Religion: Justice & Reconciliation

In this issues of poverty will be discussed as well as possible solutions. There is an in-depth look at Christian voluntary agencies that help people in developing countries. Additionally, there is a profile of Oscar Romero, a priest who gave his life to help the poorest of people. There is a look at what the Bible teaches about wealth. NOT FINISHED

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A divided world

Fact: Resources in the world are unequally shared out. In many areas the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.

80% of the world population have 20% of the resources & therefore 20% of the world population have 80% of the resources.

It has been said by several people that we have enough for everyone's needs. Not everyone is greedy. Yet people still die of hunger.

What people in the UK would call a 'basic' would often be considered a luxury in a developing country.

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Differences between the rich world & poor world

Rich World

Food - plenty of food; food is wasted; balanced diet available; obesity is a growing problem; food from around the world is available.

Water - clean water; water usually drinkable from tap; each house has running water; separate sanitation & fresh water system.

Education - (in UK) education from age 4 - 18 is free; choice of private schooling; every child must go to school or have a good home tuition provided.

Health - (in UK) there is free medical care; choice of private or NHS; most people live near a hospital; plenty of GPs available; lastest in medical care.

Housing - housing is generally good; houses have water, gas, toilet, electricity etc.

Social Security - unemployment benefits & pensions.

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Differences between the rich world & poor world (2

Poor World

Food - very little food; every last grain is used; malnutrition common, plus linked diseases e.g. ricketts; limited diet such as rice only.

Water - most water contaminated; water full of harmful bacteria; a well in a village is a luxury; sewage mixes with drinking water.

Education - many have no free schooling; rely of sponsorship for school; little chance of education for poor children.

Health - usually you pay before treatment; no choice of type of medical care; nearest hospital could be 300miles away; doctors may do clinics once every 3 months; outdated technology & medicines.

Housing - shelter built from what materials can be found; usual to have no electricity, toilet, etc.

Social Security - nothing for unemployed or old aged.

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Five Basic Needs

There are 5 basic needs for all human beings: food, water, health, education & work.

FOOD - is essential for life. If you have no food or don;t receive a regular balanced diet you will suffer from malnutrition. No food = no energy, so you cannot work which means no income.

WATER - is essential for life also. Dirty water is potentially an invisible killer & can cause hundreds of illnesses.

HEALTH - it is better to prevent disease than to have a cure for it.

EDUCATION - most countries agree that a basic education should be free & available to all children. If children in poor countries receive education, they have been given the first enabling step to leave the poverty cycle. This helps them to get a skilled job.

WORK - even in the UK, during times of high unemployment people have talked about their right to a job. In most developing countries if you do not work, you do not eat.

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Many developing countries have huge debts. Trying to pay off the debt has now become a serious problem for the countries concerned, with tragic consqueneces for their people. For example: The Sub-Saharan Africa region pays back US$10billion every year from a load - this is 4x as much money as the region spends each year on helth & education.

Loans & Debts

By the end of the 1970s oil exporting countries had much wealth which was invested in Western banks. The banks loaned the money to developing countries at low interest rate. The money was suppose to be used for health systems and other schemes but it was often squandered by corrupt government officals.

Interest rates began to rise due to recession & unemployment. Prices of export food fell & developing countries began to earn less. But theyhad to pay more for essentials that they imported.

Developing countries now owe money to Western banks, the Internation Monetary Fund (IMF) & even their own banks. Decemeber 2000 - 41 countries were classed as 'heavily in debt'. Their debt now stands at US$215billion. In 1980 the debt was only US$55billion.

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The debt grows

Loans being paid by developing countries must be paid in hard currency (e.g. UK pound, US dollar, Japanese yen), despite some countries offering to pay in goods such as oil. Because they have to exchange their currnecy for on the others listed above the value of their currency could fall (which is quite usual) - the debt rises as it takes more of their money to buy the hard currency.

Some countries try to borrow money to pay off the earlier loan. In theroy it gives them more money to develop, earn more & therefore pay off the debt. But, in reality it just adds a new name to the debt. They get deeper in debt, called a debt spiral. Often loans come with a 'sting in the tail' in the form of strict conditions, such as cuts in free health care.

Solutions - the simple solution would be to cancel all debts. It has been pointed out that the original loans have been repaid over, & developing countries pay back more each year than the West gives in aid, loans & investment added together.

