Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Graft: Top Leaders Look The Other Way!

There is an interesting heading on the East African Standard that says “Graft: Top leaders look the other way” http://www.eastandard.net/politics/InsidePage.php?id=1144001288&cid=289&

I am of the opinion that corruption, poverty and the poor in Africa pose a tremendous danger to the security of the world today than some of the previously perceived enemies of world peace. I fully agree with those who have asserted that the most potentially explosive force in the world today is the frustrated desire of poor people to attain a decent standard of living. I speak as an African who has experienced both poverty and affluence. I grew up in poverty. I have worked in the slums and I have had the opportunity of visiting different parts of Africa and the Western world where I have experienced the two contrasting lifestyles-poverty and affluence.

In a 1992 address, former U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali stated that the deepest causes of conflict are "economic despair, social injustice, and political oppression”. I was a student at that time so I started to examine his statement from a theological and social point of view. Later on I discovered that I needed to examine it from an economic view point and I have been doing that for some time now.

By choosing to ignore the deteriorating economic state of most Africans, the religious bodies in general and the developed countries in particular, may in essence be mistaken to be endorsing the plight of the poor as a noble affair. If this matter is not addressed adequately, it could also enhance the conception by many people that the Gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ is irrelevant to the modern person. Or that God is dead, as some erroneous thinkers like Friedrich Nietzsche have claimed in the past. Let me hasten to add that I have keenly analyzed what the world leaders like former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George W. Bush together with their colleagues from the developed countries have done to reduce the debt that African countries owe to the Western financial institutions and nations, but I believe that a lot more needs to be done collectively if poverty in Africa is to be eliminated.

I am convinced that the religious bodies and the Free Society institutions are in possession of the most effective remedy for a holy and equitable reconstruction of the economic order in Africa, which as to force, comprehensiveness and results is unsurpassed. The remedy is the unabridged and unmutilated message of personal virtues, when applied, not only to the individual, but also to all and every relation of social life. This will address the moral issue which is at the core of Africa’s economic woes. If the African leaders were to have their morals refined so that they respect and live virtuous lives, corruption would become history on the continent of Africa within months and the economies of most African countries would begin to grow tremendously.

I am fully convinced that the key to the rejuvenation of the African economies lies in the stakeholder’s formulation, implementation and evaluation of economic policies and strategies both at the local and national levels. I am fully convinced that the stakeholders (Government, private and civil society organizations) in Africa must be strongly concerned and involved in every charitable endeavor that is predisposed to improve humanity’s welfare not merely in its way to paradise, but also in its hunt for happiness, holiness, harmony and joy here on earth. I disagree with those who propagate a futuristic Gospel which calls on the African people to suffer just for a little while for they are going to enjoy in heaven.

It is my strong call to religious people to have the courage to seek economic justice for the poor, even if that means disapproval by those in positions of authority. This is where I fully concur with one Mohandas Karamchand Mahatma Gandhi. Let them torture your body, break your bones or even kill you, but do not compromise human dignity for anything!

I also fully believe that it is time for the religious organizations in Africa to acquaint themselves on available and productive economic intervention measures. The Rev. Todt once said, whoever would understand the social question and would contribute to its solution must have on his right hand the works of political economy; on his left those of scientific socialism and before him must keep the New Testament.

I can only add to Rev. Todt’s statement that such a person should have the Old Testament too because it contains valuable insights on economic justice issues. Until now, the religious organization’s approach to social and economic justice challenges has been pitiable and disappointing. Dietrich Bonhoeffer's important question still echoes in many of our minds when we think of the issue of economic justice in Africa. Dietrich like many African scholars today, ask, who and where is Jesus Christ for us today?

Dietrich may have lived at a time of great persecution in his native land, Germany, but many in Africa today still identify with him when it comes to economic deprivation. So as one preaches and teaches about a God who listens to the cries of His people, many Africans must be wondering who and where that Jesus Christ is for them today.

I am constantly irritated when so much phony socio-economic knowledge and strategy for African modernization is presented to Africans. The religious bodies in Africa find themselves immersed in a swimming pool of challenges that Africa has never been confounded with before. This is why I feel that the subject of faith and economic systems deserves individual treatment in the wider context of international planning, strategizing, formulation, implementation and evaluation of economic growth policies. How I wish our institutions of higher learning would revise their curriculums and address this crucial need.

We who are in institutions that are advocating and fighting for a free society see that the opportunity to be in this world in this century presents us and the religious bodies with equally a colossal advantage and a challenge like has never been perceived by any other generation past. It is a difficult but great era with multitudes of opportunity for bettering the well being of mankind. We observe that human kind is transiting through another of its historical crises on its frontward march on the road to a more ideal spiritual, social and economic order.

I always feel bad when people, especially politicians in my own mother country think that neither the religious books nor the religious bodies have an authority on the particulars of supporting economy, lawmaking and business methods. This is something that ought to be straightened by all means. Both the religious bodies and their faiths must tell the humankind by what standard he should be directed. They have a duty to guide the leaders to expel selfishness from a person’s motives and put brotherhood at the front as his determining principle. The religious bodies need not to be a passive observer in a world that is characterized by identity syndromes. The religious bodies in Africa need to be radically developing and readjusting or re-evaluating her theology on current issues like economic systems. No one is claiming that the religious books can solve technical economic problems. Let the technical problems be handled by the technicians who have the expertise in this field. However, it is obvious that the religious bodies need to become a dynamic force in Africa as far as the running of the economic system is concerned. Let the faiths influence the paradigms of the economic system.

I also believe that purity opens up the purse. St. John speaks of perfect love in his epistle, and he says: One ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath the world’s goods, and beholdeth his brother in need, and shutteth up his compassion from him, how doth the love of God abide in him? (1 John 3:16-17). I know some of you are already beginning to brand me a socialist. Such acts do not make one necessarily a socialist or a liberal or a conservative, but it does create in one an active sympathy with social needs. My call on the religious bodies here is to get people where they can have pure hearts. Let them be free from sin and they will be able to sympathize and empathize with their economically disadvantaged brothers.

As to the present wage and profit system of business, only a few leaders in the religious bodies realize that it will eat up the whole continent if it is allowed to obey its own greed, while the religious bodies look with distrust on those of their members who try to unearth and apply religious social ideals. The religious bodies need to help come up with economic policies that will check the growth of this vice. The religious bodies need to take up the work of social and economic reconstruction as a definite policy and on a large scale. We need Africans to be entrepreneurial but they should also be considerate so that those who are endowed with more riches do no compete unnecessarily with their poor bothers. They should instead create some space and give leverage to those who need to uplift their economic status.

I also call upon governments in the developed countries to consider working with the Free Society institutions on the African continent to equip the Africans with the right economic policies. Let them go further and equip them with virtues, skills, tools and resources that will enable them to produce resources, manage them and utilize them on their continent for the glory of God. Otherwise, if African Governments continue to be given economic aid yet their people lack virtues, skills and tools to take advantage of the resources that they have on their continent, Africa will continue to wallow in poverty and it will continue to be a threat to world peace especially now that Africans have discovered that they can be enlisted in terror groups like Al Queda and the Somali pirates!

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