Spirit Sightings

January 25, 2015: Embracing the Tension

From Fraser Macnaughton

How far the world come from the time of the psalmist, who put his trust in God. Today, we put our trust in money making. And how much has this obsession to make more and more money contributed to the ever increasing gap between rich and poor?

According to a report that appeared in the Guardian, “Billionaires and politicians gathering in Switzerland will come under pressure to tackle rising inequality after a study found that – on current trends – by next year, 1% of the world’s population will own more wealth than the other 99%.Ahead of this week’s annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in the ski resort of Davos, the anti-poverty charity Oxfam said it would use its high-profile role at the gathering to demand urgent action to narrow the gap between rich and poor.”

Using data from Credit Suisse’s latest global wealth report, the charity warns that rising inequality is holding back the fight against global poverty at a time when more than a billion people still live on less than $1.25 (83p) a day. The report also warns that global wealth “is becoming increasing concentrated among a small, wealthy elite.”

The executive director of Oxfam, Winnie Byanyima, said, “The scale of global inequality is quite simply staggering, and despite the issues shooting up the global agenda, the gap between the richest and the rest is widening fast. Failure to tackle inequality will set the fight against poverty back decades.”

She went on. “We want to bring a message from the people in the poorest countries in the world to the forum of the most powerful business and political leaders. The message is that rising inequality is dangerous. It’s bad for growth and it’s bad for governance. We see a concentration of wealth capturing power and leaving ordinary people voiceless and their interests uncared for.”

There is a growing clamour for inequality to move up the political agenda as evidence increases that it holds back economic development. Oxfam itself has published a seven-point plan that includes issues such as tax dodging by corporations and rich individuals; increased investment in universal, free public services, such as health and education; the introduction of minimum wages and a move towards a living wage for all workers; and ensuring adequate safety-nets for the poorest, including a minimum-income guarantee.

Explore… Psalm 62:5–12

  • In what ways can your faith group highlight income inequality issues in your community?
  • How can we engage in election campaigns and make economic issues of poverty important policy issues for national and local politicians?
  • To what extent should faith groups be getting involved in the politics of power, as opposed to “sticking to matters of faith”?

Prayer links…

We call to mind that Jesus talked much about bringing life in abundance to all. May we, each in our own way and collectively, work to bring that call to fruition, to speak to the powerful and challenge the seemingly accepted norms of society. Amen.

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