Image: A tale of trees for justice and peace


Both Fr Roddy Johnston, Vicar General of the Diocese of Argyll & the Isles, and parish priest of Our Holy Redeemer, Stornoway, and Marian Pallister, Justice and Peace Commissioner for Argyll and the Isles write our blog this week about the meaning and the journey from Stornoway behind the trees that commemorated the 40th anniversary of Justice and Peace Scotland.  

When the Justice and Peace Commission decided last year that we should plant trees to commemorate its 40th anniversary, I suggested consulting Fr Roddy Johnston, parish priest in Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, and a former forester.
Fr Roddy’s knowledge of trees is as immense as a Scots pine and as intricate as a juniper. I knew he was the man to go to for advice. I took advantage of my visit to Lewis and Harris with the Rohingya refugee photographic exhibition to quiz him on the best trees to represent the work of Justice and Peace Scotland. He brought out a pile of books and shared a mountain of knowledge. He suggested the Scots pine for peace, the juniper for justice.
But his help didn’t stop there.
He offered to source the trees – eight (one for each diocese in Scotland) to be planted at Carfin Grotto and more so that each diocese could plant a 40th anniversary tree on home ground.
I was to transport them to the central belt, as the planting would follow closely on my next visit to Lewis and Harris – this time with my SCIAF badge in my lapel to deliver this year’s Lent talk. Fr Roddy gave me care instructions and dispatched me on the ferry with a Morrison’s bag for life containing the infant trees. I handed them over to Frances Gallagher, who organised the Carfin event (see elsewhere on the website), in the Costco car park in Glasgow’s Springburn. I felt like their mother.
And I also brought a message from Fr Roddy, who we can’t thank enough for his generosity. He says:
‘Happy 40th birthday to Justice and Peace.

There is always a need for people who care enough about the well-being of societies across the world and the Catholic Church in Scotland must continue to play an active role in promoting Justice and Peace.

As a symbol of the Church’s commitment to continuing this work, the Bishops of Scotland are planting Juniper and Pine trees. These trees are indigenous to Scotland:
  • The Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris) is the National Tree for Scotland and can survive in what is often a hostile environment. It was once the main species of tree in the Caledonian Forests which covered much of the Highlands.
  • The Juniper (Juniperus communis) is a tree that is seldom planted today. Its timber is not favoured as being good to work with. In myth and legend, because of the way it grows, with twists and turns, it is associated with the way life is – often meandering but always returning to what is true.
For as long as humans have been on this planet, trees have come to symbolise something special, whether it is life, health, vigour, or the spirit of something. In the Garden of Eden there was a tree of life and a tree of knowledge of good and evil. It is the hope that these trees, planted at Carfin, will be a symbol of Justice and Peace for many generations to come.

“There is always hope for a tree.” (Job 14:7)’

Image: The Holy Land: How should we respond to Bishops’ calls for prayer, awareness and action?


This week in our blog, Mike Mineter reflects on the situation in the Holy Land and asks ‘How can we help bring about justice for all in the Holy Land?‘

Each year the English-speaking bishops visit the Holy Land, and on their return issue a communiqué.  In 2017 they began, “For fifty years the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza have languished under occupation, violating the human dignity of both Palestinians and Israelis. ...As Bishops we implore Christians in our home countries to recognise our own responsibility for prayer, awareness and action.” ( )

Exploring how we can respond was one focus of the St Andrews and Edinburgh Archdiocese’ Caritas, Justice and Peace commission, when we met in February. We had just heard how our country has been ill-served by media obstructing awareness, and propagating false values in relation to refugees. With exceptions, Israel and Palestine have also been misrepresented in the media for many years.  In consequence, distinguishing fact and spin is difficult, especially those who have not visited.

This year, the Bishops wrote, “Along with other Palestinian Arab citizens and migrants living in Israel, many Christians find themselves systematically discriminated against and marginalised.  Those we met expressed particular concern about the Nation State Law….the misery of occupation has been deepened by severe cuts to humanitarian funding by the US government.

...we commit ourselves through prayer, pilgrimage and practical solidarity...”


