Over the last few weeks, I have visited the sites of several of the 'occupations against greed and poverty'. Birmingham, Edinburgh, and today, Bradford, my home town. Of course, all the attention has focused on 'Occupy London Stock Exchange', and the issues over how St Paul's Cathedral has responded to them. This has somewhat undermined that it is an international movement, with people taking part in over 900 cities so far.
In my conversations with participants and passers by, some overwhelming realisations are occurring. 1) unemployment is now affecting us all in one way or another. Many of the people, young and old, that I spoke to are out of work, and with no prospect of work. They want to work.
2) There is no respect for our banking institutions or for the way our governments have dealt with the financial sectors
3) Many people do not believe that this present government will change direction, and that protest, whilst important, will not change a thing.
These conversations with the folk coming up to these occupations are one of the most important aspects of the 'occupation' movement - giving people space to say how they feel. From them, we cannot help but realise that poverty is affecting more people than even grim government statistics admit to. It shows that people are fed up with policy being led by the needs of the financial and political elite. Finally, it tells us that people have no faith in our present forms of democracy.
There's a lot to change, a lot to do. Simply kicking out these camps will not solve the problem - the problems of poverty and political leadership will not go away so simply.
Let's not be sidetracked by the pronouncements from St Paul's Cathedrals, let us instead listen more intently to the conversations with the marginalised and disempowered. That is what Jesus would do.