Wednesday, 27 February 2013

OPEN MEETING: HATE CRIME & CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM


This evening the Council of Faiths hosts an open meeting, "Hate Crime and the Criminal Justice System", at the University of Leicester.

This is the fourth in a series of such meetings, on topics of interest to people from all sorts of communities across the city. I've posted on this blog about the three earlier meetings:

Despite extensive preparations for this evening, we haven't produced signage (note to self: do that for any future meetings we hold on campus), and it's easy to miss the entrance to Lecture Theatre 3 in the Ken Edwards Building if you haven't been here before. So I spend the first half hour outside at the top of the pathway, rounding up stragglers. It's cold (the gritters are out already) but worth it, as I redirect more than half a dozen people who appear to have missed the venue - including one of the speakers.

A panel of four distinguished, experienced and knowledgeable speakers have been invited to address the topics of Hate Crime and the Criminal Justice System from their own perspectives (professional and personal), then answer questions from the audience. Each of the speakers had a different perspective to offer (professional and personal) and it would be fair to say that not all of the speakers agreed on how these such crimes - and the underlying attitudes that allow them to persist - are treated in society. But such differences of opinion and approach are aired in a courteous manner and lead to some thought-provoking discussion.

Detective Superintendent David Sandall at the podium
First speaker: Detective Superintendent David Sandall, Head of Safeguarding and Lead for Hate Crime, Leicestershire Police.

Neil Chakroborti at the podium
Second speaker: Neil Chakroborti, Senior Lecturer in Criminology, University of Leicester and Director of the Leicester Hate Crime Project.

Chino Cabon at the podium
Third speaker: Chino Cabon, Senior Race Equality Officer, The Race Equality Centre - demonstrating his mastery of the double karate chop emphasis there.

Luman Ali at the podium
Fourth and final speaker: Luman Ali, Secretary, Federation of Muslim Organisations. Luman stepped in at late notice for Suleman Nagdi, Chair of the Muslim Burial Council for Leicestershire and PR Officer for FMO.

The Rt Revd Tim Stevens, Bishop of Leicester, had accepted the invitation to chair the meeting, but has to withdraw, due to ill health. Tony Nelson, who had taken responsibility for organising the meeting, chaired in Bishop Tim's stead. Tony (who represents the Leicester Hebrew Congregation on Leicester Council of Faiths) is in the centre of the photo below, flanked by the speakers.


There are 50 attendees (not counting the speakers and chair), many of them representing communities, groups and organisations with first hand experience of crimes committed against their members on account of disability, race, religion, sex or sexual orientation among a variety of reasons. More than one person spoke about the effect of belonging to a group which has been unfairly accused of perpetrating hate crime.

Light refreshments are served at the end of the meeting, allowing attendees to mix, mingle and network for a further half hour. Another note to self: take greater care to clean up after eating oily finger food. When putting away our generic pop-up banner, the thing slips from my grasp and takes a bit of a doing, leaving some visible damage. That's the first such hit that any of our banners has taken in more than four years of regular use.


We're grateful to those agencies which backed up this event with their own personnel, resources and time, such as Victim Support, whose display is shown above.

All photos posted here were taken by Ambrose Musiyiwa (Civic Leicester). Ambrose recorded two videos of the proceedings this evening: one of the main presentations by the four speakers and one of the Q&A that followed them. They are now available on YouTube. Our thanks got to Ambrose for his tireless support!

CREATIVE COFFEE LEICESTER, 27 FEBRUARY 2013


At Phoenix this morning for the fortnightly meeting of Creative Coffee Leicester. We have a speaker today: Julia Harmer, Marketing & Service Development Manager at LCB Depot, talking about Makers Yard in Leicester's Cultural Quarter, the oldest surviving hosiery factory in the East Midlands, which is opening this month as a dynamic and inspiring workspace for creative entrepreneurs. That's Julia in the photo above, speaking with Jed Spittle of Manic Music (who is based at Phoenix and is also a member of Creative Coffee Leicester's management team).

I benefit from a brief chat with Emma Fitzpatrick (Concept Designer and Visualiser) which inspires me with some new ideas for useful ouptuts from the "resilience audit" that I'm working on with Leicester City Council.

