If we are to restore a broken world to wholeness and justice after the pandemic, governments and agencies must recognise that religion is part of the solution, not part of the problem
Efforts to end global poverty are at a crossroads. Covid-19 is the biggest setback to international development in a generation: the economic downturn it has triggered could plunge 150 million more people below the extreme poverty line of $1.90 a day, according to the World Bank. Hunger and unemployment is rising, 11 million girls may never return to education after school closures, and new divides are opening up, over access to digital technology in a world of lockdowns, and to life-saving vaccines. Covid has laid bare and deepened inequalities in a world that was already failing to provide a social floor for millions of people, while simultaneously breaking through the environmental ceiling of our common home.
The pandemic is also creating massive social and political fallout. Governments have been sorely tested, civic space has been squeezed, and assumptions about the steady march of progress have been shaken. A summer of protest over racial violence raised searching questions about whether the arc of the moral universe really does, in the words of Martin Luther King, “bend towards justice”. It has also generated a challenge to those working in international development, with a growing clamour for the aid system to “decolonise” and shift the centre of power from the offices of development agencies in Europe to people living in poverty.