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“IKWRO are delighted to announce the nominees and winners of the True Honour Awards 2016”
10 March 2016
On behalf of IKWRO and all of the judges we’d like to congratulate every nominee for their vital work to end “honour” based violence and support survivors. Every single one deserves recognition and enormous praise. (…)
The Catholic Worker Farm are a charity run by Scott Albrecht with the help of 6 live-in volunteers that provide accommodation, support and a warm welcome to women and children, mainly from Africa and the Middle East as well as from Eastern Europe and Asia, who are destitute and have no recourse to public funds. This help is essential as these women literally have nowhere else to turn to, are highly vulnerable and at risk of being forced onto the street or remaining with perpetrators. The farm can house 23 women and children and so far they have helped 433 guests for various lengths of time. When women have children with them, they can often stay for about a year, providing much needed stability at a time of crises. Guests are provided with holistic support including food, clothing, administrative help, English lessons, group dance and they have recently started a women’s choir. Guests are also offered group and individual psychotherapy. The farm receives no government funding and relies on donations, sometimes given in return for presenting talks and they also grow food and are helped by people sharing their time and skills. The farm also campaigns against the causes of destitution, especially those targeted at asylum seekers and have protested many times including at in front of Yarlswood Detention Centre, the Foreign Office and the Home Office.”
“Campaigners hold anti-war vigil at UK military headquarters”
by Independent Catholic News, 29 December 2015
A group of Christian peace campaigners marked the Feast of the Holy Innocents with prayers and protest outside outside the UK’s principle military headquarters at Northwood, Middlesex yesterday.
The demonstration started in Northwood town centre where protestors held placards, played music and lit candles in memory of the dead of the war in Syria and Iraq. They then processed up to the gates of the base, replacing the large name plate outside the gate with their own sign saying: ‘Northwood HQ Bombs Innocents’. They also held signs saying ‘Don’t Bomb Syria’ and ‘Northwood – calling the shots from leafy suburbia’ and read out names of victims of aerial bombing in Syria.
Two members of the Catholic Worker movement then lay down outside the main gate of the establishment for over half an hour in a symbolic blockade. They had red paint on their hands, representing the blood of the innocent victims of British wars conducted from Northwood.
The protesters from London, Hastings, Oxford and Birmingham included Scott Albrecht, from the Catholic Worker Farm in West Hyde, Sue Gianstefani, Fr Martin Newell cp, and Quakers John Lynes and Susan Clarkson.
In a group statement, they said: “In a time of cuts, the government have spent over £500m on expanding the role of Northwood, enough to build a new hospital…. they have continued to coordinate bombing ISIS in Iraq and expanded into Syria, with no realistic successful military or political outcome. The bombing merely continues the cycle of violence and the innocent suffer. Like during the time of Jesus, in the wars in today’s world, the poor and powerless still suffer from the violence of the powerful. War is terror is war.”
Interview with the Catholic Worker Movement
Freedom Press, 7 September 2015
As we head into autumn the thoughts of many anarchists in the south of England turn to the Anarchist Bookfair, being held this year at Central St Martin’s near Kings Cross Station, a highlight in the anarchist calendar for many. One of the regular stalls at the Bookfair intrigues some, confuses others and annoys a few so it seemed a good idea to find out a little bit more about the Catholic Worker Movement and why they align themselves with anarchism. I contacted Scott Albrecht for an interview and he kindly agreed.
Q: Scott, most anarchists haven’t heard of The Catholic Worker Movement, and the word ‘Catholic’ isn’t great PR at the moment. Can you tell us a bit about it. How did it start, what are its values, what does it do?
The Catholic Worker was started on May Day 1933 by Dorothy Day, a former communist, and Peter Maurin, a learned man of the road. They decided they wanted to explode ‘the dynamite of Catholic social teaching’, ideas such as Distributism, Subsidiarity, Unions, Voluntary Poverty, Non-violence (although the catholic church as you rightly suggest has been violent, in the last century violence has had its primary roots within the nation state). Dorothy Day promoted pacifism, in fact immediately after the bombing of Pearl Harbour the headline of The Catholic Worker Newspaper claimed “We are still Pacifists” The Catholic Worker lost 70,000 readers.
Within the Catholic Worker Movement are Houses of Hospitality for those who have been made destitute by government policy. I live at The Catholic Worker Farm where we empower women and children who have fled internal and external conflicts, human trafficking, bonded servitude, FGM and domestic violence. We offer 23 of them food, shelter and clothing to start. Then we offer therapies, Psycho, Group and Dance. We help them get solicitors, GP’s and dental work, put their children into school and generally support them as we share the same dignity.
