One of the most thrilling pledges ever made must be the World Bank’s commitment to abolishing poverty worldwide by 2030. That date has since been extended, but it remains on the table as an ultimate aim.
I can’t help wondering whether ways of speeding things up might have to come from the heart now, as well as from our wallets, creating a more respectful solidarity with our neighbours impoverished by war, corruption, exploitation and displacement, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia. As Pope Francis put it in an interview recently: “The Christian message is transmitted by embracing those in difficulty, by embracing the outcast, the marginalised.”
Evidence from the Global Issues website shows that almost half the world lives on less than £2 a day. According to Unicef, 22,000 children die each day as a result of poverty. And they “die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world”. Less than one per cent of what the world spent every year on weapons was needed to put every child in school by 2,000. But that, too, didn’t happen.
The good news is that the Catholic community is characteristically generous – the level of donations did not dip at the start of the economic crisis. But it’s not all about money. It gets personal, beginning with ourselves, as Geoff O’Donoghue, overseas development director of Cafod, explained.
“So the way I eat, dress myself, take my holidays – these are actually all things that can either help or hinder,” he suggested. “On another level, it’s also about challenging governments and businesses. And some of that is global. Cafod doesn’t act alone. The Church is a massive, multi-faceted entity and it has influence in the UN and at government level, and we try and play our part within that.”
Referring to “the globalisation of indifference”, Pope Francis wrote starkly in his encyclical Laudato Si’: “The earth itself, burdened and laid waste, is amongst the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor … if we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters, unable to set limits on their immediate needs. By contrast, if we feel ultimately united with all that exists, then sobriety and care will well up spontaneously.”
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