We live in bleak times. We are bombarded by bad news. (Today: Unemployment at a 17 year high). At times we may feel discouraged, hopeless and impotent in the face of an onslaught of cuts. In a bleak climate, whither do we turn? I, for one, don’t have all the answers – but here are a few thoughts. Take them as a Lenten reflection, if you like…
Hearing the cry of the poor: A community of faith?
If we are entering a period in the Wilderness, do we need to return to our roots? To find ways of embodying the values and beliefs that many of us hold dear? As a Christian it is right, and our duty, to speak up for the poorest and most vulnerable – articulating God’s bias to the poor – naming injustice as an act of faith and discipleship.
In a society which has seemingly lost its moral compass, can we find ways (together) of being a beacon for an alternative set of values, and a community, for those who feel isolated, and (sadly) sometimes ‘outsiders’ in their own church for holding true to such beliefs?
Speaking truth to power: A community of witness?
Secondly, are there ways we an act as a community of witness: not just ‘speaking’ out, but offering a voice to those who are, normally, voiceless and marginalised? ‘Speaking truth to power’ is avowedly counter-cultural and a chellenge to the ‘powers’ of the world. Even if no change is brought about as a result, is this ‘act of witness’ not intrinsically valuable?
Supporters of change: A community of solidarity?
But is there also a role for us as agents of change? We know from our own work that empowering people with direct experience of poverty – equipping them with the skills and confidence to speak and act in their own right – can transform their own well-being, and lives and livelihoods are changed as a result. More than this, through acting together are we able to bring about concrete changes in policies and institutions which affect peoples’ lives on a larger scale?
But, in the face of a Government determined to force through its agenda, it can feel like no change is possible: What happens if ‘solidarity’ appears to have no meaningful impact?
Taking the long view…
The end of slavery, the end of segregation, the end of apartheid… Each only came about as the result of a long struggle against a clear injustice (at least clear in the minds of those opposing it), a determined movement which mobilised a powerful alliance of those directly affected and ‘solidarity movements’ who were not to gain directly – but who were swayed by moral argument, a palpable rage at the injustice of the status quo, and a passionate belief that another world was possible – passionate enough to sustain them through years of struggle against derision, violence and setbacks.
Even when all appeared to be hopeless, the candle of hope burned bright and the movement survived, regrouped and came back for more.
So let us not become disheartened. As we enter the Wilderness, let us take the long view. Let’s hold true to our faith, be steadfast in our witness, and courageous in our acts of solidarity.
As Desmond Tutu is famously quoted, at the heart of apartheid – ‘you may have the guns, you may have all this power, but you have already lost. Come: join the winning side.’