About a year ago, I heard a surprising statistic: extreme poverty has been cut in half in the past 20 years. If we continue on this trend, we can reduce the number of people living in extreme poverty to almost zero by they year 2030.
A few weeks ago, I watched a TED talk by Bono where he presented the same information. Just last week, the President of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, also called for an end to extreme poverty by 2030.
These declarations have not come without criticism. Critics have said these facts don’t take into account the issue of inequality gaps: if the “haves” continue to “have more” then it will be difficult to reach the remaining groups of “have nots.”
I am the first to admit that I don’t have all the facts to be the one making policy decisions related to poverty in struggling nations. But can I confess something? Prior to last year when I heard the statistic, it never occurred to me that it was actually possible to eliminate poverty in this world. I am embarrassed to admit that I became so jaded that poverty was something that I accepted as normal.
The sky is blue, the grass is green and there are extremely poor people in this world.
I didn’t like it. I didn’t think it was okay. But I didn’t think there was anything we could do about it. I just figured that was how the world worked.
So when I heard that we would eliminate extreme poverty in my lifetime I got excited. I began to imagine a world with no poverty. It occurred to me that perhaps my grandchildren would read about famine in history books the same way I read about small pox.
Suddenly the feasibility of this statistic led me to question other injustices of the world:
When can we get everyone access to clean drinking water?
When will girls in every country be given the right to an education?
When will all children have enough food in their bellies?
I’m guilty of being apathetic for too long. I don’t know if we can eliminate extreme poverty by 2030 but I want to be on the team that tried. I want to say that I raised my hand and said, “How can I help?” instead of “You’ll never do be able to do that.”
Let’s make extreme poverty a thing of the past.
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.