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Lent course aims to put poverty on agenda at next General Election

13 November 2023

Alamy

The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, and the then Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, during a visit to a hotel in Rochdale in April

The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, and the then Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, during a visit to a hotel in Rochdale in April

MORE than 100 churches and individuals have signed up to a Lent course designed to encourage communities to take a stand on poverty before the next General Election.

The course — Act on Poverty — has been created by Christian Aid in partnership with other Christian charities, including Church Action on Poverty and the Trussell Trust, plus, among others, the Baptist Union, the Methodist Church, and the United Reformed Church.

Over six weeks, participants will learn about the “reality of poverty”, both in their communities and around the world, and be given tips on how to lobby their MPs on the issue through letter-writing, petitions, vigils, and other practical methods.

A date has yet to be announced for the next General Election, which has to take place before January 2025, but tensions are already running high in Downing Street. A Cabinet reshuffle was enacted on Monday after the Prime Minister sacked the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman. The trigger was the publication of an article in The Times last week in which she accused the Metropolitan Police of “double standards” in how it policed pro-Palestine protesters compared to “right-wing and nationalist protesters”. The version of the article that was published had not been cleared by Downing Street.

It is the second time in just over a year that Ms Braverman has been sacked as Home Secretary — the first time by the former Prime Minister Liz Truss over data breaches.

James Cleverly was announced as her replacement, leaving the post of Foreign Secretary vacant. By mid-morning on Monday, however, this had been filled by the former Prime Minister David Cameron.

The campaigns and activism officer for Christian Aid, Katrine Musgrave, said of the Act on Poverty course: “With a General Election approaching, we have an opportunity to unite our churches with a compelling message for our next government: it is time to act on poverty. We hope churches around the country will sign up to Act on Poverty, and we look forward to seeing the results of their actions.”

Course content includes short Bible studies, recordings of conversations with activists, questions and prompts for group discussions, videos about how to take practical action, and a guide for churches on how to advocate for change.

The charity’s chief executive, Patrick Watt, said that the course “demonstrates the power of people coming together in faith. Every prayer, every gift, every action helps transform lives, and I look forward to seeing church communities taking part in this initiative, and putting into practice what they have discovered to tackle the injustice of poverty and its effects, both locally and globally.”

Act on Poverty has been endorsed by the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, and the Bishop of Chelmsford, Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani.

Dr Francis-Dehqani said: “Loving our neighbours means living out our faith on a local and global scale. This course offers valuable resources to help us make a difference by speaking out and engaging decision makers.”

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