An Asian Christian woman living in London blogging about the everyday issues of religion

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Bishops Accused of Not Being So Christian

John Bird, founder and editor of The Big Issue, writes in today's Times newspaper that the Bishops who voted against the Government's welfare reforms in the House of Lords yesterday 'are not so Christian after all'. The Bishops voted against the figure of £26,000 being the cap on benefits being paid out to famlies.
Mr Bird says that being Christian does not involve giving to people what you do not have i.e in a time of austerity there are no big bucks to pay out to families on welfare.

In the book, The Spirit Level, which spawned a global debate on inequality, it is stated that inequality corrodes trust and divides people. Inequality is a powerful social divider and imbeds a 'them and us' mentality in people. Public opinion over the welfare reform is very divided and is a powerful example of how those who have jobs are pointing accusatory fingers at those who don't.

However, the former dangerously forgets that 'them' is comprised of groups of people who have physical disabilities, physical illnesses, mental disabilities and, that one of 'us', could be 'them' at the drop of a hat. Disabilities and illnesses can, unfortunately, be acquired through time and passage of age. It is not just a birth defect.

If and when that happens I want to know that the Church stood up for 'us' and tried to inject some compassion into the arguments. It saddens me that the welfare system has become a battle ground because helping the poor need not be about creating a class of permanent poor.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Bishops in Welfare Reform

Bishops sitting in the House of Lords tonight have put up a super fight for the rights of children in the vote on the Welfare Reform Bill. The Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, the Rt Rev John Packer, is receiving a lot of attention particularly because he has been most vocal about the level of inequality suffered by children living in poverty. The following is an extract from the Guardian blog:

"This amendment is about children, who cannot directly speak for themselves. One of my roles is to speak up for those who have no voice, and that fits in with my own Christian commitment. Christianity is deeply concerned with the way in which we treat others in our society and especially those in most need. And I would also say that from the beginning of the discussion about how to cope with the financial crisis and what cuts we needed to apply, I've always been clear that cuts should be borne by those who can bear them, not by those who cannot."

On the austerity agenda more widely, he says "I believe that the government and parliament have been in a very difficult position in terms of reacting to the crisis and therefore establishing the cuts. I do not doubt that cuts are necessary, but I believe as I said that they should be borne by those that can bear them".

"I think that we need to be very careful in a whole range of areas, of which welfare reform is one, health and social care would be another, issues concerned with legal aid would be another - to make sure that those who most need the provisions which we give as a nation are able to access them."

Whatever you think about the rights and wrongs of having church of England bishops revise legislation, there's no doubt that with John Packer, we're getting our money's worth.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

The Resilience of the Disabled Lobby

The highly controversial Welfare Reform Bill was debated and voted on again this week. The Government may have won but the hard fight, resilience and absolute chutzpah shown by the disability community is something to be written about on how to mount a class protest, action and activism by galvanising critical mass.

 'A PR Win for the Government but An Actual Win for Disabled People' is how Sue March, a campaigner on silent disabilities, described the process in her blog. People with disabilities have been pilloried and made fun of (thanks to rotten Ricky Gervais recently), disability hate crime is on the increase and, personally, I am fed up of non-disabled people pulling certain faces that mock the disabled because they think it is funny. It is not!

Collectively this lobby has raised their profile and fought their corner. Why was this fight so important?

'People are looking to us to ameliorate the worst excesses of this welfare reform bill. Though it has some very sensible and progressive things at its core, in the shape of the universal credit, nevertheless it goes too far to most people's consciences in the way in which it takes vital support away from some of the most needy in our society,' said Lord Low of Dalston, Vice-President of the RNIB who read his speech from braille and who, himself, receives the disability living allowance.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Bucharest On A Monday Night

I love the 70s and 80s era and one of my favourite films from that time is 'Love At First Bite'. It starred George Hamilton as Dracula. There is a wonderful line which occurs in a scene quite early on in the film when George Hamilton is being chased out of Bucharest by the inhabitants who, frankly, are fed up of him feeding off them. As he leaves he curses them with the words: 'Without me Transylvania will be as exciting as Bucharest, on a Monday night!

I have always wondered what prompted the script writers to come up with that quote. Was Bucharest really that boring? I may finally have my answer but with a twist to the tale. Apparently, 'Polenta does not explode', was a catchphrase in Bucharest because it summed up the meek nature of society there.

Not anymore though,  protests are taking place in the same vein as the Arab Spring demonstrations because the people of Bucharest are fed up with their country's (Romania) president, Traian Basescu, for his alleged mismanagement of the economy. At the weekend protesters shouted, 'Get out you miserable dog' and threw paving stones and smoke bombs at riot police.

For a city that was once known as the 'Paris of the East' and for provoking such a memorable line in a very funny movie I pray for peace in Bucharest.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Stop Calling the Disabled 'Scroungers'

I am part of a charity called The Powerhouse which serves women with disabilities. NONE of the women of this charity are scroungers. Yes, they need benefits and are wholly dependent on a welfare system through no fault of their own. This makes them 'dependent' but this word does not translate into 'scroungers'.

Tomorrow disabled people will be holding a vigil outside Parliament at 1pm to oppose the proposed cuts set out in the Welfare Reform Bill. Their call is for the Government to call a halt to the 20% cut in Disability Living Allowance, among other cuts proposed. A report called 'Responsible Reform' was written by people with disabilities, some of whom have fallen ill through the stress of putting together this comprehensive set of evidence and counter proposals. Their struggle affects all of us because a society's values system must be based on a mix of individual, community and natural justice ethics.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Young and Old Need Respect

The Archbishop of Canterbury's new year message urges British society to care for the youth in this country. Dr Williams said that there was a national habit of being hostile and suspicious of the youth. To his message I wish to add that the same advice needs to be advanced in resolving attitudes towards the elderly. The gap between the young and the ageing population in terms of inter-generational respect and mutual understanding is far too wide.

We talk about bridging the economic gap on inequality but there is a deficit that exists in terms of human capital. The young are seen as slothful, predatory and as potential lawbreakers. The elderly are seen as being on the margins of society too. Both sub-sets of society have much to offer in terms of helping to build a strong ethical society.

The breaking down of prejudices could be triggered by watching the words that we use. I am a firm believer of the theory that language frames mindsets. Words such as 'olds', 'oldies', and 'grandpa' (unless he is your real grandpa) conjure up images of people who are not capable of much. The ageing population is showing us that there are many healthy older people who still have much to offer. 'Hoodies' and 'upstarts' are words used to describe the young. These labels immediately reek of trouble-makers don't they?

So, let's watch our language as we start 2012. Happy New Year.