Editorial: Where does hope come from?
Before the G7 summit in Cornwall in June, religious leaders, as we report in News (pages 5–7), put all the pressure that they could on the politicians involved to achieve constructive agreements to take action on things that matter.
They said the kind of things that you might expect religious leaders say. On the pandemic, they said we rich nations have a duty to make vaccination freely available in low-income countries, both out of a simple duty to save lives and because it is the only way to end the pandemic that continues to engulf the world.
On the climate catastrophe, religious leaders urged world leaders to agree practical actions without which they cannot meet their existing commitments.
Politicians responded in the kind of ways you might expect politicians to respond. The G7’s commitment to provide a billion vaccines to low-income countries over the next 18 months is welcome, but the World Health Organisation puts the number of vaccinations needed to beat the virus at 11 times that figure. A billion vaccinations are needed this year, not next.
They pledged to phase out the use of coal, but by no particular date, making it rather hard to know what the pledge is. They announced a ‘green industrial revolution’ but with scant detail about what that means or how it will happen. They renewed their pledge of $100bn a year to help poorer nations become greener and more resilient, but the pledge is more than a decade old, and they have still not found the money.
Whatever the different reasons we might see for this failure, and however unsurprising it may be, it is something to lament. Maybe it’s my own mood rather than anything else, but right now the problems facing the world and our failure to get to grips with them present a pretty cheerless prospect.
Where does hope come from at a time like this? When I ask that, unbidden, Psalms come to mind: ‘By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance, O God of our salvation; you are the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas.’ Golly, that sounds like the kind of thing we need.
And yet, right now, such resounding biblical declarations sound as hollow to me as those soundbites and gestures of politicians. I think I believe those words, but at the same time I notice that human history is largely an account of catastrophes and crimes not being averted, and our own seems to fit that pattern.
Sometimes, rather than Psalms speaking to us, we need to the book of Ecclesiastes speaking for us: ‘Again I saw all the oppressions that are practised under the sun. Look, the tears of the oppressed—with no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power—with no one to comfort them…’. This is the word of the Lord…
This article was published in the July/August 2021 edition of Reform