When was the last time you spent $1.50 (or £1) and what did you buy? Most of us probably don't give a second's thought to spending what amounts to little more than small change.
In Washington D.C., $1.50 is just enough for your morning bus fare to work with a Smartrip Card and a small cup of coffee. In London, you need more than £1 to take a bus journey and if you find a decent cup of tea at that price, you'd be on to a bargain! For us, $1.50/£1 means very little. Yet this is the sum which designates the international extreme poverty line. There are a staggering 1.4 billion people in the world who live on this meager amount of money or less, for everything, everyday. From 7-11 May, we are inviting you to join us and thousands around the globe to take up the challenge to 'Live Below the Line' and live on $1.50/£1 a day for all of your food and drink, for 5 days. In doing so we'll get a glimpse into the daily reality faced by so many and the lack of choice they live with. The idea is that you get sponsored to do the challenge and can therefore also raise vital awareness and funds for a variety of international development organizations. Our personal focus is on malaria which is a leading cause of poverty in Africa, costing the continent $12 billion (£8 billion) per year. A child dies from malaria every minute even though we know how to prevent and treat the disease. When someone contracts malaria, the cost of treatment, hospital bills, transportation and loss of earnings can amount to 25 percent of a family's annual income.
While some areas of the world are certainly more heavily burdened by the problem of extreme poverty than others, poverty, along with malaria, is an issue which does not differentiate between individuals according to age, gender, ethnicity or religion. As an interfaith public health activist once told us, "The same mosquito that bites in the mosque on a Friday, bites in the church on a Sunday." This makes the issues of extreme poverty and malaria a problem for all of us. It therefore makes perfect sense that we should want to work together in order to most effectively address these problems.
We are both part of an international multifaith social action fellowship called Faiths Act. Yet, we are individuals from very different backgrounds. We were born on different continents, we were influenced by a variety of different cultures and we follow different religious traditions. Together with our partner Faiths Act Fellows we make-up a diverse collective of an Evangelical Christian and Ahmadi Muslim from the United States joining forces with a Sunni Muslim and a Quaker from the UK. Whilst we may disagree on how we prefer to practice our faith, we can all agree that our faiths demand that we address the social injustice of global poverty.
Faiths Act is a multifaith global movement which inspires and mobilizes people of faith to take action towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. As Faiths Act Fellows working at Malaria No More in the USA and Malaria No More UK respectively, we believe that when people of all faiths work together we can be so much stronger. That's why we're calling on people from all faiths and none to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters of all faiths who live in extreme poverty. We stand united to say that it is possible to change this unequal situation.
So, remember that cup of coffee and that bus ticket? Could you live on the amount it cost to buy these for one entire day? How about five days?
Many religions have the practice of fasting such as during the Christian season of Lent or the month of Ramadan for Muslims. Similarly, the Live Below the Line challenge is experiential in nature, it demands that we think about our own actions and our choices when it comes to daily dietary habits. More than that, the experience allows us to reflect on the lives of 1.4 billion people around the world who live below the line each and every day.
We believe that the time to take action is now. We are inspired by our faith to take action. The Quaker tradition teaches to uncover the causes of social injustice, not to simply accept things the way they are. The Holy Qur'an teaches that "Saving one life is like saving all of mankind." But beyond being compelled by our faiths, we are inspired to act on the common humanity which we share. And when we take part in Live Below the Line this May we will be joining thousands of people across the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand committed to tackling extreme poverty.
Join us, take action and Live Below the Line this May: and show just how much $1.50 is worth.
Follow Shazia Ali on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ali_shazia
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