Andy Turner is Church Action on Poverty’s new Churches Engagement Worker. If you live in the South of England, he has an invitation for you!
Probably like you, I came to Church Action on Poverty because I am passionate about social justice. Increasingly I am seeing situations that trouble and overwhelm me. For example…
It’s broad daylight, I’m walking to the bus and I’m ambushed. This happens quite a lot these days. You may share the same experience. I’m zigzagging traffic crossing the road, passing a group of homeless people, sleeping out in the slush, blankets and duvets soaked. I feel overwhelmed.
Or the queue for a food bank stretches round the block, and I’m angry – in such a wealthy country, why do we have food banks in the twenty-first century? Or the debt worker I met, explaining her appointments: “The sessions always start with tears now. … tears for the first 10 minutes. People have so much to deal with.” I’m ambushed, overwhelmed and left feeling powerless about poverty.
But I know that when we act together, we can make a difference. Saira Zafar knows this too. In Birmingham city centre in the middle of a summertime English Defence League march, she was cornered in a crowd, abuse being hurled at her by far-right protesters. She recalls, “They were closing in… yeah, there were so many of them.” It was then a stranger, Saffiyah Khan, stepped in to defend Zafar and confront the aggressive protesters: “I wasn’t going to let someone … be put in that position… There was no excuse to do nothing really.” The photograph of Khan smiling serenely in the face of a far-right protester went viral.
When they finally met together after the ordeal, in an interview months later, Zafar said to Khan, “I just want to say thanks a lot for your help and for stepping forward and supporting me in that situation, it did really mean a lot. And together we defeated the EDL, I would say, at that rally.”
“Solidarity is so important,” says Khan.
Change can happen because we spot a problem and do something about it, there and then. Other times we might miss it, feel overwhelmed, or not know where to start.
My background and my passion is community work, collective action with a whole mix of people coming together working to make a difference. I am keen to explore how churches in the South of England can work alongside Church Action on Poverty to tackle the root causes of poverty and injustice. To do this, I need to meet and speak with those churches, to find ways together of addressing the issues that make so many of us feel overwhelmed, angry, sad, afraid and unable to make a difference. Together we can do this, and Church Action on Poverty is here to bring people together.
We need you, your passion, your stories, and your experience of working in your church community. I am planning a number of gatherings: opportunities to look at the experience of poverty, how we can tackle the root causes together, and how we can engage your church in Church Action on Poverty’s work.
Sound useful? Do be in touch and let’s make plans.