Monday, 20 October 2014

Africa's killers

Last week the Prime Minister made a speech about the Ebola crisis facing parts of Africa and I was rather taken aback when he made the following comment:
Ebola is the 'biggest health problem facing our world in a generation.'
No one can argue that the present Ebola outbreak is horrific and clearly having a terrible impact in some parts of Africa. However, two things struck me about this statement. Firstly, the Ebola outbreak has been around for some time, yet, it is only now that western governments, including our own and the USA, seem to be responding with anything approaching adequate resources. Could this be because we have one or two cases of the disease on our own shores and so now the illness is being taken seriously?

Secondly, and to my mind more importantly, is the Ebola outbreak really 'the biggest health problem facing our world in a generation'? I well remember the gradual emergence of news in the 1980s of a disease that was devastating parts of Africa and various communities in western countries. I remember the chilling government advert, accompanied by images of tombstones and John Hurt's voice, shown across the television channels. I remember meeting people my own age with AIDS who were at that time living under a death sentence. A couple of years ago in Kenya I was struck by how many public signs and warnings there were about the continued threat of HIV/AIDS. Is Ebola really a greater threat to the world than HIV/AIDS? Does this sort of hyperbole help or hinder in situations like the one we face at the moment with Ebola?

Then my attention was drawn to this graph by Paula Gooder which seems to suggest I was right in questioning the statement.


The NGO Water.org, co-founded by Matt Damon and Gary White, points out that 3.4 million people a year die as a result of a water related disease. This dwarfs the impact of Ebola and we have the means to address this problem, but of course it doesn't really impact on most of us living in the west.


I'm pleased that David Cameron and Barack Obama are finally addressing the Ebola outbreak and its impact on various countries in Africa. I support the allocation of resources to deal with the crisis and want to see other countries respond in the same way. But when the Ebola crisis is over I also hope that our governments are prepared to invest the same commitment of time, energy and resources to the other much 'bigger' health problems facing the world in our generation, even if they don't pose the same threat directly to us as they do to our brothers and sisters in other parts of our world.


Sunday, 19 October 2014

Crime of the Century

The anniversaries are coming thick and fast at the moment. This year is the 40th anniversary of the release of Supertramp's Crime of the Century and there is a reissue of the album in December to celebrate. I still remember the first time I heard the opening wail of the mouthorgan on School, the child's playground scream as the full band kick in and from that moment I was hooked.
It is one of those albums I used to listen to late at night in bed with headphones on, drifting in and out of sleep. There isn't a duff track on the album and it's no surprise all but two songs made it onto the Very Best Of Supertramp compilation. I was delighted to reacquire a vinyl copy last year.

The video I'd originally put up for this is no longer available so here's a link to another version of School.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

On our doorstep #childpoverty

I received a bit of a jolt yesterday when my attention was drawn to a report by the Essex Chronicle stating that nearly 30% of children in some parts of Chelmsford are growing up in poverty. However, this was the statement that really hit home:
According to the data the highest levels of child poverty in the city can be found in the Marconi ward, with 29.12% of youngsters growing up poor, after housing costs after taken into consideration. This is closely followed by the St Andrews area, with 27.4%, Great Baddow West with 26.5% and Great Baddow East with 22.34%.  
Great Baddow West and East, that's our parish! I was aware of pockets of deprivation in the parish but not to that extent. The Church Urban Fund statistics for our parish state that overall child poverty is at 17%, however, this report highlights the seriousness of the situation.

Child poverty is defined in the following way:
The percentage of children living in families in receipt of out of work benefits or tax credits, where their reported income is less than 60% of the national median income (a commonly accepted measure of poverty).
Earlier this year at St. Mary's we set up a Foodbank distribution centre which is much used; we support the work of Chelmsford CHESS with the homeless and the church council has decided in principle to establish a credit union service point, though the limitations of our present buildings have so far prevented us implementing that decision. Our sister churches St. Paul's and Meadgate are involved in similar work.  However, we need to reflect prayerfully on what other ways we can help address this blight on the lives of many in our parish as we seek to be the Good News of Jesus Christ to our community.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Chris Evans I salute you.

