Monday, December 22, 2008

"O Come, O Come Emmanuel" -- by Elaine Thomas

O come, O come, Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel, That mourns in lonely exile here Until the Son of God appear.

There are some 11 million refugees in the world, almost one in five of them from Afghanistan. (BBC World Service online, 12.21.2008)

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free Thine own from Satan’s tyranny; From depths of hell Thy people save, And give them victory over the grave.

In little more than 24 hours, at least 150 people would be dead, most of them young men, summarily executed by the rebels last month as they tightened their grip over parts of eastern Congo, according to witnesses and human-rights investigators. (NY Times 12.11.2008)
O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer Our spirits by Thine advent here; Disperse the gloomy clouds of night, And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

For the last several months, bombings have rattled the image of an India industriously humming toward prosperity. Beginning about two years ago, they have occurred with increasing frequency: about a dozen such attacks have pockmarked India's largest cities, from Delhi and Jaipur to Bangalore and Guwahati. And so when the alarms went out on Wednesday night, it looked like Mumbai (formerly Bombay) was being hit by another one of those attacks. (Time Magazine, 11.27.2008)

O come, Thou Root of Jesse’s tree, An ensign of Thy people be; Before Thee rulers silent fall; All peoples on Thy mercy call.

He (Mugabe) has faced renewed criticism amid a humanitarian crisis that has pushed thousands of Zimbabweans to the point of starvation and left 1,123 people dead from cholera since August. (Philadelphia Inquirer, 12.21.2008)

O come, Desire of nations, bind In one the hearts of all mankind; Bid Thou our sad divisions cease, And be Thyself our King of Peace.

Leaders of Hamas, the militant Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip, declare that its six-month cease-fire with Israel is over. The declaration is likely to lead to an increase in violence, and an Israeli official said Thursday that Hamas is "clearly interested in escalating the situation." (NPR’s All Things Considered, 12.18.2008)

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

Maranatha.

Elaine Thomas is a member of St. James in Lancaster, PA where she is a member of the Peace and Justice and Stewardship Committees. She is also the EGR and ERD Coordinator for the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania. Elaine works for Episcopal Community Services in Philadelphia, a social service agency whose mission is to help individuals and families with multiple needs overcome the impact of poverty.

"Bagosora" by Reynolds Whelan

As I was importing footage from the Kigali Memorial Center last week, the main perpetrator of the 1994 genocide, General Theoneste Bagosora, received a life sentence from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) for plotting the massacre of Tutsis and moderate Hutus.


This represents a huge success for the international community in pursuing justice for crimes against humanity, and for many Rwandans, this was an emotional day.

However, we must not forget that the events of last week would not even be necessary if not for our gross inadequacy to prevent the genocide in the first place. Not to mention that this event comes fourteen years after the slaughter of at least one million people in the span of only 100 days.

The baby step we take on a global level today can not even be compared to the reconciliation process that Rwandans are pursuing in their own country every single day.

A few days ago, I attended a sector-wide forum to discuss the implications of tourism and how it does or does not directly benefit the community. Hundreds of people attended and the event was held at Igiti Cy'umuyumu, a town in the Millennium Villages project with a fascinating recent history.

In this short clip from an interview, Delphin from MVP explains the incredible demographics of Igiti Cy'umuvumu, demonstrating how moving forward in Rwanda means so much more than convicting and sentencing one of the genocide's engineers.

This lesson of forgiveness and acceptance should inspire us in this holiday season where we reflect on the past year and confront the brokenness of our own country, seeking to move forward with open hearts and open minds.






Reynolds Whalen is a recent graduate of Washington University in St. Louis and is living in Rwanda for six months working for Millennium Congregation, a nonprofit that links congregations of all faiths with potential "Millennium Villages" in Rwanda ... villages that are making all eight Millennium Development Goals happen at once. His primary work is telling the story of the past, the present and the possible future in these villages. To learn more about how your congregation can become a Millennium Congregation, go to www.millenniumcongregation.org. You can read and watch more of Reynolds' work on his blog: Deep Gladness.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

"The Glory of Being Overshadowed" -- by the Rev. Mike Kinman

"The angel said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.'" (Luke 1:35)

"Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans." (John Lennon)

Before the angel came, what was Mary's plan?

Mary was a young woman. She had to have thoughts about how she wanted her life to turn out. Maybe they weren't grand plans. Maybe they were simple, ordinary, plans. But they were her plans. And very probably she was attached to them.

And then Life happened.

We remember Mary today not because she was SuperMom, but because when Life happened to her, when an opportunity came to her that challenged her to junk all her plans -- an opportunity that carried with it not fame and fortune but more likely being made an outcast or worse -- she let go of her plans and said, "Yes."

"The power of the Most High will overshadow you," Gabriel said. And the angel's words were spot on in more ways than one. Overshadow -- episkiasei -- not only hearkens back to that word being used to describe the presence of God covering the tabernacle in Exodus but describes what happened to Mary's plans, hopes and dreams.

All of a sudden, they all took a back seat. They were overshadowed, and other plans took their place.

And because she said yes to those other plans, we are celebrating this season. Because she said yes, we are the Church.

We claim an amazing thing when we call ourselves the Body of Christ. We claim that God can continue to break through into the world through us -- just the way that God did through Mary more than two millennia ago.

The opportunities are everywhere. Opportunities for love and compassion. Opportunities for greatness through service. The opportunities are all around us -- but almost always they require us to do what Mary did ... to set aside our plans and grasp the life that is happening while we're busy making them.

There are opportunities to give extravagantly and sacrificially of our great wealth -- even though we have plans for that money.

There are opportunities for us to do amazing things with the gifts we have -- even though we have plans for our careers, plans for our lives.

This past week, I helped pray off a group from the Diocese of Missouri who will spend this Christmas not with their families, but with the people of the Diocese of Lui in Southern Sudan. The choice for each of them to go was a difficult one.

They had plans for the money it was going to cost.

They had plans for vacation and Christmas celebrations with friends and family.

But each one of them -- Emily Bloemker, Joe Chambers, Robert Franken, Deb Goldfeder, Dan Handschy, Tammy King, Nancy Kinney, Debbie Smith ... and the family and friends who support them -- heard a call that would overshadow those plans and said yes to it.

There's nothing wrong with making plans. Certainly, dreaming dreams is an awesome thing to do. But being the Body of Christ is allowing for Life to happen that overshadows our best plans and dreams. And when it does, saying yes to it.

Where is Life happening while you're busy making plans?

This Christmas, where is the Most High looking to overshadow you?

The Rev. Mike Kinman is the Executive Director of Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation.

The art is "The Annunciation" by Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1898 (Philadelphia Museum of Art).

