Can Poverty Make One Religious and Prayerful?

hay-haystack-meditate-268013

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Introduction

In one of my research studies on the religiosity of the victims of Typhoon Ketsana (Ondoy) in the Philippines, one of the strongest typhoons to hit the country, two Filipino mothers who were urban poor and who survived from the disaster, narrated to me vividly on how God saved her and her family from rising flood of the dangerous typhoon.

The first informant was Aling Sonia, 28 years old, a mother of six also claimed that God saved them physically from harm:

I said in my prayer at that time when the floor water was rising: My God, spare me from danger because my children are still very young. I am also pregnant and am about to give birth. Please save us from danger. Come what may, if we are left without belonging as long as we are all saved. And my prayer was answered. We were rescued/brought to a higher place and were brought to the evacuation center of Barangay San Isidro before we were given a house unit in the relocation.”

pexels-photo-709542.jpeg

The second one was Aling Anita, 45 years old, an ambulant vendor with 6 children, for instance, claimed that God personally saved her children from the typhoon by performing a miracle. She believed that God sent her friend to save her children from the flood:

“The rain was so heavy on that morning. I peddled breakfast from house-to-house every morning. While walking, somebody told me that the flood was already very high in our place. The makeshift houses there were already washed away. I hurriedly went home but was stranded because of the high flood on the roads. I was very worried but I kept on praying fervently that God would save my 6 little kids. At that very moment God heard my prayer. Somebody told me that a friend of mine who resided far from our place saved my children. I later learned that my friend remembered that I was vending every morning and that no one might save my children. So she went to my house even if it is far. Her arrival was on time. She was able to bring all my children to higher ground before our house was swept away by rampaging water. I was really thankful to our Lord God for saving my family from Typhoon Ondoy.”

pexels-photo-459451.jpeg

A key question in sociology of religion is: Why do people become religious?

Deprivation Theory and Religiosity

One theory that aims to answer the question on why people become religious is the deprivation theory. This theory maintains that “religious commitment is the result of compensation that religion provides in situations where individuals meet obstacles in life in search for alternative goals” (Furset & Repstad, 2006, p.111). According to this theory, grievances in life, such as poverty, lack of safety or imminent danger in disaster situations, difficult personal problems, and other forms of deprivations in life, can make people religious and prayerful to God.

pexels-photo-989206.jpeg

There are different types of deprivation theories in sociology. But the economic deprivation theory, in particular, explains that poverty can make people religious. The more people experience financial hardships, extreme poverty, or material deprivation in life, the more they become religious.

There is always the issue whether one must glorify poverty or condemn it in relation to one’s religiosity. There seems to be a popular perception that to be poor rather than rich is desirable in the eyes of God.

person-woman-sitting-old.jpg

Is it really true that material poverty is blessed by God?

Poverty in Spirit

The Bible and the church teachings do not actually condemn rich people for having more wealth. What is condemned is inordinate attachment to wealth or greediness. One can become wealthy and still detached from material things and generous to other people. Some disciples of Christ, such as Joseph of Arimathea, are rich people, but they are not greedy and use their wealth to oppress others.

If one examines the Bible, the poor of Yahweh or anawim do not necessarily refer to materially-deprived people. The primary trait of being a “poor of God” is being attached to God and detached from wealth, i.e., wealth is not seen as the ultimate end of life but only a means to achieve one’s salvation. The Calvinist protestants, for example, believe that wealth is a sign of God’s blessing, being materially rich is a sure sign that one is blessed by God and predestined to be with Him in heaven.

Poverty and Religiosity

pexels-photo-1003917.jpeg

There is a scarce sociological research that relate poverty with religiosity. But there seems to be a weak correlation between the two. Material poverty makes people busy with their jobs and livelihood in order to survive or sustain one’s family. Thus, it takes away from people some precious time and space to reflect, pray, or attend religious activities. It makes them preoccupied with subsistence that would make their mental states indisposed to prayer and meditation.

Busy people do not have the luxury of reflecting over their life and spiritual beliefs. If we just observe the life and routine of many urban poor in the informal sector, we can conclude that poverty does not make people disposed to religiosity, particularly to public religiosity, i.e., attending public rituals such the Mass and sacraments for Catholics, joining religious organizations, and attending communal activities of the parish church.

Private Religiosity of the Poor

Despite poverty, many poor people still manage to nurture their private religiosity or personal beliefs in God and private devotions. Many urban poor women are privately religious. This is shown in my study with Typhoon Ketsana victims and with my interviews with my key informants who were urban poor women in a relocation area.  Many, for example, believe that God saved them from the flood and typhoon, although all of them rarely attended the Holy Mass.

pexels-photo-998258.jpeg

The popular Black Nazarene devotion in Quiapo, Philippines, for instance, illustrates how poor people can still enhance their private devotions in spite of their difficult and hectic daily schedule for subsistence.

