As we observe the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on 17 October, it is opportune to look at the challenges and prospects of addressing this global problem.
Global poverty, at long last, is being recognised on the international agenda as a priority. This is commendable progress. However, to make a significant contribution towards the elimination of poverty, there is still need for concerted effort and convincing programmes.
The eradication of poverty is currently being approached primarily in material terms. Focus on mere income generation has not resulted in significant social improvements. In fact, the gap that separates the rich and the poor is widening each year, which indicates that current attempts to eradicate poverty are incapable of solving the problem.
One has to be cognizant that poverty is a condition that arises from injustices in society. Some examples of such injustices are discrimination against women, xenophobia or racism.
It is the Bahá’í view that, for justice to become the organising principle in our societies, there is need for spiritual and moral transformation and for belief and practice of the principle of oneness of humanity: “nations must be assisted and held accountable for their efforts vis-à-vis the poor; at the same time, the underlying values must take root on a personal level so that behaviour is ultimately guided by a sense of responsibility towards other human beings”.
Accepting the oneness of human family implies that social and economic justice should be observed for everyone and implemented both within and between nations. It implies racial, ethnic, national and religious harmony. It also implies that woman and men should be given equal rights, opportunities and privileges.
The Bahá’í International Community states: “A new economic order can be founded only on an unshakable conviction of the oneness of mankind. Discussions aimed at solving problems related to extreme poverty based on the premise that we are one human family rapidly expand beyond the current vocabulary of economics. They demand a wider context, one which anticipates the emergence of a global system of relationships resting on the principles of equity and justice “.
The current disparity between the rich and the poor has a serious destabilizing effect in the world, leading to national and regional conflicts, environmental degradation and an increase in crime and violence. It is the Bahá’í view that extremes of both poverty and wealth must be eliminated.
The same way as the physical principles govern the material world, the social world is governed by moral and spiritual principles, which inspire the functioning of an ordered society. Therefore, efforts to address poverty eradication will only succeed when moral and spiritual values, such as justice and unity – achievable through the acceptance of the oneness of the human family – are made an essential part of the solution.
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