In a room filled with African heads of state, captains of industry, leaders of international development and countless executives from NGOs at the G8 Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security in Washington, D.C. late last week, stood one Irish rock star — Bono, the lead singer of U2 and co-founder of the ONE Campaign.
At first blush (to the uninitiated, perhaps), Bono's presence might seem incongruous, but most of the folks in the room at the Ronald Reagan building a few blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue know the Irishman more for his tireless humanitarian efforts than his closet full of Grammy awards. For more than 25 years, Bono, 52, has been involved deeply and effectively in international affairs as a champion for the poorest of the poor.
"Can we manage the oil as well as the farmland? Manage it properly, responsibly, transparently?" Bono asked the audience. "Because when we don’t, you know what happens. Hundreds of billions of dollars got lost to oil and gas corruption in Nigeria. That’s what the watchdog groups are telling us. Just mind blowing. Huge numbers.
"Crops need sunlight. So does resource extraction. Both need sunlight’s disinfecting glare. Isn’t transparency the vaccine to prevent the worst disease of them all? Corruption. Everybody here knows that corruption kills more children than HIV/AIDS and malaria combined. So that’s what I want to leave you with. That very simple word. That very simple concept. Easy to say. Much harder to realize, especially in law. The word 'transparency.'
"We won’t have food security without it," he said. "But we will have oil riches without it but those riches will be held and hidden by very few hands."
The Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security, Advancing Food and Nutrition Security at the 2012 G8 Summit, is set to begin soon with the following leaders in attendance:
- President Barack Obama
- Dr. Yayi Boni, President of the Republic of Benin & Chairperson of the African Union
- Meles Zenawi, Prime Minister of Ethiopia
- John Evans Atta Mills, President of Ghana
- His Excellency Jakaya Kikwete, President of the United Republic of Tanzania
- Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary, United States Department of State
- Rajiv Shah, Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development
- Bono, Co-Founder of ONE and (RED)
- Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director, UN World Food Programme
- Dr. Kanayo F. Nwanze, President, International Fund for Agricultural Development
- Ms. Josette Sheeran, Vice Chairman, World Economic Forum
DC’s resident “bad-boy reporter,” Jason Mattera thought that he had caught a major scoop when he accosted U2 lead singer Bono at a recent event, challenging him to come clean about the finances of One, the musicians charity (as well as being a classic U2 hit – FWIW, I prefer with version with Mary J. Blige).
Sadly, it turns out that Mattera’s scoop was not so Magnificent. The man he thought was Bono may have looked and sounded like Bono. But it was, in fact, a Bono impersonator, TPMreports. And even more embarrassingly for Human Events’ editor was that it wasn’t until after he promoted the clip on Sean Hannity’s radio show today that it was revealed to be a look-a-like.
“Having just been in Gulu with Edun and Jolly, this is particularly pertinent for me … Spreading like wildfire, and sparking a heated, fascinating, much needed debate, this is brilliant campaigning. Not only does the public now know about Kony and his most despicable atrocities, they also know what a huge range of experts think about it, even if they all don’t agree. I salute a strategy that generates this much interest if it¹s targeted towards lasting meaningful solutions owned and directed by the people of the region on their journey from the trauma of these atrocities towards stability and development. Is there an Oscar for this kind of direction? Jason Russell deserves it.”
Yes, it's odd, having a rock star here—but maybe it's odder for me than for you. You see, I avoided religious people most of my life. Maybe it had something to do with having a father who was Protestant and a mother who was Catholic in a country where the line between the two was, quite literally, a battle line. Where the line between church and state was… well, a little blurry, and hard to see.
I remember how my mother would bring us to chapel on Sundays… and my father used to wait outside. One of the things that I picked up from my father and my mother was the sense that religion often gets in the way of God.
For me, at least, it got in the way. Seeing what religious people, in the name of God, did to my native land… and in this country, seeing God's second-hand car salesmen on the cable TV channels, offering indulgences for cash… in fact, all over the world, seeing the self-righteousness roll down like a mighty stream from certain corners of the religious establishment…
I must confess, I changed the channel. I wanted my MTV.
Even though I was a believer.
Perhaps because I was a believer.
~ Bono of U2, in his 2006 National Prayer Breakfast keynote address
Dream beneath the desert sky
The rivers run, but soon run dry
We need new dreams tonight
~ from "In God's Country" by U2
On March 9, 1987, U2 released The Joshua Tree, its fifth studio album and one that would catapult the Irish rock quartet from popularity to international superstardom.
Twenty-five years later, today The Joshua Tree is one of the most bestselling albums in history — with more than 25 million copies sold — and is considered to be among the best rock albums of all time.
Its spiritual and socio-political heft has, for me at least, only grown more powerful over the years. As I listened to it again today, the soul-shaking music and lyrics sounded even fresher in our current nervous times than they did to my teenage ears in the twilight of the Reagan era.
On a recent trip to the African nation of Ghana, Bono of U2 and economist Jeffrey Sachs spoke to the U.K. Guardian newspaper about their hopes for the future of foreign aid.
"There's one thing that might help with aid cynics. Because clearly no one likes the culture of dependency," Bono said. "No one's arguing for it. We're arguing to end it. I think there's something a bit funky about aid as it stands right now. The two most important parties involved in the transaction – the taxpayer who's providing the resources and the person who needs those resources to stay alive or keep their family alive – are the two people who know the least about what's going on. So that has to change."
Today marks the anniversary of World AIDS Day. The USAID estimates that since the epidemic began, over 60 million people have been infected with the disease, and over 25 million lives taken.
One of the most prominant figures fronting the fight against AIDS is U2 frontman, Bono. In 2002, Bono became vocal about the epidemic, embarking on a tour across the American Midwest to recruit churches to join the fight against AIDS in Africa. In Christianity Today’s 2003 feature “Bono’s American Prayer,” (written by Sojo’s own Cathleen Falsani) he articulates the crucial role the church must play in combating the epidemic.
"If the church doesn't respond to this, the church will be made irrelevant. It will look like the way you heard stories about people watching Jews being put on the trains. We will be that generation that watched our African brothers and sisters being put on trains."
The band may be taking a well-deserved break from touring and recording, but U2 fans still have a new album to relish just in time for Thanksgiving.
Ǎhk-Toong Bāy-Bi Covered features cover versions of U2's famed 1991 album Achtung Baby featuring renditions by Snow Patrol, The Fray, Patti Smith, Damien Rice, Depeche Mode, Jack White, The Killers and others.
And all proceeds from the album's sales will go to help some of the estimated 13.3 million Africans suffering through the worst drought and famine in 60 years.
When I was ordained as a "Minister of Word and Sacrament" in the Reformed Church in America, a denomination that began in 1628, I imagined that I was being ordained to a church that was "reformed and always reforming!" (Emphasis mine).
Reformata et semper reformanda was a theme of the Reformation, which Martin Luther kicked off on Oct. 31, 1517 when he nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to front door of Castle Church of Wittenberg, Germany.
But rather than reviewing history from a half-millennia ago, let me explain what I hoped for 22 years ago, when I was ordained.
In an inspiring display of bipartisan bridge-building, talk radio personality Rush Limbaugh has accepted Jim Wallis' invitation to deliver a keynote address at Sojourners' http://www.sojo.net/index.cfm?action=events.m2ep&item=m2ep-home&source=r...
Sunday afternoon, I sat in front of the TV with a box of tissues and watched every second of the "We Are One" concert at the Lincoln Memorial live on HBO.