|8:30am||Doors open for sightseeing|
|4:00pm||Last entry for sightseeing|
Let us not grow weary: Faith and COP26 - Reflections for November 2021
1. Let us not grow weary
‘Let us not grow weary of doing good, in due season, we will reap, if our hearts don’t grow faint. Galatians 6:9
Early this year, I was determined to plant pumpkins. In Zambia, we use fresh pumpkin leaves as a vegetable and mixed with pounded groundnuts, it is very tasty. I had been missing this so much and so I decided that I would plant some pumpkin seeds. I followed the instructions and planted my seeds in pots in early April. As you may all recall, the weather did not go according to plan! Climate Change is truly here. Weather patterns have become unpredictable and are constantly changing. Spring did not go according to plan.
Each day I would go out to check and each day I would come back disappointed. Nevertheless, I continued to water the pots regularly. For almost two months, I saw nothing. By June, I was almost giving up and then one day I went out and saw the green shoots! I was so happy and jubilant. The seeds had been preserved in the cold and now they were coming out. I am so glad that I did not give up.
My colleagues and I in Christian Aid, together with thousands of supporters, Churches and partners in the countries where we work, have been calling governments to take action that stops Climate Change for many years. We have been sounding the alarm on the impact of Climate Change on the most vulnerable communities in the world. Frequent droughts and more intense floods cause damage, destroying people’s lives and everything around them. The Climate Crisis will ultimately cause our planet to be unhabitable unless urgent actions are taken.
When we look at the level of inaction by global leaders, and the length of time we have been calling for action, it is easy to be discouraged, to grow tired and to eventually give up. When I think of my pumpkin leaves, I am glad that I didn’t give up. Let us not grow tired of calling out injustice and sounding the alarm on Climate Change. Each one of us can take action in whatever space and on whatever platform, however small, that we have access to. Let us continuously use our voice and our agency to demand Climate action now. For our children and for our grandchildren. Why? Because God has asked us to tend the garden and to love our neighbours as we love ourselves. Let us not grow tired.
2. What is Good?
The people of South Sudan have had to cope with intense floods, that have devastated the lives of women, men and children, destroyed homes, livestock and crops, and at the same time they have had to deal with the lack of Covid-19 vaccines. In Afghanistan, the takeover of government by the Taliban has instilled fear in women, cost many lives and caused millions to be on the move in search for safe havens. All of this happened at the same time as the Covid pandemic has been disproportionately impacting people who were already struggling with extreme poverty.
In all this, while we have seen the selfishness that humanity is capable of, we have also seen the good that we are capable of. A light that shines brighter than the darkness. When Marcus Rashford’s mural was defaced following the infamous England game where the team lost on penalties, it was a dark moment. The vandalism together with the social media racial abuse targeted at Marcus, Sancho and Saka, showed the ugly face of racism. But within a few days, we saw the light that came shining through. The mural was covered in hearts, flowers and notes of support. The good in humanity came through on that mural.
When the UK government decided to cut the aid budget, we raised the alarm on the impact this would have on the people of South Sudan to no avail. There was a sense of darkness descending on the development and humanitarian sector. Knowing how dependent some of the communities were on UK AID, the manner and amount of the cuts would cause undue suffering and potentially the loss of much needed access to basic services. I thank God for the resources that we get from the British and Irish public. It provided a bridge over a gap that the aid cuts created. It provided a little light while many international charities grappled together to find other resources or gently closed projects and programmes. We reached out to supporters. Their response was incredible. I was glad that they were not tired of doing good.
As we look at the seemingly hopeless situation in Afghanistan, we continue to pray that light will come through and good will overcome. I think of the life of Jesus when He lived on Earth and I am encouraged to see the examples of what good looks like. He bridged the gap to the excluded Samaritan woman, He reached out to the woman accused of adultery, He condemned the robbing of the poor and He challenged the behaviour and understanding of the Pharisees. He showed us what was good. We know what is good. So, in whatever space we are in, let us continue to do good.
