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The Arab awakening or sahwa that was initially dubbed an Arab spring began with an idea (fikra) that morphed into a movement (haraka) across a wide region and is now in painful search of clear and coherent policies (siyasa) that deliver a future vision. In this essay, based on his own ongoing research and expert commentary, Ekklesia associate, church adviser and international lawyer Dr Harry Hagopian offers an overview and analysis of the Middle East and North Africa region at the beginning of 2012. He sees reasons to be hopeful, but also to be concerned and sensitive to the complexities and ambiguities involved.
The Welfare Reform Bill (WRB) which has returned to the House of Lords on 14 February 2012, before its final passage to Royal Assent, is seen by those living at the sharp end of society (not least disabled and sick people) as a significant threat to their livelihood. These issues have been addressed in detail elsewhere on Ekklesia. This briefing paper by Sue Marsh, co-author of the Spartacus Report ('Responsible Reform') on Disability Living Allowance, examines * Financial Privilege. * Constitutional Convention. * The net fiscal implications of Welfare Reform Bill amendments. * The wider implications for future reform of the House of Lords.
This report, written by disabled people themselves, and based on an analysis of some 500 responses to the UK government's consultation on its planned Disability Living Allowance (DLA) changes and cuts, illustrates that the coalition's proposed 'reforms' lack both support and credibility. 'Responsible Reform' shows that the government's DLA consultation breached the government's own code of practice and was "highly misleading". The material used here has been made public only as a result of disabled people requesting to see it under the Freedom of Information Act. Key findings include:
* 98 per cent of respondents object to the qualifying period for benefits being raised from three months to six months
* 99 per cent of respondents object to Disability Living Allowance no longer being used as a qualification for other benefits
* 92 per cent oppose removing the lowest rate of support for disabled people.
In all three cases, as well as many others, London's Conservative Mayor, Boris Johnson, has also objected to the proposed changes. The Welfare Reform Bill will be disastrous for sick and disabled people, says joint author Sue Marsh. It is not too late for a government rethink. Members of the House of Lords are being urged to back an adjournment debate calling for a pause of at least six months.
It is just over twelve months since the ‘Arab Spring’ took off in the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA), on 17 December 2010, in a spontaneous eruption of deep indignation but also of high expectation. In this personal paper, regional specialist Dr Harry Hagopian assesses the breadth and depth of the changes that have taken place. Today, many vested interests are still clutching to power under different guises. We are now dealing with uncertain outcomes that hold both promise and despair, he reports. We have entered new territory where the old imposed truths are no longer the only tradable commodity, where the European colonial borders for some of those artificial or adventive entities are crumbling under popular pressure and where the rules of the game have changed drastically. There is darkness in many of the events we have seen unfolding over the past 12 months, but also hope, he suggests.
This submission to the Scottish Government – regarding its proposals to legalise same-sex marriage and religious ceremonies in the registering of civil partnerships – seeks to balance two concerns: namely, freedom of conscience and practice for those who, whether on religious or non-religious grounds, endorse same-sex marriages and civil partnerships (and who may wish to participate in realising them), and non-compulsion towards those who oppose or do not recognise them (and do not wish to participate). In common with many other Christian organisations, adherents and theologians, Ekklesia has elsewhere advanced the view that there are good traditional, biblical and theological reasons for the churches to repent of their hostility to same-sex relationships and of their homophobia, as was the case in the past with scripturally-defended slavery. But this consultation is not finally about approving or disapproving same-sex unions. It is about whether and how the civic authorities should make legal provision for them in a context where the majority of the public appear to endorse them (according to the latest Scottish Social Attitudes Survey), but where there is still significant moral disagreement. The approach in this submission is to say a clear ‘yes’ to lawful same-sex marriage and mixed- or same-sex civil partnerships, without compulsion toward those who disagree with either or both. The context for this submission is Ekklesia’s 2006 paper, ‘What Future For Marriage?’ which set out a theological and practical case for distinguishing between legal and religious arrangements for recognising partnerships in a post-Christendom setting.
Remembrance day: Goodbye to all that Guardian leader based on Ekklesia's 2009 report Reimagining Remembrance
Voters turn on main parties, Independent front page, reporting Ekklesia's survey results on independent politics, during the scandal over MP's expenses
Rebranding St George, The Times about Ekklesia's 2008 report on British identity
The Daily Telegraph on Ekklesia's 2007 proposals that the symbols we use to remember war, should involve those symbolising a commitment to peace
Guardian education features Ekklesia's 2006 report on alleged marginalisation of religion in universities, and proposals for addressing it
Fear or Freedom?: Why a Warring Church Must Change by Simon Barrow (Ed)
The Subversive Manifesto: Lifting the Lid on God's Political Agenda by Jonathan Bartley
Faith and Politics After Christendom: The Church as a Movement for Anarchy by Jonathan Bartley
Consuming Passion: Why the Killing of Jesus Really Matters by Simon Barrow and Jonathan Bartley (Eds)
Threatened with Resurrection: The Difficult Peace of Christ by Simon Barrow