CITY'S STRONG MIXTURE OF OLD AND NEW

This editorial appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
City's strong mixture of old and new
What does "culture" mean? We ask the question because Leicester is launching a bid to become the UK's next City of Culture in 2017. We probably all have slightly different definitions of what we mean by the word culture. However, the Collins Dictionary defines it as: "The artistic and social pursuits, expression and tastes valued by a society or class."
The UK City of Culture then should be a place which is able to offer outstanding and highly valued artistic and social pursuits. And, given that this title is a national one, it should also be a place with a cultural mixture which represents and reflects the values of modern Britain.
On any assessment, Leicester has a very strong case.
We have seen in recent months the city's long and rich history gain national attention through the remarkable discovery of King Richard III's remains. Visitors to Leicester can learn about the king's life and death at a pivotal point in history, as well as the archaeological quest to locate his last resting place.
It is a story which has captured the imagination of people across the world and gives Leicester a cultural dimension that few other cities can match.
In addition, Leicester is not only a very old city, but also a very modern one. And this is best reflected in its multi-cultural community.
The city is home to many festivals and events reflecting the diversity of its population. The Diwali festival, for instance, is celebrated by thousands of people from many backgrounds. It is a demonstration of multi-culturalism in action.
There are many other cultural highlights: the huge success of the Curve theatre; Dave's Comedy Festival which celebrated its 20th anniversary this year; the classical music programme and other events at De Montfort Hall; and the dramatic recreation of the Easter story through Christ in the Centre, to name a few.
All of these elements demonstrate a thriving and varied cultural programme which appeals to a broad range of tastes.
Leicester has a great story to tell: through its history; its modernity; and its sheer range of venues and events.
We think the case for it to become the UK City of Culture is a compelling one and we wish all those involved in this bid every success.

LAUDABLE CHURCH AIM IS QUITE IMPOSSIBLE

This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Laudable church aim is quite impossible
John Burrows expressed a "dream" that a new Pope could empower inter-communion between Catholic and Protestant churches (Mailbox, February 21).
Indeed, this is a very laudable aim – but, as he realises, it is at present an impossibility, as Catholic and Protestant interpretations of Holy Communion differ so radically.
It would, therefore, be quite inappropriate for church members to receive something they do not accept or believe.
The outgoing Holy Father has made available a facility called the Ordinariat, which is a short-track for Anglican clergy to return home to the Catholic fold and by which many of the cherished Anglican traditions can be maintained, as long as essential Catholic teachings are accepted and upheld.
A significant number of clergy have used this facility in order to enter into full communion with Rome. Meanwhile, we can continue to pray for Christian unity.
Mark W Jacques, Quorn

CRIMINAL JUSTICE IS SUBJECT OF TALK

This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Criminal justice is subject of talk
A conference about hate crime and the criminal justice system is being held at the University of Leicester tonight.
Hosted by Leicester Council of Faiths, it takes place in lecture theatre three, in the Ken Edwards Building, University Road, at 7pm.
Speakers include Chino Cabon, of The Race Equality Centre, Neil Chakroborti, a senior lecturer in criminology, Suleman Nagdi, chairman of the Muslim Burial Council of Leicestershire and Detective Superintendent David Sandall.
To attend, call 0116 254 6868 or e-mail: info@leicestercouncil offaiths.org.uk

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

FOOD SOVEREIGNTY CONFERENCE AT CHRISTCHURCH, CLARENDON PARK


At ChristChurch Clarendon Park for an evening conference on Food Sovereignty, jointly hosted by Christians Aware and the Leicester branch of the World Development Movement, with support from Leicester Friends of the Earth.

There are over 40 people in the room when Barbara Butler (Executive Secretary of Christians Aware) opens the meeting. She and Amanda Fitton (Office Manager at Christians Aware in Saxby Street) have been here since early afternoon, laying out displays and setting up the room.

The World Food Summit of 1996 defined food security as existing “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life”. Commonly, the concept of food security is defined as including both physical and economic access to food that meets people's dietary needs as well as their food preferences. In many countries, health problems related to dietary excess are an ever increasing threat. Food security is built on three pillars:
  • Food availability: sufficient quantities of food available on a consistent basis.
  • Food access: having sufficient resources to obtain appropriate foods for a nutritious diet.
  • Food use: appropriate use based on knowledge of basic nutrition and care, as well as adequate water and sanitation.
Food security is a complex sustainable development issue, linked to health through malnutrition, but also to sustainable economic development, environment, and trade. There is a great deal of debate around food security with some arguing that there is enough food in the world to feed everyone adequately and that the problem is one of distribution.


FareShare Leicester
Peter and Sheila Yates (n that order - right and centre in the photo above) speak first, about FareShare Leicester. The dual objectives of FairShare Leicester are, "fighting hunger, tackling food waste". In the world today, there are one billion malnourished people. All the world's hungry could be lifted out of malnourishment on less than a quarter of the food wasted in the US and Europe. Globally, 50% of food is wasted between farm and fork.


