Newborn baby found abandoned in manger at a New York church


A newborn baby has been found abandoned in a church nativity scene in New York.

The baby boy, who is perfectly healthy and even had his umbilical chord still attached, was found by a custodian in the Holy Jesus Child Church in Queens, New York.  The custodian told police he had just set up the nativity scene before taking a lunch break and returned to find the baby left there.

Father Christopher Ryan Heanue, a priest at the church, wrapped the baby in a towel before police arrived and took him to Jamaica Hospital, where doctors realised he was only a few hours old.

Father Christopher said:

“The beautiful thing is that this woman [who left him there] found in this church — which is supposed to be a home for those in need — this home for her child.”

Police have obtained CCTV footage of a woman with a baby near the church, who is then seen again later without a baby, however they are not releasing the footage.  Officers say they currently have no updates on the whereabouts of the mother.  According to New York state law parents are legally able to leave a baby at a safe location within 30 days of birth, as long as they tell an ‘appropriate person’ (such as a police officer or doctor) about it.

Father Christopher told the Guardian:

“A young couple in our parish would love to adopt this child and keep this gift in our community. It would make a great Christmas miracle.”

Watch the advert the cinemas banned

Just Pray

The Church of England produced an advert promoting their new website, which seeks to create a digital place for prayer with advice on what prayer is and how to pray. The site also provides a ‘live prayer’ feed of prayers being prayed across the globe via Twitter, Instagram and Vine. The promotional 60-second advert features Christians from all walks of life praying one line of the Lord’s Prayer, and includes weight lifters, a police officer, a commuter, refugees in a support centre, school children, a mourner at a graveside, a festival goer and the Archbishop of Canterbury. It was to have been shown in cinemas from 18th December as part of the ad reel before ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’.

But despite receiving clearance from both the Cinema Advertising Authority and British Board of Film Classification (a ‘U’ certification, no less),  the country’s three largest cinema chains, Odeon, Cineworld and Vue – who together control 80% of cinema screens around the country – have refused to show the advert because they believe it “carries the risk of upsetting, or offending, audiences”. Which is a bit odd, when you think how many films they screen which carry the same or greater risk.

The Church of England has said it is “bewildered” by this “plain silly” decision. The Rev’d Arun Arora, Director of Communications for the Church of England, has issued a statement:

“The prospect of a multi-generational cultural event offered by the release of ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ on 18th December – a week before Christmas Day – was too good an opportunity to miss and we are bewildered by the decision of the cinemas.

“The Lord’s Prayer is prayed by billions of people across the globe every day and in this country has been part of everyday life for centuries. Prayer permeates every aspect of our culture from pop songs and requiems to daily assemblies and national commemorations. For millions of people in the United Kingdom, prayer is a constant part of their lives whether as part thanksgiving and praise, or as a companion through their darkest hours.

“In one way the decision of the cinemas is just plain silly but the fact that they have insisted upon it makes it rather chilling in terms of limiting free speech. There is still time for the cinemas to change their mind and we would certainly welcome that.

“In the meantime people should visit the site, see the film themselves and make up their own minds as to whether they are upset or offended by it.”

The issue that seems confusing at the moment is the role played by the Digital Cinema Media (DCM), jointly owned by Odeon and Cineworld and which handles the majority of cinema advertising in the UK.  Initially they were very receptive to the Church of England advert, and even offered a 55 per cent discount for a slot in the ‘ad reel’ that is screened before the seventh Star Wars film when it opens on December 18.  Three months later, the agency told the Reverend Arun Arora, the Church’s director of communications, that Odeon, Cineworld and Vue had vetoed the film, saying they could not carry ads of a religious nature.

DCM have now stated that in their advertising policy document all religious advertising is prohibited:

Religious Advertising means… advertising which wholly or partly advertises any religion, faith or equivalent systems of belief (including any absence of belief) or any part of any religion, faith or such equivalent systems of belief.

What is interesting is that it isn’t clear when this policy was created – was it before or after the Church of England first went to DCM with the advert?  Given that they have allowed adverts for the Alpha Course it does seem to be a recent addition.

Giles Fraser hits the nail on the head with his comments:

Of course, we can guess what those execs were really saying to each other. If we allow Christianity we are going to have to allow others, even – heaven forfend – Islam. You can feel their panic, their bureaucratic cowardice. We want to be left to get on and make our Christmas profits without getting drawn into such complicated altercations, they are saying.

I’m sorry, but the whole thing stinks. If you are offended by the Lord’s Prayer you are too easily offended.

