CARDINAL Basil Hume has joined with other church leaders including the Archbishop of Canterbury and the heads of the Baptist Union, United Reformed Church, Methodist Conference and the Free Church Federal Council in calling for a renewed effort from British churches in the fight against illiteracy.
In a joint statement to mark International Literacy Year, the leaders highlighted the significant rote the people of this country can play in breaking the ghettoes of illiteracy which still kept too many bound to unacceptable standards of education.
Present estimates of world illiteracy amongst adults stand at nearly 900 million, more than one in four of the world's population. Particularly alarming is the rate of illiteracy among women—approximately one in three. It is the limited opportunities enjoyed by illiterates and the sheer scale of the problem that has led the United Nations to designate 1990 as International Literacy Year, with the aim of initiating a programme that will lead to illiteracy being wiped out by the year 2000.
Churches and missionary societies in this country have always played their part in furthering reading and writing skills — a tradition that is continuing today. The church leaders' statement expressed the hope that during this year when the international community is giving prominence to literacy work "more churches will support those charities which are committed to this vital work".