, the Rising itself was a failure. On Good Friday, 21st April, a shipment of 20,000 rifles and ammunition from Germany was scuttled off the coast of Cork, in the south of Ireland. Some of the organisers expected arrests to follow, thus putting an end to the whole thing, but this didn’t happen. So on Easter Sunday, the leaders met and decided to go ahead with the Rising one day later, in spite of setbacks. That night, Plunkett wrote to his fiancée: ‘My dearest heart, Keep your spirits and trust in Providence. Everything is bully. I have only a minute. I am going into the nursing home to-night to sleep. I am keeping as well as anything but I need a rest. Take care of your old, cold sweetheart. All my love forever, Joe.’[12] Plunkett’s words to Grace on the eve of the Rising express his love, idealism, hope, and resolve. But they are unsettling. A 28-year-old Director of Military Operations spending the night before his planned insurrection in a nursing home? Plunkett had had TB since childhood, and now his health was deteriorating. Earlier in the year, he had had surgery on a tubercular abscess on his neck and doctors had given him months to live. He spent the weeks leading up to the Rising convalescing in a nursing home in north Dublin city. Given his prognosis, some might question whether Plunkett’s actions in these months inspired partly by the sense that his life was doomed to be short in any event.

 

Nevertheless, on Easter Monday, 24th April 1916, Plunkett was brought from the nursing home by helpers. Poor Grace had spent the night at a nearby hotel in central Dublin in the hope that, should the opportunity arise, the two of them would get to church to get married. However, Joseph by now had now arrived at the General Post Office in the city centre, the focal point of the Rising’s events, from where the Proclamation was read by Patrick Pearse. James Connolly’s son, Roddy, later recalled the curious arrangements inside the GPO: ‘I had never seen Joe Plunkett and there he was gorgeously apparelled in his uniform with a long sword and a silk scarf around his neck. […] Someone procured a mattress and put it in front of the stamp counter and he lay down on it. I thought he was rather out of place, lying on a mattress in the middle of a revolution.’[13] The incongruity of a poet on a mattress in a post office directing a revolution has something of the futility and tragi-comedy of a play by Samuel Beckett, and yet these were the conditions under which the republic was born. Plunkett’s health waxed and waned over the days that followed. In later accounts, some men recalled him on active duty, while others recalled him on a mattress too weak to get up. He obviously cut a striking figure amid the gunfire and debris of those days. One Volunteer later wrote of him: ‘Joe Plunkett moved amongst us all the time, his eloquent comforting words at odds with his bizarre, eccentric appearance, his sabre and his jewelled fingers. […]  Most of us by now knew that he’d risen from his deathbed to lead us.’[14] These words really capture the symbolic significance of the Rising’s historical moment, and Joseph Plunkett’s almost unintentionally symbolic circumstances — a leader rising from his deathbed, a Saviour rising from his crucifixion, a nation being resurrected.

 

But by Saturday of Easter Week, it was all over. Patrick Pearse surrendered and the men were brought to a nearby army barracks for detention, court martial, and sentencing. The leaders, including Plunkett, were sentenced to death, and executed, over the days that followed. Following sentencing, Plunkett was transferred to Kilmainham Gaol. Little is known of the intervening days, but we do know that the following Wednesday, a forlorn Grace, his tragic bride, went to buy a wedding ring. Late that night, close to midnight, Joseph and Grace were married in the Gaol chapel. A few hours later, in the early hours of the morning, Grace, who was staying nearby, was woken and told that she could go to visit her husband. They were given ten minutes together. Grace later described the encounter: ‘We who had never had enough time to say what we wanted to each other found that in that last ten minutes we couldn’t talk at all.’[15] Their first and last moments as husband and wife were silence, each other’s company. Joseph Plunkett was executed later that day. In the end, one might say that Grace Gifford was robbed of her husband, because Cathleen Ní Houlihan’s cruel and demanding desires were met: ‘Praise God if this my blood fulfils the doom / When you, dark rose, shall redden into bloom.’

