Advent is always a time for reflection, particularly when thinking about events which impact on those who do not enjoy the freedoms we have in this country.
An organisation I continue to support in Parliament is Open Doors. Last month in the House of Commons I praised their ongoing work, and commended their commitment to raising awareness of the persecution of Christians by oppressive regimes.
Each year, Open Doors release the World Watch List, which highlights the countries where it is most difficult to live as a Christian.
This year, I have found it particularly poignant watching coverage of the liberation of Mosul in Iraq from Daesh control. I visited the country last year and spent time visiting refugee camps which gave me a greater insight of the horrors of the so-called Islamic State.
We regularly hear churchbells ringing out across Crawley. In contrast, it was moving to watch footage from the Iraqi town of Bartella, where these sounds were recently heard for the first time since Daesh took control in 2014.
I look forward to attending the launch of the 2017 World Watch List early next year.
A couple of months ago I launched a competition across Crawley primary schools to invite pupils to send in designs for the front cover of my Christmas card.
Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of visiting St Margaret’s Church of England Primary School, to personally congratulate Rebecca, who drew the winning entry.
I also congratulated the runners up on their designs, which feature on the inside of my card; these were drawn by Harry who attends the Gatwick School, and Lily from Maidenbower Infant School.
My thanks to each pupil for the time they all took to submit their designs, and to their teachers who supported this initiative.
It is always a joy to go through the drawings, the standard is so high and there are always a great range of designs to choose from.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone in Crawley a very Happy Christmas.