People should not tolerate ''the sort of society that keeps
people poor'', Major Campbell Roberts, of the Salvation Army,
told University of Otago graduates yesterday.
A former Dunedin resident, Maj Roberts is the founder and
director of the Salvation Army's social policy research and
parliamentary affairs unit, in Wellington.
He was commenting during an address to about 320 graduates in
a wide range of humanities and arts disciplines, at the
latest Otago University graduation ceremony, at the Dunedin
''One of the biggest challenges we face in society is to
care,'' he said.
Mother Theresa had once said that ''loneliness and the
feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty''.
To change the damage caused by inequality, what was needed
was ''people who refuse to tolerate the sort of society which
keeps people poor'', he said.
He gave an example of two children growing up only 2km apart,
one whose family could afford for the children to sleep one
to a room, attend a well-resourced school and take overseas
Fifteen people were sharing the other child's house, and he
was sharing his room with sick children, in damp, freezing
Otago University had a great tradition of producing graduates
who had contributed to a better New Zealand, he said.
''Reducing the divide between rich and poor is a vital task
requiring people with the sort of skills and attitudes,
enriched and developed in this university.''
He challenged graduates to help ''close the inequality gap in
New Zealand and globally and create meaningful and lasting
change wherever you go.''
Inequality also produced spiritual poverty.
''It's probably no coincidence that poverty in New Zealand
and globally is greatest among colonised indigenous people
who have lost knowledge and access to their spiritual roots,
traditional values and knowledge systems.''
Spiritual poverty also afflicted the ''non-poor'' as well as
the poor, and ultimately ''diminishes all of our lives''.
By this, he meant ''the absence of a spiritual life or a
spiritual dimension to your life'', which provided a
''connection to the past and the future and to the world and
people around you''.
In the non-poor, consumption and materialism often covered up
''The non-poor separate themselves from the poor by living in
different neighbourhoods and suburbs and their children go to
This separation could be a convenient way of isolating
themselves from ''the sight and nasty effects of poverty''.
But this also robbed them of a ''deeper understanding of
their own humanity'' and knowing what it meant to connect
with ''people who are uniquely different from themselves''.