Action: Tackling Poverty
World poverty and climate change can seem such huge problems, there appears little we can do to affect things. Annabel Devas finds some biblical inspiration in the story of Esther
It was 4am in the morning, very chilly, and I had been on the go for at least 20 hours. Despite it all, I felt elated. I was with 25,000 people who had sacrificed their warm beds to gather in Westminster to press for fairer global trading rules for poor countries.
Carrying lanterns and banners, we stood in the streets of Westminster, singing through the night. I felt humbled. So many people were there voluntarily, because they passionately wanted to see the world’s poor given a fair chance to improve their lives.
Working with Tearfund, I frequently see the injustice and poverty faced by so many. It leaves me angry, but I can also fall into apathy, feeling powerless in the face of it. Moments like that night in April spur me on to believe that my little mustard seed actions do bring about change.
And it reminds me of the story of Esther, who has a book in the Bible’s Old Testament named after her. She was just one woman. She had been unaware of impending disaster, but the reality suddenly hit home. The threat of injustice loomed large: thousands of innocent men, women and children were under sentence of death.
What could she do? The whole power of the state was ranged against her. To speak up was to risk her life. Much safer to stay quiet, unnoticed.
But she had the perfect opportunity, her own unique qualifications. She had access to the person with ultimate power. All this created an awesome responsibility and a weighty moral pressure. “Who knows,” said Mordecai to Queen Esther, “but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”
There are interesting parallels between Esther’s situation and our own. There’s the moment when we realise the global reality of poverty that takes a heavy toll, every day, in the deaths of men, women and children.
It is easy to feel woefully inadequate in the face of such a challenge. So, like Esther, I need to be reminded of my opportunities and even my responsibilities. A democracy offers us countless openings to raise our voices, put pen to paper, to act in the name of justice for others.
And Christians, too, have a royal position, children of the King of Kings, able to worship him and pray to him without fear. He even promises the Holy Spirit will give us the right words when we want to speak up for others!
We can see the injustices around the world that need to be tackled. Climate change is never out of the news these days. Many Christians are now urging the government to reduce the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, which are believed to contribute to the increasing frequency and intensity of storms and natural disasters around the world. And these affect poor people the most.
Recently a Tearfund worker from Ethiopia came to our staff prayers and explained just how the erratic rains and warming climate in the highlands were causing crop failure and malaria outbreaks in previously malaria-free communities.
I realise I also make my own personal contribution to climate change, especially as 25 per cent of the UK’s emissions come from households. And I can do something, however modest, about that: For example, using energy-saving light bulbs and turning off the light when leaving a room.
My worship, prayer and action are not significant in themselves, but God can transform them into something much greater in his plans for the world. As a campaigner I met in Brazil reminded me, achieving results is not the first priority - God asks me just to obey.
Tearfund has produced For Tomorrow Too
, a free guide to practical lifestyle changes individuals and households can make to reduce their impact on climate change.
Order a free copy of For Tomorrow Too and find out how you can make simple lifestyle changes that demonstrate God’s concern for people made vulnerable by climate change.
Go to www.tearfund.org/inspire/ftt
or call 0845 355 8355 – please mention when calling that you read about climate change in Inspire magazine.
Annabel is a campaigns officer at Christian relief and development agency Tearfund
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