Peter presents some stats, setting the scene for FairShare's work, helping us understand and appreciate its importance. 
  • 1 in 10 people in the UK cannot afford a healthy diet.
  • 1 in 7 people over the age of 65 are at serious risk of malnourishment
  • 6.7 million people in the UK are affected by low income - perhaps the most critical factor leading to food poverty.
  • 5% of adults in the UK cannot afford fresh fruit daily
  • 5% of mothers go without food to meet the needs of their children
  • 5% of teenagers experience homelessness and are reliant on day centres or soup runs for basic food needs
  • 25% of households in the UK live on less than £135 a week
  • Food prices have risen 12% in real terms over the last five years
  • All foods have risen in price since 2007, with rises ranging from 17% to 36%
  • Processed foods have risen the most (30%) since June 2007, with a 15% rise in the year to June 2012
  • Fruit prices have risen the second most, by 34% since June 2007, rising steadily each year
  • The bread and cereal products thrown away in the UK is enough to lift 30 million people out of malnourishment
  • Estimated total UK food and drink waste is around 15 million metric tonnes per year, with households generating 7.2 metric tonnes per year, of which 4.4 metric tonnes is avoidable
This is just some of the evidence Peter offers us. He says a lot more, but I promised him I wouldn't give away the whole of his act. We in the audience would have felt that these things are true, without necessarily having the facts at our fingertips. When we see the figures, it is horrifying. Of course, Peter and Sheila don't just leave us in that condition, but offer ways for us to help FareShare Leicester make a difference to those who so desperately need help.


World Development Movement
The second presentation is made for the World Development Movement by Dan Isles (on the left in the photo above). Dan is a Campaigner in their Food Team, working to abolish food speculation and to build up the UK Food Sovereignty Movement. Dan has had a lot of experience of the food movement. In Bristol he co-founded a social enterprise to tackle food waste, helped set up a community garden and had a go at establishing a community-owned food co-op. He was part of the UK delegation to the Food Sovereignty event in Austria in 2011 and has been heavily involved in the UK scene since then.


If Peter and Sheila's talk focused on issues of food security in relation to people in this country, for the most part consumers - and wasters - of food, then Dan's talk (entitled "Transforming Our Food System: The Movement for Food Sovereignty") could be said to consider the impacts of the same changing economic factors on people overseas, mostly the producers of the food we consume - and waste.

Almost every event I attend that's sponsored by Christians Aware leaves me feeling as if I've been duffed up. To say that this brief evening conference gave us al food for thought would be low punning of an order that even I would eschew. But it's hard to say just how this makes me feel as I set off into the chill night air. Thank goodness for committed, competent and confident activists; if not for them, where would we be?

CELEBRATING OUR CULTURE

This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury: 
 
