What Shall We Abolish Next?
When Parliament finally voted to abolish the slave trade in 1807, William Wilberforce, the indefatigable spokesperson for the Abolitionists in Parliament, is said to have turned to his friend, Henry Thornton and said: ‘Well, Henry, what shall we abolish next?’
A question for our time if ever there was one: and brought home to me with a thud when I recently spoke to a local group about the life of Wilberforce and I recounted this anecdote. In the Q&A afterwards, I was asked what I thought Wilberforce would want to abolish if he were alive today.
I thought my head would explode with the multitude of possibilities that began tumbling over themselves in my mind!
But one topic emerged above all others…
Yes - I’m convinced Wilberforce would campaign to abolish Foodbanks.
But don’t they do an amazing and essential job?
Yes they do, but I believe Wilberforce would be astonished – no, make that outraged - that they are needed now, 200 years since he was alive.
But if they do so much good – why would he want to abolish them?
When faced with slavery, Wilberforce and his chums didn’t raise money to install comfy mattresses on slave ships…
…they wanted to eradicate slavery itself.
Their aim wasn’t merely to make the slaves’ living conditions ‘a bit better for now.’
And yes, many did provide emergency healthcare and clinics for sick and injured slaves, but they had abolition firmly in their sights, understanding that clinics and similar helps were only temporary measures until slavery itself was eradicated.
The problem today is that we have been lured into thinking the best way to address any social problem is to set up a charitable project and raise funds.
This is a travesty of the truth…
The best way to end hunger is to have just systems and fair pay.
But what has this got to do with faith? Isn’t this more a political issue?
In what is known as the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught His disciples to pray ‘…Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as in Heaven.’
Call me daft – but I don’t believe there will be foodbanks in heaven, even well stocked, loving and efficiently run foodbanks.
Quite simply, there will be no hunger, ergo, no need for foodbanks.
The only reasonable response by people praying that prayer is to work to end the need for foodbanks…
So while financially supporting foodbanks, donating food, providing premises and volunteering, people of faith are increasingly rising to the challenge: drawing from their faith, networks and experience to do just that.
For example, see the Trussell Trust’s campaign #HungerFreeFuture
I bet Wilberforce would have been one of the first to sign up…