Poverty

The Land of Gold and Blood

Congo

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THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC of Congo is one of the world’s poorest countries. In 2014, Congo ranked 186 out of 187 on the United Nations’ human development index—vying with Niger for the bottom of the list.

Yet Congo is extremely rich in soil, water, forests, and minerals. Diamonds, copper, gold, oil, uranium, and coltan are all mined, purchased, and traded from the DRC.    

Coltan is the ore used in electronic devices. The so call “war of coltan” in the mineral-rich eastern Congo has left millions dead and more than a million women raped. Transnational corporations are able to exert extreme pressure on Congo’s weak government and economy. As a result, the country’s natural resources have become an important factor in increasing poverty and violence rather than wealth and development.

The Catholic bishops in Congo (about half of the country’s population is Catholic) repeatedly have denounced three specific kinds of evil: a climate favoring genocide, outbreaks of religious fundamentalism, and a push toward Balkanization.

Sébastien Muyengo, author of In the Land of Gold and Blood, is the Catholic bishop of Uvira in eastern Congo. As a result of the mineral wars, he writes, the country’s poverty has become a mental, human, and structural poverty, rather than predominantly material. Yet Congo has resources the rest of the world wants.

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Help End Hunger. It’s Simple.

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Even on a local scale, problems like poverty and hunger can overwhelm our imaginations. My own city of Lancaster, Pa., is like countless others. Pockets of true poverty cluster in the old city and dot the countryside. Affluent developments surround the city, while hip new housing is popping up in the center of the city. An impressive urban revitalization campaign has transformed the city’s image, making downtown an attractive place to eat, shop, and play.

Recently, however, a study by Franklin and Marshall College has shown that Lancaster’s resurgence has not helped its poorest residents. Just the opposite has occurred. Between 2000 and 2013, per capita income has grown by 20 percent in the city’s center while it has declined in every other section. What looks like progress from the outside contradicts the harsh reality that thousands experience.

It’s a typical scenario, in which outcomes such as life expectancy and high school completion rates vary dramatically, even in adjacent zip codes and school districts. Faced with such stubborn realities, many individuals feel at a loss concerning how to make a difference.

New & Noteworthy

Raising Themselves
The film Know How, a musical written and acted by foster-care youth, tells interwoven stories of coming of age within a dysfunctional system, the losses and dangers these young people face, and their against-the-odds struggle to persevere. First Run Features

Beyond the Food Drive
In Charity Detox: What Charity Would Look Like If We Cared About Results, Robert D. Lupton asserts that poverty must be addressed “through development, not through one-way giving.” With anecdotes and examples, he explains development strategies such as fund reallocation, reciprocal exchange models, and neighborhood reconciliation. Harper One

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A Case of Jiggery-Pokery

Justice

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THIS SUMMER’S ATTEMPT to dismantle the Affordable Care Act began as the very height of frivolous lawsuits. Cooked up with the help of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian think tank, the case (King v. Burwell) depended upon a very narrow reading of four words in Section 36B of the ACA: “established by the State.”

Essentially, Obamacare foes argued that Congress intended to provide health-care subsidies (or tax credits) only to those Americans living in states with state-operated insurance exchanges. Those who lived in states without exchanges—including Florida, Texas, Wisconsin, and others—and were, therefore, dependent upon the federal exchange would be ineligible for subsidies.

Of course, Congress intended no such thing—as the Supreme Court upheld. Throughout dozens of hearings and hundreds of hours of debate, it was clear that ACA subsidies would be available to every American, regardless of what state they lived in.

In a 6-3 ruling, the court rejected King, with Chief Justice Roberts explaining, “A fair reading of legislation demands a fair understanding of the legislative plan. Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them.”

Had the suit carried the day, 6.4 million Americans would have lost their subsidies. 

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For Some Churches, Food Trucks Are a Vehicle for Serving the Poor

Arlington Heights UMC / RNS

Arlington Heights United Methodist Church’s Five and Two Food Truck served breakfast tacos to Komen Race for the Cure participants in April 2015, co-sponsored by Kroger. Photo via Arlington Heights UMC / RNS

Faith-based food trucks are building momentum across the country. In St. Paul, Minn., Lutheran pastor Margaret Kelly’s church is actually a food truck, providing free food and prayers to homeless and impoverished members of the community.

Back in Texas, the Chow Train in San Antonio has been making national headlines for fearlessly serving homeless residents despite a $2,000 fine in April for serving food from the back of a private vehicle.

How the Vatican Links Human Trafficking, Climate Change, and God

Vladimir Wrangel / Shutterstock.com

Sunset over the dome of Saint Peter's Basilica in Vatican City. Photo via Vladimir Wrangel / Shutterstock.com

On July 21 and 22, the Vatican hosts two conferences on human trafficking and climate change, bringing the mayors of major cities — including several in the U.S. — to Rome for the events. What do human trafficking and climate change have to do with each other? And what does Catholicism have to do with them? Let us explain.

Q: Why is the Vatican concerned with human trafficking and climate change?

A: If Pope Francis has two pet issues, they are human trafficking and climate change. Since the first year of his papacy he has spoken against human trafficking, calling it “a crime against humanity” and lamenting it as modern slavery. It’s an even bet that when the pope addresses the United Nations in late September he will hammer it as one of the crucial issues of our time. Ditto on climate change. In June, the pontiff published his encyclical — the highest teaching of the church — on climate change.

“Our home is being ruined and that hurts everyone, especially the poorest among us,” Francis said just before the publication of the encyclical.

A Model for Higher Ed

HigherEd

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IN A BID to relive our traveling days, my best friend from college and I took a weekend road trip to Berea, Ky., to check out a folk music festival. We got to be dancing fools again for one beautiful, moonlit night, imbibing hippie music to our hearts’ content.

We also got a heart full of something else—a little thing called the American Dream.

In addition to being home to a cool new music festival, that little holler in Kentucky is home to Berea College. I’ve stepped foot on more than 100 campuses in my 10-plus years running Interfaith Youth Core. Berea is unique.

Maybe it’s because it was started in 1855 by a slave owner’s son as an interracial, co-educational school seeking to live out the school’s motto, drawn from the book of Acts, “God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth.” Maybe it’s because the admission requirements include being smart, being willing to work hard, and being poor. Maybe it’s because the tuition is free. Maybe it’s because all students have a 10-hour-a-week campus job, ranging from office work to janitorial work.

Yes, you read all that right. A man whose family owned slaves took the Bible seriously enough to risk his life to start a college that educated blacks and whites and men and women, together, a decade before the civil war came to a close.

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A Tale of Two Pharaohs: On Horse Racing and Transformed Hearts

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American Pharoah ridden by jockey Victor Espinoza wins the Triple Crown at Belmont on June 6. Photo by Diana Robinson/Flickr.com

After winning the Triple Crown, American Pharoah’s jockey, Victor Espinoza, showed that he doesn’t live in fear of losing his power. And, as opposed to the Egyptian Pharaoh, he showed he has a soft heart for those who are suffering.

Espinoza reportedly earned $80,000 for his victory at the Belmont Stakes and he’s giving it all away. “I won the Triple Crown right now,” he stated, “but I don’t make any money because I’m donating all the money to the City of Hope.” The City of Hope is a cancer research and treatment center. Espinoza also donates his time at the City of Hope, visiting with children struck by cancer. He says, “The kids [are] 6 years old, 10 years old, it’s just heartbreaking.” Why does he do it? “I just saw one kid with the disease and that’s how I changed my life. I changed the way I think. Pretty much I changed everything … the first change I made was in my heart.”

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