Religion (Christianity) and poverty alleviation in South Africa : a human scale development approach.
Only twenty years ago it was widely assumed that religion had lost its previous place in western culture and that this pattern would spread throughout the world. Since then religion has become a renewed force, recognized as an important factor in the modern world in all aspects of life, cultural, economic and political. This is true not only of the Third World, but in Europe - East and West - and in North America. It is no longer a surprise to find a religious factor at work in areas of political tension. In South Africa, the researcher has determined that Christianity is not totally involved in the fundamental human needs of community. This is an urgent matter to address. As churches committed to social and economic justice we cannot stand by and observe. We need to fund answers to a number of important questions: What does poverty really means? What are its causes and its consequences to South African community. As churches we also have deeper roots in the struggle for justice and democracy in South Africa. What is the impact of poverty, if any, on democracy and human rights in our society? This research about such matters comes for the most part from three types of sources. The first is the newspaper which understandably tend to concentrate on newsworthy events, without taking the time to deal with the underlying issues of which they are but symptoms. The second source comprises studies by theologians and social scientists who often adopt a functionalist and reductionist view of the faith and beliefs which motivate those directly involved in such situations. Finally, there are the statements and writings of those committed to the religious or ideological movements themselves. The poor are the ones who suffer injustice through exploitation, oppression and bondage. The reality is that Christianity do not exist unaffected by social change which is taking place in our time. The winds of change are blowing at gale force in South Africa and we live in the midst of this change, we are affected by it and we are mutually responsible for it. Also, due to the fact that Christianity is placed in the larger human society, it is inevitable that it will be engaged in the problems affecting human society such as poverty, HIV/AIDS. As religious stewards we share responsibility for the co-existence of all humankind because God does not want to abandon the earth and its inhabitants to evil. It is Faith that commits churches and their members to be loyal to God, who through Jesus, has entered our human spirit as a human being. Through Jesus' death and resurrection we have overcome our captivity; and through the Spirit God is involved in the situation of people. Being committed to this faith churches cannot live in isolation from society. Churches need to be aware that they and their members encounter the living Christ with and among the discarbed people. These people are excluded from the material and spiritual resources they require for sustaining their lives. People's material living conditions impact on their spiritual life. Churches cannot exist in isolation from the society in which we live. Neither can churches ignore the plight under which people live. For religious tradition, it is our intention that an accurate and sensitive account of Christianity should be informed by an objective and sophisticated application of perspectives from the social sciences. Theologies of liberation, struggle and protest have made a major contribution to today's theological debate. They have had considerable impact in Latin America and many other parts of the Third World, and are by no means examples of armchair theology. But there comes a time when Christian theology must address a rather different agenda, not neglecting the concern of the poor in the biblical way as Jesus did.