40th National Justice and Peace Network Conference – 20-22 July, 2018

‘Justice is not high enough up the political agenda’ MP tells conference

Hallam was well represented when fourteen adults and young people attended the 40th conference of the National Justice and Peace Network in Derbyshire where the theme was, ‘In the shelter of each other the people live’, and explored building a Church and a society with the marginalised, the excluded and the most vulnerable at its heart.

  “Justice is not high enough up the political agenda,” the Catholic Labour MP for Keighley told some two hundred delegates from around the UK at the annual weekend gathering.  John Grogan singled out benefit sanctions as a key area for advocacy work, urging Justice and Peace activists to stay engaged with poverty issues and “don’t give up on democracy”.

  In his homily, Fr Colum Kelly of Apostleship of the Sea said, “If we are to minister to those in need we need to go to where the hurt is.”  Many seafarers are away from home for nine months or twelve months at a time.  “A lot of what we do for the seafarers are small gestures – by coming on to the ship or giving them some phone cards, Sim cards, or something that can give them wi-fi access,” says Fr Colum.  He hoped the Church will fully embrace the inspiration of Pope Francis and his call for the Church to be a “field hospital”, outgoing and responsive to the needy.

  Sally Ruane’s workshop on ‘The Importance of Public Services’ highlighted the lack of Church political action on saving the National Health Service and on controversial social security reform.  Church leaders should be more attuned to the impact of austerity measures, she said, but laity too should “take more social responsibility”.

  Other keynote speakers included Sarah Teather of the Jesuit Refugee Service spoke of an asylum system that is “profoundly flawed” and marked by “deliberate cruelty”.  Jesuit Refugee Service accompaniment includes giving money for bus passes, hot meals, visiting people in detention and the friendship of simply listening to people’s stories, something Cardinal Vincent Nichols did last weekend at a Jesuit Refugee Service Centre.

  Theologian David McLoughlin of Newman College in Birmingham called for the Church to see its mission as tackling injustice and endorsed the inspirational leadership of Pope Francis.  Rev Dr Al Barrett, Anglican Vicar in a Birmingham parish, spoke energetically about being transformed by community-building and empowerment work in a poor area.  He called for justice rather than charity, and said he admired Brazilian Bishop Dom Helder Camara who spoke of this in his Latin American context.

  Beautiful liturgies, incorporating Justice, Peace and Ecology were led by the Marshall family of Chesterfield.  On a hot Saturday afternoon forty-five people set off on a ‘Share the Journey’ walk, led by Maria Elena Arana of CAFOD.  Saturday evening saw a showing of a film about Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, called ‘The Claim’.  The Archbishop was martyred in 1980, will be canonised later this year and is a patron of National Justice and Peace Network.

  Around thirty organisations had stalls in the Just Fair.  Drinks at the conference were taken from reusable cups and food provided followed the LOAF principles – food that is Locally sourced, Organically produced, Animal friendly and Fairly traded.

  The conference was organised in partnership with Church Action on Poverty, Housing Justice, the Prison Advice and Care Trust and Apostleship of the Sea.

  Actions identified at the end were generated in fifteen workshops.  Young people handed out pebbles to participants at the concluding liturgy, urging them to make ripples and build God’s kingdom back in their dioceses.

  Anne Peacey, National Justice and Peace Network Chair from Hallam Justice and Peace, concluded the conference by saying, “We seek a place to be Church, to be positive and joyous, a Church for all, not just the many.”  See full report at: https://www.justice-and-peace.org.uk.