It started with a tweet...

Conservative MP @ABridgen tells @BenBrownBBC @bbcnews there is a danger of a ‘circular firing squad’ in the Tory leadership race. ‘We have to make sure we don’t end with a nun from the Outer Hebrides because they’re the only one left standing.’

I almost missed this tweet as I scrolled through my feed - and then I had to read it two or three times, to be sure it really meant what I thought it meant. Because what, I wondered, could be so awful about the country being led by a nun - rather than Michael Gove, say, or Boris Johnson or Esther McVey or any of the others currently jostling and manoeuvring for prime position? So I re-tweeted, with an appeal to the other sisters with whom I interact on Twitter: what you you think? What qualities could we bring to national leadership and the country's needs?

And the responses began to come; humorous and playful, yes, but with an underlying seriousness of intent - which is how religious can often be. They came from missionaries and monastics, and several varieties of apostolic religious: from women giving their lives in prayer and service; in education, medicine and human development; in working against poverty and injustice, and in building community and peace... Women of passion, strength and fidelity, concerned for the world and the common good, and abounding in empathy and compassion, especially for the neediest and most vulnerable.

As the conversation progressed more sisters - and others - arrived and commented, effectively widening the discussion. We spoke from our diverse charisms, traditions and spiritualities - which meant some different perspectives, but far more areas of convergence and interweaving. Whether we are called to the Sacred Heart or to Mercy, the Benedictines or Carmel, whether to heal bodies or spirits, to monastic silence or the city's noise, we are all, fundamentally, called to be love, God's love, at the heart of the world - and this was evident in our replies (summarised below - or you can read the full thread here). 


How about respect for all people, seeing the other as Christ. Add to that conflict resolution and pursuing peace. That would make a good start... 
Catholic Social Teaching, our concern for and ability to compromise for the common good...
An awareness of our own vulnerability, the ability to take counsel before decision making, to listen deeply... Servant leadership... The importance of accountability...

Honesty and integrity, humility and prudence... Working for the good of the whole not the few.  Looking beyond the next election to how we want society to be in 10, 20 even 100 years... 
Our belief in the Gospel, centuries of experience of being alongside those in need, a willingness to learn and always striving to listen to God and show his presence in our world... 
Our stubborn advocacy for those at the margin of society...
Values, integrity and compassion, accustomed to community and discernment, passionate advocate for the excluded and impoverished, reflective, not in it for the money...

Because...
Thanks to our vow of poverty there is no personal income that can be shifted to offshore companies. Instead religious have been forerunners in ethical and ecological investment and very creative in developing great projects with only little money for the common good. More to say?

And there was! Points made by one were picked up and expanded by others: for example one sister, referring to another's comment about vulnerability said the ability to live in the reality that we are fallible human beings, not God and to admit to our mistakes and to apologise when we are wrong. And then added Not that I get even that right all the time! - which led to further dialogue.

And lest all this talk of values, compassion and the common good might sound a tad too wishy-washy for those who like their leaders to be business-like, there were a couple of comments, too, about our often unsung management skills, which enable us to run a variety of projects or institutions, and our awesome teamwork, intercultural competence and ability to pick up new skills very quickly.

None of us live in the Outer Hebrides, but if we did, we might have added that this would lend an added urgency to our concern for the environment. And living in this byword for backwater, so far from places of power and prestige, would certainly increase our empathy for those whose whole lives are spent on the margins of society. They, of course, are the ones who so often get forgotten in any campaigns, and whose voices are especially absent in this current round of in-fighting and jockeying, in revelations of scandals and hypocrisy, promises of tax cuts for the wealthy and squabbling over whose version of Brexit will be best.

It started with a tweet... and this post will end with one too. Today would have been the 90th birthday of Anne Frank, a girl whose life and potential was cut short by cruel hatred, but whose legacy endures. And this morning I saw a tweet, with words ascribed to her, which should be emblazoned at the heart of every hustings and leadership contest, and which every aspiring leader - of any magnitude - should have written or tattoo'd somewhere where they will see it every day: Human greatness does not lie in wealth or power, but in character and goodness.

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