Church leaders in West Yorkshire will come together today (17 February) to issue a joint statement urging greater action to tackle the increasing gap between rich and poor in the UK.
They will highlight its links to "illness, crime, and low attainment" and call for economic inequality to be seen as a greater political priority than economic growth.
The call comes on Ash Wednesday, the start of 40-days of fasting on the Christian calendar and associated with a call to a change of direction ('repentance').
It comes a day after Barclays announced its profits had increased by 92 per cent to £11.6 billion and that the average pay of its investment bankers was £191,000, reigniting the debate about whether economic divisions in society have increased still further in the recession.
The church leaders will also affirm the work of churches across the region which promote volunteering, generosity and community. Presentations will be made of some of the most outstanding projects from St Christopher’s Holme Wood, the Society of St Vincent de Paul, and Halifax Street Angels.
This public statement, Every Person Matters: Christian Community Values and the Rich-Poor Divide will be issued by West Yorkshire Ecumenical Council (WYEC), a body that brings together major Christian traditions.
The thirteen signatories include the Anglican Bishops of Bradford, Ripon & Leeds, and Wakefield, the Catholic Bishop of Leeds and leaders of the Methodist, Baptist, Salvation Army, Lutheran, Moravian, Quaker, African Caribbean and United Reformed churches. Revd. David Gamble, national President of the Methodist Conference will also attend.
Pastor Gloria Hanley, Chair of WYEC, said: “Nationally, and across Yorkshire , the wide gap between the richest and poorest people brings mental and physical illness, rising crime and fear of crime, and lowers educational results. We want to see a concern for the well-being of others, a sense of community, a sense of mutual responsibility and a respect for other members of society, resisting racism and all that degrades other people.”