Adding salt to the wound

Tuesday, May 12th

As a Christian, I believe I must be political with a small 'p'. If I am to be the salt of the earth, I must have an effect on the society in which I live which, hopefully, influences it for the better. Currently, we see too many politicians here and in other countries, making decisions about the crisis as much to keep their popularity with their parties and supporters as to act on the advice of the 'scientists'.

Foodbanks are the tremendous response of the caring parts of society to a situation reflecting a political system that lacks a sense of justice and compassion. We should not need foodbanks. Apparently the 32 London Boroughs are now coordinating their food bank initiatives across the city to help cope with the fourfold demand for food by families now finding themselves penniless.

We need to hear people like Sabine Goodwin of the Independent Food Aid Network:

'The apparent assumption on the part of Government that a combination of food banks and other food aid providers delivering emergency food parcels, fuelled by large-scale supermarket donations, local authority support, and a token Government contribution, can sustain millions of people currently being thrown into poverty defies belief. And those numbers are on top of the hundreds of thousands of people who were already grappling with the pre-Covid-19 food insecurity crisis. And beyond the enormity of short-term need, the long-term mental and physical health implications of reducing millions to rationed tins and desperation appears not to have factored into any Government decisions so far.

The reality is that the Government’s contribution of £16 million will only cover a fraction of predicted need for a short period of time and this, like the supermarket and Scottish Government donations before now, will only act as a sticking plaster. Unless cash is placed directly into the hands of people who can’t afford to buy food, the hunger crisis can only deepen with devastating consequences.

However complex, we need to keep the future firmly in mind with a focus on dual seemingly contradictory actions: to support people immediately in crisis, but to also call for the policy changes that would reduce people’s need for food parcels to survive. We can't let human and financial investments in the logistics of delivering emergency food parcels to people unable to afford food cloud our vision of a fairer society.

So, while we press on to fill an ever-widening gap with food parcels we must keep reminding our Government that, of course, sticking plasters are no solution to poverty. The COVID-19 crisis shines a spotlight on the immense inequalities in our society, but funding the distribution of more emergency food parcels will never prove a real solution for those people deserving the dignity to be able to afford to buy food for themselves. And worse, this default reaction could very well embed food banking into our society for good.'

God forbid that the 'new normal' should see food banks as part of the fabric of society. It would be a sign that society has failed. I remember a book entitled 'Bias to the Poor' by David Sheppard, one time Bishop of Liverpool and an England Test cricketer. Like him, I don't see how you can read the gospels without coming to the conclusion that Jesus was a champion of the underdog, the downtrodden, the outcast, the disabled and the poor. If that's not political with a small 'p', I don't know what is.

We shouldn't be happy with sticking plasters to stop our national and global communities bleeding, we should be pleading for the healing of our nation and our world.


For the healing of the nations,

Lord, we pray with one accord,

for a just and equal sharing

of the things that earth affords.

To a life of love in action

help us rise and pledge our word.

All that kills abundant living,

let it from the earth be banned:

pride of status, race or schooling,

dogmas that obscure your plan.

In our common quest for justice

may we hallow life's brief span.

You, Creator God, have written

your great name on humankind;

for our growing in your likeness

bring the life of Christ to mind;

that by our response and service

earth its destiny may find.

Words from Fred Kaan, URC minister in my home town in my teens.

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