Widely accepted spiritual and ethical values tell us that our care for others is the measure of our greatness. That means we need to be other-centred. If we are selfish or self-centred with its related vices such as greed, envy and cut-throat competitiveness, we are like suicide bombers. We will spiritually and morally destroy ourselves and others.
We need to reflect deeply on this as we mark the United Nations International Day of Charity next Wednesday, September 5. In a statement, the UN says charity, like the virtues of volunteerism and philanthropy, provides real social bonding and contributes to the creation of inclusive and more resilient societies. Charity can alleviate the worst effects of humanitarian crises, supplement public services in healthcare, education, housing and child protection. It assists the advancement of culture, science, sports, and the protection of cultural and natural heritage.
According to the UN, charity also promotes the rights of the marginalized and underprivileged and spreads the message of humanity in conflict situations. The International Day of Charity was established with the objective of sensitizing and mobilizing people, NGOs, and stakeholders around the world to help others through volunteer and philanthropic activities.
The UN says the date September 5 was selected to commemorate the anniversary of the passing away of Kolkata’s Mother Teresa who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 for work undertaken in the struggle to overcome poverty and distress -- a crisis which could constitute a threat to peace.
Mother Teresa, the renowned nun and missionary, was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in 1910. In 1928 she went to India, where she devoted herself to helping the destitute. In 1948, she became an Indian citizen and in 1950 founded the order of Missionaries of Charity, which became widely respected for its work among the poor and the dying in that city.
For more than 45 years, Mother Teresa who has now been canonized ministered to the poor, sick, orphaned and dying, while guiding the Missionaries of Charity’s expansion, first in India and then in other countries, including hospices and homes for the poorest and homeless. Mother Teresa’s work has been recognized and acclaimed throughout the world and she has received a number of awards and distinctions. Mother Teresa died on September 5, 1997 at the age of 87. One of her most inspiring proclamations regarding charity or love was that we need to love till it hurts. Eventually, the hurt will go away and the love will go on forever. We will realize the truth of this to the extent we practise it.
The UN says in recognition of the role of charity in alleviating humanitarian crises and human suffering within and among nations, as well as of the efforts of charitable organizations and individuals, including the work of Mother Teresa, the UN General Assembly in a resolution designated September 5, as the International Day of Charity.
In the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development adopted in September 2015, the UN recognizes that eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. The agenda also calls for a spirit of strengthened global solidarity, focused in particular on the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable. It also acknowledges the role of the diverse private sector, ranging from micro-enterprises to cooperatives to multinationals, and that of civil and philanthropic organizations in the implementation of the new agenda.
According to the UN, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set forth in the agenda can be grouped into six critical areas: people, planet, prosperity, peace, and partnership. They have the potential to transform our lives and our planet by providing the framework needed for philanthropic institutions to enable all people to contribute to the betterment of our world.
In Sri Lanka, the coalition government has given top priority to poverty alleviation mainly through its three new projects -- Gamperaliya, Enterprise Sri Lanka and Gramashakthi. For these projects to be effective, they need to be implemented beyond party politics and without bribery or corruption. If this is done, we could see a more equitable distribution of Sri Lanka’s wealth and resources to achieve the vision of a just, peaceful and all-inclusive society.