Three Christian MPs have launched a motion in the House of Commons in support of Päivi Räsänen, the Finnish politician facing trial next week for her belief in traditional marriage.
Democratic Unionist MPs Gregory Campbell, Paul Girvan and Jim Shannon, representing constituencies in Northern Ireland, are behind the Early Day Motion (EDM), which they tabled this week to attract signatures from fellow MPs.
The motion highlights Räsänen’s “quoted and reported comments before the court case that she will not back down from her views and will not be intimidated into hiding her faith, and the more Christians keep silent on controversial themes, the narrower the space for freedom of speech gets”.
It expresses concern “at the potential implications of that case for other countries” and “further notes the range of non-Christian groups and individuals who have criticised the decision to prosecute”.
Finland’s Prosecutor General has brought three criminal charges against Christian Democrat MP Räsänen over a pamphlet she wrote on marriage and sexuality in 2004, for engaging in a debate on a 2019 radio show, and for a tweet picturing Bible verses she directed at her Lutheran church leadership over its support for a Pride march.
Evangelical Lutheran Bishop Juhana Pohjola faces trial alongside her for publishing the pamphlet and keeping it posted on his church’s website.
In a statement through her lawyers at ADF International, Räsänen said: “I will continue to stand for what I believe and what I have written. And I will speak and write about these things, because they are a matter of conviction, not only an opinion. I trust that we still live in a democracy, and we have our constitution and international agreements that guarantee our freedom of speech and religion.”
ADF’s executive director, Paul Coleman, said: “In a free society, everyone should be allowed to share their beliefs without fear of censorship. This is the foundation of every free and democratic society.
“Criminalizing speech through so-called ‘hate-speech’ laws shuts down important public debates and poses a grave threat to our democracies.
“These sorts of cases create a culture of fear and censorship and are becoming all too common throughout Europe. We hope and trust the Helsinki District Court will uphold the fundamental right to freedom of speech and acquit Päivi Räsänen of these outrageous charges.”
According to the UK Parliament website, EDMs are used to put on record the views of individual MPs or to draw attention to specific events or campaigns.
“By attracting the signatures of other MPs, they can be used to demonstrate the level of parliamentary support for a particular cause or point of view,” it says.
Christians urge PM to take radical action on climate change after IPCC report
Christian groups are urging the Prime Minister to use the UK’s Presidency of COP26 this year to do more to address climate change and support communities already being impacted.
The call follows the release of the latest research from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which warned of “a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity” to avert disaster.
The grim report says that the world is already living with the consequences of climate change, with heatwaves, floods, droughts and wildfires intensifying across the globe.
The panel says that over 40 per cent of the world’s population are now “highly vulnerable” to climate change and that many consequences cannot be reversed.
Responding to the report, Catholic aid agency CAFOD said it was imperative to keep “1.5 alive” as it called on governments to increase their commitments to net zero.
It is calling on rich countries to make good on their promises at COP26 and double the amount of funding for climate adaptation.
Neil Thorns, Director of Advocacy at CAFOD, said that for some communities, it was too late to adapt.
“How many crystal-clear red alerts on the climate crisis do we need before we take the urgent and meaningful action?” he said.
“Keeping warming below 1.5 degrees is the only way to avoid the huge destruction that failing those entails, especially for those living on the breadline across the world.
“We are also sadly seeing communities in East Africa and small island states where that destruction has gone beyond the ability to adapt, and they now urgently need funds to compensate for the destruction caused by a climate crisis they did not create.”
He added that while some success was being seen in initiatives to restore mangroves, tropical forests and other coastal and land ecosystems, support for these projects needs to be “massively scaled up”.
“Money to fight the climate crisis cannot be a bargaining chip to be played fast and loose with, this is about the survival
of all of us and the planet we love,” he said.
“In the lead up to COP27, it is vital that Loss and Damage and Adaptation are top of the agenda – it’s now or never for planet Earth.”
Peter Kihara Kariuki, Bishop of Marsabit in Kenya, said the region was facing “severe” drought, forcing people to trek up to 17km for water and leaving many dependent on aid from the church, government or NGOs for basic necessities.
“We must raise our voices and call for ambitious action from world leaders to bring about climate justice by enacting the strongest measures to keep the global temperature rise at 1.5 degrees or below, commit to binding agreements to cut global carbon emissions, and increase support to communities like mine in Marsabit to adapt to the effects of the climate crisis,” he said.
“Climate change is real for us in Marsabit. As churches, as communities, we must make sure that our voices are heard. We have a saying in Swahili: ‘Kuja pamoja ni mwanzo, kukuwa pamoja ni maendeleo; kufanya kazi pamoja ni mafanikio,’ which translates as ‘coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success’.”
Nushrat Chowdhury, Climate Justice Advisor at Christian Aid, is based in Bangladesh. She said the country was already on “the frontline of climate change” and that those in poverty, women and children were being impacted the most.
“This report is a wake-up call to the world that those on the front lines of this crisis need much greater support if they are going to cope with climate impacts they have not caused,” she said.
She said that more funding was needed to help the vulnerable adapt and to support communities living with permanent damage.
“As COP president throughout 2022 the UK government has a vital role in leading global efforts to tackle climate change,” she said.
“The main thing lacking from the outcome at COP26 was robust financial help for the world’s most vulnerable, despite repeated promises from rich nations that it would be provided.
“It is now vital that the UK Government spearhead efforts to mobilise much greater funding to help the climate vulnerable adapt and to set up a fund to deal with the permanent loss and damage which cannot be adapted to.
“Only then will they have a legacy as COP26 president to be proud of.”
Several Coptic Monasteries Left to Crumble in Egypt
03/01/2022 Egypt (International Christian Concern) – Several Coptic monasteries in Egypt are facing renovation and reopening issues, including Saint Paul’s monastery near Egypt’s Red Sea. The 4th-century monastery suffered serious flood damage earlier this month, resulting in collapsed walls and access roads flooded and closed off. In January another Coptic Orthodox 5th-century monastery also experienced crumbling walls. The monastery of Anba Samuel has been closed since a terrorist attack in May 2017 for security and renovation, but now monks are struggling to find a concession with authorities to open the building again.
Saint Paul’s monastery was closed off from access roads for some time as a result of the flooding and is built around the cave that its namesake lived in. Both Saint Paul’s and the 5th-century monastery reportedly were left crumbling by the Egyptian authorities. Under Egypt’s non-Muslim worship laws, pre-existing churches and monasteries are allowed but require special permission for rebuilding, repairing, or refurbishment.
In the past several years, security and renovation have been the primary focus at Abna Samuel Monastery, where authorities allowed the renovations after terrorist incidents that resulted in the martyrdom of 35 Copts. However, monastery and local officials struggle now to agree on the reopening of the monastery to the public.
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