The topic at church this morning was aid and development: where the church both does charity and plays diplomacy, politics and development economist.
The man from Baptist World Aid, Cameron Eccleston, gave an expository sermon on 'justice' based on a passage in Romans during which he made the claim that our consumer culture (or may be just 'our wealth') keeps the poor poor. So we are the oppressors, as if economics is a zero sum game.
He espoused lots of tinkering and low grade assistance here and there, but the fundamental reason for poverty is a woven strand of low productivity, failed markets (so exploitation is rife), entrenched corruption (no 'rule of law', which took centuries to establish in western democracies), and religio-cultural factors. The 'failed culture' explanation.
Its fine, and indeed important for us to help those we know who are poor, but the long term 'help the man to fish' assistance is cultural, political, religious and economic: it's a long road, but the start is the start that Christians have always made: evangelism of the gospel that sets us free. Once that is embedded in people's psyche and a nation's culture, change would be unstoppable, albeit never easy.