This is as the title suggests the fourth part of my God vs Poverty series.
“Give a man a fish and he has food for a day. Teach him to fish and he has food for a lifetime.” We’ve all heard that, haven’t we? It’s a good proverb about the importance of empowerment and long-term solutions in aid giving. But what about the lake? What if the man cannot fish even after we taught him because the lake is polluted by a multinational corporation, or illegal to fish from because of an unrighteous regime? In other words, are there structures that are blocking development and poverty reduction?
The Bible is well aware of structures that oppress the poor. It is very common that the Old Testament not only talks about giving to the poor but treating them fair in court (see for example Prov. 22:22-23), so that they will not be discriminated. When Isaiah prophesies about true fasting, he doesn’t just talk about giving food and clothing to the ones in need but he also says that it includes “to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke” (Is 58:6). In order to fight poverty effectively, we have to identify oppressing structures and crushing them.
What could those structures be? Dictatorship is one. When people refuse to listen to what their people want, there is nothing stopping them from oppressing and neglecting the will of the poor. Discrimination is another huge one. The poor are often discriminated just for being poor, as Prov. 22:22 adresses, but ethnic groups, religious groups, LGBT folks and other minorities are also very often kapt in poverty and oppression through discrimination – plus women, who aren’t a minority.
Then we have different global economic and political structures that are very unjust. Did you know that more money leaves developing countries through capital flight, debts and unfair trade compared to what they receive in aid (see the video above)? In other words, the poor give more money to the rich than vice versa! This obviously has to stop. Likewise, the unfair power balance within international institutions where Western countries has far too much to say must change in order for a better world to come true.
These topics are a bit controversial. Oscar Romero famously said: “When I helped the poor, they called me a saint. When I asked why people are poor, they called me a communist.” But these issues has to be adressed by a radical, prophetic church. It’s time to loose the chains of injustice and break every yoke!