Hunger & Poverty


The statistics are grim from whatever search options – the number of people living in poverty and hunger, and starving children – in our wealthy world.  But more startling is that the richest 1% have more wealth than the rest of the world combined.  This is the crisis of inequality that reinforces the poverty and hunger situation.  Ending Poverty and Hunger are the Sustainable Development Goals, numbers 1 and 2.  They are top priorities.  Perhaps, the theme of poverty has remained constant more than any other in Catholic Social Teaching, which emphasises preferential option for the poor.  It also teaches that the earth’s goods are destined for the use of all and should be fairly shared.  Therefore, our attitude towards the poor must change.  They should not be seen as people whose survival depends on handouts, but as people who possess capacity for agency, for constructive action and may just need a gentle push for positive changes to occur in their lives.  Pope Francis has set aside a day every year as World Day of the Poor.

 The Bible and the Poor

  • “Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but those who are kind to the needy honour Him” (Proverbs 14:31)
  • “We must support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, for he himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35)
  • “Whoever disregards discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honoured” (Prov. 13:18)
  • “Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court” (Proverbs 22:22)
  • “For this is the message you heard from the beginning: we should love one another” (1 John 3:11)
  • “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:8-9)
  • Psalms: 35:10; 41:1; 72:4; 146:7; Isaiah 3:15; 58:6-10; Exodus 22:22; 23:10-11; Prov. 13:23, Prov. 23:21

Sayings about the Poor/ Poverty

  • “The Poor are not a problem: they are a resource from which to draw as we strive to accept and practise in our lives the essence of the Gospel” – Pope Francis (World Day of the Poor, 2017)
  • “There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread” – Mahatma Gandhi
  • “Many people would like the poor to always say it is God’s will that they are poor. But it is not God’s will for some to have everything and others to have nothing. This is not God’s will” – Oscar Romero
  • “When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.” Helder Camara
  • “The fact that the poor are alive is clear proof of their ability.” - Muhammad Yunus
  • “An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.” - Plutarch
  • “Wars of nations are fought to change maps. But wars of poverty are fought to map change.” - Muhammad Ali
  • “Today the peoples in hunger are making a dramatic appeal to the peoples blessed with abundance” – Pope Paul VI (Populorum Progressio, 1967, no. 3)

Poverty: definition/ faces

  • Common definition: lack of income/ assets (money, food, house)
  • Wider definition: lack of opportunities, liberties and capabilities (employment, good health, education, security)
  • Mutually reinforcing, dehumanising, but also people can be lifted out of poverty

Why do we still have poverty in the world?

Multiple reasons account for the persistence of poverty…

  • Bad governance (incapable of addressing economic, social, political issues that reinforce poverty; corruption)
  • Conflict/ political instability
  • Vulnerability to natural disasters, famine, drought
  • Social inequality
  • Debt/ Trade imbalance
  • Land rights & ownership; poor crop yield

Option for the Poor: Responses

  • “If we recall that Jesus came to ‘preach the good news to the poor’, how can we fail to lay greater emphasis on the Church’s Preferential option for the Poor…” – Pope (St.) John Paul II, Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 51; Also Latin American Bishops
  • Solidarity (promote the good of all; we’re responsible for each other; no one should be left behind; community & participation; not vague compassion)
  • Universal destination of goods (share world’s resources - enough for everyone to realise his/ her potential)
  • Stewardship (care for creation – our common home, stop abuse and preserve for future generation)
  • Human Rights (everyone has the right to life and bodily integrity and means for proper development; right to food, clothing, shelter, rest, medical care)


The Sustainable Development Goals

Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere (measured as people living on less than $1.25 a day; equal rights to economic resources; access to basic services; reduce exposure and vulnerability to climate-related extreme events or other disasters; create sound policies to eradicate poverty)

Goal 2: End Hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture (access to nutritious and sufficient food, improve agricultural productivity; invest in rural infrastructure where most poor people live; use technology; correct all unjust trade relations; timely access to market information)


When LOVE is the way…

“When love is the way: there will be no child who will go to bed hungry in this world ever again; When love is the way, we will make justice roll down like a mighty stream and righteousness like ever-flowing brook; When love is the way, poverty will become history; When love is the way, the earth will be a sanctuary; When love is the way, we will lay down our swords and shields down by the riverside to study war no more” (By Bishop Michael Curry, Primate, Episcopal Church US, Preacher at the Royal Wedding, 19 May 2018)


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