Jonathan Duffy, president of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, spoke in front of a packed room during the second annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom Summit at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. to address the preservation of religious liberty for all.

Focusing on the theme, “Religious Freedom in Conflict and Crisis Zones: Protecting Vulnerable Minorities,” Duffy spoke about the connection between poverty and religious violence on a panel with humanitarian senior leaders.

“If our goal is to address religious freedom violations, the place to start is addressing poverty,” states Duffy. He pointed out that poverty is frequently a precursor to religious persecution as the majority turn on minorities as scapegoats during times of extreme social and economic stress.

“For example,” Duffy says, “The World Bank reports that the Rakhine State, home to the Rohingya, is the poorest state in Myanmar. Its poverty rate is twice the national average, with almost 80 percent of the state living in poverty.”

One solution to this, according to Duffy, is the need to develop places like the Rakhine State before “religious violence flares up.” It is only through addressing the economic conditions can we prevent extreme religious violence, he added.

Panelists also discussed the importance of data driven solutions, the challenges of ensuring disadvantaged minorities receive needed assistance without exacerbating preexisting resentment against them, and the need to tackle grant compliance requirements that inhibit effective delivery of aid to endangered religious minorities.

Speakers at the event also included: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, former parliament member of the United Kingdom and human rights activist Lord David Alton, among other leading faithbased humanitarian organizations.

The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is the humanitarian arm of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Its work empowers communities and changes lives around the globe by providing sustainable community development and disaster relief. For more information, visit

This article was written by Kimi-Roux James and originally appeared on the ADRA website. Image courtesy of ADRA website.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at
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So Mr. Duffy, In Bangladesh the reason there isn’t religious liberty is because of poverty? How does that relate to lack of total religious liberty in Iraq, Iran or Saudi Arabia? Is it poverty?
Correlation of some things does not equal causation. Lack of religious liberty and allowed violence is usually a country’s government enforcement choice.
PS. There is no complete religious liberty in China. It isnt due to poverty.

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ADRA is a great humanitarian project. But it is the causes of poverty that are the seeds of rebellion.
The fix is found in education to leads to work skills and self worth and control. Second is fare wages. Then a realistic safety net of food, housing and health care. Let us look to Canada, Sweden, Australia, etc.


Yes Tom. It is the things that cause poverty that ultimately creates poverty and rebellion.
In the US single parent families are the biggest source of poverty. Admittedly there are many causes (death, sickness) as well as divorce; but, the fact remains. Often we treat the symptoms and dont identify causes.
Family units, job skills, consistent effort and reasonable lifestyles are the desired national path to success for the most people.
Money alone spent doesnt change bad practices.
There indeed is a place for emergency help safety nets but that should not become the norm of governance.
Social and economic theory serves best when it offers the most choices to the one and many.
When I was in Bangladesh the biggest ADRA project was clean water. Dysentary killed hundreds of thousands annually.

A good reminder that many wars are/have been fought in the “Name of God” but had everything to do with power and control. Poverty is a means of controlling populations and has been used by many governments throughout millennia.


If that were true, most western countries would be completely free from religious intolerance.

The average lower middle class American often enjoys a home with central heating, air conditioning ( if in a hot climate zone ) hot water showers, and FLUSH TOILETS.

All missing from the “luxurious “ medieval castles occupied by the French aristocracy in France’s Loire Valley, and other European monarchal castles — even that epitome of luxury —- VERSAILLES — was a miserable “mansion” compared to even the most modest modern homes.

These medieval abodes of the upper classes were also rodent infested, cold and drafty — even the king’s bed infested with fleas, lice and bed bugs!

If the elites lived uncomfortably, what was the fate of the peasant class who lived in unheated huts over the many millennia of humankind ??

So poverty, shanty towns, slums, favelas are the cruel fate of the majority of mankind — a simple indicator — FLUSH TOILETS — unheard of in the majority of current human households!!

High infant mortality rates, constant diarrhea from drinking filthy water, malaria / yellow fever/ from bug infestations, rodents everywhere — these are the hallmarks of poverty .— pervasive world wide.

And the one individual who could eliminate all this misery in a heartbeat AINT INTERESTED !

That God would turn a blind eye to such wretchedness, avert his eyes from such awfulness, deny such dire degradation, destitution and deprivation, is a travesty.

Because, in a heartbeat, centuries ago, he could have fast forwarded the Second Coming, to permanently end privation, paucity and penury.

Christ declared at Calvary, IT IS FINISHED — the atonement was complete— so why the continued cruel calamitous conditions confronting citizens of planet earth?

Often the “control” is pan-national. You don’t think that imposing sanctions on countries is not connected to control? Countries impose sanctions to “hurt” the population as a means of influencing/removing the government of another country. This is creating poverty for political reasons. It would not surprise mean if it was not applied internally in some countries also.

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Well, sanctions on Iran haven’t created religious liberty. Tariffs on China haven’t created religious liberty. For sure sanctions and tariffs attempt some control, often for better purposes.
Poverty is complex and usually, I suggest is internal policy. Not that external force doesnt at times contribute.
I just dont see the rationale on many circumstances of the removal of poverty, very complex, necessarily removes religious discrimination and violence.

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Sounds scriptural.
“The religions you will always have with you…”

So THATS why perpetual poverty survives.

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" so why the continued cruel calamitous conditions confronting citizens of planet earth?"

The inhumanity of man.

One of the Giant Sins the Bible writers call people out
on is GREED.
Follow the “GREED” trail and it will answer WHY good
things do not happen.

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The title of the article is “Poverty plants the seeds of Religious Violence”, not “Poverty leads to Religious Liberty”. Of course sanctions (which lead to poverty) don’t lead to religious liberty. They may not directly lead to violence but poverty creates the environment where violence can prosper.

People who are “trapped” in poverty, especially when it imposed or controlled externally are often induced to “fight back” against those who are said to be (rightly or wrongly) responsible.

What we are talking about is Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs. Deal with the survival issues first. This allows (frees up the focus) people to focus on other, higher level issues, leading to self-actualization. Christ met people where they were - sick, injured, broken, sinful. He healed them, He forgave them. He then let them practice religious freedom. They were free to follow Him, or to walk away.

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Why not just accept the premise that poverty creates the seeds for all types of social unacceptable behavior. Individuals have no responsibility for their behavior. Remove the externals problems then sin will go away?
We have a poverty filter and we make what we want to go away by removing poverty. Humanity doesn’t really have a sinful nature they just have an unfed/unmet need.
That’s where I see the logic of this article going.

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@1QOL I think I am missing something here. Are you saying once poverty is eradicated, we will be in paradise? If so, why do we have KKK and other fringe groups in the Western world? Why do prominent people in the UK and even the Queen of England sometimes accused of racism or antisemitism? Remember Hitler. If you say he was poor himself, how about those who followed him? Were they all poor?


Not sure of your meaning. Is there a question or comment to me in your statement? Or, did you just want me to see the comment?

In essence I vehemently disagree with the premise that poverty fuels religious intolerance. If that were true, developed nations would have zero statistics, yet as things stand in the world, religious intolerance is evenly distributed all over the world, irrespective of the status of people involved.

Religious intolerance is fueled by bigotry. If one thinks they are superior to others on the basis of skin color or name, location and history of their religion, it can translate to intolerance. Sadly, this intolerance exists in unlikely places like academics, who ought to know better.


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