We come to the end of a year in which the world needs more than ever to hear a message of unity and reconciliation. Following the European Referendum and the US Presidential election, our politics is bitterly divided with one side simply failing to understand or even communicate with the other. We have been horrified on a daily basis by the news coming out Syria, Iraq and Yemen. In our own nation a slew of recent reports has highlighted the growing segregation between people of different religions and cultures and the parallel lives that are being lived in many of our urban areas. The ever growing divide between rich and poor causes increasing resentment and anger.
People of faith are called on to be reconcilers. For Christians, that comes from Jesus himself who, as the one who reconciles us with God, sends us with a ministry of reconciliation. Islam has a similar emphasis on the priority of peace and reconciliation. As people of faith it is our responsibility to model unity in a divided world. In our mutual care for one another, in our shared compassion for the poor and in our desire to reach out the hand of friendship across the barriers which so often divide us up, we show the world another way of being human, one based not on greed but on self-giving love.
Building Bridges in Burnley has had another exceptional year in modelling exactly that sort of love. The speed with which people of different faiths have, for example, been able to respond to the needs of refugees in our town is a beautiful sign of a shared compassion.
I pray that your New Year may be happy and richly blessed, and that in 2017 you will be able to find new ways of showing the world the power of love to heal division.
With every blessing
(Bishop of Burnley)