World Poverty and Lenten Journeys

By John Lindner, Director of External Relations, and Ray Waddle, Editor of Reflections magazine

LogoWe’re halfway through Lent, and thus halfway through our cyber experiment with an online “poverty teach-in” here at YDS. Our aim is to focus thoughts and action against poverty in a time of heated debate about fiscal reform and national purpose.

The “Mobilizing Faith, Fighting Poverty” initiative started on Ash Wednesday with a national event and panel discussion in Washington, D.C. Then we turned attention to daily postings and information-sharing on a Facebook page and web site dedicated to the purpose of finding solutions to poverty. This effort builds on our work from last year, when we focused the Fall 2010 issue of Reflections on “No More Excuses: Confronting Poverty.”

For those of us following a Lenten discipline of preparing the daily postings, an engagement with the agonizing scope of global poverty weighs heavily on mind and heart.  The experience has immersed us in the many arguments and actions in play that seek to eliminate severe poverty. Despite poverty’s grim realities, the experience so far has encouraged us: the “Mobilizing Faith, Fighting Poverty” initiative puts us in daily touch with a world of people who are passionate and resilient about reducing the conditions and causes of poverty.

We will report here again after Easter with further reflections of what we have learned, but for now two points stand out:

  • People are sensing that we are at a unique moment in history. As scholar-activist Katherine Marshall has said, for the first time the world now has the technical know-how to eradicate severe poverty. The UN summit on the Millennium Development Goals last fall reported that many of its anti-poverty goals are being met to improve conditions for people in poor countries. The MDG campaign, now a decade old, proves progress can be made  if organizations and governments and all people of good will put aside doubts and differences and step up. That momentum must not fail now. The times are proving that people can make a difference.
  • This historic moment need not be partisan. Just in the last few weeks, religious leaders across the theological spectrum have been rising up to protest against proposed federal budget cuts that would target and punish poor people. Some anti-poverty advocates are fasting to make their protest, others are pressing Congress with letters and arguments. It all makes for a remarkable synergy of concern, which is unfolding daily in dramatic ways that could have positive political repercussions for millions of people in poverty.

Meanwhile, as we continue to journey through Lent, we invite you to join us at Facebook and to visit the web page and consider how you can make the poor and the vulnerable the focus of your Lenten discipline. 

Posted: 04/04/2011