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Language: English / Gàidhlig

Seòmar agus comataidhean

Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid)

Meeting date: Tuesday, May 24, 2022


Time for Reflection

The Presiding Officer (Alison Johnstone)

The first item of business this afternoon is time for reflection. Our time for reflection leader today is Lorraine McMahon, head of community outreach for Scotland, England and Wales with Aid to the Church in Need.

Lorraine McMahon (Aid to the Church in Need)

I am honoured to be invited to address our Scottish Parliament today—thank you.

Aid to the Church in Need’s mission is to support Christians where they are persecuted or in pastoral need. My teams in the United Kingdom work with schools, parishes and volunteers to help raise awareness and funds for communities throughout the world where it can be life threatening to have a faith.

As individuals, we fight hardest for the causes that we witness, such as family members suffering from cancer. I became such a witness in 2016 and in 2018. I visited countries in the middle east to interview victims of Daesh, more commonly known as ISIS, and there I saw for myself the devastation, trauma and poverty suffered by Christians, Yazidis and other minority faith groups. ACN was there to give a voice to the voiceless, and to listen to the groups that felt invisible and alone in their persecution. It is important for all of us to tell their stories, but first we need to know their stories.

In Lebanon, I met a young Syrian family who had witnessed their 11-year-old neighbour being butchered. His remains were placed in a bin bag and offered to his parents for $20,000. Why? Because he refused to join the ranks of Daesh. I witnessed Yazidis sleeping by the roadside in tents, and Christians living five families to one room and in tents and containers.

In Iraq, I entered a town called Teleskof on the Nineveh Plains. I experienced the eeriness of a deserted town, where people had to abandon their homes and belongings when Daesh invaded: sewing machines, chairs and tables broken in the streets, buildings destroyed, and churches and graves desecrated. No one was present except the Peshmerga, guarding the town against another invasion. The evil there felt like a physical entity. With the battle not yet ended, I stood on the front line and spoke with soldiers about how isolated they felt from their families, and about their pride in defending their border and their frustration at not stopping Daesh soon enough.

I came home to our beautiful, peaceful country determined to bear witness to my time there, but I was not prepared for the emotion and attachment that I felt towards the people whom I had met. I realised that every person’s words and the way that they made me feel will stay with me for life.

Emotion is what makes us human and, when displayed effectively, it can lead to audiences taking notice and, often, to engagement and understanding. I am sure that all of you in our Scottish Parliament can relate to that as you do what you feel is best for our country.

ACN has been able to support refugees and displaced people around the world through helping to rebuild homes and churches and by providing shelter, clothing and food to those in need. We live our lives and do our work through our faith.

Ukraine is another country that we have worked in since the 1980s, and we continue to work in it today during its present hardships. Our aim is always to support the community and keep Christianity alive in our world.

In each country that I visit, I am humbled by the strength of people’s faith. People are astounded that, through ACN and other charities, the Scottish people know of their plight. They always ask for you to pray for them, and they always promise to pray for you.

A Jewish writer and survivor of Auschwitz, Elie Wiesel, used the phrase:

“The opposite of love is not hate—it is indifference.”

He added that we should awaken our conscience, because if we remain indifferent, we become part of the evil, but through love and prayer, we can fight all that is evil.

Thank you for listening.