Thought for the Day - Rev Joel Edwards
In Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol a gentleman addresses Scrooge.
‘"a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth.”’ he said. “We choose this time, because it is a time ...when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?" (asked the gentleman)
"Nothing!" replied Scrooge.
“You wish to be anonymous?" asked the gentleman.
"I wish to be left alone," said Scrooge.
As we celebrate the bicentenary of Dickens’ birth conversations about our response to poverty at home and abroad continues.
Some of the argument yesterday was centred on aid to India -one of the fastest growing economies. But regardless of who is giving aid to whom, emerging economies are increasingly unhappy to be cast as Oliver Twist.
The issue is likely to be a recurring theme. And rightly so.
Increasingly aid is no longer seen as an all-sufficient response to poverty. Throwing money at corrupt regimes and unaccountable leaders shouldn’t be confused with compassion or political prudence.
But you could argue that oversees aid gives us an opportunity to translate Dickensian generosity into political action.
Aid which helps development and responds to real humanitarian need has the ability to reach out directly to the world’s most vulnerable citizens - even in places where great wealth co-exists with the kind of extreme poverty few people in Britain will ever encounter.
Rich-man-poor-man is nothing new. The Hebrew prophets devoted pages of parchment to the subject and Jesus spent a lot of his time battling with the rich who ignored the poor and the religious experts who failed to recognise their neighbour.
Justice and generosity was his antidote: The willingness to find a way to make the stranger my neighbour and my enemy become my friend. During a 1st century famine the Christian church of Antioch in Syria exemplified this, reaching across 300 miles giving aid to those in Jerusalem.
A generosity of this kind doesn’t blind us to the real needs on our doorstep, but it will always remind us that we are a part of a much larger neighbourhood.
It will be a constant reminder that no nation’s narrative is told in isolation.
In this sense all of us - rich and poor, free and oppressed - inhabit a tale of two cities.