Interestingly even, Richard Dawkins agrees.

On the plus side though we should reflect on how many more people will have heard of the ‘Just Pray’ campaign and the Lord’s Prayer – perhaps for the first time – courtesy of the media who have picked up on this.

Read this extraordinary letter to ISIS


If you want to read something about the Paris attacks‬ you MUST read this extraordinary letter to ISIS from young husband who lost his wife on Friday evening.

You can read the full translated post here:

“Friday night, you took an exceptional life – the love of my life, the mother of my son – but you will not have my hatred. I don’t know who you are and I don’t want to know, you are dead souls. If this God, for whom you kill blindly, made us in his image, every bullet in the body of my wife would have been one more wound in his heart.

So, no, I will not grant you the gift of my hatred. You’re asking for it, but responding to hatred with anger is falling victim to the same ignorance that has made you what you are. You want me to be scared, to view my countrymen with mistrust, to sacrifice my liberty for my security. You lost.

I saw her this morning. Finally, after nights and days of waiting. She was just as beautiful as when she left on Friday night, just as beautiful as when I fell hopelessly in love over 12 years ago. Of course I am devastated by this pain, I give you this little victory, but the pain will be short-lived. I know that she will be with us every day and that we will find ourselves again in this paradise of free love to which you have no access.

We are just two, my son and me, but we are stronger than all the armies in the world. I don’t have any more time to devote to you, I have to join Melvil who is waking up from his nap. He is barely 17-months-old. He will eat his meals as usual, and then we are going to play as usual, and for his whole life this little boy will threaten you by being happy and free. Because no, you will not have his hatred either.”

Teenage sex-crime victims ‘don’t report offences as they fear not being believed’


Huge numbers of sex crimes against older teenagers in England and Wales in the last year went unreported and unpunished because many victims were gripped by the fear of not being believed and suspicion of the justice system, a new report by The Children’s Society reveals.

The staggering scale of under-reporting is highlighted in new figures obtained and analysed by The Children’s Society, as part of its Seriously Awkward campaign, which underline the appalling number of sexual offences against 16 and 17 year olds in the last year.

Through freedom of information requests, the charity found that police in England recorded 4,900 sexual offence cases — including sexual exploitation, rape and sexual assaults — against 16 and 17 year olds in the last year. But in stark contrast, the organisation’s analysis of the Crime Survey for England and Wales reveals that an estimated 50,000 girls alone say they have been victims of these crimes. More than for other age groups.

The report shows that half of those young people who did not report sexual crimes to the police did not report it because they either did not consider it worth reporting, feared going to court, or because they did not want the perpetrators punished. It is a picture that is reflected by the charity’s front-line staff who work with children and young people across the country who have been sexually abused or are at risk of sexual exploitation.

Many do not go to the police, fearing they will not be believed or that they will be judged. Others because they fear the perpetrators or are uncertain about what constitutes crime, consent and sexual exploitation.

The report, Old Enough To Know Better?: Why sexually exploited teenagers are being overlooked, also found that of the cases reported to the police, fewer than 1 in 5 resulted in a charge or summons.

Older teenagers who have experienced sexual exploitation face huge obstacles in getting the protection and help they need. Despite their being more vulnerable than other age groups, there is often less protection and support available because they are seen as being ‘old enough to know better’ because they have reached the age of consent. As a result, they are often blamed for putting themselves in risky situations even when they have been specifically targeted and groomed through the use of drugs and alcohol.

The Children’s Society is calling on the Government to make sure that police have the means they need to protect 16 and 17 year olds from sexual exploitation and that consent to take drugs and drink alcohol is never confused with consent to engage in sexual acts.

It is also vital that the Government recognises vulnerable young people at this age, including those in care, recovering from trauma and those with mental health and learning disabilities, as being particularly at risk of sexual exploitation by adults.

All 16 and 17 year old victims of sexual crimes must get access to the appropriate therapeutic or mental health support they need in order to recover from this horrific abuse. And have it continue as needed as they move into adulthood.

Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, said:

‘Too many children are being left to suffer sexual exploitation in silence. Despite 16 and 17 year olds being at the highest risk, they often receive the least support. Dangerous inconsistencies in the law and services need to be changed. These young people are still children and the Government must make sure that the police and other agencies have the means they need in order to keep them safe.’

The Children’s Society revealed in its Seriously Awkward campaign, launched earlier in the year, that too often 16 and 17 year olds are being let down by the law and do not receive basic protection to keep them safe and healthy because of their age and the misperception that they are old enough to look after themselves.

