We live in a country in which both food banks and investment banks flourish. The difference between the two is obvious and gulf between them a scandal. It is not that people should not have banks for their savings, pensions and investments nor that those who are hungry should not have access to food; it is that both these very different kinds of 'banks' coexist, almost without comment, within the same society. There are those with spare money to invest and those who cannot feed their children. The story Jesus tells, in Luke’s gospel, of Lazarus and the Rich Man suddenly feels a little too close to home.
The campaign Let’s End Poverty is clear – living in a world where such inequalities exist is not some unfortunate accident but a choice we have made. It is not (usually) a deliberate choice to keep people in poverty, but it is a choice if we do not actively seek to end poverty.
We live in a wealthy country, but many families and communities in Stoke-on-Trent face what one recent report called a “poverty catastrophe” as they seek to survive the cost-of-living crisis. Poverty denies people the opportunity to flourish and it creates injustice. For Christians, it is an affront to the God who is a God of justice with a bias to the poor and downtrodden. “I know that the Lord maintains the cause of the needy and executes justice for the poor.” (Psalm 140.12)
So, what can we do to play our part in ending poverty?
In this year of a General Election, we can make sure those standing as candidates for parliament hear our concerns loud and clear – at hustings, in a letter or email, through the ballot box.
We can join the Let’s End Poverty campaign as individuals or church groups.
We can participate in the Act on Poverty Lent course and get some good ideas as to how we can make a difference.
And, perhaps above all, we can listen and learn in humility to the experience of those in our communities who know what it feels like to live in poverty.
Rt Revd Matthew Parker
Bishop of Stafford