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More than ever, it's a time for generosity
by Graeme J. Davidson
13 June 2009

The New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services says the growing number suffering hardship through shortened work hours, wage cuts, and unemployment are disproportionately in low-wage, low-skill jobs. Maori, Pacific Islanders and immigrants are the most vulnerable. The Council, which represents mainstream churches, also warns of “the numbers of children who, without imaginative and proactive support, may have their life opportunities blighted by the impacts of poverty”.

... We’re suffering recession blues. We’re very worried about tightening our belts and three-quarters of us don’t want to know anything more about the ailing economy. That’s according to a recent survey.
... One in five Kiwis works more than 50 hours a week and recent research for the Families Commission found that young families suffered when parents worked long hours. The slump has made the situation worse, with some workers desperate for even longer hours so they can cling to jobs and a reasonable standard of living.
... The New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services says the growing number suffering hardship through shortened work hours, wage cuts, and unemployment are disproportionately in low-wage, low-skill jobs. Maori, Pacific Islanders and immigrants are the most vulnerable. The Council, which represents mainstream churches, also warns of “the numbers of children who, without imaginative and proactive support, may have their life opportunities blighted by the impacts of poverty”.
... More are turning to churches for help. The Salvation Army reports that requests for food parcels are up over 40 percent and the demand for used furniture and other household items is outstripping supply. Nevertheless, despite the recession, church congregations and the wider public are responding generously. But Christian groups report they need more donations to meet the demand.
... The churches are also advising those who’ve lost investments, the unemployed and underemployed how to access help from government and other agencies. For those who feel they’re failures as breadwinners, they offer encouragement, support networks and counselling. To weather the recession, and beyond, some even offer classes on budgeting, cooking and sewing.
... Because churches are at the sharp end of the recession, Prime Minister John Key has sought regular reports from the Council of Christian Social Services. But whether the Government will adopt as a priority the Council’s recommendations to help hardest hit victims of the downturn is another matter. The Council wants:

• A quarterly recession response forum, convened by the Prime Minister to monitor the impacts of the recession
• Part of the child support tax credit adapted so it extends to all children from low income families
• The level of income that can be earned through part-time employment by a beneficiary increased by at least $40 a week before they take a benefit cut
• School funding so children from low-income families can access cultural and sporting activities
• Increases to the number of State Houses and the level of support provided through the Accommodation Supplement
... Even if our faith in making money has crumbled, it’s a leap to assume that seeking help from the churches means we are turning to religion for hope, stability and a lesson in seeking heavenly rather than earthly treasure.
Several churches have noticed an increase in worshipers, but whether this is because of the recession or part of the recent gradual return to mainstream religion is hard to say. Surveys in the US show the hard times have caused no increase in regular church attendance there.
... Taking to heart St Paul’s teaching that “the love of money is the root of all evil”, some Christians are keen to modify capitalist institutions so they no longer favour excessive greed. A couple of months ago Pope Benedict XI stated: "Human greed is a form of idolatry that is against the true God, and is a falsification of the image of God with another god, Mammon”.
... In his soon to be released encyclical, Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth), the Pope is expected to emphasise the need for an economic ethic that will reduce the vast gap between rich and poor.
But didn’t Jesus say, “The poor you will always have with you”? Yes, but that wasn’t an invitation to ignore them, or treat them as welfare bludgers. After all, he did ask the rich man to sell all he had and give it to the poor – which is a very radical economic ethic indeed.


 

 

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