Migration is a major pastoral issue for civic groups and churches. New communities enliven church life and community activity. They also encounter the challenges posed by often harsh immigration restrictions, scapegoating and economic uncertainty.
Sometimes it seems as though nothing much changes. In 1987, London Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends issued a public statement in the month before the General Election of that year. It expressed anger at the polarisation of the country; condemned inequality and expressed Quakers' belief that urgent action was needed to “promote debate and to stimulate action”.
Last year saw a flood of new books on World War 1. When I saw a new one in a bookshop or library, I would pick it up and look up how much space it gave to the issue of opposition to the war. This was particularly so if it was presented as a general history of the war, or of Britian’s part in it.
The Daily Telegraph’s campaign for high military spending has gathered momentum. Conservative backbenchers, retired generals and some Labour MPs have backed calls to keep “defence spending” at 2% of GDP. Last week, in a Commons debate attended by very few MPs, the majority of those who bothered to turn up voted in favour of the proposal.
Two stories caught my eye on our website yesterday (12th March), both relating to the effects of austerity on the United Kingdom. The first highlighted in an excellent article by Bernadette Meaden was a reflection on the recent report about the psychological impact of austerity. The second an LSE study demonstrating that young people are highly unlikely to ever earn the salaries of their parents.
"This report directly links cuts to public services with mental health problems... Psychologists are often in a position to see the effects that social and economic changes have on people. We also occupy a relatively powerful position as professionals and therefore have an ethical responsibility to speak out about these effects."
For the last few months Ekklesia staff, associates and partners have been thinking and talking about our approach to the 2015 General Election and beyond. The resulting research paper and our special election website were launched on Friday 6th March, two months before polling day. The launch happened to coincide with my weekend away with fellow members of ‘Unite for Peace’, a small group of (mainly) Christian pacifists who meet twice a year, which provided an opportunity to discuss the paper in more depth.
On International Women’s Day, feminist organisations and campaigners who haven’t been active on austerity and welfare reform really need to have a rethink. Otherwise, to the millions of women around the UK struggling to survive, they could look as out of touch as the politicians.
Being a person who respects truth is about a great deal more than avoiding the telling of lies. It may mean acknowledging and regretting you have told a partial truth or that you have avoided taking responsibility for an error of judgement.