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Fight Inequality

Every year, the World Economic Forum (WEF) gathers the global business, political and academic elite in Davos, Switzerland to tackle the planet’s toughest issues. This year, Pope Francis was once again invited to address the group and his message was clear: fight inequality.

A cardinal from the Vatican read the Pope’s letter to forum members on Jan. 22. It began by thanking the WEF for their invitation but quickly addressed global poverty and inequality: “The financialization and technologization of national and global economies have produced far-reaching changes in the field of labor. Diminished opportunities for useful and dignified employment, combined with a reduction in social security, are causing a disturbing rise in inequality and poverty in different countries.”

The recently published Oxfam report, “An Economy For the 1%,” corroborates the Pope’s views. Increasingly fewer people control more of the world’s wealth. From 1988 to 2011, for example, 46 percent of the global increase in income went to the wealthiest 10 percent of the world’s population.

Pope Francis’s address emphasized that caring for the poor means more than empathizing with their plight. “Weeping for other people’s pain does not only mean sharing in their sufferings, but also and above all realizing that our own actions are a cause of injustice and inequality.” He called on business leaders to create an inclusive future and warned about the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” that is hindering progress to fight inequality.

The “Fourth Industrial Revolution” refers to the coming age of robotics and artificial intelligence in everyday life. On its website, the WEF explains that while this revolution will raise global income levels, it may exacerbate inequality. The Pope wishes that this transformation of society “does not lead to the destruction of the human person – to be replaced by a soulless machine – or to the transformation of our planet into an empty garden for the enjoyment of a chosen few.”

Along with this warning, Pope Francis stressed that the age of robotics also presents an opportunity. With vastly increased productivity, humans will have more resources available for “our common home.” He emphasized that business is “a noble vocation” with the ability to improve others’ lives by providing them with a living wage and meaningful work.

His message is that, besides increasing profit and productivity, business leaders must not forget their duty to create jobs. Through the creation of jobs that pay a living wage, the economic elite lift people out of poverty and provide stability for the many living precarious lives. In the drive for modernization, Pope Francis tells leaders, “Do not forget the poor!”

Since becoming Pope, he has uniquely focused on ending inequality. In his 2016 address to Davos, he urged the global elite to work with that goal in mind. The most powerful people on earth, after all, are the most powerful agents for change.

As for what he recommends, Pope Francis’ words speak for themselves. From his 2014 apostolic exhortation: “Growth in justice requires more than economic growth: it requires decisions, programs, mechanisms and processes specifically geared to a better distribution of income, the creation of sources of employment and an integral promotion of the poor which goes beyond a simple welfare mentality.” Careful planning and action are needed to fight inequality.

Dennis Sawyers

Sources: Reuters, Rome Reports, Oxfam International, The Holy See (Vatican), World Economic Forum
Photo: Merco Press

refugee_children
Pope Francis announced his support for global education for refugee children at the Jesuit Refugee Service’s 35th anniversary ceremony.

The ceremony included 15 refugees along with friends and staff of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS). Pope Francis stressed the importance of education for refugee children and youth in order to build peace and improve societies. “To give a child a seat at school is the finest gift you can give,” said the Pope.

Pope Francis has formally recognized and pledged support for the JRS Global Education Initiative to increase the number of refugees served by JRS’s educational program by 100,000 by the year 2020.

“Your initiative of ‘Global Education’ with its motto ‘Mercy in Motion,’ will help you reach many other students who urgently need education which can keep them safe,” Pope Francis said.

Today there are more than 60 million people who have had to flee their homes.

The Initiative helps refugees overcome barriers to education such as overcrowding in schools and being accepted into host communities. Education can keep children safe from gender-based violence, child labor and early marriage. It can also prevent them from joining armed groups.

Only 36 percent of refugee children attend secondary school and less than 1 percent have the opportunity to pursue higher education.

“For children forced to emigrate, schools are places of freedom… Education affords young refugees a way to discover their true calling and to develop their potential,” said the Pope.

JRS works in 45 countries and 10 different regions across all faiths and nationalities to help the most vulnerable in the hardest to reach areas.