But it doesn’t stop there. We engage with the State, non-violently. Many of us have criminal records, I have four! I’ve been in jail over a dozen times. We’ve poured litres and litres of red paint on Government property, dug graves, blockaded and marched against Climate Change, Nuclear Weapons and all of the invasions. We have engaged with the DSEi Arms Fair, the MoD, Northwood Military Headquarters, The Home and Foreign Offices, MI5, and still keep on ‘ploughing’.
Oh yeah,we also Dumpster Dive and grow organic vegetables!
Q: I first came across you at the Anarchist Bookfair in London, maybe about 10 years ago, where you had a stall. I remember you saying that you had a crucifix on it to express the idea that you don’t follow a god who wants to dominate. Are the Catholic Workers inherently anarchist-or is that your take on it? Can Christianity be anarchist? Do you really see a similarity between the teachings of Jesus and anarchism?
Dorothy Day taught that we believe in “the Anarchism of Kropotkin” It is at the heart of all we do. We are not a Registered Charities, and take no government funding. We are trying to build something ‘new in the shell of the old’. Something with human proportion, with human need at the centre. Zones of liberation.
Many christians are unaware that the earliest christians were pacifists and had a anarchist orientation towards the state. It wasn’t until the Edict of Toleration in 324CE that Christianity was made legal. Prior to that, the state kicked the shit out of christians for not worshipping Caesar, the State and not joining the military. To be radical can mean to go back to one’s roots. Christians need to go back and read early christian history.
Jesus taught that the “Archons” (rulers) lord their authority over others and make their presence felt. He taught that If one wants to lead. one should become a slave of all. He gets on his knees before the crucifixion and washes his friend’s feet, a role typically reserved in that culture for women or slaves. There are many passages in the Old Testament that forbid the establishment of a kingship; whilst all the other nations worshipped them. In the earliest passages, from Genesis, the Rabbi’s are claiming that all humans are created in the “Image of God”. Quite a radical perspective since all of the other surrounding religions taught that the King alone is the Image of God.
Q: The dominant expression of the Catholic Church has historically been reactionary, patriarchal and often on the side of the oppressor, the antithesis of anarchism-how do you see yourself in relation to that Church?
I see myself as a challenge to that church. While I may believe in its Dogmas, I believe we must challenge injustice in the church as well. The church is always the last to change. It’s moves to pay a just wage, to stop pedophile priests are reactionary. Like any institution, it reacts slowly and largely under pressure. The truth is though that we expect more from those who talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.
However the church is a voluntary association, unlike the State. It gives honour to the role of conscience. The state couldn’t care less. It needs us to remain sedated, support violence or live in fear.
Q: You have been arrested a few times for anti-state/anti-militarist activity- can you tell us more about that? Does Christian Anarchism emphasise anti-militarism?
I was conned into the military at an early age. The recruitment officers were wining and dining me. Prositituting themselves in order to score me. I was young and believed in the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). We had the fear of a Russian nuclear attack hanging over our heads as children. Having become a christian while in the military, I was then confronted with a new doctrine, “Love your Enemies”! This hit me hard and I went to my commanding officer and said that I would refuse to take direct orders, work on F111 Fighter planes, load Nukes, the lot.
I now understand that the discipline, sense of community, orientation towards a higher goal has been the catalyst for my activism now. Those values (experienced in the armed forces) are still there, just redirected to enrich human life, not to destroy it.
Every Christian Anarchist I know is a Pacifist.
Q: You have spent a lot of years in activism and engaged with social issues-how have you managed to avoid burn out and becoming jaded?
I’m not so sure that I’ve avoided burn out completely. I have been tired and the responsibilities of the farm are immense. Prayer and trying to allow a revolution of the heart are equally important to me. What’s it all about if we create utopia and yet know that we are feeling like crap inside? I have an old black punk shirt that says, “ all anarchists are pretty” Id like to think so.
One of the issues I have though hard on in terms of Direct Action is this. When we close down the gates at Northwood Military Headquarters, do the military not use that as an opportunity to increase their mobility and focus? If we could stop one bomb from dropping on Iraq, a friend said, it’ll have been worth it. The problem is, as I see it, If we could stop them from dropping one bomb, the military would still be largely effective. They either thrive on adversity or ignore it.
