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http://profile.ak.fbcdn.net/hprofile-ak-snc4/188094_196173477077670_575905_n.jpgTHE CHALLENGE OF POVERTY

Is the ordeal of poverty getting lost in the daily noise? Are churches stepping up to their historic commitment to serving the poor? Who will have been fed and clothed once Lent has passed?

  • 2.6 billion people live on less than $2 a day.
  • Four million children die annually from just three causes: diarrhea, malaria, and pneumonia.
  • The number of hungry people has risen from 842 million in the early 1990s to 1.02 billion last year.
  • 2.5 billion people lack basci sanifation services, nearly 40 percent of the world's population.

This Lenten season, Yale Divinity School hopes to spark conversation and resolve among people of faith on issues of poverty, and challenge poverty’s perennial threat to humanity.

The scale of the problem -- its causes, conditions, and persistence -- seems overwhelming. Yet we all can do something (whether a little or a lot). Here’s a sample of important initiatives to learn about, investigate, or support. Our hope is Lent 2011 will rally heartfelt action that reduces misery and rekindles hope.

http://www.yale.edu/reflections/pics/cover_fa10ic.jpg >>Read the entire issue of Reflections Fall 2010 online, "No More Excuses: Confronting Poverty"
Facebook Page >>Join our Facebook page
Global >>Eradicating Global Poverty pdf, The National Council of Churches


DAY ONE, POVERTY TEACH-IN: We begin our study by considering how people of faith are finding new resolve to fight poverty, getting jolted into action by the urgent fiscal debate and finding clarity in Jesus' words about the poor. See Ray Waddle's entry on Huffington Post
DAY TWO, POVERTY TEACH-IN: We are posting two resources today that help describe the dimensions of the challenge. We invite you to read the two posts below: poverty statistics and a compelling address by Sen. Chris Coons.
DAY THREE, POVERTY TEACH-IN: Can we eradicate poverty? The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) aim to achieve 8 anti-poverty goals by 2015. Are we getting there?

DAY FOUR, POVERTY TEACH-IN: We conclude a week that saw the celebration of the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day. Despite much improvement for women, still 70 percent of those in poverty are women. Here is a website with information and resources that introduces the challenge of women and poverty.

FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT, POVERTY TEACH-IN: On Sundays in Lent, we will share prayers and resources for worship and spiritual reflection on themes of poverty and poor people. Prayers to make Poverty History come from the Catholic Aid Agency of England and Wales.
DAY FIVE, POVERTY TEACH-IN: Today’s post is an overview of the content of the “Poverty Teach-in," a course outline, with a brief bibliography and a link to further resources.  Also, today we will be posting video clips of the Ash Wednesday launch event for Mobilizing Faith, Fighting Poverty.  Segments on Facebook include Sen. Chris Coons’ address and statements by panelists.

DAY SIX, POVERTY TEACH-IN: Extreme poverty can be both a cause and result of violent conflict.  Violent conflict is development in reverse. The destruction and chaos that violent conflict brings limits people's access to basic needs, such as health, education and food. The Global Poverty Project website offers a helpful overview of this poverty challenge.

DAY SEVEN, POVERTY TEACH-IN: A growing dimension of global poverty is youth unemployment -- particularly severe in the Middle East and Africa. This Frontline website has a number of features including an interactive map exploring this critical challenge.
DAY EIGHT, POVERTY TEACH-IN: This is a careful examination of the ways that global inequality and equity fit in the poverty debate. Duncan Green, at Oxfam, wrote this in 2008. Since that time, the gap between rich and poor has only increased. (In 2008, the world's 500 richest had income exceeding the poorest 416 million.) It is perhaps the greatest poverty challenge, though the one we seem least able to address.

DAY NINE, POVERTY TEACH-IN: That America’s wealthiest 400 have more wealth than half of all Americans is an indicator of the growing disparities we face.  Here are 15 charts from Business Insider that detail the problem.

Also, here is a link to a Slate 10-part series by Timothy Noah on the “Great Divergence."

DAY TEN, POVERTY TEACH-IN: Disasters reveal another face of poverty, which intensifies damage and prolongs recovery. This post reminds us that Japan’s ordeal this week occurs in a world already familiar with crisis.

