My nine-year-old can’t understand all the chat about “being human”. “Why do humans need to learn to be what they already are?” is her query. I can understand something of her question and confusion. It presumes that humans should “be” something; something innate.

I would guess that if you are reading this you are a human, though I haven’t completely given up on the notion of literate animals (they probably find what we write to be so inane they have largely dismissed us). I suspect that our confusion about what it is to be human partly arises from our desire to define it. A human is a wild creature. We would perhaps get closer to its nature, at least as part of our enquiry, by gently listening and curiously watching.

Many humans, tragically many much younger than nine, are forced to confront this question of being human as their innocence is devastated through all kinds of pain. In the darkness of such chaos the cries for rescue ring out, at least from those who still have a voice.

I am incredibly grateful for the naiveté exposed in my daughter’s ignorance, but it is, surely, beholden on us all to wrestle with our collective humanness, so that we all can be”.

"All animals are created equal but some are more equal than others. (George Orwell, Animal Farm)"

These words, for me, sum up our human experience. Since the dawn of time we have failed to recognise, champion, steward, prioritise and cherish equality.

We reveal the posture of our hearts by our actions. Whether or not we are prepared to examine the truth honestly, it is nevertheless evident that some humans are more valued than others. This is ugly, which is why this conversation is both difficult and essential.

Retired UN military commander General Romeo Dallaire, reflecting 20 years on from the genocide that saw around one million humans brutally slaughtered in around 100 days, said: the international community did its best to ignore Rwanda. It wasn’t on their radar, it was of no self-interest. It had no strategic value.”

The Rwandan genocide isn’t the only atrocity that should awaken us to the urgency of our quest. We could list so many: fellow human beings deemed less valuable because of their colour, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual identity, age, social, mental or economic capacity, and therefore somewhat less important, more dispensable. In essence, less human.

It is surely a sad indictment upon many within the human community that it takes such awful events to get our attention, but perhaps more damning is our ability to quickly forget and move on, learning little.

Each generation has the opportunity to leave the world better than they found it. We have the opportunity to hand it on to all our children having done what we can to re-establish, repent, replant, replace and renew the space within which all humans can more freely and fully be.

Some of us see ourselves in the face of an Other – a stranger or someone who is different from us – at least in glimpses. Some of us wrestle to imagine that there is anything apart from what there is. Many of us do both. Wherever we are in any given moment demands significant trust: that we are something and not nothing, that the sum of our doing and being matters, that every human (otherwise none) deserves love, safety and a creative space in which to flourish, an expansive space to be wild.

This, I reply to my daughter, is why there is and should be so much chat” about being human.” Each generation has both reclaimed and lost some territory. We will do likewise because, after all, we are gloriously human but limited all the same. And so in a posture of graceful humility we must consider, again, what it is to be human.

To do this we must listen carefully to voices that have not been valued. We must ask difficult questions of our own assumptions and presuppositions, so together we can create a world in which being human reflects something more of the wonder, delight and freedom of our Creator’s intention, for every human being.