 

This blend of love, violence, and death has understandably troubled many historians and scholars of the Easter Rising. Like other leaders of the Rising, Plunkett, the mastermind behind its military planning, was a paradoxical mix of dreamer and pragmatist. And the Rising was paradoxically successful. Initial reaction among Dubliners was one of bewilderment and hostility towards the participants. But circumstances conspired to turn public sentiment in their favour. The romantic heroism of men such as Plunkett, newly-wed and dead, softened attitudes. And these softened attitudes gave rise to hostility to a British administration which spent a leisurely two weeks periodically executing rebels. This newfound hostility manifested itself in the growth of a young separatist party known as Sinn Fein, and the attendant waning of John Redmond’s Irish Parliamentary Party. Redmond himself died in early 1918, and, in the midst of revolution at home and war abroad, it is easy to forget his achievement of Home Rule for Ireland. But unfortunately for Redmond and his legacy, Home Rule was, increasingly, too little too late. Sympathy for the executed leaders of the Rising, and widespread opposition, led partly by the Catholic Church, to the imposition of conscription, contributed, later that year, to Sinn Fein winning a landslide victory in the general election to the British Parliament. The newly-elected Sinn Féiners did not take their seats, instead convening the First Dáil, or Parliament, in Dublin, and officially declaring the Irish Republic. This led to the War of Independence in 1919, which culminated in the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, and the foundation of the Irish Free State. The Treaty did not grant Ireland outright independence, nor did it apply to the whole island, with the majority in what is today Northern Ireland remaining staunchly unionist. Dissatisfaction with the outcome of the Treaty led to a year-long Civil War between 1922–23, and to the eventual political ascendancy of the anti-treaty side led by Eamon de Valera, one of the signatories and participants in the Easter Rising alongside Plunkett, whose American citizenship saved him from the executioner’s bullet. Later, under de Valera, there was a systematic dismantling of the Anglo-Irish Treaty arrangements, and eventually, under a different government, we had the passing of the Republic of Ireland Act of 1948. Modern Ireland, as you can see, has many birthdays, of which 1916 has always been seen to be their first and greatest.

 

The combination of God and guns, so evident in Plunkett’s writings, and even more so in Patrick Pearse’s, has raised many questions. From a Rising, to a War of Independence, to a Civil War, to decades of bloodshed in Northern Ireland, more than a few historians and commentators have worriedly observed that the official valorization of the Easter Rising and the official hagiography of its leaders have given benediction and sanction to much of the violence of subsequent decades.

 

In a lecture delivered on Radio Éireann on the 50th anniversary of the Rising in 1966, Prof. Francis Xavier Martin concluded with the troubling possibility that ‘the traditional conditions required for a lawful revolt seem at first sight, and ever at second, to be absent in 1916,’ the primary one being that ‘the government must be a tyranny.’[16] In other words, in Martin’s estimation, this was no just war. A few years later in 1972, Fr. Francis Shaw, Jesuit priest and Professor of Medieval Irish at University College, Dublin, offered his take on the Rising, and on Pearse in particular — one that was not particularly sympathetic to the man or his intentions. He believed that Pearse’s ‘equation of the patriot with Christ is in conflict with the whole Christian tradition and indeed with the explicit teaching of Christ. […] Christ made it unmistakably plain that he was not a national saviour.’[17] For Shaw, the actions of Pearse, Plunkett, and others were contrary to Christian thought and, in effect, blasphemous.[18]

 

The hitherto iconic status of Pearse and his fellow revolutionaries, and the hagiographic tendencies of Ireland’s teachers, schoolbooks, and (yes) politicians, was finally coming under scrutiny, the fledgling Republic barely half-a-century old. Admittedly, the glory of shedding blood for a cause was not uncommon among writers at the time who were eager and exhilarated by the rush to arms at the outbreak of the Great War. The concept of blood sacrifice — of violence as something paradoxically redemptive and pacifying — was a theme found in other events at this time. It framed the bloody proceedings of the Somme in 1916, as well as in Ulster, with some of the signatories of its foundational Ulster Covenant infamously signing it with their own blood. It was an ideal taken up by French and English war poets. Indeed, the British Army also engaged it to encourage Irish men to fight in the Great War: what happened to little Catholic Belgium should, in the words of contemporary propaganda, ‘stir the blood of Irish Catholic men.’[19]

 

