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Make Economic Justice an Issue this Christmas by Matthew Hulstein

At this time of year, we all sense the coming of Christmas with every passing day.  But as each day passes, another 30,000 people die from abject poverty.  One billion people around the world live on less than one dollar a day, and nearly 854,000,000 people are so impoverished that they cannot afford to feed themselves.  These heartbreaking numbers stand in tragic contrast to the mad shopping sprees here in the US.  Many of us, myself included, have failed to assume the responsibilities to which our wealth is attached.  My Christian faith tells me that Christmas is about Jesus Christ, and that it is impossible to be in good standing with Christ without being in good standing with my fellow man.  St. James explains in his epistle that one cannot tell a brother or sister in need “God bless you” without doing something to relieve that person’s position.

As each day passes, two major events come ever closer.  The first is Christmas—a time of giving and re-evaluating what’s important in life.  Second are the Iowa caucuses.  We should make personal choices to re-channel our energy and money towards helping those in need, but we should also encourage our politicians to address the structural injustices which cause poverty.  Of our entire national budget, only four-tenths of one percent is spent on foreign poverty-focused relief.  That is one of the lowest percentages of foreign aid of any developed country.  Also, unjust trade and labor laws continually exploit the world’s poor to feed our ravenous consumerism.  Many of the gifts we give our loved ones are actually manufactured in sweatshops in the developing world.  Instead of paying workers fair wages, many corporations pump millions of dollars into mind-numbing advertising campaigns to convince us to senselessly buy even more.

Here in Iowa, we have the rare opportunity to shape presidential campaigns.  Ask the candidates about poverty and economic justice.  Many people in my community are searching for a candidate whose faith shapes his or her politics.  Next to honoring God, caring for the poor and the oppressed is the most prevalent charge in the Bible.  Also, don’t be afraid to call or write your congressman.  You might even try calling up a corporation’s headquarters and asking where a product came from.

This holiday season, I hope you will make positive choices to help those in need, both when it comes time to shop for Christmas presents and when it comes time to shop for presidential candidates.  Do not let another day pass—another 30,000 people pass—without recommitting yourself in the fight against poverty personally and politically.  To learn more about what you can do, visit www.bread.org.

- Matthew Hulstein is a student leader at Northwestern College in Orange City, IA.  This piece was originally submitted as a letter to the editor to his local paper.

 

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