Pause for Thought July 2018

To say that we live in interesting global times is something of an understatement!  For example, in the last few weeks alone, we’ve seen that amazing handshake between Donald Trump and Kim Jung-un at their summit in Singapore; we’ve witnessed the fractious G7 meeting, when the communique of the richest countries of the world was agreed only after tortuous discussions, and was then reneged upon by the US President; and we’ve just had a major meeting of the heads of state of China, Russia, Pakistan, Iran and several other countries, and ponder what it all means.  

Here in the UK, we witness daily comings and goings about Brexit,and get continually bombarded with different scenarios and negotiating options. At the end of US-North Korean summit, Kim Jung-un is reported as saying “the world will not be the same again”.  It’s the first time that I have ever quoted him, let alone agreed with him, but I do tend to concur that we are in the midst of major changes all around us, and not just in the Korean peninsula.

 

Now, for many people in the world, major change is what is wanted.  There has been considerable economic and social progress made in recent decades, with over 1 billion people lifted out of extreme poverty since 1990, and with huge gains made, for example, in child survival and primary school enrolments.  But almost half the world — over three billion people — still live on less than $2.50 a day, and more than 80 percent of the world’s population lives in countries where income differentials are widening. Inequality is a major threat to progress, both globally and here in the UK, which has the 7th most unequal income profile in the developed world.  Half of the UK population are financially vulnerable, with one in six people unable to cope with a £50 increase in monthly bills, according to a recent survey. So it’s hardly surprising that social tensions are prominent, whether prompted by the Government’s austerity measures, the low growth of wages, a failure of government services, the negative impact of “globalization” or indeed Brexit.

As a Christian, I am deeply troubled by the extent of inequality and vulnerability globally and in the UK, and I am reminded of the words of the prophet Amos, who lived in Israel in the eighth century BC.  “Let justice roll down like waters”, he said, in response to all of the poverty and desperation that he saw around him. I know that many of the policy issues facing our Government are very complicated, and I do not pretend to have the answers.  But I am trying at least to refocus the questions that I ask, from my usual “What might these changes mean for me?”, to “What might these changes mean for others, especially the most vulnerable?”.  Perhaps that’s a useful challenge for others too?

For anyone also interested in such issues, I would thoroughly recommend the recent book by Archbishop Justin Welby: “Reimagining Britain”. 

“Pause for Thought” this month comes from Mike Mills,
Reader in the Benefice of Barnack with Ufford, Bainton, Helpston & Wittering |  Telephone: 01780 740285