Praise God that you read this post. Feel free to comment and share it to others. Thanks and God bless!

Photo Credit: Pexels.com free photos

Reference

Furseth, I. & Repstad, P. (2006). An Introduction to the Sociology of Religion:  Classical and Contemporary Perspectives. England: Ashgate.

 

 

Why is Vanuatu the Most Dangerous Country in the World?


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Vanuatu is the most dangerous country to live in this world due to its various highly destructive natural disasters. Four years in a row, the United Nation University Risk Index named it as the world’s most at-risk country for natural hazards. The risk for disaster does not only include storms and earthquakes, but also volcanoes or tsunamis. Name any natural calamity and Vanuatu has it.

In a country of roughly 250,000 people, earthquakes place on average 90,000 per year at risk. The three major disasters that normally hit Vanuatu every year as shown in the table below are cyclones, earthquakes, and tsunamis. It also showed that Vanuatu ranked first in terms on the cost of natural disasters or estimated average annual loss in the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Image result for Infographics on Vanuatu's disasters

Photo Credit: World Bank as cited in Economist.com

For four years running, Vanuatu has been ranked the world’s most disaster-prone country in an annual World Risk Report released by the World Bank which is  published by the United Nations University’s Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS).

Strong cyclones or typhoon are the most common and destructive disasters in Vanuatu. Sixty percent (60%) of Vanuatu’s inhabitants are exposed to natural hazards every year. When a storm hits this tiny country, the entire land is affected, including the capital.

Vanuatu destruction caused by Cylone Pam

As shown in the table below, the country’s ranking of 32 percentage points in terms of risk places the little state ahead of the second place Tonga and well ahead of the third place the Philippines (24.32), as well as Solomon Islands (23.51),  Guatemala (20.88). The complete report also placed Germany and Qatar as countries which are free from riks from natural disasters. We can notice that almost all countries in the list, except Brunei, are poor, developing, or underdeveloped countries.  The only industrialized world’s most at-risk nation (17th place) is Japan with 13 percentage points.

Image result for UN risk index report 2017 infographics on Vanuatu

The worst cyclone or storm that hit Vanuatu in recent memory is Cyclone Pam. Severe Tropical Cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu late on March 13, 2015 packing wind gusts of up to 320 kilometers (200 miles) an hour, causing widespread damage in the archipelago nation in the South Pacific Ocean. This “monster” storm killed dozens, destroyed or damaged 90 percent of the buildings in the capital, and forced the nation to start anew.

Image result for Infographics on Vanuatu's disasters

Photo Credit: worldbank.org

References

Dillion, C. (17 March 2015) Exposed: Why Vanuatu is the world’s most ‘at-risk’ country for natural hazards. Retrieved from http://www.dw.com/en/exposed-why-vanuatu-is-the-worlds-most-at-risk-country-for-natural-hazards/a-18319825.

Taylor, A. (17 March 2015). Category 5 Cyclone Pam Devastates Vanuatu. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2015/03/cyclone-pam-devastates-vanuatu/388024/.

7 Myths on Disasters

heavy-water-factory-1053775_640

Photo Credit: Pixabay.com

Myth #1: Disasters cause deaths at random.

Reality:

Disasters tend to take a higher toll on the most vulnerable geographic areas (high-risk areas), generally those settled by the poorest people.

demonstration-2477988_640

Photo Credit: Pixabay.com

Myth #2: Disasters bring out the worst in human behavior.

Reality:

Although isolated cases of antisocial behavior exist, the majority of people respond spontaneously and generously.

Dead bodies haiti

Photo Credit: Pinterest.com

Myth #3: Dead bodies pose a health risk.

Reality:

Contrary to popular belief, dead bodies pose no more risk of disease outbreak in the aftermath of a natural disaster than survivors.

article-2496954-1951722300000578-748_964x641

Photo source: dailymail.co.uk

Myth #4: Epidemics and plagues are inevitable after every disaster.

Reality:

Epidemics do not spontaneously occur after a disaster and dead bodies will not lead to catastrophic outbreaks of exotic diseases. The key to preventing disease is to improve sanitary conditions and educate the public.

saudi5

Photo source: news.kuwaittimes.net

Myth #5: The fastest way to dispose of bodies and avoid the spread of disease is through mass burials or cremations. This can help create a sense of relief among survivors.

Reality:

Survivors will feel more at peace and manage their sense of loss better if they are allowed to follow their beliefs and religious practices and if they are able to identify and recover the remains of their loved ones.

cyclone-2102397_640

Myth #6: Disasters are random killers.

