The least of these

Mother Theresa
Mother Theresa

We may say that we love God, but is it just words? Love involves action, so how do we actively express our love for Him? How can we be sure that our love for God is not just a religious or emotional feeling?

Jesus told a story in which he clearly shows us that our love for our fellow-man is received by Him as love for Himself. How amazing is that? As we show compassion towards those in need, we can be really loving God.

There is a warning too. Indifference to the needs of the poor, or sick, or homeless is indifference towards God. We cannot say that we love God, and at the same time, be indifferent to the needs we see around us. Continue reading “The least of these”

Freedom from the slavery of poverty

Freedom

Bangledeshi kids
Bangladeshi kids

The desire for freedom is one of the most basic human needs. Wars and civil wars have been fought to seek freedom. This article explains how extreme poverty, and relative poverty, can be expressed as a lack of basic freedom.

Slavery involves a total lack of freedom over every aspect of  life. A slave has no rights, no income and no hope of a better life. Extreme poverty means that in terms of freedom, people living under extreme poverty are virtual slaves to that poverty. They can no more set themselves free than a slave can, by self-effort, become a free man or woman. Even people living in relative poverty lack freedoms in various ways. Continue reading “Freedom from the slavery of poverty”

Extreme poverty

Slum in Delhi, India
Slum in Delhi, India

Imagine living on the streets of a large city. Your income is pathetically small and is all spent on feeding your family. Your children seem always to be hungry and are susceptible to sickness and disease. Your daughter wants to get married but you cannot afford it. You are considering selling one of your kidneys.

Imagine living in a remote village. You have a very small plot of land but the soil is not fertile and the rains have failed. You have a little grain which you plan to plant next year but you wonder, should you give it to your children to save them from starvation.

Imagine you were born in Africa. Continue reading “Extreme poverty”

Relative poverty

Lady from UgandaIt is human nature to compare our living standards with others, in our community, or internationally, and feel that we are poor. Those who are by any definition, prosperous, may envy others their yachts or private jets. Those in more modest circumstances may feel poor because they cannot afford a larger flat screen television or overseas holidays. Those who are struggling, but nevertheless surviving, may envy others the chance to send their children to school, or afford the medical treatment so vital to a family member. Continue reading “Relative poverty”

Donor compassion fatigue

Carers at an Orphanage in Uganda

There is no doubt that in recent years giving to charities by individuals and families has reduced by a significant amount. Are there just too many needs? Is it due to reduced family income because of unemployment or wage freezes? Does the fear of redundancy make people more careful in their giving to charities?

Some people say that a reduction in giving to charities is caused by compassion fatigue, or more specifically Continue reading “Donor compassion fatigue”

The root causes of Poverty

Mumbai slum street scene
Mumbai slum street scene

War, disease, famine, debt, unsafe water and many other things contribute to poverty in the world, But are these the root causes of poverty? We need to drill a bit deeper, and as we do, we come face to face with human nature and attitudes.  In this article I argue that things like greed, fear, power and prejudice are the real root causes of a state of affairs where a quarter of the world lives in absolute poverty and many more live without the “necessities” that we take for granted.

Take war and conflict for instance. There is no doubt that violence between nations, or communities within a nation, causes vast poverty among the civilian population. But wars are caused by fear of other cultures or by the seeking of power or economic benefit over enemies. Civil wars or violence between governments and “terrorists” or “freedom fighters” have their source in fear, prejudice or injustice.

It is not very popular to talk about fear and greed. But their opposites, compassion and unselfishness, would transform society and eliminate poverty.  The Bible declares that God loves justice and cares for the poor, and he urges us to be motivated by compassion and justice. As Christians we often pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. As we seek God’s help in changing our own attitudes, we can affect the whole world and see an increase of the rule of God in our world.

Greed

land-grabGreed [1] is an ugly word and yet it is encouraged by some economists as the basis of a free market, or capitalism. It is wanting more than our fair share of the worlds resources. Wealth is often accumulated purely for its own sake, or as a measure of a persons status or worth. I long for a world where a person will be valued by the wealth they give away rather than accumulate.

There is enough food produced in the world to give everyone 3000 calories per day. Yet obesity is common while so many suffer from the damaging effects of under-nourishment.

Greed as a root cause of poverty causes unequal distribution of resources, unfair trade, conflict and unethical debt.

Fear

This can be fear of people we see as different to ourselves. It can be fear of other cultures, nationality, tribal group, social status or caste, language or religion. Fear can produce war, conflict or violence. Fear may stop us being generous to other people if we are afraid that giving may have a detrimental effect on our lifestyle.

Corruption

The perception of Corruption throughout the world
The perception of Corruption throughout the word

Corruption [2] is caused by greed, or a love of Power. When corruption is endemic in society its effect on poverty in that society cannot be over-estimated. At a national level it is a positive disincentive to international aid as so often the “aid” ends up in a leader’s Swiss bank account. Ask the average man or woman in one of the aid-donor countries about international aid and he is likely to mention corruption.

