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Church News

We need to bring back society, not just economy says former Bishop of Rochester

by Cara Bentley

Bishop Michael Nazir Ali, the former bishop of Rochester, has said culture is as important as the economy when it comes to returning to normal. 

On Thursday, the Bank of England predicted a 14 per cent shrink to the country's GDP with potentially the worst recession in 300 years. But it also encouraged banks to keep lending through the crisis so that it wouldn't be even worse and predicted a recovery in 2021. 

The Prime Minister is expected to announce some limited relaxations to lockdown rules on Sunday to help the economy. Of course, different people would like to see different aspects of society return to normal. 

In an article on his website and then published in the Daily Telegraph, Bishop Michael Nazir Ali expressed the need for face-to-face engagements to return, alongside eating with family and friends. 

He wrote: "Economic activity is important if we are to produce the wealth we need for other expressions of our human nature, but the latter cannot be ignored if we are aiming for a creative, healthy and happy population. The 'reopening' in the coming days has to be about society as a whole, in its manifold manifestations, and not just about the office, the shop and the factory floor."

The lecturer, who was a Church of England bishop between 1994 and 2009, told Premier: "We don't just live by bread alone and the Bible tells us not to neglect meeting together. This is also true of culture, things like libraries and museums and art galleries where people's souls are fed. I mean, provided these things are done safely, then we should be thinking about that as well."

Any changes to lockdown on Sunday are expected to be small and primarily to do with allowing certain groups back to work. Scotland extended its lockdown on Thursday for another three weeks but suggested that one of the first aspects to be lifted will be the restrictions on the amount of exercise in the country. Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister also said that she would like all parts of the UK to change their rules simultaneously if possible. 

Bishop Michael explained what he would like to see in the Prime Minister's announcement: "There should be some provision for relatives and friends who care for someone who needs that care, to be allowed to do so. And particularly to see people who are in need with whatever safeguards there can be because some people, particularly older people, frail people, are very lonely and that can't last indefinitely because it will have a huge effect on their mental and spiritual health.

"We are not just economic creatures. We are also social and spiritual beings and those aspects of our lives also need to be taken into account."

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