by Onleilove Alston

It is Thursday September 10, 2009 and I am writing live from The Moral Obligation to End Poverty Event co-hosted by Union Theological Seminary and The Poverty Initiative.  The speakers for this event include: Peter Singer author of How Are We to Live?, President Serene Jones (the first women to serve as president of Union), Ray Offenheiser president of  Oxfam America and Charlene Sinclair member of the Poverty Initiative and Ethics PhD candidate at Union Theological Seminary. Peter Singer is currently discussing what it means to live an ethical life and he has a wise critique for those who may suggest that to end poverty individuals have to give away large sums of money. Singer makes a great point of saying that this extreme solution will only attract a small minority but that the Christian tradition does call us ALL to a moral obligation to end poverty.

This April I lobbied for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Half in Ten Goals with a delegation from Sojourners in Washington, D.C.  In Senator Ed Townes office (the representative for the district I grew-up in) I connected the urban poverty of my community with global poverty. I personally do not agree with defining poverty in “relative” terms but do agree with Charlene Sinclair who stated: “a mother in America who can’t feed her child on $10 an hour and a mother who can’t feed her child on $10 a day in Scotland is still a woman who needs to feed her children and that misery doesn’t just go away”. As someone who has personally experienced poverty in America I know that my situation was not as hard as a young woman from Darfur but I do know that the slavery a Sudanese Christian may face in that region is similar to the slavery that my ancestors faced in America.  We are a global society and to separate the struggle against poverty into a domestic or global struggle will not lead to a sustainable solution. While in West Virginia at the Poverty Initiative’s Leadership School I saw the poor activist from America unite with South African shackdweller activist and clergy.  I saw light bulbs go off when participants realized that their struggle was connected to a global community.

Ray Offenheiser president of Oxfam America is discussing the powerlessness of poverty and the importance of “creating an environment where justice can take root”.  The Bible does not speak of relative justice but of justice for all and as a community of international women reflecting on the 15 years since the 4th World Conference on Women, Beijing China we have to develop an ethnic that says poverty is wrong regardless of the country, especially knowing the there is a powerful link between women’s rights and poverty. In this time of economic crisis poverty eradication is essential to continuing an international movement for women’s rights.  I want to leave you all with a closing statement from this event:

“I believe a movement to end poverty has to create a structure that equalizes us and does not place one of us over the other”. –Charlene Sinclair


Questions for Reflection:

How can women from a variety of countries unite in solidarity against poverty? How can the global church contribute to this unification?

How can we utilize the lessons from the Beijing Conference in the current fight against poverty?