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Image: Interfaith Week: the Interfaith Food Justice Declaration Event

02/12/2016
In our blog, Commission member Grace Buckley reports on activities during Interfaith Week


I have to admit that I could not claim any great knowledge of Interfaith Week in the past but this year it really impacted my awareness with two events in particular raising its profile in Glasgow: the launching of Interfaith Glasgow as a separate charity at Glasgow City Chambers on 14th November and the signing of the Interfaith Food Justice Declaration at the new Glasgow Central Gurdwara on 17th November.  


It was good to attend the City Chambers launch event and witness the formal setting out of Interfaith Glasgow as a separate entity from its “parent” Interfaith Scotland, although as the speakers at the event reminded us, there has been a long tradition of migration, integration and interfaith work in Glasgow. Indeed, as Sr. Isabel Smyth,  the Secretary of the Bishops' Committee on Interreligious Dialogue, said, in the area of interfaith work, the Glasgow Sharing of Faiths Group was the first in Scotland, and one of the pioneers of interfaith work had been the late Stella Reekie, through the International Flat.

The second event gave me a chance to visit the new and splendid Gurdwara in Berkeley Street and to witness something practical that the various faith communities in Glasgow are doing together as a result of identifying what they have in common and building on that.  

The event had been organised by the informal Interfaith Food Justice Network, co-ordinated by Interfaith Glasgow and the Transformation Team of Faith In Community Scotland.  It centred around the formal signing, on behalf of the faith communities, of the Food Justice Declaration (full text accessible at http://bit.do/foodjustice ) which sets out in clear and simple language the beliefs of the signatory faiths that food is a basic human right and no one should have to turn to foodbanks or other forms of emergency food aid.  he declaration finishes with a pledge of the signatories to support each other in working for effective change.

Before the declaration was signed by those present, there were short inputs from Martin Johnstone , who chaired the Independent Working group on Food Poverty set up by the Scottish Government and which reported in June this year; Angela Constance, Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities; and Dr. Inderjit Singh from the Gurdwara.

Both Martin and Dr. Singh made clear the importance of food in their faith communities. Martin began by recounting one of the late Bishop Mone’s stories about a little boy sharing a biscuit he had given him with his friends and how this had given him a whole new insight into the Eucharist. He also quoted the words of Pope Francis which he had at a Mass in St. Peter’s Rome the previous Sunday “There can be no peace in the homes of the prosperous as long as justice for all is lacking.” 


He made it clear that in Scotland people should not be having to make the choices between eating and heating, or going without to feed your children.  Places of worship, he suggested, can be places where community is built through food growing, preparation or sharing.  He finished with the reminder that for the Christian faith tradition, a meal is at the heart of our faith.


Dr. Singh in turn explained the centrality of the langar (common kitchen) in Sikhism.  Listening to Dr. Singh, I appreciated how very fitting it was for us to be signing the Food Justice Declaration in the Gurdwara because for Sikhs, the provision of food is an important part of their religious practice, and the langar open to all without distinction of race or religion. It expresses in a very practical way equality and community inclusion, as well as providing the opportunity for service and voluntary giving.  The whole family is involved in the work of the kitchen as we saw later when we were given the opportunity to sample a langar meal.  

Angela Constance expressed her agreement that it is a disgrace in our advanced economy that food poverty exists, and this is just a symptom of wider poverty.  She drew attention to the government’s Fairer Scotland Action Plan, which was published at the beginning of October, and she appealed to the Network to help, acknowledging that the government cannot build a faire Scotland on its own.  One idea she raised was that the right to food could be enshrined in Scots law – what would this look like? 

 


Image: 'Stop Funding Hate' Campaign

25/11/2016
In our blog, Linda Harwood, a Scottish activist in the Campaign, writes of her involvement



Stop Funding Hate aims to challenge the upsurge in hate speech - and hate crime - seen across the UK during 2016.

Look through the front pages any day of the week and you'll likely see a headline demonising refugees and migrants. Scare stories about a “swarm” of “invaders”, “milking Britain's benefits” and “stealing jobs” have become so commonplace we almost stop noticing them.

And yet hateful headlines can have hateful consequences. Last year, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a strongly-worded statement after one newspaper ran a story likening African migrants to “cockroaches”. The High Commissioner highlighted “decades of sustained and unrestrained anti-foreigner abuse, misinformation and distortion” by UK media, and warned that:

“History has shown us time and again the dangers of demonizing foreigners and minorities... it is extraordinary and deeply shameful to see these types of tactics being used... simply because racism and xenophobia are so easy to arouse in order to win votes or sell newspapers.”

The UN also highlighted another UK newspaper that it said had run nearly 50 front pages on migrants or refugees during 2015  – almost all of them negative.