According to Independent Catholic News, JRS was founded in 1980 by the Superior General of the Society of Jesus to meet both the human and spiritual needs of refugees. JRS is currently focused on helping refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, the Central African Republic and the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

JRS is continuing to grow and expand in order to accommodate for refugee children and their need for education.

Jordan Connell

Sources: Independent Catholic News, Jesuit Refugee Service, Vatican Radio
Photo: Flickr

What the Pope’s Encyclical Means for the World’s Poor-TBP

In June, Pope Francis aligned himself with mainstream science by accepting the truth of climate change. With the release of his 184 page encyclical that calls for immediate action on climate change, Francis has added a moral scope to the biggest problem that humanity has ever encountered.

In it, Francis cites the mindless drive toward monetary gain and economical shortsightedness as the main reasons humanity is this situation today.

While environmentalists around the world applaud the encyclical as a much needed call to action by country and individual alike, the encyclical also revealed who would be impacted the most by climate change: the poor.

Francis says the poorest have been left in the wake of consumerist ambitions of the richest nations. They are being displaced and disregarded.

He also implores that the countries mainly responsible for the climate crisis have an obligation to help the poorest countries.

Numerous studies back the words of Francis’s encyclical. In 2014, the U.N. Climate Panel released a report that found that global climate change, while affecting everyone, would affect poorer countries more and threaten human security.

The report notes the risk climate change presents to agriculture. As some regions become dryer and hotter, food yields will suffer. In an interview with The Guardian in 2014, Princeton Professor Michael Oppenheimer said that even now, the poorest countries are already struggling to adapt their agriculture methods. If climate change is left unchecked, the lack of food will result in higher prices and competition, thus causing violence and the destabilization of poor regions.

Impoverished countries also face heightened potential for natural disasters. Natural disasters are indeed, natural, and every country is at risk for them. However, the wealth of a country plays a pivotal role in how they are responded to.

When a natural disaster goes through an impoverished region, aid response is significantly slower. More people will end up dying from malnutrition and dehydration than from the actual disaster.

Maarten van Aalst, who directs the Red Cross Climate Center and co-authored the report, said that from 2000 to 2009, the number of natural disasters tripled compared to the same period in the 1980s.

This rise is attributed to climate change.

The poorest countries were already at a disadvantage. With climate change, those same countries may have a harder time climbing out of poverty.

Professors Francis Moore and Delavane Diaz out of Stanford published a study earlier this year noting the relationship between poverty and heat.

Impoverished countries, on average, are located in significantly hotter regions than non-impoverished countries. As mentioned by the U.N. report, agriculture in these countries are already struggling with adapting to the changing climate.

Moore and Diaz note that climate change will lower per-capita GDP in poor regions from 3.2 to 2.6%, making it harder to grow economically. This directly supports the findings in the U.N. report.

Wealthy countries are expected to continue economical growth.

With his encyclical, Pope Francis has not so subtly nudged the developed world to action on the environmental crisis. In doing so, extreme poverty may also be confronted as well.

– Kevin Meyers

Sources: The Guardian 1, The Guardian 2, New York Times
Photo: Grist

 

Bolivian-Coca
Coca leaves have been consumed by natives in Bolivia for centuries. The native Bolivian population used coca to treat many medical conditions such as fatigue and altitude sickness as well as hunger and thirst. In many other countries, however, coca consumption is frowned upon and the substance is considered a narcotic.

When Pope Francis recently visited South America in early July, he drank a brew of chamomile, anise and coca leaves — an ancient South American elixir that wards off altitude sickness. This led to some stir on the internet regarding his consumption of coca.

Bolivia is considered a lower-middle-income country, where the gross national income in 2014 was USD $2,830 per person, according to the World Bank. Coca production in Bolivia contributes greatly to the economy and is a means of livelihood for many farmers. It is the second largest producer of coca leaves behind Peru.

During the 1980s, coca production and trade amounted to USD $1 billion in annual exports, according to an analysis by the United States Library of Congress. That number is much higher today: in 2014, Bolivia’s GDP was $34.18 billion, according to the World Bank.