Brilliant father of the bride invites stepdad to help walk daughter down the aisle

Todd Bachman was ready to walk his daughter down the aisle. He also knew he couldn’t do it alone.

Bachman stopped daughter Brittany Peck’s wedding processional Saturday to request the presence of another crucial figure in Brittany’s life — her stepdad.

Father of the Bride

Bachman and Peck’s stepdad Todd Cendrosky have both played vital roles in Peck’s upbringing since she was 11 years old — so vital, in fact, that Brittany wasn’t sure who should walk her down the aisle.

Two weeks before the wedding, Peck was torn. “She called me and said ‘Dad, something’s bothering me,’” Bachman told the Chronicle-Telegram in Lorain County, Ohio.  Read more here.



Another Council proposes to axe all its youth clubs

sutton-youth-centre-sutton-council1250-343x343It’s not surprising but frustrating to read of another Council proposing to close all its youth clubs.

Sutton Council said it has to reduce its annual £1.1m spend on youth and adolescent services budget as part of £74m of cuts that have to be made across the authority by 2019.  It is proposing to only maintain services that have to be provided by law. This would result in savings of £667,000, a cut of 60.4 per cent to the overall budget.

The council said that as a result there will be “no physical youth service”, meaning two youth centres will be closed and a third will instead be used for office accommodation. Meanwhile the borough’s youth parliament will also be axed.

The council said that statutory provision will mean the council continuing to support and track young people not in education, employment or training (Neet). Meanwhile a youth officer will become responsible for the oversight of youth provision in the borough and engaging with local providers of youth activities.

Wendy Mathys, chair of the children, families and education committee at Sutton Council, said:

“Unprecedented government cuts to our budget mean we have no choice but to reduce the size of the council and the services we offer.  Our youth and adolescent services are a valuable resource and it is with great regret that we are having to make these changes.  It is really important that people have their say so we can understand what services matter to people. We can then work with our partner organisations to find other ways that our young people can receive the support they need.”

Sutton Council has launched a consultation on the proposals that closes on 13 December.

Youth homelessness figure eight times higher than Government admits


The full extent of youth homelessness is more than eight times higher than the Government admits, according to a new report.

At least 30,000 young people experiencing or at risk of homelessness are turned away from local authorities each year.  Figures from homelessness charity Centrepoint suggest at least 136,000 16-24 year-olds have asked for help in the past year but only 106,000 got it.

The report is based on 146 responses from a Freedom of Information request in England and Wales and suggests councils are unable to cope with the volume of young people in need of support.


Some 136,000 young people aged between 16 and 24 in England and Wales sought emergency housing in the past year. The figure is based on an analysis by the Centrepoint charity of 275 Freedom of Information responses from local authorities. In stark contrast, only 16,000 young people were officially classed as “statutory homeless” – which would mean councils had a legal duty to house them – according to the report.

Worryingly, some 30,000 of those seeking help were turned away with little if any support. And as many as 90,000 were only offered support such as family mediation, to help them stay at home, or debt advice. This means the vast majority of those going for help are not getting the full assistance they’d be entitled to if they were officially accepted as being homeless.

Last year only 40% of young people asking for support were given an assessment to find out if they were eligible for emergency housing.

Centrepoint say without assessments in all cases, some of the most vulnerable people could miss out on immediate housing support to which they are legally entitled, leaving them at risk.  The charity’s FOI does say that local authorities are not required to record the number of people asking them for help meaning the true number could well be higher.  They also say official statistics from the government on homelessness only show “part of the picture”.

These estimated figures were compiled by homelessness charity, Centrepoint.

These estimated figures were compiled by homelessness charity, Centrepoint.


Centrepoint say:

“A lack of coherent national data makes measuring the true scale of youth homelessness very challenging.  Figures compiled by the Department of Communities and local government and by devolved authorities show that there were 26,852 statutory homeless young people across the UK in 2013-14.”

The government has dismissed the report.  A Government spokesman said:

“Centrepoint’s analysis is misleading and based on anecdotal evidence.  Official figures show homelessness acceptances among young people in England is 13,490 which is less than half what it was in 2005.  We have made over £1bn available since 2010, to prevent and tackle homelessness and support vulnerable households.”

