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The meeting of the wealthy leaders of the eight richest or, at least, the eight most influential, countries in the world, the so-called G8, outside the Scottish capital, Edinburgh, is about to take place. It had led to a string of televised concerts by millionaire pop musicians around the world, known as ‘Live 8’. The organizers of these concerts, watched, it is claimed, by billions, wish to draw attention to the plight of debt-ridden African countries. Indeed, there is at present a campaign known as ‘Make Poverty History’, which is calling on rich Western countries to write off African debt. This campaign is very strongly supported by Protestant groups.

From an Orthodox Christian viewpoint this is in itself a good cause. And yet it is also a somewhat strange cause. For in the Gospels our Lord says: ‘For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good’ (Mark 14,7). In other words, however regrettable it is, there will always be poor people all over the world. And we do not need political leaders to meet, or rock groups to perform, in order for us to do the poor good.

If we could first accept the clear implication of our Lord’s words in the Scriptures, that poverty will never become history, perhaps then we could ask ourselves why this is so. In doing this, we might find some real answers to our questions. After all, Africa is a rich Continent and over the last fifty years huge amounts of money have been invested and donated in Africa. Why is Africa therefore still debt-ridden and poor?

It is notable that there always seems to be enough money in Africa for guns. Always enough for wars. Always enough to ensure that the wars cause atrocious famines. Always enough for the amoral and immoral to spread the pandemic of AIDS and create millions of poverty-stricken orphans. Always enough for African dictators and their cronies to have bulging bank accounts in Europe. The current examples in the Sudan, in the Congo and Zimbabwe suffice to prove the case.

In other words, poverty is not the reason for the undoubted plight of most ordinary Africans, for whom we can only have compassion. Poverty is merely a symptom, a consequence of something much more profound. We would encourage all who are concerned with the plight of Africa, especially those demonstrating Protestant groups, who have inherited a burden of post-colonial guilt, to be more radical, to be more Scriptural, in searching for solutions.

By all means, let us make charitable donations to Africans. This can only benefit our souls. But let us put aside the superficial and unscriptural slogan ‘Make Poverty History’. Let us rather adopt the far more radical and far more Scriptural slogan: ‘Make Sin History’. For, however politically incorrect it may be, making sin history is the only way in which poverty and corruption and wars and AIDS and all the other failings of Africa and the whole world, can become history.

Fr Andrew

19 June/2 July 2005
The Apostle Jude
St John the Wonderworker

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