>Ministry WITH* — A new video by the General Board of Global Ministries, highlighting ministry with the poor of the world.
>Image by babasteve via FlickrWhat a passage as we continue discussion about water and sanitation issues around the world. Tonight, it’s Ethiopia.
19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’” (Luke 16:19-31, New International Version, ©2011)
>Nothing like a little perspective as we head into Lent…
>That’s what this video challenges.
(HT to The Kruse Kronicle, which has a great description of itself “Commentary and Reflection on Ministry and Culture in the Twilight of Western Civilization)
Christian organisations have warned that the Government’s welfare proposals are based on a lack of understanding of the poor. They argue that constructive reforms are at risk of being lost under a wave of punitive measures and cost-cutting.
The Methodist Church, the Church of Scotland, the United Reformed Church, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, Housing Justice and Church Action on Poverty have welcomed plans for a simplified benefits system, but have raised concerns that the proposed reforms are based on inaccurate assumptions about the poor.
“There is a serious danger that people living in poverty will be stigmatised by government announcements that imply they are lazy or work-shy,” said Revd Alison Tomlin, President of the Methodist Conference. “The Government seems to assume that if people are forced into working they will comply and their lives will be made better. The poor we meet are seeking to better their lives in difficult circumstances. They are willing to work, but face difficulties in finding jobs, in meeting caring responsibilities and in living on the wages offered.”
“People who are long-term unemployed are already struggling to find work in a market place where there is increasing pressure on both the public and private sectors,” added Alison Gelder, Director of Housing Justice. “Some need help to develop the skills to find and keep a regular job. What they do not need are punitive measures such as the proposed cut in housing benefit by 10% after a year out of work. Most of all, they should not be forced to do manual labour in return for their benefits for just £1.73 an hour – £4.20 below the current adult minimum wage.”
The group argues that Government welfare policy needs to be based on a realistic assessment of those living in poverty and what they really need to get back into the work force. They are concerned that policy should not be based on a skewed figures and a misunderstanding of the poor.
Revd Graham Sparkes, Head of Faith and Unity for the Baptist Union of Great Britain said: “We meet people on a daily basis who are experiencing long term unemployment. Unemployment, especially in an area where there are few jobs available, damages a person’s self-confidence, health and ability to survive life’s knocks. The Government needs to understand what people in poverty need in order to return to work. It’s not good enough to just tell people to ‘pull their socks up’.”
Niall Cooper, National Coordinator of Church Action on Poverty, said “We ask that the government to talk to people in poverty and base their policies on combating the problems they face daily. Iain Duncan Smith should come to one of our listening events, where people struggling to make ends meet tell their stories. Simplistic solutions such as benefit cuts, telling people to get on a bus to find work, and enforced labour would face a harsh reality check.”
Christians in Britain today are called to take a stand. Faced with the biggest cuts to public spending for over a generation, it is not enough to retreat into the private ghetto of religious consolation.
As Christians, we are convinced that the actions of the current government are an unjustified attack on the poor. The rhetoric of necessary austerity and virtuous belt-tightening conceals a grim reality: the victimisation of people at the margins of society and the corrosion of community. Meanwhile, the false worship of markets continues unchecked and the immorality of the growing gap between rich and poor goes unquestioned.
We call on the churches to resist the cuts and stand in solidarity with those targeted. We urge them to join the forces fighting back against a distorted ideology. Above all, we commit ourselves not to give in to despair, fear and fatalism. Another world is possible, the world announced by Jesus in his teachings, embodied in the love he took to the cross, alive in the Spirit of his risen strength.
This is, I would argue, the church at its best; confronting power with the Word and a call to action.
>photo © 2006 Gisela Giardino | more info (via: Wylio)
10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
14 Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.