You Beautiful People!
Luke is Christian Aid's Church Campaigns Manager. He knows his onions...
Throughout Christian Aid’s 70-year history we’ve been striving together for a fair and just world. As we look back on yet another year I’m heartened to discover that we are still striving. We still believe in life before death. We still work to challenge the systems that keep people poor. We continue to stand alongside the poor and marginalised, like just like Jesus did.
2016 has been a challenge, and for many people the future currently looks very uncertain, but we’re always sowing seeds of hope for a better tomorrow.
Here’s a look back at what we’ve achieved together over the past 12 months.
Climate change is one of the greatest challenges we face.
2016 started with a wave of optimism off the back of the Paris Agreement, in which 195 countries agreed to take necessary action to limit global warming to below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels. This landmark agreement provides us all with a great opportunity to bring about the kind of world we’re striving for.
Also in January, as part of our Sourced campaign, people up and down the UK began calling on local councils to use their power as procurers of billions of pounds of goods and services, to ensure better tax practices from large companies. More on that later.
In February, churches continued to lower their collective carbon footprints through the Eco Church Award scheme and by switching to clean electricity with the Big Church Switch. These two initiatives gave (and continue to give) churches opportunities to care for creation as part of their congregational mission. As Martin Williams, Rector at St James’ Gerrards Cross and Fulmer says of Eco Church: ‘It’s a means through which we come to worship God more deeply — and to bear witness to His wonderful creation.’
On Valentine’s Day the UK was flooded with green hearts as the public showed their love for our common home by raising awareness of the people and places threatened by climate change across the world.
Climate change remained at the top of the agenda into Lent and both the UK Government and the media began to take notice. Christian Aid and Tearfund were asked to meet with the Department of Energy and Climate Change about the Big Church Switch and the campaign generated column inches in both the church and secular press, including the New Statesman, the Daily Telegraph and even as far as the Washington Post!
Ahead of the 2016 Scottish Parliamentary election, we set out a number of manifesto policy recommendations. The Scottish Government is due to publish a climate plan early next year, setting out their actions to tackle climate change.
As stories and scandals emerged over the Panama Papers exposé, thousands of campaigners called on the UK Government to ensure that all seven British Overseas Territories with financial centres —places like Bermuda and the Cayman Islands — establish public registers of company ownership so that nobody can avoid the taxman. This is something campaigners like you had already persuaded the UK government to implement in 2015.
You can hear from one campaigner, Helen Collinson about what happened when she asked her local council to support the Sourced campaign in Devon.
Following the Panama Papers leaks, Prime Minister David Cameron hosted an Anti-Corruption Summit on 12 May.
Together with Oxfam, Action Aid and other tax campaigners we built our very own giant tax haven. We turned Trafalgar Square tropical whilst the summit was happening nearby to highlight that clamping down on tax havens must be a key part of tackling corruption.
We then delivered 250,000 signatures to Number 10 to further illustrate the public’s desire to see action on tax dodging, especially on the UK’s own overseas territories.
Whilst the EU referendum dominated the news, a small but powerful change to UK law (known as the #ShowMeTheMoney Amendment) was debated in the UK Parliament. This amendment would require companies to publicly report on their profits and taxes paid in every country where they operate.
Campaigners contacted MPs in the days before the debate and encouraged them to vote for the amendment. Although the vote was narrowly lost, your voices gave a mandate to MPs to pursue the issue further and gave our Parliamentary team a strong backing on which to keep lobbying.
Roseanna Cunningham, Scottish Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform published an exclusive statement for Christian Aid Scotland, announcing that Scotland had exceeded its 2020 target for cutting greenhouse gases six years early.
Over the summer we launched a new campaign to highlight the plight of people seeking refuge from conflict and crises. Hundreds of Christian Aid supporters — many of whom are already involved in supporting refugees in their own communities — wrote to newspapers to ‘change the story’ about refugees.
This campaign is ongoing. The need to take action for refugees has never been greater — you can find out more and get involved here.
More than 500 people attended the Refugees Welcome Summit in Birmingham, learning and perfecting the art of storytelling and pledging to go back into their communities and change the story.
Meanwhile churches continued to switch to clean electricity and by September more than 3,500 churches had switched or pledged to do so since the start of the year!
This represents millions of pounds moving away from fossil fuels and into the kind of clean energy that can bring about a world in which we can all thrive, not just survive.
We need this shift in money to happen on a bigger scale, and so in September we also launched a new report on ‘Financing our future’. This new research shows that the World Bank has been further financing coal power stations. Together with our partners we shared our findings with the World Bank and challenged their activities. Now we’re working with our friends across three continents to develop regional plans to help make this big shift happen on a global scale.
Hundreds of Christian Aid supporters organised events as part of the ‘Speak Up’ week of action on climate change. From nature walks and tea parties to community energy visits, more than 150 events took place, two thirds of which were attended by local MPs.
- Welsh Assembly member Rhun ap Iorwerth was lobbied by a group of school children at the Holyhead Churches Together annual schools service. He went back to Cardiff Bay and tabled a motion to endorse the Paris Agreement. This was debated by the entire Assembly, and accepted unanimously.
- A ‘Care for Creation Conference’ organised jointly with the Church of Scotland and World Mission.
- A range of supporters (representing all those involved across the UK) met with Nick Hurd MP, Minister of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. This included Evie Jarrett, 9, who won a climate change poetry competition, Women’s Institute members, faith representatives and members of a community energy initiative. The minister was visibly moved after meeting these genuinely passionate supporters, and told them: ‘The conversations you are having over cake or a walk are really, very important.’
You can relive the week of action in this short highlights reel.
November was another busy month. Firstly the Paris Agreement was formally ratified by the UK Government, reinforcing the UK’s commitment to tackle climate change.
Simultaneously thousands of campaigners contacted the biggest banks in the UK calling on them to make the Big Shift in how they use our money.
Our money — trillions of pounds in total — could be powering the rise of clean energy that we all need to combat climate change.
Many poorer countries on the frontline of climate change announced new plans to speed up the global transition to a low-carbon world, including the 48 most vulnerable countries pledging to switch to 100% renewable energy by 2050. These countries may not be big in terms of GDP but they are titans when it comes to global leadership.
As Christmas approached, Christian Aid supporters up and down the land took part in special services for our Christmas Appeal, and thousands of people added their names to giant four-foot-tall Christmas cards.
By the close of the year Christian Aid campaigners had persuaded 12 councils to take action for tax justice as part of the Sourced Campaign. Birmingham City Council, the largest local council in Europe, has also agreed to consider it. This may seem small, but councils spend a huge amount of money on goods and services, meaning they have a lot of influence on company practice.
We also put the finishing touches on our 'Light The Way' messaging, encouraging people to lobby the UK government to offer more support for refugees fleeing war anf conflict.
We’ve got big plans for 2017!
- We’ll be running local training events for the Big Shift campaign so that together we can develop plans to get the campaign noticed in your area.
- Join us for another Speak Up week of action from 1–9 July 2017.
- Keep your eyes peeled for further action on our new Banks campaign coming soon!
We’ll keep striving and keep campaigning for a world in which all God’s people can live life in all its fullness.
I hope you’ll continue to strive with us.