FACT: The total cost of providing debt relief to the 20 worst affected countries would amount to between £3.5 billion & £4.54 billion. Sounds like a lot, but this is what it cost to build Euro Disney.

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Jubilee 2000 Coalition - end debt!

Several voluntary agencies (mainly Christian), joined together to jointly call for the ending of their world debt. They worked jointly, e.g. to gather a million-name petition. They also had their own campaigns.

Tearfund sold badges made to look like a link chain bearing the slogan 'Break the chains of debt campaign'.

Jubilee groups joined worldwide in a human chain in 600 events, where people linked arms & held candles.

The UK Chancellor of the Exchequer (now Prime Minister), Gordon Brown, announced in July 2000 that some countries would have their debts to UK banks cancelled.

The campaign still goes on. The next focus was the G8 summit in Genoa in July 2001.

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Child six billion

Child six billion was born some time between June & October 1999. There is now more than 6 billion humans on the planet. More than one billion people are between 15 & 24 years of age. Although the growth rate is slowing down, by 2015 it is estimated there will be 7 billion people. By 2050 low estimates sugggest 10 billion.

Nowdays couples are having fewer children, more of these children are surviving into adulthood & having their own children. In many societies the norm is to have families while you are very young.

There are 2 billion under fifteen year olds who will soon begin having children.

Overall there remains a larger population having children, even though family size is smaller.

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The world of child six billion

Nobody knows where child six billion was born. What sort of world was child six billion born into?

  • Child six billion will grow up in a world concerned about air.
  • Child six billion will grow up in a world concerned about water.
  • Child six billion will grow up in a world concerned about nutrition.
  • Child six billion will grow up in a world concerned about health.
  • Child six billion will grow up in a world concerned about housing.
  • Child six billion will grow up in a world concerned about education.

FACT: more than 800million people are not getting what they need to eat, & the majority are starving.

FACT: more than one third of children in the world under 5 years old are very underweight.

FACT: one child under 5 will die from hunger (or related illnesses) every 2.7 seconds.

FACT: malaria kills over twice as many people as those who die from AIDS.

FACT: malaria is the second largest cause of illness in the world.

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Population - Myths about population

Myth 1: "Rapid population growth is not the problem is used to be. We should be worried about the effects of a declining world population."

Population growth is slowing down, but on average 80 million babies are born each year. By 2050 there will be 2 billion people who experience water shortages. There will be pressure to find more land, pressure to find jobs & difficulties in providing health care & education.

Myth 2: "We need not worry about population growth becayse human ingenunity will overcome problems. New technologies & so on will produce substitute resources"

There are limits to the earth's natural resources. E.g. coal will eventually run out. If the population rises to 10 billion in 2050 farmers will be hard pressed to feed everyone & some land just cannot be farmed.

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Myths about population

Myth 3: "Rapid population growth has caused widespread hunger & famine"

It's true the main cause of hunger & famine has been the inability of people to produce enough food. Food production has fallen behind population growth - most noticably in Africa. The main causes for this are poverty, unequal trade where farmers do not get paid a fair wage, & no investment in agricultural technology.

Myth 4: "Rapid population growth in poorer countries means they will continue to be poor"

Population growth impact on pverty is noticeable at household & community levels. E.g. children in large families receive less education than in smaller families. Rapid growth in population in a community overburdens sanitation & drinking water supplies, which causes health problems.

But it is not just population growth that keeps countries poor. Misguided economic policies, legacies of colonial days & unstable, often corrupt governments also play their part.

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Myths about population

Myth 5: "Family planning is just a euphemism (another name) for abortion"

Family planning aims to promote reproductive health and to prevent unplanned conception. Voluntary agencies provide contraceptive services as part of an overall health care service. For example, they provide:

  • pregnancy care, training local women to be midwives
  • post-natal care of mother & baby, encouraging breast feeding
  • detailed information about contraception
  • gynaecological care (especially for woman who've had many children)
  • education about HIV/AIDS & other sexually transmitted diseases
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Myths about population

Myth 6: "It is too expensive to reduce population growth rates. The UK & the USA spend too much on foreign aid"

In 1994, there was an International Conference on Population & Development in Cairo (ICPD) where delegates voted to increase spending on population projects. It now spends £8 billion a year for family planning, maternal health, midwifery & AIDS/STD prevention & education.

It was agreed that developing countries would put in a proportion of the cost. The UK devotes about 3% of its total budget on foreign aid, as do France & Denmark. Germany & Sweden give 2% & the USA gives under 1% of its total budget.

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