But shedding blood for a cause may be glorious only if the cause itself is just. Was the moral basis of the revolutionaries’ violence just? Was this a valid revolt against a tyrant that was impoverishing Ireland? I think it is reasonable to say that we need to shed light on the potentially bad theology that informed the noble undertakings of Plunkett and the others. The theology of revolution and the cult of martyrdom espoused most notably by Pearse, who appropriated the Passion and death of Christ as the exemplar for the sacrifice needed to redeem the Irish nation, ultimately resulted in the deaths of around 500 people, most of them civilians.[20] Even today, Irish commentators and politicians cannot not quite decide whether the men and women of Easter 1916 had a valid moral rationale for their actions. Michael McDowell, former Minister for Justice and Attorney-General of Ireland, has consistently challenged revisionist views of the Rising as a violent affair which in turn bred more violence. McDowell is a grandson of Eoin MacNeill, founder of the Irish Volunteers and one of the signatories of the Proclamation. For McDowell, 1916 did not mark the beginning of a century of political destruction in Ireland as some suggest; rather, due to the British political establishment’s implicit backing of the creation of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) to counter Home Rule demands from 1912 onward, Ireland had little choice but to take to arms in order to guarantee itself some form of self-determination.[21]

 

However, John Bruton, former Taoiseach of Ireland, has taken a different view. For Bruton, the events of Easter Week 1916 created what he called a ‘recipe for endless conflict.’[22] Distinguishing two traditions in Irish separatism — one revolutionary, the other constitutional — Bruton marked the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Home Rule Bill into law in 2014 by suggesting that ‘If there hadn’t been the introduction of violence into nationalism in that demonstrably dramatic way in Easter Week […] there wouldn’t have been a Civil War [in the years that followed].’[23] Understandably, Bruton’s assertions ruffled feathers. For Bruton, the legacy of John Redmond and his Home Rule Bill, deserves a more generous appraisal. Redmond’s memory was, in the words of one recent commentator, ‘systematically buried’ following the creation of the Irish Free State in 1922.[24] Yet Home Rule was successfully enacted in 1914, as a result of Redmond’s efforts, for which he had a clear mandate from the Irish electorate. And as Bruton argued, the institutions of government that became operational in the 1922 Irish Free State ironically owed much to the work carried out in preparation for Home Rule.[25]

 

What is clear is that it was for Cathleen ní Houlihan, not for Christ, that the men of 1916 chose to shed their blood. It was not a martyrdom. Revolutionaries may be martyrs to a cause, noble or ignoble. But a true martyr chooses to endure suffering and death in a great cause, not inflict it on others or even on himself. Today, we see the hijacking and corruption of the selfless love of martyrdom in the destructive acts perpetrated by men and women associated with ISIS, both in the Middle East and closer to home in Europe. So is worth thinking hard about whether the activities of Plunkett and others amounted to a selfless martyrdom for a noble and necessary idea, the cause of a free Ireland, where ‘all the children of the nation,’ to take the words of the Proclamation — Protestant, Catholic, or dissenter — would be cherished equally. Or whether, even if they couldn’t be described as martyrs, theirs was a justified rising up against tyranny.

 

History suggests that the trouble with revolutions is that they are born in violence and beget violence. Simon Schama has made the case about the French Revolution that ‘violence […] was not just an unfortunate side effect […] it was the Revolution’s source of collective energy. It was what made the Revolution revolutionary.’[26] Of course, compared with the French Revolution, the violence and bloodshed of the 1916 Rising was minimal. Indeed, it has sometimes been remarked that, following the achievement of independence a few years later, with officials, administrative frameworks, and laws all remaining in situ, all that changed in newly free Ireland was the headed paper. In its being led by poets and dreamers, perhaps the Easter Rising of 1916 is more remarkable for its profound symbolism than for its bloodshed — a nation born and reborn at Eastertime.