Friday, December 19, 2008

"The alleviation of material suffering in the world . . ." What can one person Do?" -- by the Rev. Gary Cartwright

As we struggle to understand and adapt to the increasing economic crisis that affects us more and more every day, it would be understandable to forget that this is a reflection of a much larger world-wide crisis in poverty and economics. The Rev. Dr. Sabina Alkire (an Episcopal priest , now in England) recently said :

“The Alleviation of material suffering in the world and the spiritual renewal of the Church go hand in hand.”

Dr. Sabina Alkire, is currently the Director of the new Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) Oxford University, and author of “What can one person do?”

Worldwide poverty is a spiritual problem that affects all of us. Jesus has been very clear about that.

In Matthew 25:31-40, it says:

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' And the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.'

Bono (Paul David Hewson) is the lead singer for the Irish U2 Band. He is a world-wide activist for the alleviation of extreme poverty. Not satisfied with just making statements he and his wife Ali have worked in Ethiopian feeding camps, as well as sponsoring many initiatives to raise money for those who are literally starving to death. Some quotes from Bono:

“Distance does not decide who is your brother and who is not. The church is going to have to become the conscience of the free market if it's to have any meaning in this world - and stop being its apologist”.

“We can be the generation that no longer accepts that an accident of latitude determines whether a child lives or dies. But will we be that generation?”

“It's an amazing thing to think that ours is the first generation in history that really can end extreme poverty, the kind that means a child dies for lack of food in its belly. That should be seen as the most incredible, historic opportunity but instead it's become a millstone around our necks. We let our own pathetic excuses about how it's "difficult" justify our own inaction. Be honest. We have the science, the technology, and the wealth. What we don't have is the will, and that's not a reason that history will accept.”

In response to these needs I ask you to pray, study, give and act.

Please pray this prayer daily:

Most loving God, as your desire for mercy for the poor is unrelenting, may we be unrelenting in our pursuit of mercy for all; as your compassion for the suffering of the poor knows no limit, may our hearts overflow with compassion for all; as you long for justice for the poor, may we strive for justice for all. Open our eyes to the structures of oppression from which we benefit, and give us courage to accept our responsibility, wisdom to chart a sound course amid complexity, and perseverance to continue our work until it is finished. Breathe your life-giving Spirit afresh into your Church to free us from apathy and indifference; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For additional information please see: www.e4gr.org

Thank you,
Deacon Gary

Gary Cartwright is a deacon in the Diocese of Southwest Florida assigned to Holy Innocents' Episcopal Church in Valrico, FL. A former executive with IBM, Gary's baptismal and diaconal call is lived out through his deep passion for seeking and serving Christ in the extreme poor. That finds focus in, among other places, the reconciliation work of REACH-Rwanda. Gary is a member of the Anglican Communion Network.

What One Person Can Do: A Video from Maseno, Kenya -- by Dr. Christiana Russ

EGR blogger Christiana Russ -- a pediatrician who splits her time between Boston and Kenya -- offers this video her brother put together to describe the work of the Mother's Union of Maseno and the deworming program that they are doing there.

It's a great story of What One Person Can Do, and the key is that when Christiana showed up in Maseno, the first thing she did was ask questions and listen. Then she looked at how she offer her gifts in partnership with the gifts of the wonderfully gifted people (in this case, the Mother's Union) who were already there. What resulted was an incredibly low-cost solution to a debilitating problem.



Dr. Christiana Russ is a pediatrician doing her residency at Boston Children's Hospital, currently working at an Anglican mission hospital in Kenya through a joint arrangement with Children's and the Diocese of Massachusetts. She is also chair of the Executive Council Standing Commission on HIV/AIDS.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Two Videos from Rwanda to Make Your Heart Glad! -- by Reynolds Whalen

Reynolds Whalen, who blogs here regularly, has just arrived in Rwanda where he will be living and working for six months for Millennium Congregation -- a wonderful new nonprofit that is linking congregations of all faiths with "Millennium Villages" that are making the MDGs happen in Rwanda.

Reynolds will be shooting lots of video and doing lots of other things to tell the story of the amazing ministry happening in Rwanda (for a snapshot of all the projects he has lined up, check out the latest post on his blog). As a test of his video equipment, he shot these videos at the groundbreaking ceremony for a site for Miracle Corners of the World (MCW), a non-profit promoting local change and global exchange, a community driven process. The site that will include a preschool, a radio station for Bugesera District, and other educational and gender empowering initiatives.

This first clip is of a group of youth dancing.



This second clip is of kids marveling at Reynolds' LCD screen, which is reversible and can reveal the live video to the subjects. Kids love seeing themselves on live video.



These faces are the face of Christ, the image of God. Watch and enjoy!

Monday, December 15, 2008

"Waiting" -- by Meredith Bowen

Waiting.

As we wait for the momentous climax of the advent season, many other people sit waiting too.

But not for Christmas.

They wait in line for medication. ARV’s. Drugs needed each month in order to delay the effects of the AIDS virus.

Last week I travelled to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. I visited an AIDS clinic, where people sat waiting for their medications.

Waiting and waiting.

I met a young Maasai girl who had been waiting for hours. She hadn’t eaten. She hadn’t moved. She lay in the grass, waiting.

She didn’t complain. She didn’t pout or cry. Her courage in the face of a disease that is killing her was astonishing to me.

She reminded me that we are essentially all waiting for the same thing – she for medications, and I for a cure. We both wait for the suffering to end.

Pray this Christmas season for an end to the suffering. For this little girl and for all the others in the world suffering as she is.

Meredith Bowen is an Episcopal young adult living in Tanzania. She has volunteered in Tanzania with the Rift Valley Childrens Village (an orphanage) as well as with the Anglican Diocese of Mount Kilimanjaro and the Diocese of Tanga. Started the African Orphan Education Fund to award scholarships for secondary school and university.

"A Journey in the "Healing of Memories" -- by Jennifer Lynne Morazes

“Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her” (Isaiah 40:1).

As I previously wrote, I traveled to South Africa this past July to attend an international social work conference and to visit some agencies working with people who are recovering from trauma. One of the places I visited in the Capetown area was the Institute for the Healing of Memories. Shortly after the trip, I was invited to attend one of their trainings in California.

