Global Indifference

BigIssueSellersThis title comes from Pope Francis’ homily on the Island of Lampeduza on 8th July where he challenged all for the indifference we have to the suffering around us. Lampeduza is the landing place for thousands escaping poverty and hunger in Africa and seeking the life and riches of Europe. It is also the place where many bodies end up, having been plucked, drowned, from the sea with all hope and promise ended. If you want to be challenged then read the full text here.

Three things spring into my mind as I read this:

How often I walk past the Big Issue seller at the end of our road, such that I don’t give a single thought to why they are there, where they have come from, what are their hopes for the future? Many other questions could follow, but I just walk by assuming that others will give them money for their BI. My excuse is that I don’t want to read the magazine, but there is something deeper missing.

I was asked recently if Solihull Churches Action on Homelessness supported asylum-seekers. The implication behind the question was that people would give to support British people who found themselves in difficulties, but did not wish to do this for people from abroad. There seems to be a radical failure to understand how global economics works and that we are likely more responsible for the plight of the asylum seeker than for the domestic violence victim – though we have a duty of care for both. It seems there is also a failure within the Christian community to keep refreshing the Gospel message of God’s option for the poorest in our world.

There has been a lot in recent press about tax avoidance and how multi-national companies will ensure that their legal responsibilities fall where tax obligations are the least. Christian Aid and other charities have a justifiable campaign against the avoidance of paying tax and the responsibilities to wider society that tax represents. What I do find hard to understand is the gripe of government that they are losing out to other countries. Surely, in this day of global commerce where any purchased goods might have been made by people in any number of different countries, some system needs to be worked out for the associated tax to be paid fairly. What is iniquitous is the habit of multi-nationals to find the country with the lowest tax obligations in order to line their own coffers. Should tax be more appropriately paid where the poorest are to be found?