Fordham University Ethics & Society Master’s Student Working to Eradicate Poverty

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On October 17th, 2017, Omar Lebron, a graduate student of Fordham University’s Master of Arts in Ethics and Society program, moderated the event “Answering the Call of October 17 to end poverty: A path toward peaceful and inclusive societies” at the United Nations in New York to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Please read Omar’s thoughts below and watch the video from the event..

STUDENT VOICES

By Omar Lebron

“You always have the poor with you…” (Mark 14:7), prophetic biblical words presented to us by Jesus Christ, exposing humanity’s inability to address those that live outside the reach of protection by state and government conditions. In ATD (All Together in Dignity) Fourth World Movement, extreme poverty is the focus as its base feature in a primary methodology in the developmental policy approach, addressing forms of poverty in collaboration with the United Nations. These forms represent the underlying assumptions associated by the behaviors of those who live in extreme poverty. Persons who live in destitute conditions due in large part of the status of poverty, accumulate behaviors relating to humiliation and exclusion. The NGO ATD Fourth World addresses these behaviors by focusing and introducing the removal of humiliation and exclusion to those of dignity and inclusion.

Understanding that the economic approach is not the only way extreme poverty paralyzes individual and social growth, ATD’s founder Father Joseph Wresinski brought to the public square an awareness on extreme poverty as a violation of a person’s human rights stating that, “Wherever men and women are condemned to live in extreme poverty, human rights are violated.  To come together to ensure that these rights are respected is our solemn duty.”  The depths of information within the statement preludes the tools and perspectives on achieving a new normality in terms of how poverty affects short and long term on individuals and societies.  Of remarkable notice is the dearth of common thought where poverty is highlighted by a monetary achievement.  Thirty years ago on October 17th, 1987, Father Wresinski formed a “Call to Action” on the steps of a park outside of Paris, France where 100,000 people stood in solidarity to those victims living in the harshest of conditions per each society.  Completely void is a financial solution from the crippling, disabling realities of living in extreme poverty.  Five years after that “Call to Action,” the United Nations adopted the “International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.”  On October 17th of each year, there is a commemoration to this commitment described in the words of Father Wresinski at the United Nations known as the “International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.”

Dealing with exclusion and humiliation is ATD Fourth World’s mission and overreaching ambition.  Its goals begin with both these forms associated with persons living in extreme poverty, and acknowledges that through commitment and consistency a new way of living becomes achievable. Within its name as an organization are its organizational leadership components using artifacts, espoused values and underlying assumptions, all necessary to address the sociological cultural habitat transcendent throughout all who live in extreme poverty, regardless of location, state or government.

Humiliation is one espoused value addressed by removing titles associated with poverty as each of those who volunteer living in extreme poverty are “Human Rights Activists.”  Immediately a title of respect is given to not only the individuals within the social group, but also visible and accountable as such for the entire outside world to witness.  It is in removing these indignant titles of poor or destitute persons that respect towards one another begins to allow a framework providing an avenue of eradication of poverty.  The real-time effects are evident in the eyes and prideful assumption of arms of the men and women who now wake up having a purpose to disallow the evolution of extreme poverty and its forms to prevail within their everyday lives, as parents, neighbors and citizens.  Respect and dignity are the new cultural developments centered within the core values of those ascribed to live in extreme poverty conditions.  Dignity is the new norm associated against humiliation.

Exclusion is another consequential form of poverty as all persons, despite the government they dwell in, are exempted from making and participating as change agents.  The idea to impact a new way of life by assigning those who live within the confines of such conditions as experts is a functional and rational approach when issuing policy and procedural frameworks.  ATD works tirelessly to develop a set of allies with the policy makers locally, nationally and internationally.  As a non-governmental organization to the United Nations, ATD Fourth World looks to bring voice to those living in extreme poverty and thus removing its moniker of “Fourth World” known as the silent majority.  Those ravished to live in silence is where extreme poverty serves as a violent way of life depriving those who cannot willfully defend themselves against these violations.  Inclusion is its most powerful component and partial eradicator of the deafening form of poverty known as silence.

At the international platform, the “International Day for the Eradication of Poverty” brings activists, people who live in extreme poverty, to the position of delegates through the various established relationships.  This 25-year relationship at the policy change level in the United Nations has endorsed the experiences and living testament to an audience which often times compromises this voice through absence and condemnation.

Through inclusion and respect for the dignity of persons, those who live in poverty become change agents within an ethical infrastructure which begins at the macro level – United Nations, with hopes and intent to influence regular behavioral actions at the micro level – societal existence.  The telos of such an approach is as a twofold transformation.  On one hand, it certainly empowers those who live within the exhausting nature of extreme poverty and are exposed to such human rights violations, primarily their accepted living conditions and lack of adequate resources.  It preemptively places each activist with an opportunity to expand and impart their knowledge and resilience to an actively listening audience.  The second transformation lies within the infrastructural community where policy makers stand in the multilateral landscape of listening and acknowledging the component of expert cases to their decision making process.  These experts, of learned experience, come in the form of those activists who live in the demoralizing state of extreme poverty.

The “International Day for the Eradication of Poverty” has become a pillar of consistency on the ethical dilemma, cultivating the conversation on poverty and its humanitarian dereliction to people of all walks and creeds.  It is encompassing the difficult questions on policy overreach while securing the removal of inequality ravaging the ethical responsibility of each person, society and government.  A once seemingly daunting topic and task of every kind, poverty now has a face with a name, and it may resemble the us we are attempting to overlook.


Please visit fordham.edu/ethicsandsociety for more information about Fordham University’s Master’s in Ethics and Society, or to apply. For inquiries about the Master’s in Ethics and Society program, please contact Bryan Pilkington, PhD, Director of Academic Programs at bpilkington1@fordham.edu.


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