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Just what we really needed

"I was a stranger and you invited me in..." Matthew 25.35

Mother Teresa remarked that the most distressing aspect of poverty is not the lack of basic necessities but loneliness. Not having anywhere to lay your head, or enough nutritious food to eat, or access to clean water and healthcare is bad enough. Worse still is not being precious to somebody else.

Tomorrow begins Refugee Week. According to the UNHCR, 79.5 million people in the world today have been forced to flee their homes, among whom are nearly 26 million refugees, half of whom are children. The numbers are rising and, as the human and environmental crises which precipitate them show no sign of abating, we can expect that trend to continue.

The failure of rich, western nations to respond and our complicity in the precipitating crises is to our shame. It must also become our spur into action. Coronavirus and climate change have reminded us that we need to act globally to address local well-being: "Nobody is safe until everybody is safe" has become the mantra of this latest expression of internationalist thinking.

Scottish philosopher, John Macmurray, provided the philosophical resources, through his insistence that the essence of human flourishing lies in our relationships rather than our individuality. It is in our cherishing and being cherished that we are assured of our existence and can find meaning and purpose in life, rather than in asserting our rights in opposition to those of others. He argued that religion provides the necessary frame of reference, through its ability to transcend our more basic and selfish instincts, though he refused to prioritise any in particular.

Nevertheless Jesus goes further than any divine or human character in demonstrating what it looks like to live in communion with God, creation and our fellow creatures. His very specific examples lay the foundation for the actions which are required to meet the challenges we face universally.



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