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A note from the SRT Policy Officer

photo of Murdo Macdonald

Welcome to the Autum/Winter 2017 edition of the newsletter from the SRT Project.


As you will see, we continue to be very active in a number of areas, as we engage with congregations, schools, policy makers and the scientific community. It’s always encouraging- and sometimes a little daunting- to see the range of work that the SRT Project is able to be involved in. As we think about how we celebrate our 50th anniversary in 2020, we realise how good it is to look back- and also to look forward to what we can contribute in the future.


A large part of the future work of the SRT Project will be focused around health and wellbeing. Technology is playing an increasingly important part in healthcare. As we reflect on the story Jesus told which we know as the parable of the good Samaritan, he described how the despised Samaritan not only made full and appropriate use of the available medical and transport technology of his day (bandages, oil and wine for the assaulted man’s wounds; a donkey to transport him to the inn which would serve as a makeshift hospital). But Jesus also emphasised that the Samaritan “…. took care of him” (Luke 10:34). As we become increasingly reliant on technology in healthcare, we must not forget the “care” part of the word. At the heart of the gospel message is the message that God cares for us.


We are grateful to everyone who is involved in the work of the project; we are especially glad to welcome Dr Caroline Cowan as the new chair of the SRT Committee and we look forward to working with her. You can read more about Caroline here.

 

Dr Murdo Macdonald, SRT Project Policy Officer

Surveillance and Social Justice

Eyes

Surveillance is always in the news so the SRT Project’s report to the General Assembly in May, ‘Surveillance and Social Justice’, drew attention to significant theological and ethical issues around the collection and analysis of personal information.

 

If you receive even some of your news from the internet, your views are influenced, if not actually shaped, by surveillance. Congressional oversight hearings in the United States are posing questions about foreign influence through paid adverts on Facebook. In some quarters there is concern about how news (and possibly fake news) is targeted at social media users on the basis of preferences calculated from their personal information. If the 2016 US Presidential election and our Brexit referendum were hacked, everyone has an interest in the extent of the impact on the results and the longer term integrity of democratic processes.

 

Ours was a report particularly concerned with how existing discrimination might be reinforced by everyday surveillance systems. Current legislative business means the report is highly relevant. Just days before the Assembly debate a new Immigration Health Surcharge came into force. Some healthcare workers believe strongly that this, in effect, turns them into border guards checking individuals’ papers entitling medical treatment. Civil liberty advocates are exercised over a clause in a Bill, currently before the House of Lords, that exempts government from following data protection provisions for ‘the maintenance of effective immigration control’. Amended information sharing legislation with regard to the Scottish Government’s ‘Named Person Scheme’ is currently being debated at Holyrood. Intended to provide a single point of contact to ensure each child’s well-being, the scheme continues to face criticism as intrusive upon families.

 

Political and social changes arising from, and contributing to, developments in surveillance systems keep taking place. The SRTP report aims to help everyone think from a Christian perspective about these everyday issues – especially where there might be elements of discrimination and inequality. The report explores how surveillance might be practiced as an act of care. Through the lens of ‘surveillance from the Cross’, it raises challenges of solidarity with people who are already marginalized, and whose life experiences are adversely affected by the ways in which data is analysed. Very recently, people in the UK were caught up in the data breach at credit reference agency Equifax. 694,000 UK customers were affected, dwarfed by the 146 million in the United States. In any theft of data not everyone is harmed materially, nor to the same extent. However, we all have a vested interest in the security of data that we offer, or find ourselves having to surrender, for all sorts of commercial and governmental purposes.

 

Politics and surveillance are interwoven but so too is social behaviour. If you’ve had trouble receiving online shopping deliveries because no-one is at home when the driver calls you might wait with eager anticipation for the further roll-out of Amazon’s Key service. By combining a webcam at home and an internet-enabled door lock customers can let trusted delivery people into their home in their absence. Whatever your feeling about the prospect of watching a delivery live or viewing a clip later, our report helps Christians consider the deeper issues.

 

 Dr Eric Stoddart, SRT Project Committee Member

CoP23: Impressions

Photograph Nicola Sturgon, Adrian Shaw and two delegates from Pacific churches, Frances Namoumou from the Pacific Conference of Churches and Tafue Lusama from the congregational church in Tuvalu

What’s it all about?

The UN Climate Conference (CoP23) took place in Bonn in Germany in November 2017.  This is the twenty third such conference, an annual event bringing together governments, NGOs and others to negotiate a collective response to climate change. 


One task for the conference, which assembled some 20,000 delegates from around the world, is to put into effect the agreement reached in Paris in 2015.  This was discussed in plenary sessions and other meetings by diplomats from countries around the world.  But alongside this were fringe events in a pop up campus of national pavilions, displays and events.  For those familiar with Edinburgh it is similar to the Edinburgh Festival and Fringe;  one formal, high level and serious; the other a riotous market place of ideas and activities in which it is impossible to sample more than a tiny proportion of what is on offer.

 

The First Minister hears stories from the Pacific

The conference, although based in Germany, was chaired by Fiji and there were a large number of delegates from the Pacific island bringing their stories and concerns.  This is one of the great strengths of the CoP process; it is a place where those countries most affected by climate change can share their concerns and present them in a very public forum to the richer countries of the world.