BBC Newsbeat have produced a detailed report which is worth taking the time to watch:

Archbishop of Canterbury on the refugee crisis

In a statement on the refugee crisis facing Europe and the Middle East, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, said today:

Justin Welby

“This is a hugely complex and wicked crisis that underlines our human frailty and the fragility of our political systems. My heart is broken by the images and stories of men, women and children who have risked their lives to escape conflict, violence and persecution.

“There are no easy answers and my prayers are with those who find themselves fleeing persecution, as well as those who are struggling under immense pressure to develop an effective and equitable response. Now, perhaps more than ever in post-war Europe, we need to commit to joint action across Europe, acknowledging our common responsibility and our common humanity.

“As Christians we believe we are called to break down barriers, to welcome the stranger and love them as ourselves (Leviticus 19:34), and to seek the peace and justice of our God, in our world, today.

“With winter fast approaching and with the tragic civil war in Syria spiralling further out of control, we must all be aware that the situation could yet worsen significantly.

“I am encouraged by the positive role that churches, charities and international agencies are already playing, across Europe and in Syria and the surrounding areas, to meet basic humanitarian needs. These efforts may feel trivial in the face of the challenge, but if we all play our part this is a crisis that we can resolve.

“We need a holistic response to this crisis that meets immediate humanitarian need while tackling itsunderlying drivers. I commend the UK Government for its strong commitment to the world’s poorest people through the delivery of the aid budget. It has shown global leadership by providing £900 million in aid since 2012 to the crisis in Syria. It has also shown moral leadership in using Royal Navy ships to save the lives of hundreds who have tried to make the dangerous crossing across the Mediterranean.

“I hold in my heart particularly those who are most vulnerable in conflict, and those who we have a special duty to protect. In the past, the Government has rightly sought to provide sanctuary to unaccompanied children, women and those who have been victims of, or are at risk of, sexual violence. I welcome this, while urging a renewed commitment to taking in the most vulnerable.

“The Church has always been a place of sanctuary for those in need, and Churches in the UK and across Europe have been meeting the need they are presented with. I reaffirm our commitment to the principle of sanctuary for those who require our help and love.

“The people of these islands have a long and wonderful history of offering shelter and refuge, going back centuries – whether it be Huguenot Christians, Jewish refugees, Ugandan Asians, Vietnamese boat people or many, many more.

“It has always been controversial at the time it happened, always been seen as too difficult. Yet each time we have risen to the challenge and our country has been blessed by the result.

“We cannot turn our backs on this crisis. We must respond with compassion. But we must also not be naïve in claiming to have the answers to end it. It requires a pan-European response – which means a commitment to serious-minded diplomatic and political debate, but not at the expense of practical action that meets the immediate needs of those most in need of our help.”

Listen to Archbishop Justin Welby speaking to the BBC about the refugee crisis

Good News Story: Filipino boy studying on street given a college scholarship

A little boy who was photographed doing his homework in the glow of a McDonald’s neon light has received an outpouring of support after the heart-rending image went viral.

Now Daniel Cabrera could be on track to achieve his dream of becoming a policeman after he received donations of cash, school supplies and even a college scholarship, his mother Christina Espinosa told AFP. 

Widow Espinosa and her three youngest children, including nine-year-old Daniel, have been homeless since a fire destroyed their home in Mandue City, Phillipines, five years ago.

Joyce Gilos Torrefranca - Inspired by a kid

The family currently live in a back room in a mini-grocery story owned by Espinosa’s employers.  She told AFP:

“We’re overjoyed. I don’t know what I will do with all of these blessings.  Now, Daniel will not have to suffer just to finish his studies.”

Among the donations received by the family are school uniforms and a reading lamp.

Espinosa added:

“He is a very studious and determined boy… he would insist on going to school even without his lunch money because I had no money to give.  He always tells me: ‘Mama, I don’t want to stay poor. I want to reach my dreams’.”


Daniel’s plight went viral after student Joyce Gilos Torrefranca spotted him bent over his school work at a wooden bench.  She posted the image to Facebook, remarking the little boy had “inspired” her.

One commentator said: “This kid’s perseverance in studying makes this picture such an inspiration. Despite the lack of personal space or inadequate lighting, still he chose to study.”

Since the donations poured in, the city’s social welfare office chief Violeta Cavada told AFP:

“Our problem is how to manage all this financial assistance.  He has become a symbol of poor slum boys in the city who can’t study because they don’t have electricity.”

Blind mum sees her baby before he’s born

Blind Mum 3D scan

I love this story of a 3D baby scan to help a blind mum ‘see’ her little baby:

Blind Mum 3D scan 1

For expectant parents, a baby scan visit is a time of joy and anxiety. It’s the earliest opportunity to see a child waiting to arrive.

