Poverty and Homeless Action Week: churches to stand for justice
The rise of food banks and increasing media coverage on Government welfare initiatives has particularly highlighted issues of poverty and injustice in the UK over the past twelve months.
In response to this, Church Action on Poverty, Housing Justice and Scottish Churches Housing Action are inviting churches to join them in speaking out against the prevalent issues that the most vulnerable in society are struggling with on a daily basis.
The week running from 25 January to 2 February will mark the seventh annual Poverty and Homelessness Action Week, where churches are encouraged to "give, act and pray for justice".
"Throughout the scriptures, we see that God is always on the side of people who are poor, oppressed, homeless or marginalised. In this time of economic crisis, people experiencing poverty and homelessness are being hit harder than anybody else by the recession and spending cuts. Churches are called to show God's bias by standing alongside these people," the campaign declares.
The week links Homelessness Sunday with Poverty Action Sunday, and this year the campaign is inspired by Proverbs 31 verse 8 which calls Christians to "speak up for the rights of all who are destitute". Believers will be challenged to take notice of the inequality and prejudice within their locality as well as across our society as a whole, and to speak out against it in response to the biblical call to care for the vulnerable.
"In the Old Testament, we see an emphasis on social duties and community obligations: the periodic jubilee under which property debts were wiped out; the importance of supporting the widow and her children, of providing for the stranger and the refugee," the Action Week website notes.
"In the New Testament, Jesus demonstrates grace in the stories of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son."
Poverty Action Week gives churches the opportunity to put the call to show love and generosity into practical action by holding special services, Q&A sessions, workshops on inequality, and sponsored sleep-outs among other initiatives.
Free resources are available online for churches that would like to get involved, offering materials that will help raise awareness of the issues of poverty and homelessness in the UK and raise funds for projects and campaigns working to tackle the key issues.
Churches will also receive advice on how to engage with and work to end poverty, homelessness and issues of injustice in their own communities.
Director of Church Action on Poverty Niall Cooper says: "Channel 4's 'Benefits Street' programme shows why we need to stand alongside people in poverty. The storm of abuse it has whipped up is based on prejudice, on the part of both TV commissioners and the general public.
"Churches are part of the communities where benefit recipients and homeless people live, and know the realities behind the sensationalist media coverage. Action week is a chance for us to make those voices heard."
Go to www.actionweek.org.uk for more information on how to get involved.