On November 7-8 at the Wright Institute in Berkeley, CA, I attended a “Healing of Memories” workshop led by Fr. Michael Lapsley. Fr. Lapsley – an Anglican priest who is originally from New Zealand - came to South Africa in 1993 and subsequently worked against apartheid with the African National Congress (ANC). He lost both hands and an eye from a letter bomb delivered as a result of his political activities. His “Healing of Memories” work is in part inspired by his personal journey of healing and wholeness. His experience and the experience of those living in South Africa post-apartheid is a reminder that the personal and political intersect in experiences of brokenness as well as of recovery. As the website states about the “Healing of Memories” workshops:


“At the time of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (1996 to 1997), it was obvious that only a minority of South Africans would have the opportunity to tell their story before the Truth Commission. It was argued that platforms needed to be provided for all South Africans to tell their stories and be heard compassionately. The Healing of Memories workshops were run as a parallel process to the Commission - to facilitate reconciliation between the racial groups and to heal psychological wounds, making it possible for individuals to contribute effectively towards the reconstruction of South Africa. The workshops were also used to further support those who became overwhelmed by strong emotions while testifying.”
The workshop in Berkeley occurred three days after car horns, singing and all-night parties marked the historic election of Barack Hussein Obama to the 44th term of the United States’ presidency. As the workshop began, Fr. Lapsley asked our group of twenty assembled to put aside our professional identities for those two days, and to focus on where we personally we required healing. As many of us attending were mental health professionals and healers, it was a challenge to focus only upon ourselves. The first question he asked of the group concerned our reactions to the events of that past week. Yes, it is true that as a group we expressed hope and happiness, but we also expressed fears and anger, particularly over the safety of our President-elect, economic hardships and the passage of Proposition 8.

It was powerful to me how - over those two days - the fears and hopes we talked about personally in our small groups converged with our collective identity. Stories of strained family relationships, economic turmoil, oppression and abuse gave way to conversations about steps for the future. As a nation, we face a similar time: a time which President-elect Obama has described as a “Defining Moment.” We have reached this “defining moment” through a combination of great challenges and the promise of opportunity - a truly Christic moment where the Cross and the Resurrection converge.

The beginning of Advent has started us as Christians on the path again toward Easter. As Fr. Lapsley encouraged us to do in Berkeley, this season is a great opportunity to reflect and to pray. Where can I bring about healing in my own life? What role can I play in the healing of this nation and other nations? As Fr. Lapsley commended to all of us, “The message of the Healing of Memories is to acknowledge that it is time to lay aside that which is destructive, and embrace that which is life-giving.” God, allow us to discern where these areas reside for us, for yes, it is time.

Jenn Morazes is a graduate of Episcopal Divinity School in the area of Theology and Contemporary Society. Currently studying in the School of Social Welfare in the MSW/PhD program at the University of California, Berkeley. Jenn has studied and performed community work in both Mexico and Southern Africa and also participated in the Young Adult Stewards Programme with the World Council of Churches in Geneva, Switzerland. She has also served as an anti-racism trainer for the national Episcopal Church. Her current clinical work and research focuses on the impact of trauma on particular communities locally and internationally, as well as homelessness,wealth distribution and the role of faith communities in social development.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Three weeks. $75,000. Give EGR the resources for a life-changing 2009!

It's crunch-time, folks -- and we need your help.

This week, we are setting a goal of $75,000 raised for EGR by midnight, December 31. We believe in setting big goals when the stakes are high, and they certainly are.

Make your gift to this goal online by clicking here.

Click here to track how we're doing on the way to $75K for EGR

What is at stake? Here's what we're looking at accomplishing in 2009:

*Articulating a clear, prophetic, faithful response for the church in a time of global financial crisis. As always for EGR, this will focus on the practical transformative question of What One Can Do.

*The MDG Mapping Project - an interactive virtual map of all the MDG ministry going on in the Church today.

*The beginnings of a Millennial generation movement for global reconciliation in the Church (a planning team of people between age 16-26 is already meeting online).

*Growing the of the EGR Rule of Life in breadth and depth as a community of spiritual transformation.

We aim to dream dreams worthy of the mission God has given us, and we believe we're doing that here. We're going to need your help in lots of ways to make all these things happen, but right now we need your help raising the money.

Here's what we need you to do:

1. Pray. - This whole movement is fueled by prayer. There is no anxiety about raising this money. If what we do is of God, God will provide for it (though we'll also have to work our tails off, too!). Pray for EGR. Pray for the Church. Pray for God to let you know What One Person (YOU!) Can Do.

2. Make a gift.
- If you haven't given to EGR yet in 2008, please do so. Of course we'd like your gift to be as big as possible, but more than that we want as MANY donors as possible. This is a movement and one of the ways people show ownership in a movement is through giving. So whatever the size, make a gift.

If you've already given, THANK YOU. Please say your prayers and consider another, year-end gift.

Give online by clicking here.


Give through our Facebook cause by clicking here.

Give by check by making it out to EGR and sending it to
EGR, c/o Mike Fitzgerald, EGR accountant
115 Pinewood Avenue
Brandon, FL 33510

3. See who hasn't given - and invite them! - EGR's 2008 donors are now online at http://www.e4gr.org/donors.html sorted by individuals, congregations and dioceses. Check it out and see who is on it ... and who isn't. Is your diocese or congregation on the list? If so, write them a note of appreciation. If not, it's your job to make the invitation (and I'll give you all the help you need). Know people who might give to EGR but aren't on the list ... let 'em know and give them a chance to join the movement!

Remember, you're not "asking," you're INVITING. This is about offering people the chance to do something WONDERFUL with their money -- to be a part of God transforming the Church and through the Church transforming the world. You can't get better bang for your buck than that. I write lots of checks every year, but there is no check I write with more joy than my check to EGR ... because I know my wealth is going toward something great, the mission God gives us and the mission we share.

Thanks so much for all you do. Please let me know how I can help you in this process.

Oh, and if you think $75,000 is an ambitious goal for 3 weeks, consider this:

Last year at this time, we set a goal of raising $40,000 by the end of the year. We raised close to $110,000.

Dream big. God is cheering us on!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

"The voice of One" -- by the Rev. Mike Kinman

John the Baptist said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’” (John 1:23)

What One Can Do. This has been EGR’s mantra from the beginning. It is a statement of hope and conviction. That God acting through one person, one congregation, one diocese, one church, can change and reconcile the world.

What One Can Do is nothing new. John the Baptist in the wilderness claimed it, too. “I am the voice of One,” he said. What the One who was John the Baptist could do was to look around, recognize that he was living in God’s defining moment, and cry out. Cry out the amazing news that another One was coming – and that the time had arrived for everyone to take a good look at themselves and ask not just “What Can One Person … me … Do?” but to dream with joy and wonder, “What Can One Person … me … Be?”

This Advent, we are so much like John. We can look around and realize that the present moment is every bit as much God’s defining moment as that day in Bethany. What will One person … you … do? What will One person … you … cry? Who, with God’s help, will One person .. each of us … become?”

The Rev. Mike Kinman is the Executive Director of Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"A Killer and a Cure" -- by Dr. Josh Ruxin

This December 1st marked the 20th commemoration of World AIDS Day. The international commemoration has perennially been accompanied by new, bleak reports, and bureaucratic hand-wringing over the invariable failure of supply – in the form of drugs, management and financing – to keep up with the needs of the desperately ill around the world. However, this year, there’s actually some rather interesting news.

