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Economic conference goes beyond charity

Multiple departments on campus came together to coordinate the Global Development Conference this week.

The Global Development Conference set out to foster new ideas among students of ways to reach out to the developing world. To bring a fresh perspective, faculty brought in Michael Miller, director and host of the PovertyCure video series.

PovertyCure suggests asking, “What causes poverty?” is the wrong question, and instead, people concerned with the plight of the poor should ask what causes human flourishing.

“When we see poor people, we think, how can I help?” Miller said in chapel on Tuesday. “The better question is, how do people in the developing world foster community?”

On Monday, a session called “The World in 2050” focused on development patterns and poverty elimination. Miller spoke on a panel with professor Joe Walenciak and Mark Bray of Airship Coffee and Mama Carmen’s.

The session featured a student presentation as well as a preview of the PovertyCure film series.

Miller spoke about being more careful with charity in chapel.

“Justice can be destroyed in two ways,” Miller said, paraphrasing Thomas Aquinas, “by the violent man who has power and by the false prudence of the sage.”

He gave several examples of local businesses being bankrupt when they can no longer compete with foreign aid. Though aid is helpful in times of national emergency, Miller said, continuous aid is bad for business.

Miller recommended that Christians look beyond the immediate effects of their giving, and addressed the economic impact of aid-funded abortion and even how, in countries where fewer women are being born than men, sex slavery makes women into commodities.

He tackled the issue of objectification of people.

“Poor people have become objects of our pity, our compassion and our charity,” Miller said. “Humanitarianism is a hollowed out, secular version of charity.”

Miller encouraged students to focus on building infrastructures of economic health rather than giving without reasoning.

Miller grew a passion over time for spreading awareness of true cures for poverty. After studying undergraduate philosophy and literature, he lived in Japan for several years where he began to study development.

“Everything was big government, sending things over,” Miller said. “It seemed like there were problems.”

“I thought it would be great to try to address poverty outside of the right-and-left ways of addressing it, but also be able to talk to people in the developing world and really provide a resource outside of the dominant establishment model of how to help the poor,” Miller said.

Miller’s advice to students as far as ways to become involved in changing the way Christians view poverty is simple.

“The first thing is to really think,” Miller said. “Think before you just act or do something, and take seriously the human person, all of the philosophy you are learning here and think like a Christian.”

Miller understands that people want to act immediately, but he advises people to be patient.

“I know it’s not exciting, because people want to go and do right now, but really take time to think before you act.”

“It’s a challenge because you don’t want to be cynical, but to avoid sentimentalism, check your motivations,” Miller said. “The goal is to help human flourishing, not to feel better about ourselves.”

After speaking at chapel on Tuesday, Miller spoke to graduate business students in Rogers.

The week closed on Wednesday with a viewing of a segment of the PovertyCure film. The showing was followed by a round table discussion with special activities and prizes.

The engineering department has already begun hosting showings of PovertyCure on Thursdays at 6 p.m. in the Balzer Technology Center.