- (Photo: Reuters)
Much attention of Nelson Mandela's death has been focused on his fight for racial equality and his efforts that ended apartheid in South Africa, but his focus on combating poverty should not be overlooked.
"Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. And overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom," said Mandela during a speech at the G8 summit in 2005.
The global icon felt so passionately about eradicating poverty that to him it was a social evil equal to slavery, given the bonds of oppression that shackled those living in poverty.
"Massive poverty and obscene inequality are such terrible scourges of our times - times in which the world boasts breathtaking advances in science, technology, industry and wealth accumulation - that they have to rank alongside slavery and apartheid as social evils," Mandela said.
"But in this new century, millions of people in the world's poorest countries remain imprisoned, enslaved, and in chains. They are trapped in the prison of poverty. It is time to set them free," the leader added.
But while much of what Mandela did to fight poverty has been glossed over to make room for fond memories in his fight against racial inequality. Now another contemporary champion of the poor is carrying the torch and once again denouncing the "unfettered love of free-market capitalism."
Pope Francis released his apostolic exhortation on Nov. 26, which is the first such document to be released by the Vatican under this Pope. He denounced the unyielding love and worship of money while specifically denouncing the economic practice referred to as trickle-down economics.
"In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting," Pope Francis wrote.