There is, however, a dark side to coca leaves. It is the main ingredient used to process cocaine. Bolivia supplied over 15 percent of the cocaine that reached the streets of the United States in the 1980s, making it a strong target of international criticism from Congress.

At the 1961 United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, coca was outlawed and Bolivia’s use of coca was greatly limited and restricted. The treaty commanded Bolivia and other Andean nations to ban the consumption of coca leaves amongst their citizens.

In its natural state, the coca leaf is not scientifically harmful, and consuming it is a benign practice that is central to the cultural practice of millions of indigenous South American people. The treaty, however, declares that the exportation of coca is restricted; most countries outside of South America consider the trade and exportation of coca illegal, even in its natural state.

Bolivian prime minister Evo Morales held up a coca leaf at a U.N. narcotics assembly in 2012, defending the practice of chewing coca and urging the council to reconsider its stance on the leaf. He told the council, “Producers of coca leaf are not drug dealers; consumers of coca leaf are not drug addicts.”

But the outlawing of coca over 50 years ago has led to many continuous problems in Bolivia, including the illegal smuggling of coca paste throughout South America in order to process cocaine. The cocaine trail is a lucrative business that entices poor farmers to sell a portion of their crops to support their families.

Drug cartels hold citizens hostage, run prostitution rings and force violence wherever they are operating. In order to profit through the black market, it is in their best interest to see that nations do not work together to solve problems such as legal coca trade.

In 2011, the Obama administration rejected Bolivia’s proposed amendment to change the treaty and allow citizens to chew coca. A change in policy and cooperation between the United States and Bolivia would not only increase popularity among the nation’s people but would also strengthen drug prevention efforts throughout the region.

The move would allow farmers to legally sell their goods, encouraging them to not trade their crops to drug traffickers. The sales would boost the economy of Bolivia and other South American countries, allowing more resources to be allocated to fighting the real violent criminals.

In turn, the United States would also get more cooperation from the Bolivian government, gain trust and better strategically combat cartels. Not all of the problems with drugs can be solved with a single policy, but together, by working to carefully reform international coca laws, the United States can help reduce poverty and illegal drug operations that are plaguing North and South America.

Adnan Khalid

Sources: About Coca Leaf, CNN, Library of Congress, The Guardian, UNTC, Washington Office on Latin America, World Bank
Photo: Indian Country Today Media Network

Pope Brings Strong Poverty Focus to Latin American Tour-TBP
Pope Francis has been entertaining a wide variety of topics on his current Latin American tour, but poverty has remained at the top of his list.

“Do we realize that something is wrong in a world where there are so many farm workers without land, so many families without a home, so many laborers without rights, so many persons whose dignity is not respected?” the Pope said in Spanish at a stop in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. “Do we realize that that system has imposed the mentality of profit at any price, with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature?”

The Pope’s focus on poverty rings especially true for many living in the countries he’s speaking in. In Ecuador, over 25% of the population lives below the poverty line; that number jumps all the way up to 60% in Bolivia.

According to the Vatican, the overarching theme of the Pope’s visits is to bring “the Church for the poor.” The Pope is reaching out to the poverty-stricken people and regions of his native South America.

“The human environment and the natural environment are degrading together, and we can’t adequately confront human and social degradation without paying attention to the underlying causes,” the Pope said at a stop in Quito, Ecuador. “In today’s world, among the most abandoned and abused poor, we find the most oppressed and damaged land.”

– Alexander Jones

Sources: Big News, CNN, Telesur
Photo: BBC

environmental_degradationIn a landmark visit to Ecuador, Pope Francis denounced the “irresponsible use and abuse of [the earth’s] goods” as the leading factor contributing to global poverty. The Pope addressed a crowd of over 1 million Ecuadorians at a mass on July 7 and touched on several issues concerning increasing poverty statistics.