Earlier this year, amid a series of attacks on EU migrants, experts at the University of Leicester warned that hate crime was being “fuelled and legitimised... by the media”.

In October, the Council of Europe warned that “It is no coincidence that racist violence is on the rise in the UK at the same time as we see worrying examples of intolerance and hate speech in the newspapers, online and even among politicians”.

Amid divisive rhetoric across the political spectrum - with people both left and right labelling each other as “traitors” and even “vermin”, it seems as though something has gone badly awry.

So how can we restore a more humane way of talking to - and about - our fellow human beings? 

Most of us shop with a company that helps fund newspapers’ activities through advertising and the sad truth is that whipping up anger - and hate - can help papers boost their readership, and hence their advertising revenue. But if we could find a way to shift this balance - so that running dehumanising headlines was no longer profitable, perhaps something effective could be done. 

Since we launched our first video in August, tens of thousands have supported our campaign. Our first big win came when Specsavers issued an apology and withdrew one of their advertisements from the Daily Express. 

More recently, the Co-op Group have agreed to review their advertising policies days after we launched our second video, which has already been viewed over 300,000 times. That same week, the Phone Co-op (separate from the Co-op Group) became the first UK company to commit publicly not to advertise in the Daily Express, Mail or Sun. 

As public support builds, we are hopeful that more companies will start to take account of the social impact of their advertising. If you’d like to find out more about the campaign, please follow us on Twitter (​www.twitter.com/stopfundinghate ​) and like us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/stopfundinghate ​).  



Image: Archbishop Romero Memorial Lecture

18/11/2016
In our blog Sr. Maureen Donohue reflects on this year's lecture

When Fr. Rodolfo Cardenal SJ from El Salvador delivered the 2016 Archbishop Romero Memorial Lecture in St Aloysius College in Glasgow earlier this month, he began with a personal anecdote.



He told his audience that last year he was present at an audience with Pope Francis and the Salvadoran delegation who had come to Rome to thank Pope Francis for the Beatification of Archbishop Romero. He told the Pope that he was the author of two books about Rutilio Grande and President of the advisory commission for the cause of his canonisation.  Pope Francis asked if a miracle linked to Rutilio had been recorded. Fr. Rodolfo said no. Pope Francis smiled and said ”Rutilio Grande’s great miracle is Archbishop Romero.”

Fr Rodolfo told us that the two men’s life experiences were linked in so many ways. Rutilio’s ministry was brought to a violent end in March 1977, just as Archbishop Romero was beginning his in San Salvador. They were both from poor rural families in El Salvador. Romero was born in the east of the country in 1917 Rotilio was born in the central area called El Paisnal in 1928. They both entered the seminary at a very young age. Rutilio in San Salvador and Romero in the diocese of San Miguel. Rotilio joined the Jesuits in 1945.

As Fr Rodolfo continued I was struck by how both Rutilio and Romero were constantly aware and proud of their humble roots, with compassion for the poor and all the problems that poverty brings. 

Rutilio was very involved in the training of seminarians. He wanted them to be responsible and mature, aware of the rights of the people and at the service of the people. He worked hard to make the Salvadoran Church accept the teaching of Vatican II and the Latin American application of it. 

His faithfulness to that teaching brought him into conflict with various bishops and he left his ministry in the seminary. He spent the last four years of his life dedicated to proclaiming the gospel and the justice of the Kingdom of God to the campesinos (peasant country-folk)

Rutilio and Romero both announced the Kingdom of God and tried to establish effective signs of its presence in a reality dominated by economic exploitation, social oppression and state repression. They denounced the injustice that oppressed people and proclaimed the people’s invitation to liberation. Both pleaded with those involved in injustice and violence to be converted. Neither incited violence. They fought against the repressive violence which kills quickly in order to silence the calls for justice and against the structural violence which kills more slowly through unemployment, hunger and sickness.

The poor received their words with interest and joy because they gave them hope, but the powerful accused them of being communists and in the end resorted to murder to silence their voices. They were both assassinated at the instigation of the oligarchy. The physical authors of the killings were death squads under army command. Their murders could not silence the truth of their words nor the force of their credibility.

Both worked to build a Church that was truly a People of God. The first step was to bring the people together because without people there is no People of God. The Church had to be built from the grassroots, a Church rooted in living communities.

Since the lecture, I have thought of the impact of both Rutilio and Romero in their lifetime and beyond. Their lives and ministries challenge us to get involved in transformation both personal and communal. How do we announce the Kingdom of God and denounce what oppresses others?

An authentic faith always implies a deep desire to change the world
Pope Francis, Homily 2014




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