It’s been striking, in recent years, how often religious groups have led the response to the hardships of austerity. Even in the days of declining church attendance in Britain, groups like the Trussell Trust have galvanised society and led the third sector’s efforts to prevent and alleviate the worst effects of financial crisis.
So how appropriate it is to see my old friend the Rt Rev Dr Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, writing in today’s Times about the new campaign he launches this evening with Tearfund.
Tearfund is a Christian charity - in their words, “Christians passionate about ending poverty”. The Bishop writes:
“Many of today’s global challenges have been brewing for many years and we should have seen them coming. Yet we have made the mistake of concentrating only on short-term issues.
We can reasonably predict that the floods, droughts and storms already ravaging countries and wiping out families will only get worse. For many of the world’s poorest people, those threats are already a daily reality.
We must respond to natural resource constraints by living within our fair share of the world’s environmental limits. We must meet poverty with radical generosity and use our power as citizens and consumers to demand that all people are treated with dignity, wherever they are.
Often, only crises produce real change. But actions taken at moments of crisis depend on the ideas to hand.
We need bigger ideas: a passionate concern for the common good and a fuller life for everyone, whoever they are and wherever they live — both now and in future generations.”
Tonight the Bishop will launch a campaign for a ‘restorative economy’ - ‘based on a movement of people willing to change their own lives so that everyone can share in an equitable global prosperity’.
The campaign is based around the work of ‘ordinary heroes’, people who change their own lives in ‘small but significant’ ways like flying less or consuming fairtrade products. It draws on the Biblical concept of Jubilee - to work to build a rhythm of productivity, rest and community to counter debt and exploitation.
‘Ordinary heroes’ are encouraged to use their own power and to set an example to the community around them. Their actions will combine lay the building blocks for a wider movement, that changes how we think about wealth, prosperity and consumption.
In times of deep pessimism about the role of religion in society, and when we’re getting almost immune to concerns about religious extremism and its links to terrorists, this sort of campaign is worth everyone’s support. Do read more about it, and join up, here!
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