So where does that leave us? Symbolic actions have the power inherent in them to move consciousness. Think of the hammering of the Berlin Wall. The Prophet Isaiah said, “They shall beat their swords into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks and study war no more.” I like that, weapons into agricultural implements so that we can feed people.
Q: What thinkers, writers etc do you find interesting and inspiring?
I enjoy reading Chris Hedges, Jacque Ellul, Tolstoy, Ched Myers, Naomi Klein and Noam Chomsky, who was willing to Skype us during our Christian Anarchist Conference last year, but he couldn’t get into his office!
Q: What do you think is the most important lesson Christianity can learn from anarchism, and vice versa?
That together we’re stronger. Anarchist can teach christians from their own texts, cause we are largely illiterate! While christians don’t have a monopoly on it, christians can share their thoughts on the primacy of Love and its power to move immovable objects. I believe in Ghandi’s Truth Force and Jesus’ ‘The truth will set us free’, but we need to understand reality first, on its own terms. Then we need to embrace and bare the burden of it. Only then can we change the course of it.
Article by Methodist Recorder, March 2015
“Press release: Christians pray and march together to urge that it is time to act on climate change”
by Operation Noah, 2 March 2015
The Christian environment charity, Operation Noah, will be hosting an ecumenical climate service before the ‘Time to Act’ national climate march this Saturday, 7 March, at St Mary le Strand Church, starting at 11.30am. As party leaders make pledges to tackle climate change ahead of the election in May, civil society – including the Christian community – is marching to demand action not words. They will be joined at the climate service by longstanding peace activist Scott Albrecht of the Catholic Worker Farm, who will share his insights into what we can learn from the Christian peace movement.
Scott has said, ‘The powerful are only beginning to accept the reality of climate change and still doing too little too late. We have a responsibility, given to humanity by the Creator, and that is to tend to the Earth like one would to one’s own Mother; for indeed it is. She has treated us with kindness for aeons: feeding us, clothing us and providing for our every need. We need to develop a relationship of mutuality, love and respect and nurse her back to health!’
Westley Ingram, one of the organisers of the service, adds, ‘The Church says it is the community devoted to changing its ways. What does it mean for the Christian community to act faithfully as we watch the devastation of God’s beloved creation? Since “Peace on Earth” must be our call for this election season, perhaps we can learn something from the example of the Christian peace movement.’
After the service, the congregation will join other faith groups to march through London as a multi-faith block.
Further details of the climate service can be found here. For further information about the climate march see the Time to Act website.
“Scott Albrecht, from the Catholic Worker, supports 2014 March for Solidarity”
by Josetxo Bueno, 13 May 2014
“Scott Albrecht, from the Catholic Worker, who together with his family has been running a farm on the outskirts of London to provide a home for homeless women and their children for more than 20 years now (more than 300 have found a safe haven during this time) and who is a lifelong committed activist against wars worldwide, has recorded a video to commemorate 16th Child Slavery and recall Iqbal Masih’s murder. He also expressed his support to 2014 Solidarity March against Unemployment and Child Slavery. Thank you, dear friend, for your words!
Scott Albrecht, del Trabajador Católico, quien junto con su familia en una granja en las afueras de Londres ha estado ofreciendo un hogar a mujeres desamparadas y sus hijos por más de 20 años (más de 300 han encontrado un refugio seguro durante este tiempo) y que es un activista entregado a la lucha contra las guerras del mundo, ha grabado un vídeo para conmemorar el 16 de Abril como Día Internacional contra la Esclavitud Infantil y recordar el asesinato de Iqbal Masih. También expresó su apoyo a la Marcha por la Solidaridad de 2014 contra el Paro y la Esclavitud Infantil. ¡Gracias, querido amigo, por tus palabras!”
“Haven for the homeless”, Joanna Moorhead
12 January 2013
“Maria Albrecht has only hazy memories of the first homeless person she and her husband, Scott, invited into their home to stay. But he was almost certainly an alcoholic, in his 50s or 60s, and he wouldn’t have had a shower in a long time. He slept on a camp bed in the couple’s sitting room: the family, with two small children at the time, were living in a two-bedroom semi.
That was about 20 years ago: since then, the Albrechts have welcomed approximately 300 homeless people into their home – some straight off the streets, others referred by the British Red Cross. “I know people think it sounds impossible, to just take in homeless people,” says Maria, “but the motivating factor for me is this: if I was sleeping on a park bench, I would hope someone would do this for me. So I do it for others.
