01 September 2023, The Tablet

Why poverty remains the greatest global challenge

by Lyn Weston

Serving locally, impacting globally, as people worldwide prepare to mark the UN International Day of Charity.

Why poverty remains the greatest global challenge

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
Science History Images / Alamy

This Tuesday 05 September, people up and down the country will be marking the United Nations’ International Day of Charity, created to honour charitable organisations and celebrate the work they do to meet the needs of the world’s most disadvantaged and vulnerable people. The United Nations (UN) chose the date of 5 September to commemorate the passing of the Christian nun who dedicated her life to fighting poverty, Mother Teresa. Who better to embody this movement of global solidarity to eradicate poverty?

The UN recognises that eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions is essential to see communities evolve and flourish, but yet is our greatest global challenge. This year, the budgeting and debt help charity Christians Against Poverty (CAP) will be using the day to highlight their charitable focus: equipping churches across the UK to tackle poverty in their local area.

CAP’s mission revolves around partnering with local churches to not only provide free expert debt and budgeting help, but to connect people into a community that can help alleviate the kind of acute isolation and loneliness that debt and poverty can breed. Mother Teresa’s advice is heeded: put Christ’s compassion into action and connect with those she identified as the ‘people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone’.

Many of CAP’s workers and volunteers will be able to identify with Mother Teresa’s claim to belong to the heart of Jesus. This is the plumbline to everything that they do: to make Jesus known through expressing the enormity of God’s love and compassion for people made in his image. Although she became an international figurehead in the fight against poverty, St Teresa of Calcutta never sought fame or prestige. Instead, her focus was always about serving the ‘one’ wherever she was. “Never worry about numbers,” she said, “help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.”

This is why hundreds of churches have chosen to deliver CAP’s services in their local community, and they’re seeing individual lives transformed; as a consequence, they are playing their part in serving a larger vision: to combat UK poverty. Mother Teresa’s “small deeds” affected thousands and went on to impact millions. She’s been canonised, awarded a Nobel Peace Prize, and even had an airport named after her. Her life of service has inspired generations to adopt similar actions of compassion to those in poverty.

Even a quarter of a century after her death, the legacy of St Teresa of Calcutta continues to make its mark – quite something for someone whose primary aim was to care for the person nearest to her. As the Cost of Living crisis hits many in the UK, CAP’s seemingly enormous vision to see an “end to UK poverty” could sound ambitious. But this month, St Teresa reminds us just how essential working locally is to impacting the global fight to eradicate poverty.

This autumn, CAP is offering free resources for churches (such as video, biblical talk and prayer suggestions) that, in line with the UN’s International Day of Charity, focus on the fight against poverty. These free resources have been designed to help your church explore the reality of poverty through a biblical lens, reflect on its grip in the UK, and consider ways to put Jesus’ compassion into action and help alleviate the suffering of those experiencing poverty. Find out how you can access these and explore more here.

Rev’d Lyn Weston is the Director of Church Partnerships at Christians Against Poverty. She is an enthusiastic evangelist and has a long standing passion to see a movement to eradicate poverty across the UK whilst sharing the Good News of Christ. She contributes to various charities through serving as a board member or chairing role, currently sitting as a board advisor to Christian Aid. 

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