Category Archives: News

MARTYRS AND EXILES

MARTYRS AND EXILES: TRAGEDY AND HOPE IN THE MIDDLE EAST

A record audience of over 100 people crowded into the Trafalgar Hall at Notre Dame University near Trafalgar Square on Thursday 1 June to hear two complementary accounts of the current situation for Christians and other persecuted minorities in the Middle East.  The event entitled “Martyrs and Exiles” was organised by the Catholic Union Charitable Trust.

The first speaker was Gerard Russell, the former British and UN diplomat and author of Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms: Journeys into the Disappearing Religions of the Middle East. Gerard began by recalling the ambush and murder of a group of Coptic Christians in Egypt on 26 May who were on their way to a monastery.  Sadly this is only the latest in a series of attacks on Egypt’s minority Christian community which makes up 10% of the population.

Gerard said that he had wanted to show in his book that the situation does not need to be like this and that it hasn’t always been like this. In earlier centuries Christians, while not regarded as equal in Islamic societies, were often recognised and valued in the public space. In Egypt, Copts have served as Prime Minister although their situation deteriorated under President Sadat.

Gerard also spoke about some of the non-Christian minorities featured in his book: the Yazidis, Druze, Mandeans, Samaritans and Zoroastrians. He said that without adopting a relativist approach, religious liberalism should strengthen our faith and make us better Christians because it helped us understand more clearly the possible origins of some of our own ideas (for example, Zoroastrian ideas about heaven and hell). All these faiths have played a part in our history and while we don’t have to agree with them, he hoped that they would survive and he observed that they have proved remarkably resilient over many periods of persecution.

John Pontifex, Head of Press and Information for Aid to the Church in Need UK then spoke about his recent visit to Aleppo and the return of Christians to the Nineveh Plains.  Work in Iraq and Syria is now the main focus for ACN and John showed images of the destruction in Aleppo, including many of the ancient city’s cathedrals.  Aleppo has seen a 90% reduction in its Christian population and ACN supports those who remain-in many cases the poorest and weakest in society.  ACN also provides support for other faiths, including Muslims from Eastern Aleppo.

In Iraq, the proportion of Christians in the population has gone from 10% in 1980 to 1% in 2017, perhaps now as few as 150,000 people of whom half are displaced.  Nevertheless, with Daesh now removed from Nineveh, there is the possibility for Christians to return.  There are huge challenges as Christian villages have been devastated but ACN have been taking careful steps to support those who wish to return as they are best hope for the survival of the Christian community in Iraq.  What is needed is a “Marshall Plan” for Iraq and Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil was in London in May seeking support in meetings with the Prince of Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nichols and government officials.

Both speakers saw some grounds for hope amongst the destruction and killings, described by many as genocide, but a massive international effort will be required before Christians and other minorities can again live and flourish in these parts of the Middle East.

The next Catholic Union Lecture will be given by Baroness Scotland, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth on Thursday 5 October 2017 at Notre Dame University, London.

 

 

Martyrs and Exiles: Christian and other persecuted minorities in the Middle East.

Thursday 1 June at 6.30pm – Catholic Union Charitable Trust Lecture

Martyrs and Exiles: Christian and other persecuted minorities in the Middle East.

Speakers:

Gerard Russell – Former British and UN Diplomat. Author of “Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms” (Journeys into the Disappearing Religions of the Middle East). Gerard spent 14 years representing Britain in the Middle East and speaks Arabic and Dari.
His book published in 2014 chronicles the threatened religious minorities of the Middle East including the Copts, Yazidis, Zoroastrians, Druze and Samaritans. His article “The Long Good Friday” about Pope Francis’s visit to Egypt and the Copts appeared in the Catholic Herald on 28 April.

John Pontifex – Head of Press and Information, Aid to the Church in Need UK. John has worked for ACN for many years and has visited many countries where Christians are persecuted. He will speak about the situation in Aleppo and plans for displaced Christians to return to the Nineveh Plains of Iraq.

Venue: Notre Dame University, 1 Suffolk Street (off Trafalgar Square), London SW1Y 4HG. Lecture to be followed by a Drinks Reception.

Free Admission. All Welcome. Please register on Eventbrite (Martyrs & Exiles Lecture) or with the Catholic Union Office on 020 8749 1321 or at info@catholicunion.org.uk.

2017 Catholic Young Writer Award

The 2017 CATHOLIC YOUNG WRITER AWARD

for all young Catholics of secondary school age in Britain

Every Catholic should attend Mass each Sunday.

Why?

– You will find some answers in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and in the Bible.

– You will find some answers in the writings of men and women who have studied and taught about this, including Pope St John Paul the Great.

– You will find some answers in the lives – and deaths – of heroes and martyrs who grasped the essential point of it all.

In the 2017 CATHOLIC YOUNG WRITER project we invite you to study some of this and write an essay – maximum 4 sides of A4, handwritten or produced on a computer, answering the question “Why does a Catholic attend Mass each Sunday?”

This project is open to all Roman Catholics aged 11 to 18 years, and all pupils at Roman Catholic secondary schools in the United Kingdom.

Sources to consult:

Catechism of the Catholic Church, sections 2168-2195 – and look up some of the Biblical references given.

The Martyrs of Abitene, martyred in 303. Pope Benedict XVI spoke about them in May 2005: look up some relevant internet links.