 

Let me conclude with a reference to poetry and popular culture. The connecting concerns of faith and fatherland gave rise to some of Plunkett’s most respected poetry. They are, in this sense, terrible beauties, to borrow Yeats’ words on the Easter Rising. Plunkett’s tragic end brought humanity and pathos to the Rising, and stirred sympathy among the public. He loved Grace Gifford dearly, and, tragically, all too briefly. But he did not die for her. He died for Cathleen Ní Houlihan, that other woman in his life. And yet in popular memory, it is as a poet and as a lover, more than as a revolutionary, that he is remembered now. Most schoolchildren have learned I See His Blood Upon the Rose. And, in the early 1980s, a song called O Grace, topped the charts and is still widely known. Plunkett is remembered as one of the leaders of the 1916 Rising, but perhaps it for his religious poetry and tragic love that he is now recalled by most.

 

Grace

As we gather in the chapel here in old Kilmainham Jail

I think about these past few weeks, oh will they say we’ve failed?

From our school days they have told us we must yearn for liberty

Yet all I want in this dark place is to have you here with me

 

Oh Grace just hold me in your arms and let this moment linger

They’ll take me out at dawn and I will die

With all my love I place this wedding ring upon your finger

There won’t be time to share our love for we must say goodbye

 

Now I know it’s hard for you my love to ever understand

The love I shared for these brave men, the love for my dear land

But when glory called me to his side down in the GPO

I had to leave my own sick bed, to him I had to go

 

Oh, Grace just hold me in your arms and let this moment linger

They’ll take me out at dawn and I will die

With all my love I’ll place this wedding ring upon your finger

There won’t be time to share our love for we must say goodbye

 

Now as the dawn is breaking, my heart is breaking too

On this May morn as I walk out, my thoughts will be of you

And I’ll write some words upon the wall so everyone will know

I loved so much that I could see his blood upon the rose.

 

Oh, Grace just hold me in your arms and let this moment linger

They’ll take me out at dawn and I will die

With all my love I’ll place this wedding ring upon your finger

There won’t be time to share our love for we must say goodbye

For we must say goodbye.

 

 

[1] Kiberd, Inventing Ireland, p. 196.

[2] The End of All Things Earthly, p. 9.

[3] The End of All Things Earthly, pp. 12–3.

[4] The End of All Things Earthly, p. 69.

[5] The End of All Things Earthly, p. 18.

[6] http://songsandstories.net/myblog/illuminations-maud-gonne-she-had-the-walk-of-a-queen-a-story-from-this-months-issue-of-the-ohio-irish-american-news/

B – Character Studies

[7] The Little Black Rose Shall be Red at Last

(To Caitlín ní hUllacháin)
Because we share our sorrows and our joys

And all your dear and intimate thoughts are mine

We shall not fear the trumpets and the noise

Of battle, for we know our dreams divine,

And when my heart is pillowed on your heart

And ebb and flowing of their passionate flood

Shall beat in concord love through every part

Of brain and body — when at last the blood

O’er leaps the final barrier to find

Only one source wherein to spend its strength

And we two lovers, long but one in mind

And soul, are made one only flesh at length;

Praise God if this my blood fulfils the doom

When you, dark rose, shall redden into bloom.

[8] E.g. Karl Marx, whose father was a lawyer and owner of a number of vineyards, and whose family enjoyed a rather comfortable existence.

[9] O Brolchain, p. 327.

[10] O Brolchain, p. 328.

[11] O Brolchain, p. 331.

[12] O Brolchain, p. 375.

[13] O Brolchain, p. 381.

[14] O Brolchain, pp. 387-8.

[15] O Brolchain, p. 406.

[16]

[17]

[18] The End of All Things Earthly, p. 19.

[19] Diarmaid Ferriter, http://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/diarmaid-ferriter-nothing-new-in-the-fuss-about-pearse-thinking-he-was-jesus-1.2490033

[20] The End of All Things Earthly, p. 10.

[21] http://michaelmcdowell.ie/five-myths-about-the-rising/

[22] http://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/john-bruton-says-1916-was-recipe-for-endless-conflict-1.2590069

[23] http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/john-bruton-easter-rising-damaged-irish-psyche-30399613.html

[24] Stephen Collins, quoted by John Bruton in Studies, 2012 (101), p. 13.

[25] John Bruton, Studies, 2012 (101), p. 13.

[26] Schama, Citizens.

