Ending Extreme Poverty: A Utopian Vision?
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Letter to Friends around the World # 76

For centuries, extreme poverty has been haunting our sense of humanity. For centuries, children, men and women have been devastated by hunger, trapped in ignorance, locked into a cycle of dependency and humiliation.

The world panicked as economic recession—and its dramatic consequences—reared its ugly head. Yet shouldn’t it have started panicking long ago? And how can we not worry that once the most serious aspects of the financial and economic crisis are resolved, the challenge of ending extreme poverty will once again be put out of sight and out of mind? In this world that revolves around money, new principles must be adopted to prevent hundreds of millions of people from falling into poverty, and to lift out of permanent crisis the “bottom billion”—to use the words of the United Nations Secretary General—the billion who do not know what they will eat tomorrow, if they will be able to keep a roof over their heads, or if they will be able to give a future to their children.

People experiencing the worst destitution prove here, through their stories, that liberty and solidarity, right and responsibility, are inseparable values. They call on us to search together for what defines human beings and their future, and for ways to fully take others into consideration— including their history and worldview,  their uniqueness and universality.

Thanks to the association Mati  in Bangladesh, one mother was able to reveal a deeply-rooted aspiration: “I am poor but it makes me proud that even I can contribute something.”In Turkey, by creating the Lepers Hospital and the Association Against Leprosy, one doctor has refused to accept that her patients suffering from leprosy be shut away, isolated from the other patients. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, an association of farmers and breeders has adopted the mission “to help others understand that the distribution of food supplies and other provisions is not
going to help us develop.”In Ethiopia, the start-up of a library by the association “Let me be a child” offers children experiencing extreme poverty “a wonderful opportunity,
because they can now learn for free.”
“What I would like, one day, is to live to see, enraptured, through my child’s eyes, an end to poverty.”writes a young student in Portugal.

So, is ending extreme poverty a utopian vision? No, it is determination on the move.

Huguette Redegeld