We decided that being 70 should be marked rather than
celebrated. It would be wrong to spend scarce resources on
patting ourselves on the back when there's still so much more to be
I was appointed to the task role of
researching, developing, and delivering a programme to
mark Christian Aid's 70th anniversary - without a budget. I've
worked with colleagues to tell our history through an interactive
timeline on our website, and with another group on a broadcast
service with BBC Radio 4 to mark the way that Churches in these
islands came together in 1945.
You could argue we were created in 1942, when
the British Council of Churches was formed. "Christian
Reconstruction in Europe" was its original name, formalised in
1944. But if there is a special day, it would be 13 May 1945,
because on that day, your vicar might have said to his
congregation: "The Archbishop has written to us, asking us not to
celebrate a great victory but think how we could help mainland
Europe, which is more devastated than we are."
One of the midwives was Bishop George Bell,
who, throughout the 1930s, was looking for ways to help the British
Government to make it easier for European Jews to come to Britain.
There were also people like William Temple and Reinhold Neibuhr,
who had a sharp view of what it meant to love your neighbour as
yourself in the context of war. And Anne Booth-Clibborn,
who drove London ambulances during the war, and then drove military
personnel round Germany afterwards, seeing the plight of people
This 13 May, we're inviting all those who work in our
offices - we now have offices all over the world: we're a
very devolved organisation with staff very close to the poverty we
seek to eradicate in places like Nairobi, Delhi, São Paulo - to
reflect on what it means for 41 British and Irish Churches to seek
to be an agency to eradicate poverty. What are the cycles of
Christian obedience required of us as we move into the next ten to
I've worked for Christian Aid since September
1972. My current job is, I think, the 15th I've had during
that time. Every time I wondered whether it was time to move on,
another opportunity emerged which seemed to link an organisational
need to my need for a new challenge.
From as early as I remember, I was taken to
church and went to Sunday school. Our church did Christian Aid
Week, and the Ipswich Christian Aid committee was one of the first
ones. A representative from VSO came to my school, and I applied to
teach in a church-run primary school in Papua New Guinea, funded by
Christian Aid. I had to write to someone in Christian Aid monthly,
reflecting on my experience. I knew I somehow needed to be involved
in international development work. On my return to the UK, I
applied for the position of Youth Secretary, and spent my working
life here - out of passion and commitment rather than
I've always regarded myself as fortunate to have a
vocation rather than just a job. With that in mind, the
notion of retirement's a strange one. How can you remove yourself
from a world that is still broken, and is crying out for wholeness?
For the past five years I was the Senior Organisational Development
Consultant, building staff capability for our ambitious strategy,
Partnership for Change.
Christian Aid is an organisation that manifests, in the
most prac-tical ways, how to love God and our neighbour as
ourselves. It's an organisation that's taken risks and spoken out
to end poverty in a hurry. Rather than wringing its hands and
complaining about all the poverty it sees in the world, it gets on
and does something about it. I think we are lot like the four
friends who bring their companion to Jesus for healing in Mark 2.
When they're prevented from bringing him to Jesus by a congregation
determined to hear a sermon, they reject the status quo and climb
up on the roof to find another way in.
Christian Aid was born out of the commitment of church
leaders in the 1940s to building the peace, after six
years of war, through the work of the Council of Churches they had
created. We were born at a time of structural ecumenism.
From the 1990s onwards, Churches have tended to
co-operate and collaborate when it makes most sense to do so. It is
what I'd call a relational ecumenism. This has led the Christian
international-development sector to become more splintered and
fragmented, and for its agencies to be even more accountable for
their use of gifts of money, action, and prayer. There are more
agencies doing God's work in more different ways.
We tend to work through people of all faiths and
none, with secular organisations where there's no faith
We've also learned that we need to communicate
accessibly. We were criticised for appearing to be an
organisation that saw any transnational enterprise as negative. Now
we think more about global markets, capitalism. People assume our
agenda is left-wing - but it's not left- or right-wing: it's a
justice agenda. We work with anyone who believes that the world
doesn't work in the interests of poorer people.
In the same way that people are not accidentally
poor, the poverty of the poorest will not be accidentally
eradicated. You need to have a strategy that enables anyone and
everyone to make their contribution. If we're serious about loving
our neighbour, especially our poorest neighbour, he or she is
entitled to the best we can muster. To do our best we need
educators, communicators, fund-raisers, ac-countants, programme
managers, and the like, as well as money to pay for the expertise
to administer the work effectively.
If there was one thing I'd change, it would be the
status of women. It's scandalous that women represent half
the world's population and are responsible for two-thirds of all
working hours, yet receive only one tenth of the world's income,
and own less than one per cent of the world's property.
I've always found it difficult to take my own advice on
working towards a good work-life balance. My work has
always been all-consuming, leading my wife to describe Christian
Aid as a mistress: "There were three in this marriage."
I'm proud to have contributed to the campaign
to end apartheid, the successful call for Western governments to
drop $130 billion of unpayable debt owed by poor countries, in
reaching more than half a million people after the Indian Ocean
tsunami, and helping 953,500 Africans to adopt preventative health
practices and get the medical treatment they need.
I was born in Felixstowe, because there was no
room at the Ipswich Maternity Hospital. My first breaths of air
were those of the sea. My father was a pharmacist in Ipswich, and
my mother a librarian. I was one of four children. As the middle
one, I suffered from the fewest expectations, was able to operate a
little under the radar, and had the most wonderful
I studied for a social-science degree in
Lancaster, where I met my wife, Sally. We married in 1973,
and we have two sons and two grand-daughters.
Derek Warsop taught history, but taught
differently to anyone else. He encouraged his students to engage
imaginatively with the stories he told us: what do you think was
going on here? How do you feel about that? Learning became exciting
Phillip Lee-Woolf taught me to have the courage of my
convictions: "Jack, I employed you to take risks; so let
me know about the risks you are taking and why, and I will support
you," he said. Michael Taylor became director of Christian Aid in
1985. He brought a rigorous pastoral cycle to our work and required
me to measure the impact of my work rather than to just describe
If you asked me about favourite musical sounds,
I'd say a group of Black South Africans in a township singing
"Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika". It evokes pain and suffering and
demands solidarity. It makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand
up on end.
I get great enjoyment from our small garden.
Planting seeds, tending plants, and mowing the lawn are all
therapeutic activities, and I love it. Another passion is tasting
What currently makes me most angry is the many
large corporations which avoid paying their taxes. And the
structural injustice driven by government policies that have
punished the poorest in an age of austerity.
From when I was tiny, we prayed to a God who
was kind, benevolent, protective, and caring. Sometimes I
negotiated a deal: I'll be good so long as you protect me. I now
experience God as a living personal spirit who requires me to act
as a co-creator with him or her. I pray most for peace and harmony.
The conversations I have with God are around how I can contribute
towards those outcomes.
I'd choose to be locked in a church with Nelson
Mandela. He stands out as a beacon of hope in a world
still yearning for healing. How someone endured what he did and yet
retained the ability to be forgiving and magnanimous for the
greater good of all still amazes me.
Jack Arthey was talking to Terence Handley MacMath.
Christian Aid Week runs from 10 to 16 May. www.christianaid.org.uk