Activists of all types seem to be everywhere from the M25 to Glasgow and no doubt in many places between. COP26 has aroused and enthused people of all ages and from diverse communities to make a clear statement to all those meeting in Glasgow that now is the time for action. Words are no longer sufficient. Climate change is already taking effect.
The word activist has been defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘a person who campaigns to bring about political or social change’ . Of course what activists may do to pursue their campaign of choice will vary from local awareness raising events, to direct action targeting those organisations who are resistant to change, or to civil disobedience. For all sorts of reasons people will respond in different ways. Our Church, too, is active this week offering a Methodist COP26 Hub at a church in Glasgow that, according to the Church website, will ‘host a series of events organised by our young climate activists’.
I’ve written before about how we might use the idea and language of activism to promote our safeguarding agenda. Activism implies action now, rather than putting off; practical steps rather than quiet reflection; getting to grips and speaking out, rather than simply hoping that everyone will get the message at some point. Activism suggests energy and vigour, backed by a conscious commitment to bring about change. We know from our own Past Cases Review and the more recent IICSA reports that there is still more to be done to ensure our churches are safe spaces, and that a culture of safeguarding permeates the whole Church. As a Church we have made good progress in recent years across many areas of safeguarding practice and in some part, that’s because brave people, such as the late Revd David Gamble took a firm and campaigning stand in his Conference speech in 2009. However, those of us in the safeguarding community who still feel that we are not properly listened to along with those who have been harmed through their connection with the Church, will also testify that the time for further action is now.
It may also be time now to recruit the next generation of safeguarders in our churches, who get the changing digital agenda, understand the #MeToo movement, and are better informed, for example, about domestic abuse, spiritual abuse and the misuse of power in church life. Activism, of course is not simply the preserve of the young and there is much that older generations can offer, but given our membership profile now is the time to enthuse and inspire our successors.