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the Friend INDEPENDENT QUAKER JOURNALISM SINCE 1843
CONTENTS VOL 169 NO 17 3 Poverty Truth Commission 4 United Nations Commission considers criminal justice reform Oliver Robertson 5 Lessons from Fukushima Frank Boulton 6 Trustees: creating time and space Peter Ullathorne 7 Gene Sharp: a quiet revolutionary Jonathan Doering 8-9 Letters 10-11 What do we mean by equality? Harry Albright 12-13 Rowntree Visionaries:
Geoff Tansey Rosemary Hartill 14 Desert wisdom Alan Heeks 15 All you need Peter Daniels 16 Q-eye 17 Friends & Meetings
Cover image: Desert. Photo: Petronet/flickr CC. See page 14.
Images this page: Top: Salisbury Meeting celebrates the handing over of their new Meeting house from the builders in April 2010. Middle: The first Quaker wedding in the new Meeting house in December 2010. Bottom: A book sale helps to raise funds. Photos courtesy Salisbury Quakers. See page 4.
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the Friend, 29 April 2011 News
Poverty Truth Commission
Poverty will be overcome only if people at the ‘sharp end’ are at the centre of policy-making. That’s the view of the Poverty Truth Commission, who insist that ‘charity reports and government strategies’ will not work unless people who experience poverty first hand are at the heart of the process.
The commission spent two years investigating poverty in Scotland before publishing their findings, which they believe are also relevant to the rest of the UK. The thirty-one commissioners included people on low incomes, survivors of violence, charity workers, politicians, academics and religious leaders.
A Quaker voice was provided by Alastair McIntosh, fellow of the Centre for Human Ecology and author of Soil and Soul.
He emphasised the commission’s focus on hearing the truth about poverty. ‘We must allow ourselves to be challenged by Truth,’ he said. ‘Truth is an active power for change’.
The commission’s working group on violence found that early intervention is the key to tackling domestic abuse and gang violence. Going to the root causes, they highlighted the structural violence that can be found in inequality. They also reported that initiatives to tackle violence ‘work best if they are created and owned by local people or those affected by it’.
John Carnochan, a detective chief superintendent and a member of the working group, said the experience had shifted his perspective. He explained: ‘We now look for the assets in a community which help effect positive change, rather than assuming change is something that needs to be brought in by an outside agency’.
The commission drew attention to ‘kinship care’, where children find themselves cared for by relatives other than their parents – usually their grandparents. Kinship carers on the commission said they receive little emotional or financial support. Around 3,000 children in Scotland are officially recognised as being in kinship care, but the commission estimated that the figure may in reality be over 20,000.
There were harsh words for the stereotyping of people in poverty, particularly the attitude of parts of the press towards benefit claimants. ‘There are incredible stories of community spirit, mutuality, courage and resilience in deprived communities,’ insisted the commissioners, ‘but they don’t make the papers’. The commission have convened a group of press officers from civil society organisations to promote positive examples to the media.
The commissioners hope their model of working will inspire others to take a similar approach. In particular, they have urged politicians to include people with direct experience of poverty among their advisers.
‘We’re not going to stop after the Poverty Truth Commission’, explained one commissioner, Blair Green, an HGV driver. He said: ‘We’re on the move. After this, I want to say these things in Holyrood and in Westminster. I’m not stopping until things change.’
Will and Kate invited to support Equal Love Campaign
THE WORLD’S MOST FAMOUS nearly-married couple received a thought-provoking and unusual gift on Monday, when supporters of same-sex marriage attempted to recruit them to their campaign.
Activists gathered outside Buckingham Palace with a giant wedding card for Kate Middleton and William Windsor, although they were not available to receive it in person. The card’s signatories congratulated the couple and urged them to support the Equal Love campaign.
The campaigners argue that the law is discriminatory as it restricts same-sex couples to civil partnerships. Quaker activist Kristin Skarsholt told the Friend that the law is ‘segregating same-sex and different-sex couples into different institutions’.
She and her partner Ian Goggin are one of four mixed-sex couples who attempted to register a civil partnership last year, while four same-sex couples applied for permission to marry (see ‘Equal Love campaign launched’, the Friend, 5 November 2010). All were turned down and have begun a legal challenge.
the Friend, 29 April 2011