Books Worth a Look

  • Little Bee by Chris Cleave - This book is a must read. Better than anything else I've read, it takes you vividly into the life of a person in the 3rd world who has no choice but to escape. It is brilliantly written & works well as an audio book. Often I've sent info about the wonderful refugees I've met in Europe. We know only so much of their plight as it is painful for them to recall much less live through again by recounting it. But over time it is clear what they've lived through. This book is excellent as you discover the horrors of their world. Somewhat how to me, it is like being in Europe near a Concentration Camp. One has an obligation to visit it. 'Never to Forget.' In this case, to have our eyes opened.
  • Garbage King by Eliz Laird - The book is set on the streets on Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia and here lives Mamo and his sister Tiggist. When Mamo's "uncle" offers a job, he soon sets out on a bus to work. Little does he know that he is actually being sold into slavery...

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Tears, laughs, and stark reality

I am home again. The last day was full of events & emotions. Busy getting food items & cooking for the dinner, all gathered around 7:15.

I wish you could have been there with the asylum seekers & volunteers. The asylum seekers, the guys I call them, were amazing. Such culinary delights with little to work with but total joy.

An Eritrean vegetarian dish that was scrumptuous.

Algerian lamb grilled with tomato halves. Wow!

Ethiopian chicken and rice dish that was plentiful, fresh and tasty.

A Senegalese beef stew made with halal beef and wonderful vegetables - fun and tasty.

and French wine!

I wish I had the ability to transport you there to feel what I sensed palpably. Here are wonderul people: engineers, tradesmen, youth, teachers ripped from family - many tortured and dead - in a land that increasingly is running from 9/11 in any guise it can conjure up.

On my way to the airport with my loving North African friend, I saw headlines about individuals complaining about not being given enough millions to manage their futbol team or headlines about who got drunk when. And next to me and in my heart are real people who give more than they get and do not complain.

Thank you for following along my journey. I hope you will be inspired by them to respond.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Quaker Quest

My friend Chris invited me to go to a Quaker Quest with him tonight. It was a fascinating experience. Housed in a large attractive complex near Euston Station, the evening began at 6:30 p.m. with light dinner snacks.

At 7, three Quakers presented their thoughts on living simply. It was a rare opportunity to hear everyday individuals talk about learning to get to the core of what matters.
Small group discussion followed.

The same three followed up with personal vignettes in their lives as how they practice simplicity. It was fascinating, thought provoking and inspiring. A Q & A session followed. Finally there was an abbreviated 25 minute period of silence.

Quakers are of course well known for their support of peace and social justice.
An online search brought up the following interesting story re: Quakers & Baltimore.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Southend On the Sea

Into the County of Essex, we traveled to meet up with Zelda. It was a bright sunny day in the upper 60's to low 70's.

Atlantic City 1950's

In the 50's as a 3rd, 4th grader, my aunt Anne used to take me to Atlantic City for a week or more. Long before the Casinos, it was a peaceful and fun summer trip - full of shows, rides, cotton candy, plenty of beach, and a board walk on which I rode a bike from one end to the other in the early mornings. That's exactly what the promenade at Southendt looks like to me, well without the boards. Lovely old homes in the distance and row upon row of shops, fun rides (amusement rides), and eateries - both quick and sit down.

The water is the Thames which comes from the North Sea. Mostly a pebbly beach, it is pleasant to walk along and feel the familiar smell and sounds of the sea.

My friend from Eritrea and I went on the roller coaster and dutifully made appropriate sounds! A new experience for me was a snack on cockles - any bivalve mollusk of the genus Cardium, having somewhat heart-shaped, radially ribbed valves.
For a pic go to:

Zelda, up for anything, wanted us to paddle in (wade in) the water. We declined! Not quite our cup of tea - cold & muddy.

There had been a Regatta at nearby Leigh on the Sea. So on our way back, we stopped to walk along the beach. Finally bidding Cheers to Zelda at Basildon, we two went back to London, and after a small meal of fish and chips settled down to watch Season Two of 24. To think I had came to London to see 24 !

Saturday, September 19, 2009


I took Friday off and traveled by train to Hastings in Sussex. It is the home of the Battle of Hastings 1066 - a date all you history lovers surely recall! Also, it is where Foyle's War (detective series taking place during WWII) was mainly filmed - a favorite of mine!

It would be a great place to spend a couple nights to explore Sussex. The City reminds me of a mix of Harpers Ferry, WVA , Ellicott City, MD, and Pisa, Italy. Wrap your minds around that!!

An old section. quaint, replete with many shops, pubs, and places to eat. Fish and chips is available everywhere. Though the price is daunting for us: £5.50 - 7 which in the U.S. at this point is $ 8.95 - 11.39. I passed :-)

There are two lifts, incline cars, available to take you to heights with glorious views across the Channel and toward the Castle and countryside. Many historical sites there and nearby in Rye, Battle, Bexhill etc.

