National Justice & Peace Network Open Networking Day, 13 February 2016
Hunger, homelessness and destitution were the main themes when the National Justice & Peace Network hosted an open networking day in the Methodist Central Hall in Manchester in February. The main input came from Liam Purcell from Church Action on Poverty and Dave Smith of the Boaz Trust.
In the morning, after a prayerful reflection focussing on hunger led by members of Salford Diocese J&P committee, Liam introduced END HUNGER UK. This is CAP’s latest campaign hoping to end food poverty and hunger in UK by the end of 2020. Liam reminded us that adequate food for everyone is a human right and together we considered some of the implications this. For instance the government is legally required to ensure food security for its citizens and can be held to account for not doing so. END HUNGER UK is a coalition of several groups with a focus on food provision; CAP is acting co-ordinator. In table groups we discussed the various reasons people are without food and resorting in greater numbers to food banks. Benefit delays and sanctions were the most usual but also low pay, job insecurity, no free meals in school holidays were offered as secondary reasons. This session finished with suggestions for ways of supporting the campaign.
People had come from various parts of the country to the meeting to join locals from the Greater Manchester area. Lunchtime offered a welcome break to chat, to read some of the written reports posted on the walls and also to browse Julian Filochowski’s book stall. He is winding this up so there were good bargains as well as free books available.
The afternoon session focused on the Boaz Trust which serves destitute refugees and asylum seekers in the Manchester area. Dave Smith who founded the Trust in 2004 gave us the background to this and showed how much it has grown over the years. Now run by a steering group of 8 it was registered as a charity in June 2015. Last year it provided accommodation for 1,328 people: two thirds were male and mainly singles from various countries. They are not currently taking people from Europe. Dave said the Trust is providing an immediate response to peoples’ problems but a long term political solution is needed. Maybe even more necessary is a change in people’s hearts and mind with regard to asylum. Helpful weekly Lenten reflections and prayers are available on The Jesuit Refugee Service website.
During the day there were reports from the environment and media NJPN working parties as well as from various agencies and diocesan J&P Commissions. Attendees from Westminster Archdiocese spoke of the consultation currently taking place as to the future direction of justice and peace. It was felt that the voices of lay people were being heard. There was some discussion about conference themes for 2017 & 18 which was interesting as for many like myself, Swanwick is the main annual opportunity for personal involvement with NJPN.
There were also reports from various agencies with dates of events during the year:
Stop Trident Rally Feb 27 –it was suggested you join the Faith section to show faith communities care. Take an NJPN flag to wave!
Romero Trust 15 -19 March Romero Week – a lecture by Francisco de Roux JS March 15 – Edinburgh, March 16 – Leeds and March 17 Manchester Also a National Ecumenical Service on March 19 St Martin-in –the Fields London 11 am
A Pilgrimage to El Salvador is planned Nov 7 -19 . This will probably be the last.
Pax Christi March 8 International Women’s Day. Help to celebrate women peacemakers by writing to women you know and some you don’t – there are postcards to send and suggestions on Pax Christi website
May 21 AGM in Leeds
CAFOD are planning an MP correspondence action for the World Humanitarian Summit in May.
ACAT – Action by Christians Against Torture have moved their AGM on Oct 15th from Bristol to London
Housing Justice Alison Gelder highlighted CHAS (Catholic Housing Aid Society) Diamond Jubilee this year. J & P groups are asked to hold one event during the year to reflect on the current housing situation and commit to taking an action to make a difference. There will be small group resources available on the Housing Justice website before the end of March.
It was an interesting informative day and may inspire some of us to travel further for an open day in future.