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Church leaders put fate of poor and vulnerable on election agenda

Church leaders were on hand when NZCCSS launched its initiative to raise the public awareness of poverty in NZ at the end of March. From left: Brian Turner (Methodist), Garth McKenzie (Salvation Army), Rodney McCann (Baptist ), Pamela Tankersley (Presbyterian), David Moxham (Anglican), and John Dew (Catholic).

Church leaders from the Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian and Salvation Army churches are supporting a programme to raise public awareness of issues of social justice and compassion in Aotearoa New Zealand in the run up to this year’s election.

Archbishop David Moxon (Anglican), Rodney Macann (Baptist), Archbishop John Dew (Catholic), Reverend Brian Turner (Methodist), Right Reverend Pamela Tankersley (Presbyterian) and Commissioner Garth McKenzie (Salvation Army) have put their support behind a call for more action based on five issues they say are central to achieving a more just and compassionate society.

They challenge all New Zealanders, including public office holders and political candidates, to champion policies that will:

? Utilise our nation’s prosperity to eliminate poverty.

? Support families and communities to nurture and protect our children.

? Provide older people with a range of choices for their homes, support and lifestyle.

? Enable access to good, affordable housing for everyone.

? Support community-based solutions to social issues in the community.

In a statement the church leaders have said issues related to poverty, families and children, older people and housing are big enough to transcend party politics.

"We believe the New Zealand public should be in a position going into the 2008 election where they know more about the commitment of individual politicians to just and compassionate policies on all of these issues across the MMP spectrum.

"Our primary concern since the Hikoi of Hope held 10 years ago has remained constant. That concern is that the impact of all decisions taken by our elected public representatives and policymakers must be measured in terms of the quality of life of the most vulnerable in our society.

"Many members of our society are still suffering from the effects of economic policies that were put in place by successive governments in previous decades and that lacked a sufficiently strong social conscience.

"The period before an election is a unique opportunity to intensify discussion about the type of society we live in. Our Christian conviction is that our humanity is constituted most profoundly by our relationships with each other and a commitment to the common good. Decisions that are fuelled by self-interest serve only to perpetuate a society that is marked by a division into the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-nots. This results in a society that leaves little room to include those who been pushed to the margins."

The New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services (NZCCSS) has developed the policies that detail these demands. Congregations throughout the country are encouraged to promote the programme and can find supporting information at the NZCCSS website www.justiceandcompassion.org.nz.