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Reflecting on poverty

By Shelly-Ann T Simon
Case Management Officer – Alternative Care, CCSJ & AMMR, rcsocialjustice.org

Very often, we hear conversations about poverty where there is always some debate about what poverty is and what it is not. Some persons even argue that the concept of poverty is not real given the abundance of natural resources that exists in the world today. The latter argument typically revolves around the wasting of food, the move away from agriculture or the destruction of the planet.

But I believe the basis of this argument is reflective of a shift in our thinking and perception as human beings. Humanity has been consistently losing its spiritual wealth through a lack of understanding and love for each other as well as a lack of respect and compassion for the natural resources God has given us.

Poverty, as we know it, is the state of not having enough material possessions or income to satisfy a person’s basic social/economic needs. Unfortunately, for humanity there are many types of poverty, each impacting our lives and development as nations in different ways.

Poverty occurs when household conditions are insufficient to allow families the affordability of basic necessities such as food, shelter, clothing. Often this is not changed by economic growth.

Poverty is generally established via prevailing economic conditions in a country and is further exacerbated by age, health, gender, marital status, death etc. It negatively impacts economic and social rights such as the right to proper and timely health services, adequate shelter, food, and potable water, as well as the right to education.

The same is true of civil and political rights, political participation, and security. But who does poverty really affect? In my estimation, everyone, since we are all vulnerable to economic changes nationally and globally. I also believe that humankind can fix this issue.

While there are individuals in society who would be impacted by poverty faster than others, the new reality is that all of us are vulnerable.

As a society, we need to think about what we can do to prevent further economic breakdown and address poverty and social exclusion. It is clear that those in poverty are close to God’s heart.

Jesus Himself was born into poverty. He taught us to understand, respect, cherish and care for our brothers and sisters. He gave us a new Commandment. If we love our neighbour as He loves us, we will alleviate poverty.

Jesus said: “Sell your possessions, give it to the poor and follow me. There will be a greater reward for you in Heaven.” In this lesson, Jesus is teaching us about equality, equity, and justice.

As John T Grosso, Director of Digital Media for the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut, USA writes, Jesus is warning us “not to be possessed by our possessions” but to “keep our attention where it belongs: fixed on God.”

All that we have is gift from God. Let us, therefore, share our material goods, time and talent with the poor, our neighbour.

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