People in a position of power over others may seek a bribe. They may be politicians, custom officials, police or lawyers, corporate buyers, or gang members seeking “protection money” from local businesses. The giving and offering of bribes corrupts us all and has a damaging effect on the most vulnerable members of society, the poor.

Indifference

“All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.”
(Generally attributed to Edmund Burke)

Plato-IndifferenceWe do not have to be greedy, fearful or dishonest to have a detrimental effect on others. Indifference to the need of others is a major cause of poverty and enables it to persist. What is the opposite? Love, compassion and generosity is the antidote.

Indifference is not just found in developed nations. Comparatively rich people, living in developing countries, are so often indifferent to the needs of their fellow countrymen.

Each one of us, as well as being generous ourselves, can have a positive influence on our communities, by our example, and by the way we seek to make others aware of needs.

Power

Money is not the only thing which people desire to the detriment of others. The pursuit of power, often for its own sake, can be used to oppress other people, creating or re-enforcing poverty.

Prejudice

This can take the form of racism, or social status snobbery. People of other ethnic groups, language, religion or social class (or caste) are thought of as inferior. Extremes can be regarding others as sub-human or simply that somehow people living “over there” do not share the same thoughts, values or aspirations as ourselves.

Prejudice causes poverty because we may not value others as we value ourselves and therefore they are not worthy of help, or fairness in our dealings with them.

Conclusion

The root causes of poverty are found within human nature. They affect us all, regardless of whether we are Christian, Moslem, Hindu or of no faith at all. As human beings we have been made in the image of God and have an amazing capacity for compassion and selflessness as well as the potential for awful cruelty and indifference. But it is my firm belief that we can change our own attitudes and actions, but we need the help of God.


Note 1  Greed is defined in a Wikipedia article

Greed (Latin, avaritia), also known as avarice, cupidity, or covetousness, is the inordinate desire to possess wealth, goods, or objects of abstract value with the intention to keep it for one’s self, far beyond the dictates of basic survival and comfort. It is applied to a markedly high desire for and pursuit of wealth, status, and power

Back.


Note 2  Corruption:  Wikipedia says:

The word corrupt when used as an adjective literally means “utterly broken”.

  • The word was first used by Aristotle and later by Cicero who added the terms bribe and abandonment of good habits.
  • Morris, a professor of politics, corruption is the illegitimate use of public power to benefit a private interest.
  • Economist I. Senior defines corruption as an action to secretly provide a good or a service to a third-party so that he or she can influence certain actions which benefit the corrupt, a third-party, or both in which the corrupt agent has authority.
  • Kauffman, from the World Bank extends the concept to include ‘legal corruption’ in which power is abused within the confines of the law – as those with power often have the ability to shape the law for their protection.

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Comments

I would really welcome any comments on this post. What do you think are the root causes of poverty? Whether you can add to my list, disagree with me or agree with me, your comments will be visible to all. You will need to give your email address, but you can be anonymous. I promise to delete only abusive comments!

Who is my Neighbour?

Elderly lady from Peru
Elderly lady from Peru

A religious lawyer asked this question, “Who is my neighbour?”  This was part of a question and answer dialogue with Jesus. The man had first come to Jesus with a question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” and Jesus challenged the lawyer to summarise the Jewish law.

  • “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” and
  • “Love your neighbour as yourself.”

Jesus said that he had summed up the Continue reading “Who is my Neighbour?”

Appropriate Paper-based Technology

Appropriate Paper Technology
Appropriate Paper Technology in Africa

In many developing countries, raw materials are costly but labour is comparatively inexpensive. In India, for example, recycling is the key. Nearly everything that can be recycled is collected and re-used. This reduces dependence on costly raw materials which may have to be imported.

Appropriate paper technology provides the means for poorer communities to add value by turning waste paper and cardboard into furniture and other useful items. The only costs are flour to make paste and varnish to make the product more sale-able.

By pasting together multiple sheets of cardboard like Continue reading “Appropriate Paper-based Technology”

Pure Religion

Orphans in Uganda
Orphans in Uganda

Religion suffers from a bad press. People often see religion as a negative influence in the development of mankind!  As followers of Jesus Christ we are fond of saying, “This is not a religion, it is about following Jesus and knowing God”. But the fact is, although we may not regard ourselves as religious, people still label us as religious.

But there is, according to James, a form of religion which is pure, faultless, good and acceptable to God. Pure religion is to look after the disadvantaged in society, and to be involved with our communities without being corrupted by them.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world”.
(James 1:27 New International Version)

The bible does not write off religion but redefines it. Pure religion, it says, is Continue reading “Pure Religion”

Do not judge, or you too will be judged

Judgement scalesIf we were to ask the average man or woman in the street what he thinks of people who call themselves Christians, one of the things they might say is, “They’re always judging us”. As followers of Jesus Christ we may wish to be thought of as good living, upright people but the fact is that we so often put people off Jesus by being judgmental.

I have quite a large range of “friends” on Facebook. Hardly a day goes by without seeing some criticism or judgement upon fellow human beings, society or countries. Sometimes we are requested to “like” some outrageous statement about some more marginalised sections of the population – excluding them still further. Continue reading “Do not judge, or you too will be judged”

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