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When the poverty figures were published last week, many people were surprised that they did not show a significant rise. Particularly for people active in their communities, the figures did not seem to reflect the hardship they are seeing.
My first reaction to Laudato Si was one of relief. For decades it has felt as if the world was on a path to destruction, with all the loudest and most powerful voices urging it to go further and faster. A blind faith in market forces has been pressing the world, its environment, and its people into the service of the idol of money, with economic growth and personal consumption being presented as the highest objectives to which we could aspire.
In recent years, our understanding of what is meant by the terms poverty and social justice has been manipulated. In some quarters, poverty has been redefined to encompass all manner of social ills, and social justice appears to be more about managing and correcting the lifestyles of people who are poor, rather than confronting the reasons why they are poor.
"Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate" (Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.) The words Dante places over the gates of hell are terrifying. And to turn that cause and effect around is to remind ourselves of the devastation wrought in lives where hope has gone.
The total wealth of Britain’s richest 1000 individuals and families has more than doubled over ten years, according to the Sunday Times Rich List. Meanwhile many ordinary people have been badly affected by low pay and cuts.
In a column in the Telegraph, Fraser Nelson has stated: "David Cameron should not be afraid to talk about food banks. Rather than a sign of social decay, they are a sign of the ‘big society’ in action."
The reason why people need to use foodbanks has been hotly debated, with government ministers and MPs blaming everything from poor budgeting to the attraction of a free lunch.