“I know we can’t help everyone who’s homeless – but every night that even one person is in our home, that’s one night when one less person is shivering on the street.”
Today, the Albrechts live in a picturesque, red-brick farmhouse outside Watford: it’s surrounded by fields and there’s a large fishing lake in the back garden. It looks and feels like the very embodiment of a comfortable, middle-class existence in the London commuter belt, but inside there’s a bohemian air and, ranged around the house, as well as Scott, 50, and Maria, 51, and their sons, Justin, 18, and Francis, 15, there are several homeless women and two volunteer helpers.
It’s not an enormous house – the boys have their own rooms, and Scott and Maria have theirs, but the women share dormitory-like accommodation on the ground floor. And the house is certainly not palatial – on the day I visited it was raining and buckets had been placed to catch the drips coming through the roof.
“These days we only take homeless women and their children,” says Scott, 50. “Most are asylum seekers – many were trafficked here and have escaped, or they were brought here as domestic workers and treated like slaves, and managed to get away.”
Such women have no right to accommodation. The authorities are obliged to house children, but not their mothers. “What that means is that the children would be taken away from them, and they’d be left on the streets,” says Scott. “They seemed to us like they were in the most desperate situation of all, so a few years ago we decided we’d devote ourselves to helping them. Maria’s mother had just died and we’d inherited some money. We decided to sink it into renting this farmhouse so we’d have plenty of space.”
At present, there are six women in residence, but numbers change on a daily basis; there’s also a room for a woman with children, and the Albrechts recently took out a lease on another house nearby where up to 10 more women and children can stay.
The ethos of the farm is that everyone is part of the family – there’s a rota for cleaning and cooking, and the women take their turn. At mealtimes there are usually 10 or 12 people round the kitchen table – for dishes that often owe their heritage to the cook’s homeland in Africa or Asia. “It can make for interesting meals,” says Francis. “And there are often plenty of people here – at Christmas we might have as many as 50 people. So it’s often busy: but I guess we don’t remember anything else, and we like it this way.”
The Albrechts’ two older children – who were very young when the first homeless guests joined the family at their the two-bed semi – are Shoshanah, 28, and Christian, 24, who now live in Brighton and the United States respectively. But Francis and Justin are still very much at home – and yes, agrees Francis, it is an unusual set-up. “When I tell friends about my home life, they’re often surprised,” he says. “I tell them we share our house with asylum seekers, and lots of people at school don’t even know what an asylum seeker is.
“My friends’ houses are very different – but I’ve never wished I lived anywhere else. There’s always something interesting going on here – and some of the women, and the volunteers who work here, become real friends. I remember one woman from Indonesia – she had had an abusive husband and fled to the UK and ended up living here for a while. She’s moved on, but we keep in touch. It’s sad when people go, especially if they have been here a long time.”
The farm costs about £50,000 a year to run: Scott, who was raised in a Jewish family in Chicago but later converted to Christianity, and Maria, who was raised a Catholic in Australia, are members of the Catholic Worker Movement, a radical US group that identifies itself with helping people at the margins of society. Some of their funding comes from Catholic religious orders who support what they do. Other donations are made by individuals – but what makes a big difference to the accounts is that most of their food is either donated or salvaged from supermarket skips.
“I go dumpster diving – that means basically taking the food that shops have thrown out because they’re past their sell-by dates,” says Scott. “It can be deeply degrading – I remember once being in a skip and someone shouting at us from a window above to get out of there. I thought, I’m glad my father can’t see me now – he’d be so embarrassed.”
Francis says he isn’t remotely ashamed of what his dad has to do to feed his family and the extra mouths they have taken on. “What shocks me more is that supermarkets throw away food like this, when it’s perfectly OK to eat and when there are people who don’t have enough food in our country. That’s the real scandal, not that my dad is taking it out of the skips,” he says.
But what about safety? Have the Albrechts ever been concerned that someone might be dangerous? “We have worried at times,” says Scott. “You’re constantly balancing what we see as our duty to these homeless people with our duty to our children.
“I remember once, when Shoshanah and Christian were little, we had a homeless man staying in the sitting room and when I went in to say goodnight, he had a huge knife in his hand. It was a bit disconcerting, but I sat with him for a while and I could see that he wasn’t going to attack anyone – he was used to living in difficult conditions, and the knife made him feel safe. So we allowed him to stay and all was well.”
