African Culture and Economy of Communion: Theological Contribution to Poverty Alleviation and Wealth Creation

African Culture and Economy of Communion: Theological Contribution to Poverty Alleviation and Wealth Creation

Donatus Pius Ukpong (University of Uyo, Nigeria)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2574-6.ch024
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Religion and economic issues permeate theological discourses today. Religious faith influences the public sphere in many developing countries. It is observable that religious commitments could engineer economic and cultural transformation. Why poverty persists in many religiously dense countries like Nigeria poses a great challenge to both economists and theologians. It seems that faith is not translated into economic transformation and empowerment of citizens. This chapter examines whether religious commitment is contributing towards poverty or wealth creation. Following descriptive theological method, the chapter proposes a theology of economic communion as an engine for economic transformation and poverty alleviation in Nigeria. It recommends the idea of God as “trinity of persons” as a paradigm of sharing human and material resources, technology transfer, and capacity building. The chapter concludes by calling on all religious people to form networks of partnership to strengthen community-based enterprises in order to create collective wealth for their members.
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For authentic human existence, a certain level of economic mobility is required for an acceptable standard of lifestyle. Those who could meet the societal standard, and exercise a certain level of freedom in their choices of the means of livelihood are considered to be wealthy, while those who cannot afford a responsible and acceptable standard of economic lifestyle are said to be poor. Such standard of living is determined by the means of acquiring, sharing and distributing resources for personal and collective welfare (Uzukwu, 1996).

Wealth and poverty calls for theological reflections. How can so many people be poor in a country like Nigeria blessed by God with abundant natural and human resources? Why is poverty persisting, in spite of the promises of successive governments? Why do the poor continue to be poor and the rich continues to empty the poor of their humanity? Is there any way of creating a dignifying standard of living for the majority? This research is built on the hypothesis of economic communion as an essential indicator of human developing, seeing this hypothesis as an engine of wealth creation and poverty alleviation in Nigeria (Benedict XVI, 2009). Such economic approach is capable of strengthening peaceful co-existence in the society.

Following theological method of investigation, the paper delineates poverty and wealth in contemporary society, underlining that poverty and wealth are caused by individual and collective responsibility. It posits the sense of co-responsibility involving sharing of the means of production and gratuitous capital investment as remedies for poverty alleviation and wealth creation (Tettamanzi, 2009). The paper, therefore, examines different methods of wealth creation while articulating the factors responsible for poverty in Nigeria. After the preliminary studies, the paper investigates the principles of economic communion as drivers of wealth creation, meaningful and dignifying human lifestyle, articulating a theology of human mobility as a contribution towards humanizing economic development.

Hypothetical Question of Wealth and Poverty

Wealth and poverty are not neutral contexts of the divine operations. God makes his people wealthy and punishes the sinners with poverty (cf. 1Sam 2:7). Wealth and poverty are theological issues (cf. Prov. 22:2; Rev. 13:16) and in a place like Nigeria, where religious faith is prominent in public and private spheres, a theology of wealth and poverty is desirable. This paper is developed around the hypothesis that if God provides abundant natural resources in any environment, God wills and desires abundant economic mobility of people dwelling in that environment. If this is the will of God, God provides also the means of realizing better and dignifying lifestyle for all, and those who do not experience such abundant lifestyle suffer thus for their own fault or that of the others (Olanisebe, 2006).

To this end, the reality of poverty in Nigeria where human and material resources abound is contrary to the divine will, and indicates the guiltiness of Nigerians in sharing and appropriating natural resources according to the divine plan. Theology illuminates human culture with the imperatives of the divine word, enhancing human’s freedom as a worship of God. Proper enunciation of economic principles is an integral part of theological discourse, since dehumanizing poverty contradicts the divine attributes and diminishes the thanksgiving to God. A theological contribution is, therefore, necessary for the question of poverty and wealth in the contemporary world.

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