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Mission Reflection, of Prison Chapliancy

19 Aug

A short reflection I wrote a while ago based upon my time experiencing prison chaplaincy:

Clinging onto God has included refining my skills in discernment. Discernment over the words to say, who to say them to and awareness of the situation(s) I find myself in. It is the realisation that this ministry cannot be done under one’s own strength or even in conjunction with God; rather it is a complete reliance upon God. I used the analogy of walking around with my eyes metaphorically closed; because within Horfield Prison, it is God who has to be my eyes. God is our guide.

I also have learnt about giving the message of the Gospel. Not in a long pre-planned course or the long-term relational style; rather it is giving the Good News in 30 seconds or so. It is taking the opportunities as they are placed before me by God. And if they are placed by God, then trusting in Him for the words to say.

On a practical level, I have worked through what parts of ecclesiology are important, and what can be discarded to further ‘mission’. With this is tied in the sense of urgency and real need I felt at the prison. Being a remand prison, you encounter men who could be moved or leaving the prison before you ever get tospeak to them again. This could be the type of community the prison is, but is still very different style. There is a sense of real urgency to the work, that it is a battle. Rather than being something we ‘do’ because we are Christians, the mission in the prison is done because it makes a real difference and that was really refreshing to experience.  It is a serious spiritual battle for the souls of the prisoners.

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Hume & justice… Fair?

11 Aug

Chris Hume has found a job since leaving prison. A nice job reported at £100,000 per year for two days a week work (Telegraph). Whilst this job as an energy executive, it must be remembered that his political is over with no second chance according to almost all political commentators. So a new line of work was needed and Hume found one, in his area of expertise (being a former energy secretary).

Well done Mr Hume, who has succeeded in doing what many ex-prisoners struggle to do upon leaving prison: finding a job. In addition, considering his political background the job has been cleared by the Advisory Commission on Business Appointments, which advises the Prime Minister on new jobs for former ministers. So why are people in such uproar about this new job?

It is envy at the impressive salary for only two days work? Possibly but surely we should be both congratulating Mr Hume on finding work and not heading down the normal ex-con unemployment route. Also asking the question of why Hume is the exception rather than the norm.

When we, as a country, place our faith in restorative justice we should celebrate this success story of when restorative justice works. Are we envious that a man, out of prison, has found a good job? Hume has done his time, paid his dues to society and now in restoring himself as a valued member of society. A success story of restorative justice… If we want to complain, why not complain about why other ex-prisoners do not get jobs and thus hopefully seal their full returned back into society.

Freedom of the press – Iran vs. UK

23 Feb

A former senior journalist at the News of the World has had his charges dropped yesterday over the phone hacking scandal. Not my normal blogging focus but it was a throw-away comment the journalist in question, Neil Wallis, made to claim the moral high ground and demonstrate how wrong the politics the response to this scandal has been. It was this:

“There are 60 journalists under arrest at the moment – more journalists than are under arrest in Iran.”

Bad UK police, bad UK government – there is no freedom of the press etc. All those poor journalists who have allegedly hacked phones or committed an illegal act were just acting for the great good of national society (also sounds  a little like the society in Hot Fuzz). Right…

The reason this caught my attention is that even for an ex-News of the World journalist, this is an appalling fact placed out of context. The international NGO ‘Reporters Without Borders‘ (which advocates freedom of the press and freedom of information)  places the UK in 29th position (1st being the best) , with Iran is in 174th position. It was also noted that Iran also harasses the relatives of journalists, including the relatives of those who are abroad, and five off the bottom of the table.

 

2013 world press freedom mapTh

 

This map highlights the difference, and the categories of which freedom UK and Iran sit in. So I would like to ask Mr Wallis, are we worst that Iran in freedom of the press? I think it is lucky that he even had the opportunity for a fair trial, and an honest investigation without fear of violence and abuse for him or his family (or even friends). Rather the number of journalists current under arrest is more a result of  illegal activities that was so acceptable for so long.

The name is Plod, PC Plod‏

22 Jan

Other examples come to mind from the realms of fiction. James Bond is the most famous fictional example of a member of the intelligence services who used relationships with women to obtain information, or access to persons or property. Since he was writing a light entertainment, Ian Fleming did not dwell on the extent to which his hero used deception, still less upon the psychological harm he might have done to the women concerned. But fictional accounts (and there are others) lend credence to the view that the intelligence and police services have for many years deployed both men and women officers to form personal relationships of an intimate sexual nature (whether or not they were physical relationships) in order to obtain information or access.

The quote is taken from the recent (17th Jan ’13) decision made over those who had relationships with police spies. The case, where ten women said they were deceived into having sexual relationships with undercover police officers, has resulted in a partial victory. The victory, that half of the cases can be heard in open court (and the other half in a secret tribunal) was partly justified by the Judge (The Hon. Mr Justice Tugendhat) by reference to James Bond!

The judge drew a comparison with James Bond, the fictional member of the intelligence service who used sex (does Bond really do relationships?) to get what he needed to get the job done. The judge likens the lack of concern from Ian Fleming for the damage of using sex to gain knowledge in his writing of Bond to the case, that the police and intelligent services copied this!

This justification surprised me on two counts. The first being, are we blaming Bond, and Fleming here for writing such stuff? It almost sounds like the police ran out of ideas on how to gather intelligence, watched a Bond and sent off their guys. What next, using the Bourne films as a training guide for the SAS?

The second is the context. Bond’s fictional contexts are life-and-death conflicts against international military or global criminal enemies: both situations where the spy’s or government’s right to whatever knowledge or advantage is being sought is not in question, and extreme subterfuge (as well as violence) are justified. Hostile foreign powers, and murderous criminal organisations, don’t in that sense (and certainly not in spy fiction) have much right to privacy. In the case, the claimants do have this right (I don’t any of them was seen stroking a cat…).

Unless I am mis-informed, that was not the context of said police undercover action. It is also worth noting that most of the women Bond slept with knew perfectly well that he was a spy, as indeed were many of them, so the parallel with a police officers deceiving sexual partners for years with declarations of love is nonsense.

Oh dear, very much PC Plod than Bond.