European Churches urge EU to turn words into action on poverty

By staff writers
January 21, 2010

Poverty is a stark social and spiritual issue as well as an individual one, churches in Europe are saying as the European Union prepares to promote a special year to highlight the fight against its dehumanising effects.

The European Year 2010 against poverty and social exclusion will be launched today (21 January 2010) in Madrid.

79 million people in the EU – or 16 per cent of the population – currently live at risk of poverty, according to the Joint Report on Social Protection and Social Inclusion in 2009.

The percentage of people living at the risk of poverty in Europe outside the EU is even higher, points out a document entitled ‘Poverty Hurts Your Soul’ from the Conference of European Churches (CEC).

“Poverty and social exclusion mean deprivation of basic human needs such as food, clear water, access to social services and healthcare, clothing or shelter because of a lack of resources. It means deprivation of equal opportunities in the education system and (subsequently) on the job market. It significantly reduces the opportunity to participate in social life,” says CEC.

The churches’ response to the EU initiative urges that it should not simply be a “publicity event”, but should lead to real change in policies on the economy, integration, employment, social policy and migration.

‘Poverty Hurts Your Soul’ sets out theological as well as strategic perspectives on poverty, encouraging a wholistic vision of society and a preparedness to “put the least first” in accordance with the core message of the Christian gospel.

The Conference of European Churches ( is a fellowship of some 120 Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican and Old Catholic Churches along with 40 associated organisations from all countries on the European continent. CEC was founded in 1959 and has offices in Geneva, Brussels and Strasbourg.

The Church and Society Commission (CSC) is one of the commissions of CEC. It links CEC’s members with the European Union’s institutions, the Council of Europe, the OSCE, NATO and the UN on European matters). Its task is to help the churches to study church and society questions, especially those with a European dimension, from a theological social-ethical perspective and to represent common positions of the member churches in their relations with political institutions working in Europe.

Read the full document ‘Poverty Hurts Your Soul’ here: (*.PDF Adobe Acrobat document).

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