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NI bishop concerned at political alienation among poor

By Sarah Mac Donald - 19 November, 2013

Conference to discuss faith contribution to public debate on social need.

Photo: courtesy RTE

Photo: courtesy RTE

The Bishop of Down and Connor has expressed concern over the growth in political alienation among many of those experiencing poverty.

Speaking ahead of a conference due to be held on the issue in Belfast on Thursday, Bishop Noel Treanor warned that the “steady growth in political alienation and the sense of isolation experienced by many of those experiencing poverty and social exclusion is something we should all be concerned about.”

He suggested that the challenge was to “step into that space, articulate our values and present proposals for change in a spirit of dialogue and cooperation with all sectors of society.”

‘Policies for People: Faith perspectives for social need and social policy’ will be hosted by the Northern Ireland Catholic Council on Social Affairs in conjunction with the Community Faiths’ Forum.

The conference will be co-chaired by Bishop Treanor and the NI Minister for Social Development, Nelson McCausland MLA. 

It will discuss the contribution which faith perspectives can bring to the public debate on social need and social policy. 

The programme will include an introductory theological reflection, a keynote talk by Professor Peadar Kirby, as well as small group and panel discussions. 

The context which the conference will address is the challenges for faith communities providing vital services in the fight against poverty and social exclusion to support those who find themselves unable to provide for themselves or their families. 

It will discuss whether with demands for services increasing rapidly and growing fears for the future impact of social welfare reform, if there a need for faith-based organisations to increase efforts to bring their experience and values to government and international policy? 

The conference will also explore what opportunities exist for engagement by the faith sector in the shaping of social and economic policy, in dialogue with other key stakeholders. 

The discussion will be framed in an EU context, examining the concept of the social market economy, enshrined in the Treaty of Lisbon, and drawing comparisons with developments in other EU countries.

The conference is due to take place at Skainos, Newtownards Road, Belfast from 10.00am until 1.30pm.

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