Celebrating our culture
Leicester is to launch an ambitious bid to become the UK's next City of Culture.
The city is hoping its multi-cultural history, track record of staging events such as Dave's Leicester Comedy Festival, Diwali celebrations and the Caribbean Carnival will help it secure the title in 2017.
Its bid will also draw on the recent high-profile discovery of Richard III's bones under a council car park.
Bid organisers hope the role could lead to an influx of tourists generating millions of pounds of wealth for the city. They say Leicester's time as the UK City of Culture would feature a large programme of festivals and participatory events.
Leicester is bidding for the title for 2017 as this is when the 2013 UK City of Culture and inaugural holder – Derry in Northern Ireland – will hand over the honour.
So far rivals include Plymouth and Aberdeen, who have already announced their bids.It is rumoured that Nottingham may also enter the competition.Leicester City Council is pledging £50,000 to cover the initial stage of the bid.
In May or June cities will be short listed and, should Leicester progress, a similar amount would be needed to complete the bid.
Businesses and sponsors are being sought to provide financial backing.
Chief executive of Curve theatre Fiona Allan, who is a member of the consortium planning the city's bid, said: "There would be so many benefits if we won. Firstly, I hope people would feel pride in this city. "To win would show we are confident in our cultural offer. There would be a significant media and tourism knock on.
"We have all the ingredients already.
"Leicester is one of the UK's most culturally diverse and interesting cities."
From our Roman history, medieval growth, industrial prosperity to today welcoming people from all over the world to our diverse and vibrant communities, Leicester has rich stories to tell. The king in the car park is just one of many."
While cultural organisations here like Curve already enjoy a global reputation, with significant investment having been made in Leicester's cultural infrastructure and the development of our creative industries, the time is ripe for Leicester to show its creativity to the world." It would be like the cultural equivalent of the Rugby World Cup." Ms Allan said a program of proposed events would be drawn up. She said: "Leicester is known as a city of festivals and there would be a large programme of festivals. We would want some real showcase events.
In recent years, new events – including Indian Summer, Leicester Fringe, Tales of the Riverside and the Green Light Festival – have appeared on the city's calendar alongside established favourites such as the Caribbean Carnival, Diwali, the Spark Children's Arts Festival and the comedy festival." I think people outside Leicester will be surprised by what we can offer," said Ms Allan.
"We need to change the narrative of the city which has been a bit negative in the past. We really underplay ourselves."
"There would also be participatory activities to get as many people as possible involved."
We don't want to announce too many of our good ideas to rival cities. I am sure we will see more bids coming out of the cupboard in the next few weeks."
Cities vying for the title have until April 30 to submit a bid for consideration by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. 
Leicester's bid will focus on its lively arts scene and highlight the breadth of cultural activity taking place, with workshops in museums and galleries, stand-up comedy in city centre pubs, international stars taking to the stage at Curve, and a Bollywood blockbuster – Mad, Madder, Maddest 2 – set to have its world premiere in the city in June.
Chief executive of the Leicestershire Chamber of Commerce Martin Traynor, is also a consortium member. He was part of a Leicester delegation to Derry last year when the bid was being touted.
He said: "We are convinced this is something Leicester could do very well. We already have a rich multi-cultural offering."
We have suffered from a low international and national profile but that can change."
Richard III is already changing that and becoming UK City of Culture would be another springboard with massive potential impacts."
Leisure and tourism is worth £1.4 billion per annum to the city and county. If we could increase that by just one per cent that would be £1.4 million and could create hundreds of jobs."
City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby, who is leading the consortium, added: "Becoming UK City of Culture would bring huge benefits to Leicester, giving us an opportunity to highlight the city's history and reinforce its identity, while providing a much-needed boost to the local economy."
A city council spokeswoman said: "In 2008, Liverpool was the European Capital of Culture – a title that business leaders estimate was worth an extra £200 million to the city's economy."
Although the UK City of Culture competition is on a much smaller scale, it's clear that the opportunities for the winner are there to be seized."
The winner will be announced by the Government in November. 


North and south – the two rivals, so far
Aberdeen, nicknamed The Granite City, is one of Leicester's rivals for the capital of culture title.
It is renowned as an oil city after the discovery of vast deposits under the North Sea.
It is home to a maritime museum, an art gallery, a number of cinemas and hosts the Aberdeen International Youth Festival, said to be the world's largest arts festival for young performers.
The city football team won the European Cup Winners Cup and the European Super Cup in 1983, under Sir Alex Ferguson, and has won the Scottish Premier League four times.
Aberdeen Lord Provost George Adam said: "Aiming to win the City of Culture title in 2017 presents Aberdeen with a tremendous opportunity and a terrific target to aim for.
"A proud city like Aberdeen should be aiming high and I have no doubt that everyone will pull together."
Aberdeen City Council chief executive Valerie Watts said: "Aberdeen already plays on a world stage in the competition for business and investment – and bidding to win the City of Culture title will be a huge benefit in terms of putting ourselves firmly on the international map."
The quality of life here in Aberdeen is already very high. We can all now work together to build on that to make the city even better – and to let the whole world know."
The south coast city of Plymouth, in Devon, is also hoping to clinch the title.
The old naval base is home to the annual British Fireworks Championship and is also home for the Royal Marines.
It has a range of cinemas, arts centre and galleries.
Plymouth's bid leaders hope that if they win, the city could host top-class events such as the Brit Awards, the Turner Prize and the BBC Sport Personality of the Year ceremony.
Plymouth Culture Board executive director Abby Johnson told The Herald newspaper: "I believe Plymouth has got such potential. People can help by simply talking up the city and talking up their cultural experiences."She said winning would create jobs, boost creative industries and see visitors' spending rise, adding: "Liverpool got £8 back for every £1 it put into the European Capital of Culture bid."Plymouth City Council and Plymouth University have each pledged £20,000 towards the bid on the condition the £40,000 handout is matched by the private sector.


