Bishop of Hereford's Article - Hereford Times 03/01/19
It’s said that time goes faster the older you get, so perhaps that’s the reason that it doesn’t seem to me five minutes since we were last taking down the Christmas decorations and welcoming in the new year.
But however quickly a new year comes round, it always brings with it the promise of something new and different.
Or does it? Not automatically. One of my hopes for 2019 is that there will be a positive response to the recent United Nations report on poverty in this country.
So far, the report has been almost completely ignored by the government and indeed by the rest of us. I’ve only just read it and it is shocking.
The writer of the report, Professor Philip Alston, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, has claimed that the UK Government is in a state of denial about the impact of austerity policies on the poor. “British compassion for those who are suffering has been replaced by a punitive, mean-spirited and callous approach.”
It is going to need some real determination if it’s not going to be the most vulnerable and disadvantaged members of society who will bear the brunt of whatever happens with Brexit.
The author of the report said that government told him that there was no extreme poverty in the UK – but he himself kept receiving individual testimonies which told a different story.
“The country’s most respected charitable groups,” wrote Professor Alston, “Its leading think tanks, its parliamentary committees, independent authorities like the National Audit Office, and many others, have all drawn attention to the dramatic decline in the fortunes of the least well off in this country.
And why has the government, in Professor Alston’s words, “remained determinedly in a state of denial”? Because the rest of us have largely turned a blind eye to it too.
I rejoice at the brilliant work of Food Banks and the generosity of those who give to them. It’s been encouraging to see supermarkets asking customers to support them and football clubs having collection points.
But where is the outrage that in the UK in 2019 we need Food Banks in the first place?
That’s up to us. ”The common good” is not a vague concept to be thought about by governments. It’s our choice whether we are selfish or see the impact our words and actions have on other people.
+Richard Frith – Bishop of Hereford.