Quakers call for action to tackle economic inequality
Quakers in Britain are calling upon the next government to take urgent action to tackle economic inequality.
From Friday, Quaker Meetings throughout Britain will take part in Quaker Equality Week– a week of action, 6-15 March – designed to highlight the need for change.
The UK is one of the most economically unequal countries in the industrialised world.
Despite considerable progress last century, inequality has been increasing since the late 1970s. Quakers say that without a clear and conscious strategy to address it economic inequality will continue to rise.
"High levels of inequality are causing huge amounts of harm to our society"- Helen Drewery, general secretary of Quaker Peace & Social Witness.
"High levels of inequality are causing huge amounts of harm to our society," said Helen Drewery, general secretary of Quaker Peace & Social Witness. "As a faith group with a historical commitment to equality we believe that it is important that everyone in Britain can benefit from our shared economic wealth."
Studies show that health and social problems including infant mortality, obesity and violent crime tend to be greater in more unequal societies. They also tend to be less trusting, less altruistic, and have lower levels of happiness and social mobility.
In the run-up to the General Election on 7 May, Quakers are urging all political parties to make a genuine commitment to tackle economic inequality should they form part of the next government.
More than 80 local Quaker meetings are taking part in Quaker Equality Week. Activities planned include silent vigils, pre-election debates, letter writing events and public meetings.
"We've encountered tremendous support so far" commented Enid Pinch a Quaker from Manchester and Warrington Area Quaker Meeting which is co-ordinating the week and has organised vigils in Manchester to raise awareness of the issues. "When people see what we're concerned about, they tell us we are not alone. There's a lot of anger about the unequal impact of things like the bedroom tax, but also a real sense that reducing inequality could make Britain a better place for everyone."
It's a similar story in Lancaster where faith and community groups supported a twelve-hour vigil. "Our campaign has enabled us to hear stories from across our community," said Ann Morgan of Lancaster Quaker Meeting. "We've spoken to lots of people who are struggling to make ends meet. Almost everyone has told us that what we're doing is important and told us to keep pushing the issues."