I first visited Sri Lanka early in 1988, but have just returned from what must be about my 30th visit. The roots of the poverty relief charity, Kingscare/Karuna Action developed here, and the country has been central to it’s work and vision.
I remember well my first visit. I came with a burden and a dream along with a certain amount of idealism. I knew that God had called me to take some action to relieve poverty which I knew held so many in it’s grip of slavery. I had read every book I could find, both Christian and secular, on the subject of poverty and world problems. I was anxious to find ways that the Church of Jesus Christ could be a blessing to the whole world.
Social Justice is vital if a country claims to be morally as well as economically developed. The measure of a country is how the government and the people of that country treat the disadvantaged members of society. The Bible criticises those who exploit their workers, ignore the poor or do not look after the immigrant or the homeless. Sharing our resources is fundamental to the ideal of social justice.
In this article I am writing from a United Kingdom perspective, but the principles are true for all countries whether developed or developing. People are materially poor because of one or more of the following factors:
Physical or mental disability which effects the possibility of employment
Marriage breakdown causing a split into two households.
Single parents struggling to balance a job and child care.
Insufficient jobs with a meaningful salary.
A major employer or industry closing down causing a disruption in the local economy.
Choosing not to work and deliberately living off benefits. (I am NOT suggesting that more than a tiny minority could be classified as “scroungers” or “benefit cheats” but obviously there are a few who fit into this category.)
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.
It 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”