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Church intervention on banking is the way forward

The leaders of the four main Christian denominations in Northern Ireland are to be congratulated for their recent, if somewhat belated, public pronouncements on bank business lending practice.

High-level Christian engagement in social justice issues has been neglected for too long in this part of the world.

The recognition that businesses do not operate in a moral and social vacuum is an important one given that their practices are of interest to all concerned with societal wellbeing. This recent foray into a public debate between churches and the banks will hopefully provide the impetus for further discussion.

We look forward to the church leaders challenging the banking community with respect to the consequences of over-indebtedness and excessive credit-card lending rates. Such a dialogue should be open and wide-ranging and include the development of constructive proposals that will provide a framework for delivering affordable and accessible financial services to low-income households. Organisations such as Church Action on Poverty have for many years been involved in the 'Debt On Our Doorstep' campaign network which aims to end extortionate lending and ensure universal access to affordable credit and other financial services. Sadly, banking practices that are detrimental to the wellbeing of the most vulnerable have gone unchallenged by faith leaders for too long. May the action of four church leaders be the catalyst for change.

REV DR SCOTT PEDDIE

and four others

Church Action On Poverty NI

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