Christian Heritage Centre Exhibition on the life and times of St.Thomas More (Speaker of the House of Commons, Lord Chancellor, Patron of Lawyers, Statesmen and Politicians) and the Carrolls (the Foremost British-American Catholic Family – founders of Georgetown, Signatory to the American Declaration of Independence, first Bishop of Baltimore ) runs until March 2017 in Washington at the St.John Paul II Centre

Also see:

https://davidalton.net/2014/03/01/georgetown-presentation-by-lord-nicholas-windsor-royal-patron-of-the-christian-heritage-centre-and-the-case-for-religious-freedom-and-national-register-article-to-celebrate-thanksgivinganl/

‘Living Well in Evil Times’ from The Catholic Thing is about the Thomas More Exhibition in Washington:.
https://www.thecatholicthing.org/2016/09/28/living-well-in-evil-times/

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A Christian Heritage Centre Exhibition on the life and times of St.Thomas More (Speaker of the House of Commons, Lord Chancellor, Patron of Lawyers, Statesmen and Politicians) and the Carrolls (the Foremost British-American Catholic  Family – founders of Georgetown, Signatory to the American Declaration of Independence, first Bishop of Baltimore ) runs until March 2017 in Washington at the St.John Paul II Centre 

http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/exhibit-on-st-thomas-more-16th-century-statesman-and-martyr-to-open-in-washington-300328044.html

http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/washington-exhibit-highlights-gods-servant-first-st.-thomas-more

 

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In the year 2000 – the millennium year – I was privileged to be present in St.Peter’s Square in Rome when St.John Paul II declared an Englishman, St.Thomas More, to be the patron saint of politicians and statesmen. I had been among those who had written to the Pope asking him to consider such a declaration.

 

John Paul told us, in his Apostolic Letter that the life and martyrdom of Thomas More  “spans the centuries and speaks to people everywhere of the inalienable dignity of the human conscience, which, as the Second Vatican Council reminds us, is “the most intimate centre and sanctuary of a person, in which he or she is alone with God, whose voice echoes within them” (Gaudium et Spes, 16).”

He said that “Saint Thomas More is venerated as an imperishable example of moral integrity. And even outside the Church, particularly among those with responsibility for the destinies of peoples, he is acknowledged as a source of inspiration for a political system which has as its supreme goal the service of the human person.”

In St.Peter’s Square Pope John Paul reminded us of the outline of More’s life; that he had been born in London in 1478 of a respectable family; that as a young boy he was placed in the service of the Archbishop of Canterbury, John Morton, Lord Chancellor of the Realm; that he then studied law at Oxford and London; that he broadened his interests beyond law to understand culture, theology and classical literature. He mastered Greek and enjoyed the company and friendship of important figures of Renaissance culture, including Erasmus.

More also became known for his religious asceticism, attending daily Mass; for his cultivation of regular family prayer and as a devoted husband of Jane Colt and, after her death, of Alice Middleton and as father of his five children.

He was deeply involved in his children’s religious, moral and intellectual education and his welcoming home was open house to his children’s spouses and his grandchildren. His contemporaries described More’s family as a “Christian academy” – in which the cultivation of learning and the consideration of morality and ethics were daily fare. He was a much imitated educator and a champion of women’s education. Despite holding high office he maintained a simplicity of life in his own household and insisted to those closest to him that they must not become infatuated with the baubles of office and the trappings of power.

 

Elected to the House of Commons in 1504 during the reign of King Henry VII, he rose through the ranks, becoming Speaker in 1523. In 1529, at a time of economic and political crisis, Henry VIII appointed him to the Lords as Lord Chancellor.

The first layman to occupy this position, he sought to promote justice and to restrain those seeking to advance their own interests at the expense of the weak – placing service to his country before the pursuit of power.

In 1532, he resigned on principle, unable to support Henry’s decision to take control of the Church in England. Many of his associates proved to be fair-weather friends and deserted him.

In 1534 the King responded by imprisoning him in the Tower of London.At More’s trial at Westminster he gave an impassioned defence of his own convictions on the indissolubility of marriage, the respect due to the juridical patrimony of Christian civilization, and the freedom of the Church in her relations with the State. Condemned by the Court, he was beheaded.

Thomas More, together with 53 other martyrs, including Bishop John Fisher, was beatified by Pope Leo XIII in 1886. And with John Fisher, he was canonized by Pius XI in 1935, on the fourth centenary of his martyrdom.

