2017 New Year Message from the Bishop of St Albans
We can make a better world
Whilst for many of us 2016 has been a good year, for others it has been difficult and challenging. The refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria have had a harrowing time and many have died. In Yemen, the ‘forgotten famine’ has left seven million people near to starvation. The photos of emaciated babies and children are shocking.
Here in Britain, in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, there was a depressing rise in hate crime and racial attacks. These were often directed at people in our own society as well as outsiders, such as the refugees for whom only a year ago we voiced such compassion.
In 2016, foodbank use in Britain remained at record levels. Around 3.7 million children in the UK are reckoned to be living in poverty. The number of homeless people has risen three years in a row and includes a wider cross section of people.
But does 2017 have to be the same or can we make a difference? Can we built a better world? There are encouraging signs.
Over Christmas people in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire people have been helping to alleviate hunger. Two and a half tons of food and gifts were collected by Watford churches to distribute at the local foodbank. There are similar foodbanks in Tring, Bishops Stortford, Stevenage, Bedford, Leighton Buzzard and many other places.
There were also countless parties for people who live alone and had no one to share Christmas with. Many individuals invited lone neighbours to a meal over the festive season.
Group of people, often based in churches, have been collecting and distributing aid both to the small number of refugees we’ve welcomed into our midst and for the refugee camps in Syria and Lebanon. Very often they did this in the name of Jesus ‘the one in whom all our hungers are satisfied’.
The New Year is traditionally the time when we make resolutions. It’s tempting to make them for our private lives, a sort of personal manifesto to make my life or my family’s life better.
But how about having at least one resolution which is about making the world a better place? This might be about engaging with a local or international charity or doing something practical of a neighbour. Such decisions can make the world a better place, especially if we all do it.
+Alan St Albans