I have been reading Ben Freeth’s When Governments Stumble while partaking in this year’s Live Below the Line challenge, on behalf of The Mike Campbell Foundation. The book is both confronting and motivating, exposing the corruption in Zimbabwe while also suggesting how we might see change come about in a country that continues to suffer through bad politics and fear.
I have great respect for Freeth’s unashamed spotlight on the lack of involvement by the church. I think he highlights an issue which is not isolated to Zimbabwe. It is all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that church life is all about me and my own spirituality. This is not what following Jesus is all about. It is time the church left the building. This week I have witnessed my church community rise up to the challenge and do what we as Christians are called to do: make a difference in the world around us. I absolutely do not want to discredit the amazing things that Christians around the world are doing on a daily basis, but we need more. According to the World Bank, extreme poverty rates have been more than halved – from 52% of the world’s population to 22% of the world’s population – since 1980. This is remarkable and we need to keep up the momentum so that we can see even greater change than this.
If this all sounds a bit too confrontational, perhaps we need a reality check. As long as we choose not to make simple changes like buying fairtrade, ignore opportunities to call on on our governments to responsibly manage overseas aid or fail to learn more about the issues, a child will continue to die from hunger or a preventable disease every 3.8 seconds. This is an outrage.
Let’s put aside statistics and media images and simply stop for a moment to think about the human beings behind this all-encompassing term poverty. They are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters….people. This week I have felt hungry, demotivated at times and restricted by my temporary ‘poverty’. Despite this, I hope I will never know what true poverty in its extremest form feels like. No one should have to.
Imagine a world where we all decided to truly live out James 2:14-17…
“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
Many say poverty is the great injustice of our time. Perhaps an even greater injustice is the indifference we continue to show toward the 1.2 billion people who must live a far worse life than I have experienced over the last 5 days of living on £1.
I might not be able to solve the issues relating to extreme poverty today but I can do something small. You can too through simple things like visiting globalcitizen.org and taking even one action which will make a difference to someone’s life. The time is now.