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Sunday, 15 September 2013

Social Reform Back on the Agenda – The Archbishop of Canterbury and Payday Loan Companies

Back in June 2013, the new Archbishop of Canterbury (Justin Welby) announced that he intends to put payday loan companies out of business. It is very pleasing to see, once again, an established church taking an active role in building a better world, instead of just talking about this better world. An when I say building a better world, I am not referring to the many good things that individuals and local churches do in the community, but addressing the big issues that can make a major difference in the lives of the poor and the vulnerable in society.

We have in the UK, and probably also elsewhere in Europe, a rather strange attitude to the making of money, and a willingness to tolerate people doing this in any way they can regardless of the cost in terms of impact on individual’s lives. Thus, when, back in 2011, during what the press called an anti-capitalist sit-in (actually the Occupy London Protest against the damaging antics of the financial sector), I saw the Bishop of London standing on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral in London, speaking silver-tongued words about the Church having its own way of dealing with financial institutions, I somehow knew that what he was saying was, we have a vested interest in keeping things the way the are. And so it turns out they do, for no sooner had the Archbishop made his announcement about payday loan companies, than the press were revealing that the Church of England, indirectly invests its capital in payday loan companies!

What this tells us is that the established churches should be taking a careful look at where their money is invested, and be engaging in ethical investments. And there are many unethical investments that can be made: tobacco industry, armaments industry (euphemistically called defence industry), gaming and gambling, usury, and so forth, not to mention specific companies in numerous sectors that one would not want to be associated with.

But the same also applies to us as individuals as well. We all need to take a careful look at where we are investing our savings. This does not meaning rushing out to change our investment portfolios – this of course is something that takes time to address. But next time anyone is looking to make investment, they should take a closer look at exactly what they are investing in. And this is an example of how we can use our wallets and spending decisions to change the world, for if people start to boycott certain sectors of the economy, certain companies, then, the journey towards change starts. The more people who think like this, the faster change will come. This is the nature of the world we now live in – for the first time in history ordinary people have significant power to bring about positive change in the world. They should use this power.

I wish the Archbishop success in his endeavour, but I also urge people to build on this initiative in their own lives, by also disowning unethical businesses – if you have a choice do not work for them, do not trade with them, do not buy from them, do not invest in them. Focus on ethical businesses and give them your support, and in doing so, contribute towards bringing spirituality into free market capitalism – something that is much needed.

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