Which Continent has Seven of the World’s Fastest Growing Economies?
The New Year has now lost some of its gloss and the harsh reality of working towards a more equitable way of sharing the earth’s limited resources confronts people of good will everywhere. Yet the Christmas message still lingers in our ears in the invitation of good King Wenceslaus, who looked out of his warm palace on the feast of Stephen, saw a beggar and invited him to dinner. The question of how best to invite those in dire need to the earth’s banquet table confronts us each day, not just on Boxing Day. But how do we respond with hearts that are receptive, open and welcoming?
The Tablet (December, 2012) issue dared to address the sharing of more of the earth’s resources with economically poor countries. Rohit Kachroo, an African correspondent for ITV News, cites Ian Birrell of The Independent – ‘my view is that aid has always been a corrosive and corrupting influence undermining the establishment of democracy.’ This anti-aid argument rails against sending resources to developing countries as it creates a culture of dependency among the people that in turn kills local initiative and enterprise. It may in fact deter foreign businesses from investing in African initiatives. What then is my position on providing support for those who struggle each day for a decent life because they don’t have access to meaningful work and enough resources to feed themselves or their families? Do I just stand back, frightened to make any sort of donation, even though my heart tells me to do so?
Rohit Kachroo goes on to lament, as a correspondent, that he often reports only on starvation in places like West Africa and the Horn of Africa. Children continue to die of illnesses that could be prevented by medicines that cost but a few cents. War compounds the problems, creating thousands of homeless refugees, visible each evening on our TV screens. Ian Birrell says it would be better, instead of sending money, to go to Africa and there spend your tourist dollars.
Surely there are alternative ways of working in solidarity with people in the community of nations. Our Edmund Rice Network takes up the challenge of being present to people, not as tourists or business moguls, but through participation in Edmund Rice camps where young adults take a week out of their holidays to care for the kids of Kibera (Nairobi, Kenya). This is a very different way of being present and positively involved in contributing to the quality of life of these under resourced young people. It is about sharing humanity, dreams and life experiences. It is about spending time relaxing, playing and conversing over shared meals. It isn’t about giving gifts to appease an uneasy conscience that is disturbed by the fact that the earth’s resources have been so unevenly distributed by those who wield enormous power unfairly. It is about building inner dignity and sense of worthwhileness through forming genuine relationships.
When relationships are mutual we can perhaps then ask respectfully about what causes families to struggle to provide basic meals for their children and a healthy lifestyle. It is in the answer to these questions, if we listen attentively, that we may discover what causes suffering and loss as well as what brings the greatest peace and joy.
As Africa’s economies develop, seven now belong to the top 10 growth economies, we may come to appreciate that there are some universal human freedoms and rights that are at the core of every human heart.
Can I stand and advocate for a better world community?
Yet where does this leave me, and the hungry beggar at my door?
Peter Harney cfc