 

In 2000 Pope John Paul said:

“There are many reasons for proclaiming Thomas More Patron of statesmen and people in public life. Among these is the need felt by the world of politics and public administration for credible role models able to indicate the path of truth at a time in history when difficult challenges and crucial responsibilities are increasing.

Today in fact strongly innovative economic forces are reshaping social structures; on the other hand, scientific achievements in the area of biotechnology underline the need to defend human life at all its different stages, while the promises of a new society — successfully presented to a bewildered public opinion — urgently demand clear political decisions in favour of the family, young people, the elderly and the marginalized.”

John Paul insisted that public service, not power is what must motivate politicians; that the weak and powerless must be the politician’s first concern; that politicians must act with a sense of fairness and cultivate an inner strength, rooted in faith, to resist the pressured of the world. He singled out More’s courage, his humility and his humour.

 

Elsewhere, in Christifideles Laici  john Paul expanded on this them, stating:

“The unity of life of the lay faithful is of the greatest importance: indeed they must be sanctified in everyday professional and social life. Therefore, to respond to their vocation, the lay faithful must see their daily activities as an occasion to join themselves to God, fulfil his will, serve other people and lead them to communion with God in Christ” (No. 17).

Elsewhere John Paul reminded us that  “man is created by God, and therefore human rights have their origin in God, are based upon the design of creation and form part of the plan of redemption. One might even dare to say that the rights of man are also the rights of God” (Speech, 7 April 1998).

And, he remarked, “it was precisely in defence of the rights of conscience that the example of Thomas More shone brightly”  that “The life of Saint Thomas More clearly illustrates a fundamental truth of political ethics. The defence of the Church’s freedom from unwarranted interference by the State is at the same time a defence, in the name of the primacy of conscience, of the individual’s freedom vis-à-vis political power. Here we find the basic principle of every civil order consonant with human nature.

 

For me personally, St.John Paul’s words struck a particular chord.

 

 

During parliamentary “term time” hardly a day has passed  over nearly 40 years without my passing the spot where Saint Thomas More stood  trial. I once took St.Mother Teresa of Calcutta to that spot and as I explained how More, Edmund Campion and others had been tried in that place, Mother Teresa knelt down and kissed the ground where they had stood. It reminded me of how easy it is to lose the essence of what has become too familiar.

 

 

Most of us have a picture of More based on Fred Zinnemann’s celebrated movie, made in 1966, A Man For All Seasons.  Paul Scofield, as More, and Robert Shaw, as Henry VIII, graphically bring to life the high drama of More’s dilemma and his trial. He wanted to be “the king’s good servant, but God’s first” – echoing, in this famous dictum, Our Lord’s  challenge to “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s but unto God the things that are God’s.” But More’s stand for conscience also created a new standard for believers.

 

In coming to terms with the implications of  trying to be dutiful to both the king and God , More’s struggle is synonymous with the struggle many people face today in reconciling their faith with the great contemporary battles of secular democracies – everything from health care provision to complicity in anti-life policies.

 

Thomas More stands at the head of the tradition of Catholic lay involvement in public and political life. His life and death also remind us of the risks involved in political service – and the price that may have to be paid.

 

It was England’s Solicitor General, Richard Rich who finally undoes More by perjuring himself  during the trial.  His pay off is a sinecure in Wales. The treachery is brought vividly to life in Zinnemann’s film with More asking Rich whether this was the best price he could extract: was his life to be paid for by a minor political post in the principality? Rich’s evidence was to lead directly to More’s conviction on the charge of treason.

 

But it reminds us, too, that many enter political life for reasons of naked political ambition and will lie and betray in order to advance themselves.

 

Of course, More was no insignificant rebellious nuisance. He was the king’s principal political advisor and had held the highest offices of State.

 

More resigned the Chancellorship in May 1532. Henry married Anne Boleyn in April 1533.  More continued to wrestle with his conscience and although he was willing to swear political fidelity to Henry he could not take an oath which impugned the spiritual authority of the church and inevitably threatened the unity of the Universal Church.

 

In one last moment of humour – on Tower Green he reminded us how to approach death – even violent death  – telling the Tower’s executioner: “Pluck up they spirits man. My neck is very short.”

