Armagh’s two Archbishops have joined fellow church leaders in calling for greater help for families struggling with the cost of living crisis – and voicing “deep concern” regarding the Government response on both sides of the border.
With projections for the autumn pointing to a worsening situation for many households across the island of Ireland, as a result of the unfolding crisis – particularly for those who are already vulnerable and living in poverty – the leaders of Ireland’s main churches have reacted with sadness to what they are seeing on the ground.
In a Joint Statement issued today(Thursday), they have called “for more practical support to be delivered urgently through direct government initiatives in both jurisdictions and also via grassroots charity and community partnerships”.
Armagh-based Roman Catholic Archbishop Eamon Martin and Church of Ireland Primate, Archbishop John McDowell, joined their colleagues, the Right Reverend Andrew Forster, President of the Irish Council of Churches, Presbyterian Moderator, the Right Reverend Dr John Kirkpatrick, and Rev David Nixon, Methodist Church President, in demanding action.
They go on to say that practical support “must go hand in hand with a longer term refocusing of government policies to deliver real and meaningful social justice and eliminate poverty across this island”.
Sending a clear message to Governments at Stormont and Dáil Éireann, they said: “The unfolding cost of living crisis is affecting many households, across the island of Ireland, but particularly those who were already vulnerable and living in poverty.
“Projections for the autumn point to the situation worsening while too many people are already struggling to afford essentials like food and fuel and are in real danger of losing their homes, health or lives.
“As leaders of Churches with a presence across the island we are deeply concerned by what we are seeing on the ground, with the increasing energy and food prices disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable, often leaving people with impossible choices to make, missing meals, and falling into arrears on bills.
“We are also deeply concerned regarding the government response in both jurisdictions, in meeting immediate needs and also in relation to longer term strategy.
“In Northern Ireland, the Good Friday Belfast Agreement created a statutory requirement for the Northern Ireland Executive to produce an anti-poverty strategy on the basis of objective need. Almost 25 years later and this has never been agreed or produced.
“Likewise, in Ireland a cross-party anti-poverty strategy is badly needed to address issues in a comprehensive and effective manner.
“We want to join our voices with many others, calling for more practical support to be delivered urgently through direct government initiatives in both jurisdictions and also via grassroots charity and community partnerships.
“This must go hand in hand with a longer term refocusing of government policies to deliver real and meaningful social justice and eliminate poverty across this island.
“Followers of Christ have always been called to serve the poor, not just through acts of charity, though these continue every day in ways large and small, but through the pursuit of justice and mercy.
“It is our shared vocation to witness to Christ and to protect the dignity of those made in God’s image, and so we are compelled to speak up in this moment, out of concern and in hope, for the good and flourishing of everyone in our communities.