Monday, January 22, 2007

Ekklesia: Tutu says men have messed up the world and women hold the key

Speaking at the grassroots World Social Forum, gathered in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu of South Africa has urged women to launch a nonviolent social revolution to rectify all the the world problems created by men.

The Archbishop says that men must acknowledge that it is often they "who have made a mess of things". He cites the issues of global and domestic violence in particular, pointing out that while all have "fallen short of the glory of God", macho cultures and expectations have played a dangerous role in many societies.

Desmond Tutu says women may finally bring peace to the world. Feminist theologians have often highlighted the way problems inside and outside the church are "gendered", but it is relatively unusual for male ecclesiastics to recognise the challenge patriarchy so explicitly.

Nevertheless, the Archbishop's message is not one of division between the sexes. He believes that mean and women can and must work together creatively for justice and peace, something that the Gospel of Jesus and the world's great humanitarian traditions mandate.

The World Social Forum brings together critics of neoliberal globalisation in calling for an equitable economic order. Archbishop Tutu says the international community shall pay more attention to poverty and disease. He adds that no country can function in isolation.

Meanwhile, reports the Mail and Guardian newspaper in South Africa, the retired Archbishop has also expressed his deep disappointment at his country's vote to block a United Nations Security Council resolution demanding an end to human rights abuses in Burma, saying this is a betrayal of a "noble past" on human rights.

The Nobel Laureate urged the Security Council to take action against the military regime of the South-east Asian country, in a 2005 report written with fellow Nobel laureate and former Czech President Vaclav Havel.

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Good Life?

EGR friend Chuck Morello from the Diocese of Minnesota shares (with permission, of course!) this overseas perspective on the Millennium Development Goals. It was written by a friend, Ann Marie Mershon, an American teacher residing and teaching in Turkey.

Here I sit, on my comfortable couch, slightly full after wine and pistachios with Marnie and her daughter Jen, then a few pieces of leftover pizza and a dish of sutlac pudding at home. My lojman is toasty warm, my exams are all corrected, my paycheck has been deposited, and life is good.

In the minute it took me to write that, 21 children died of hunger, most of them in Africa--not far from my cozy Istanbul home.

A third of the exams I read were essays by my seniors, who just completed a global issues unit with a focus on poverty. I told them when we began the unit that they would become experts on world poverty, and they have. After reading their exams, I can think of little else.

Most of us know that there are 6.5 billion people in the world, but did you realize that one-fifth of them (over a billion) live on less than a dollar a day? Or that half of them live on less than $2 a day.? That’s scary.

According to UNICEF, nearly 11 million children die each year as a result of hunger. That’s 900,000 a month, 225,000 a week, 30,000 a day, 1250 an hour, and 21 a minute - ­one every three seconds. That’s scary.

One in five children in the U.S. lives in poverty, and one of every two children in the world lives in poverty. That’s scary, too.

Which will destroy us first, global warming or the inequities in our world? Think about why 9/11 happened - ­really.

The gap between the haves and the have-nots grows wider every year. I took a quick survey on the Earth Day web site, and I realized how much more of our world’s resources I use than my share. It would take 3.3 planets to support everyone in the world at my Istanbul lifestyle (no car, small home), and 9.1 planets to support them at my U.S. lifestyle (a bigger home and a car). That’s also scary.

Do you know about the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals? The richest countries in the world pledged in 2000 to donate 0.7% of their Gross National Income (yes, less than one percent) to aid developing countries. Of the 22 wealthiest countries, only five have met that goal: Norway (.9%), Denmark (.87%), Luxembourg (.82%), the Netherlands (.8%), and Sweden (.79%). The U. S. came out at the bottom of the 22 countries (.16%), which is pretty embarrassing. It helps to know that we are so rich that even .16% of our GNP puts us at the top in our total donation. Does that make it OK to be stingy?