I finally found my gift for my daughter as well as a bookstore with used books - very used for 25p = 1/4 of a pound per book or 10 for £1. I worked hard to find 10, mostly small gifts and humor for people here.

Well, it's back to London for my last week of volunteering. Thursday night we're having a dinner party. They call it Phil's leaving do - go figure!!! Menu will include main course dishes from Senegal, Ethiopia. Algeria, Iran, and the U.S.

Today, my dear friend from Eritrea and I are traveling to Southend near Shoeburyness - what did I say about Brit names! We are meeting Zelda for a day out - including amusement rides.

Sunday, it's the soup kitchen at the Round Chapel - fianlly I'm fit enough to pleasantly bike there through Hackney traffic.

Monday after the cafe, it's a trip to a Quaker Meeting with Chris, Tuesday lunch with Ian, and a get together with Steve. I'm also going to try to fit in short visits to several museums when not working in the Cafe.

Not doing much as usual. :-)

Take care all.


Phil PS Blog entry to follow: Palestinian Monologues - an amazing play I attended.

A Morning at Horseferry Court

Horseferry Court

I went Thursday to a court near Waterloo to support Chris Cole who is the Director of "Fellowship of Reconciliation" here in the U.K.

Christian peace activist, Chris Cole, 46, was arrested this morning (Monday 7 September) and charged with £2,000 of criminal damage following a protest at ... (the) arms fair.

Cole sprayed the words ‘Build Peace not War Machines’ on the conference centre doorsand ‘arms trade = death’ on the steps. He poured red paint as symbolic blood and wrote ‘stop this bloody business’.

“Especially in a time of war, we are called to resist the great lie that our security and well being lies in bigger and better weaponry. The truth is that only justice and love will in the end; bring real peace and real human security to our nation and the world as a whole.” (from ICN 7/9/09)

It is somewhat ironic that I went as I do not agree with breaking the law to make the point, a very real point of protesting an arms fair. In the 60's when the Berrigan brothers protested the Vietnam War, that kind of protest seemed to grab peoples' attention and help focus attention on important issues of the war. To me, these days, no one who can make a real difference politically pays any attention. So it seems that the 'converted are just talking to each other.'

I wonder if more good would not be done if people protested completely non-violently. My hope then is that others might actually reflect on the issues involved rather than on the sensational aspects.

The Magistrate seemed determine to make quick work of things. He would not allow Chris extra time to call a witness from the Arms Fair. Trial date set quickly. He also seemed truculent about gathering evidence for Chris to examine.

After the hearing Chris invited me to join him and Pat Gaffney, Coordinator for Pax Christi U.K. to join them for tea. Both Chris and Pat were most gracious and inquired into my stay. I felt a tad uncomfortable as I wanted the conversation to go back to him and his experience, not on me.
We agreed to meet for lunch when I'm back (hopefully in February) to discuss protests and my questions. Both he and Pat were incredibly gracious. Clearly they are knoweldgeable, commtitted and hard working - now if politicians would just have tea with folks like these, it might make a difference.

Peace, Phil

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Plowshares Action by Fr. Martin Newell & Katrina Alton

Protests expected as Libyan arms dealers come to ExCelTuesday, September 8 12:01 amBy Liz Stephens from

Anti-war protests are expected in London today as a controversial arms fair gets underway.The Defence Systems and Equipment International (DSEi) exhibition begins at the ExCel centre in the Docklands today. Protests are planned at ExCel, in the City and also in Westminster. The bi-annual event – which is flagged as the world's largest fully integrated defence and security exhibition – will attract arms dealers and technology and military experts from across the world.
Of the 53 countries invited by UK Trade and Investment's Defence and Security Organisation (UKTI DSO) to attend the event, several have been blacklisted by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for human rights violations.

However, the event claims that conventional weapons of torture and landmines will not be on display and all exhibits will comply with UK law and the provisions of the Oslo Accord. "Exhibitors promoting or exhibiting prohibited items, either overtly or covertly during the exhibition, will be in breach of their contract with the organisers and will forfeit their right to exhibit at DSEi," say organisers Clarion Defence and Security.

Protests will take place at a number of locations, although the event itself will be surrounded by a "ring of steel" with only accredited visitors, exhibitors and press allowed within a strict distance of the ExCel centre.

"Huge profits will be made by arms companies, but the costs are borne by the UK taxpayer, and millions of people whose lives are blighted by the arms trade."

Libya has been accused of arming the IRA and other terrorist organisations during the 80s & 90s.

