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Archbishop of Canterbury likens foodbanks to suffering in Syria

Archbishop of Canterbury likens foodbanks to suffering in Syria
Archbishop of Canterbury leads Easter assault on hunger, praising food banks as bishop speaks of “sinful” effect of Coalition cuts

By John Bingham, Religious Affairs Editor
April 20, 2014

Church leaders renewed their stand-off with the Coalition over hunger in Britain using Easter sermons to speak of poverty and destitution, as one bishop claimed Government cuts were having “sinful consequences”.

The Archbishop of Canterbury the Most Rev Justin Welby singled out the experiences of people turning to food banks in the UK as an example of suffering in the world, alongside the crises in Syria and Ukraine.

He also said those who quietly man food banks were making a more powerful statement of the Christian message than figures such as himself who “shout” about religion on a national stage.

Britain’s most senior Roman Catholic cleric, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, also singled the issue out, speaking of those in Britain and elsewhere who feel “excluded from the fruits of the Earth”.

The new Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev Paul Butler, highlighted the demand for food banks in a sermon on the theme of fear.

Meanwhile the Bishop of Truro, Rt Rev Tim Thornton, criticised Government cuts directly, saying they were having “sinful consequences”.
It comes after weeks of pressure from clergy from the main denominations over whether growing numbers of people are going hungry despite the economic recovery.

Many senior clerics took part in a fast during lent to highlight their concerns and last week hundreds of clergy and scores of bishops signed a joint letter raising the issue.

But Tory ministers have repeatedly disputed arguments that welfare cuts have created a “hunger crisis” suggesting that the growth of food banks had more to do with supply than demand.

Yet Archbishop Welby made clear that food banks are now seen as a central part of the Church of England’s mission.

He was asked during an Easter broadcast from Canterbury Cathedral on BBC Radio 2 ahead of the main Sunday service, how the church hopes to have its voice heard in an increasingly secular society.

“I think it is not heard at the great national level, it is heard in the local,” he said.

“[People] will find last week and next week Christians manning food banks, people looking after the poorer and the marginal and caring for people.

“That’s the message that gets across most clearly, that’s where it is heard: it is heard in a sort of whisper that gets all round the place rather than a shout at the centre.

“We are heard through action in love – and it is done at the local, archbishops have very little to do with it.”

In his sermon, he spoke about sorrow and listed examples of people around the world shedding tears including bereaved mothers in Syria and people in Ukraine and Rwanda.

He added: “In this country, even as the economy improves there is weeping in broken families, in people ashamed to seek help from food banks, or frightened by debt.

“Asylum seekers weep with loneliness and missing far away families.”
In his message, Cardinal Nichols, added: “On this night of such promise we keep in mind all of those who feel excluded from the fruits of the Earth: the hungry and the poor, those in our midst who are destitute and others who are hungry around the world.”

In his first Easter Day service at Durham Cathedral, Bishop Butler, said: “There are plenty of fears around – talk to any client at a food bank; group of elderly people at a luncheon club or young people in a school and fears will be expressed.”

Meanwhile, speaking to the BBC, Bishop Thornton openly attacked the Coalition cuts.

“Some policies that then do harm to people by perhaps focusing on resources in one place and not another can have sinful consequences and elements in them," he said.

“Part of what I see happening down here in Cornwall is that some of the pressures that some of the local authorities are being put under lead to some very difficult decisions about where resources are allocated.

“I am not saying that it is a sin. I am saying that some of these policies have sinful consequences with sinful elements in them.”

Meanwhile the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, said modern society had become wilfully “senile” by forgetting the Christian message.
Describing the crucifixion as “God’s rescue mission”, he said: “Name it, he nailed it to the cross – all dividing walls of hostility were broken down by the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

“Any ounce of superiority was submerged in the new fact that men and women everywhere were and are rescued.
Sadly, we have forgotten our memory as people who have been rescued, and we have become senile.”


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