In Psalm 133, the writer beautifully states that it is a beautiful thing when brethren or God’s people dwell together in unity. The word used for unity is the Hebrew word yachad which translates as union, togetherness or alikeness. Unity is notoriously difficult to achieve, particularly for a large group of people. Yet it is, as the Psalmist writes, a beautiful thing to behold when unity is both sought and achieved.
In a society, there are seemingly more things that divide us than unite us; political views, religious views, theology, ethnicity, language, income levels, location of where you live and numerous other labels or ‘sides’ that divide. While acknowledging that these things that divide are often critical to who many of us are, The Salvation Army’s call with this State of the Nation 2020 report is a challenge for us as a nation to find the things where we can agree to unite and address together despite the things that separate us. This is enshrined in the theme we have chosen for this year’s report; Tangata Whenua, Tangata Tiriti, Huia Tangata Kotahi – People of the Land, People of the Treaty, Bring everyone together.
This theme is about unity. It is also about a challenge to both us as The Salvation Army and hopefully to us as a nation to try to seek and achieve unity in some key areas of social policy and social wellbeing in Aotearoa. The reality is there will never be complete unity on all matters. But we strongly believe on critical issues – child poverty, violence against children, educational achievement, fairer incomes for all workers, sufficient benefit payments for those doing it most tough, justice reform that benefits both the offender and victims and affordable housing options for all Kiwis – unity in planning, action and change can indeed be achieved. In an Election year (which includes two important referendum questions) where citizenship and nationhood are fundamental to our democratic system, this call to unity and coming together as a nation and society on key issues is even more important.
Like previous State of the Nation reports, this report looks at five main areas of social wellbeing across five areas of social policy and social progress; Our Children, Work and Incomes, Crime and Punishment, Social Hazards, and Housing. In this report, we use 24 indicators tracked across these five main areas. This is the 13th edition of this report and many of the indicators we track have been monitored for over a decade. The Salvation Army uses publicly available data as well as some of our own internally gathered data to determine the major trends and changes happening across these five areas of social progress. There are also some important recent modifications to the report, including a section that monitors and reports on specific measurements of social progress and wellbeing for Maori people and whanau.
Some of the most confronting findings from this year’s report include:
In the end, The Salvation Army hopes this State of the Nation 2020 report can inform people and whanau, stimulate informed discussion and debate, and also help shape and influence some of the areas where we can indeed come together and unite on for action and change. Again, as a nation we will never unite and fully agree on every single issue or matter. But considering the Hebrew word yachad used by the Psalmist, the importance of citizenship in this Election year, and the core theme of Tangata Whenua, Tangata Tiriti, Huia Tangata Kotahi, we need unity now more than ever as a nation on critical social issues affecting us all, particularly for the most marginalised and disadvantaged children, people and whanau in our society.
By Ronji Tanielu (Disciple of Jesus, Lover of God’s Word, Son of Mangere and South Auckland, SPPU staff member)