January is Poverty in America Awareness Month. More than 40 million Americans live in poverty. The Boston metropolitan area, where A Faith That Does Justice is headquartered, is one of the richest in the country with a median household income over $82,000, but also the 7th most disparate city in terms of income inequality. When race is taken into account, the problem is even more dire. The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston found that in Boston, a white household’s median net worth is $247,000 whereas in an African American household, it is $8.

Our faith traditions teach us that all people are created equally and deserve equal opportunity to reach their God-given potential. However, too often unjust social structures drive certain populations or communities into poverty, creating the socio-economic inequality that continues to persist in history. A recent essay in The Weekly Word highlighted the impact of global financial structures on growing economic divides around the world pointing out “the need for ethical and moral ‘boundaries’ around economic and financial markets.”

Faith traditions across the world affirm human dignity as a key tenant of their teaching that challenges people to use their good fortune to help those in need, to walk in solidarity with the disenfranchised and to learn from each other, so that we might break down the barriers that separate us and allow all equal access to the goods of God’s creation. We can offer a homeless person a blanket and we can also fight against the systemic injustices that have allowed homelessness to continue to exist in our society. Fighting poverty allows for many different avenues of approach  from advocacy for policies that encourage equal employment opportunities, living wages, and adequate access to healthcare and education to serving as volunteers in  literacy training classes, computer skills courses and GED equivalencies programs.

There are many ways we can put our faith into action to help the impoverished (we have some recommendations on our website) and in doing so stem the tide of poverty, inequality, and injustice for future generations. I encourage you to take the time this January to reflect upon how you are walking in the footprints of your faith tradition’s teachings to do your part to ensure the human dignity of all God’s people.