This quote is from Pope Paul in 1972, but is still relevant to our world today. As part of our GCSE RS course we are beginning to look at issues of Peace and Justice. However, there are many links with our previous unit on Wealth and Poverty. Peace is more than just the absence of war; in order for us to have a more peaceful world we need to look at ways in which we can make our world a fairer place.
This week our year 11s were visited by former deputy head Mr Cocker who spoke about his lengthy commitment to Christian Aid and why he has chosen to get more actively involved with the organisation since his retirement.
His visit raised many questions, including:
- Why should Christians help the poor?
- Does physical poverty matter as much as spiritual poverty?
- If it is a Christian duty to “Love one another”, how does this belief turn into action?
After showing the clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Di2XNRLCgw Mr Cocker spoke about his response to the idea of a ‘God of Justice’. The issues raised by poverty, injustice and suffering are often reasons given by people who do not believe in a God. How can a good, all-powerful God allow such things to happen? If God is a God of justice, why does he leave us in this situation? It seems unfair? However, Mr Cocker believes that Christianity calls people to serve, not to be served and to speak up for those with no voice. For him, the answer is that the challenge is handed over to us to do something about this injustice. The quote from mother Teresa "I see God in every human being" is a direct challenge to all Christians even though it is sometimes difficult to put into action. Christians need to ask themselves some difficult questions when faced with poverty and injustice - how should we respond to those begging on the street? What is the best way we can help? How should we serve? How do we ensure that we recognise God in all people?
He then explained the many practical ways that Christian Aid helps communities. An important area is that of emergency aid – providing food and shelter in response to disasters. One of the aims of Christian Aid is to do this in a way that is beneficial to the local community and enables people to help themselves. Most importantly, people in desperate situations need hope that there is something better around the corner. The Christian Aid slogan “we believe in life before death” is a reminder of this message of hope.
An example of this is Christian Aid’s work in Haiti after the earthquake in 2010. Christian Aid was one of first charities on the scene as they had an office there. The first priority was to look after immediate needs. For Christian Aid, it is important that the food given out following a disaster is locally produced so that it also helps to build up the local economy. Food package distribution, along with giving people basic cooking sets was essential. After this, the next step is provision of emergency shelter. Christian Aid does give financial help to people following disasters. They believe that this is important as it gives people dignity in accepting help. Those in need should be allowed to decide for themselves what they most need. It is essential that we recognise the importance of looking after the whole person – and not just for the short term. We need to think of the future and provide psychological support for those affected and training in much needed areas such as construction. The people of Haiti are strong and with Christian Aid support there is hope after this tragedy.
In other places, long term aid is needed. An example of this is Bangladesh where repeated flooding is an ongoing problem. Christians Aid has supported new types of farming which enable families to survive. Duck farming has been a very successful initiative as ducks can survive the flooding, unlike crops. There is a need to find sustainable solutions through working with local communities.
On a more personal level, some of the issues of injustice in the world are sometimes difficult for us to know what is best, especially in conflict zones. Regardless of the politics, we have a responsibility to help those affected by conflict. In places like Gaza a massive concern is the demolition of homes and the emotional impact that the bombardment has had on children who think that fighting is just part of life. If we want hope for the future we must provide for the children.
Christian Aid helps all people regardless of faith. They do what they because they are Christians, not because they want those they help to become Christians.
Find out more about the work of Christian Aid: