What about poverty and injustice in Canada?
At Tearfund we try to follow Jesus where the need is greatest, serving in countries torn apart by war, famine, drought and cyclical extreme poverty. But what about poverty in Canada? How are we addressing injustice here?
When we look at the world, poverty can feel both deeply shocking and profoundly normal.
We hear the statistics regularly: 10% of the global population lives on less than $1.90 a day, while even in Canada, a so-called ‘developed’ or ‘first-world’ country, 3.4 million people continue to live under the poverty line.
Most of us are used to a regular onslaught of images and stories in the media about poverty and disaster, and frequent requests for help. If Tearfund supporters’ response to such stories and appeals is anything to go by, the shock of being confronted with poverty does not seem to fade.
As human beings, we instinctively understand that this is not how the world should be: people are not meant to live in poverty.
What is poverty?
How we understand poverty will determine our response to it.
Many, especially in the West, understand poverty as economic poverty. For example, the World Bank defines people in poverty as those living on less than $1.90 a day.
Other measures of poverty such as the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) and The Happiness Index look beyond economic poverty, recognising that poverty is more complex and also relates to health, education and access to resources.
Tearfund’s understanding of poverty goes much further than even these definitions or metrics.
A Biblical Perspective on Poverty
God’s inherent nature is good. One of the ways this is shown in the Bible is through a core theme of justice and care for the poor in Scripture.
Consequently, poverty and oppression are symptoms of something fundamentally wrong in the relationship between God and humanity. The biblical narrative describes an arc of history starting from a life of wholeness in creation (Genesis 1 and 2) that was marred by the Fall (Genesis 3). The consequence was broken relationships – ultimately with God, but also with each other, with ourselves and with the whole of Creation.
Poverty and injustice are expressions of our separation from God, which impacts the environment as well as humanity. Poverty is the result of a social and structural legacy of broken relationships with God, a distorted understanding of self, unjust relationships between people, and exploitative relationships with the environment.
These broken relationships not only affect individuals’ lives, decisions and actions, but also create broken systems, leading to problems such as power imbalances and corrupt governments. These fractures are made worse by conflicts and natural disasters, many of which also have roots in the broken relationships between God, humanity and wider creation.
Poverty and injustice are very real in Canada. We see evidence of this every day in the news. At Tearfund, we support and advocate for people to support organizations in Canada that lift people from poverty. As Christians, we’re called to love our neighbours, both locally and globally. Tearfund is called to do this globally, but by all means we encourage people and churches here in Canada to be involved with and contribute to needs in Canada. There are many wonderful charities here in Canada which do great work.
But when we look at our sisters and brothers in the developing world, we see a vast difference in the levels of poverty and injustice. For example, we work in the Democratic Republic of Congo through our local church partner because it ranks as the second poorest nation in the world. We practice Church-Based Community Transformation, empowering local people to lift themselves from poverty with training and support from the church. We also respond to some of the most devastating immediate crises, such as the conflict in Tigray, Ethiopia and the COVID-19 crisis in India.
We’re thankful to live in Canada, where many of us have free access to healthcare, social support and job opportunities. The levels of poverty here pale in comparison to other countries, but there are still issues facing our country. Thankfully, there are great organizations addressing these needs and we encourage you to support them.
We’re also thankful to live in Canada because we have so many amazing donors and supporters who give to our work, following Jesus where the need is greatest around the globe. We have hundreds of prayer supporters, praying for the needs of those living in extreme poverty in continents like Africa, Asisa and South America.
As Christians, we encourage you to give, support, advocate and pray for the poor, no matter where they live. We thank you for joining us as we do this in many countries around the world.