MANILA, Jan. 13, 2015—The head of the Archdiocese of Manila (RCAM)’s Committee on the Year of the Poor challenges the view most people have of the poor, saying that in most cases, what the underprivileged really need more than food and shelter is this one thing: respect.
“While food and shelter are important, the first that poor people need is respect. We know that Jesus has a special love and concern for the rejected, the ridiculed, the poorest of the poor. He asks us to do the same,” Fr. Luke Moortgat, CICM, shared in an interview.
‘Structural causes of poverty’
According to him, rooting out the “structural causes of poverty” to improve the quality of life of Filipinos will be possible only when the government will make it a top priority.
In his 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (Joy of the Gospel), Pope Francis underscores the importance of addressing the structural causes of poverty.
“…(N)ot only for the pragmatic reason of its urgency for the good order of society, but because society needs to be cured of a sickness which is weakening and frustrating it, and which can only lead to new crises,” he says.
The pontiff asserts welfare projects, which meet certain urgent needs, should be considered merely temporary responses.
“As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems. Inequality is the root of social ills,” Pope Francis adds.
In keeping with the Holy Father’s pronouncement, Moortgat calls for solutions that will end poverty in the country given the plight of millions which he dubs a “chronic situation” .
“It’s already a chronic situation … Many people in society have been living in poverty for years. What can we do for them?” he asks, noting that the number of “food poor” has risen by two percent, translating to roughly 9.3 million people.
Bottom of society
Moortgat says it is important to focus on those at the bottom of society who make up the lowest 25 percent of the population.
The Belgian priest explained that although a family of five who make do with Php 350 or less per day, or Php 70 each person per day, may be considered poor, in general, most of the poor are people with disabilities, particularly the mentally challenged, and others.
He added that making opportunities for education, employment, and small-scale business available can do much in terms of raising the living standards of the poor..
Based on a recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey, as many as 12.1 million Filipinos identify themselves as poor.
Themed “Bumangon at Manindigan” (Rise and Stand up), the Year of the Poor is a year-round event in line with the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP)’s declaration of 2015 as a time during which the faithful are called to do their part in helping the poor, especially in pushing for and acting on the true alleviation, reduction, and eradication of poverty in the country.
The occasion, which comes third in the nine-year era of New Evangelization, prepares Filipinos ahead of the 500th anniversary of the coming of the Catholic Faith in the Philippines in 2021.
For Moortgat’s full interview, watch Know The Truth: Papal Visit Special on TV María. (Raymond A. Sebastián/CBCP News)