A new study just released by Harvard shows that President Mbeki has now topped the charts as one of the world’s top killers of all time. His outrageous ignorance and deadly policies resulted in excess deaths of at least 350,000 South Africans. The study does not include the lives lost in other countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa where South Africa’s perspectives are deeply influential. Quantifying the toll of Mbeki’s malfeasance is an important step toward rectifying the challenges in Africa: leadership in the fight against AIDS does make a difference and those who choose not to lead must be identified as collaborators in the killing.

Meanwhile, for the first time since the advent of anti-retroviral therapy and vaccine trials, hope for a cure has emerged. Through a bone marrow transplant, a German scientist has perhaps cleared the first AIDS patient of the virus – quite possibly the first time in human history that a person with AIDS has been effectively freed of the virus. There is nothing easily replicable about this case, but this breakthrough offers a glimmer of hope for what is essential to bring the pandemic to a halt: a cure. Despite nearly a quarter of a century of treatment and research, over 30 million people are currently afflicted with HIV and close to 2 million die from AIDS each year. Most worrisome is the momentum of the pandemic itself: 2008 registered nearly 3 million new cases of the disease, and only a small proportion of them are likely to receive treatment before perishing.

Treatment is an area of notable success in spite of its failure to reach a high proportion of those in need. In 2002, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria was born and the dream of billions for fighting the pandemic became a reality. In 2003, President Bush launched the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to combat global HIV/AIDS – the largest commitment by any nation to combat a single disease in human history. In 2003, approximately 50,000 people in all of Sub-Saharan Africa were receiving anti-retroviral treatment. Today, the Global Fund and PEPFAR support anti-retroviral treatment for nearly 1.7 million people in the region – and tens of thousands more around the world, from Asia to Eastern Europe. Unfortunately, that is still not enough. In June of this past year, a joint WHO/UN Aids report showed that nearly three million people are now receiving anti-retroviral drugs in the developing world, but this is less than a third of the estimated 9.7 million people who need them today (what isn’t stated is those 2/3rds in need will likely die in the next 24 months). We must reach more people and we must do it quickly.

As we see a world-wide recession take root, we have to redouble efforts to raise money for treatment and research. Global surges in poverty are a recipe for increases in diseases like AIDS. Short-term budgetary cuts can have massive and multiplied effect in the public health world: now is the time to increase, not decrease expenditures. For example, we have made remarkable advances in the fight against malaria over the past few years, so much so, that deaths can potentially be eliminated over the next few years with the proper infrastructure and funding. The same could be true for AIDS with the right approach and commitment.

The key to fighting AIDS includes a multi-pronged approach for now.

Private donors and for profit organizations should join in the effort as well. Organizations like MAC AIDS Fund and the Gates Foundation have helped the cause dramatically. There are key roles for players of all sizes. Here are some top recommendations taken from the report of the Global HIV Prevention Working Group:

• National political and public health leaders should develop and implement AIDS strategies and operational plans tailored to the particular dynamics of national epidemics; integrate prevention and treatment services; and increase prevention interventions sufficiently to have measurable impact. Countries scaling-up adult male circumcision – and any other biomedical strategy that proves effective – should combine these efforts with complementary behavior modification campaigns to decrease the risk behavior that can occur when new strategies or tools are introduced.

• International donors should commit to rapidly funding these tailored national HIV prevention programs. Additionally they should make available by 2010 at least $11.9 billion U.S. annually to support scale-up of evidence-based HIV prevention programs as part of a comprehensive response to HIV. Donors should ensure robust financing for community-driven responses that build local civil society capacity and leadership.

• Multilateral and other technical agencies should develop mechanisms to assess the soundness of national HIV prevention strategies, identifying instances where national plans conflict with available evidence about the dynamics of HIV incidence, or where selected prevention strategies are not based on evidence of what is effective with particular populations.

• AIDS activists and other civil society groups should strongly advocate for the simultaneous scaling up of HIV prevention and treatment.

President Bush has committed significant U.S. funds to combat AIDS, and over the next four years, President-elect Obama should dedicate as much, if not more, of the country’s resources to this fight. He should also give due consideration to what worked well in the Bush Administration’s approach and what could have been done more effectively with the same resources. If we’re found simply debating whether we have the means to win the battle, we will find that we have already lost it.

Dr. Josh Ruxin is a Columbia University expert on public health who has spent the last couple of years living in Rwanda, where he administers the Millennium Villages Project in Mayange. He’s an unusual mix of academic expert and mud-between-the-toes aid worker. His regular posts can be found on the blogroll of Nick Kristof of the New York Times, and he has given his permission to be cross-posted here. Josh and EGR executive director Mike Kinman team-teach a global poverty module for Trinity, Wall Street's Clergy Leadership Project.

Monday, December 8, 2008

"Reflection of an Image" -- by Craig Cole

It is Advent and we await the coming of Jesus as a child born into a dirty, smelly manger. It is hard to grasp what that might have been like. I sometimes wonder as a parent of two small children what it might have been like to be Joseph. Would he have been scared about Mary actually delivering the baby without her life being threatened?

Even to this day, mothers in many countries die from complications associated with childbirth. Years ago, I walked into a maternity ward in Haiti and I noticed a few flies hovering above a mother in the corner. As I approached I realized she had recently died. I called the doctor over and he quickly checked her pulse, and then had the nurse cover her face with the sheet and he moved on. I was stunned by his nonchalant attitude. In the states we would have done everything possible to save the mother using the latest in technology. When questioned, the doctor told me that postoperative death is common and he had to tend to the living. Moments later, still in the maternity ward, a nurse in our group came running out with a baby who was turning blue. She raced toward another room where the only available oxygen tank in the whole building could be found. It was 1960s vintage but it worked and the baby lived.

That very night at the hotel, I watched an episode of ER, the television show that depicts an emergency room at a hospital in Chicago. The tragic irony was not lost on me as the doctors raced from room to room trying to save lives.

Childbirth was far from easy in the time of Jesus. And in some places it still is and that’s why to reduce child mortality and improve maternal health are the fourth and fifth Millennium Development Goals. I can imagine Joseph breathing a sigh of relief as the baby Jesus cried out for the first time and Mary had not suffered any ill effects. Even with all the medical facilities we had available at the hospital, I know I breathed easier when the doctors gave the thumbs up!

I wrote these few words soon after my daughter was born almost six years ago. I found them while writing this essay and I thought they might be appropriate at this time of the year.

“I looked into the mirror and it was you who smiled back at me – a smile so wide I almost cried.

The father finds a reflection of himself as he holds his first-born daughter. Only, instead of a tired, unshaven face at 4 a.m., she has wide, innocent eyes that sparkle happiness and joy. What will she become? I ask under the glow of the bathroom light.

It won’t be long until she is standing and looking into the mirror with no one to hold her. Will she see my reflection in herself just like I sometimes see my parents reflected in me?