Tatiana Guerra, 30, will soon give birth to her son, Murilo. She’s blind, so can’t see the fuzzy results of a sonogram. To promote Huggies nappies in Brazil, the ad agency Mood created a 3-dimensional model of her son as he appeared in a sonogram. It then surprised Guerra with the model, giving her a wonderful glimpse of her son that she could touch and study with her fingers.

Café owner leaves heartwarming note for homeless person raiding her bins for food

I loved this news story about a café owner who left a heartwarming note for homeless person raiding her bins for food

A café owner in the US who was “heartbroken” to discover a homeless person was searching her rubbish for food has put up a sign on the skip inviting them to come inside for a free meal.

Ashley Jiron, who runs P.B. Jams in Oklahoma, said she would not take the notice down until the person comes in for a proper meal.

Pictures of the sign have spread on Reddit and Instagram, drawing support for the show of compassion from around the world.

Cafe Owner heart warming note

It reads: “To the person going through our trash for the next meal, you’re a human being and worth far more than a meal from a dumpster.

“Please come in during operating hours for a classic Pb&j, fresh veggies and a cup of water at no charge.

“No questions asked. Your friend, the owner.”

“Last week, I had noticed some bags, when I had taken out the trash, were torn open and some of the food was taken out,” she told the KFOR news channel.

“That really, it hurt me that someone had to do that.”

She said she realised pride may stop the person coming inside but that she had to try.

Skip ign

Ms Jiron added: “I think we’ve all been in that position where we needed someone’s help and we just needed someone to extend that hand and if I can be that one person to extend that hand to another human being then I will definitely do it.”


Charlie Hebdo and Freedom of Speech

Charlie Hebdo pen protest

Following the awful attack on Charlie Hebdo, the Europa partnership of newspapers released the following statement:

“The attack on Charlie Hebdo on 7 January in Paris and the odious assassination of our colleagues, fierce defenders of freedom of expression, is not only an attack on the liberty of the press and liberty of opinion. It is an attack against the fundamental values of our European democratic societies.

Freedom to think and freedom to inform had already been targeted in recent months by the execution of other journalists.

Refusing to give in to threats after the publication, almost 10 years ago, of cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, Charlie Hebdo magazine had not changed its culture of irreverence one iota. Similarly, we European newspapers, regularly working together as part of the Europa group, continue to promote the values of liberty and independence. We continue to inform, to inquire, to interview, to comment, to publish – and to draw – about every subject that appears to us legitimate, in a spirit of openness, intellectual enrichment and democratic debate.

We owe it to our readers. We owe it to the memory of our assassinated colleagues. We owe it to Europe.”

Europa: Le Monde, the Guardian, Süddeutsche Zeitung, El Pais, la Stampa, Gazeta Wyborcza

In one sense I have real sympathy with their statement.  Freedom of speech is one of the key human rights.  Everyone, regardless of position, wealth, gender, race, religion etc. has the right to express themselves.  It is important that there is a freedom to challenge one another, to have different views.

I also want to be clear that being offended by satire does not in any way  justify the use of murder or violence.  But Freedom of speech has its limits.  In the United Kingdom the law prevents us from being racist, sexist, hateful, libellous or homophobic.  In addition we’re not allowed to disclose State secrets.  But even in the community we have limitations on our freedom of speech.  The golden rule of do unto others as you wish to be done unto you prevents us from deliberately attacking and provoking others in our community.

But isn’t that what Charlie Hebdo did in printing the cartoons about the prophet Muhammed.  The cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo had previously published a portrayal of Jesus as a contestant on I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, and Pope Benedict holding aloft a condom at Mass.  It is by definition a publication that likes to test the boundaries of taste, political and religious tolerance.

For me I would want to dwell on the concept that with great power comes great responsibility.  The challenge is that we don’t need to publish cartoons and articles for the sake of publishing them and equally we need to not just pick up guns and shoot people when we disagree with a drawing or comment they make.  We need to learn to be more adult like in our living together.

Currently we seem to be creating more extremists on both sides – the war on terror actually seems to lead to more terror.  Extremism leads to extremism.  Unless we change the way that we engage this situation will go on and on.  Already we’re seeing in the news more attacks against Muslims in the streets, mosques being damaged — proving true the very thing these extremist Muslims believe — that the West hates them.

We need to find a better way of challenge and disagreement.  We need to help our young people to lead us in a new direction.