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The challenges 70 years on

Jack Arthey, Christian Aid’s 70th anniversary project organiser, compares the challenges faced by our founders with those confronting us today

Chirstian Aid Week poster 1959 Looking back over 70 years of Christian Aid I have been struck by two things.

First, I have concluded that our founders were outspoken, impatient for change, radical and combative. They had a clear vision of how the world should be and were prepared to take dramatic action to build it.

Second, I am struck by the similarity of the issues challenging Christian Aid and the churches now to those that confronted our founders in 1945. Mass migration, conflict and austerity – it is almost as though we have come full circle.

The vision that inspired our creation emerged from destruction, pain, suffering and bereavement, and a sense that future generations should not suffer such hardship. Our founders dreamed of a world where women and men, rich and poor, small nations and large, would live together as neighbours.

The needs of all would be met and disagreements would be resolved by discussion rather than by warfare. They were in tune with the need for a United Nations internationally and for a welfare state domestically, and believed that the resources of the churches should be applied to building such a world.

Churches in these islands, they urged, would help and support churches throughout Europe in former ally and enemy countries alike. It would be inter-church aid in every sense. The current conversations about whether the UK should remain part of the European Union would seem nonsensical.

'I think they would want to arm us with the same persistence, passion and combativeness that characterised the agency they created 70 years ago.'

Similarly, I imagine our founders would be deeply concerned about the circumstances of the poorest at a time of austerity, alarmed about the need for food banks, agitated about the future of the welfare state and raising these concerns in public debate.

The suffering of refugees and displaced people throughout the world today, and especially in Europe, is arguably the greatest moral challenge to have confronted the world since 1945. So have we learnt enough over 70 years to help us meet the challenges of our age?

Our founders unhesitatingly spoke truth to power, and those in authority listened to what the churches had to say. At our best we have been impatient and combative, persistently knocking on the doors of the powerful until justice is done, rather like the widow in Luke 18.

I can imagine our founders looking down on us and encouraging us to express solidarity by welcoming refugees into our homes, collecting money to help those whose lives have been put on hold and encouraging the Government to show the compassion that is at the heart of British values.

I think they are praying for us as we seek to meet our challenges and I think they would want to arm us with the same persistence, passion and combativeness that characterised the agency they created 70 years ago.


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