by ROWENA OREJANA
AUCKLAND — St Luke’s Presbyterian Church has prominently displayed a big billboard of Pope Francis with his quote, “Inequality is the root of social evils”, in recognition of his leadership on tackling the issue poverty.
St Luke’s Presbyterian Church minister Reverend Glynn Cardy, who was behind the often-controversial billboards at St Matthew’s-in-the-city in the past, said they put this billboard up to get people thinking about what they can do to address the issue of
“The widespread prevalence of poverty in New Zealand is a national disgrace. We need to and can do better,” he said.
And although Presbyterians come from a different tradition and at times have been critical
of the Catholic Church, Rev. Cardy said, “We want to recognise the faith, integrity, and leadership on this issue that Francis offers”.
“Pope Francis has, more than any other Christian leader, publicly championed those suffering from poverty, and challenged those of us who are not to do something about it,” he said.
By using Pope Francis’s message, Rev. Cardy said they are challenging the “old and narrow thinking” that truth is held only by one faith.
“Instead, we want to affirm that truth, God’s truth, comes from a variety of messengers in a variety of ways. On the issue of poverty, the Pope is one of those messengers,” he said.
The billboard was set up at the same time as political billboards mushroomed in communities around New Zealand.
Rev. Cardy said this is the time to consider what these parties do, and promise to do, for the poor.
“The question the billboard asks in relation to the general election is which political parties, if any, have prioritised the eradication of poverty, what policies are they advocating to achieve this, and will these policies not only address social ills but also inequality?” he said.
He said more foodbanks, budgeting services, and even assigning the blame on the poor themselves, do not really address the issue of poverty.
“We need to, as Pope Francis infers, address the structural inequalities that create social ills. We need to make changes in employment, tax, and other economic policies. We need to be committed to a vision of society where everybody matters, and the fiscally stronger help the fiscally weaker,” he said.
Rev. Cardy, who put up provocative billboards when he was the Vicar at St Matthew’s-in the-city, finds billboards a good tool to make people think.
“Sometimes billboards use humour, or juxtaposition [like having the Pope outside a Presbyterian Church], or occasionally provocation. The purpose is always to make us stop and think,” he said. “A billboard doesn’t provide answers.”
What it does, he said, is encourage people to think “about what you believe and why; to think about those who are hurting in society and why; and to think about how peace and justice can flourish and what we might contribute to make them happen”.