To put the inequality of our world into perspective, imagine a room of 100 people. Now distribute 100 pounds of potatoes. Give 25 pounds of potatoes to each of two “privileged” people, then give 1/2 pound (two small potatoes) each to 18 more people. Now distribute the other 14 pounds of potatoes (about 28 small potatoes) unequally among the remaining 80, making sure that the last 20 share one potato among them.

How would you feel if you were the “lucky one”? How would you feel if you were one of the 20 who received only a morsel? We haven’t even looked at things like water, shelter, and medical care, but they all follow the same pattern. The reality is that the richest two percent of the world’s population hold over half of the world’s wealth. The richest 20 percent (that would be us) consume 86 percent of the world’s goods. What’s wrong with this picture?

For some reason I thought the war on poverty was being won, but I was wrong.

So why is poverty getting worse rather than better? One of the culprits is globalization. Multinational firms have found cheap labor markets overseas, where they don’t have the expense of benefit packages. One example is Nike, which pays Indonesian workers about $2 a day to produce sporting equipment and shoes. Most of those workers are women and children who work long hours under unsafe conditions. If they complain, there are others who would happily take their places. Because of the low wages, parents don’t earn enough to feed their families, so their children work as well. The children can’t attend school because they work, so they’re not getting the education they need to break this cycle of poverty. If these firms would pay a decent wage, adults could work, their children could attend school, and their incomes would help to support their communities. Of course, Nike doesn’t want to eat into their profit margin, so it “ain’t gonna happen.” These people were better off before the factory moved in.

Of course, Nike isn’t the only culprit, and there are many other factors involved in this cycle of poverty. Developing countries are often the victims of corrupt governments that misuse aid, leaving the people no better off but deeper in debt. Trade tariffs favor some countries over others, and less developed countries are unable to compete on the global market. Wealthy countries buy up huge amounts of produce from poorer countries, leaving little to feed their residents. Undeveloped countries are drowning in loan payments when they need to put all their resources into their own infrastructures. A lack of education and medical care contribute to unconscionable loss of life to preventable illnesses (like AIDS). There are many reasons for world poverty, but we need to look to its cure.

I remember as a child saying, “Well, you can send my lima beans to those starving children in China. I don’t want them.” I feel differently now. I need to find ways to get lima beans to those starving children.

The two most impressive programs I’ve come across are quite similar in their focus. The first, The Heifer Project, is an organization that provides livestock to families in developing countries so that they can support themselves. A $500 donation will purchase a heifer for someone, for $120 you can purchase a goat, and $20 provides someone with a starter set of chicks. When my boys were young, our Sunday School offerings went to purchase a cow for a family in Africa. We had a great time coloring in sections of a huge cow poster as we accumulated money toward our goal. (

The other project is even more impressive. You may have heard of Professor Muhammad Yunus, of Bangladesh, who just received the Nobel Peace Prize for his Microfinance program. He started his project in 1974 with a $27 loan to local women to purchase materials for bamboo furniture. In 1976 he founded the Grameen Bank, which has made micro-loans totaling over $5 billion to over 5.3 million borrowers to get small businesses going. Over 96% of the loans have been given to women, because, according to Yunus, “women suffer disproportionately from poverty and are more likely than men to devote their earnings to their families.” (ABC Online) If each loan impacts a family of five, over 25 million people’s lives have been improved through Yunus’s program.

My seniors, through their research, presentations, writing, and exams, have opened my eyes. After break we’ve scheduled a planning session to take some collective action. How could we not?

Coming to Istanbul has opened my eyes to a lot of things. I see how fortunate I am, yet I also see the desperate need most of the world lives in. I have a totally different view of myself, my country, and our role in the world. It’s not a pretty picture, but I have hope. One must have hope.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Urgent Action -- Protect the Global Fund!

The ONE Campaign, of which the Episcopal Church is a partner, is putting out an urgent call for everyone to call or email their senators and representatives TODAY to co-sign bi-partisan letters to protect nearly a billion dollars in critical funding to fight extreme poverty and AIDS -- most of which would be taken from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria (the most effective multilateral organization addressing these diseases).