One focal point of the Pope’s speech regarded Ecuador’s rich natural resources being the target of impending oil drilling. According to CBS, “Containing both the Galapagos Islands and Amazon rainforest, Ecuador has more biodiversity than any other country on earth. At the same time, it is heavily reliant on revenues from its oil reserves.” The South American nation boasts a rich oil reserve underneath its historically pure environmental ecosystems. The Pope strongly advocated for Ecuadorians to protect their oil reserves and to come together to preserve their natural resources.

Pope Francis’ message to Ecuador made impressions throughout the world, especially with Catholic investors. Since the Pope began publicly condemning environmental degradation, investors from all over began pulling out of fossil fuels and reinvesting their finances into more environmentally conscience resources. The driving force behind this change in investment comes at the Pope’s urging to think long-term. Pope Francis compelled not just Ecuador, but the rest of the plant to “consider the long-term consequences of harvesting the planet’s natural resources over its immediate payoff.” A strong message by the Pope for every one, of all beliefs, to think about the wellbeing of our planet.

While the Pope made his address at a Catholic mass with religion at its core, his words must resonate outside of a particular faith. His urgency to think long-term is critical in preventing the spread of poverty. More deforestation, mining, and oil drilling would displace millions more each year, leaving them homeless and their lives in ruins. Pope Francis makes a strong case for re-evaluating the way we approach our planet’s resources; it is up to us to listen and follow through.

Diego Catala

Sources: Ring Of Fire Radio, CBS News
Photo: Huffington Post

Impact of the Papal Encyclical on Global Poverty
Pope Francis’s encyclical is a timely response to the world’s most pressing challenge. Already, climate change is contributing to the deaths of nearly 400,000 people every year. Attached, comes a costly price tag worth more than $1.2 trillion, according to the Guardian.

Since those who will bear the brunt of the burden will be the world’s most disadvantaged, the papal encyclical is even more imperative to understand in order to fully address global poverty.

Food Insecurity

The amount of food-insecure people will be anything up to 200 million people by 2050, and 24 million malnourished children. Less food availability will make prices surge, resulting in a general 40-50 percent price increase by 2050, which will hurt the estimated 2 billion more impoverished people. The prime minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, said, “a 1C rise in temperature is associated with a 10 percent productivity loss in farming,” which equates to a $2.5 billion loss, or 2 percent loss in U.S. GDP.

Biodiversity Loss

Biodiversity loss is one of the main effects of climate change. As weather patterns shift, sensitive species are more likely to die out, inevitably affecting the many other species dependent on the original keystone species. The keystone species performs a crucial role to its ecosystem or habitat.

Extreme Weather

Scientific research indicates that climate change will result in stronger, more lasting, and more frequent storms. This affects the agricultural sector, which is for many developing nations one of the largest contributors to their economies. Thus, not only will extreme weather take more lives, but it will also take away fertile lands and replace them with over flooded and destroyed soil.

According to NASA, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) forecasts a global temperature rise of 2.5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century. These storms may take 2 percent of the U.S. GDP by 2030.

Human Health

Extreme weather may lead to disease outbreaks. As temperatures increase, disease-ridden insects and other hosts are more likely to spread across wider niches, infecting populations unfamiliar and defenseless to the viruses. Malaria, dengue fever, cholera, and meningitis are among a few diseases that are prone to expand with global climate change.

The spread of allergenic plants, thanks to global warming, may also lead to an increase in human health cases worldwide. Air pollution, created by fossil fuel burning, also contributes to about 4.5 million premature deaths per year.

Global Economy

Damages by climate change value to about 1.6 percent of the global GDP. Researchers believe this will rise to 3.2 percent of global GDP within 15 years. The world’s least developed countries will suffer the greatest losses, losing up to 11 percent of their GDP.

The ugly truth is that climate change is, and will continue to upset every aspect of society from agriculture, energy, the economy, transportation, education, and even defense.

The papal encyclical has the potential to educate and inspire a massive population to embrace responsible stewardship. It will likely be used by at least 1 billion Catholics, a large audience by anyone’s standards.

