Bishop calls for social policy
Tuesday, 20 May 2014
BISHOP John McAreavey has called for social policy, north and south, to reflect the generosity of our local communities throughout the economic crisis of recent years.
He made the appeal in an address in Newry on Friday to the conference of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Designate and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.
Emphasising the important links between catholic social teaching and the development of thinking and practice in the area of human rights, Bishop McAreavey stated that churches and human rights organisations have common cause in working to address poverty and social inequality.
Acknowledging that political leaders, north and south, recognise the contribution of churches to social justice, Bishop McAreavey expressed concern that "that there can be an over-reliance on Churches to provide a safety net when people are failed by inadequate social welfare provision."
“No one wants to see a situation where people are trapped in benefit dependency, but there must be adequate safeguards in place to ensure that people can achieve an acceptable standard of living, in which their basic human rights are protected," he said.
“A powerful illustration of urgent social need can be seen in the spread of food banks across this country, many of which have been established by churches and faith-based groups.
“I would want to stress that their existence is an indictment of our society; individuals and families should not have to rely on charity for food. Food banks cannot be allowed to become a long-term institution."
On the subject of migration and social justice, an area which has been a particular focus for Pope Francis since the beginning of his Papacy, Bishop McAreavey said: "The experience of emigration in so many families and communities in Ireland, with all the challenges that brings, should make us acutely sensitive to the needs of those who immigrate here.
“Yet we still have a long way to go before policy in this area conforms to the highest human rights standards. It is a particular source of regret that migrants in recent times have suffered increasing instances of hate crime and racial abuse"
Taking inspiration from the unequivocal commitment to the eradication of social inequality, expressed in the Apostolic Exhortation from Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, Bishop McAreavey concluded: "There can sometimes be important differences in understanding and approach between churches and secular human rights organisations on certain issues, such as our understanding of the nature of marriage and the duty to protect the right to life from conception until natural death.
“This should not, however, cause us to lose sight of the fact that there are many issues on which we can make common cause. This is particularly the case in the areas of poverty and social inequality. Through what we bring from our respective fields of expertise and experience, we compliment, support and enrich one another."
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