Disaster in Japan … and Haiti, Pakistan, Congo, Ivory Coast, Niger, Mali

A Litany for Japan

SECOND SUNDAY IN LENT, POVERTY TEACH-IN: Water scarcity is a grim mark of poverty; one in six people globally lack access to safe drinking water. Here are prayers designed to focus attention and action.

DAY ELEVEN, POVERTY TEACH-IN: Food programs are a critical component in the fight against poverty, whether they focus on local agriculture or rates of malnutrition. An estimated one billion people worldwide are hungry and malnourished. This video shows one of many excellent programs coordinated by Church World Service (CWS).

DAY TWELVE, POVERTY TEACH-IN: Today is World Water Day, which places an annual spotlight on the global urgency and scarcity of safe water and sanitation – and the collective, hopeful efforts to find solutions that affect millions of vulnerable people. This video shows one of many excellent programs coordinated by International Relief and Development (IRD).  The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization has a video entitled Water101with quick facts about water.

DAY THIRTEEN, POVERTY TEACH-IN: Poor health conditions are a brutal, continuing cause of poverty. Half the world, for instance, is at risk for malaria, which kills more than one million children a year. UNICEF is one of the leading agencies working to end this preventable epidemic.  Watch the UNICEF video on malaria and read the UNICEF malaria primer.  The ONECampaign also provides on informative video on malaria.

DAY FOURTEEN, POVERTY TEACH-IN: Victory over poverty cannot come without education. Yet more than 300 million children globally have no access to learning to read or write; 42 percent of girls in developing nations are not enrolled in school. In this video, the organization Room to Read shows how it is partnering with communities, extending education opportunities and hope.

DAY FIFTEEN, POVERTY TEACH-IN: One thing is clear: Fighting against poverty requires fighting for the well-being of women and girls; females make up 70 percent of the one billion who live on less than $1 a day. The video and posting from CARE make the point that improving the lives and health of girls and women will uplift entire families, entire communities.

DAY SIXTEEN, POVERTY TEACH-IN: It is poverty’s greatest tragedy: more than eight million children under five are expected to die this year, most from preventable diseases. But efforts are improving mortality rates, immunizations and other medical factors. This video by Caritas Internationalis focuses on better treatment for HIV and TB in Swaziland.
The National Center for Children in Poverty provides an American state-by-state profile of the numbers of children facing impoverished conditions.

THIRD SUNDAY IN LENT, POVERTY TEACH-IN: Prayers regarding women, children, and poverty.

DAY SEVENTEEN, POVERTY TEACH-IN: This week we examine some of the ways government plays a critical role in minimizing poverty and its damage to communities.  Proposed budget cuts are disproportionately targeting programs that serve the poor.  Evangelical, mainline, and Catholic leaders are speaking out, making the case that budget priorities are more than economic decisions; they are moral choices.

DAY EIGHTEEN, POVERTY TEACH-IN: Proposed federal cuts for the global poor are no abstraction – they would mean a decrease of 10 million bed nets for malaria prevention, 3.7 million people would not get HIV testing, and 58,000 HIV-positive pregnant women would not receive treatments.  These two posts, from The ONE Campaign and The Washington Post, spell out and challenge the cruelty of making disproportionate cuts to foreign aid.

DAY NINETEEN, POVERTY TEACH-IN: While fiscal debates rage and threaten programs that help poor people, anti-poverty activists continue working on other fronts too, keeping the big picture in mind. We highlight two significant initiatives today: the effort to reform foreign aid programs, and the surging movement to forgive the debts of poor countries.

DAY TWENTY, POVERTY TEACH-IN: African Americans are especially feeling the brunt of American poverty and unemployment. Their poverty rate is 26 percent, compared to a national rate of 14 percent. Government safety net programs, now threatened in the budget-cut debate, are an important element in efforts to keep harsh conditions of poverty from becoming even worse. See this analysis from Bread for the World.

DAY TWENTY-ONE, POVERTY TEACH-IN:  Children are 25 percent of the U.S. population but 35 percent of the poor population.  The government provides effective programs that affect children – such as Head Start programs, the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program, and other anti-poverty services.  These programs are now threatened with budget cuts despite their success in meeting critical needs.

