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Repentance - a change of heart, mind, life - turn around

​In the month of May we look to the work of Christian Aid around the world. It is a chance for us to consider in what way we are complicit in the problems the world currently faces. Jesus’ ministry began with him repeating the word of John the Baptist; “Repent”. The risen Christ’s last words to the disciples in Luke’s Gospel are “repentance and the forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations.”

Repentance literally means a change of heart, mind, life and lifestyle; to turn around. What might it mean to proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins? The image you might think of is the man with a sandwich board standing on the street corner warning others “Repent, for the end is nigh.” That is about telling others to repent. How do we repent and seek the forgiveness of our sins?

Christian Aid Scotland have produced a theological reflection about migration called Becoming Human Together. In this document they remind us that migration has been part of human life ever since humans left Africa. In the Hebrew bible people on the move is a constant theme since Adam and Eve left the garden. This theme continues in the New Testament with the wandering Jesus and the Apostle Paul and his companions.

Scotland has experienced mass migration over the years especially in the 1850s with the Highland Clearances. There was also large-scale migration between the wars, and many can still remember the £10 ticket and those who left for new lives after World War 2. Part of our history is also the role we played in the slave trade. Place names across the Caribbean still carry Scottish names. Inhabitants have Scottish surnames, probably a distant reminder of rapes by Scottish slave overseers. Scotland prospered from the slave trade. Grand country houses were built, and money was made. Bristol, Liverpool and London have exposed this history and the buildings built on the slave trade have been identified. We should
too.

The Government paid an equivalent in todays money of £17bn to compensate the slave owners for their lost property. That money played a big part in funding the industrial
revolution, which Scotland played a major role. The effects of climate change are felt most in the poorest countries of the world. We are also having to face up to our collective, historical responsibility for climate change. From our links with Mulanje Mission Hospital we have heard first-hand the direct effects climate change is having in Malawi. The floods have washed away crops, ruined their bore holes for drinking water, and destroyed latrines contaminating the flood water. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, one person is displaced every second by climate and weather disasters. That is an average of 26 million people every year. This is a problem which will affect us all and will get worse.

To repent and seek forgiveness of sins involves looking at the historical links, the current relationships and the systems which benefit some and exploit others. Christian Aid
helps us do that. They help us explore climate change, corrupt tax systems and unfair trade relationships. They point out how these systems, set up and controlled by the wealthy, always benefit the wealthy and the exploit the poor. And they call us to repent, to change our hearts, minds and lifestyles.

Chris