04 July 2003

Methodists call for cluster bomb ban - and declare AIDS 'a new apartheid'

The Methodist Conference today called on the British Government to ban the use of cluster bombs.

The governing body for British Methodists condemned the use of cluster bombs by USA and UK forces in recent military action in Afghanistan and Iraq. In proposing the resolution, Mr Peter Syson voiced concern about numbers of children being killed or maimed after playing with cluster bomblets that failed to explode on impact.

The final day of the 2003 Methodist Conference in Llandudno saw a flurry of motions passed on social and political issues. These included a call for the immediate release of Burmese human rights activist Aung San Suu Kyi, and promised to support efforts to send urgent food aid to the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza.

The Conference called on all governments across the world to pressurise pharmaceutical companies and multi-national corporations to release cheap generic drugs to the millions suffering from HIV/Aids. A Conference motion declared that "AIDS is the new apartheid".

The Conference voiced concern that education authorities have failed to offer "shortage subject status" to religious education despite the significant shortage of specialist religious education teachers. The Conference called for an end to suffering in repression in Zimbabwe before being led in prayer by the Methodist Bishop of Zimbabwe, the Rt Rev Cephas Mukandi, who prayed: "Lord, God, my country needs your healing."

The full text of the motions accepted by the Methodist Conference today follows:

Cluster Bombs

During the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, USA and UK forces resorted to the use of cluster bombs. These lethal weapons weigh about 950lbs and, when dropped to the ground, spreadeagle into 200 bomblets. They look like brightly coloured drinks cans; many do not detonate on impact. In consequence children in Iraq or Afghanistan continue to be killed or maimed when they pick up these "toys". Conference calls on HM Government to institute a unilateral ban on their use by UK forces and to initiate an international campaign to ban their future use.

Proposed: Mr Peter Syson. Seconded: The Revd Catherine H Bird.

Joint Statements with the United Methodist Church

The Conference directs the Public Life and Social Justice Office to enter into conversation with the United Methodist Church with a view to producing a joint statement in respect of any future joint military action involving our two nations, to enable our two churches to speak with a clear and prophetic Christian voice. Specific reference should be made to the role of the United Nations, the illegitimacy or otherwise of pre-emptive strikes and a Christian understanding of power in the post-Iraq War world.

Proposed: The Revd Geoffrey C Reid. Seconded: The Revd Linda K McMurray.

Detention of Aung San Suu Kyi

Conference notes with concern the ongoing oppression by the Myanmar authorities of their people, culminating in the recent detention of Aung San Suu Kyi in Insein prison. Conference is mindful of the previous commitment of British Methodism to this issue expressed in MAYC's World Action Campaign of 1998 'Big Mouth for Burma'. Conference instructs the Connexional team to make representation to Her Majesty's Government on behalf of the Conference:

a) requesting the immediate release of Aung San Suu Kyi

b) pressing for the release of all members of the National League for Democracy who are being held as political prisoners.

Conference further encourages the Methodist people to write to their Members of Parliament in support of point a) and b) above.

Proposed: The Revd Susan A McIvor. Seconded: Dr Anthony G Reddie

An End to Repression in Zimbabwe

Conference has heard the cries and suffering of the people of Zimbabwe and we stand in solidarity with God's people.

We pray:

  • that repression may end
  • that food may be made universally available
  • that freedom of assembly and association may be assured

To that end, Conference resolves:

  • to support the people and churches of Zimbabwe;
  • to work through the Development Secretary and the government to provide aid;
  • to listen carefully and speak out boldly against repression;
  • and remember the people by singing the songs and prayers of those whose voices are muted by fear.

Proposed: The Revd Dr Martine Stemerick. Seconded: The Revd David A Haslam

Status of Religious Education

1. The Conference acknowledges and applauds the position taken by the Secretary of State for Education and skills that reinforces the status of religious education within the compulsory school curriculum.

2. However, Conference notes that there has been no move to offer "shortage subject status" to religious education despite the significant shortage of specialist religious education teachers.

3. The Conference urges the Teacher Training Agency not only to award shortage subject status to religious education, but also to expand the numbers of places available in initial teacher training for the subject.

Proposed: Mr Mark A Cawte. Seconded: The Revd Chris Jones

Aids is the new apartheid

In the name of Christ the healer, who reached out to touch and comfort the marginalised of his day, Conference stands alongside all who are suffering from the HIV/Aids pandemic in the world today. We are one body in Christ; when one suffers, we all suffer.

To this end:

1. We urge the churches to speak openly and courageously about HIV/Aids:

  • to embrace - and not reject - afflicted family members
  • to encourage persons to confess their HIV/Aids positive status
  • to uphold sufferers in our worship, liturgy, and songs
  • to speak openly about preventative measures including safe sex practices
  • to advocate the free distribution of condoms, which save lives.

2. We urge all governments to fight HIV/Aids:

  • to acknowledge the extent of HIV/Aids in their countries
  • to fund education, health care, and nutrition programmes
  • to combat the spread of disease;
  • to provide life-saving drugs to all persons regardless of ability to pay, especially pregnant women and those marginalised by war, poverty, gender, or age.
  • to pressurise pharmaceutical companies and multi-national corporations to release cheap generic drugs to the millions suffering from HIV/Aids
  • to promote legislation and judicial practices that protect women and children from sexual violence and domestic abuse.

3. Conference resolves to fight the HIV/Aids pandemic across the globe.

Proposed: The Revd Martine Stemerick. Seconded: Mr Adam Dyjasek.

Palestinians in West Bank and Gaza

In view of the desperate humanitarian plight of Palestinians living in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza, the Conference urges all Methodist people to support urgent medical and food relief (especially through agencies such as The Biblelands Society and Christian Aid).

Proposed: The Revd David H Copley. Seconded: The Revd Stephen J Poxon.

  Methodist Conference 2003 index

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