From the Dean’s Desk

By Harold W. Attridge

Confronting the reality of global poverty is not a pleasant task. Being reminded of the immensity of human suffering and deprivation can in fact be a very depressing experience, not the kind of thing that we would choose to be doing on a lovely autumn day. When we hear of the statistics of poverty, recounted in this issue, it is easy to be discouraged. That 20,000 children die daily from preventable malnutrition is horrific. That a billion people suffer from unsafe drinking water is an even more overwhelming fact of life. Yet hopeless resignation in the face of such facts is not the response that we as Christians are called upon to make. As Dorothy Day once said, “No one has the right to sit down and feel hopeless; there is too much work to do.”

The serious work of addressing global poverty has been underway for some time, spurred on most recently by the widespread adoption of the Millennium Development Goals a decade ago. This issue of Reflections is timed to coincide with the September UN summit on the MDGs. There will be things to celebrate about the progress that has been made toward those goals (see p. 33 for a brief synopsis), but there is much yet to be done. Despite some successes, it will be extremely difficult to meet many of the goals set for 2015 without further concerted effort.

For this Reflections issue the contributing writers have been asked to offer their assessments about the current state of the various campaigns to combat poverty and to think about some of the forces, such as the phenomena of globalization, that complicate the effort. They have also been asked to reflect on the role of our religious convictions and theological assessments in addressing the needs of the poor. Alongside the theories there are concrete suggestions for how people of faith can have an impact on a perennial human problem.

We are grateful to the talented and perceptive contributors to this issue. All are individuals who care deeply about poverty and have graciously provided their insights in the face of tight deadlines. They represent a remarkable range of experiences, disciplines, and perspectives, but they share a common hope that we can make a difference. We hope that their arguments and insights will stimulate further thought and action among communities of faith.