More importantly, will she know that she is made in God’s image and the beauty she radiates comes from Him?”

Have a blessed Advent and Christmas!

"One Word: Plastics" -- by Reynolds Whalen

I got off a plane in Kigali yesterday after a trip that took 35 hours including layovers. Driving through the city, one of the first things I noticed was the remarkable lack of trash. I believe this can be largely attributed to the Rwandan government's decision to ban plastic bags from the country.

In many parts of nearby Kenya, especially informal settlements and slums, one of the most striking images is streets lined with plastic bags, strewn across roads like carpets whose designs are the art of the nation's waste. Now, Kenya too has banned plastic bags.

Several weeks ago, I watched an independent documentary about an area the size of Texas in the Pacific Ocean known as the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch." Here, plastic floats freely and collects in large, ice berg-type chunks the size of a small car. Gutting a fish or an albatross reveals stomachs lined with plastic bags, wrappers, cellophane, and bits of plastic jugs. The biggest problem, however, is more subtle. Because plastic is non biodegradable, it breaks down smaller and smaller, literally changing the composition of the sea water and poisoning everything with which it has contact.

Perhaps our country too should consider banning plastic in as many forms as possible and using our political clout to encourage others to do the same. As with many issues I have noticed and studied, perhaps we should focus less on what we have to teach Africa and more on what Africa has to teach us.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

"Alleluia! We Messed Up!" -- by the Rev. Mike Kinman

"And there went out to him all the country of Judea, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins." (Mark 1:5)

Confession is a party. At least is was for John the Baptist. And it should be for us.

In this Sunday's Gospel, the people are coming to John looking for a big change in their lives. That's what he was preaching - repentance -- literally a turning around or a changing of mind and heart.

Well, if you're going to turn around, you need not just to know where you're turning to but where you are turning from. And that means confession -- acknowledging all the ways and things we have done that are not who we want to be.

For us, maybe confession brings to mind a small booth with a priest ... or an awkward period of silence before a mumbled group prayer.

Not for John. Not for those people in the Jordan that day.

The Greek word Mark uses for confession is exomologeo, which not only means "saying out loud together" but has connotations of "acknowledging opening AND JOYFULLY!"

Loud, communal, joyful confession.

Sound strange? It shouldn't. The joy of confession is that it liberates us from feeling like we have to hide all the ways we've messed up. It lets us own them and at the same time give them to God. It lets us clear the decks and say we really want things to be different ... and open the door for God to do extraordinary things through us.

The Millennium Development Goals are an amazing dream -- God's dream of global reconciliation -- and also a huge change. And to accomplish them, we must not only look forward but look back. We do have much to confess:

*A world where we're willing to keep Chinese children in factories as long as it means cheap TVs at Wal-Mart.

*A world where we spend enough each year on video games to achieve universal primary education.

*A world where a child dies every 30 seconds of malaria for lack of a $10 bed net.

These are not things to be happy about -- that's not the joy. The joy is that we can confess them ... and we can accept God's forgiveness ... and then we really can turn around, we really can let God change us so we can change the world.

Oscar Wilde said, "Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future." And for us to embrace the amazing future God has in store for us we first must say with the expectant joy of being forgiven, "Alleluia! We messed up."

And then turn around, invite the coming of Christ into our lives, and adventurously embrace what God will do through us next.

The Rev. Mike Kinman is the Executive Director of Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

"MDG #7 - Ensure Environmental Sustainability" -- by John Miers


"After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished,
he said (in order to fulfill the scripture),
'I thirst.'"
John 19:28

Many people are thirsty. Much of our environment is in trouble. Our planet is suffering. What should people do? What should nations do? What should Christians do?

Like the old song reminds us: “Problems, we’ve got problems; we’ve got stacks and stacks of problems…..”

Well, the world has problems, too. Big problems. These problems are bigger than one geographic area – bigger than a city. Larger than a county, state, or even a multi-state area. These problems affect our entire country, our continent, even the whole wide world. What kind of problems? Well, it’s getting warmer, our ice is melting, it is harder to grow stuff, more expensive to move stuff, and the wells are going dry, just to name a few concerns.

This set of problems is like a big mobile, like the one I hang over my patio every spring. It is wide, and has many arms, all delicately balanced, awaiting the slightest breeze. When the breeze comes, and it always does, the mobile swerves, dances, and swings around, always in harmony. But go ahead and pull on one of these arms, and something happens: Almost everything moves, somehow. Yes, it may be possible to affect only one other arm, but that’s very hard to do. Pull on one, and there is a widespread effect. One moves, and then another, and still another. Pretty soon, all are impacted. This movement spreads from one place to another, all around the system.

It’s sometime hard to understand – or even believe – that what you do in Maryland will have an effect on someone in North Dakota, or Somalia, or Venezuela, or even New Zealand. But it will; just like pulling one arm on the mobile.

What we do to preserve our environment will have an effect somewhere, sometime, somehow. These effects are often not easy to discern or to understand. Sometimes they are not economically logical But they usually make sense when you look at the bigger picture, and investigate just what will happen – or what will NOT happen if this action is undertaken. Education and imagination and boldness are all essential.

Sometimes what is done here means that something will NOT have to be done over there, leading to another movement in their arm of the mobile. If you don’t need the paper, maybe a tree in Canada won’t be cut down, and then the wood won’t have to be cut and sawed up. The pulp won’t have to be made into paper, and the wood and the paper won’t have to be shipped thousands of miles. Less energy will be needed, so maybe the electricity generating station won’t need to be started up today, with less coal being burned and less pollution being expelled into the sky. Maybe. Perhaps if it isn’t quite as warm in Nigeria today, someone will not have to buy a coat, and can use that money instead on a goat, which will give milk to his family for years to come. Maybe. Maybe if the coal consumption falls below the “magic level,” a new mine won’t have to be dug. Maybe. All of these are little slivers of “maybes”, but lots of them add up to something significant. Absolutely.

The Christian way does not do things any old way; it seeks to do things “the right way.” We see ourselves as stewards, not just for our immediate relatives, but for the rest of the world, as well as for those who will be future inhabitants. What better way to be “right” than to try to leave things better off than they were when we found them. This is what sustainability is all about. We should not just do things to benefit ourselves, but to also benefit others. The best way to ensure this sustainability is to be careful and judicious in our use of our resources. Using them wisely will mean that there will be more to “go around” and that there will be more available in the future. One of the most exciting and important uses for our modern technology is to allow this wise use to become a way of our lives. We can use less, and we can use things better – things that can be used again, and things that can be easily replaced.

It is amazing how inter-connected we are in “this fragile Earth, our island home.” That is to be discussed next month, when I turn to MDG 8, which is “Create a Global Partnership for Development.”

