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Returning to the Roots: Charity to Eradicate Poverty

The greatest irony for mankind is the inability to recognize that as we engage in conflict for our rights, we often neglect the responsibility that comes with these rights. The responsibility towards the human race for all our fates is eventually tied together. We forsake the commitment that we have towards other people and set the profound label of ‘charity’ when we do engage in acts of kindness. It is to be questioned, however, whether we can continue calling it charity instead of taking accountability for it.

Charity is one of the pillars that hold our spirituality together, and it goes beyond being merely a divine commandment, for it is present in the essence of all religion. Charity in Judaism is found in the Mitzvah of Tzedakah which interprets to the “good deed of giving” and entails giving a portion of an individual’s personal resources for the greater good. In the broader sense, Tzedakah is derived from Hebrew and refers to fairness, justice or righteousness. Giving the poor, in Judaism, is more than an act of generosity; it is a duty, an act of being fair to all (Judaism 101 1999).

In Christianity, ‘charity’ was translated as agape in the earlier version of the Bible for King James and is literally translated as ‘love’ in the modern versions, representing the mutual love between man and God that is displayed through the selfless love towards one’s fellow man. The Gospel of John enlightens, “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” (John 3:17-18).

The Buddhist perspective on charity is more symbolic and the act of giving voluntarily in Buddhism is driven by the belief that living things need to co-exist by depending on one other. However, one of the essential practices in Buddhism is Dana, which is a Pali and Sanskrit word, connoting to the virtue of generosity. Similarly, in Hinduism the practice of Dana, emphasized in the Rig Veda, refers to donating a portion of your income as a virtuous act to the ones in need or in distress. The other characteristic, according to the Upanishads, which goes hand in hand with Dana is Daya, i.e. love or compassion for all forms of life.

In case of Islam, one of the five pillars of Shahadah is Zakat, meaning ” that which purifies” and it entails giving Sadaqah, signifying ‘voluntary charity’. Zakat is an obligatory act of benevolence and involves any act of charity performed out of love, friendship, generosity, or compassion. Investing in Sadaqah is explained in the Quran, ” Spend (in charity) out of the sustenance that We have bestowed on you before that time when death will come to someone, and he shall say, my Lord! If only you would grant me reprieve for a little while, then I would give in charity, and be among the righteous.” (63:10)

Poverty does not take birth naturally but emerges at the interference of human beings and it can be overcome by our very hands; only if we offer it those in need. While charity is present in most religions and illustrated in different ways, the quintessence is that of creating balance and being just by giving. One prominent individual who had worked devotedly to create this balance and overcome distress, suffering and poverty was Mother Teresa. It is in her remembrance that 5th September, the day of her passing, was officially declared in 2012 as the International Day of Charity by the United Nations General Assembly. This year the United Nations is putting stress on ‘eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions’. However, the solution to poverty is the opportunity, not purely charity.

While it is impossible to alter the past and undo the state of destitution around the world, we can invest in shaping a future which resists the inequitable economic system.  The stem of the future is the children of today and by sowing the seed of knowledge within them, we provide

them with the mightiest ammunition- The Pen. In the words of Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

When we invest in the future of the children by instilling knowledge, we provide them with a route out of poverty. These very children will pay it forward as they get equipped with confidence and knowledge and turn out to lead a more productive life and create a more equitable economy. A number of organizations are looking into educating children with the disadvantaged background.

One such organization is the JAAGO Foundation, which connects the children in need with benevolent individuals through a sponsorship program. The sponsors selflessly choose to contribute a small number of their earnings each month to educate them and make a difference. A monthly donation of only BDT 2000 provides a child the access to educational necessities supplementary nutrition, health care benefits and prospects to learn significant life skills. B donating at JAAGO Foundation, our contribution will not only create prospects for a child I need but also provide them the opportunity to liberate themselves from the grasp of poverty.
As John Bunyan said, “You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”

To learn more about JAAGO, visit their official website: https://jaago.com.bd/

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