As you may have heard, the UN’s Conference of the Parties, also known as COP26, will be held in Glasgow from 1-12 November where world leaders will gather to seek and strengthen international agreements around collective action to reduce global carbon emissions.
There is real hope that a new and more ambitious agreement will be reached during the conference; that a ‘Glasgow agreement’ may succeed the 2015 ‘Paris agreement’ and be more effective as more nations seem ready to recognise and to address their own carbon emissions.
The General Secretary and I were recently invited to join a consultation of about 35 faith leaders by Alok Shama MP, President of COP26. It was very encouraging to hear from speakers from a wide range of faiths and of Christian denominations, all taking the issue seriously. There was a clear recognition that climate change is a real threat and that action is urgent. Climate change will affect all generations and we need to develop a passion for action. I sensed a real desire of faith communities to work together and a genuine government wish to work with us. There were comments about the need for action not just words or promises, and a recognition that it is time to treat the issue seriously and urgently. Deep concern was also expressed for the injustice to those who suffer the consequences of climate change to be recognised, along with a need to redress the damage and loss experienced and to find ways to compensate victims.
The Revd Clare Downing, Moderator of the United Reformed Church General Assembly, reflects on the anniversary of the first lockdown, the debt poorer families have incurred because of Covid-19, and the campaign the Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT) started to highlight this issue.
At the start of the first lockdown. JPIT, along with other partners, took the opportunity that day, to challenge us to pray and take action to support those who are affected by debt because of the Covid restrictions. As Moderator of General Assembly, I was privileged to take part in an online prayer, alongside other church leaders, as well as members of Parliament from different political parties.
We prayed and reflected on the words in Isaiah which Jesus took as his own manifesto when he read them in the synagogue in Nazareth; good news for the poor, release from captivity, freedom from oppression. Isaiah was speaking to a people in exile and Jesus to people living in an occupied territory. But the words need to be heard in our context of pandemic and poverty.
On a positive note, our government has offered support in various ways, which has been a lifeline to many – though there has been questionable spending too. But there are people who are falling through the gaps. Low pay, zero hours contracts, disability – all were having negative effects well before the pandemic. Debt has become a major problem for those whose budgets already had no leeway. Continue reading
Peter Pay, Moderator of the URC General Assembly, talks about an eye-opening commemoration for persecuted Christians that he attended:
I was recently invited to represent the United Reformed Church by His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, Coptic Orthodox Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and a distinguished panel of guests to mark Contemporary Martyrs Day on 15 February . The event was held in remembrance of the 21 Libyan martyrs and members of the Coptic Orthodox Church who lost their lives in 2015 as a result of religious persecution. Pope Francis also contributed on the day.
I have to admit, my first reaction was that I was not aware of this event, but on checking I discovered that a five-minute video had been published showing the beheading of the 21 Christian (mainly Coptic) captives by ISIS on a beach along the southern Mediterranean coast.
A caption in the video called the captives the ‘People of the Cross, followers of the hostile Egyptian Church’. Few people I have mentioned this to have heard of the outrage. It leads me to wonder what else I may be unaware of. Continue reading