Faith leaders urge: ‘we must loosen the grip of poverty’

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Leaders of Scotland’s faith communities have united to call for action to ‘loosen the grip of poverty’.

More than one in five people in Scotland are living in poverty and this figure is rising. As Challenge Poverty Week closes, religious representatives from across Scotland have come together to call for more action to tackle poverty.

Issuing a joint statement and standing together in a show of solidarity, Scotland’s faith leaders said: ‘It is not right that so many people are trapped in poverty. We have a moral responsibility to change this. Challenge Poverty Week is a chance to raise our voices and highlight what we can do as a society to loosen the grip of poverty.’

The 15 signatories included the Archbishop Emeritus of the Roman Catholic Church, Mario Conti; Imam at Glasgow Central Mosque, Maulana Habib Ur Rehman; Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Rev Colin Sinclair; Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, The Most Revd Mark Strange; chair of the Scottish Ahlul Bayt Society, Shabir Beg; interfaith representative for the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, Alan Kay; and Hindu priest, Acharya Ji Mishra.

Businesses, schools, football clubs, NGOs, academics, grassroots activists and local authorities were among more than 250 organisations raising their voice as part of 400 events during the week. Many organisations have launched initiatives like breakfast clubs, employability hubs and concessionary travel or have signed up pay the real living wage.

The Most Revd Mark Strange said: ‘I am very aware that across Scotland, many families and individuals are continually living lives of struggle and stress as they find it impossible to reconcile the needs of their children and loved one with the limited resources that they can gather in.

‘These are people who struggle to find work and those who are working but receive too little income to cover costs, all this in one of the world’s richest countries.

‘We need a more equal society where no one needs to go to bed hungry or to wake fearful of what the day will bring.’

Ravinder Nijjar, Scottish Sikh Women’s Association, added: ‘On the 550th anniversary of the birth of the founder of the Sikh religion, Guru Nanak Dev Ji, we remember his legacy of Langar, that is, feeding the poor and the hungry.

‘Over 500 years ago he carried out one selfless act. As a young man, the guru was given 20 rupees by his father to buy goods to sell at a profit. On seeing holy men who were hungry, the young guru used the money to feed and clothe them.

‘This investment, according to Guru Nanak Dev Ji, was true profit or business – Sacha Saudha. Using money to feed and clothe the hungry yields the highest profit.’