Don't blame poor, say churches

Churches and Christians will be taking a stand against the stigmatisation and exclusion of people in poverty this week.

The annual Poverty & Homelessness Action Week gets underway on Saturday and focuses this year on what organisers call the "growing demonisation" of people in financial hardship by politicians and the media.

Churches involved in the week will reflect on the theme, 'Can you cast the first stone?', as they think about how they can support those in difficulty.

As well as offering a Christian challenge to stigmatisation and exclusion, the week aims to celebrate the resilience of people coping with poverty and homelessness, and the work being done by Christian organisations to empower them.

The week will be marked by hundreds of special church services, as well as anti-poverty projects and prayer.

Niall Cooper, National Coordinator of Church Action on Poverty, said: "It is appalling that the UK's economic crisis and rising levels of poverty and homelessness are being blamed on those who are actually feeling their worst effects.

"Politicians and the media use abusive language and images, and fuel mistrust by contrasting supposed 'strivers' with 'skivers'.

"They use this blame game to justify cuts to our safety net, which will drive hundreds of thousands of people further into poverty. In Action Week, we are saying that a blame culture is not the way to make things better.

"We won't tackle poverty and homelessness by blaming those who suffer most from them. We need to stop the blame game now."

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, is supporting Poverty & Homelessness Action Week.

"We are living in tough times where six out of 10 families in poverty have at least one adult in work," he said.

"We need to do more to help those in need and ensure people are being paid a living wage.

"People without homes, who are sleeping rough on our streets, are amongst the most vulnerable people in our world – as a Church we are called to care for and support the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in society.

"Homelessness is a problem which forces us to reconsider the values on which we are building our society. Homelessness can affect absolutely anyone.

"During Poverty & Homelessness Action Week I hope people will think about how they can bring practical help to those suffering in their communities."

Free resources available to help churches and individuals get involved in Action Week include: an outline for a church service; a DVD of video stories; an online prayer calendar; and an e-action which will enable you to write to your local newspaper about the 'blame game'. Visit www.actionweek.org.uk to take part.

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