During Lent, Columbans have joined Justice and Peace campaigners around Britain to explore faith in action. Popular online talks have been organised by the Edinburgh Jesuit Centre, the Scottish laity Network and the ‘Global Healing’ series by ‘Laudato Si’ animators. Online retreats at Boarbank Hall offer opportunity to learn how to tackle environmental degradation. The National Justice and Peace Network explored interfaith collaboration for social justice and peacemaking at its recent meeting.
Campaigning to help build God’s kingdom has carried on during the pandemic. In fact, it is more important than ever. Caritas workers in Salford, Shrewsbury and Westminster dioceses have highlighted increased poverty in Britain at this time, with families relying on foodbanks and voucher systems to survive. Ben Gilchrist of Caritas Shrewsbury reported last week that, “those on the poverty line are mostly lone parents and families who were employed but not on a living wage and now many have lost their jobs so they cannot afford food, clothing and rent”. He said, “numbers are high and rising judging by applications to our crisis fund.” Columbans supported the campaign of the Caritas Social Action Network that the £20 per week uplift to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit should not end in April, arguing that around 16 million people are in families that would feel a loss of £1,040 per year, disproportionately hitting those on the lowest incomes and families with children. In fact, in the Budget on 3 March, the uplift was extended to October 2021.
CAFOD training on how to lobby your MP offers an important opportunity to learn about influencing politicians on this and other issues. We highlight too a campaign for better worldwide provision of Covid-19 vaccination, plus action to help churches step up their lobbying on climate change.
‘Let us Dream – the Path to a Better Future’ is the title of an inspiring book, written by Pope Francis in collaboration with his biographer, Austen Ivereigh. Pope Francis explains how we can make the world safer, fairer, and healthier. He explores what the pandemic can teach us about how to handle upheaval in our lives and in the world. He reveals how crises in his own life changed him dramatically for the better and believes we can emerge from the pandemic crisis better than before.
Francis offers a critique of the current global economy, fixated on profit and heedless of the people and environment it harms. He reminds us that Christians’ first duty is to serve others, especially the vulnerable, just as Jesus did. He calls for the poor and the planet to be put at the heart of new thinking. He offers observations on the value of unconventional thinking, and on what he learned while scouring the streets of Buenos Aires with garbage-pickers.
Let us dream with Pope Francis. Columbans are involved with life-affirming initiatives globally during the pandemic: from helping poor communities to eat and educate their children in Peru, to improving ecological awareness in Pakistan, to supporting migrants in their paths to apply for asylum in Britain, and to working with Pope Francis’ new Covid-19 Commission at the Vatican to build better future. Ordinary people acting together can discover unforeseen possibilities.