Reality:

Disasters strike hardest at the most vulnerable group, the poor — especially women, children and the elderly.

starving-children-waiting-227319_640

Myth #7: Starving people can eat anything

Reality:

It is widely held that people who are starving will be very hungry and eat any food that can be supplied. This attitude is inhumane and incorrect. Even if hungry initially, people often do not consume adequate quantities of unvaried and unfamiliar foods for long enough. More importantly, the starving people are often ill and may not have a good appetite. They will therefore languish in an emaciated state or get even sicker.

Even someone well-nourished would fail to thrive on the monotonous diets of three or so commodities (e.g. wheat, beans and oil) that is all that is available, month in, month out, to many refugees and displaced people. And this is aside from the micro-nutrient deficiencies that often develop. This misconception starts, in part, from a failure to agree on explicit objectives for food assistance — which should surely be to provide for health, welfare, and a reasonably decent existence and help in attaining and acceptable state of self-reliance and self-respect. Source: Lancet, Vol. 340, Nov 28, 1992.

Photo Credit: Pixabay.com except those with attributions

Reference:  World Health Organization (WHO), “Humanitarian Health Action”. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/hac/techguidance/ems/myths/en/.

Thank you for reading this post. Sign up or follow this blog via email for more updates.

Can Poverty Make One Religious and Prayerful?

hay-haystack-meditate-268013

Web Hosting

Introduction

In one of my research studies on the religiosity of the victims of Typhoon Ketsana (Ondoy) in the Philippines, one of the strongest typhoons to hit the country, two Filipino mothers who were urban poor and who survived from the disaster, narrated to me vividly on how God saved her and her family from rising flood of the dangerous typhoon.

The first informant was Aling Sonia, 28 years old, a mother of six also claimed that God saved them physically from harm:

I said in my prayer at that time when the floor water was rising: My God, spare me from danger because my children are still very young. I am also pregnant and am about to give birth. Please save us from danger. Come what may, if we are left without belonging as long as we are all saved. And my prayer was answered. We were rescued/brought to a higher place and were brought to the evacuation center of Barangay San Isidro before we were given a house unit in the relocation.”

pexels-photo-709542.jpeg

The second one was Aling Anita, 45 years old, an ambulant vendor with 6 children, for instance, claimed that God personally saved her children from the typhoon by performing a miracle. She believed that God sent her friend to save her children from the flood:

“The rain was so heavy on that morning. I peddled breakfast from house-to-house every morning. While walking, somebody told me that the flood was already very high in our place. The makeshift houses there were already washed away. I hurriedly went home but was stranded because of the high flood on the roads. I was very worried but I kept on praying fervently that God would save my 6 little kids. At that very moment God heard my prayer. Somebody told me that a friend of mine who resided far from our place saved my children. I later learned that my friend remembered that I was vending every morning and that no one might save my children. So she went to my house even if it is far. Her arrival was on time. She was able to bring all my children to higher ground before our house was swept away by rampaging water. I was really thankful to our Lord God for saving my family from Typhoon Ondoy.”

pexels-photo-459451.jpeg

A key question in sociology of religion is: Why do people become religious?

Deprivation Theory and Religiosity

One theory that aims to answer the question on why people become religious is the deprivation theory. This theory maintains that “religious commitment is the result of compensation that religion provides in situations where individuals meet obstacles in life in search for alternative goals” (Furset & Repstad, 2006, p.111). According to this theory, grievances in life, such as poverty, lack of safety or imminent danger in disaster situations, difficult personal problems, and other forms of deprivations in life, can make people religious and prayerful to God.

pexels-photo-989206.jpeg

There are different types of deprivation theories in sociology. But the economic deprivation theory, in particular, explains that poverty can make people religious. The more people experience financial hardships, extreme poverty, or material deprivation in life, the more they become religious.

There is always the issue whether one must glorify poverty or condemn it in relation to one’s religiosity. There seems to be a popular perception that to be poor rather than rich is desirable in the eyes of God.

person-woman-sitting-old.jpg

Is it really true that material poverty is blessed by God?

Poverty in Spirit

The Bible and the church teachings do not actually condemn rich people for having more wealth. What is condemned is inordinate attachment to wealth or greediness. One can become wealthy and still detached from material things and generous to other people. Some disciples of Christ, such as Joseph of Arimathea, are rich people, but they are not greedy and use their wealth to oppress others.

If one examines the Bible, the poor of Yahweh or anawim do not necessarily refer to materially-deprived people. The primary trait of being a “poor of God” is being attached to God and detached from wealth, i.e., wealth is not seen as the ultimate end of life but only a means to achieve one’s salvation. The Calvinist protestants, for example, believe that wealth is a sign of God’s blessing, being materially rich is a sure sign that one is blessed by God and predestined to be with Him in heaven.

