Does Poverty Have A Colour?

For its final lecture of 2020, the Newbold Diversity Centre was delighted to welcome Amanda Khozi Mukwashi, the CEO of Christian Aid, on Tuesday, 10th November. The fact that she so clearly identifies as a Seventh-day Adventist added an extra dimension to the event. She framed her topic as a question: ‘Does poverty have a colour?’ The subtitle added an extra dimension to her subject: ‘How the Church can restore dignity, justice and equality for all’. As she surveyed the Church universal and her own Adventist community, her answer to her own question was a resounding ‘yes’.

Though she has only been in her current post for two years, Amanda has 25 years of experience in relief and humanitarian aid organisations like the United Nations and Voluntary Service Overseas. She has seen poverty and its devastating effects at close quarters. Part of the power of her lecture was her stories about places and people that she had visited in the course of her work. She opened with an account of her work with a women’s group in Ethiopia, a country which has witnessed drought more and more frequently in recent years. Vast areas have become infertile and people’s lives have been put at severe risk.

She pointed out that the primary driver of much poverty in this case and many others is climate change, which has disrupted centuries-old cultural patterns and ways of survival. While people in the West debate the causes of climate change, millions elsewhere feel it in their stomachs. “Those who suffer the worst consequences of environmental disaster are those outside the developed areas,” said Mukwashi. Those who are the greatest culprits when it comes to carbon emissions—the USA, Europe, Russia, China—experience the least impact on their daily life.

Everywhere Black / Asian / Minority Ethnic people are ‘at the bottom of the food chain’ and living in extreme poverty around the world. In the UK, children of colour are more likely to be in care and less likely to be legally adopted. Where ethnicity intersects with gender women of colour will find themselves most disadvantaged.

The reasons for all of this are of course complex. But it is clear that an economic system based on slavery which has evolved and continues to evolve into a particular sort of capitalism is a primary cause of inequalities and injustice. The UK is by no means blameless in these matters. For example, it is extraordinary to discover that it was only in 2015 that the UK government finished paying off compensation to slave owners, and that with the monies of tax-payers who are themselves the descendants of victims.

So—to the big question of the lecture: ‘Where does the church stand on these issues and others like them?’ It is important that the Christian church confesses its deep complicity in the slave trade. ‘The church was not only actively involved and engaged in grading black Africans as sub-human’ said Mukwashi. ‘It provided a rationale and gave permission for people to do so.’ The church has slowly changed its view, but there is still much to be done in the business of restoration.

When it comes to developing dignity, love, justice and equality in the world, the church continues to do much to support the status quo. Its own structures replicate power structures and financial structures which are little different from their secular counterparts. The church still operates with hierarchical, male-dominated power structures. It still invests members’ money in enterprises which use large quantities of fossil fuels.

Mukwashi testified that she had become an Adventist while at university largely because of Adventist teaching on holistic human living. But, she observed, “Adventists are not looking holistically at the business of production and consumption.” If the role of the Church is to restore dignity to all human life it cannot continue as it is. It must redouble its efforts on behalf of the poor, it must work towards greener economies, must grow towards true gender equality. These matters are all intertwined – they are all about justice. The Church will lose, is losing, its moral capital. It must engage with such issues.

Most of all we can individually be models of inclusiveness, people who are quick to welcome and slow to exclude. God has dignified us so we must bring dignity to others. And poverty is one of the great destroyers of dignity. So many of the causes of inequality and poverty are beyond the reach of individuals, but Mukwashi advised us to play a part locally. We can increase our charitable donations of course. We can write to our MP. We can keep going to church to keep alive the sense of the dignity of the individual. We can talk more than we do about poverty, dignity, and equality from the pulpit and in Bible study groups without being party-political. We can review the way we as families and as a church spend our disposable income. We can lend our weight to groups which lobby for greater social justice in our world.

To conclude the lecture and the Q&A session which followed, Mukwashi left her online audience with a number of challenging questions to the Church universal and the Adventist church in particular. ‘How would Jesus relate to the way we invest and in what we invest?’ ‘Are we using the power and influence we have to change things? What is the role of the Church in restoring sacredness to human life?’ If the Church remains silent on these issues, then what is the role of the Church? We talk about redemption, love and compassion but is the world experiencing love and compassion through us?’

The lecture’s title question was answered—and more: ‘Does poverty have a colour?’ Yes, it is black and brown. Is the church in the business of ‘restoring dignity, equality and justice to all’? Yes, but it has its blind spots. Our job is to be as clear-sighted as possible about what those failures might be.’

If we keep listening to the voice of Amanda Khozi Mukwashi and others like her, maybe our eyesight will improve!

This lecture can be viewed on the Newbold College of Higher Education Facebook page here.

Amanda Khozi Mukwashi has recently published a book about identity, humanhood and hope But where are you really from? (SPCK)

 

This article was written by Michael and Helen Pearson and originally appeared on the Ted News Network® website.

Image courtesy of Ted News Network®.

 

We invite you to join our community through conversation by commenting below. We ask that you engage in courteous and respectful discourse. You can view our full commenting policy by clicking here.

 


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/10890
1 Like

We all have hopes and dreams. Everyone matters or no one matters. Wherever we, humankind, are going, we will get there together. Being “pro life” is much more than being anti abortion. And until we realize this, we’ll continue to wander to nowhere alone. May the HS prevail upon our hearts.

1 Like

Half the world’s population does not possess a flush toilet.

