The poor: struggling between ideological and political abuse

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The fight against poverty and the option for the poor are essential to the humanization of our relationships. All of us want to live in a better world and provide humane conditions for all, and not only for a few. But, for that, both commitments have to go together. Otherwise, we may not be recognizing the dignity of the poor, and treating them as subjects of their own history.

Many people and governments fight against poverty, by trying to end hunger and providing better social conditions for living. But not all of them act in a way that they opted for the poor, considering and treating them as subjects of their own history, instead of turning them into objects of goods provided by an ideology. That`s why we should distinguish between the two options, because in the second one (the option for the poor) is where we find the ethical legitimacy or moral validation of the means used and practiced to reach the first one (the fight against poverty). In other words, we cannot accept any and every means and justify them only because their sole intention is to fight poverty. All means to be used should be politically and economically inclusive, should promote social processes of humanization, and be practiced with compassion, rejecting hate and resentment.

For Christians, it`s very clear the option that Jesus made for the poorest in his society. What makes this a unique option is the manner in which he made it. He does not approach the poor to make them dependent, but to liberate them and bring power into their lives; neither does he make them participants of a political ideology, as could have been that of Davidic messianism Peter had put his hopes in. Still less, does he use them in the name of God as a matter of utility, and in order to defend violently the project of the Kingdom.

Even if it is quite true that among the governments of Latin America, one can appreciate an important increase in concern for the poor, it is equally clear that these latter have not become subjects of their own history, and are manipulated, and even converted, in many cases, into objects of ideas, ways of life and political adherence on which they base all their hopes.

It is not enough that speeches and public policies are for the poor, but the measure in which they are enabled to become subjects and attain economic, politic and social autonomy, as well as cultural recognition. For this, it is important that the whole of society, in its different strata and economic possibilities, begins to understand that it ought to assume the cause of the poor, because we can only grow —as a nation or as a community— when we all fight against the policies that produce dependence, poverty, authoritarianism and turn us into objects of others.

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Rafael Luciani
Doctor en Teología Dogmática por la Pontificia Università Gregoriana, Filosofía por la Universidad Pontificia Salesiana e investigación post-doct en la Julius-Maxiliams Universität. Profesor Titular en la Universidad Católica Andrés Bello (Caracas), Straordinario en la Università Pontificia Salesiana (Roma) y en el Boston College (Boston, MA)