Leicester City's Cultural Diary
The main events in Leicester’s cultural calendar include:
Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival, which celebrated its 20th anniversary this year.
The February event – which is thought to boost the local economy by £2 million – annually sees appearances from both world-famous performers and some of the funniest up-and-coming comics, at venues across the city.
Leicester’s Caribbean Carnival has brought the city centre to life every August since 1985, with the exception of 2006.
The celebration attracts thousands of visitors with its colourful city centre parade, street dancing and music.
Leicester’s annual Diwali celebrations are thought to be the largest outside India.
Huge crowds flock to the city’s Golden Mile. The Hindu Festival of Lights began last year with 35,000 watching a lights switch-on spanning a kilometre along Melton Road.
Leicester Pride is popular celebration of the city’s gay, lesbian and bisexual and transgender communities held in late August or early September each year.
Marchers in weird and wonderful costumes parade through the city centre before heading up to Victoria Park for a fairground and concert.
Christ in the Centre is the city’s dramatic recreation of the Easter story, with Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection being played out before thousands of people in Humberstone Gate.
It has become established as one of the biggest and most effective pieces of Christian celebration staged in the country.

Monday, 25 February 2013

GOING ON BEYOND 5: A SIKH PERSPECTIVE ON MEDITATION


At ChristChurch, Clarendon Park, this evening for the fifth session in the course, "Going On Beyond: Meditation and Mysticism in the World Faiths".

This nine-week course is an interfaith opportunity presented by Christians Aware, as part of its Faith Awareness programme. It is presented in association with the Leicester Serene Reflection Meditation Group.

This evening we approach the subject from a Sikh perspective. The person we'd asked to deliver the presentation has called off, so we have prevailed upon our friend Kartar Singh to step into the breech at very short notice. I can't imagine that Kartar would suffer much trepidation at the prospect though - just last week he spoke up on BBC One's Question Time when it was televised from Leicester's Curve. George Galloway was on the panel that edition - so Kartar should have no reason to fear his reception here this evening! By the way, you can watch that edition of Question Time from Leicester on the BBC iPlayer till 13 February 2014.

So as not to give Kartar too onerous a task, I've offered to prepare a handout on the topic, which attendees can read and to which he'll respond. The text of the two-page handout, adapted from an article on SikhiWiki entitled, "Meditation, the doorway to higher consciousness", is reproduced in full below:

Meditation – the door to higher consciousness
Meditation is any practice whose goal is attaining a state of higher consciousness. It is the process of retraining our awareness to operate not from the conscious or subconscious level, but from the level of the super-conscious.…
The Gurmukh attains the fourth state of higher consciousness.“To attain this higher level of consciousness, one has to disengage the mind away from mundane interactions and join it to a much higher level of awareness.”
When considering awareness, it is clear that man is more aware of his surrounding than animals. Man is conscious of his parents, grand-parents and other relatives while animals in general may not be so conscious about some of the complex relations that they may have. Most animals’ behaviour is driven by their immediate sensory needs while most human behaviour is driven by etiquette and social norms rather than sensory demands. The concept of correctness and fairness has crept in - this can be termed “consciousness”.
When a hungry animal sees food, it will not wait for its frail parents or grand-parents to eat first before it starts eating; however, with most humans, we would distribute the food so that the frail receive a fair share of the food. This highlights the better consciousness instilled in humans.
But if one does not pay regards to these “higher” human qualities then the Guru reminds us, "Those who do not serve the Primal Being, and do not reflect upon the Word of the Shabad - do not call them human beings; they are just animals and stupid beasts".