The Church of Scotland helped bring together the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon and two delegates from Pacific churches, Frances Namoumou from the Pacific Conference of Churches and Tafue Lusama from the Congregational Church in Tuvalu .   Frances and  Tafue were able to share their stories of impact of climate change; of droughts, flooding and sea level rise and also to explain how churches are working with governments to help those affected for example in moving away from flooding  to higher ground. You can find out more here

 

Adrian Shaw, Climate Change Officer

 

Read the full article

Good Money Week 2017: What have faith and finance got to do with Climate Change?

Chairperson and panel on the conferece stage

On Thursday 12 October 2017, the Church of Scotland and partners Christian Aid Scotland, Oikocredit UK and Ireland, Eco-Congregation Scotland and ECCR met in St Andrew’s and St George's West Church in Edinburgh for this year’s Good Money Week Conference.

 

Sponsored by Oikocredit UK and Ireland, EthicalFutures and Anderson MacPhie Financial Services, and chaired by Dr Katherine Trebeck, Senior Researcher at Oxfam, the event was great example of different organisations working together on a topic that is important to all involved.  ‘What have faith and money got to do with climate change?’ explored the key issues around how we can invest our money ethically to have a positive impact on the climate.

 

Read the full conference report

Church welcomes minimum pricing for alcohol ruling

raised glasses

The Health Minister Shona Robison has announced that Scotland’s minimum price for alcohol will start on May 1 next year.

 

Rev Dr Richard Frazer, convener of the Church and Society Council, said the policy would save lives and improve life for countless people in poor neighbourhoods.

 

In a unanimous decision, seven Supreme Court judges rejected a challenge from the Scotch Whisky Association which argued that the policy, passed by MSPs in 2012, breached European Union law.

They ruled the measure was a “appropriately targeted, lawful and proportionate” means of achieving a legitimate aim.

 

Scottish Government ministers said a 50p-per-unit minimum would help tackle Scotland’s “unhealthy relationship with drink” by raising the price of cheap, high-strength alcohol.

Read more

Combating issues of loneliness

Linking Lives UK logo

Earlier in the year, the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness was launched at the Houses of Parliament. Issues around loneliness are now appearing in the media on an almost weekly basis, such is the concern by government, charities and wider society.


Linking Lives UK is working hard to address these issues by supporting churches to set up befriending schemes in their local communities. These schemes enable volunteers to visit those affected by loneliness in their own homes, normally once a week for around one hour. These visits can be a real lifeline and are an opportunity to provide good quality time for someone else which is often mutually beneficial.


Many volunteers find that they discover a huge amount of interesting information about life in previous generations, and the time together is one which both parties look forward to every week. Where physically possible, volunteers are also encouraged to go out with their friend to visit local places of interest.


Living Links is now working with 20 churches and Christian charities nationally and would be happy to talk to representatives of any Church of Scotland congregations. It is one of the Cinnamon Network ‘recognised projects’ and there are currently grants of £2,000 available through them for churches setting up projects in Scotland.


To find out more about Living Links' work, please visit the website at www.linkinglives.uk or phone 0300 302 0225.


‘A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows in His holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families’ Ps 68: 5-6

Is there a science festival taking place near you?

picture of a science experiment

There are a number of local science festivals held across Scotland throughout the year and there are several ways your church can get involved.

 

 

 

  • Publicise your local science festival in you church.
  • Offer your space as a venue.
  • Put on your own event - The Society, Religion and Technology Project can work with your church to put together a faith and science event. Contact us at srtp@cofscotland.org.uk

 

Watch out for these science festivals in in the first half of 2018:

 

Caithness International Science Festival 10 - 17 March

Edinburgh International Science Festival 31 March - 15 April

Moray Science Festival 25th Anniversary year

Inverness Science Festival May

Glasgow Science Festival - 8 - 18 June

 

To find out about other science festivals taking place this year visit srtp.org.uk.

Engage...

picture of the book

Founder of the Savings Bank Movement: A new publication written by

Prof. Charles W Munn

A man of vision and compassion, Duncan believed fundamentally in the dignity of ordinary working people. From its beginnings in a small cottage on the shores of the Solway, his community savings bank went on to influence and inspire generations all over the world.

 

Published by John Donald, an imprint of Birlinn Ltd Buy your copy here www.birlinn.co.uk

scvo logo

Roadshow Nov 2017 - March 2018

These SCVO events will focus on digital and social inclusion, Universal Credit, best practise and resources, including funding available to those working with digitally excluded people.

 

30 November - Inverness
6 December - Dundee
7 December - Edinburgh
22 February - The Gathering Glasgow
6 March - Glasgow
7 March - South Lanarkshire
14 March - Ayrshire

 

e-mail digital@scvo.org.uk if you have any questions.

 

Participatory Budgeting logo

Participatory Budgeting: Apply now!

Would you or your church be interested in taking part in the Church's second Participatory Budgeting project?

 

Find out about ParticipatoryBudgeting and how your church can help to enrich the community around you here!

 

What's on?

The Church has created a new online Advent calendar for this Christmas. Each day, from 1st December, our Advent calendar will journey with the characters in the Nativity through video, reflections and prayer.


If you sign-up now at http://churchofscotland.advent-calendar.net/, you’ll receive an email alert when each Advent window is open and ready to reveal a new short film.


Please spread the word of our online Advent Calendar amongst your family and friends.