Churches have ‘prophetic duty’ to challenge poverty

Christians must not only serve the hungry and homeless in practical ways, but speak out against the economic injustice behind their poverty, says the head of Church Action on Poverty (CAP).

Writing in the September edition of Reform magazine, Niall Cooper praised the work of Christians who are running hundreds of foodbanks and debt counselling centres across the country.

However, he echoed the sentiments of Jim Wallis who recently said that Christians were “prophetic interrogators” who should not only “keep pulling bodies out of the river, but send people upstream to see who or what is throwing them in”.

Mr Cooper said the “prophetic duty” of Christians demanded more than providing social services and issuing statements.

“So what can we do to ‘go upstream’ and work for economic justice locally?” he asked.

Mr Cooper proposed harnessing the power of the fairtrade movement to achieve economic justice closer to home.

“Over the past few years, churches have taken to heart the challenge of promoting fairtrade for folk thousands of miles away,” he said.

“Is it not time to start asking equivalent questions about rates of pay for the folk who pick our carrots or cucumbers, or clean our own offices and schools?

"Is not economic justice just as pressing for underpaid care workers as it is for Columbian coffee farmers?”

He suggested five ways people can ‘go upstream’:
• Sign up to the Move Your Money campaign and bank with ethical banks and credit unions
• Buy your gas and electricity from ethical energy supplier Ebico
• Check to see if your church and your local council are Living Wage employers
• Challenge your MP on cuts, tax dodging and poverty
• Join the Tax Justice campaign