Image: 'Stop Funding Hate' Campaign

In our blog, Linda Harwood, a Scottish activist in the Campaign, writes of her involvement

Stop Funding Hate aims to challenge the upsurge in hate speech - and hate crime - seen across the UK during 2016.

Look through the front pages any day of the week and you'll likely see a headline demonising refugees and migrants. Scare stories about a “swarm” of “invaders”, “milking Britain's benefits” and “stealing jobs” have become so commonplace we almost stop noticing them.

And yet hateful headlines can have hateful consequences. Last year, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a strongly-worded statement after one newspaper ran a story likening African migrants to “cockroaches”. The High Commissioner highlighted “decades of sustained and unrestrained anti-foreigner abuse, misinformation and distortion” by UK media, and warned that:

“History has shown us time and again the dangers of demonizing foreigners and minorities... it is extraordinary and deeply shameful to see these types of tactics being used... simply because racism and xenophobia are so easy to arouse in order to win votes or sell newspapers.”

The UN also highlighted another UK newspaper that it said had run nearly 50 front pages on migrants or refugees during 2015  – almost all of them negative.

Earlier this year, amid a series of attacks on EU migrants, experts at the University of Leicester warned that hate crime was being “fuelled and legitimised... by the media”.

In October, the Council of Europe warned that “It is no coincidence that racist violence is on the rise in the UK at the same time as we see worrying examples of intolerance and hate speech in the newspapers, online and even among politicians”.

Amid divisive rhetoric across the political spectrum - with people both left and right labelling each other as “traitors” and even “vermin”, it seems as though something has gone badly awry.

So how can we restore a more humane way of talking to - and about - our fellow human beings? 

Most of us shop with a company that helps fund newspapers’ activities through advertising and the sad truth is that whipping up anger - and hate - can help papers boost their readership, and hence their advertising revenue. But if we could find a way to shift this balance - so that running dehumanising headlines was no longer profitable, perhaps something effective could be done. 

Since we launched our first video in August, tens of thousands have supported our campaign. Our first big win came when Specsavers issued an apology and withdrew one of their advertisements from the Daily Express. 

More recently, the Co-op Group have agreed to review their advertising policies days after we launched our second video, which has already been viewed over 300,000 times. That same week, the Phone Co-op (separate from the Co-op Group) became the first UK company to commit publicly not to advertise in the Daily Express, Mail or Sun. 

As public support builds, we are hopeful that more companies will start to take account of the social impact of their advertising. If you’d like to find out more about the campaign, please follow us on Twitter (​ ​) and like us on Facebook ( ​).  

Image: Archbishop Romero Memorial Lecture

In our blog Sr. Maureen Donohue reflects on this year's lecture

When Fr. Rodolfo Cardenal SJ from El Salvador delivered the 2016 Archbishop Romero Memorial Lecture in St Aloysius College in Glasgow earlier this month, he began with a personal anecdote.

He told his audience that last year he was present at an audience with Pope Francis and the Salvadoran delegation who had come to Rome to thank Pope Francis for the Beatification of Archbishop Romero. He told the Pope that he was the author of two books about Rutilio Grande and President of the advisory commission for the cause of his canonisation.  Pope Francis asked if a miracle linked to Rutilio had been recorded. Fr. Rodolfo said no. Pope Francis smiled and said ”Rutilio Grande’s great miracle is Archbishop Romero.”

Fr Rodolfo told us that the two men’s life experiences were linked in so many ways. Rutilio’s ministry was brought to a violent end in March 1977, just as Archbishop Romero was beginning his in San Salvador. They were both from poor rural families in El Salvador. Romero was born in the east of the country in 1917 Rotilio was born in the central area called El Paisnal in 1928. They both entered the seminary at a very young age. Rutilio in San Salvador and Romero in the diocese of San Miguel. Rotilio joined the Jesuits in 1945.

As Fr Rodolfo continued I was struck by how both Rutilio and Romero were constantly aware and proud of their humble roots, with compassion for the poor and all the problems that poverty brings. 

