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Embarking Blog

...on the journey towards restoration of all things

Filtering by Tag: Poverty

Andrew Rugisara: Aid vs. Trade #tls09

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These are some of my notes from the second part of the fifth session of the Willow Creek Leadership Summit.

What comes to mind when you hear the word "Africa"?  HIV?  AIDS?  Poverty?
We need to change the the narrative, deconstruct the narrative about Africa.
  • "I see opportunity, a continent of 900 million people."
  • Trade is the only sustainable way to bring a community out of poverty
  • We need to trade our communities out of poverty
  • Africa contributes just 2% to world trade
  • Since 1970 Africa has received 400 billion from the US.
  • Countries will make Aid 40% of the national budget, thus undermining self-sustainability.
  • Africa  is a place of opprotunity, new markets
  • We don't want charity, we want market share
  • Aid was at its highest in 1995 and the GDP was at its lowest
  • Aid becomes a kind of remote control of african economy through aid
  • In the last 1o years, Aid has increased dramatically while GDP in Africa has decreased.  When Aid was the lowest, GDP was the highest and vice-versa.
  • Aid undermines accountability.
  • When Aid comes into the country, they reprioritize their focus on management of Aid rather than on development and self-sustenance.

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Regress on Hunger

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Instead of making progress on hunger globally, indicators show that the hunger crisis around the world is increasing - one out of every 6 people.  Take a look at these statistics (for more information, read this article or this one:

  • World hunger is projected to reach a historic high in 2009 with 1,020 million people going hungry every day.
  • “A dangerous mix of the global economic slowdown combined with stubbornly high food prices in many countries has pushed some 100 million more people than last year into chronic hunger and poverty,” said FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf.
  • The number of hungry people increased between 1995-97 and 2004-06 in all regions except Latin America and the Caribbean. But even in this region, gains in hunger reduction have been reversed as a result of high food prices and the current global economic downturn.
  • The urban poor will probably face the most severe problems in coping with the global recession, because lower export demand and reduced foreign direct investment are more likely to hit urban jobs harder. But rural areas will not be spared. Millions of urban migrants will have to return to the countryside, forcing the rural poor to share the burden in many cases.
  • While food prices in world markets declined over the past months, domestic prices in developing countries came down more slowly. They remained on average 24 percent higher in real terms by the end of 2008 compared to 2006. For poor consumers, who spend up to 60 percent of their incomes on staple foods, this means a strong reduction in their effective purchasing power. It should also be noted that while they declined, international food commodity prices are still 24 percent higher than in 2006 and 33 percent higher than in 2005.
  • The number of hungry has increased from 825 million people in 1995-97, to 857 million in 2000-02 and 873 million in 2004-06.

I'm saddened that in a world with such forward thinking, progress, innovation, resources, and abilities that hunger worldwide continues to be on the increase.  What's interesting to me (among a lot of things) is the interaction between poverty, globalism, trade, and their relationship to security.  Often we seem so concerned about security, and yet we miss the potential problem with such glaring numbers of people in poverty.  I don't want, though, to regress to merely caring for the poor and hungry because we're afraid they might revolt against global consumerism (and hence global consumerists), and I would hope that we could find it in our hearts to actually care for the poor and hungry who are our fellow human beings - our brothers and sisters.

A good and challenging Christian book that looks at issues of poverty, greed, globalism, and security  and asks some great questions (not so sure about the answers) is Brian McLaren's Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crisis, and a Revolution of Hope.


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Make Poverty Personal

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I recently re-read an old article written in The Other Side that I read back in 2000 written by Shane Claiborne.  At that time, I didn't know who he was and it was only later that I would re-discover Claiborne and the New Monasticism and my affinities with much of their thinking and then get the chance to hang and talk with him a bit last year up north.  Anyway, the article, "Downward Mobility in an Upscale World" is a great article that I shared back then with a bunch of college students to get at the importance of being missional in a truly incarnational way, rather than merely being charitable.  Though, as a friend of mine says, Claiborne articulates an overly naive view of how the economy works in this article (remember how young he was at the time), he gets at something deeply difficult for so many of us - being with the poor.  (PS, this article from long ago probably also inspired 3 previous posts Downward MobilityDownward Mobility 2, and Downward Mobility 3 from 2007). I recently read a great book by Ash Barker called "Make Poverty Personal" (preface by Claiborne) that hits on some similar themes.  Allow me here to quote a few from the forward:

I am convinced that the tragedy in the church is not that rich folks don't care about poor folks, but that rich folks don't know poor folks.  Amid all the campaigns, issues, slogans, and political agendas, perhaps the deepest hunger in the world is: "Make Poverty Personal"  The prophet Amos cries out that if our faith does not bring justice flowing like a river, then we should cease the clamor of all our religious festivals and gatherings and songs, for they are noise in God's ears (Amos 5:21-24).  And lest we let the liberals off the hook, I've met plenty of progressive "social justice" types who have shown that it is very easy to live a life of socially-conscious comfort that is compartmentalized and detached from any true relationships with the poor.  Mother Teresa once said, "It is very fashionable to talk about the poor... unfortunately it is not as fashionable to tlak to the poor." [p. 11]

As so many missional minded Christians and Churches are now embarking on new campaigns of social justice and seeking to make a difference in global, urban, rural and even suburban poverty, it is important to make poverty personal and not a project.  As a pastor in a church making a missional turn, I am convicted once again of the importance of incarnational ministry and that neither I, my church, nor any program or amount of dollars will be anyone's savior, but that relationship, incarnation, brotherhood, solidarity and personal identification not only with the poor, exploited, and marginalized, but with my own poverty, exploitation and marginalization and with how I bear the responsibility for having benefited from a being part of a system that has impoverished, exploited, and marginalized.

I think often back to my days in political theory and concepts of alienation and dehumanization at the hands of the socialist and totalitarian revolutions which I studied in those days.  I am beginning to realize how much our current systems of life dehumanize and alienate not only others, us as well.  

Jesus came to bring life, and life to the full.  Blessed are those who walk in the ways of Jesus.  I pray that I will have the guts to follow him into a deeper incarnational living.

By the way, some recommendations:


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