Church of Scotland urges members to sign global education petition

By agency reporter
August 21, 2015

Church of Scotland leaders have urged members to sign a declaration which calls on governments around the world to ensure that every child is able to go to school.

The Rt Rev Dr Angus Morrison, Moderator of the General Assembly, and Hannah Mary Goodlad, Moderator of the National Youth Assembly (NYA), are appealing to people to support the #Up for School petition which is being championed by former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Dr Morrison said signing it would help ensure that around 59 million youngsters in troubled parts of the world who were being denied a basic education would "receive their rightful start in life".

Miss Goodlad said people had a "collective responsibility" to stand up for those with no voice because education was "lifechanging and life-saving".

Spearheaded by the Global Faiths Coalition for Education and signed by around nine million people so far, the petition calls on governments to make the political commitments and financial investments needed to ensure all children get the best start in life.

Mr Brown, whose father John was a Church of Scotland minister, claimed the issue amounted to a "civil rights struggle" because around 500 million people across the globe do not finish primary and secondary school as children in the UK do.

The former MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath who stood down earlier this year after a 32-year Westminster career, said it was his hope that the current crop of youth Church members would become the "first generation in history" to deliver real change, particularly to the lives of girls.

Mr Brown, a United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, said youngsters in countries like Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya were often trafficked and forced into labour and early marriages.

He described it as a "tragedy of biblical proportions" because hundreds of thousands of children and young people in unstable nations were also denied food, shelter and healthcare.

Mr Brown, who has travelled to countries including Lebanon, South Sudan and Kenya to examine the impact of the situation first-hand, issued a heartfelt plea for action in an address to around 100 young people at the annual youth assembly at Gartmore in Stirlingshire on .

"When I talk about education, I am talking about what we can do as citizens of the world to make it possible for every child to have the basic thing we take for granted – the right to a decent education that will give them a proper start in life," he said.

"It is in our power to make a change in the conditions that affect people's lives."

Mr Brown also urged delegates to follow in the footsteps of about 1,000 people from 190 countries and become youth ambassadors to spread the message.

"We have to see this as a civil rights struggle and we have to support girls in different countries who are fighting intolerance and prejudice", he added

"Let us be the first generation in history where we do bridge the gap between what people are and what they have within themselves to become by ensuring that they have universal education."

Dr Morrison said Church of Scotland members were "heirs to a rich tradition of support for the right of all children to education" because following the Reformation in 1560, one of the first decisions of the General Assembly was to establish a school in every parish.

"The purpose was not only to enable everyone to read the Bible for themselves, but to give each child a solid start in life. In time that strategy led to the transformation of Scottish society", he added.

"By signing the #UpForSchool petition we can all make a significant contribution towards the goal of this being the first generation ever in which all the world's children will be given a basic education, and thus receive their rightful start in life."

Miss Goodlad said it was "appalling" that so many children in the world were being denied an education a situation she said was "preventable".

"We all, regardless of who we are, have a collective responsibility to speak up and out for those whose voices have been silenced. (Proverbs31.8)," she added.

"We should never think that we are too unimportant to make a difference, too small to give others a voice or too insignificant to provide hope to others."

* The #UpForSchoolpetition is here: http://www.aworldatschool.org/upforschool

* Church of Scotland http://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/home

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