The Occupy movement. Elections. A deficit crisis that seems impenetrable. The problems facing the United States at this time seem insurmountable.
But it is at this time, bombarded by crises, that we must be even more attentive to the world around us. We have been told by political scientists, economists, and anthropologists that we now live in a ‘Global Village,’ that time and space have shrunk in our globalized world. And I’m inclined to agree with them.
If we look at what is happening this week – elections in Egypt and the Democratic Republic of Congo, an aid effectiveness conference in South Korea, the continuing Arab Spring in Syria and beyond, World Aids Day Thursday – and in the coming weeks -- the U.N. climate change conference, COP17 -- we cannot pretend that these events have no impact on our lives here and now.
Every one of these events is a matter of justice. The citizens of Egypt and the Democratic Republic of Congo deserve the opportunity to express freely, without fear of intimidation or violence, how they believe their country should be governed. Having spent some time in the region, I believe that the people of the DRC deserve more than any other to live in a country where they are safe and secure.
How we assist other countries in their development is an issue of justice.
It does not, as many try to tell us, cost us a lot of money to play our part. (The United States currently uses around 0.25 percent of its GDP for aid that focuses solely on fighting poverty.) Neither is it a pointless exercise. Approximately 5.4 million lives were saved last year through aid spent on vaccines. Yes, aid can be spent in more sophisticated and productive ways, such that will reduce the ‘burden’ on the budgets of developed states. That’s why conferences like the Busan High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness are important and should be suitably engaged with.
Similar engagement must continue when it comes to the Arab Spring movements. Now is not the time to be distracted from what is happening in Syria, Yemen, or other countries in the region. It is heart breaking to see citizens of these countries, every day attacked and persecuted by their own governments. While engagement to the extent we saw in Libya is not a possibility, as people of faith and conscience, committed to making our world a more just place, we must be committed to these parts of the world – by holding our own governments accountable and challenging them to act in a responsible, just way.
According to the new ONE campaign video, there has not been a worse pandemic in 600 years than the current HIV/AIDS crisis. For every one person treated, two more are infected; very often children have the virus transmitted to them by their mother. This means that children are born with a greatly diminished chance of living a long and healthy life, and if they do make it past childhood, they will be surrounded by the stigma that is still so prevalent. It is vital that we use every resource at our disposal to ensure that we turn back the spread of HIV/AIDS and step up to the challenge of eliminating the virus by 2015. World Aids Day is a symbolic opportunity for all of us to commit to making this the beginning of the end of AIDS.
Just writing about these few key events that are happening around the world this week is overwhelming, so to add the pressure of climate change may be too much. But it is not a subject that we can afford to ignore. Climate change is a justice issue. It is hitting the poorest hardest, and it is happening now.
We recently had visitors from Zambia and Malawi in the Sojourners office, who told us about the devastation that the rapidly-changing climate has had on their communities. Climate change is not something we can afford to leave on the to-do list. It is in the interests, both moral and pragmatic, of the United States to lead the way in climate change; to push itself and other major polluters to think innovatively and justly about how we treat our planet and steward the precious resources that have been entrusted to us.
Now is not the time to only look inward. A healthy domestic economy cannot be a reality without a healthy global economy, and a safe and productive United States will not be a possibility without a meaningful grasp of what our neighbors, both near and far, are going through. The world is groaning for justice, and we must continue to listen so that we can respond justly, just as God requires.
Jack Palmer is the communications assistant at Sojourners. Follow Jack on Twitter @JackPalmer88.