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

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

The governing body for British Methodists condemned the use ofcluster bombs by USA and UK forces in recent military action inAfghanistan and Iraq. In proposing the resolution, Mr Peter Sysonvoiced concern about numbers of children being killed or maimedafter playing with cluster bomblets that failed to explode onimpact.

The final day of the 2003 Methodist Conference in Llandudno sawa flurry of motions passed on social and political issues. Theseincluded a call for the immediate release of Burmese human rightsactivist Aung San Suu Kyi, and promised to support efforts to sendurgent food aid to the Palestinian people in the West Bank andGaza.

The Conference called on all governments across the world topressurise pharmaceutical companies and multi-national corporationsto release cheap generic drugs to the millions suffering fromHIV/Aids. A Conference motion declared that "AIDS is the newapartheid".

The Conference voiced concern that education authorities havefailed to offer "shortage subject status" to religious educationdespite the significant shortage of specialist religious educationteachers. The Conference called for an end to suffering inrepression in Zimbabwe before being led in prayer by the MethodistBishop 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 MethodistConference today follows:

Cluster Bombs

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

Proposed: Mr Peter Syson. Seconded: The Revd Catherine HBird.

Joint Statements with the United MethodistChurch

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

Proposed: The Revd Geoffrey C Reid. Seconded: The Revd LindaK McMurray.

Detention of Aung San Suu Kyi

Conference notes with concern the ongoing oppression by theMyanmar authorities of their people, culminating in the recentdetention of Aung San Suu Kyi in Insein prison. Conference ismindful of the previous commitment of British Methodism to thisissue expressed in MAYC's World Action Campaign of 1998 'Big Mouthfor Burma'. Conference instructs the Connexional team to makerepresentation to Her Majesty's Government on behalf of theConference:

a) requesting the immediate release of Aung San Suu Kyi

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

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

Proposed: The Revd Susan A McIvor. Seconded: Dr Anthony GReddie

An End to Repression in Zimbabwe

Conference has heard the cries and suffering of the people ofZimbabwe 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 toprovide aid;
  • to listen carefully and speak out boldly againstrepression;
  • and remember the people by singing the songs and prayers ofthose whose voices are muted by fear.

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

Status of Religious Education

1. The Conference acknowledges and applauds the position takenby the Secretary of State for Education and skills that reinforcesthe status of religious education within the compulsory schoolcurriculum.

2. However, Conference notes that there has been no move tooffer "shortage subject status" to religious education despite thesignificant shortage of specialist religious educationteachers.

3. The Conference urges the Teacher Training Agency not only toaward shortage subject status to religious education, but also toexpand the numbers of places available in initial teacher trainingfor the subject.

Proposed: Mr Mark A Cawte. Seconded: The Revd ChrisJones

Aids is the new apartheid

In the name of Christ the healer, who reached out to touch andcomfort the marginalised of his day, Conference stands alongsideall who are suffering from the HIV/Aids pandemic in the worldtoday. We are one body in Christ; when one suffers, we allsuffer.

To this end:

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

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

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 ofability to pay, especially pregnant women and those marginalised bywar, poverty, gender, or age.
  • to pressurise pharmaceutical companies and multi-nationalcorporations to release cheap generic drugs to the millionssuffering from HIV/Aids
  • to promote legislation and judicial practices that protectwomen and children from sexual violence and domestic abuse.

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

Proposed: The Revd Martine Stemerick. Seconded: Mr AdamDyjasek.

Palestinians in West Bank and Gaza

In view of the desperate humanitarian plight of Palestiniansliving in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza, theConference urges all Methodist people to support urgent medical andfood relief (especially through agencies such as The BiblelandsSociety and Christian Aid).

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

  Methodist Conference 2003 index