Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Some reflections on different ways to see the world - Affluence, poverty, making a difference

Here are some reflections about how people in the West and those in low-income countries see things differently.

In the West, we want to see how we can make a difference. We want to see how we can fight injustice and alleviate poverty in the world. But for the poor in low-income countries, it is a matter of whether there can be any difference at all. If daily existence is a struggle, how can one find hope in the midst of injustice and poverty? Only a relationship with Christ and his identification with injustice and poverty can give us true hope and comfort.

In the West, we get to choose. Yes, we don't always get to choose, and there are those among use who are marginalised and disadvantaged. But comparatively, many of us get to choose - to study hard to go to university or work hard to learn a trade, save up for a holiday overseas, go to church and spend time with friends on the weekend, etc. Yet for many who live in low-income countries, the only choice is to keep staying alive and not to give up hope. They don't really get to choose in the way we do. There is no such a thing as a holiday overseas to see what the world is like. There is no such a thing as going to university - that is, for most of them because there aren't too many places at university, if there is one at all.

Many of us (not all of us, of course) in the West live in affluence. With our money and relatively high social status, we have the power to help the poor. We find satisfaction and meaning as we give to them. But for many who live in low-income countries, they learn to share with others with the little they have. Sharing resources out of poverty and powerlessness produces a profound sense of grace, hope and love that those living in affluence cannot fully understand.

None of the above means that living in the affluent West is wrong. Nor does the above mean that the rich should all become poor. It is not about guilt. But I hope the above helps us to learn from each other - to see the world from another perspective. I think God sees the world from all the different worldviews, and he knows exactly what the poor have to go through.

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