The display of wealth of the city and the urban poor

I came across an article written by Dr Jayakumar Christian, someone I respect greatly. It is entitled The Rise of the Urban Poor. There is much to ponder, but I will only highlight a few things using the following quotes.

Jayakumar Christian talks about the “vulgar display of wealth” of the city, and observes that the rich-poor disparity is an increasing problem.

In a strange way, the city brings to the fore in a pronounced manner the gap [between the rich and the poor]—the worst of urban poverty. The rich display their wealth as if the poor do not exist in the cities. The malls and neon lights overshadow the dark corners where the poor eke out their living. Shining India happily coexists with abject poverty as though poverty was a mere landscape issue. One wonders if this is a consequence of our religious philosophies and worldview . . . There is a parasitical relationship––not manipulation but helplessness. In the process, the poor and vulnerable children get exploited and oppressed.

What is often touted as a ‘lack of political will’ in our governance and bureaucratic leadership is really an intentional (ideological) effort to crush (never allow) any uprising of the poor and to suppress any emergence of hope. This is about a powerful collective playing god in the lives of the poor and wounding the souls of the poor, reducing them to a state of hopelessness.

In terms of the church’s response, Jayakumar Christian has the following (and much more) to say.

Grassroots practitioners/agents of change must:


reflect their ‘inner being’ through their engagement. Poverty and powerlessness are human and relational; therefore responses to poverty must also be human and relational. This requires investment of life. It cannot be reduced to mere action plans; demonstrate covenant-quality inclusive relationships based on truth practitioners must allow truth to confront their public and private life;


be competent to exegete God’s work among the poor-trace the ‘patterns’ in God’s movement among the poor in the city; be competent to analyse the worldview of a people and the ideology that drives the economic, political and other systems that crush the poor; and be countercultural in a society that values entitlement over sacrifice.”

The church—the prophetic community—must rediscover herself in her own neighbourhood. The church must locate its mission in the space . . . between hope and hopelessness, life and joy, and pain and death. The church is the evidence that our God has not given up on the urban poor.

Source: http://www.wciujournal.org/journal/article/the-rise-of-the-urban-poor as at 8/9/2014

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Jayakumar Christian: The poor are made in God’s image

I met Jayakumar Christian, National Director of World Vision India, in person several years ago when he came to Australia. I loved his warm personality, which, to me, was an outworking of his love for God.

The following is an interview with Dr Jayakumar Christian (from Tyndale University College and Seminary, Canada). Here are a few key points from my notes (which include my interpretation of what he says in the video).

  • The church wants to find a solution for poverty, but that’s not the right place to start.
  • The most important thing to realise is that the poor are made in God’s image. This recognition is critical.
  • We need to have a relational—not an individualistic—understanding of poverty. This is the understanding of Indians (and Asians). If we understand poverty this way, then our starting point will not be activities and programs.
  • Poverty is the result of broken relationships. Injustice and oppression are manifestations of broken relationships. When the powerful exclude the marginalised, relationship is broken. When the poor have no choice but to submit to the powerful, they become non-persons.
  • The poor live as “whole persons.” They do not live life in “categories.” When we separate words and deeds into two categories, we fail to treat them as “whole persons.”
  • Living among the poor is important.
  • We need to study the Bible in context. There is no point to study the Scripture in isolation from the poor.