BY HANNAH BARR
Anti-Bullying Week (13-17 November) is organised by the Anti-Bullying Alliance – a group of charities, education trusts, county councils and other organisations committed to seeing an end to bullying and supporting those who have been bullied. This year’s theme for the week is ‘All Different, All Equal.’
Coinciding with Anti-Bullying Week, the Church of England released an updated version of its guidance for its schools on homophobic bullying, to include biphobic and transphobic bullying. The guidance, called ‘Valuing All God’s Children’, features a foreword by Justin Welby, The Archbishop of Canterbury.
In it he writes: “All bullying, including homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying causes profound damage, leading to higher levels of mental health disorders, self-harm, depression and suicide. Central to Christian theology is the truth that every single one of us is made in the image of God. Every one of us is loved unconditionally by God.
“We must avoid, at all costs, diminishing the dignity of any individual to a stereotype or a problem. [We must] offer a community where everyone is a person known and loved by God, supported to know their intrinsic value… [We must] offer the Christian message of love, joy and the celebration of our humanity without exception or exclusion.”
At Doorsteps, Viva’s partner network in the UK, we take two things really seriously: God’s affirmation of all people, and working to help children and young people to thrive.
Bullying and mental health problems serve as a road block on the path to human flourishing.
The young people on our Find Your Fire programme and the youth work team collaborated to create a set of guidelines for how we treat each other and the guests who come along. Central to those guidelines are treating each other with respect and recognising that the words we use have a lot of power, so it’s important to use words which build each other up in love and respect.
Looking to the near future, Doorsteps wants to equip and resource schools and churches in reaching out to children and young people, and supporting them and their mental health. As the figures show an increase in the number of young people dealing with mental health problems, it is essential to be well equipped to support them and to offer them the best we can.
We all have mental health. At points in our lives, our mental health will be in varying states of precariousness, and that’s OK; that’s normal! But it can be disorientating, especially for children and young people, which is why we need to affirm them of their innate, intrinsic value and dignity.
God makes abundantly clear how he feels about his children. He makes seas and skies and mountains and molehills and says they are ‘good’; he makes human beings as he says we are ‘very good.’ It’s quite an endorsement from the creator of the universe!
In Psalm 139, the Psalmist praises God that we are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made.’ It’s a glorious truth and one we need to take seriously. What the Psalmist doesn’t say, and what God certainly doesn’t say, is that we’re all the same – we’re not; our uniqueness speaks to the intimacy of God’s creative process.
We are all different, and that is to be celebrated.
We are all equal; it’s central to Christian theology.
This Anti-Bullying Week, let’s take up that call to offer the Christian message of love, joy and the celebration of our humanity without exception.