Church and Society: Speaking Out in 2015

Speak Out

The picture of three-year old Aylan Kurdi lying dead, face down on a Turkish beach was the defining image of 2015. It brought home the reality of the human catastrophe which is continuing to unfold on the borders of eastern and southern Europe. Millions are being displaced by war and violence.

At this time of year, it is particularly worth remembering that Jesus, like Aylan, was a refugee fleeing from violence before he was old enough to understand why.

2015 was also the year of a General Election which brought a seismic shift in the political representation of Scotland in Westminster. It was a year of terror on the streets of Paris and Beirut; of ever-escalating numbers of people visiting foodbanks in Scotland as benefits cuts hit increasing numbers of our poorest citizens; and of, miraculaously, 200 countries come together to tackle climate change. The year has drawn to an end with communities in southern Scotland and northern England coming to terms with devastating floods, British forces bombing Syria and news of a feared genocide in Burundi.

In the name of God, the maker of heaven and earth, who takes up residence with the poor of the world we must do something about it.

Each of these issues demands an immediate response but also require a long term approach. There are some challenges so great that they will take a generation of concerted action to shift. The problem is that we are too often caught in knee-jerk reactions, short-term funding and election cycles.

The story is told of the man walking alongside the river. Noticing someone in distress, he jumps in and rescues them. Then he sees a second person. He repeats the rescue. Then a third. And a fourth. And a fifth. Eventually, he becomes exhausted and is unable to carry on. At some point, someone has to run upstream and find out what is causing so many people to be in the river and stop it from happening.

2015 was the year in which the Church & Society Council chose to move upstream. Through our Speak Out campaign, 10,000 people have told us what a fairer, more equal and more just future looks like, not just for people in Scotland but for people across the world. Since September, we have engaged with almost 300 communities in every part of Scotland and beyond.

Right now we are sifting through every one of these responses, seeking common themes and identifying the things that if we started doing now will make a real difference for our children and our grandchildren. These are the things which, through the lens of faith, will make earth look a bit more like heaven.

In 2016 we will begin work on the issues of justice which people in congregations and communities across Scotland have told us matter the most. We will work on them locally, nationally and internationally not just every day in 2016 but every day for at least the next ten years.

The Church of Scotland has almost 400,000 members and over three times that number associate with it. Think of the difference that we can make together, for the sake of the Gospel, and the values of the Kingdom of God.