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Divine Word Missionaries have made addressing poverty and inequality a central part of their ministry in every corner of the globe. In this resource, we highlight the ways our missionaries take up this cause. We hope this information and these stories help you understand how each of us can help work to eliminate the tragedy of material and spiritual poverty.
As Christians, our call to serve the poor is made crystal clear in the words of Scripture. This resource explores how we are responding to that call.
Poverty is fundamentally about scarcity — a lack of life’s basic human goods and needs: food, shelter, clean water, social support, economic resources, education, opportunity to grow and flourish.
We often reduce poverty to simplistic economic terms, but poverty is both material and spiritual. No attempt to address the impact of poverty can succeed without a holistic sense of what makes a person, a family or a community thrive and what societal measures bring more dignity and more peace to the lives of the impoverished.
In our Catholic missionary service around the world, Divine Word Missionaries are working to provide for people’s basic needs; treat the impoverished and suffering with love; and lift them out of poverty through education, support and opportunity.
being socially marginalized, watching your family suffer, lacking social or cultural power or representation, feeling helpless and trapped by poverty.
feeling the pangs of hunger, getting sick but not being able to go to the doctor, sleeping on the streets or in garbage dumps, drinking unclean water.
not being able to read, not having access to a school, not knowing how to get to resources that could help you, not knowing what your tomorrow will look like.
making less than a living wage, struggling to find work, being shut out from work opportunities because of discrimination or lack of education.
fear for your family, fear for the future, fear of instability, fear about survival.
It can be easy to lose sight of the human face of poverty when we focus on statistics and facts, but it’s also valuable to get a numerical sense for the state of poverty in the world today. The good news is that world poverty rates have been declining steadily over the last few decades.
Here’s a look at some recent statistics and facts about the state of global poverty.
The poverty level (or poverty threshold) is a numerical income marker used to differentiate between people who live in poverty and people who do not. While this may sound arbitrary, the threshold is selected based on input from many economic factors and is used by governments to create policies and programs targeted to those who need them most.
The poverty level differs from country to country and is typically established by the government of the country in conjunction with experts in other organizations.
Most places around the world also distinguish between those who live in poverty and those who live in “absolute” or “extreme” poverty.
Globally, the World Bank defines the extreme poverty threshold as people who live on less than $1.90 per day.
Poverty is difficult to discuss because in many cases what would be considered poverty in a wealthy, developed country would be considered tremendous luxury in many other parts of the world. Because of this disparity, experts have introduced the idea of relative poverty versus absolute poverty.
Relative poverty is conditional: it is evaluated based on the average income and living conditions of a specific country. Absolute poverty is universal: it is a condition of living where people are unable to provide such basic necessities as food, shelter or clothing for themselves. While even the wealthiest of countries may have some people who live in absolute poverty, absolute poverty is much more common in Central America. In large parts of Africa and Asia, however, absolute poverty has been on the decline for the last several decades.
Our missionary efforts in 80-plus countries around the world are mostly focused on serving people living in absolute poverty.
Our feeding programs, medical centers, and shelters attempt to help people get the basic necessities they need to survive.
Our lessons in sustainable agriculture, microloan programs, and educational opportunities attempt to help people breakout of the misery of crushing poverty and into more stable living conditions with economic potential.
Wherever Divine Word Missionaries are serving, they can be found working with the poorest and most marginalized groups. In many cases our missionaries work within a parish community and draw on volunteers and resources in the local community in order to make positive changes in the lives of the impoverished.
“There’s two kinds of poverty. We have the poverty of material; for example, in some places like in India, Ethiopia and other places, where the people are hungry for a loaf of bread – real hunger. But there is a much deeper, much greater hunger; and that is the hunger for love, and that terrible loneliness and being unwanted, unloved – being abandoned by everybody.”
— St. Teresa of Calcutta
When you serve as a missionary, your job is not simply to offer people help or resources. You are called to address the spiritual needs you encounter. For many people who are suffering from poverty, the greatest gift you can offer them is kindness, respect and concern for their heart and soul, not just their physical well-being.
One early Divine Word Missionary, St. Joseph Freinademetz, once said that the missionary is not the Light but someone who reflects the Light. When our missionaries move among the poor, they are called to reflect the love of Christ, bringing charity and dignity to people who are hungry for love.
Divine Word Missionaries are actively engaged in providing for the basic needs of impoverished and marginalized people, such as the need for food and for shelter.
We hope you have enjoyed learning more about the realities of poverty and the work that Divine Word Missionaries are doing to tackle the challenge of poverty.
We all know that the challenge of poverty can be intimidating. There are so many people who are suffering in inhumane living conditions. But we also know that we are called to be a part of the solution.
When people have access to basic needs — food, medical care, shelter — they have the opportunity to thrive and grow into the people they are created to be. Our brothers and sisters in poverty need our empathy and material support.
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