Sharing our vulnerabilities, we discover strength

March 27, 2009

Broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day, 27th March 2009

We're fast approaching the G20 summit which meets in London next week. Rarely have the world's political and economic leaders come together with more at stake. We're all threatened by financial crisis, recession, unemployment and falling incomes. And the question will be, can the nations of the world come together to agree a set of solutions that are truly global. Can they set aside their differences and national pride and think instead of what's good for all of us together?

We're living through one of the great transformations since human beings first set foot on earth. Global communications technologies mean that our economic destinies are now utterly interlinked. The failure of one bank or financial institution in one country can set in motion a succession of ever widening ripples that eventually reach everywhere and everyone. The global economy has become like the world's weather. The beating of a butterfly's wing in the South Pacific can create a storm in California. Are we equal to the challenge of thinking in global terms, understanding that we all share a fate?

The Prophet Isaiah foresaw a day when the lion and lamb would live together. It has not happened yet. Although there was a zoo where a lion and a lamb lived together in the same cage. A visitor asked the zookeeper: ‘How do you manage that?’ The zookeeper said: ‘Easy, you just need a new lamb every day!’

But there was a time when the lion and the lamb did live together. Where was that? In Noah’s Ark. And why? Not because they had reached utopia but because they knew that otherwise they would both drown. And that's where we are today.

In less than a fortnight Jews will be celebrating the festival of Passover, remembering how our ancestors were once slaves. We begin by lifting the matzah, the unleavened bread, saying, 'This is the bread of affliction our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. Let all who are hungry come and eat.'

I used to wonder what kind of hospitality it was to offer other people the bread of affliction. Then I understood. Affliction turns people inward, yet it's only by turning outward that we create a movement for change. Sharing our vulnerabilities, we discover strength. When you're willing to share your bread with others, you've taken the first step from slavery to freedom.

May our shared afflictions lead the world's leaders to begin the journey from recession to recovery, and from the old world of national pride to a new age of global responsibility.