Since moving to the farm, says Maria, there have been only four women out of about 170 who have been asked to leave due to concerns about their behaviour. “Scott and I work very much on instinct and we’ve had a lot of experience now of living with people we don’t know, and of gauging their mental state,” she says.
“The thing is that people don’t suddenly grab a carving knife and go berserk. There’s always a build-up – there are warning signs – and we’re very alert to those so we can get people the help they need.”
She admits that one of the big adjustments she’s had to make has been letting go of her domestic pride. “When Scott and I were first married I was very houseproud,” she says. “In those days we lived in Illinois, Scott was earning good money, and we had a nice house and all that went with it. I loved things being just so but the fact is, it wasn’t enough. There was a kind of emptiness at the centre of it – and changing the way we live has given our lives real meaning.”
6 February 2013
“For the last 20 years Scott Albrecht and his wife Maria have welcomed over 300 homeless people into their home. Some of these people arrived straight off the streets, others were referred by individuals or agencies. Today the family – the Albrechts have four children – takes in women and children who have been trafficked or suffered abuse in their own countries.”
“Occupy Northwood Military HQ – Occupy Northwood Military HQ- Catholic Workers Blockade Entrance to Base” [29 December 2011]
Thursday 16 Catholic Workers closed and occupied the Main Entrance of Northwood Military Headquarters. Scott and Maria Albrecht, Henrietta Cullinan, John Lynes and Rachel Wood pitched tents, knelt and prayed in front of the main gate for 2 hour while others vigiled holding signs. One tent had the words, “The Prince of Peace pitched his tent among us” John 1:14. A sign said, “War is not a Solution” which is a direct message from the Young Afghan Peace Volunteers and another Pvt. Bradley Manning’s Quote, “Exposing the true nature of 21st Century asymmetrical Warfare”. A banner stating, “Occupy Northwood HQ not Afghanistan” was hung on the fence. The gate remained closed for the duration of the occupation.
The Catholic Worker group had gathered to mark the Feast of Holy Innocents; when Catholics remember the children murdered by king Herod in his search for the infant Jesus. Catholic Workers make the connection with the powerful who continue to kill the innocents today in war, specifically Afghanistan. Northwood HQ is the command and control center for British forces in Afghanistan, all joint forces and NATO operations abroad. Northwood HQ has recently experienced a £1.2 billion building project; these funds could have otherwise benefited the community.
The five occupiers were: Maria Albrecht (50), Scott Albrecht (49) from the Catholic Worker Farm, Hertfordshire, Henrietta Cullinan (50) from the Catholic Worker in Hackney, John Lynes (83) Quaker from Hastings and Rachel Wood (28) from the Catholic Worker group Sheffield.
A group statement said, “At a time when government cuts are affecting innocent children, pensioners, teachers, the sick and refugees the last thing we need to be doing is to continue spending billions on warfare. Human lives are the deepest cost. The government complains about a few tents occupying a small square outside St. Paul’s cathedral while we’ve sent thousands of soldiers to occupy other people’s countries and destroy their lives. This government needs to get its priorities right”.
“London Anarchist Book Fair – Catholic Worker”
Vision on TV, 23 October 2010
Description about the video by Vision on TV:
“Are a community of the international radical Christian ‘Catholic Worker’ movement. The Catholic Worker is Catholic, ecumenical, pacifist, communitarian and anarchist in the spirit of gentle personalism. The London Catholic Worker was brought together by the action of the Jubilee Ploughshares in 2000. Those who came together had long sensed the need for a Catholic Worker community of hospitality and resistance in the world’s second imperial city. Our work is now made up by two houses of hospitality, a community café and a drop-in soup kitchen, and continue to focus our resistance on the ‘war on terror’, British nuclear weapons and the arms trade.”
We are now in the season of Lent. It has been a tradition for our community to begin Lent on Ash Wednesday by joining Pax Christi and many other Christians for a peace liturgy outside the Ministry of Defence. We did so also this year. First we recognise our own sinfulness before we witness against and resist nuclear war preparations by marking the building of the Ministry of Defence with blessed charcoal. Pax Christi’s coverage can be seen here.
This year Ray Towey managed to write “Trident=Genocide Choose Life” on the wall of the Ministry of defence.
“Spending on nuclear weapons squanders the wealth of nations…when these resources are squandered, the poor and the weak pay the price..”
Message of the Holy Father on the occasion of the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons (7 December 2014)
As a Lenten observance Scott is once again attempting a 40 day fast.