Too poor to survive and too rich to be supported
In my latest Swaziland newsletter which you can read here, I make mention of the strange contradiction when those in high places consider which countries should receive foreign aid.
Extreme poverty is defined by the World Bank as someone receiving less than $2 (US) per day – that’s $60 per month or around 450 Emalangeni (the Swazi currency). It is said that around 67% of Swaziland’s population not only receive less than $2 per day, but receive less than 45 cents (US) per day – that’s about 100 Emalangeni per month. To give you an idea how much this is worth, we bought all the volunteers in our Home-Based Caring project a food parcel for Christmas, consisting of a small bag of rice, a small bag of sugar, a packet of tea bags, six candles, a bar of soap and a small tin of fish. This worked out at slightly less than 100 Emalangeni as we were able to negotiate a discount due to the number of items we had bought. And did I mention that around 40% of the population are unemployed?
Seemingly this situation isn’t bad enough yet. In spite of the conditions under which the largest part of the population have to live, Swaziland cannot be categorised as a low income country by the World Bank. The reason: The average income of the population is too high. Certainly, Swaziland does have a number of extremely affluent people, such as certain farmers, businessmen and people with profitable enterprises. But their wealth is doing very little to better the life situation of those receiving little or no money. You should read the full report on this situation here.
What annoys me the most about this situation is that people make decisions about others while sitting in air-conditioned boardrooms, relaxing in chauffeur-driven limousines or while flying from one place to another in a luxury jet. It becomes so easy to become totally blind for the real needs of people if you have never been exposed to their actual living conditions.
Bob Roberts wrote something really amazing on his blog today. In this post, which he calls Big Brains of Energy Drains, he invites people to join him in experiencing what is really happening in the lives of other people: Got an idea – what if we had a change the world conference – we go and work for 1 week on a huge garbage dump – miles of it – in Jakarta and we work with the people who live there, serve them, and in the evenings debrief? Oh, oh, oh – there are parts of Sudan we could go to and do the same – what say ye? It won’t be entertaining, you will get sick – but you won’t die though you may feel like it – we will not give in to your whining – It would be an energy drain – but only physically – spiritually and for the people you serve it would be huge blessing – any takers?
What happens in boardrooms around the world happens in conference rooms in churches as well. We lose our focus for the world because we are never exposed to what is really going on in other communities. So perhaps I need to echo what Bob Roberts said: What about spending time in the homes of the sick and the dying in Swaziland instead of going on a luxury holiday? Isn’t that what Jesus may have done if He had been living as a human Person on earth today?
Tuesday, January 29, 2008 - Posted by Arnau van Wyngaard | Bob Roberts, Church, Comfort Zone, Cross-cultural experiences, Culture Shock, HIV & AIDS, Home-based Caring, Meetings, Mission, Poverty, Short-term outreaches, Social issues, Support teams, Swaziland, Theology
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This is a blog where I would like to share some of my ideas about contemporary mission. I have more than 25 years experience as a full-time missionary in Swaziland, have done a PhD on the theology of mission – specifically on the relationship between mission and eschatology – and am presently specialising in the problem of HIV/AIDS and how the church should approach this problem. You are welcome to respond and share your ideas on this blog.
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