– Lin Sabones

Sources: The Guardian, NASA, USA News WWF,
Photo: Huffington Post

climate_change
Pope Francis will deliver an encyclical this summer on the subject of climate change. In preparation for the speech, the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences held a heavily attended workshop on April 28 in Rome. Included among the guest groups were the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow and the Heartland Institute.

Another prominent guest, Cardinal Peter Turkson, asserted that “irrespective of the causes of climate change,” Christians are obligated to help the poor. Therein lies a complicating factor: Christians must now consider altruism without unwittingly aggravating the causes of climate change.

This brings to light a much more generalized question regarding religion’s role in the alleviation of poverty, or lack thereof. Fundamentalist Christians, for example, would read the Bible and disregard any pontifical command to pay attention to climate change.

The picture becomes even cloudier when politics are factored in. Most Evangelical Christians and Mormons are conservative Republicans who believe that the scientific evidence supporting the phenomena of climate change is inaccurate and/or falsified.

Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist and Evangelical Christian, attempts to bridge the gap between science and evangelical faith. She is a member of a statistical minority; according to the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, only 44 percent of evangelicals believe that global warming is both real and the result of human behavior. Some politicians even believe that God would not let human behavior destroy the planet.

Hayhoe debunks biblical arguments such as those saying that bad things still happen even with a Judeo-Christian God in existence because that God grants free will to His people. “That’s really what climate change is,” she explains, “It’s a casualty of the decisions that we have made.”

She goes on to hypothesize that many evangelicals fear the concept of climate change for two reasons. First, they erroneously believe that all scientists are atheists. Second, their typically conservative political viewpoints biases them against any and all potential “big government” interventions.

To make matters of religion and politics even more complicated, most Jews lean politically left and are beginning to take active steps as a community to alleviate climate change. The Reconstructionist and Reform movements tend to be the most liberal, followed by the Conservative and Orthodox Jews. Generally, the more traditional the sect is in its practice of Judaism, the less environmentally active that movement tends to be.

Consequently, researchers find a startling, ironic commonality between the most observant Jews and the most observant Christians. It appears that the more conservatively a religious sect’s people practice that religion, the less likely they are to take steps to stop climate change.

Adding fuel to that fire, it is the poorest populations that suffer the most from the effects of climate change. The one demographic that both Jewish and Christian ideologies make the most efforts to help is the very group that falls on the receiving end of their most devout groups’ inaction.

So what is to be done? Should the secular American population vote in politicians who choose religious freedom over environmental activism, or vice-versa? Maybe the next election cycle will bring forth more people like Katharine Hayhoe, but then again, maybe not. Only time and ballots can tell.

– Leah Zazofsky

Sources: Slate, The Heartland Institute, Yale Climate Connections
Photo: Telegraph

 

poverty quotes and sayings

 

“Poverty is relatively cheap to address and incredibly expensive to ignore.”

– Clint Borgen, President of The Borgen Project

 

 

In June of 1998, all heads of the U.N. agencies signed a statement defining the term “poverty.” The statement read,“Fundamentally, poverty is a denial of choices and opportunities, a violation of human dignity…It means not having enough to feed and clothe a family, not having a school or clinic to go to…It means insecurity, powerlessness and exclusion of individuals, households and communities. It means susceptibility to violence, and it often implies living on marginal or fragile environments, without access to clean water or sanitation.”

After the World Summit on Social Development in Copenhagen in 1995, the U.N. recognized the need to reduce “overall” poverty, as 117 member-states adopted a declaration and program of action dedicated to this cause.

What is significant about this concept of overall poverty is the idea that the U.N. considers it present in all countries, whether it exists as “mass poverty in many developing countries,” “pockets of poverty amid wealth in developed countries” or “the utter destitution of people who fall outside of family support systems, social institutions and safety nets.

Poverty has made itself a presence in everyone’s lives, whether it is in the form of a classmate, colleague, a friend in the neighborhood or a friend in a neighboring country. Below are several quotes on poverty from past and present prominent leaders, defining what poverty looks like to them.