I've always had a bit of a love/hate relationship when it comes to Chris Evans going back to his TFI Friday days but lately that's been changing. Evans hosts the BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show and regularly features Bishop Nick Baines on Pause for Thought. Nick has the great knack of being able to incorporate references to other guests on the show as he shares his PfT and I detect genuine respect from Chris for Nick's reflections. I hope that Nick's increased episcopal responsibilities don't curtail his contributions to the show. Anyway, the clincher came yesterday morning when Kate came home having dropped my daughter off at school and said Evans had just played a Led Zeppelin track which went on and on. So I went on-line and via Listen Again just after 8am there it was, 7.08 minutes of When The Levee Breaks in all its bone crunching, ear splitting, glorious majesty. And to top it all I then discover that Evans has Jimmy Page on this morning's show. Chris Evans I salute you.


Friday, 10 October 2014

Mr Burns replies - asylum #Iraq

A few days ago I wrote to my local MP Simon Burns about the situation in Iraq and yesterday I received his response. I am grateful to Mr Burns for his reply, though it read like a stock press release from the government regarding UK humanitarian aid to Iraq. However, in my letter I specifically asked that:
'The Government should follow the example set by other European governments and make provision to provide asylum to those that are unable to return to their homes for fear of persecution and death.
As a constituent in your area, I ask you to raise these concerns with the Secretary of State for International Development and other relevant departments to ensure that additional steps are taken to alleviate the humanitarian suffering in Northern Iraq and to provide refuge and sanctuary to those most in need.' 
The response to this specific request from Mr Burns is as follows:
'However, I will raise your concerns with the relevant Minister and I will let you have a copy of his response once it is received.'
I look forward to hearing what the response from the Minister will be but I am not holding my breath as the government has so far refused to move on this issue.

Here is Mr Burns' letter in full.


If you would like more information about this issue check out the Church of England advice to pray, act, give.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Sausage for breakfast

Apparently Radio 4 Today is trying to update its image and appeal to a younger audience. So last week we had the cringe-worthy spectacle of John Humphrys getting down with a rapper and this morning Humphrys was jousting with John Lydon aka Johnny Rotten. There is nothing new about pop and rock on Today. In 2003 Jimmy Page and Robert Plant were interviewed to coincide with the launch of the Led Zeppelin DVD. I still remember the sigh from Robert Plant as he exclaimed 'Radio 4, has it come to this?'. Truth be told, you need to be my age to remember who these people are, so hardly appealing to a new demographic.

Anyway back to Lydon and Humphrys this morning. Lydon was articulate as usual and in a reasonably emollient mood. And then Humphrys asked a question, about advertising butter I think, to which Lydon responded 'You silly sausage'. And with those three simple expletive free words Today's Rottweiler was well and truly neutred. Our politicians would do well to listen and learn from a master.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

I predict a riot

At morning prayer today I found myself wondering what would have happened in Acts 19:21ff had social media been around:

@Demetrius: Oi tweeps, you seen this? A bunch of Macedonians led by some nutter called Paul are saying our gods ain't real. Plz RT (64 RTs 48 Favs)

@Artemus4ever: RT @Demetrius: Oi tweeps, you seen this? A bunch of Macedonians led by some nutter called Paul are saying our gods ain't real. Plz RT (84 RTs 24 Favs)

@SilverSmiffy: @Demetrius @Artemus4ever  UNBELIEVABLE. How is this is allowed to happen in Ephesus today? (27RTs 13 Favs)

@guildofsilvers: Tweetup down at the theatre. Our jobs are under threat. (127 RTs 64 Favs)

@Ephesusnews: Riot down at the theatre, no one sure why. Please tweetpic or vine if there. (745RTs 550 Favs)

@Demetrius: @Gaius & @Aristarchus You scum, go back to where you came from. (35 RTs 14 Favs)

@NigelF: @Gaius & @Aristarchus You rotters go back to where you came from. (63 RTs 43 Favs)

@PaulTarsus: Plz pray for @Gaius & @Aristarchus who've been taken to the theatre in Ephesus by an ugly mob. (23 RTs 16 Favs)

@Artemus4ever: @PaulTarsus Who you calling ugly? Come down here and say that. (17 RTs 12 Favs)

@Demetrius: @StephenFry @RichardDawkins have you seen what these people of The Way are doing. Please RT. (34 RTs 24 Favs)

@RichardDawkins: Religion has caused all the riots in the world... ever. (6315 RTs 2319 Favs)

@StephenFry: Tonight on QI the letter E BBC2 10pm. And here's a selfie of me in Ephesus with my cab. (2312 RTs 1542 Favs)

@TownClerk: Nothing to see here tweeps.