Our sources of hope

Editorial by Peter Whiting

These days it is very easy to become despondent. The hurt of the Victorian fires of February 2009 is not yet healed and yet we find ourselves again threatened by a savage fire season. Our region has been beset by natural disasters – tsunamis, earthquakes and typhoons, just to mention a few.

Our Australian political and religious leaders are divided over the climate change issues even as the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd played a significant role in Copenhagen where some 100 world leaders and more than 50 environment ministers attempted to achieve some sort of climate change “deal”.

Deep, seemingly intractable political, cultural and religious differences sustain war conditions in Iraq, Afghanistan and in the Israeli / Palestinian border areas. The world is still in the thrall of the Global Financial Crisis and searching for signs of a clear and sustained recovery in the global economy. All of this occurs against a backdrop in which the poor of many nations not only do not advance, but are falling further behind in their living conditions.

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Social Policy Connection’s AGM

The President of Social Policy Connections, Mr Peter Whiting, on 25 November reported on its activities during the year (his full report is on the SPC website). A highlight in 2009 was undoubtedly launching the Yarra Institute for Religion and Social Policy by Prof. Brian Howe in April. This had taken some years to achieve, and the Institute offers a significant research capability within the Melbourne College of Divinity.

SPC has held a series of public forums, including with Prof Brian Johnstone speaking on the Iraq war; John Fox on equity in taxation; Geoff Lacy and Stephen Ames on issues of global warming; and Dr John Langmore on the global financial crisis as an opportunity to do things differently.

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The Yarra Institute’s AGM

Dr Stephen Ames, Chair of the Board of the Yarra Institute for Religion and Social Policy, delivered his report to its first Annual General Meeting on 2 December (see the SPC website). He warmly acknowledged the support of Yarra Theological Union for hosting the Institute and for encouragement from the Melbourne College of Divinity.

Dr Ames said that as an ecumenical research and teaching body investigating the links between religious beliefs and social policy, the Yarra Institute with funding from the MCD had nearly completed one project by Dr Joan Daw on ‘Faith Education and Justice’. Another project was under way with Dr Cal Ledsham on the morality of torture, with a grant from the Laurdel Research Foundation. Negotiations are continuing for research on the churches’ involvement in the development of social policy, as well as on their reception of refugees.

In November, jointly with SPC, the Yarra Institute, arranged a public forum on Pope Benedict’s encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, with Anglican Archbishop Dr Philip Freier; Dr Rufus Black, Master of Ormond College; and Ms Julie Edwards, CEO of Jesuit Social Services (in photo). The ABC taped proceedings for its ‘Encounter’ program in 2010.
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