John Miers is from Bethesda, Maryland, where he was employed at the National Institutes of Health from 1968 to 2005. He serves on the board of St. Luke’s House, a halfway house for persons recovering from mental illness and also serves as Jubilee Officer for the Diocese of Washington. He was a member of National Commission on Science, Technology and Faith for the Episcopal Church and is active in his local church, where he is in the choir, worship committee, pastoral care committee, and the prayer team, and he also visits patients in a local hospital on behalf of the Chaplain.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Rowan Williams' World AIDS Day Video

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams has recorded a video message to mark the 20th annual World AIDS Day today.



The video sees the Archbishop talk about the Church's worldwide involvement in care and education surrounding HIV and AIDS, and calls for faith leaders to 'encourage and support' what is being done by listening to those who work on the front lines.

There are currently 30 million people worldwide living with HIV.

He says "Our hope and our prayer today is that the excellent work that's done, not just in developing countries but here at home too by the Churches will continue and deepen and be strengthened by our prayer and our commitment."

"Recognising that people living with HIV is us not them, whether it's leaders and congregations, congregations and 'outsiders' - it's us. It's all of our business...Church leaders and Church congregations taking responsibility for educating the wider public."

In the video Dr Williams speaks with representatives from Tearfund, Christian Aid, NAHIP and African HIV Policy Network, Zimbabwe Womens Network UK and Rise Community Action.

This video, along with all other Lambeth Palace videos, can be viewed at the Lambeth Palace YouTube channel - http://youtube.com/lambethpress

If you would like to find out about some of the ways Anglican organisations are seeking to combat HIV and support and empower those living with HIV, please see the links below:

Australian Board of Mission - Fighting For Life: STOPAIDS and the Anglican Church in PNG

CHAA - The Christian HIV/AIDS Alliance - CHAA has initiated a Creed for the AIDS pandemic suitable to be read in church services for World AIDS day or any other occasion when the pandemic is remembered.

USPG - Projects: Action on HIV

See also - AngliCORD, Episcopal Relief and Development, The Primate's World Relief and Development Fund, Christian Aid, CMS Britain, CMS Ireland

Sunday, November 30, 2008

"The Best Buy in Public Health" -- by Dr. Josh Ruxin

During this time of appallingly bad buys in the stock market, I thought it might be worth taking a look at an area where there are still colossally good buys to be had. A study published this month examines the impact of the World Health Organization’s “Global Programme to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis.” Amazingly, 20 percent of the world’s residents (1.3 billion people) are at risk from the disease, which is transmitted through mosquito bites. Nearly 120 million are currently infected and 40 million are seriously debilitated by the disease. In the past seven years, the WHO program saved an astonishing 32 million DALYs (Disability Adjusted Life Years – the gold standard for a public health intervention). That includes 6.6 million children who never got the disease thanks to treatment and another 9.5 million infected patients spared from its more debilitating effects. You can therefore imagine why lymphatic filariasis treatment and prevention has been called a best buy in public health.

Don’t feel too bad if you don’t know what lymphatic filariasis is. Commonly known as elephantitis, it is one of a suite of lesser-known ailments that includes schistosomiasis, trachoma, leprosy, and soil-transmitted helminths, which affect billions of people in South America, Africa, India and Southeast Asia. Elephantitis is among the most grotesque and terrifying of the diseases, though relatively easy to treat and prevent.

Though massively widespread, the neglected tropical diseases can be defeated with a more modest investment than it takes to fight pandemics like AIDS and tuberculosis. Ironically, because they are less well-known and potentially easier to fight than more well-publicized scourges, they have always been shunted off to the side of the global public health agenda – so much so that this has given them their name: neglected tropical diseases.

Fighting these diseases is a challenge, but it also represents an enormous opportunity, one that we can’t afford to miss. Gains made against AIDS and TB are often made “uphill.” We can get medication and treatment to those suffering from HIV/AIDS, but what good is that if patients are suffering from other disorders that reduce the effectiveness of that medical attention? Further, the treatment of these diseases requires more follow-up and attention than the fight against neglected tropical diseases.

Both the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified these diseases as “targets of opportunity” in the battle to improve global health. Thankfully, efforts against some of these diseases are not just gearing up, they are gaining significant traction.

This success is the product of what’s been called the most rapid scale-up of a drug program in the history of public health. It could also become the largest program of its kind in public health history: so far, over 1.9 billion drug treatments have been administered to more than 570 million people in 48 countries.

This program shows what’s possible when the funding needed to fight these neglected-though-conquerable diseases is put into the hands of organizations that have the will to use it effectively. This kind of program is vitally important, because it’s so unlike what we’re used to seeing. This isn’t an effort to mitigate the effects of a disease, and it isn’t finding the cause of a disease. If followed through to completion, it is nothing less than the complete eradication of a disease. Lymphatic filariasis could go from being a threat to more than a billion people to being simply an interesting epidemiological footnote in a few years.

Given the success against this one neglected tropical disease, we shouldn’t hesitate taking on the rest. Beating these diseases is within our grasp, and it could be the most cost-effective investment we’ll ever make in global public health.

Dr. Josh Ruxin is a Columbia University expert on public health who has spent the last couple of years living in Rwanda, where he administers the Millennium Villages Project in Mayange. He’s an unusual mix of academic expert and mud-between-the-toes aid worker. His regular posts can be found on the blogroll of Nick Kristof of the New York Times, and he has given his permission to be cross-posted here. Josh and EGR executive director Mike Kinman team-teach a global poverty module for Trinity, Wall Street's Clergy Leadership Project.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"Background on Obama's Economic Team" -- by Chris Scott, The ONE Campaign

Today's post is cross-posted from the ONE Campaign Blog.

This week, President-elect Barack Obama is rolling out an economic team that will serve in his administration during a time of global financial distress. Two of his appointments announced yesterday bring with them strong backgrounds on global development policy. Here are some brief bios on each of them:

Mr. Timothy Geithner, appointment for Treasury Secretary, has supported initiatives to provide vaccines for children dying of preventable diseases, worked to lessen the burden on countries with significant debt, and advocated for the U.S. to fund basic health care to immunize, prevent and treat infectious diseases in the poorest countries. He is currently the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Formerly, he served at the Treasury Department and as a senior official at the International Monetary Fund.

Mr. Lawrence Summers, appointment for head of the National Economic Council, has worked to achieve debt cancellation for developing countries and promoted policies that will make education available for African women. He served as a member of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Reagan and as a Chief Economist for the World Bank before taking posts in the United States Department of the Treasury. He served as the U.S. treasury secretary from 1999 to 2001.

You can find more information about President-elect Obama’s economic team here.

And check out the Center for Global Development’s take on the appointments here.

Monday, November 24, 2008

What's YOUR faithful response to God's defining moment?