Some Jewish organisations in Israel and other countries are among those who have been calling Israel to a deeper expression of Judaism, with rights for all in the land. You can read the Nation State Law here:

In my visits to the West Bank, I have met Christians whose lives are dominated by settlers and Israeli forces through increasing violence, permits, checkpoints, settlements, roads only for Israelis, demolitions, control of water and imposed unpredictability.  Even in this context, these Palestinians said, “We would not displace the settlers. Many have known nowhere else. We will not do to them what Israel tries to do to us. The occupation and the oppression must cease; there is land enough for us all.” 

Christian Palestinians in 2009 spoke out in the Kairos Palestine document, “A Moment of Truth; A word of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering.”  As decades earlier in South Africa, the term Kairos conveys a faith-based hope of transformation in a desperate time, ripe for change.  The document is a call for the international community and especially the churches, to act to bring about a just future for all in the land. It calls us to recognise and challenge theologies that claim to justify oppression and exclusion.

How can we help bring about justice for all in the Holy Land?

We can form a network by sharing knowledge, resources; planning events of awareness and solidarity in every parish. (contact )

We can challenge the media, when they fail to report adequately continuing protests such as the “March of Return,” when Israeli forces shot Palestinian journalists, medics and children. (e.g. here;

We can write to politicians to call for action – as I was told by a Palestinian, “not to bring Israel to its knees but to its senses.”

We can shop to support Palestinians, see,

We can join Sabeel-Kairos

We can visit.

We can keep informed (e.g reading UN reports,

We can read the Bishops’ communiques and do what they ask.

We must pray.





Image: Cahira House -  A Place To Heal


In our latest blog, Jacci Stoyle reflects on her involvement with Cahira House,  a much needed place of healing for victims of human trafficking, modern slavery and abuse in Scotland.

I was recently asked to become ambassador for Cahira House, which is a supported accommodation project, based in West Central Scotland. It offers space to women over the age of 16 who have exited trafficking in the sex industry and those who have experienced significant trauma relating directly to childhood sexual abuse, sexual violence and sexual exploitation. 

Having campaigned against human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation for about 15 years, I was deeply touched to be asked to take on this role.

Cahira was the vision of Bob and Melissa in 2001. they wanted to bring hope and healing to women recovering from trauma and brokenness and they have created a safe and secure haven for the women to begin the process of rebuilding and restoring themselves.

The accommodation for the women is delightful. There are six en-suite, beautifully decorated bedrooms, which are comfortable and cosy. There is also a communal dining area and kitchen, where the women can cook and eat together.

Every woman has an individual support plan to suit her particular needs. The emphasis is on helping her feel unique, valued and loved in order to restore a sense of dignity, self-worth and purpose. There is a member of staff on duty in the daytime, who can offer hands on support - for example, helping the women to shop, go to college, or learn to drive, or going with them to appointments. The women have access to trained counsellors, a community support service, a bespoke education programme and a range of craft and pampering activities to promote mental, physical, emotional and spiritual healing. There is an on-call system for emergencies day and night.

Cahira was registered with the Care Inspectorate on 7 July 2017 and was inspected on the 3rd July 2018. It received a rating of Grade 5 for Care, Support and Staffing.

This is what one of the residents said about Cahira:

'I love it here. I like everything about it. I can't think of anything they could do better. I feel a million times better. I was a riot. Just having support and people who care has made the difference ... I plan to grow up here, I'm going to learn to drive, I attend a literacy class ... I feel happier. I was the most miserable person you could ever see. I feel safe here. There's an on-call number. It’s so clean. I feel like a princess. Having people care and stick by you, it helps. You get support with everything. I've put on weight as I didn't used to eat. I'm not on any drugs, I don't even smoke anymore. I couldn't even speak to people before.’

Truly, I couldn’t imagine a more supportive, non-judgmental space to heal and recover. I am delighted to be in a position to promote this remarkable project in order that more women, who so desperately need it, can receive its specialised care.

PS  - due to financial difficulties Cahira house is no longer providing this facility, but those involved believe the model of supportive care is one that should be available for all those recovering from being trafficked.  Help for victims of Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery can be found at Hope For Justice Scotland.


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