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Deeper exploration of tax dodging

Churches often don't want simply to sign a petition - they are hungry to explore an issue in greater depth. That's why Christian Aid have published material designed to encourage congregations to recognise that the hard questions Jesus asked about taxation are just as relevant to us today, writes Alasdair Roxburgh

1Previously on this website I wrote about giving tax dodgers nowhere to hide and the cost of corporate tax dodging to the world’s poorest countries. Christian Aid have encouraged churches to contact Vince Cable, the Business Sectary, to ensure public registers are created which reveal who owns which companies, where, and for whose benefit they operate.

And last autumn the Prime Minister David Cameron announced that these registers would be introduced as UK policy. Now the campaign continues to make sure this is implemented as promised, and also becomes standard across the EU and beyond – an essential step if we are to end tax dodging. The progress demonstrates the importance of contacting our representatives.

However my experience of speaking at churches on issues of financial transparency and the global tax system is that congregations are often hungry for a deeper exploration of this issue. Sometimes simply signing a petition is not enough and they want time to discuss some of the trickier questions around tax.

Christian Aid has published some sermon notes, prayers and a bible study focusing on Matthew 22:15-22, designed to encourage congregations to recognise that the hard questions Jesus asked about taxation are just as relevant to us today. Using Matthew 22 as a starting point for discussion, small groups can reflect on their own experience of taxation and consider our competing choices and values.

In Matthew 22, a loaded question about taxes was posed to Jesus. It was not just about money, it was about power. ‘Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s and to God the things that are God’s,’ was Jesus' ultimate response. Tax dodging is a violation of democracy, a rejection of the values of citizenship. But it is also a violation of the citizenship that belongs to God.

We have also compiled a series of prayers to help leaders plan a service or a reflection around tax justice. It is our hope that churches across Britain and Ireland will pray together for greater transparency and accountability in secretive companies, as well as taking our latest campaign action.

Our challenge is not only to change the structures that allow tax dodging to occur but to also change our own hearts and the way we live our lives. Will you and your church join us to demonstrate God’s love for the poorest in our world by tackling tax dodgers?

Download the resources from www.christianaid.org.uk/tax and pray with us that developing countries may receive the tax revenues they are rightfully owed.

Alasdair Roxburgh is Christian Aid's Churches Campaigns Manager. He attends Trafalgar Road Baptist Church, Horsham

Baptist Times, 24/01/2014
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