DAY TWENTY-TWO, POVERTY TEACH-IN: No one can fight poverty on his or her own. There's a role for everyone, including government, which provides essential services for people in dire need. See this link for a breakdown of some of the federal anti-poverty programs now under threat -- and an argument for saving tax money by reining in unnecessary tax breaks.

FOURTH SUNDAY IN LENT, POVERTY TEACH-IN: Last week saw national attention on the pain of hunger and poverty -- and the power of fasting as a form of protest against budget cuts that would hurt poor people. Here is a group of worship litanies or prayers that focus on "hunger and hope" -- the needs of others and the need for action.

DAY TWENTY-THREE, POVERTY TEACH-IN: In recent days, campaigners against poverty have raised the stakes by fasting to protest budget cuts that would endanger poor people.  In these links, three high-profile participants discuss their reasons – biblical, moral, or political – for embracing the ancient spiritual disciple of the fast in their fight against poverty: David Beckmann, Bread for the World; Mark Bittman, New York Times; Jim Wallis, Sojourners.

DAY TWENTY-FOUR, POVERTY TEACH-IN: Individuals are making a difference in eliminating poverty. “The Life You Can Save” web site is part of a growing movement of people pledging to make a difference by asking one question: AM I WILLING TO DO MY PART IN ELIMINATING EXTREME POVERTY?

DAY TWENTY-FIVE, POVERTY TEACH-IN: Lay volunteers are stepping up to purify the waters of poor communities abroad. See these links from Living Waters for the World and its far-reaching training program that sends church mission teams to install water filtration units in other countries.

DAY TWENTY-SIX, POVERTY TEACH-IN: The sweat and determination of volunteers is an important weapon against poverty. A Connecticut church is raising $2,500 during Lent in order to undertake renovations on a house for a low-income family next month. This effort by St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Shelton is coordinated by Homefront.

DAY TWENTY-SEVEN, POVERTY TEACH-IN: They're called “social entrepreneurs” -- a new generation of activists who are aggressively confronting poverty and other global ills by combining business best practices with a social conscience to make a difference. One such social innovator is Mike Del Ponte, founder of Sparkseed and a Yale Divinity School graduate.

Dr. Scott Morris, also a YDS graduate, is another sort of entrepreneur -- a Memphis minister who founded Church Health Center, a clinic that serves 70,000, based on the voluntarism of medical professions helping the underprivileged.

DAY TWENTY-EIGHT, POVERTY TEACH-IN: Who is my neighbor? The far-reaching reality of poverty demands an expansion of our notion of neighbor to include an interconnected world of need. Yale Divinity student Scott Classen is blazing a path to link neighborliness, poverty, and climate change with a yearlong "carbon Sabbath" cycling around the U.S.

FIFTH SUNDAY IN LENT, POVERTY TEACH-IN: Prayers that defy despair, prayers that make common cause with the travails of those who live and die in poverty.

DAY TWENTY-NINE, POVERTY TEACH-IN: “Justice and care for the earth are inseparable.” The National Religious Partnership for the Environment provides resources from Jewish, Catholic, Mainline Protestant, and Evangelical perspectives that address issues of poverty caused by environmental exploitation and degradation. A series of case studies demonstrate success stories on local, regional, and national projects.

DAY THIRTY, POVERTY TEACH-IN: “The very existence of life is jeopardized by our continued dependency on fossil fuels.” The poorest communities are disproportionately affected by global climate disruption due to carbon emissions. Interfaith Power and Light is working with congregations across the country to help them reduce energy consumption and effect energy policy change.  Check out the “Carbon Calculator” for both your congregation and home.

DAY THIRTY-ONE, POVERTY TEACH-IN: The EARTH CHARTER is a declaration of fundamental ethical principles for building a just, sustainable and peaceful global society in the 21st century. It seeks to inspire in all people a new sense of global interdependence and shared responsibility for the well-being of the whole human family.  Overcoming poverty depends on a sustainable future.  Learn more about it and get involved.

DAY THIRTY-TWO, POVERTY TEACH-IN: Should the rich pay more taxes to support public investment, the national economy, and basic programs for vulnerable people? Some rich people think so. The organization Wealth for the Common Good hopes to convince leaders to install fair and adequate tax policies.

