First, Dear Readers, may I wish you a Happy New Year 2020 and a New Decade, a clean slate full of opportunities and new beginnings – founded on the luggage we carry, for good and for bad. The good, we must carry on with and even do more of and become better at. We now have a chance to do what we didn’t do last year or earlier years; this year, we can make a difference, if we want to, alone or together with others. Some may even be able to lead others on the way, doing what is right and radical, doing what our heart tells us more than our mind, but usually, a combination of the two. What a fantastic new day, new year and new decade it is, especially for those with resources, who can spend money, time, and more on what is right and good for all. But the rest of us, too, who have less of worldly gold and glitter, can make a difference in small ways, even in big ways.

Look at Greta Thunberg (16), who was just an ordinary school girl in Sweden, and now she has become a global leader, reminding everybody of how essential it is to give attention to reducing pollution and stopping global warming and climate change – saving the planet for ourselves and future generations. It is an imperative that we do it while there is still time.

Maja Lunde, a bestselling Norwegian author, who among other books has written ‘The Snow Sister’ for children, beautifully illustrated by the award-winning artist Lisa Aisato, who has also authored picture books alone and has made a calendar for the new year. Lunde is best known for her books, ‘The History of Bees’, ‘The End of the Ocean’, ‘Blue’, and ‘Przewalski’s Horse’, all about people’s responsibility for the environment and climate change. She says that we should not only think about ourselves, but about nature and people around us, and those who come after us. Before her success as a novelist and author of books for children and youth, Lunde worked for the government broadcasting station, NRK, writing film manuscripts.

It is essential to have writers like Maja Lunde, and activists like Greta Thunberg, who place common moral issues first, not being afraid of discussing serious and sad issues, and showing us ways out of difficulties, through responsible actions and concern for others. Since I follow Swedish news, I learnt a few days ago that Greta Thunberg’s father, Svante Thunberg, was worried about his young daughter’s role as a world famous activist, and what it does to her. Some dislike what she stands for and, sadly, they express it in bad language, even threats on social and ordinary media; sometimes politicians and other leaders join in, too.

Among the important fields for us all in 2020 and beyond, is the work for greater social, economic and cultural equality worldwide, nationally, locally, and also at community, workplace and family levels, indeed as regards gender and the broader HBQS issues.

Jesus said that the poor we will always have with us (Matt. 26:11). But he also said: “If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry” (Luke 3:11) – so simple, yet, so difficult, and also because the secular, capitalist ideology we live under advocates the opposite. We should amass wealth and win over others in completion, and even pay as little tax as possible. Jesus would have expected us to pay more tax so that the government of the land can finance common and social services. We know that charity is important; ‘zakat’ is obligatory to Muslims, and the Bible says we should give a tenth of our earnings. However, this form of ‘tax’ will never be enough, and often it is just ‘crumbles from the rich man’s table’, probably because we don’t give what we should. Therefore, additional comprehensive government tax systems are required. Pakistan is now improving its tax system, but there is still a long way to go.

I believe that many of the social sector improvements will only be fully implemented when people from below demand the changes, with an attentive government. Also, labour unions and political parties like the old European labour parties are needed. In some countries, young people have again begun searching actively for socialist answers. The government’s best role is to allow such organizations, even help them organize. Then, in Pakistan, we will soon see changes, including universal primary and secondary education, as Mohammad Ali Jinnah, spoke about more than 70 years ago –to be implemented at the earliest possible time, he said already that time.

The health sector services must include physical, social and mental health areas. Also those who feel stress in mainstream society, and those who come short and feel alienation, as we all do from time to time, must be included. Treatment must never only be given to those who have money, but the patients’ needs must decide. That also includes preventive healthcare, safer workplaces, mother and child healthcare, and so on. Even here results will fastest be achieved if fought for by ordinary people from below. Politicians must find ways of financing and implementing what people need, not the upper classes. Let us also remember that refugees and immigrants are part of us. Jesus grew up and lived with poor people, and for some time, he was also a refugee.

All over the world, education and jobs have become more competitive, and through that the society has become colder and more ruthless. We must find back to, or rather, create more caring societies where it is not cleverness, efficiency and profit that counts most, but the ways we look after each other. Hillary Rodham Clinton once wrote a book entitled ‘It Takes a Village’, about bringing up children – and I would add, even adults will live better if we keep with us the ‘village spirit’, not in judging each other, but in watching out for and helping each other. We cannot get away with saying that ‘I am not my brother’s (and sister’s) keeper, because we must all be that – and when that time comes: God will ask us what we did to see and help others. A lot of that is socialist politics and values; indeed, advice can be found in the holy books, the Bible and the Quran.

We should strive at saving our soul, not winning the world and its gold and glitter. And then, let us admit, too, that even modern 2020 men and women need religion and God, or at least something greater than ourselves, as we say. In that religious and moral spirit, we must be able to see each other, feel joy when others have success, not alienate but care for each other, and carry each other when needed. We must not worry about being right, but we must also fight for what we believe in, and we must always have dreams and hope for a better tomorrow, with joy and fun, not only struggle.

Realizing all this, we will be ‘en route’ and perhaps even be able to say: ‘All is well with our soul’.