You can do this by calling 1-800-786-2663 and using the talking points below. You can also email directly from the ONE Campaign site.

The Episcopal Church embraced the ONE Campaign in resolution D022 last summer and called on the U.S. government to continue to make a fair-share contribution to the Global Fund in D054 in 2003. Some other notes about the Global Fund:

*The Global Fund (a multilateral initiative) is working in 130 countries – expanding prevention as well as treatment. (Compare this with the president's bilateral initiative - PEPFAR - which is doing good work but in only 15 countries)

*The Global Fund provides 3/4 of all global HIV spending, 2/3 of TB spending, 1/2 of malaria spending.

*The Global Fund has put 400,000 people on lifesaving treatment

*The Global Fund has treated one million people for TB

Here you can find more information on the Global Fund, more info on Global AIDS and info about what ERD is doing about Global AIDS.

Now, here are all the details from ONE Campaign buddy Kim Smith:

Right now $1 billion in funding to fight poverty has been eliminated from the United States budget. Congress is set to pass a year long Budget Continuing Resolution which will keep government funding at 2006 levels through 2007. This means that almost a billion dollars to fund the fight against AIDS and extreme poverty could be lost. Please call your Senators and congressperson now to ask that they support funding that fight against Global AIDS. Urge your leaders to fully fund the fight against global AIDS and extreme poverty.

Call 1-800-786-2663 today and ask your two senators and congressman to support fully funding the fight against global AIDS and extreme poverty.

It is not too late, if we work together as ONE we can make a difference. Currently, there is a bipartisan and bicameral effort to support life saving funding. Senators Richard Durbin and Sam Brownback and Representatives Barbara Lee and Christopher Shays are circulating “Dear Colleague” letters to protect additional funding allocated to fight global AIDS, TB, and Malaria in 2007. Urge your congressional leaders to sign onto this “Dear Colleague” letter today!

Make the difference and call your members of congress today: call 1-800-786-2663 today to be connected to your senators and Representative. Remember to tell them:

*I am a constituent of YOUR TOWN in YOUR STATE.

* You're calling with the ONE campaign- an effort started by Americans to unite as ONE voice to fight extreme poverty and global HIV/AIDS.

* You're calling to ask your Members of Congress to sign on to the Senate’s Durbin-Brownback and House’s Lee-Shays “Dear Colleague” letter to protect $1 billion in life-saving funding to fight extreme poverty, AIDS, TB, and Malaria.

Thank you for joining ONE in taking action to fight global AIDS and extreme poverty. Your voice will make a difference!

Other information you can share:
* Please also tell them it is imperative that this funding be additional to other poverty fighting assistance.
* Make sure to emphasize the urgency of this issue. Those living in extreme poverty can not wait a year for assistance, they need the help now.
* Without this additional funding as many as 350,000 people with HIV/AIDS will not receive life-sustaining treatment. Nearly 1 million anti-malarial bednets will not be distributed, and 120,000 people will not receive treatment for tuberculosis.

Kimberly Smith
ONE Regional Field Organizer

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

U.S., and its stars, can help Africa

Here's a great piece written by Josh Ruxin, who directs the Millennium Villages Project in Mayange, Rwanda (where 1/3 of our General Convention U2charist offering went) It reminds me of something public education advocate Jonathan Kozol said at a forum when he was challenged about "just throwing money" at the problem. He said "PLEASE throw money at it. Drop big nets of money from helicopters on it. Because with money I can get staff, and I can equip them ... and they can make a difference." It's easy to throw rocks at the celebrities who are over in Africa -- and maybe a lot of their motivation is self-serving. But as Josh points out, the attention they bring is literally the difference between life and death. - Mike+

Often ridiculed, celebrities bring attention to some of the continent's greatest needs.

Josh Ruxin is assistant clinical professor of public health at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health

There's reason for hope for public-health success in sub-Saharan Africa, in part because the world - especially some influential Americans - are paying more attention. American financial and ideological interest is crucial, because the United States still drives the global public-health agenda.