However, consciousness does not stop with material needs; many other things have to taken into consideration - emotional needs, moral support, community welfare, social cohesion, global well-being, etc.
Meditation - a way to better awareness
Meditation is a way to improve one’s awareness of the world and to become better equipped to play a better, more finely tuned and fairer role in life. The essential attitude for correct meditation is one of listening. To listen clearly one must subdue the level of interference that is exerted on ones mind in our daily life; to still the mind and to listen to the "internal vibrations" of the mind.
Without this internal stillness of the mind, listening clearly is impossible. It’s like trying to teach quantum mechanics to someone while there are very loud thunder storms all around - a completely impossible task!
Once a state of tranquillity has been reached and the chaos of everyday turbulence of random thoughts has been subdued from the mind, only then can one listen to the internal vibrations of the mind and soul. In this stillness one can tune into the natural vibration of nature - the need and requirements of the Universe.
In Sikhi, this vibration is referred to as Naam - or even God - Waheguru. So the Sikh masters require the Sikh to recognise this energy of Nature and recognise this within the person's own mind. The Sikh Gurus asks the Sikh to instil the name of the Lord within his/her mind. As Guru Ram Das says, "Listen, O mind: meditate on the Name of the Lord.”
Oneness
Many consider God to be an all-knowing super-conscious Being; others consider God to be indefinable, not a Being at all. One needs to replace the chaos of random uncontrolled thoughts in the mind by only one thought - the remembrance of the Lord's name; the pure love for the Creator. "The minds of those who listen to the Lord's Name are drenched with bliss; I worship their feet continually." (Shri Guru Granth Sahib p. 1135).
Once this pure state of tranquility is present in the mind, the realization of the oneness of the universe becomes known. We must learn to listen to the deep voice within our "inner" mind because as Guru Nanak states in Japji sahib, "Within the mind are gems, jewels and rubies, if you listen to the Guru's Teachings, even once" (Shri Guru Granth Sahib p. 2)
The mind must be kept totally receptive, because we can’t think our way into deep meditation. Nor, indeed, can you think your way to true guidance and inspiration. You can only receive wisdom: you cannot concoct it.
Recognise the truth within
A truth must be perceived in that calm awareness which is super-consciousness.
Meditation, then, is not creating answers: It is perceiving them. And this is the secret of true guidance. The stilled mind will be able to start functioning properly and one become more aware of the reality around us.
Most people seldom listen. They “listen” while thinking, when can I interrupt and what can I say. They’re like an out-of-tune musical instrument. Because they no longer are able to tune into their own essential nature, their inter-actions with life and other people produce only discords. They are deaf to the symphony of sounds in the world around them. They are deaf to other people, for they are more interested in speaking their own minds.
Listening deeply is necessary
They behave as though perpetually campaigning for their own ideas. However, Guru Arjan Dev reminds us that, "Those who listen with their mind and ears to the Lord's meditative remembrance, are blessed with peace at the Lord's Gate, O mortal" (Shri Guru Granth Sahib p. 200). So if you wish to obtain peace in this life and later, then you need to remove the randomness in the mind and replace it with love for God's name …
To understand what meditation is we must learn to listen to what is, and not keep insisting on what we think it ought to be. We must try to tune in to things as they are. Meditation is the opposite of imposing your will on the world. Try to relinquish, even for just a few minutes, the process of concocting plans and projects for the future. Be more, not less, conscious.
Guru Arjan Dev tells us, that we forget the Lord and indulge in our plans and schemes: "They do not know the One who created them; they think up all sorts of schemes and plans.” (Shri Guru Granth Sahib p. 297). For true connection with the Creator, one has to break this constant loop about our personal schemes and plans that are perpetually going round in our minds.
Based on an article by Swami Kriyananda, adapted from SikhiWiki: encyclomedia of the Sikhs

