O Ye Rich Ones on Earth!The poor in your midst are My trust; guard ye My trust, and be not intent only on your own ease.
Today is Blog Action Day for Poverty, when over 9,000 bloggers will be writing from their own area of interest on the topic of poverty.
When thinking about what to write today, I looked at the Baha'i International Community's statement "Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights
". As mentioned in the quote above, the poor are the trust of all humanity, and it is our duty to guard them. The Baha'i Community addresses poverty from a human rights perspective, poverty reduction is not simply charity but a question of justice. Poverty is "a problem for all of humanity, not just for the poor".
Poverty is a symptom of broken economic and social relationships at all levels. The remedy to poverty lies in addressing destructive values and human attitudes and behaviors, primarily the promotion of "the advantage of the few at the expense of the many". The statement further goes on to discuss our relationships to each other: "each member of the human race comes into the world as trust of the whole, which includes the family, the community, the nation, and the world". We are all responsible for each other.
Women are disproportionately represented in the world's poor. The equality of men and women must drive all our poverty alleviation efforts. The participation of women in all levels, legal, political, economic, and academic is critical to our efforts.
Key to poverty alleviation is the right to education. Knowledge is the means to alleviate poverty and achieve human justice and dignity. A culture of learning must be a valued dimension of society.
The availability of meaningful work is also central to poverty alleviation. The status of work is not merely the means to consume goods, but it is "the means of developing one's craft, of refining one's character, achieving self-subsistence and being of service to others".
It is clear that this complex problem must be addressed on many levels, community, government, business, the family, the individual must all play a part. Nations must be assisted and held accountable for their treatment of the poor. On an individual level, we must be guided by a sense of responsibility towards other human beings.
When I studied this statement, it became clear to me that although poverty alleviation must be addressed on many levels, it is also an individual responsibility of mine. Yes, there are many occasions and opportunities when charity is necessary, but above and beyond that is the ultimate importance of raising up the dignity of the individual and the realization of human potential. Can I find a way to render assistance and support education? Can I contribute to the realization of the equality of women and men? Can I encourage the youth in my community? Can I be aware of an over-reliance on material goods at the expense of others? There are no simple solutions, and there is no one solution, but perhaps day by day, encouraging each other we can live our lives in such a way as to make some small difference in the world. Perhaps with all of these small differences, we may eventually transform our attitudes and values to such an extent that it will no longer be acceptable for us to allow members of our human family to live in poverty.