‘A Hungry Man Is An Angry Man’: Christians and Muslims Together in Overcoming Poverty

Christians and Muslims attend Mass in Baghdad as a celebration for Muslims rebuilding the church.
Christians and Muslims attend Mass in Baghdad as a celebration for Muslims rebuilding the church.

The Vatican’s inter-religious dialogue council sent a “Happy Id al-Fitr” message to Muslims around the world as they come to the end of Ramadan on Sept 19-20 by inviting them into common cause on ending poverty.

Ramadan is a time when Muslims reflect more deeply on the real meaning of life by being close to God and their neighbors. As part of this, they heighten their awareness of the needs of others, especially the poor, though fasting and practices of charity.

Christians and Muslims: Together in overcoming poverty looks at poverty that is the result of human sin and the loss of human dignity but also at poverty that is chosen and embraced as an example of one’s humility before God.

Indonesian priest Markus Solo serves in the middle of enormous tensions and violence between Muslims and Christians and between people of genuine faith and extremists. Around the world, Solo says, poverty “is getting worse after the recent economic and financial crisis. Everybody knows that poverty is a real and bitter challenge for people living in the developing countries, which also happen to be religious ones.”

The Vatican message noted a link between poverty and extremism or violence, a theme Father Solo echoed. He quoted the English proverb: “A hungry man is an angry man.”

Here’s an excerpt from the Vatican’s invitation:

On the occasion of your feast which concludes the month of Ramadan, I would like to extend my best wishes for peace and joy to you and, through this Message, propose this theme for our reflection: Christians and Muslims: Together in overcoming poverty. …

In his talk on the occasion of the World Day for Peace, 1st January 2009, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI distinguished two types of poverty: a poverty to be combated and a poverty to be embraced.

The poverty to be combated is before the eyes of everyone: hunger, lack of clean water, limited medical care and inadequate shelter, insufficient educational and cultural systems, illiteracy, not to mention also the existence of new forms of poverty “…in advanced wealthy societies, there is evidence of marginalization, as well as affective, moral and spiritual poverty…” (Message for the World Day of Peace, 2009, n. 2).

The poverty to be embraced is that of a style of life which is simple and essential, avoiding waste and respecting the environment and the goodness of creation. This poverty can also be, at least at certain times during the year, that of frugality and fasting. It is the poverty which we choose which predisposes us to go beyond ourselves, expanding the heart.

As believers, the desire to work together for a just and durable solution to the scourge of poverty certainly also implies reflecting on the grave problems of our time and, when possible, sharing a common commitment to eradicate them. In this regard, the reference to the aspects of poverty linked to the phenomena of globalization of our societies has a spiritual and moral meaning, because all share the vocation to build one human family in which all – individuals, peoples and nations – conduct themselves according to the principles of fraternity and responsibility. …

The poor question us, they challenge us, but above all they invite us to cooperate in a noble cause: overcoming poverty!

Read the whole message here. (As an aside, this message also references JPII’s 2001 address on establishing a “common ethical code,” particularly in the financial industry. It’s worth a read.)

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