Rutilio was very involved in the training of seminarians. He wanted them to be responsible and mature, aware of the rights of the people and at the service of the people. He worked hard to make the Salvadoran Church accept the teaching of Vatican II and the Latin American application of it. 

His faithfulness to that teaching brought him into conflict with various bishops and he left his ministry in the seminary. He spent the last four years of his life dedicated to proclaiming the gospel and the justice of the Kingdom of God to the campesinos (peasant country-folk)

Rutilio and Romero both announced the Kingdom of God and tried to establish effective signs of its presence in a reality dominated by economic exploitation, social oppression and state repression. They denounced the injustice that oppressed people and proclaimed the people’s invitation to liberation. Both pleaded with those involved in injustice and violence to be converted. Neither incited violence. They fought against the repressive violence which kills quickly in order to silence the calls for justice and against the structural violence which kills more slowly through unemployment, hunger and sickness.

The poor received their words with interest and joy because they gave them hope, but the powerful accused them of being communists and in the end resorted to murder to silence their voices. They were both assassinated at the instigation of the oligarchy. The physical authors of the killings were death squads under army command. Their murders could not silence the truth of their words nor the force of their credibility.

Both worked to build a Church that was truly a People of God. The first step was to bring the people together because without people there is no People of God. The Church had to be built from the grassroots, a Church rooted in living communities.

Since the lecture, I have thought of the impact of both Rutilio and Romero in their lifetime and beyond. Their lives and ministries challenge us to get involved in transformation both personal and communal. How do we announce the Kingdom of God and denounce what oppresses others?

An authentic faith always implies a deep desire to change the world
Pope Francis, Homily 2014

Image: Making the Connections

A reflection by Eildon Dyer of ALTERnativity.


Today I am helping my mother write her Christmas cards. As someone with mild Alzheimer’s who was widowed in the last 2 years and moved to a care home, writing Christmas cards and talking about the people on her list can be a challenging exercise. 

The upside is that this is an opportunity to remind her of people who have been significant in her life and to give her a chance to talk about what she does remember about them. These anecdotes are important for me as I store away fragments of information to act as memory prompts at a later date. 

The downside is that each time she signs her name it reminds her that my dad and her husband of 62 years is no longer here. Mum’s connections are diminishing. The physical connections in her brain are covered in plaque that reduces their functioning. Her social connections are reducing as people of her age die and as she forgets the names of people who visit her. What does remain true is that she loves a visitor no matter who they are.

Increasingly we are becoming aware of the importance of social connectedness. I suspect that instinctively many of us know that to be true but some scientists are now claiming that social connectedness is a greater determinant to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure. When we think about improving health we often think about reducing smoking and obesity but not about improving social connection and yet is well documented that those with poor social connections are likely to be more anxious or depressed and this can extend to the cellular level by causing more inflammation and physical illness. 

Being well connected is crucial to our well being and happiness. For some this means having a few strong and significant connections and for others it means having many connections.

Christmas is a time that throws this connectedness into sharp focus. In ALTERnativity, work we have done has shown that for some people the social aspect of Christmas is very challenging.  This can be when you don’t have the people there with whom you would like to socialise or, even worse, when you are forced to socialise with people you would rather not be with! 

Loneliness at Christmas can be very acute. One of the signs of a healthy church is its degree of social connectedness. People look to the church for support in times of difficulty and an aware church will be alert to the wider community in times of difficulty. However Christmas day is frequently a day when many churches are curiously closed. There may be a morning service or mass and then the doors are closed. 

This year Christmas is on a Sunday. How many people in our parishes who are on their own, or who are not on their own but find Christmas difficult, will be wishing that there were people to spend Christmas day with? It’s a challenge we in ALTERnativity have tried to come up with some useful suggestions for. Christmas could provide an opportunity for making new connections in our community or strengthening the ones already there.

This Christmas mum will be with us. It’s a context she understands and it makes her feel secure. It’s evident from our interaction with her that having company improves her physical and mental health. Headaches she has miraculously disappear with a chat and a cup of coffee. This Christmas will be hopefully be a healthy and happy day as she connec

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