• Who is my neighbour?

    Posted by Micah

    28 February, 2010

    By Scott Higgins

    Picture an old man in Khaliahuri, Bangladesh

    He is 60 years old. He has four daughters. His economic status is declining year after year. Eight years ago he worked as a sharecropper. He had physical capacity and so could get loans from moneylenders. But his physical strength declined. He could no longer get loans. He sold all his movable assets to give his daughter in marriage. Now he works as a day labourer in the fields or on a fishing boat. However, because of his physical condition, people are less willing to give him work. On average he earns 20- 25 Taka per day (equivalent to around Australian $0.33-0.40), less in the rainy season. If he fails to get work even for a single day, he has to collect food by begging. Due to the unavailability of work, each member of his family had only one square meal throughout the preceding week. On the day when he gave the interview, he earned only 12 Taka (around Australian $0.20) working as a day labourer on a fishing boat. He bought 1 kilogram of wheat for 11 Taka. It was to be the only food for the six-member family for that night. They went without food for the rest of the day.
    Source: Naraya, Chambers, Shah, Petesch, Voices of the Poor. Crying Out for Change (World Bank, 2000) p254

    1. In the year 2000 the World Bank published the Voices of the Poor report.
    Over 60,000 poor people contributed, describing what it is like to be poor. It became clear that poverty impacts on much more than material well-being. Poor people spoke of the physical pain of hunger, inadequate resources and ill-health; of feeling powerless to change their situation; of feeling shamed when forced to beg or unable to provide for their children; of being trapped within unjust social structures; of anxiety and fear about an uncertain future. What dimensions of povertydo you hear in the story of the old man in Khaliahuri?

    2. In a country like Australia a person who falls into poverty may be able to gain assistance from family, friends or the Government. Unfortunately for the man in our story his family, friends and Government are also very poor. Over 45% of Bangladeshis live in extreme poverty, and so lack the resources to provide substantial help to their poor family and friends. The Bangladeshi Government has revenues that are around 1/40th of those of the Australian Government and a population of 150 million needing assistance. In 2006, this meant the Bangladeshi Government had an income of around US$45 per
    person, compared to Australian Government revenues of around US$13400 per person. Given this, Australians have a responsibility to help people such as the poor Bangladeshi man. Do you agree? Why/why not?

    3. In biblical terms we are asking the question "who is my neighbour?" Specifically, we are asking is this Bangladeshi man our neighbour? Jesus spoke to this issue in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Look it up and read it now. It is found in Luke 10.25-37.
    The Old Testament Law was quite clear on the need to love one's neighbour. "Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbour as yourself" (Leviticus 19.18). But this begged the question asked by the lawyer, "Just who is
    my neighbour?" Many in Jesus' day felt that "your neighbour" was someone from "among your people". That is, an Israelite should love a fellow Israelite but was under no obligation to love a foreigner. How does Jesus response address this question? What implications does this carry for our approach to the world's poor?

    The above is an exert from "Samaritan Nation?" A three part small group bible study series that will help you understand aid in light of biblical themes about the poor.The full bible study series can be found on the Baptist World Aid website here.