Make no mistake, EVERY moment can be God's defining moment ... but there are moments we become more aware of that possibility. They are usually moments where our foundations are shaken, where the things that make us feel secure are stripped away, where we realize how much we really cannot make it on our own, and how much we really need each other ... and God.

The world will call these moments of crisis, moments of fear. But for us, Christ's Church, they are moments of opportunity. They are moments of chaos and uncomfortability where if we respond out of faith and not out of fear, we can let God use us to tranform the world.

We're in one of those moments right now. A global economic system based on hyperconsumption is predictably collapsing under its own weight. Decades of going into debt trying to find meaning through buying more and using income growth as the only measure of progress has led us to the brink not just of economic collapse but spiritual poverty.

It is a moment of crisis. It is a moment of fear. But more than that, it is a moment of great opportunity. This is God's defining moment. And we cannot be silent.

We are all crew of the Ship of Fools that is the Church ... and it's time for all hands on deck.

At Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation's board meeting last week, what emerged through our prayer and conversation was not a new mission for EGR ... but a focus for that mission. Our opportunity -- and that means you -- is to lead the Church in grasping this moment of economic crisis as God's defining moment, a moment where we don't run in fear from the shaking of the foundations but stand fearlessly firm and proclaim the Good News that what can rise from this is a world not of not riches for the few but abundant life for all.

What does that look like? That's where we need your help. That's where we need all hands on deck. We need you to pray, study, dream, think, discuss, experiment, create ... use all the gifts God has given you to discern what a faithful response to this defining moment in time might be.

This includes, but is not limited to:

*Practical, simple, actions and choices we can make as individuals, families, congregations, dioceses and as a Church to reject the call to fear and step out in faith for a world where "all may have life and have it in all its fullness."

*Educational and programmatic responses for our communities that can open our eyes to the theological reality and opportunity of this defining moment.

*Creative expression (music, painting, scultpture, poetry, whatever your media might be) that can engage people in Christ's presence in this moment and Christ's call to us in the midst of it.

*Papers or shorter musings on the theological and scriptural foundations for an economic system that benefits all humanity.

*Opportunities for building global relationship that can be transformative.

*Things you have tried -- whether you think they have worked or not -- to try to live faithfully in this time of crisis and opportunity.

Share any and all of these things -- and anything else that addresses what a faithful response to God's defining moment of now might be -- with us by sending them to EGR at MKinman@gmail.com. In turn, we will do what EGR does ... take the wisdom God has given you and make it available to all.

It is time for all hands on deck. And that means you are a critical part of figuring out what God is calling us to do and who God is calling us to be in this defining moment. We can't wait to see what happens next!

Friday, November 21, 2008

"Financial crisis, spiritual crisis" -- by the Micah Challenge

Today's post is from the Micah Challenge, a global Christian campaign to achieve the MDGs. Part of their mission is a weekly prayer emailing like the one you see below. You can receive it in your email box every week send a blank email to regine.nagel@micahchallenge.org with the words 'subscribe prayer' in the subject line.

‘This financial crisis is a major spiritual crisis. It is the crisis of a society that worships at the temples of consumption, and that has isolated and often abandoned millions of consumers now trapped on a treadmill of debt….
It is the crisis of a society that values the capital gains of the rentier more highly than the rights of people to a home, or an education or health. And it is a crisis, in my view, for faith organizations that have effectively colluded in this idolatry, by tolerating the sin of usury.’
Ann Pettifor, a long-term campaigner on debt and economic justice issues, looks back to church history in the 1500’s to discussions about acceptable interest rates and lending practices.

The Old Testament calls people who lend freely and with generosity righteous and blessed which is confirmed by Jesus. (Lev. 25; Deut.15; Ps.37; Ps 112; Luke 6).

In Matthew 21:12-13 Jesus deals harshly with money changers in the temple.
‘Jesus went straight to the Temple and threw out everyone who had set up shop, buying and selling. He kicked over the tables of loan sharks and the stalls of dove merchants. He quoted this text:

My house was designated a house of prayer;
You have made it a hangout for thieves.

Now there was room for the blind and crippled to get in. They came to Jesus and he healed them.’ (Matthew 21:12-14 – The Message)
Prayer

Let us pray:

*Ann writes that restoration comes if social values are considered ‘more noble than mere monetary profits’. Let us pray that we can have an attitude of nobility and generosity.
*We pray for a world in turmoil.
‘We reaffirm our faith in God and acknowledge that He is in control. We repent when we have placed our trust in money, institutions and persons, rather than God. Our security is not found in the things of this world.

We pray that God will honour those attempts to address the financial crisis. We call on governments, institutions and individuals to honour their commitments and, in particular, to work to limit the impact of the crisis on the most vulnerable.

This crisis requires us to pull together as a community, to pray for one another, to care for those in need, and to model good stewardship in our spheres of influence.

We encourage Evangelicals to show leadership in caring for the poor, calling for the necessary reforms needed to addresses the crisis and the practices that caused it, and be prophetic in challenging the structures and practices that are incompatible with good stewardship of the resources entrusted to each and all of us. We must live simply and be generous.

May God give us wisdom.’
Excerpt from the WEA GA Statement on the Economic Crisis

* Reflecting on the statistic below: Lord, we acknowledge the complexity of the economic systems within countries and between nations.

We pray against greed of individuals and businesses. We pray for a sense of justice and great wisdom for those who have responsibility in financial institutions and over country budgets.
Meditate on the Statistics

As you spend time in prayer and reflection, you may like to take a moment to silently understand with your heart the focus statistic we include each week (see below). Our hope is that you will find this series of statistics a useful resource in preparing presentations.

Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development
Target 12: Develop further an open, rule-based, predictable, non-discriminatory trading and financial system

‘The global food crisis is partly the result of domestic agricultural subsidies and tariff protection by developed countries, which for many years have discouraged agricultural production in developing countries.

Developed countries’ total support to their own domestic agricultural sectors grew by some $65 billion between 2000 and 2004, before being cut by $16billion in 2006. Nevertheless, at $372 billion, such expenditures remained more than three times higher than the official development assistance of developed countries.

The support provided by developed countries to their own agricultural sector has continued at a time when developing countries have been encouraged to end all public support to their agriculture. This acts as a disincentive to agricultural production in developing regions and undermines official development assistance’s broad objective of supporting development.’

Source: Millennium Development Goals Report, United Nations, September 2008

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

"Trickle-down Hell" -- by the Rev. Lauren Stanley

By the Rev. Lauren R. Stanley

“The Dow Jones fell 5 percent today …”
“Markets in Asia plummeted on news of …”
“Foreclosures hit a new high in …”

The credit crisis dominates our lives right now. Every day, there is more bad economic news, so much of which can be traced straight back to pure greed.

The subprime mortgage crisis set off much of the trouble here in the United States, both the selling of these mortgages to people who were not qualified financially, and the subsequent bundling and selling of these risky loans as investments.