Kartar responds to our questions and comments (about unfamiliar terms and concepts mostly) and extemporises  on themes and topics contained in the handout - and some that are not. He points out (and I acknowledge) that the handout is missing important information about Sikh worship, in particular prayers and hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib. The handout had some of this earlier in the day but it was excised, purely for the sake of the time available to us this evening.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

CATHEDRAL SHOULD NOT BE MARKET

This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Cathedral should not be market
In last Saturday's edition of More, under "Shoppers set to snap up vintage bargains" (February 16), I was disgusted to read of the UK's biggest vintage fair being held in Leicester Cathedral.
The cathedral is God's house and should not be used as a market place.
In the Gospel of John, chapter 2 verses 13-16 say: "When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
"In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves and others sitting at tables exchanging money.
"So he made a whip out of cords and drove all from the temple areas, both sheep and cattle, he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.
"To those who sold doves, he said 'Get these out of here, how dare you turn my Father's house into a market?'."
Personally, I think it is a disgrace and against what the Lord taught by the cathedral letting itself be used as a market place.
Obviously for some reason they are not prepared to follow the above verses from the Gospel of John.
The cathedral is a holy place and God's house and should have remained so.
Kevin Fletcher, Coalville

RELIGIONS BLIND TO BIRTH-RATE DANGERS

This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Religions blind to birth-rate dangers
I wonder if your correspondent Francisca Martinez, who seems to think that overpopulation of the planet is not merely acceptable but a positive movement, has ever been to Africa to see the consequences of her misguided views?
If she did then perhaps she would see the devastating effect that overpopulation has upon the lives and health of humans and upon the environment as a whole.
It is not merely poverty that has led to some of the problems we see in the world today. The most fundamental and insidious cause of current world problems is that of overpopulation – and poverty largely stems from this.
Overpopulation frequently leads to the erosion of human rights and restrictions on freedom and gives rise to despotic regimes.
The Earth is only capable of sustaining a finite level of life. Beyond that the ecological system as a whole collapses, along with it its closely-connected food chains, leading ultimately to the destruction of civilisations and human life.
This has been witnessed numerous times throughout history, with the collapse of civilisations through overpopulation leading to a breakdown of the environment that sustained the civilisation in the first place.
Ms Martinez shows her ignorance of history when she claims that Western Europe never suffered from hunger.
In fact, Europe has suffered numerous famines within historical times.
Europe has escaped overpopulation until recently because of the agrarian and Industrial Revolutions, leading to families choosing to have fewer children.
Contrary to Ms Martinez's claims, it is correct to link hunger and civil unrest in the Third World to overpopulation.
There have been 148 wars since the Second World War. Most of these have been population wars.
The evidence of a planetary population problem includes the cataclysmic increase in economic refugees.
It would seem Ms Martinez is basing her opinion on her faith in Catholicism, from which she chooses a credible pro-life stance.
The Vatican has opposed birth control for decades in the face of a global population epidemic and human misery.
In the 1980s, Pope John Paul II went to Nairobi and counselled Kenyans, whose population at the time was the fastest growing in Africa, to "be fruitful and multiply".
Such moral and spiritual irresponsibility marks a failure to respond or recognise the fundamental challenge facing humanity and the environment of the planet.
The Roman Catholic Church believes that contraception is intrinsically evil, regardless of the consequences.
Yet such reasoning appears flawed, based on insufficient firm biblical authority.
The scripture that mentions it refers to abortion or infanticide.
Furthermore, other ancient Christian texts forbidding contraception were themselves inspired merely by hostility to heretical Christian groups rather than to any moral objections to birth control.
The principle reason why the Roman Catholic Church forbids contraception is simply due to Papal attitude and church practice.
There seems more than a little self-interest in an institution that demands total obedience and authority over as many followers as it can control.
Having a demographic superiority over other religions and institutions ensures immense global power and hence why such an institution would wish to ensure the prevalence of as many Catholics as possible, irrespective of the dire consequences to mankind.
If you compare a map of the world's religions with that of regions where there is most overpopulation, there are many similarities.
The same goes for Islam, which not only demands to convert the world through demographic superiority but which is also found largely, though not exclusively, in countries with large populations.
"Unlike plagues of the Dark Ages or contemporary diseases we do not understand, the modern plague of overpopulation is soluble by means we have discovered and with resources we possess.
"What is lacking is not sufficient knowledge of the solution, but universal consciousness of the gravity of the problem and education of the billions who are its victim." – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Clive Potter, Leicester

HATE CRIME VICTIM BACKS APPEAL TO REPORT ATTACKS

This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Hate crime victim backs appeal to report attack
A transsexual who was punched and knocked unconscious within moments of walking into a pub has spoken out in support of a campaign to highlight hate crime.
Giovanna Del Nord was hit in the head without warning by a stranger as she waited to be served in a pub in central Leicester in October.
The 46-year-old, who moved to the city last year, believes the man attacked her because she is undergoing sex change therapy.
She is a year into a four-and-a-half year course of therapy which will result in a sex change.
She spoke out yesterday at Leicestershire County Council's offices in Glenfield to support a campaign which encourages victims of hate crimes to come forward.
Stop and Tell is highlighting the plight of people who face abuse – physical, verbal or written – because of their race, religion, age, disability or sexuality. It is placing particular emphasis on crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
Awareness-raising events including displays at libraries and council offices, school assemblies, roadshows and staff training are being held across Leicestershire.
Giovanna said: "I spoke because I wanted to let people know that they should tell the authorities about crimes committed against them.
"What happened to me has happened to many other people but they have never told anyone.
"It is important people who carry out hate crimes are brought to justice."
Between April, 2011, and March, 2012, 631 hate crimes were reported to Leicestershire Police – about 40 against gay people. Attacks on transsexuals were in single figures.
Councillor Joe Orson, cabinet member for safer communities, said: "Incidents of hate should not be tolerated and everyone who lives, works in or visits Leicestershire has the right to be treated with dignity and respect and to live without fear of hatred.
"We believe hate incidents are under-reported by people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered and we hope this campaign will go some way to demonstrate that help, support and advice is available."
Darren Goddard, Leicestershire Police's hate crime officer, urged people to contact the Hate Incident Monitoring Project (HIMP), which is monitoring the extent and nature of such crimes.
He said: "Sadly, incidents of hate often go underreported.
"HIMP is another way for people to report their experiences.
"Working with HIMP enables the police to better protect our communities and ensure those responsible are held to account."
Stop and Tell has been co-ordinated by the county, district and borough councils, Leicester LGBT Centre, police and Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust.
Contact the Hate Incident Monitoring Project on 0116 305 8263 or visit the website below.
Alternatively, visit a council office or library, which are reporting centres for hate incidents.
In an emergency, call 999.
www.leics.gov.uk/reporthate