DAY THIRTY-THREE, POVERTY TEACH-IN:  It’s April 15 – the traditional day of dread for paying taxes. We hear much debate (and complaint) about taxes, but not much discussion of the relation of taxes to theology and the Kingdom of God. Here’s one study resource from across the water -- Christian Aid, an anti-poverty organization in Britain.

DAY THIRTY-FOUR, POVERTY-TEACH-IN:   The 2011 budget cuts passed the Congress this week, the first round in a pitched battle over America’s moral and economic priorities.  People are asking: what actually was cut and how does it impact the poor? Here is an overview of cuts to 10 key programs that will severely affect hungry and poor people.

PALM SUNDAY, POVERTY TEACH-IN: This year’s Lenten calendar, along with our poverty teach-in, moves across Earth Day, with its annual focus on environmental gratitude and concern. This prayer ties spring renewal and the perennial ordeals of the poor.

DAY THIRTY-FIVE, POVERTY-TEACH-IN: Celebrated biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann examines tension between ancient traditions of revolutionary transformation and maintenance of the status quo that Israel endlessly faced in disputes about the aims of justice, the character of God, and the mandate for an ethical public policy. Here’s his thoughtful analysis as we turn to Holy Week.  Note:  Because it is the start of both Passover and Holy Week we are posting a more scholarly piece examining Hebrew Scripture-- stick with it—it’s worth the reading.

DAY THIRTY-SIX, POVERTY TEACH-IN: As Holy Week continues, we continue to ponder the Bible’s stance against poverty. The language of scripture calls people to turn attention away from self-involvement and personal gain and instead focus on serving God and neighbor. It is a language that speaks with moral clarity and purpose to our daily routines … and our politics. This article comes from the American Values Network.

DAY THIRTY-SEVEN, POVERTY TEACH-IN:  Today our Holy Week thoughts focus on some challenging ideas from liberation theology and its passionate gospel advocacy on behalf of the poor. Peruvian theologian Gustavo Gutierrez is considered a patriarch of
this contemporary theological movement. Here are remarks from him.

DAY THIRTY-EIGHT, POVERTY TEACH-IN: Poverty is not just a dire lack of money, food, shelter and work. It spans many dimensions of “ill-being,” according to the World Bank – polluted living conditions, powerlessness, anxiety, violence. Here are comments of poor people collected by a World Bank project.

DAY THIRTY-NINE, POVERTY TEACH-IN: Behind the word “poverty” throb the experiences of real people. This two-minute poem is by Fred Taban, a theology professor in Sudan who reportedly has been a refugee most of his life.

DAY FORTY, POVERTY-TEACH-IN: Among industrial nations, America is number 1 in billionaires and defense spending, and last in relative child poverty. The annual State of America’s Children report by the Children’s Defense Fund sketches perils facing U.S. children.

EASTER 2011, POVERTY TEACH-IN: With the arrival of Easter, our Lenten “poverty teach-in” comes to a close. But the issues, of course, endure. We invite you to join us and resolve to remain mindful and intentional about confronting poverty in these days of peril and possibility. In this link, the editors share some lessons and impressions from this Lenten experiment around poverty issues.

All downloadable videos are in Quicktime format.
Hall Launch Event: Comments by Ambassador Tony Hall
Brown Launch Event: Comments by Kathy Brown, Catholic Charities/Caritas North America
Livingston Launch Event: Comments by Michael Livingston, National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA



The United Nations’ campaign to promote the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) proclaims this motto: “We Can End Poverty 2015.” The eight MDGs have made remarkable global progress since 2000, but much remains to be done if the goals will be met by 2015, especially in commitments to women’s and children’s health and initiatives against poverty, hunger and disease.

Goal 1 of the Millennium Development Goals is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. The world today is more prosperous than it ever has been, and technological advances have created encouraging new opportunities to improve economies and reduce hunger around the world.


The Healthy Families, Healthy Planet initiative, a program of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society, works to educate and mobilize United Methodists in the U.S. on the importance of maternal health, Millenium Development Goad 5 -- from the point of view that women's contributions are key to ending poverty around the world.

UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) supplies not only food for hungry people but seeds, tools and training to help people grow their own food. UMCOR has been combating world hunger and poverty since 1940.