Shanty towns, slums, shacks, squatter settlements, with misery and poverty abounding in desperate third wood countries — and even homeless encampments in every major US city !

Almost impossible to cure it all.

How does God tolerate all this MISERY, when in a heartbeat, He could fast forward the Second Coming ???

1 Like

Excellent perceptive question indeed.
My thinking is there’s something inherently selfish in the human heart “delaying” that return. What if the “wait” is about us doing something about this inequity? What if it has something to do with our own attitudes, fears, and insecurities?
Everyone matters or no one matters.

It’s worth pointing out that:

  1. What we consider poverty today, was a default human condition merely 150 years ago.

  2. Poverty today is due to lack of development beyond the conditions 150++ years ago. Most of the poor nations were always poor, and never progressed beyond that.

  3. Climate Change has virtually nothing to do with that lack of development. Quite the opposite. The IMF and WTO attach strings to the loans that the corrupt governments in undeveloped nations squander, and these strings and constraints keep nations from adequately developing… because these loans come with demands to tighten budgets.

The only viable way to eliminate poverty is to allow 3rd world development as opposed to constantly subverting and undermining.

4 Likes

“Restore” implies there ever has been “dignity, justice, equality”. History does not bear that out. Go back, even past the horse and buggy era, and you will find lack of dignity, justice and a huge lack of equality. The forest were still green back then; and the smokestacks had yet to appear.
The sentiments are noble; but certainly not biblical. Christ never promised us a rose garden. In fact, the closer we get to the closing hours of earth’s history, the worse conditions will become. No socialist agenda is going to change that.

"The main vice of capitalism is the uneven distribution of prosperity. The main vice of socialism is the even distribution of misery." Winston Churchill

4 Likes

Probably true, but only to the extent of a self-fulfilling prophecy. When enough people believe the end is supposed to be ugly, it becomes critical mass, and they end up making it so. There are reasons and there are excuses to everything. These sentiments only offer up excuses for enacting mans’ worst instincts.

1 Like

Show me one era, country, society where social programming has resulted in human “dignity, justice, equality”. All that came about in the negative the minute Adam emerged from the garden. This never absolves the individual’s responsibility toward his neighbour- “Whatsoever you do to the least of these…you do unto me.” But this is “socialism” riding in on the coat tails of Christian ideology - the very thing socialism, itself, abhors.

3 Likes

Can a negative be proven? At what point did man walking on the moon become possible? Did Adam really emerge from that garden? Does believing in fairness and equality require one to be anti-christian? If one accepts the account in Acts as historically accurate, then what do we make of the sharing of possessions? Are the principles of socialism and Christianity really at odds, or is this just what the 1% want us to believe? Can the extent of our selfish hearts be blinding us to a greater possibility?
Every one matters or no one matters.

2 Likes

History is proof. There have been many utopian societies - where are they now? The irony is that socialism is anti-Christian. On the surface it’s about share and share alike; but in reality there is always a ruling class that rides around in the Roll Royce (Lenin) dictating what to do next - ie:Animal Farm.

Show me how well that caught on. Like I said above, the Christian message is for individual behaviour and attitude; not governments or their programs - that would be a theocracy. It’s much easier to pay your taxes so the government will do the Christianity for you. Like paying your 10% tithe plus X% for missions and be done with it. Biblically, we’re told to render unto Caesar, perhaps because Caesar has an army? I have to admit that doesn’t sit well with me either, but there you have it.

4 Likes

I don’t see how that is a valid argument in that the practice is right there in Acts. Whether it worked then or not is irrelevant to the accusation, to me.

So then, can we exact the same standard on Christianity? Has the church always done a great job?

Back to the moon landing, when did it actually become possible? If someone attempted it in 1693, would it always be impossible?

With 1% of the world’s population owning 50% of the resources, I don’t see how capitalism can be considered a success.

What if there is a pathway in the middle?

That’s not socialism in acts. It’s theocratic voluntarism.

3 Likes

Are you a politician?
Consider running for office!

What does that have to do with my response?

What you see in Acts is a communal microcosm, and not a governmental economic system. What you see is a church-commune.

How does accusing me to be a politician resolve that conceptual dissonance for you?

2 Likes

These were men of faith, not Caesar’s legislators setting up a social order. If you would like to suggest that all church member pile up their income and divide it equally between the all the members you can try that at the next board meeting.

If anyone has any investments for their retirement, it is based on capitalism. The church invests in packages so it doesn’t even know what it’s investing in - that is based on capitalism. If anyone has a job in the private sector, - that’s because of capitalism. I would venture that if any given socialist were given even part of what the 1% has, they would grab it in the blink of an eye and never look back.

When it comes to social programs designed to “help” the needy - it is part of capitalism itself. Social services is a huge business; nobody wants to give that up. The only way to help is through education. If all the money spent on give-aways were invested in education, it might make a dent in the 99%.

1 Like

Thank you Sirje for your consideration. I do know how it works. I do not agree this gives the 1% a pass on the gross greed. You may disagree because the system works for you, but for many others it plainly isn’t.

I see no way forward to call this just.

1 Like

Are accusations usually formed in a question?

“You should run for office!” isn’t a question.

I do agree that the way system works now is problematic, but socialism will likely socialize poverty and secure corporate power and ownership. These corporations are already increasingly resemble communist dictatorships internally.

1 Like

What’s your solution?

1 Like

The solution begins with admission that there is a problem.