Friday, April 14, 2006

Over at Things of Infinite Importance, Michael is posting a series of meditations during this Holy Week, all based on the Stations of the Cross, and all related to issues of poverty. Check it out.

This passage, which he posted yesterday, especially spoke to me:

One of the most used approaches to engaging people with extreme poverty is what I call the Sally Struthers approach. It's the late-night infomercial with sad children with distended bellies and flies circling about their lips and Sally Struthers bemoaning how terrible it is and won't you please send money to help.

It's not that it isn't terrible. It's not that on some level it's very important for people to see how terrible it is. But we shouldn't help out of a sense of guilt or out of a sense of repulsion. We should help out of a sense of how we are bound together -- out of a sense of the deep joy, the deep experience of life in Christ that comes from solidarity with the poor.

Sabina Alkire, the amazing priest-economist who co-authored What Can One Person Do: Faith to Heal a Broken World, says: "The alleviation of material suffering in the world and the spiritual renewal of the church go hand in hand."

Sabina is right. Sabina understands Jesus words. The extreme poverty of the developing world is also the extreme poverty of the developed world. They are inextricably related. Because as we allow -- and even cause and perpetuate -- extreme poverty in places like Sudan and Tanzania and Nicaragua and Pakistan we deeply impoverish ourselves as well.

We impoverish ourselves because the only way to perpetuate systems of extreme poverty is to distance ourselves from their victims. We cannot leave people in poverty if we believe that they and we are one. So as the poor suffer materially, we suffer spiritually.

I think he's said there what I've been struggling to explain to friends about why my time in Lui has touched me so deeply.

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