Religion, Wealth and Poverty

Religion, Wealth and Poverty

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Religion, Wealth and Poverty

In this piece of coursework I will explore how religion and wealth
respond to the growing problem of poverty in the world. I will look at
the views of Christianity and my own religion, Islam. I will also give
my own insight into the problem.

Poverty is 'the state of lacking adequate food or money' (Collins
English Dictionary definition). However this may also mean no clothes,
no fresh water and a general lack of other basic human needs.

There are two types of poverty in the world today, the first and most
extreme, Absolute Poverty. This is where there is an absence of the
main necessities of survival. Cases absolute poverty of can be found
in third world countries e.g. Mali, Bangladesh, Columbia, the
Philippines etc. Relative Poverty however exists in our own western
countries e.g. UK, USA, France, Australia etc. This is where people
are worse off than the average of their country. Relative poverty can
mean living in damp flats to living on the streets.

The Brandt Report, written by Willy Brandt (a former chancellor of
West Germany) in 1980, highlights the problems caused by poverty
around the world. He looks at the problem and its localities. By doing
this, he splits the world into two halves. He calls one half the North
where he says the rich of the world live. However he says these
countries have the problem of relative poverty. The other half The
South is where he says the majority of the world's poor population
lives. He says that there is a big and growing problem of absolute
poverty in this part of the world.

After looking at the problems Brandt looks at what solutions can be
implemented to stop the spread of poverty. He says to improve the
economic and social conditions of the South; the North needs to help,
as they have the resources and funds readily available to them. He
says that the South firstly need to improve agriculture. This would
then help them by setting up their own food source and also by

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establishing trade links with other countries. He also advised the
South to store food away to protect from famine and stop wastage of
crops.

He goes on to say that the rich Northern banks should stop charging
high rates of interest on loans to the South, simply because they
can't pay the money back. There are many Southern countries that are
in debt to Northern banks. They needed to borrow money to reform their
own countries and try to improve the lives of their people. Now after
decades of interest and little or even no repayments the Southern
countries are faced with massive debts. There are many people dying in
these countries because of unnecessary starvation, high infant
mortality rates and many curable diseases. These problems could all be
solved, if only the countries were allowed to concentrate on improving
life rather than trying to pay back money that they don't even have.

Brandt cleverly throws open the doors of the South and exposes how
severe the conditions in the South actually is. He shows the world
that how the self-mindedness of the wealthy North has led to millions
of people facing difficult lives and even death. He advises the rich
to be charitable and donate money and other resources to the poor, so
that they can develop themselves and try and gain the same standard of
life. He says that international aid is crucial to the development of
these countries, both short and long-term. Short term aid could be
providing clothes, medicine and food, things that are likely to run
out quickly. Long term solutions help improve the infrastructure of
the country e.g. building roads, new schools, improving irrigation and
setting up new hospitals. He highlights the importance of the South
helping and working for themselves. This will prepare the south for
the future and help them learn from past mistakes. They should not be
made to feel that they are being provided for as this might be
insulting for some and also this might lead to them being reliant on
outside help.

Brandt looks at the problem of relative poverty and says that this
problem should be dealt with carefully and quickly by the North. He
warns them that if left alone these small problems might grow to reach
uncontrollable levels and this would prove to be disastrous.

Religion plays an important role in tackling poverty. In both
Christianity and Islam there are teachings of providing care for
others and helping the less fortunate.

Christians believe that they should help the poor because Jesus
Christ, their prophet, helped the poor a great deal when he was alive.

Jesus told the world lots of parables, many of them about helping the
poor. For example 'Good Samaritan' was a parable about Jesus helping a
poor man without even looking at where he was from or what tribe he
belonged to. This taught Christians to help the needy no matter who
the person was or what they had done, they should be helped first.
'The Camel and the Eye of the Needle' is another good example of a
parable about helping the poor. Here a rich trader, who had lots of
possessions when he died including camels and other goods, tries to go
to heaven as he was a pious man on earth. However he is stuck at the
gateway, the Eye of the Needle, and can't pass through because of his
camels and goods. So the man has to take his good off and pass it
through then he sends his camels through and finally he goes through.
Meanwhile a poor man who didn't have any possessions walks through
with ease. The moral of this parable is that it is easier for the poor
man to go to heaven, rather than a rich man, as he has much less
responsibility in life. The rich man has excess and surplus wealth
which he can improve the lives of others and help people with.

Jesus told parables to people because they were easy to relate to and
people could easily learn lessons. He wanted people to help others,
especially the ones that were worse off than themselves. Modern
Christian followed Jesus' example and set up charities like the Red
Cross. This charity helps countries in emergencies, in war or if there
is a natural disaster. They disregard the background f the country
they go to aid of and get on with the job. However they preach
Christianity, distribute copies of the bible, encourage people to be
good and follow the examples of Jesus Christ.

Islam teaches Muslims to give a share of their wealth to improve the
life of the poor. Zakah is compulsory for every earning Muslim and is
a 2.5% donation of their total wealth to charity. It is a pillar of
Islam along with Sawm; this is the fasting in the Islamic month of
Ramadan. It is also compulsory for every able Muslim. This fasting
gives Muslims an insight of going without food every day for a month
and feeling how a poor man would feel all year. It also focuses
Muslims and helps them to keep on the right tracks.

There are also many stories in the Quran that tell Muslims to help the
needy. For example, it says that Muhammad (SAW) used to walk through a
certain pathway and there used to be an old lady that used to leave
out sharp stones to hurt the prophet's (SAW) feet. One day however the
prophet (SAW) saw that the stones were gone. He immediately went round
and asked people what happened to that old woman. They replied that
she was ill and at once he went to her aid. He helped her get better
and when the old lady was better she came round to visit him. She
asked him why he had bothered to help her as she had been so cruel to
him. He replied that no matter what a person had done, there should be
no reason why you shouldn't help them when they are in need; a Muslim
should do all s/he can to help.

These ideas made Muslims join together and create organisations like
Muslim Aid. This organisations single aim is to rid the world of
poverty.

Islam and Christianity both respond well to the issue of poverty in my
opinion. They both encourage their followers to help the whole
community rather than just themselves. They are both very respectful
and teach that the world should be improved for everyone to live in.

Organisations like the Red Cross and Muslim Aid work for the better of
the poor however they can't cover everything and everyone in the world
purely because they have limited resources and funding. These
organisations have played a key role in reducing poverty in the world;
however they can only reach the tip of the iceberg. The problem is
just too big for these organisations to deal with own their own. They
must have the full backing of every government including western
states like the UK and the USA. Without the key help of these
organisations the situation would be much more drastic and would
affect the world.

As a Muslim I deal with the problem of poverty by donating what I can
to the mosque which in turn supports and helps poverty projects in the
local area and abroad. I find that Zakah does not apply to me directly
as I have not got my own source of income. However my parents who are
providing for me pay Zakah and donate money throughout the year to the
poor. Sawn does apply to me though and during Ramadan I fast from dusk
till dawn. I experience the hardships of hunger and I am more focus as
a Muslim changing various aspects of daily life. I feel that the world
should stop creating and fighting in minor conflicts and should unite
to work for the greater good.
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