Presiding Officer and members of the Scottish Parliament, it is a great honour for me to address you this afternoon and I am grateful for this opportunity.
The tragic event of 15 October 2021 in Essex is very much alive in our minds. Sir David Amess, pictured right, member of Parliament for Southend West, was stabbed to death in a church, during a constituency surgery. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, staff, friends, constituents and colleagues.
I kindly request that we reflect, in a moment of silence, to honour and remember him for his dedicated service to the public, which of course was inspired by his faith in God.
May he rest in peace, rise in glory and dwell eternally in God’s house.
Such dedication to public service matters at a time when all is not well. All is not well when our dwellings are at risk from frequent floods and rising sea levels, when families cannot afford to put food on their tables and pay their energy bills, when there are homeless folk in our streets, when people die waiting for a doctor’s appointment, and when substance-abuse-related deaths and suicide cases are on the rise.
This is not an invitation to despair but a call to action here and now. Coming from a Christian perspective, my mind is drawn to God’s message to the Israelites in Jeremiah, chapter 29, verse 7:
“But Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to God on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”
That scriptural passage makes clear that the welfare of the Israelites depended on that of the city. Any danger to the welfare of the city meant danger to their own welfare. Their status as foreigners and the temporary nature of their stay in the city were not reason enough for them not to commit to the welfare of the city.
It is equally true that our own welfare as individuals depends on the welfare of our dwellings. For us today, seeking the welfare of the city means addressing issues such as racism, poverty, homelessness, inequality, substance abuse, crime, healthcare and the environmental crisis—a challenge that will bring together leaders from all over the world in the city of Glasgow in the coming few days.
No one’s welfare is guaranteed until the welfare of all, including that of the planet earth, is guaranteed.
Mahatma Gandhi said: “Man becomes great exactly in the degree in which he works for the welfare of his fellow-men”.
I end on that note, as I invite you to take up the challenge and have your names inscribed in history among the great who demonstrated unrivalled commitment to the welfare of their cities and planet earth.