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Cardinal: Fight poverty but don’t eliminate the poor

By on Saturday, 25 September 2010

Cardinal Peter Turkson speaks during the opening of the Millennium Development Goals summit at the UN headquarters in New York (CNS photo/Ky Chung, UN)

Cardinal Peter Turkson speaks during the opening of the Millennium Development Goals summit at the UN headquarters in New York (CNS photo/Ky Chung, UN)

A senior African cardinal has urged nations to keep their commitments to the Millennium Development Goals and said they “should be used to fight poverty and not to eliminate the poor”.

Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, represented the Holy See at a summit of heads of state and government on the Millennium Development Goals, which set out to halve poverty by 2015.

Addressing the leaders on September 20, the Ghanaian cardinal told them that he spoke not only as a religious leader, but also as an African and a man coming from a poor family.

The summit was convoked to assess the progress made in the past 10 years toward reducing poverty, combating disease, fighting hunger, protecting the environment and improving access to education.

The battle against poverty can be won, but it will require solidarity with the poor, favourable financial and trade policies, and assistance in fighting corruption and promoting good government, the cardinal said.

In addition, he said, more work needs to be done to reduce the foreign debt of the world’s poorest countries.

In his written intervention submitted to the summit, Cardinal Turkson called some of the earlier loan programmes “situations of international usury” that plunged countries into an abyss of debt.

Economic policies and technology alone will not be enough to fulfill the development goals, he wrote.

Rather, the international community must work “to expand our vision from the donor-recipient paradigm to see each other for who we are: brothers and sisters with equal dignity and opportunity to access the same markets and networks”, he wrote.

The global financial crisis obviously has created new areas of poverty, including in wealthy nations, and has slowed progress in reducing poverty globally, but that is not because of the poor, Cardinal Turkson wrote.

“The unethical and irresponsible conduct of large private financial operators, together with the lack of foresight and control by governments and the international community, have all played a role,” he wrote.

War and violence and the related illegal trafficking of people, drugs and precious raw materials also contribute to stalling development, he said.

But the key to promoting development, the cardinal said, is to protect each individual’s political, religious and economic rights and freedoms; that is the secret to moving from “merely trying to manage poverty to creating wealth” and “from viewing the person as a burden to seeing the person as part of the solution.”