Determined Contention is part of Charities’ Role

Letter to Church Times published 2 October 2015

Sir, – Revd Dr Hugh Raiment-Pickard rightly argues that Christian love (or charity) is bigger than compassion (25 September 2015). The same is true of Charity, as practised by religious and secular charities registered with the Charity Commission.

There is a pervasive view that Charity should be uncontentious and beyond political strife, bringing us all together. And of course it can often be so. Senior Conservative Ministers and members of the Charity Commission Board have drawn on such a view, mixed with less exalted motives, in decrying campaigning by charities. There has been the injunction that charities should “stick to their knitting”, as if this should be practical and inoffensive.

 They have questions to answer. Would they prefer the slave trade and slavery to remain in full swing? Would they wish little children to be working in factories and mines? Would they wish cruelty to children to remain tolerated behind untrammelled parental rights? Would they wish homosexuals to be jailed as in the 1950s? Would they wish women to be politically inactive and bound to hearth and home? Would they be happy without protection of National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Green Belts, and would they prefer no distinction between town and country? Would they wish animals to be tortured without public sanctions?

In the world as it is, belief in the possibility of a better world has to be carried into the political arena, argued for and campaigned for. Determined contention has always been an integral part of how churches and secular charities have helped change the world around them and do so to this day. The right of charities to pursue their objects by non-party political activity must be celebrated and robustly defended against those who have forgotten their history.

 ANDREW PURKIS

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