MOSQUE PLANS GIVEN GO-AHEAD BY LEICESTER CITY COUNCIL

This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Mosque plans given go-ahead by Leicester City Council
Plans to build a mosque with a 60ft minaret on the site of a demolished public house have been approved.
The scheme by Goodwood Community and Education Trust was voted through unanimously at a city council planning meeting on Thursday, despite opposition from some neighbours.
The trust was also given permission to continue using a temporary centre on the site in Gamel Road, Evington, until the permanent building is ready.
Objectors had complained visitors to the temporary mosque would cause parking problems and disturb neighbours in the early hours of the morning.
City council planning committee chairman Patrick Kitterick proposed the scheme should be accepted as there was an established community use on the site.
His deputy Bill Shelton, who lives three minutes' walk from the mosque, said: "In the past, the land has looked like a building site. I like the design of the building.
"I hope users will talk to the residents to resolve problems."
Councillor Dr Lynn Moore said: "I think we should encourage the building of holy places dedicated to prayer."
Ward councillor Baljit Singh said he supported the application for the mosque, but said it was essential worshippers abided by the conditions regarding noise and traffic.
Councillor Susan Barton told the meeting she felt the building was tall in comparison to surrounding houses.
Trustee and imam Ibrahim Mogra said after the meeting: "We are pleased. We hope to invite the wider community to use our facilities, so it is not exclusively for worshippers."
During the meeting he said the temporary centre had already opened its doors to the community for meetings.
He said: "Our intention is to open up rooms for coffee mornings, meetings and education."
He said to reduce parking problems, worshippers would be urged to walk while the new building was being erected.
Those who could not walk would be encouraged to worship at another mosque.
The application was opposed by a group of residents, 33 of whom signed a petition.
Dalziel McLean Carr spokesman for the objectors told the committee: "We do not think it is a suitable location for a mosque."

Friday, 22 February 2013

THIS WEEK'S VISITORS (1,686)


Regular update on the number of pageviews received from different parts of the world in the week just ending.
  1. United Kingdom 524
  2. United States 509
  3. Russia 350
  4. Germany 76
  5. France 42
  6. Ukraine 36
  7. India 34
  8. Poland 31
  9. Spain 29
  10. Turkey 25
This week's total: 1,686 (last week: 1,766). These are aggregates of figures from the top ten countries only. Blogger's analytics doesn't show the numbers of pageviews below the tenth-ranking country and they don’t show the cumulative total including those additional countries, which is undoubtedly larger than the number shown above.

The world map at the top of this post is the graphic that I see on the stats page. The darker the green, the more pageviews from that country. I can see different versions of that map for "now" (i.e. in the last two hours), "today", "this week", "this month" and "all time". They're updated each time I look at them.

GRAFFITI SCRAWLED ON CRUCIFIX OUTSIDE LEICESTER CHURCH

This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

Graffiti scrawled on crucifix outside Leicester church
Vandals scrawled graffiti "tags" on a crucifix in the grounds of a city church.
The figure outside the Church of St Andrews, in Jarrom Street, near Leicester Royal Infirmary, was targeted this week.
Two designs – TW3 and, possibly, LGC3 – were written on the figure in what appeared to be black marker pen.
The incident is believed to have happened between Monday and Wednesday.
Canon Barry Naylor, who discovered the damage, said: “It has caused a great deal of upset.
“There is a 4ft fence with spiked railings they would have to get over and then the crucifix itself is quite all. So they have gone to some effort to do this.
“I am hoping that someone will be able to tell the police who did this.
“I have told the police that, if possible, I would like to speak to this person or people and explain to them how much they have upset people.
“Another reason people here are so upset is that when I first came to the church the figure on the cross was old and damaged and people in the church raised money to buy a new one.
“It has become quite a focal point and people will sometimes stop in the street and make the sign of the cross in front of it.”
Pc Tahir Mahmood, who is investigating, said: “This is obviously a distressing crime for the church, who are saddened that someone would do this to their property.
“I would appeal to anyone who was in the area between Monday and Wednesday and saw either anyone acting suspiciously or loitering in the area to get in touch.
"I would also like to speak to anyone who has heard anything about the incident, whether it be from, friends or heard rumours.
“Even the smallest piece of information may help.”
Contact Pc Mahmood on 101 or Crimestoppers, which is anonymous, on 0800 555 111.