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'We are deeply concerned': Senior church leaders in Ireland call for government help in cost of living crisis

by Tola Mbakwe

A group of senior church leaders in Ireland have issued a joint statement, calling on the government to deliver more practical support as people face the cost of living crisis.

They said there needs to be a long term refocusing of government policies to deliver proper social justice and eliminate poverty across the island.

The statement, publiished on Thursday, reads: "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".

The Church Leaders Group (Ireland), which includes the Church of Ireland and Roman Catholic Archbishops of Armagh, the Presbyterian Moderator and the Presidents of the Methodist Church and Irish Council of Churches, said that practical support is needed urgently. 

Rt Rev Andrew Forster, President of the Irish Council of Churches told Premier: "When we think back two years ago to the start of the pandemic, the government did what they could regarding finances with the furlough scheme. We had support of lost income in the Republic of Ireland as well. Money was found.

"And there was also a sort of a sense of community togetherness, looking out for our neighbourhoods, looking out for those who are vulnerable. I would love us to capture some of that again, and that our governments would find the finance that is necessary to help people through this frightening time." 

The Northern Ireland Evangelical Alliance, as well as 20 other organisations, also wrote a joint open letter, showing support for the Church leaders and to also plead for help in Northern Ireland.

The letter explained that while it is one of the missions of the Church to help those in need, it cannot do it alone. 

It reads: "We believe the church has a clear role in helping those in need in our communities. We want to do more than just meet immediate need, we want to use any influence we have to speak up, in solidarity with and for our neighbours, individuals, and families. We also advocate for the systemic reform and policy priorities required to transform the lived experiences of poverty and destitution.

"Addressing the real, raw immediate needs of individuals and families cannot be left to the voluntary, faith and third sectors alone. We call on every elected representative, and political party to work together, to play their vital role and to prioritise a strategic intervention that will protect the most vulnerable in our society this winter. We also call on you, our elected representatives to deliver and implement the long overdue anti-poverty strategy that tackles more long-term issues such as the welfare system, housing and getting people into work that pays".

The letter called on MLAs to meet with Christian leaders to discuss how the government and the Church can respond to the cost of living crisis together. 

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