Poverty and Religiosity

pexels-photo-1003917.jpeg

There is a scarce sociological research that relate poverty with religiosity. But there seems to be a weak correlation between the two. Material poverty makes people busy with their jobs and livelihood in order to survive or sustain one’s family. Thus, it takes away from people some precious time and space to reflect, pray, or attend religious activities. It makes them preoccupied with subsistence that would make their mental states indisposed to prayer and meditation.

Busy people do not have the luxury of reflecting over their life and spiritual beliefs. If we just observe the life and routine of many urban poor in the informal sector, we can conclude that poverty does not make people disposed to religiosity, particularly to public religiosity, i.e., attending public rituals such the Mass and sacraments for Catholics, joining religious organizations, and attending communal activities of the parish church.

Private Religiosity of the Poor

Despite poverty, many poor people still manage to nurture their private religiosity or personal beliefs in God and private devotions. Many urban poor women are privately religious. This is shown in my study with Typhoon Ketsana victims and with my interviews with my key informants who were urban poor women in a relocation area.  Many, for example, believe that God saved them from the flood and typhoon, although all of them rarely attended the Holy Mass.

pexels-photo-998258.jpeg

The popular Black Nazarene devotion in Quiapo, Philippines, for instance, illustrates how poor people can still enhance their private devotions in spite of their difficult and hectic daily schedule for subsistence.

Praise God that you read this post. Feel free to comment and share it to others. Thanks and God bless!

Photo Credit: Pexels.com free photos

Reference

Furseth, I. & Repstad, P. (2006). An Introduction to the Sociology of Religion:  Classical and Contemporary Perspectives. England: Ashgate.

 

 

7 Top Myths on Disasters

heavy-water-factory-1053775_640

Photo Credit: Pixabay.com

Myth #1: Disasters cause deaths at random.

Reality:

Disasters tend to take a higher toll on the most vulnerable geographic areas (high-risk areas), generally those settled by the poorest people.

 

demonstration-2477988_640

Photo Credit: Pixabay.com

Myth #2: Disasters bring out the worst in human behavior.

Reality:

Although isolated cases of antisocial behavior exist, the majority of people respond spontaneously and generously.

 

Dead bodies haiti

Photo Credit: Pinterest.com

Myth #3: Dead bodies pose a health risk.

Reality:

Contrary to popular belief, dead bodies pose no more risk of disease outbreak in the aftermath of a natural disaster than survivors.

 

 

 

article-2496954-1951722300000578-748_964x641

Photo source: dailymail.co.uk

Myth #4: Epidemics and plagues are inevitable after every disaster.

Reality:

Epidemics do not spontaneously occur after a disaster and dead bodies will not lead to catastrophic outbreaks of exotic diseases. The key to preventing disease is to improve sanitary conditions and educate the public.

 

saudi5

Photo source: news.kuwaittimes.net

Myth #5: The fastest way to dispose of bodies and avoid the spread of disease is through mass burials or cremations. This can help create a sense of relief among survivors.

Reality:

Survivors will feel more at peace and manage their sense of loss better if they are allowed to follow their beliefs and religious practices and if they are able to identify and recover the remains of their loved ones.

 

cyclone-2102397_640

Myth #6: Disasters are random killers.

Reality:

Disasters strike hardest at the most vulnerable group, the poor — especially women, children and the elderly.

 

starving-children-waiting-227319_640

Myth #7: Starving people can eat anything

Reality:

It is widely held that people who are starving will be very hungry and eat any food that can be supplied. This attitude is inhumane and incorrect. Even if hungry initially, people often do not consume adequate quantities of unvaried and unfamiliar foods for long enough. More importantly, the starving people are often ill and may not have a good appetite. They will therefore languish in an emaciated state or get even sicker.

Even someone well-nourished would fail to thrive on the monotonous diets of three or so commodities (e.g. wheat, beans and oil) that is all that is available, month in, month out, to many refugees and displaced people. And this is aside from the micro-nutrient deficiencies that often develop. This misconception starts, in part, from a failure to agree on explicit objectives for food assistance — which should surely be to provide for health, welfare, and a reasonably decent existence and help in attaining and acceptable state of self-reliance and self-respect. Source: Lancet, Vol. 340, Nov 28, 1992.

Photo Credit: Pixabay.com except those with attributions

Reference:  World Health Organization (WHO), “Humanitarian Health Action”. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/hac/techguidance/ems/myths/en/.

Thank you for reading this post. Sign up or follow this blog via email for more updates.