Faith Focus: Aspirations for unity are not reflected in reality

Anna McCrum

Anna McCrum - Credit: Archant

“Just look what we can do when we all come together”; words from a Tweet sent by Manchester United and England footballer Marcus Rashford, after leading a campaign that saw the Government announce that it would offer food vouchers to around 1.3 million children over the summer holidays.

“Back of the net”, “Rashers for PM!” were some of the headlines that followed, reflecting the mood that it was one of those moments when, whatever your politics, sense had prevailed.

At its heart was the testimony of millions of people struggling to get by in ‘normal’ times let alone during lockdown. Marcus Rashford grew up with his mum who worked full time but like many other families, breakfast clubs, free school meals and visits to foodbanks were a ‘normal’ part of life.

Marcus knows about the hardship that families can go through.

Sadly, holiday hunger is not new, with the media reporting every summer on the work of charities and faith groups that support families by providing food and activities for kids. But the phrase that I’ve heard a lot since coronavirus started, ‘we’re all in this together’, seems not to ring true to me.

Maybe it’s an aspiration we share? A wish to feel we are united? We want to feel that we are all in the same boat.

But the evidence shows we aren’t. Official figures released last week suggest the number of people claiming work-related benefits is up 126 per cent to 2.8 million, with analysts saying poorer areas are being hit hardest.

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People from black, Asian, or minority ethnic backgrounds are up to four times more likely to die of coronavirus than the rest of the population. A recent study has shown a troubling increase in mental health issues for younger age groups, as they face an uncertain future at school, college and at work.

“This is not about politics; it’s about humanity,” wrote Marcus Rashford. Hard to argue with that. Christians might say it’s about the commandment to love your neighbour as yourself. Or put another way, by accepting that part of our common humanity is to care for others we offer each other and

ourselves a hopeful and brighter future.

Anna McCrum lives in St Albans and works for the Methodist Church in London as a media officer.