notre dame montreal

Sermon on Make Poverty History

By The Reverend Charles Royden


'Be the change you wish to see in the world.'  Mahatma Gandhi

Jeremiah was born 3 miles north of Jerusalem and preached about 627 BC

He was not a popular prophet. He made a major intervention in the political life of the country. He said things which people did not want to hear. He told the people that they should submit to the power of Babylon and King Nebuchadnezzar (29:6-7), and that the future of the people was wrapped up in submission to this great power which had conquered Assyria.

Imagine somebody doing that, it was unpatriotic. Imagine some religious figure jumping up at the time of the second world war and opposing Churchill and saying that we should submit to Adolf. We would have him arrested.

Now there are those who think that religious people should steer clear of politics. The Bible is full of people who took very political stances and were unafraid of the consequences.

Today I would like to ask you to spend some time thinking about politics.
(Show white wrist band and ask what it is)
A coalition has formed between charities called Make Poverty History . Christians Aid and other organisations involved believe that the time has come to work for a world in which in which justice – the justice of God’s Kingdom – prevails.
I do not pretend that I have all the answers. I know that some of you will think that no matter how much money we throw at countries, no matter how much debt is cancelled there are corrupt regimes which steal the money from the poor. I understand that the matter is complex, and yet I do believe that the Make Poverty History Campaign has some very important points to make.

Take the case of Muracin Claircin a rice farmer. He lives in Haiti with his wife and two children. Muracin used to support his family by selling rice, but today things are very different.

Farmers such as Muracin Claircin from Haiti can’t earn the money they need from their rice due to huge amounts of cheap American rice flooding the country

Listen to his story

The World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan money to poor
countries. In return they often pressure those countries into allowing foreign products into their land. Haiti in 1995 was a case in point. The World Bank and the IMF told Haiti to reduce its charges on goods imported from abroad. This meant foreign rice could easily be sold in Haiti’s markets.

Seeing their chance, American farmers flooded Haiti with rice. The American
government gives billions of dollars a year to its rice farmers. And because American farmers use the latest technology, they produce more rice more quickly than their Haitian rivals. The result? American rice is cheap in Haiti so everyone buys it. In contrast, Muracin Claircin and other local rice farmers painstakingly harvest their small plots of land by hand and don’t receive any government money. They already make such a small profit that there’s no way they can lower their prices further. They just can’t compete with America – so American rice sales increase in Haiti while the sale of local rice falls. And although customers might save in the short term, in the long run they lose out too. When local farmers can’t sell their rice, it’s not long before rice processing and packaging factories close down and Haiti’s economy suffers.

Today, Muracin struggles to support his family. ‘There’s no incentive to grow rice
anymore,’ he says. ‘It’s virtually impossible to make a profit.’ And all because while Haiti isn’t allowed to fund its farmers and is forced to reduce its charges on imports, America subsidises its farmers and keeps its import charge. So America stops other countries doing to it what it has done to Haiti. And the UK is just as guilty. The problem is that poor countries get little say in how international trade is run. They need IMF and World Bank loans so they have to accept the conditions that go along with them. And although the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which agrees the rules of trade, has members from lots of different countries, rich nations have the most influence. So, unsurprisingly the rules work well for the rich but often do little for, or even work against, poor countries.

The whole system is nuts. But making everyone follow the same rules wouldn’t be enough. For poor countries to stand a chance of benefiting from trade, they need special rules to help them. That’s why Christian Aid, as part of the Trade Justice Movement, is calling for poor countries to get extra help in trade until they are strong enough to compete on equal terms. Until that happens, the money that poor countries could earn through trade – 20 times more than what they receive in aid – will remain out of reach. And Muracin’s future, along with that of many others, will remain uncertain.

Introduction to video

Two hundred years ago, Christian activists like Wilberforce, Shaftesbury and Barnado made history.

Their success in abolishing some of the worst aspects of poverty brought improved life for millions of people across the UK.

Today, ordinary people, like you and me, can help win a significant breakthrough for millions of people across the globe, by influencing the world’s eight most powerful leaders.

God hates poverty. He hates injustice – and there’s no place for apathy in his kingdom. We cannot ignore the plight of the world’s poorest people, who desperately need God’s love to bring them life in all its fullness.

Rick Warren challenges the church, saying: I deeply believe that if we as evangelicals remain silent and do not speak up in defence of the poor, we lose our credibility and our right to witness about God's love for the world.

In 1 John 3: 17, we read:

"If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?"

As we watch this five-minute Prayer presentation created by Tearfund, let’s ask our God to open the hearts and minds of prime ministers and presidents so that they will stop at nothing in releasing people from the grip of poverty.

It is not right that 50,000 people die every day of poverty, that 30,000 of them are only children.

We have to join our voice with those who cannot speak for themselves.

Nelson Mandela said recently
‘Some times it falls upon a generation to be great,
you can be that great generation.’