The world contains enough wealth and resources to supply the global population, starvation and homelessness would cease to exist.
Unfortunately this idealist world is extremely distant from the reality of an unequal planet. 80% of the worlds income is taken by just 25% of its population.Shocking proof of this is the immense contrast between the average yearly income of some of the richest and poorest countries. An average person in Luxembourg receives $40 000 per year, whereas a comparatively minute income of $63 is all the average citizen of Sudan is likely to earn. This demonstrates the poverty line between the rich north and poor south.
A horrifying example of absolute poverty can be found within Afghanistan. Here crippling droughts have struck the country for two consecutive years while harsh civil war has also affected the situation.Now food supplies are desperately low, only one third of 1999’s out put of cereal crops is expected to be harvested. Millions face starvation and thus thousands of refugees have fled – from the conflict and the lack of food. Gathered in camps there only source of survival is from aid agencies, and even these can’t cope with the influx of refugees. Taj Mohammad and his family are some of those fleeing this hopeless situation. Previously Nomads, they were left with nothing – their grazing land consumed by the drought, their live stock sold without choice.Now they are forced to go to a refugee camp near Herat, and only hope they can gain access to some nutrition and water supplies.
Christians would be strongly against this injustice, many of their beliefs state that the suffering of anyone is wrong, and that we should do everything we can to help. Liberation theology is one Christian view on poverty which certainly supports action being taken. Liberation theology is one Christian attitude to oppression, however it is relevant to poverty as it emphasises the idea of liberation from economic oppression.This approach reminds people that the bible focuses on helping the poor, and marginalized.
Liberation theologians look back to the Old testament and point out that God listened to the pleading of the Hebrews when they were enslaved in Egypt, and that the prophets (such as Amos and Hosea) were devoted in demanding social justice. They highlight that Jesus took particular interest and care for the poor and suffering, that Christians should be inspired by God in the bible to battle poverty, exploitation and lack of human rights.This originated in South America where several priests died for their causes, taking theologian attitudes. Notably Camilio Torres who said that ‘Revolution is necessary to feed the hungry. Give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked and procure a life of well being for the needy majority. ‘ He was killed by the Colombian government in 1966. Not all Christians agree with this attitude though, many feel that it is too entwined in politics and violence is often a result of these beliefs – a very non-Christian action.
The Catholic church is based around the Eucharist, which has a strong base of justice. This is a kind of praising and thanks giving to God. Its a memorial and sacrifice which involves holy communion and attendance of Holy Mass. The Eucharist is ‘a sacrament of love, a sign of unity , a bond of charity’. This shows that if we love our neighbours (Christians perceive everyone as their neighbour) then we cannot let them suffer. If united with them then we should at least advocate those in need and help to change their situation.We should share what we have we those who need it more, if we are charitable. The Eucharist also challenges us to convert the unfair systems that suppress people in deprivation.
Communion is part of the Eucharist where we receive bread and wine to remember the last supper, this also symbolises the body and blood of Christ. When Christians take this they are seen as ‘meeting Christ’ which means are asked to identify him in everybody we encounter, and share with one another. If we were to share with those lining in poverty then the situation could be improved.
Before participation in the Eucharist Christians are expected to acknowledge our failure within our relationship with God and people alike. It is hypocritical to accept these blessings if we do not intend to take action to change injustice, you cannot truly celebrate the Eucharist whilst disregarding those in need. It is not only the Eucharist which urges Christians to help the poor, the bible also teaches that this is eminently important. In both the Old and New Testament the theme of helping the poor runs explicitly throughout.The Old testament preaches that surplus food is ‘to be left for the foreigners, orphans and widows’ in Deuteronomy 26:19. The new Testament gives more full ideas on the way Christians should aid those living in deprivation. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) the wealthy man fails to help the hunger stricken beggar. On his day of judgement he was punished for ignoring someone in great need, when he could have easily alleviated his suffering.
When Lazarus died he was ‘carried by the angles to sit beside Abraham’, whereas the rich man was thrown into hell where ‘he was in great pain’.The message here is that those who endure poverty on earth will be compensated in heaven. It also highlights that if you neglect someone in such great need then you will pay the penalty on your day of judgement. Jesus also taught that on the day of final judgement everyone would be divided into two groups – the ‘righteous people on his right and the others on his left'(Matt 25:31-46).
Those who fed the hungry, clothed the naked, gave drink to the thirsty and shelter to those who needed had helped God himself and would be recompensed with eternal life.This was saying that if we help those living in painful poverty now, then later in heaven we will be rewarded. The feeding of the five thousand(Mark 6:30-44) also shows another Christian view.
Five loaves and two fish fed five thousand men, which shows that if we share what we have then everyone will have enough. If we were as selfless as the poor widow in Marks Gospel then the world would be a much more equal place. She gave all she had to the church, thinking of others before herself. Jesus praised her saying ‘I tell you that this poor widow put more in the box than all the others..
he gave all she had to live on’ (mark 12:41-44). Today we need to follow her example and begin to consider those with virtually nothing. We can help by firstly giving up what we don’t need, organisations such as CAFOD (Catholic Association For Overseas Development) collect any donations. This organisation is devoted to helping people in situations like those in Afghanistan. They’re strategy however is not to simply supplement food shortages, there motto is ‘give a man a fish for a day and you feed him for a day; teach him how to fish and he will feed himself for life’.They give education and skills to those who can help themselves, this secures there future much more than simply handing them food for a few days. They also have a ‘Trade justice campaign’ which fights for the rights of exploited workers in many third world countries.
They also help refugees such as those I discussed earlier. However, with this particular example it is Christian Aid, another aid agency which is particularly concentrating on tackling the situation. There work is similar to CAFOD’s although there approach is slightly different. Their slogan being ‘Live simply so others can simple live’.They have poured vast amounts of money into providing shelter and food for as many Afghan refugees as possible, receiving grants from many associations. Still this is not sufficient, they need your help and any donations no matter how substantial are greatly appreciated and put to use in order to save lives. Individually Christians often raise money to help suffers in developing countries other than simple contributing.
You can participate in a sponsored walk or fast, or fundraise in other ways i. e. hold a cake stall, or competition, the money raised can then go to organisations helping those in plight.Many projects run which allow you to actually go out to a developing country for an allocated amount of time to assist with the construction of a school in an area lacking one. You could also sponsor a child, each year you pay a fee and as a result the child receives an education – you pay for it.
Work like this will certainly support the many charities which help the victims of unjust poverty, but only large government action can radically change the situation. Campaigns such as Jubilee 2000 which aimed to eradicate, or at least reduce third world debt directed itself at the government.The third world debt has built up by poor countries borrowing money from the 1st world for development. The extortionate interest rises in economic recessions which makes it near impossible for developing countries to repay the interest alone, not even considering the original capital. This means that the indebted countries can spend less on services and the general welfare of their people. The ‘Drop the debt’ campaign had a positive effect and the debt was considerably dropped achieving a reduction of 100 billion dollars. The latest in these debt cutting policies is Target 2015, this aims to demolish the debt by the year 2015.