Many churches of all denominations across the UK, will begin a national week of action on 26 January to speak out against the stigmatisation and exclusion of people who are poor or homeless.
The annual Poverty & Homelessness Action Week is exploring the theme 'Can you cast the first stone? It aims to offer a Christian challenge to the growing demonization of vulnerable people by politicians and the media. It will celebrate the resilience of people who cope with poverty and homelessness - and the work done by Christian organisations who empower those people.
As well as hundreds of local church services and other events, the Week will feature the launch of some major national initiatives. Housing Justice is to launch an online resource called 'My Story', enabling people with personal experience of homelessness to share their testimonies. Church Action on Poverty is to publish The blame game must stop, a report into the stigmatisation of people on low incomes, with hard-hitting case studies showing the impact on people's lives. Scottish Churches Housing Action is celebrating the launch of Whitebeam Homes, a new project offering affordable housing across Scotland.
Alison Gelder, Director of Housing Justice said: "It is appalling that the UK's economic crisis and rising levels of poverty and homelessness are being blamed on those who are actually feeling their worst effects. Politicians and the media use abusive language and images, and fuel mistrust by contrasting supposed 'strivers' with 'skivers'. They use this blame game to justify cuts to our safety net, which will drive hundreds of thousands of people further into poverty. In Action Week, we are saying that a blame culture is not the way to make things better. We won't tackle poverty and homelessness by blaming those who suffer most from them. We need to stop the blame game now."
Poverty & Homelessness Action Week is supported by many national Christian denominations and agencies. The Most Reverend Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham said: "When we look at people with the eyes of faith we can see that there is something of God in everyone. It is vital that we recognise the human dignity of each person, whatever their circumstances, and that we extend a hand of friendship and support rather than passing judgement and assigning blame."
Free resources available to help churches and individuals get involved in Action Week include: an outline for a church service; a DVD of video stories; an online prayer calendar; and an e-action which will enable you to write to your local newspaper about the 'blame game'. For more information see: www.actionweek.org.uk.