The proposed city ordinance concerning pedestrian safety unfairly targets beggars at busy intersections in Cedar Rapids. I drive in these areas every day and those in need are calm, polite, and grateful.
Rabbi Jill Jacobs writes, “The overarching Jewish attitude toward the poor is best summed up by a single word of the biblical text: achikha (your brother). With this word, the Torah insists on the dignity of the poor, and it commands us to resist any temptation to view the poor as somehow different from ourselves.”
Pope Francis says, “if we want to help change history and promote real development, we need to hear the cry of the poor and commit ourselves to ending their marginalization” and “the poor are not a problem: they are a resource from which to draw as we strive to accept and practice in our lives the essence of the Gospel.”
The Messenger of Allah instructs: “There is no leader who closes the door to someone in need, one suffering in poverty, except that Allah closes the gates of the heavens for him when he is suffering in poverty.”
This ordinance is a thinly-veiled political statement that seeks to remove the unsightly, the unwanted, and the unfortunate from our view so that we are not momentarily inconvenienced by our own discrepancy of thought and hypocrisy of being. For people of conscience and higher moral guidance than selfishness and greed, we are called, not to condemn, but to contribute.