PRESS RELEASE, Wednesday 9th September 2009DSEi
Arms Fair, ExCEL Centre, Docklands, London Catholic Workers Arrested for Exposing Bloody DSEi Arms Fair

London Catholic Workers Katrina Alton and Martin Newell poured red paint on to a sign advertising the DSEi Arms Fair [this morning at 8.30am]. The red paint represents the blood of the victims of the arms fair, on [the walkway which is the main pedestrian entrance to the arms fair by Custom House DLR station]. … The two raised a banner which read “FORGIVE THEM FATHER; THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO”. They remained there kneeling in prayer for 45 minutes while several Arms Dealers took photos and one spoke with Fr. Martin. The two were surrounded by a dozen police officers and arrested for criminal damage, they were taken to a local police station.

Katrina Alton said, “Today the DSEi Arms Fair is proudly trading in arms and weapons that cause death and suffering to millions of the poorest and most vulnerable in our world. As a Christian I believe these children, women, and men are my brothers and sisters. Their voices are silent and their stories are not writ large on advertising stands or at multi billion pound ‘Fairs’: they remain hidden, “out of sight out of mind”. My love and compassion for these victims, faith, means that in faith and solidarity I cannot remain silent or hidden. So our action today is a visible sign that in the heart of our community this week the powerful and the greedy are trading in the blood of the poor: and that blood is on my hands too. By pouring ‘blood’ over the DSEi sign I am hoping to bring out into the light what is happening here today, and challenge these powerful and rich people to think what a difference could be made right now if all this money and resources was used to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and care for the sick just as Jesus asks us to do.

Martin Newell said, “This red paint, our actions today, are for the victims. The victims of the arms trade may not know where their suffering has come from – they may only know that their families have been killed, their homes destroyed, their means of survival wiped out. They may not know the words DSEi, EXCEL, arms fair, arms trade, or capitalism. But those who are working here today, those who work in and for the arms trade, do know that they make a living at the expense of the blood of the innocent. We hope and pray that our action here today will touch those hardened hearts, and open the eyes of those who see but do not perceive, so that hearts of stone will be changed into hearts of flesh. We expect to pay a price for our convictions and our conscientious objection to this arms fair. But I pray that this too will be a small part of my journey to seeing the truth from the perspective of the victims.” The London Catholic Worker is a part of the international, radical, pacifist, Catholic Worker movement. We offer hospitality and welcome to the poor and homeless, refugees and other migrants. At the same time we resist the forces of injustice and violence that create so much suffering, poverty and insecurity. Katrina Alton and Martin Newell are members of the London Catholic Worker (LCW). They live and work in the LCW house of hospitality for refugees in Hackney. They also work in the LCW drop-in and community cafĂ©. Katrina Alton is 42 years old. Martin Newell is also 42.

The next day

Katrina Alton, Diane, Scott Albrecht, two CW volunteers at the Farm and I went to support Martin in his court appearance today. We had expected the court to begin a 9, but it did not begin until 10. Martin made a brief appearance just afternoon noon. The court then adjourned for lunch and began again at 2:00 p.m. (aka 14:00).

Finally Martin appeared. Two dates were set: October 6th for a pre-trial review & the trial February 24th. Katrina was released yesterday around 7:00 p.m. She received a fixed penalty notice and a fine of £80 around $130. Her stay though briefer than Martin's was distinctly unpleasant. A usually provided screen for women to use the toilet was missing in her cell. The toilet did not work and was sharing a very foul odor.
Martin was held over night due to his record of previous actions making it a long day due to the noise and bright lights at night.


Friday, September 4, 2009

Odds and Ends

The following are just some of the interesting and fun (at least to me!) things I've learned while living in the U.K. this month.

  • I went to the hole in the wall and withdrew £50 for the petty cash. ATMS are most often referred to as cash machines or a hole in the wall!

  • How would you like some stuffed marrow? A vegetable larger than the typical zuchinni stuffed with a rice and seasoning mixture.

  • You know chips are french fries, and crips are chips. Did you know corchettes are zuchini and aubergine are egg plant?

  • One of the refugees has created his own version of English. For example, following my question: "Did you get some tea or coffee?" he replied: Me n di drink. Now to follow him (especially challening in an animated conversation), you must always keep the context in mind and do some detecting. Me n di drink is translated: I had my coffee and drank it already. This person has a heart of gold. When you ask him how he is, he always replies: No bad, which I'm told is a minor variation of what Brits ususally say, Not bad. They are given to understatement always, I'm told! So we all now say No bad and laugh deeply. Laughter cures...
  • In regular Brit speak: I'm nackered means I'm worn out.
  • In one day here in addition to English, I'm likely to speak Spanish, a tad German, and hold several brief conversations in French. I will also hear Amarik, Tegrina, Arabic and Farsi.


Thoughts on the amazing people I get to meet.

Rich, my 19 year old friend, soon to be Franciscan and recent community member at Haley House in Boston. An article he wrote.