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Concrete love and realistic action

World Day of the Poor is being marked by the worldwide Church today. It was instituted last year not only as an extension of the spirit of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, but also as a reminder of the our obligation to serve the poor, both in word and deed.
Running under the theme of Let us love, not with words but with deeds, the first World Day of the Poor reminds us that loving the poor is the mission of Christians and also an essential part of the vocation in following Jesus, who was poor.
Despite the ongoing societal and economic development of today, poverty continues to spread, as wealth is confined to the hands of a shrinking number of the privileged few.
Thanks to war, violence, abuse of power and exploitation, many people around the world are being forced to migrate, go into exile, be held in slavery or become jobless, losing their freedom and dignity.
In his Message for World Day of the Poor, Pope Francis points out that in these wounded bodies, we see poverty, suffering and faces marked by marginalisation and we also touch with our own hands the flesh of Christ.
Faces marked by the wounds of poverty and violence are seen not only in war zones and underdeveloped locales, but also in prosperous cities like Hong Kong, where extreme inequality in wealth distribution, exploitation of labour and barriers to political involvement ensure injustice prospers.
Outsourcing of cleaners and security guards leads to low wages and, without a security system for the aging, scavenging for cardboard just to support a meagre living is a common site.
With low wages and lack of standard working hours, imbalance in land and housing policies, poverty is spreading in this affluent society.
In its consideration of standard working hours, wage levels, the offsetting mandatory retirement fund contributions and labour importation, as well as a universal retirement protection scheme, the government has overlooked the wounded faces. But do Christians see in them the face of Christ?
Genuine development is a major concern of Pope Francis when he points to a new vision of life and society that demands we not remain passive, much less resigned. He says we must hear the cry of the poor, engage in a true encounter with the poor and share, committing ourselves to ending their marginalisation.
Despite the many generous people in society willing to support others, the pope says we should not think of the poor simply as the beneficiaries as they are not simply objects of sympathy.
Failure to share their anguish or to view their poverty from their perspective is lethal and Pope Francis calls for a personal encounter with them with a listening ear. This is the mission that Christians and even policy-makers are not only called, but even obliged to fulfill. SE