 

Best Poverty Quotes

 

  1. “We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.” — Mother Teresa, Missionary and Saint.
  2. “These days there is a lot of poverty in the world, and that’s a scandal when we have so many riches and resources to give to everyone. We all have to think about how we can become a little poorer.” — Pope Francis, current Head of the Catholic Church.
  3. “Wars of nations are fought to change maps. But wars of poverty are fought to map change.” — Muhammad Ali, Professional Boxer.
  4. “People…were poor not because they were stupid or lazy. They worked all day long, doing complex physical tasks. They were poor because the financial institution in the country did not help them widen their economic base.” — Muhammad Yunus, Author of “Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle against World Poverty.”
  5. “Where you live should not determine whether you live, or whether you die.” — Bono, Singer and Philanthropist.
  6. “If human beings are perceived as potentials rather than problems, as possessing strengths instead of weaknesses, as unlimited rather than dull and unresponsive, then they thrive and grow to their capabilities.” — Barbara Bush, former First Lady of the U.S.
  7. “Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life.” — Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa.
  8. “Just because a child’s parents are poor or uneducated is no reason to deprive the child of basic human rights to health care, education and proper nutrition.” — Marian Wright Edelman, Founder and President of the Children’s Defense Fund.
  9. “If poverty is a disease that infects the entire community in the form of unemployment and violence, failing schools and broken homes, then we can’t just treat those symptoms in isolation. We have to heal that entire community.” — President Barack Obama, 44th and current President of the U.S.
  10. “Poverty is not only about income poverty, it is about the deprivation of economic and social rights, insecurity, discrimination, exclusion and powerlessness. That is why human rights must not be ignored but given even greater prominence in times of economic crisis.” — Irene Khan, former Secretary-General of Amnesty International, 2010.

– Blythe Riggan

Sources: BBC, Brainy Quote 1, Brainy Quote 2, Goodreads, OHCHR, Standford, The Book of the Poor
Photo: Bio

argentia_cricket_fights_poverty
According to the Associated Press (AP), children who live in Villa 21-24, a dangerous slum in Buenos Aires, Argentina, are playing cricket in order to avoid a life of crime and poverty.

The Caacupe community center introduced the sport to the slum in 2009 to “integrate children to a game that traditionally was reserved for Argentina’s upscale private schools”.

Moreover, the AP said that Pope Francis, who is also known as the “slum pope”, was one of the founders of Caacupe and remains connected with its programs.

The community center is praised because children are given the opportunity to do something positive instead of giving into a lifestyle of drugs, crime and frustration.

Although the community center’s aim to help children out of poverty is benevolent, a closer examination is needed regarding Pope Francis and his role in Argentina while serving as a Bishop during the reign of a brutal military regime.

Vincent Navarro, who teaches Public Policy at Johns Hopkins University, is critical of Pope Francis despite some of his good intentions. This is primarily due to his silence during the Argentinean dictatorship in the 70’s and 80’s.

“The dictatorship, established in defense of the more privileged groups in Argentina, was especially brutal to any dissident and opponents of its reign,” Navarro said. “This silence reflected a lack of sensitivity to gross human rights violations carried out by dictatorships with close ties to the Catholic Church.”

Navarro said that the pope claimed that his silence should be excused since it was “a tactical and honest move”. Navarro also gives him credit for encouraging the Church to expand its involvement in fighting poverty and for indicating that poverty is the result of the exploitation under the capitalist system in return for profits.

However, a recent service that honored the fallen members of the Church who sided with the fascist military regime in Spain in the 30’s is another reason Navarro criticizes the Pope and the Catholic establishment.

“It is safe to assume that Pope Francis knows very well that the Catholic Church supported this military coup and dictatorship of General Franco, as evidence of this abounds,” Navarro asserted. “The Catholic Church was one of the major landowners in Spain and opposed the land reform initiated by the democratically elected Republican government.”

Although Pope Francis was one of the founders of the community center that is helping Argentinean children escape poverty today, the Counterpunch article written by Navarro uses historical examples to criticize his refusal to confront the repression of the military regime in the past.

– Juan Campos

Sources: Counterpunch
Photo: Yahoo