The Injustice that Causes Poverty
Fr. Shay Cullen
Christmas is here already and we have to think what it means. It’s much more than Santa Claus and consumerism. It’s about compassion, love for the poor and seeking justice in an unjust world. Jesus was sent to help change it. We must carry on this mission. We have to understand what that challenge is.
The world economic trade system is constantly depriving the poor of land and livelihood, fairness is excluded and corruption and exploitation take over the world. This evil system of unjust trade policies and practices is growing and has caused great damage to families. No less than Pope Francis himself condemned this unfettered liberal runaway economic system that causes such social and economic injustice. He, quoting a fourth century bishop and making the fat cat capitalists cringe, called it the “dung of the devil.”
In the Philippines, it is said that 140 politically-powerful families control the Congress and consequently, the lives of 100 million Filipinos. Jose is representative of the many poor Filipinos who suffer from deprivation because of this unjust power system.
There was a great moment during the visit of Pope Francis to Bolivia when he spoke out and supported the rights of farmers and peasants. It was in the city of Santa Cruz where participants of the second world meeting of popular movements gathered. This is an international group of organizations, mostly victims of oppression, as well as globalization and multinational corporations.
Millions of poor are living outside the normal economy. They are mostly people on the peripheries of society, landless and disposed people. Poor and unemployed, they are the voiceless. But Pope Francis gave them a voice heard around the world. He told the leaders that he stood with them in the demands for justice and social & economic inclusion. This is his mission of lifting up the downtrodden and sending the rich away empty-handed as we read in the gospel song Magnificat.
“Let us not be afraid to say it: we want change, real change, structural change,” Francis, referring to the unjust globalization of the economic system that “has imposed the mentality of profit at any price, with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature,” told the cheering crowds.
“This system is by now intolerable: farm workers find it intolerable, laborers find it intolerable, communities find it intolerable, peoples find it intolerable. The earth itself – our sister, Mother Earth, as St. Francis would say – also finds it intolerable,” he said.
At one point, the Pope spoke against the unbridled capitalism that ran roughshod over the rights of the poor. This he called a new form of colonialism, which, like the Spanish empire, regrettably backed by the Church, damaged native peoples and culture in the name of kings, emperors, and big traders.
“The new colonialism takes on different faces. At times it appears as the anonymous influence of mammon: corporations, loan agencies, certain ‘free trade’ treaties, and the imposition of measures of ‘austerity’ which always tighten the belt of workers and the poor,” he said.
The gospel values of fairness and economic and social justice are very important today. We need to know how and why this is happening and what it means in the daily lives of the discarded and unwanted people. We need to wake up from apathy and fence-sitting and become involved in a mission to find and implement positive solutions.
Fair trade is one way to do this. It is a movement that creates an alternative way of doing business with fairness, honesty, profit-sharing and positive empowerment of the poor so that they can be educated and break the cycle of poverty.
In developed countries, as well as in developing countries, more people are producing goods and food under fair trade conditions, becoming avenues for fair earnings and social development projects. Fair trade brings together the producer and the consumer in a positive, respectful partnership; the buyer knows the producer and how the food or the products are produced.
The poor suffer depression of a kind that most citizens of developed countries and economies cannot understand. In developed countries, the poor and the jobless will have the social net of welfare and unemployment payment by the state. These benefits are unheard of in developing countries. In this ocean of unfair trading and economic activity, the rulers and the rich are the characters in the story of Jesus that contrasts the life of Dives, the filthy rich man in the palace at whose gates Lazarus begged for the crumbs that fell from the table.
The leftovers were all Lazarus wanted but Dives was so mean he would not give them from a loaded table that groaned from the weight of food. There, at gates of a heaven or hell-on-earth, depending on how one sees it, Lazarus died of his sores and ulcers. Only the dogs had pity and came to lick his sores. They had more compassion than the humans.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph had rejection, poverty and killers chasing them and they escaped as refugees to Egypt. Today, we see many refugees welcomed and others made unwelcome and rejected .
It’s an image of our world today.