In this coursework piece I am going to look at Wealth and poverty from a religious angle and all the issues that surround it. I will talk about the work done to relieve poverty by a religious charity and I will look into world development. I am also going to argue, in detail, a statement given to me and I am going to draw a conclusion from my work.
Teachings on Wealth and Poverty
Christians believe that wealth is something, which can be used for good or evil, and so in itself is not a bad thing. Christians are taught that they should only gain money in lawful and honest ways and when they have wealth it is a gift from god not theirs alone. According to the New Testament our riches must be used for the help of others especially those poorer than themselves.
Christians believe that all humans are equal in the eyes of god and that all the good things of the earth have been given to us by god to use to help each other. ‘People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evil,’ (timothy 6:9-10).
It is meant by this quote that Christians don’t believe that money and wealth are evil; they believe that the feelings that such as greed that come from wealth are evil. It also tells Christians that to love money is evil, and that you should not devote your life to making yourself rich or wealthy. Many biblical teachings show that if you have the wrong attitude to money wealth can lead you away from god, ‘You cannot serve both god and money,’ (Matthew 6:24), and it is meant by this statement that if you are devoted to your wealth then you cannot be a true Christian because you aren’t a good person.
Jesus once told a parable that is now commonly known as ‘The sheep and the goats’. It explains how god will judge people at the end of their lives and split them into good and evil in the same way that a farmer would split his livestock into sheep and goats. Jesus says to the good people, ‘When I was hungry you fed me, when I was naked you clothed me and when I was sick or in prison you visited me, when you did it for the least of my brothers you did it for me.’ It is believed by most Christians that by helping others less fortunate than yourselves you are doing good in the eyes of god and you will be rewarded. Other people will be punished if they didn’t use their wealth or prosperity to help others.
Islam teaches that wealth is something given by god for the benefit of humanity and therefore is something to be shared. For some strict Muslims sharing your wealth is not a matter of choice, it is something commanded in the religious pillar of Zakah, there are five pillars in Islam which instruct Muslims on how to live their lives Zakah is just one of them. In Arabic Zakah means purification and many Muslims believe that giving Zakah purifies the money that thy have left, so that no harm can come from it. Muslims pay Zakah annually on a basis of 2 and a half percent of their income and savings, above the level needed to keep their family, ‘He is not a believer who takes his fill while his neighbours starve’ (Mohammed).
This quote means, a person is not a true Muslim if they are well off and do not do anything to help the poor and needy. Another quote to show this is, ‘He who eats and drinks whilst his brothers go hungry is not one of us.’ Muslims also believe in paying Sadaqah, voluntarily giving to the charity if ever they are asked, or if they have excess money. There are also Muslim charities such as Muslim Aid and Islamic Belief, which provide help for people in LEDC’s (less economically developed countries). ‘one who manages the affairs of the widow and the needy is like one who exerts himself hard in the way of god…’ (Haddith). It is meant by this that people who are helping the poor are helping and doing well by God, this is very similar to the Christian view.
Both religions Christianity and Islam believe that its not how much money you have that’s important, it’s the way its earned and used. Both religions believe strongly that it should be used to help those less fortunate than themselves, whereas only Islam has any rules or laws on giving money to charity.
Christian Aid believes we all have a role to play in ending the scandal of mass poverty. The charity is currently trying to end the unpayable debts owed by some LEDC’s plus many other issues LEDC’s face today.
Christian Aid was formed in Britain and Ireland as the Second World War was ending. It was set up to help refugees and churches recover form the damage and destruction caused by the war. It began in 1944 but was named Christian Aid in 1945, gradually Christian Aid expanded to include countries from around the world, and approximately 60 countries are now part of Christian Aid irrespective of their religion. It is now a network of around 40 churches in Ireland and the UK.
Christian Aid works to provide emergency aid and long-term assistance to church and community organisations working to overcome poverty. Christian Aid prefers to work through local organisations, believing local people know best how to solve their problems.
Christian Aid has many ongoing aims and projects the current ones are as follows.
Christian Aid is fighting for the debts that many LEDC’s owe to be cancelled $100 billion has already been cancelled due to Christian Aid’s work but there is still a long way to go.
Currently MEDC’s (more economically developed countries) are taking $26 million in debt repayments every week from Africa alone, and in total $700 billion from the world’s poorest countries each year. Christian Aid believes that if these debts were cancelled it would give many LEDC’s the helping hand out of poverty.
Millions of people across Southern Africa are facing the regions worst food crisis in 50 years. Unpredictable weather patterns including flooding and droughts have caused crops to fail. Christian Aid has helped by setting up special meal times for children in towns or schools.
HIV and AIDS
Christian Aid is constantly trying to improve health care and education in contraception where Aids is a major problem. According to a United Nations Report LEDC’s account for more than 95% of all people living with Aids.
Christian Aids work is done in four main ways; fundraising, emergency aid, long term aid and education. All of these ways have one main aim and that is to help LEDC’s out of poverty.
As you can see from my map the world is divided into three main groups; developed countries such as the US and Europe, and developing countries which are countries that are becoming richer like Brazil and Mexico and LEDC’s for example Sudan, Bangladesh and Mali.
I am going to explain to you why I think there is a need for world development.
People would agree that everyone is entitled to their basic human needs, and from my map I can see that almost half of the world’s population are not receiving these what they need and deserve. Everyone needs food to grow and develop, safe drinking water, protection and security with housing and basic health care. If we had a fair world then everyone would have these basic facilities and more. There is enough food being produced in this world to give everyone 3000 calories a day which is well over the daily requirements, but some people are surviving on less than 300 a day. There is also enough money in this world to give everyone a healthy and comfortable life but the majority of it belongs to a third of the world’s population. So why is there poverty?
Many LEDC’s cannot avoid poverty; some have been badly affected by civil wars between races or religious groups. LEDC’s can also suffer from wars between neighbouring countries e.g. Ethiopia and Somalia, Afghanistan and Russia. Many LEDC’s cannot escape poverty due to their global positioning and natural landscape; some are situated in areas of the world where natural disasters (earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions) are more frequent and severe. A flood for example in an MEDC will cause minor damage to homes, loss of some crops but there are always plenty in storage however in an LEDC homes can be washed away, sewers can overflow leading to many diseases, crops can be destroyed and with none in storage this can lead to famine. In LEDC’s they also have not got the technology to predict such events and do not have the money or equipment to prepare themselves for the consequences of the disaster.
Many of LEDC’s problems can also stem from the government of their country; the majority of LEDC’s do produce enough food to feed their population, so you are thinking why are they starving? The only way LEDC’s can make money to pay off the debts they owe to MEDC’s is to export the crops they grow (cash crops). This gets the country into a ‘catch 22’ situation and in effect they are giving everything they have to MEDC’s their crops and produce and then their money.
There are other factors contributing to world poverty; lack of education, lack of clean fresh water, disease, high birth rates and no health care but we, MEDC’s have the resources and knowledge and excess finance to help resolve these situations but we don’t.
‘Give a man a fish feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, feed him for life’
This is a very famous statement and it sums up what LEDC’s need and want. They want the chance to work themselves out of poverty and all they need is a helping hand from us. Why don’t MEDC’s cancel Africa’s debts? Why doesn’t the US help predict South America’s earthquakes? Why doesn’t the UK share its knowledge in birth control? We need to share our knowledge, our wealth and our development to help and educate LEDC’s and to give them a chance to develop.