The Presbyterian Church (USA) provides a web site with curricula, biblical reflections and actions related to the root causes of the global food crisis. Stories and reflections from PC(USA) partners in the Congo, Haiti, Cameroon, Colombia, Brazil, India, Sudan, Liberia, Sierra Leone and the United States bring these issues to life.

A Lenten series created by Episcopal Community Services Foundation in the Diocese of Southern Ohio, "allows people to engage issues of poverty in spiritual and prayerful ways. By taking poverty out of the theoretical, abstract, and intellectual realm, and by emphasizing practical approaches, we hope the guide will inspire folk to discern the particular ministries in their own communities to which God may be calling them.”

Neighbors in Need (NIN) is a special mission offering of the United Church of Christ that supports ministries of justice and compassion throughout the United States.  One-third of NIN funds support the Council for American Indian Ministry (CAIM). Two-thirds of the offering is used by the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries (JWM) to support a variety of justice initiatives, advocacy efforts, and direct service projects.

The American Baptist Churches has invested significant support and personnel over the years to improve health care in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo.  The Congo’s Vanga Hospital, supported by the ABC, is one the few Christian medical Residency programs in Africa that trains young doctors in medical, surgical and holistic medicine. Vanga Hospital is seeking churches interested in sponsoring medical residents for $300/month.  

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s World Hunger initiative is a comprehensive and sustainable program that uses multiple strategiesrelief, development, education, and advocacyto address the root causes of hunger and poverty. ELCA World Hunger responds to neighbors around the corner and around the world.



International Relief and Development sponsors the Better Foods for Better Lives program to promote private sector economic growth in Cambodia through the development and distribution of low cost value-added food products.

Church World Service features ways to get involved and make a difference. One initiative is called “Making Poverty History."

The "E Pluribus Unum" parish dialogue program of Catholic Charities USA aims to educate and form enlightened consciences on the connection between poverty and racism. The outcome of these spiritual exercises is to raise up voices which will advocate for programs and policies that promote the Common Good through the elimination of racism and and the reduction of poverty in our nation.

Caritas International is appealing for over 300,000 euros to help people in Côte d’Ivoire who have been affected by December’s election violence. The project focuses on 5,000 people displaced following last year’s election unrest and 400 families in border towns in Zouan-Hounien province.

Catholic Relief Services is addressing poverty in Ecuador using a two-pronged approach.  Development projects provide small-scale farmers with technical assistance, access to credit and other support to help them increase their incomes. CRS also works in some of Ecuador's most marginalized and oppressed communities, helping them organize so they can take part directly in the decision-making process.

Volunteers with the Society of St. Andrew glean farmers’ fields for good produce after harvest and distribute it to people in need.

CARE, a humanitarian organization fighting global poverty, places special focus on working alongside poor women, because women have the power to help whole families and communities.
Oxfam is a confederation of 14 organizations working together in 98 countries. Oxfam declares: “We believe we can end poverty and injustice, as part of a global movement for change.” See

AARP Foundation is sponsoring a “Drive to End Hunger” campaign. See More than six million senior citizens face the threat of hunger, and the number is growing, AARP says.



At its June 11-14 National Gathering in Washington, D.C., Bread for the World will offer a series of workshops and plenary sessions on such topics as how people of faith can influence legislation and assess the progress on Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 1: ending poverty and hunger. Attendees will also engage with international development experts, nongovernmental organization leaders, and policy makers to focus on MDGs 4 and 5: child and maternal malnutrition.



Philosopher Peter Singer advocates a new public standard of giving in order to reduce poverty. “By pledging to donate the percentage of your annual income that meets the standard, you will be making a difference to the poor,” he declares.

TakePart is a digital media company that aims to make it easy to participate in positive change. The website lists, for instance, “Top 10 Non-Profits Fighting Poverty.”

The feast of ideas at the TED Conferences (motto: Ideas Worth Spreading) includes the theme of “Rethinking Poverty.

Charity Navigator calls itself the nation’s premier independent charity evaluator, helping consumers assess the mission and financial health of more than 5,500 charities.

Oh God, to those who have hunger, give bread. And to those who have bread, give hunger for justice.
– Latin American prayer (cited by Church World Service)

Every day, almost 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes – one child every five seconds.
– Church World Service


April 18, 2011