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Campaigning Against Payday Lenders 

A Baptist minister is among those leading a campaign in his community against excessive interest charges demanded by payday lenders

The issue made national headlines earlier this summer when the Church of England, under the leadership of the Revd Justin Welby, revealed plans to out-compete Wonga by supporting the growth of credit unions as an alternative to payday lenders.

But in the Swansea Bay region a campaign had already begun. The Swansea Bay Fair Credit Campaign, is a broad based movement including representatives of local communities, councilors, LASA (the Swansea credit union) and churches.

It held a rally against excessive interest charges demanded by payday lenders on Saturday 31 August. The rally also promoted alternatives such as credit unions.

The Revd Chris Lewis, minister of Mount Zion Baptist Chapel in Bonymaen spoke at the rally and helped to spearhead the publicity for the campaign, having contacted both local media and the local faith community.

News of the rally made the South Wales Evening Post, while the respondents locally have been Greenfield Baptist Church in Llanelli and Mount Calvary Baptist Church, Manselton.

At the rally he underlined the biblical reasons for Christians’ involvement, referring to Leviticus, which speaks of how predatory lending is divisive of society; Exodus, and of how humanity and morality demands that there has to be a limit to the power of distraint; and Nehemiah. ‘We can and should call these people to account, and we are,’ Mr Lewis said. 

Mr Lewis believes the campaign has much faith support, explaining that the Bible gives a mandate to stand up for the injustice of excessive loan charges.

‘It looks as if people are becoming the servants or victims of the economy rather than the economy serving people,’ he said.

‘I think this campaign can begin to restore a balance and help people take control. I speak for the Judeo-Christian tradition, which is strongly against exploiting people through the taking of interest and all that goes with it when the money isn't there to pay back the debt.

‘Other faith communities will stand with us on this.’

Matt Barlow, chief executive of Christians Against Poverty, said the charity was ‘grateful’ the Archbishop had spoken up, adding that this new payday sector was causing ‘pain and injustice’.

‘We have to acknowledge that this form of credit causes greater consternation than pretty much anything we've ever seen, excepting of course illegal loan sharks. It is simply wrong that someone should get approved for a loan so quickly, with so little thought being applied as to whether they can afford to pay it back.’

Mr Barlow described Mr Welby’s vision as ‘audacious’, adding that ‘to have Credit Unions as an answer to payday lenders or doorstep lenders would be a brilliant thing.’

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