3. We will get our reward
In September, I was honoured with a Third Sector Award for the CEO of the year (Charities with over £5m turnover). It was quite unexpected but wonderful. The thoughts on my mind were focused on how re-affirming this award was. As a CEO heading a large International Charity, the last couple of years have been tough. I suspect that in years to come, we shall all look back and wonder how we got through it all. There have been too many moments of crisis, threats and risks of an unknown nature. While we have always known and understood that people are the heart and centre of our work, the last 24 months have really highlighted this.
Wellbeing is the word that I would choose as the one that defined both 2020 and 2021.
One day, we were going about our business as usual. Bumping into one another in the office kitchen. Chatting about this and that. Sharing news of the latest programme visit, sitting together for a quick and impromptu cup of tea and planning for Christian Aid Week! Was I going to stand at Waterloo station this year or Southwark or perhaps both, on different days? I can imagine that you must have been doing the same. 23rd March 2020 and it all changed. We would work from home. All of us. Regardless of whether your home was a bedsit, a shared apartment with no garden or whether it was big and spacious. If you had small and school-going children, it didn’t matter, you would all have to share the same space. The world of work and home morphed into one blurry space and many times it was difficult to know what time it was!
Sitting in leadership, I could not help but see that the leadership rulebooks had no answers. There was only one place to go, at least for me, and that place was leading with heart and ubuntu - the concept that our own wellbeing is completely bound up with the wellbeing of others. All of us as staff, were juggling with multiple challenges and it was therefore important that we find ways to get through this together. The solutions would not be the same for all. The country contexts were different and needed different solutions. In some countries, we took internet access for granted, in other places, access was unaffordable and power was rationed. Our stress levels sky-rocketed and we found our way through it all by reaching out to each other. We prayed together more. We gave each other space to be parents, colleagues, spouses at the same time. I remember meetings with people occasionally having to step out for a minute to attend to children being home-schooled.
Leaders were over stretched. I was. And in all this, at times you wondered whether you were getting it right. Was it enough? What was the impact? But you never gave up. You found different ways of checking that everyone was alright. Ways of sharing with the team and reassuring them that we were still on the right track. To get the Third Sector award was a wonderful ‘reward’ that affirmed my leadership and all the things we were doing together with the team.
As we continue to do good and not tire to do so, I am assured that we, too, will get our reward. At Christian Aid, we have always said that we believe in life before death. We are working for the Kingdom here on Earth as it is in Heaven. As more people do good, as we speak to our MPs, our councillors, as we see others’ humanity intertwined with our own and take action to plant good deeds, I know that we shall see the green shoots of dignity, justice, equality and love.
4. Don't give up; if our hearts don't grow faint.
This final reflection leaves us with just one condition - don’t give up. With one foot in front of the other, step by step, we must keep going. I want to remind us of a young brave girl, aged 15 years old at the time, who did not give up. She decided that enough was enough when it came to the way our society, and policy makers were treating the planet. She did something about it. Each day this young girl would sit outside the Swedish parliament in protest for immediate action on climate change. Greta Thunberg did not know what would happen or what would follow those many days as she sat there. She could not have foreseen that thousands upon thousands of young people around the globe would join her in raising the alarm for climate justice. Vanessa Nakate of Uganda also began a solitary strike against inaction on the climate crisis. Standing outside the Ugandan Parliament, she was a lone protestor for several months. The inspiring stories of these two young people and those of many other young people from across the world are a challenge to not give up in whatever good we are doing.
In order to not give up, we are going to need to keep courage close. We know that courage is not the absence of fear or challenge, but the ability to push forward in the face of it. Courage speaks of the strength that a mother has to walk far to get clean water for her children; the bravery of young people to speak truth to power for a better tomorrow; the unimaginable inner strength of whistle-blowers who come out to speak against the violence and abuse faced by women and children; and the many people who make lifestyle changes to reduce their contribution to climate change. All of these require courage.
Don’t give up could be an easy challenge to accept when things are going well, or when things are going the way that we planned for them to go. It is easy when the task before us does not require us to give anything up. But courage has the ability to really infuse us with strength when we feel we have none. Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane called to the Father for strength and courage. When we feel faint and afraid, may we too cry to the Father. The prophet Isaiah tells us in chapter 40 verse 31, that “those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” Not giving up requires us to love and trust God with all our heart, mind and soul. Don’t give up.