SENIOR leaders from churches and charities have called on politicians to take urgent action on rising poverty in the UK and around the world.

In a joint statement released today (Friday 5 January) senior Christian leaders – including the General Secretary of Churches Together in England, President and Vice-President of the Methodist Conference and leaders of development agencies Christian Aid, CAFOD and Tearfund – have said “the human cost of failing to take action now is too big and too damaging to ignore”.

The statement goes on to say poverty is “a consequence of political choices and priorities”, and with a General Election on the horizon, “this year must mark the beginning of the end for poverty”. Signatories are calling on political leaders to set out clear plans to eradicate extreme poverty and halve overall poverty by 2030, in the UK and globally.

Patrick Watt, CEO of Christian Aid, is among the signatories. He said: “For millions of people this new year has been marked by poverty and desperation. Regardless of the causes of poverty, and whether it’s hitting people internationally or in the UK, the effects are strikingly similar. Partners and churches describe its crushing effect on people’s dignity and life chances, and its damage to the social fabric. The choices we make collectively about how to tackle poverty, both domestically and internationally, matter.

“As we approach a General Election, we’re hearing far too little from political parties about their ambition to end poverty, and build the common good. We must not let another year slip by while poverty rises. That’s why we’re coming together at this moment, to call for urgent action to address the causes of poverty, here and around the world.”

The statement is a clear demonstration of solidarity between agencies and churches working to tackle poverty globally and in the UK. The Rev Gill Newton, President of the Methodist Conference, said: “Poverty around the world may look different in its material and social consequences. But what remains the same is the indignity, fear and isolation it causes for individuals, families and communities, wherever they are. As Christians, our commitment to tackle poverty alongside our global neighbours or within our local communities here in the UK is not in competition – we’re not prepared to pit one against the other in a game of political or economic tactics. Our political leaders must not be either. We need to see more ambition, commitment and practical action to tackle poverty wherever it exists as we approach the next General Election.”

In the statement, the churches and charities also signal their intention to work together throughout 2024 to mobilise church members to “put poverty on the agenda through practical action, prophetic words and courageous campaigning.”

As part of this, Christian Aid, the Trussell Trust, Church Action on Poverty and the Joint Public Issues Team of the Baptist, Methodist and United Reformed Churches have released Act on Poverty – a six-week resource for church groups to explore the impacts of poverty around the world and in the UK and take action ahead of the General Election. Designed for use during Lent or later in 2024, the resource brings campaigners from the UK and global contexts into dialogue about the differences and similarities between their visions for an end to poverty where they are.

Bishop Mike Royal, General Secretary of Churches Together in England, said: “We want to see action on poverty now, and political leaders need to know our ambition for change. I encourage church communities to come together and share with election candidates why tackling poverty should be a priority.”

Stef Benstead, a trustee of Church Action on Poverty who contributed to the Act on Poverty resource, said: “We know that it is politically possible to end poverty in any society. God told his people that if they followed the laws he gave them for running their country, there would be no poor people among them. That was a time without major technological advancement, yet it was still held to be possible for everyone to have a stable home and sufficient means to access food, clothing, other essentials, and social participation. According to the prophets, poverty occurred because there was injustice and a failure by the leaders of the country to enact policies that guaranteed a minimum living standard for everyone. Christians across the UK and the world should have the confidence to call on our leaders, in the name of God, to act now to end poverty.”

Charities and groups focusing on rising poverty in the UK are supporting the new Let’s End Poverty movement, aimed at bringing together a diverse movement of people calling on political leaders to end poverty in the UK for good.

* More information on the Act on Poverty Lent resource here.

* More information on the Let’s End Poverty movement here.

* Source: Church Action on Poverty