One thing led to another, and voila! We have a recession that is spreading around the world in record time, threatening another Great Depression.

The crime in all this is the greed behind all of it. Not the greed of those who wanted to own their own homes; for the most part, many of the people who took these loans simply wanted a shot at the American Dream, and far too many of them were misled by those giving the loans. No, the greed here lies with those who made the loans knowing that they were predatory, and who then bundled them into investments wherein the investors were, seemingly cavalierly, gambling wildly with people’s lives.

Talking with some friends about this recently, I pointed out the worst tragedy of all:

Those who will suffer the most are those who are in the most need.

How so, my friends asked.

Well, if everyone in this country, the richest in the world, is worried about their money, never mind losing it hand over fist, if they fear for their jobs and their homes, they won’t be able to help those most in need. So the people with whom I serve in Sudan are going to be hurt the hardest.

How can I continue to buy medicine for people, for the women and children, with malaria and typhoid and diarrhea, the three biggest killers in Africa, if people in the United States aren’t able to help? I don’t buy medicine in Renk with my own money – I don’t have it. As a missionary of the Episcopal Church, I don’t receive much in the way of salary; in fact, what I receive actually doesn’t cover my expenses over there, never mind expenses in this country when I am here.

I receive money for medicine from generous churches, friends, family and strangers in this country. I take that money with me and invest it – yes, invest it – in the lives of those who aren’t even on the economic ladder, who have no way to buy desperately needed medicines to save the lives of their families.

All of that money comes from donations.

But … if in these dire economic times people here are worried, are scared, about their own futures, they won’t be able to help secure the future of those far away.

And that’s the real crime of this economic mess.

Those at the top of the economic ladder are suffering losses in their portfolios. Suddenly, they are worth a whole lot less than they were before. Whether that qualifies as suffering, I don’t know. I’ve never been that high on the ladder, and while I understand their anxieties, having that much money, never mind losing a huge chunk of it, is beyond my ken.

Those standing on the middle rungs are clinging to them tightly, knowing that one small misstep will hurt them dramatically. They worry about paying off bills, education for their children, mortgages, jobs … and they are the ones who are retrenching, cutting back on eating out, on Christmas gifts, on anything they can. They are the ones who normally give to those in need … and that giving is already plummeting as they strive to protect their own. Their needs and fears I understand completely, since I used to belong to that class myself. And I don’t like asking for money from folks who need it for themselves.

And then there are those who are already on the bottom rung, the ones who could barely make things work even in the best of times, the ones who each month have to balance paying bills vs. buying food for their children. They don’t have health care and live in true fear of illness. They also are the ones who give most generously – always, it is the poor who share the most – but now, they are in desperate, desperate shape, and I absolutely refuse to take money from them. No, they can’t really fall farther down the ladder, but they are close to falling off the ladder, and I will not jeopardize them.

All of which means that the people who need help most desperately, the poor all over the world who aren’t even on the economic ladder and who have no ability to make it on their own because there is no stability where they live, well … they are literally out of luck. What little help they’ve been getting probably will dry up. New donors will be hard to find. And so these people will continue to suffer, and their suffering will get worse, and there’s not going to be much that can be done about it.

All because someone somewhere decided to gamble, not with his or her own money, but with the money and lives of others, not thinking about the trickle-down hell into which so many would be thrown.

In the old days, most of those who invested funds did so by combining their own money with that of investors big and small. So the men in charge of all this investing actually had a stake in what they were doing. That made them, it seems, more conservative and a whole lot more caring. Now, the money managers get their fees and their exorbitant salaries and go before Congress crying about how they have been hurt by the losses and how they absolutely deserve every cent of their enormous paychecks and benefits … and not once – not once – do they talk about the hardest-hit, the ones suffering from their flawed policies of greed.

There’s very little justice in trickle-down economics.

There is no justice in trickle-down hell.

The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley is an Appointed Missionary of the Episcopal Church serving in the Diocese of Renk, Sudan. She is a lecturer at the Renk Theological College, teaching Theology, Liturgy, Biblical Greek and English, and serves as chaplain for the students.

Monday, November 17, 2008

"Our Moonshot" -- by Elaine Thomas

There are two seemingly disparate strands running through my mind these days, but I think some sort of connection is actually there. The first thought is of my niece, Suzannah, who recently returned from a two-year stint as a Peace Corps volunteer in Niger. She primarily worked with the women on health and economic empowerment. In this heavily Muslim country, empowerment of women is a daunting, if not impossible, task. In her first months in Niger, Suzannah was convinced that she would never learn to speak or understand Hausa yet is fluent upon leaving the country. Her genuine compassion and concern for the women of her village is just what the impoverished countries of sub-Saharan Africa need. Not someone to tell them what to do but just to be there, helping connect them with resources they need to climb out of the poverty trap.

However, Suzannah will not be going back to Africa. There was a time when she was pretty convinced that she would go into international development work as her parents had before her. But now, she says she’ll probably stay in the States, devoting herself to women’s issues here.

What happened? Why the change of heart? Shortly after her return to the US, she met up with a woman who had served in Niger twenty years ago. Although they were in different villages, as they compared notes it dawned on Suzannah that the things she was doing and the issues the people of Niger face have not changed in those twenty years. Aid organizations might as well have saved their time, money and energy for all the results they produced. Disheartened, this good and talented young woman will not return to the continent that so desperately needs people just like her.


The other thought occupying my mind? The video from the village of Kogelo, Kenya, Barack Obama’s ancestral home, on the eve of his election as President of the United States. The unbridled joy of these people that one of their own could ascend to the most powerful position on the face of the earth was thrilling to witness. As media reports poured in from around the world, it was abundantly clear that the American voters sent a very clear message to the world about the kind of country we are and intend to be, reclaiming our role as the land where tired, poor and huddled masses are welcome and as a symbol of justice and liberty throughout the world. The hope right now is palpable.

So I think that I can connect the two strands of thought. Where once things did not change or improve, maybe, just maybe things might be different. Maybe, just maybe, the new administration will live out its promises to support the MDGs with full financial commitment, not just words. Maybe, just maybe, we can say to the people of Kogelo, Kenya or Konni, Niger that we share a common humanity and live out those words in action. It’s clear that much of the development money of the past has not been utilized appropriately or effectively. That doesn’t mean that we stop trying. Surely in this time of renewed hope, we can dedicate ourselves as a country to finally making a real difference in helping those in extreme poverty climb onto solid footing.

On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy issued his man-on-the-moon challenge:

I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.
There are those who say we need to issue a similar challenge to address global climate change.

Well, I’d like to make another proposal.
I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, before this decade is out, assuring that every man, woman, and child on this planet has the resources and capabilities to be self-supporting, free of preventable disease, with access to education and economic opportunity.
Someone tell Mr. Obama.