Thousands of Christians march against government's cuts

By staff writers
26 Mar 2011

Thousands of Christians have joined with people of many religions and of none to demonstrate their opposition to the UK government's cuts agenda. Many attended an ecumenical service focused on the need for Christians to take sides with the poor, before joining the March for the Alternative through central London today (26 March).

Over a quarter of a million people joined the march, making it the biggest demonstration in the UK since the opposition to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The majority behaved lawfully while some used nonviolent direct action to highlight the complicity of banks and corporations in the economic crisis. But most of those who broke the law did so peacefully, and parts of the media have been criticised for an undue focus on incidents of violence.

About 400 people attended a service in the morning at St Martin in the Fields' Church in Trafalgar Square. The service marked the thirty-first anniversary of the assassination of Oscar Romero, the Salvadorian archbishop murdered by the regime whose injustices he opposed. The service was also an opportunity to pray and rally ahead of the demonstration.

Those present prayed that "we may recognise the presence of God as we engage in peaceful and prophetic protest and solidarity".

The sermon was delivered by Juan Hernandez Pico, a Jesuit priest and theologian who had worked with Romero. He quoted Jesus' insistence that it is not possible to worship both God and money.

He asked, "Must the poorest sectors of society across the world today pay the price for the profligacy of bankers who have played the world's markets as if they were a casino?"

Describing the economic crisis as a "crisis of greed", Hernandez Pico argued that Christians are called to "dislodge the gods of power and money" and "frustrate the magicians of globalisation, the servants of the power of money".

Around 100 people attended a Quaker Meeting for Worship at Westminster Friends' Meeting House within yards of the church. They then joined the march under a banner declaring "Quakers for Justice".

The only major church denomination to have formally endorsed the march was the United Reformed Church. Other Christian organisations to back it included Church Action on Poverty, the National Peace and Justice Network, the Christian thinktank Ekklesia and the Common Wealth network of Christians for economic justice.

They were joined by the Student Christian Movement (SCM), Housing Justice and Young Christian Workers. Amongst the many religious banners were some representing individual churches as well as national organisations.

"As a Christian, I believe in this world and bringing God's kingdom about here," explained Miriam Hay, a student at Warwick University marching with others from SCM. Manchester University student Juliette Brettell agreed. She said, "God loves the poor and I think the cuts will harm the poor in this country".

Christians also participated in nonviolent direct action in the afternoon. One group had planned to carry out an act of worship in Barclay's Bank on the Tottenham Court Road in protest at the injustices of the banking system and the company's large-scale tax avoidance. But they found when they arrived that Barclay's had decided to close early.

Matt Gardner, one of those who arrived at Barclay's to find the doors shut, rejected the notion that their is no alternative to the cuts. "The government haven't taken the alternatives seriously enough," he said, pointing out examples such as cracking down on corporate tax avoidance.

"Justice is a very important part of Christianity," said Gardner, "The government's cuts are fundamentally unjust because the people who are going to pay and lose out are not the people who are responsible for the financial crisis". He said evidence from around the world shows that "making the general public pay for the elite's mistakes doesn't work".

[Ekk/1]

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