Poverty and the dignity of the person

Assumption Charismatic Prayer Group celebrates 25 years of ministry
October 13, 2020
Message of His Holiness Pope Francis: Here am I, send me
October 13, 2020

Poverty and the dignity of the person

By Leela Ramdeen

Chair, CCSJ & Director, CREDI

“Without a solution to the problems of the poor, we will not solve the problems of the world. We need projects, mechanisms and processes to implement better distribution of resources, from the creation of new jobs to the integral promotion of those who are excluded.” -Pope Francis

We are one human family, and we have a responsibility to stand in solidarity with the poor and vulnerable if we are to fulfil God’s command: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”

Saturday, October 17 was the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. The theme this year is: Acting together to achieve social and environmental justice for all.

The number of poor people in T&T is growing daily, and the pandemic has led to an increase in the number of persons/families living below the poverty line. We know what some of the causes/drivers of poverty and social exclusion are in T&T. What we need is the will-power, at all levels, to effect change.

Do we have evidence-based policies based on the concept of integral human development? Are we targeting our limited resources effectively? Have we developed appropriate poverty-reduction programmes? If so, are we monitoring and evaluating their effectiveness?

As the UN states: “The growing recognition of the multi-dimensionality of poverty means that these two issues are inseparably intertwined, and that social justice cannot be fully realised without aggressively rectifying environmental injustices at the same time. Whereas progress has been made in addressing income poverty, there has been less success in addressing the other important dimensions of poverty, including the rapidly growing impact of the environment, within a more holistic approach…

In a world characterised by an unprecedented level of economic development, technological means, and financial resources, that millions of persons are living in extreme poverty is a moral outrage. Poverty is not solely an economic issue, but rather a multidimensional phenomenon that encompasses a lack of both income and the basic capabilities to live in dignity.

Persons living in poverty experience many interrelated and mutually reinforcing deprivations that prevent them from realising their rights and perpetuate their poverty, including: dangerous work conditions, unsafe housing, lack of nutritious food, unequal access to justice, lack of political power, limited access to health care…The participation, knowledge, contributions and experience of people living in poverty and those left behind must be valued, respected and reflected in our efforts to build an equitable and sustainable world in which there is social and environmental justice for all.”

On October 7, the World Bank stated that: “Global extreme poverty is expected to rise in 2020 for the first time in over 20 years as the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic compounds the forces of conflict and climate change, which were already slowing poverty reduction progress…The COVID-19 pandemic is estimated to push an additional 88 million to 115 million people into extreme poverty this year, with the total rising to as many as 150 million by 2021, depending on the severity of the economic contraction.

Extreme poverty, defined as living on less than (US) $1.90 a day, is likely to affect between 9.1% and 9.4% of the world’s population in 2020, according to the biennial Poverty and Shared Prosperity Report. This would represent a regression to the rate of 9.2% in 2017. Had the pandemic not convulsed the globe, the poverty rate was expected to drop to 7.9% in 2020.”

Maria Power states that Pope Francis’ recent encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, “offers a new vision of society in which human dignity and the human rights of all are respected… He has always wanted to make it clear that his papacy is one of action – placing the needs of the poor, marginalised and disenfranchised at the centre of his ministry.”

CCSJ’s theme for Justice, Peace and Community Week, which will run from Saturday, November 14 to Saturday 21, will be: “Stretch forth your hand to the poor” (Sirach 7:32)—the theme of Pope Francis’ Message for the 4th World Day of the Poor—to be observed on Sunday, November 15. Archbishop Jason’s wish is that the faithful, at all levels in our Archdiocese, prepare to observe World Day for the Poor.

How effective are parish Ministries that are seeking to empower/transform the lives of those living in poverty/on the margins?

Our faith calls us to promote the dignity of each person/to build the common good. You and I can make a difference. Every small gesture of charity counts. And let’s speak out on behalf of those who lack basic necessities.