On this, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, we remember that Jesus travelled with people who are poor, befriended the sex worker, and called people of his day to be his disciples. We declare our desire to be in solidarity with people who are poor, to cry out and not be silent about injustices, and to share the light of Christ that is with and before us.
The United Church of Canada affirms that the needs of people who are living in poverty must “have priority over the wants of the rich, the freedom of the dominated must have priority over the liberty of the powerful, and that the participation of the marginalized must take priority over the preservation of an order that excludes them” (“The Church and the Economic Crisis,” 1984).
In a nation as wealthy as Canada, we, the church, must cry out in a loud voice! No child should go to bed hungry. No parent should be forced to choose between paying rent and buying medication, or miss work or training opportunities for lack of quality affordable childcare.
Let us cry out for better housing, care, and facilities for people who are marginalized.
Let us advocate for a rights-based and fully-funded poverty strategy that will eradicate poverty in Canada, calling on all levels of government to make this commitment.
Let us cry out for easier access to human beings to talk to when trying to deal with programs that strive to meet the needs of people. That means treating all people in a culturally appropriate, respectful way, and with dignity.
Let us call on all levels of government to fully commit to making poverty eradication a priority, to including Indigenous governments in the negotiation, and to adopting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Eradicating poverty is about more than just economic measures. It is about dignity, participation, and people being appreciated and valued. It is about identifying and removing the systemic barriers that exist in society.
Policy decisions informed by racism, stigma, and discrimination against people who are poor—intentionally or not—perpetuate impoverishment.
As people of faith, we believe all people are created in the image of God, and that we are therefore called to act justly, to care for those on the margins, and to challenge structures and institutions that create barriers to full life and dignity.
We are called to engage in the work of poverty elimination, working with, and advocating for, people with lived experience of poverty, especially racialized and Indigenous people, single parents, and those living with disabilities.
Scripture calls us to follow Jesus into the addiction, suffering, pain, and even death on the streets, for that is where we will find him. We, the church, are called to remember that Jesus is the light, and that light shines everywhere. We are to follow wherever he may lead.
Today on this International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, let us raise the cross again. Let us raise the cross at the centre of the marketplace as well as on the steeple of the church.
Let us recover and claim the deep awareness that Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles but on a cross between two thieves, in the town’s garbage heap, on the crossroads so cosmopolitan that they wrote his title in Hebrew, and Latin, and Greek.
He died in the kind of place where cynics spoke smut, thieves cursed, and soldiers gambled. This is where the church should be, not only on this day of eradicating poverty, but every day, in our very ethos and in every breath we breathe.
We, the church, must not be silent.
Scriptures: Leviticus 25:8–13, Zechariah 7:8–10, Luke 6:20–21, Luke 14:14, Romans 12:11–13, 1 John 3:17.
–Alydia Smith is the Program Coordinator for Worship, Music, and Spirituality for the General Council Office of The United Church of Canada. Jordan Sullivan is the Ministry Partnership Animator for the General Council Office of The United Church of Canada.
Thanks to the Rev. Keith Howard, the Rev. Beth Walker, the Rev. Barry Morris and the Rev. Al Tysick in Victoria for their rich contributions to this blog.
For more information:
Ask the Candidates (see Poverty Elimination under Downloads at bottom of page)