 

More’s body was buried in a chapel at the Tower. His head was fixed to a spike on nearby London Bridge. Tradition has it that Margaret, his loving and devoted daughter, arranged for his head to be taken to Canterbury where it was buried.

 

Professor Jack Scarisbrick, one of the foremost historians of that period, and the founder of Britain’s leading pro-life charity, LIFE, has said of More: “More was, one might say, a man of his times as well as for all seasons. Not at all cuddly. Often enigmatic.” 

 

Yet, by the end of his pilgrimage, More was a man ready to lay down his life for his beliefs – and his friends. He was a man whose powerful intellect continues to challenge us today.

 

Politics for Thomas More was never a matter of personal advantage or the accumulation of personal power. Instead it was rooted in the desire to serve. It was informed by the deepest impulses of citizenship: a sense of duty and an understanding of every person’s responsibility to strive for the common good. Any understanding of More’s rigorous intellectual approach to the study of law, history, theology, philosophy and the culture  of his country reveals his abiding belief in the importance of formation: the formation of the mind and spirit as prerequisites for public service and high political office. The cultivation of virtue was, for More, an indispensable requirement for good governance.

Two centuries after his death, Jonathan Swift extolled More as “a person of the greatest virtue this kingdom ever produced, while the poet, John Donne, said he was a “man of the most tender and delicate conscience that the world saw since Augustine.”

What is especially appealing about More is that he is not an icon of pietism. His inner conflicts often loom darker than some of his modern admirers may care to admit. It was Erasmus who famously called him a man for all seasons; he was undoubtedly a man with flaws as well as virtues. His final jousts with his accusers  and his determination to find some way out of the death he sees before him presents us with a man who knew all the ways of politics and law. What makes him a saint is that having seen all those doors close before him he embraced inevitable death with  courage and acceptance. We often say there are beliefs for which we would be prepared to die but in our private moments many of us must wonder what would really happen if  the question were ever to arise.

Politics, for More, had to be informed by knowledge and truth. The primacy of Truth over power and the supremacy of  goodness over utility were More’s enduring tests for decision making.  Decisions which might lead to short-term popularity or personal gain were merely expediency and More was not to be found standing on these shifting sands.

Thomas More is the greatest of the true freedom fighters. His struggle against those who sought to commandeer his conscience and to subvert his convictions  was a remarkable stand against tyranny. The history of the twentieth century is a history of States subverting conscience and violently suppressing  political and religious belief. It is a history indelibly marked by collaboration and acquiescence in ideologies based on racial purity, class warfare, eugenics and other evils. Through this din, More’s voice reminds us of the crucial role of conscience, the eternal quest for truth, our personal responsibility for our decisions, and our ultimate accountability for our actions. 

 

In their petition which we sent to Pope John Paul we said that the fundamental lesson which Thomas More offers all statesmen is “the lesson of flight from success and easy compromises in the name of fidelity to irrevocable principles, upon which depend the dignity of man and the justice of civil society – a lesson truly inspiring for all  who feel themselves called to expose and eradicate the snares laid by the new and hidden tyrannies.”  

 

Politicians should be honoured and pleased to have had Thomas More assigned to their needs. He is the ideal patron. Quite what he makes of those us who have been charged to his care is an altogether different matter.

 

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Meditation:

Some words of St.Thomas More.

 

If you love your health;

if you desire to be secure from the snares of the devil;

from the storms of this world;

from the hands of your enemies;

if you long to be acceptable to God;

if you covet everlasting happiness – then let no day pass without at least once presenting yourself to God in prayer…not merely from your lips, but from the innermost recess of your heart…

 

Give me the grace, good Lord, to set the world at naught;

To set my mind fast upon Thee

And not to hang upon the blast of men’s mouths.

To be content to be solitary.

Not to long for worldly company

But utterly to cast off the world

And rid my mind of the business thereof.

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 Also See:

https://davidalton.net/2014/03/01/georgetown-presentation-by-lord-nicholas-windsor-royal-patron-of-the-christian-heritage-centre-and-the-case-for-religious-freedom-and-national-register-article-to-celebrate-thanksgivinganl/