Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Interfaith Perspectives on Social Responsibility

I took in one of the free public lectures this afternoon on the University of Alberta campus as part of International Week. The session explored Christian and Muslim views on issues of social justice and poverty from a faith perspective, pointing to holy writings and modern interpretations on how to act responsibly towards the poor in our society. There was supposed to be a Jewish speaker, but unfortunately he was not available.

Both speakers did a good job explaining the views of their respective traditions, and answered questions on these topics. The bottom line seemed to be that we have a responsibility towards the poor through the giving of our time and money. There was also some discussion of the economic system in which we live, and how there are ways to work both inside of capitalism (such as in the areas of micro-loans) and in lifestyle choices that are more socialist (such as co-operative living). Governments have to make policy to force wealthy people to give to the poor when they will not out of their free will or religious views. In the Islamic tradition, one gives to the poor every year from one's excess wealth, while in Christianity there are many Scriptures that deal with providing for the poor and widows. Although there was no Jewish speaker, Judaism does put an emphasis on the giving of charity, and of fair treatment towards one's workers.

Religion provides us with an ethical framework by which to live our lives, and while there are many social activists who are not religious at all (and in some cases, are against any form of organized religion), the urge to combat poverty should lead us back to the framework and foundation of our faiths.

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