This year, for so many, has been full of challenges on a devastatingly unprecedented scale. But amongst the war, destruction and misery there is always one thing we must protect at all costs and ensure we, and those around us, never lose: hope.
From every challenge, unexpected complication and what may feel like crushing defeat, we must do everything in our power to build sources of hope, for both ourselves and those around us.
We must never give up trying to make the world a fairer, more equitable and safer place for all.
We must organise and be prepared to fight back and win.
The ‘Season Of Hope’ collaboration started with coverage of the massive and peaceful demonstrations in London against the bombardment of Gaza and collective punishment of the Palestinian people. These vast demonstrations, some of the biggest ever seen in the UK, including close to one million taking to the streets one Saturday in November, are testament to the unbreakable strength of feeling held by the vast majority of people in the UK, the US and around the world.
In fact, it’s hard to find a clearer example of a time when the political establishment was so far out of step with the general populace. The recent feeble calls for a ceasefire in Gaza by some in the political establishment are no doubt the result of sustained public pressure.
It is truly one of the biggest catastrophes of the modern political era that over 20,000 innocent Palestinian men, women and children have had to die before Israel’s abhorrent actions have even been recognised by some in the political class, let alone condemned by them.
War divides us, peace unites us. The terror of Hamas on 7 October was wrong on every level but this cannot excuse the blatant disregard for international law exhibited by Israeli forces as they demolish hospitals, mosques, universities and homes in the enclosed Gaza Strip.
Workers have also played a vital role in organising against the bombardment of Gaza, shutting down arms factories around the world. The recent Global Day of Action against Elbit Systems, Israel's largest arms manufacturer, was organised by Progressive International and shut down operations at arms component factories in the UK, Belgium, Brazil, Sweden, Japan and Australia to name a few.
It is actions like this that, even in the darkest of moments, should bring us hope. Workers fighting back against the complicity of their bosses in war crimes in Gaza or any other part of the world is something we should all be greatly inspired by and seek to replicate until the war machine is totally switched off.
Every penny spent on war is one not spent on schools, hospitals, tackling the climate crisis or bringing us any closer to a just and lasting peace in any of the world’s conflicts.
Every day of production at an arms factory ceased may just spare the precious lives of children caught up in war.
This year, we’ve also seen workers standing up for fair pay and conditions across the British economy. From railway workers and teachers, to council staff and posties, vast swathes of the UK workforce have taken action against the cost of living crisis that has driven millions into poverty — and won key battles against their bosses, many of whom are taking home record pay and obscene bonuses.
But with the cost of living crisis still impacting millions of people, we must push harder than ever for economic justice for all, especially those living closest to the breadline.
Earlier this year, the Peace & Justice Project launched its 5 Demands for an alternative to the misery faced by millions. These basic principles are just a few ideas that we can unite around to change our society for the better.
These demands are for a fair pay rise for all, democratic public ownership to reduce energy bills and kickstart a Green New Deal to bring about a sustainable future for all, a safe place for all to live and investment in our NHS paid for by a wealth tax on the top 5% of earners and global corporations.
The final demand is for a humane migration system based on dignity, compassion and care that gives asylum seekers the right to work, healthcare and housing.
Many of us have stood up and spoken out against the government’s disgraceful Rwanda policy and Bibby Stockholm prison ship — and we will not stop, no matter how many times Rishi Sunak tries to move the goalposts of legality or appeasement for the hard-right of the Conservative Party.
Whilst the Tories tear themselves apart over their callous cruelty and demonisation of refugees, we must stand up for safe routes across the English Channel and do all we can to support those fleeing war, poverty and persecution.
To transform this country, we need voices of hope, not despair — and we must never allow ourselves to fall for the hate and division that so many in our politics and media seek to sow.
That is why we will carry on campaigning for a more equal, caring and peaceful world.
Let us resolve to bring hope into the new year as we stand in solidarity with all who desperately need it.
We will keep marching, singing, organising and standing together for peace and social justice for the many, not just the few.