Here in Africa, where every public-health crisis - from AIDS to tuberculosis to malaria - has become manageable in the developed world, the challenge is not just financial but organizational: how to execute initiatives consistently, given the limited infrastructure, on a scale that is daunting. There are 700 million abjectly poor people living on the continent.

But American drive and determination are beginning to make a significant difference.

A new generation of American philanthropists, for instance, has focused on world poverty, particularly in Africa - with Bill and Melinda Gates, Bill Clinton, George Soros and Pierre Omidyar best known among them. They are not stewards of their ancestors' wealth. They've created their foundations themselves; they're driven to make a lasting difference; and they want results now.

The Gates and Clinton foundations, in particular, have brought a dynamic new level of intensity to fighting AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa that has increased international commitment and focus significantly. They bolster efforts made possible by the Bush administration's $15 billion commitment to expansion of HIV/AIDS services, which in turn augments the efforts of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria worldwide.

Yet much more funding is needed. The Global Fund remains underfunded by billions of dollars despite its constellation of accomplishments. (It has, for example, helped Rwanda make voluntary counseling and testing for HIV available to more than one third of the nation's population.)

Entrepreneurial businesses are also having a surprising impact. Greg Wyler, the Boston-based CEO of Terracom, is overseeing the laying of a fiber and high-speed wireless infrastructure throughout Rwanda's 11,000 square miles that will soon deliver a level of Internet connectivity only recently rolled out in the United States. Rwanda, one of the poorest countries in Africa, had barely 3,000 landline telephones a decade ago - one phone for every 3,000 people. Today, it's rapidly becoming one of the most wireless-intense nations in Africa, if not the world.

That emerging technology offers enormous potential for addressing ostensibly intractable poverty and disease in Africa. The Rwandan government, for instance, is linking widely dispersed health centers and hospitals to the Internet and to each other, enabling them to share information on treatment protocols, medication needs and disease incidence.

Disease surveillance is important for everyone. AIDS had become a worldwide pandemic before we understood where it was and how many people were afflicted.

World-renowned celebrities - too often criticized as publicity-seekers for making trips to Africa - are also playing a crucial part. For those of us who work here day in and day out in difficult conditions, their visits are a godsend. The media they attract are not incidental; they are key. It's the only way to get much of the world to pay attention.

Angelina Jolie's decision with Brad Pitt to give birth to their child in Namibia gave that long-overlooked nation much-needed attention. Madonna's controversial adoption drew international attention to the plight of sub-Saharan Africa's 43 million orphans. Oprah Winfrey's opening of a girls' school has drawn attention to the vital investment that needs to be made in Africa's future.

And Bono, in particular, always makes his visits substantive, using the accompanying media to educate the wider world about the plight of the poor in less developed countries.

I joined him on a recent visit to Mayange, Rwanda, where the per capita income is about $20 per year. Mayange is the site of Rwanda's Millennium Village Project - part of a 10-nation effort to demonstrate that adequate and well-focused investments can eliminate poverty in just five years.

In Mayange, we surveyed the farmers' harvest - which had improved 15-fold over the previous year - and visited the resurrected health center, which used to deliver five babies per month but now does that number in a day. I was moved by Bono's overall observation: that the real heroes are not people like himself drawing attention to the issues, but rather the dedicated health-care providers and community mobilizers who are steering a path toward achieving basic human-development goals.

As we enter a new year, I give thanks to all those who keep the world's attention on the public-health issues so devastating to this region. I hope that they will inspire all Americans to keep up the pressure, to see global poverty not only as a tragedy amid great wealth but as an avoidable breeding ground for so much of the strife that jeopardizes world peace.

Individual Americans can do their part by visiting Africa themselves, learning more about the problems, and helping the economies first-hand. If Paris Hilton wants to come, the tabloids might shriek, but I would shout, "Amen."


Josh Ruxin ( is also director of the Access Project in Rwanda, where he serves on the Board of Orphans of Rwanda Inc.