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A poem for Armistice Day

PoppyToday is Armistice Day. This is an extract from a recent humanist funeral ceremony; a poem chosen by a daughter for her father, who’d served in North Africa and Italy.

George Fraser Gallie wrote a number of poems whilst serving in Italy and North Africa with the Royal Engineers around 1943, when he was twenty-one. They’ve recently been discovered amongst his papers by his son. This is one – 

Operation Christmas Child – “racist & poisonous”

OCC logoIt’s Operation Christmas Child time again, when well-meaning people are encouraging their children to fill shoe boxes with gifts for needy children overseas. But Operation Christmas Child, run by the evangelical American organisation Samaritan’s Purse, has a destructive agenda. Please don’t support them. Click here to read about “Mad Missionaries and Toxic Gifts”.

The BHA has some suggestions for alternatives to Samaritan’s Purse – click here to see their website.

There is a Campaign against Operation Christmas Child, that describes OCC as “Racist & Poisonous”:

What most people don’t know is that the organisation behind it – Samaritans Purse – is run by that well known islamophobe Franklin Graham – who calls Islam “a very wicked and evil religion”. It’s the same group that rode with Israeli army convoys into Lebanon during Israel ‘s 1982 invasion, and again followed US troops in to Iraq to claim Muslims for Christ.

In 1990 they sent 30,000 arabic bibles for US troops to hand out to the defeated Iraqis – literally at gun point. In Afghanistan their 2003 report proudly declared that with help from the Canadian military; they got “MUSLIM children in the capital city of Kabul to celebrate Christmas for the first time”.

Their stated aim is the “advancement of the Christian faith through… the relief of poverty”. Christian leaders in the UK have condemned this version of Christianity as “racist” and “poisonous”. 

Their poison isn’t just directed at Muslims, they refer to Hindus as being “bound by Satan’s power” and were caught preying on Catholic earthquake victims in El Salvador in 2001- refusing them temporary homes provided by US AID unless they first attend a half hour evangelising “prayer” session. Afterwards Frankilin Graham gloated that in one village they converted 150 Catholics.

You can be sure that Samaritan’s Purse has an equally bigoted view of atheists.

Click here for an example of Samaritan’s Purse literature that’s delivered to children.

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November newsletter, with details of our new meetings venue

SH&S News Nov 2011Here’s our latest newsletter – click here to download it (pdf).

It contains detailed maps and directions to our new meetings venue at University Campus Suffolk, so keep it for future reference if you’re planning to come.

There’s also a blog post from Ghana, details of the Mayor of Ipswich’s Celebration of Community, and our programme for the next few months.

Ipswich Science in the Pub

They’ll be at the Brewery Tap again, upstairs this time – details to be announced.

The Ipswich Mayor’s Celebration of Community

Ipswich Celebration

Mayor Councillor John Le Grys (who’s an agnostic) has chosen the theme of social inclusion for this years’s Celebration of Community that will launch Inter-Faith Week 2011. He’s being helped by Suffolk Inter-Faith Resource (SIFRE).

It will take place in the Council Chamber at the Town Hall, where humanist celebrant Margaret Nelson will act as MC and one of our members will sing with the multi-faith choir. Everyone is welcome.

Biofuels land grab destroys African village

As car ownership increases worldwide, many people might imagine that biofuels are the answer to pollution. However, many create greater greenhouse gas emissions than the oil-based fuels they’re meant to replace and the companies that produce them have few scruples about taking land off poor people to produce them. See this report from Action Aid of one such land grab, and sign their petition.

How a biofuels land grab has desroyed an African village.

7 billion people, and counting

FullBy the end of today, the world’s population is expected to reach 7 billion. It has almost doubled since the late ’60s and is expected to reach 10 billion within the century. This is potentially catastrophic for several reasons; the effect on the environment of human activity; the demand for dwindling resources, including food and water, and the impossibility of ensuring a decent quality of life for everyone.

How can we prevent the population from continuing to increase, and reverse the trend? There are already more people than the Earth can support sustainably. What can we do?

The organisation Population Matters has four campaigns, on family planning, gender and social justice, UK reproductive health, and educating people to have smaller families. Their patron Sir David Attenborough’s view is that there is no major problem facing our planet that would not be easier to solve if there were fewer people and no problem that does not become harder — and ultimately impossible to solve — with ever more. Click here to see or hear his speech to the Royal Society of Arts last year.

Religious literacy, and why it matters

There are many atheists and self-styled humanists who are so anti-religious that they don’t want to know anything about it. When they talk about Islam, say, it becomes evident that they know very little about Muslims, and have probably never knowingly spoken to one. As far as they’re concerned, Islam is a threat, and that’s all there is to it.

When it comes to our quality of life, what matters is how people behave, not what they believe. This applies to atheists and humanists too, some of whom could do with lessons in manners. There are times when this sort of attitude leads atheists to do very silly things, like Richard Dawkins’ response to the Haitian earthquake. To demonstrate that humanists are caring people, he set up a separate fund from all the well-established disaster relief funds. A lot of atheists won’t donate to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) because some of the organisations involved have a religious ethos and they imagine that the money might be used for proselytising, instead of food, shelter and welfare. Dawkins’ fund, which was promoted by the BHA, was channelled through PayPal, an American money transfer system, which meant that British donors couldn’t take advantage of the Gift Aid scheme, so their donations were worth less than they would have been through DEC. This was inexcusable, considering that there are British disaster relief charities without a religious ethos, and that donors could have gone direct to any of them. Humanists are supposed to be rational people, but this wasn’t very rational.