Christians of all backrounds are being urged to join in a national demonstration against the Coalition Government’s cuts in public spending, and their disproportionate effect on poor and vulnerable people.
The ‘March for the Alternative’ on 26 March in London will bring together thousands of people to protest at the injustice of the cuts, and call for the UK’s deficit to be tackled in a fairer way.
Alongside other Christian churches and agencies, Church Action on Poverty is asking Christians to be a visible presence on the march, making it clear that churches are standing alongside the poorest people in Britain.
Christians will gather at 12:15 on the north side of St Martin in the Fields church on Trafalgar Square, and then join the March at an appropriate moment. The March will go through central London to finish with a rally in Hyde Park. Individuals and groups can Pledge to join the March by visiting http://bit.ly/marchforthealternative .
Church Action on Poverty Coordinator Niall Cooper commented: “It is becoming clearer every day that the Government’s public spending cuts are falling unjustly on the poorest and most vulnerable people in society. As part of our campaign to Close the Gap between rich and poor, we’ll be marching on the 26th to tell our politicians that there is another way – a fairer way. Before the March, we’ll be attending a service of commemoration for Archbishop Óscar Romero at St Martin’s church. We will gather inspiration from somebody whose stand with the poorest cost so much.”
Other churches and networks who are mobilising Christians to join the March include the United Reformed Church, the Roman Catholic National Justice and Peace Network, the Student Christian Movement, Housing Justice, and the beliefs and values thinktank Ekklesia.
Frank Kantor, the United Reformed Church’s Secretary for Church and Society, commented: “As Christians, I believe that one of our key prophetic tasks, in the context of the drastic austerity measures and policy reforms of the coalition government, is to stand in solidarity with those who are on the margins; the march will bring together more than 200,000 people from all over the UK and send a clear message to the government: There is an alternative to the cuts and it needs to be given urgent consideration."
He added: "As members of Church Action on Poverty’s Close the Gap campaign, the United Reformed Church needs to be well represented, joining many thousands of other Christians in marching for a fairer way of dealing with the budget deficit.”
Other Christian leaders have condemned the cuts recently - including the Bishop of Manchester, the Rev Nigel McCulloch, who said: “Whatever else the government cuts, it shouldn’t cut compassion. My fear was and remains that it will be [doing just this]. The overall programme of cuts are really a very blunt instrument and in applying them there are bound to be some people who are very vulnerable who will be damaged... It is completely lacking in compassion."
Simon Barrow, co-director of the religion and society thinktank Ekklesia, which has endorsed the Coalition of Resistance and participated in the Common Wealth theological statement of Christian opposition to the cuts, commented: "The destruction, atomisation, delayering, disabling and selling-off of large swathes of Britain's public services makes as little economic sense as it does human or moral logic."
He continued: "The gap between 'big society' rhetoric and the government's actual investment choices is glaring. It's no good postulating that communities and neighbourhoods can suddenly start taking over libraries, children's centres and job programmes which the state has abandoned - simultaneously being expected to work, care for the family, subscribe to charity, bail out elected authorities for free, and operate with little or no capacity-building or training. This is policy wonkery beyond the recall of reality."
Barrow added: "It is also important that churches and church-related agencies do not find themselves sucked into plugging unsustainable welfare gaps without asking tougher questions about the ideology and priorities shaping the government's agenda - and the role faith groups can play in developing networks of resistance and regeneration instead."
Church Action on Poverty (www.church-poverty.org.uk) is a national ecumenical Christian social justice charity, committed to tackling poverty in the UK. It works in partnership with churches and with people in poverty themselves to find solutions to poverty, locally, nationally and globally.
The March for the Alternative (http://marchforthealternative.org.uk) is being organised by the Trades Union Congress and supported by many other organisations concerned about the impact of the cuts.