Dies Domini, letter of Pope Saint John Paul the Great, 1998

NOTE TO TEACHERS:

This essay is designed to be part of a class effort, so ideally the essays should be gathered together and sent as a group…but individual pupils can send an essay alone if they wish.

EACH ENTRY must carry the PUPIL’S FULL NAME (including surname) and date of birth, all written legibly, and the FULL NAME AND POSTAL ADDRESS OF THE SCHOOL.

The winner of the best essay will win £50 cash plus book prizes, and the coveted Young Writer Shield, to be kept for one year. There will be a number of runner-up book prizes.

The judges will be looking for clear, sincere writing, with reasonable grammar and spelling, with a list of any books or websites consulted.

Entries should be posted to:

Catholic Young Writer Award 2017,
Catholic Union of Great Britain,
St Maximillian Kolbe House
63 Jeddo Road London W12 9EE

to arrive by May 30th 2017. We are unable to accept entries by email.

The Catholic Young Writer Award is sponsored by the Catholic Union Charitable Trust

Craigmyle lecture 2016

‘Christian Response to Refugees’ – Sarah Teather

On the 2nd of November 2016 a record number attended the lecture titled ‘Christian Response to Refugees’ kindly given by Sarah Teather former MP and Director of the JRS (Jesuit Refugee Service) at the University of Notre Dame, Suffolk Street. In what was an insightful talk, Sarah gave anecdotal evidence as to why the JRS’ work is so important and how it needs to continue and there was a clear feeling in the room of empathy as the audience listened to the hard truths and painful stories that were told.

However, it was not all bad, Sarah spoke at length about how the JRS has many success stories. Topics such as refugees finding work in this country and giving back wages to the JRS to support others were incredibly humbling and showed how great the work of the JRS is. Sarah also touched on biblical references to refugees or migrants throughout scripture. Abraham travelling in search of hope to escape famine and Moses leading the Jews out of Egypt in the wake of oppression can be duly linked to matters today as 13 million Syrians were forced to leave their homes under these almost similar circumstances. This reinforces the Church’s stance to act on behalf of these refugees and the others around the world that make up the devastating number of 65 million.

The plight of refugees all around the world was made unequivocally clear by Sarah who used concepts like the ‘collapse in hope,’ to describe the current situation and how ‘limbo becomes intolerable’ for these refugees as a different hardships rears its head at every turn. This really allowed the audience to connect with the message and through her own tales of walking across borders with these people, Sarah was able to deliver a clear and concise account of how the Church helps these refugees and how vital it is that their work continue.

2016 Catholic Young Writer Award

The Catholic Young Writer Award 2016
sponsored by the Catholic Union Charitable Trust
The winner of the 2016 Catholic Young Writer Award is Charlotte Watson of St Gregory’s Catholic High School, Warrington, and the winner of the second prize is Tom Lees of the London Oratory School.
Students at Catholic secondary schools across Britain were invited to write about a saint of the British Isles, and were given a selection from which to choose. Charlotte’s essay on St Thomas More, and Tom’s on St Edward the Confessor were deemed to be of a very high standard. Charlotte wins the coveted Young Writer Shield and a cash prize of £50, and both she and Tom receive a selection of books by Catholic authors.
Students from the following schools won book prizes:
Cardinal Newman School, Luton
St Mary’s Catholic High School, Astley, Manchester
Gumley House Convent School, Isleworth
Blessed William Howard High School, Stafford
St Mary’s School, Ascot
The London Oratory School
St Joseph’s Catholic High School, Horwich, Bolton
Oaklands Catholic School, Waterlooville, Hants
Blachelande College. Guernsey
St Anne’s Catholic High School, Southampton
St Gregory’s High School, Westbrook, Warrington
St Richard’s Catholic College, Southampton
The Award was initiated by The Keys, the Catholic Writers’ Guild of England and Wales, and as it grew larger it was taken on by the Catholic Union Charitable Trust. It now attracts large numbers of entries from Catholic schools across Britain. The winning entries, and a selection of the runners-up will be brought to the Annual Meeting of the Catholic Union in London.

Catholicism in the Secular World

Francis Campbell 308Lecture by Francis Campbell, Vice-Chancellor of St. Mary’s University, Twickenham

Press Release
Available for Immediate Release.

On Thursday 25th February, Francis Campbell BA, MA, gave a talk to the members of the Catholic Union at the University of Notre Dame, Suffolk Street. The topic of Catholicism in the Secular World proved to be an insightful look into how Catholicism is evolving in the UK and the world based on current events.
There were many sub-topics that were covered with Mr Campbell using the concept of Faith Schools and their importance to British culture to battle the concern of radicalisation. This comes at a very opportune time with Louise Casey’s reports on cultural differences that are being used to show the positives and negatives of secularism.
It was certainly a talk that the members found thought provoking as Mr Campbell delved back centuries to other cultural divides such as the various Enlightenments to show how reason and faith have always been linked. This was accompanied by quotes from academics and Pope Francis himself to show how identity and individuality, religious or not is vitally important to create a functioning society.
The Catholic Union would like to thank Francis Campbell for taking the time out to give this informative presentation and answer questions on a subject that is a concern not just for Catholics but the United Kingdom as a whole.
ENDS

For the text of the speech please click this link Francis Campbell speech 250216