One public official that Nigerians would not forget so soon is Dr. Dora Nkem Akunyili; may God rest her soul. Dr. Akunyili became famous not because of the mere fact that she was the director of National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control but on account of the fact that she fought against the illicit manufacturing and distribution of fake drugs.
Before her historic fight against fake drugs, some malicious persons were manufacturing lethal substances in the name of drugs and these were sold to unsuspecting people (especially the poor) who end up having worst medical conditions and being unable to get meaningful medical attention most of them die. While we could remember Dr. Dora Akunyili for actively advocating for sanity in food and drug manufacturing and distribution, she is also be remembered for saving a great number of poor people from the exploitative hands of some mischevious businessmen and women.
The First Reading (Amos 8:4-7) could be termed a divine appeal for the poor. In the passage, the oracle of Amos the prophet was in favour of the poor and marginalized of the society and against the rich oppressors. It was in a society where the rich became richer by making the poor to depend on them and thus exploit them.
The oracle of the prophet Amos began by denouncing those who trample on the needy and bring the poor of the land to an end. They ask “when will the new moon be over so that they can sell grain?” Who are these that trample on the needy and bring the poor of the land to an end? They are the more privileged of the society (as opposed to the less privileged), they are the rich. They leverage on the needs of the needy and the poverty of the poor to enrich themselves.
These people cannot wait for the new moon and the sabbath to be over. Why? The new moon here refers to the beginning of the month which is considered holy to God (Number 10:10; Neh.10:31). And like the sabbath business and work are discouraged (Deut.5:14) and mercy is shown to the needy, the poor and slaves (Deut 15:12-18).
The people that Amos described here are actually opportunists who make their living out of the poor and needy. They are always unfair in their dealings with the poor by using false weighing balances. They also make slaves out of them by buying them for silver and a pair of sandals. That is, putting them in perpetual debt. Even what is considered a waste is sold to the poor.
Do we still have the prevalence of this situation that Amos mentioned? The answer is obviously YES. Today, exploitation has taken more scientific and technological dimensions. We have been enslaved by consumerism (whether it is a habit or a spirit). Buying without breaking, shopping without stopping not even minding the hidden charges. Many have been enslaved by creditors to whom they have become debtors. You might think that you are rich but from the point of what you are owing you are really poor or corporately poor.
The poverty in the world is constructed and sustained by the rich. The dynamics used by the rich is simple; they make the poor to look up to them for assistance and they use that opportunity take away from them the little they have. For rich to become richer the poor need to become poorer. This is so unfortunate.
It is very sad that the world, our just and merciful God created, is breeding on heart-rending and painful inequality. According to the World bank and IMF joint Global Monitoring Report (2014/2015), nearly half of the world population (more than 3 billion people live on less than $2.50 per day. Next, more than 1.3 billion people live in extreme poverty with less than $1.25 per day and about 805 million people worldwide do not have enough food to eat. This is regrettably a slap on the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals presented in the year 2000 and which included ending extreme poverty by the year 2015 as the first goal.
The analysis has not ended. About 1 billion children worldwide are living in poverty. According to UNICEF about 22,000 children die each day due to poverty; most of these children die quietly in extremely poor villages while many us around the world keep throwing food and other useful things into the bins; not even a slight urge to share with that poor neighbour down the street.
Furthermore, according to Feeding America, a non-profit organization, about 15.3 million children in the USA alone live in food insecure homes while millions of children worldwide go to bed hungry every day. Folks, all these are happing in a very rich world where the net worth of all the wealthy people in the world put together will be enough to give food and shelter to everyone in the world for many years.
Considering the ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor in the world, we are prodded to ask “are people not serving mammon instead of God as our Lord Jesus Christ indicated in the Gospel Reading today? We remember that St. Paul writing to Timothy indicated clearly that the love of money is the root of all evil (I Tim. 6:10). The dishonesty of the steward in the Gospel Today (Luke 16:1-13) is a typical example of the evil engineered by the love of money.
There is a need for us to reflect on the deep inequality we have in the world today and do something about it. We are living in an age where poverty is used as a weapon of oppression and suppression in view of generating dependence. Nations do not help nations without asking “what would there be for us?”. That is why most countries are owing so much to others and the creditors still remain open to give more loans. Be careful with and about loans; they could be enslaving.
The basic problem of the human society is that the wealth of the world is not shared. The world is too rich for us to have millions of people who go to bed every day without food. There is a need for voices to rise like Amos’ for the poor and needy in the society. We need more “Teresas” to go into the numerous “Calcuttas” around the world to make some active pleas for the poor. We can, each, begin from our neighbourhoods. We can begin from that poor home, that poor man, that poor woman, that poor, boy or that poor girl. We must pay attention to and work against the seven capital sins of modern day society as Mahatma Gandhi numerated.
- Wealth without work.
- Pleasure without conscience.
- Commerce without morality.
- Knowledge without character.
- Science without humanity
- Politics without principles
- Religion without sacrifice.
Have a great Sunday and a lovely week ahead.