Faith communities have long been at the forefront of dynamic and significant change, and they’ve been a driving force behind global efforts in response to ebola, in combating HIV/AIDS, and in famine relief, to name just a few. From Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to the Dalai Lama, people of faith have helped create and sustain social movements — and have recognized the responsibilities that faith bestows.
Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, and Hindus may all express their religious faith in different ways, but each community shares its beliefs, seeks salvation, and opens its heart through its own moments of reflection and in its own places. We live in the same world — under the same sky — and, because of our shared humanity and faith, we share many of the same hopes and fears.
That’s the instinct behind the "Prayer for Everyone" movement, which we at ONE have been working on with other partners in the Project Everyone coalition.
When Ireland became the first country to legalize same-gender marriage by popular mandate, double rainbows appeared over Dublin, and an Irish rock band transformed their Arizona concert into a gay-rights celebration. Almost 30 years ago, Bono endured threats from angry Arizonans for his support of the U.S. national holiday for the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. But on Saturday, Bono invoked King as peacemaker as U2 celebrated the victory of love, turning the song “Pride (In The Name of Love)” into an anthem for gay pride.
Bono shared, “This is a moment to thank the people who bring us peace. It’s a moment for us to thank the people who brought peace to our country. We have peace in Ireland today! And in fact on this very day we have true equality in Ireland. Because millions turned up to vote yesterday to say, ‘love is the highest law in the land! Love! The biggest turnout in the history of the state, to say, ‘love is the highest law in the land!’ Because if God loves us, whoever we love, wherever we come from … then why can’t the state?’”
U2 frontman Bono exchanged Bible references and bantered about music, theology, and evangelicals’ role in AIDS activism in a recent radio interview with Focus on the Family President Jim Daly.
Growing up in Ireland with a Protestant mother and a Catholic father, Bono imitated C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, where Lewis argued that Jesus was a lunatic, liar or Lord.
“When people say ‘Good teacher,’ ‘Prophet,’ ‘Really nice guy,’ … this is not how Jesus thought of himself,” Bono said. “So, you’re left with a challenge in that, which is either Jesus was who he said he was or a complete and utter nut case.”
I don’t know how I feel about liberalism or capitalism beyond the degree to which I participate in both by necessity. But I do know what I perceive as the source of my activism and Bono’s: Jesus and the Bible; spirituality and scripture; the new commandments of radical love and service taught by the carpenter from Nazareth. What’s been called the preferential option for the poor. Bono’s lack of economic literacy, or worse, allegiance to wrong-headed economic mentors, may make me and others uncomfortable and may play into the hands of the problem-creators rather than the problem-solvers, yet Bono’s Biblical, musical, and poetic literacy remain on target in my eyes and heart.
In 2005 just after How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, as much as I loved that record and the subsequent Vertigo tour, part of me wanted to give up on Bono for his self-imposed public silence on the Iraq War, for hanging so intimately with people like George Bush and my then least favorite Tennessean Bill Frist. That year, I picked up Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas. Not only does the front man answer all his critics in a nuanced manner, he diminishes and self-deprecates his own significance. The alleged egomaniac also has a streak of deep and deferential humility.
But more than that, he speaks ever so elegantly and evangelically about his faith in Jesus and how Christian religious perspective, spiritual practice, and central Gospel narrative inform everything he does. Like Bono, I am no economist, but also like Bono, I take seriously the Biblical teachings about poverty and justice.
Sojourners President and CEO Jim Wallis joined voices worldwide rallying in the fight against AIDS. The ONE Campaign — an international nonprofit focused on global health and poverty issues — today launched its "It Starts With Me" video campaign.
In an OpEd that appeared on POLITICO Monday, Mike Huckabee, the former Republican governor of Arkansas, and Blanche Lincoln, the former Democratic senator from Arkansas -- who together co-chair ONE Vote 2012, a non-partisan campaign to make global health and extreme poverty foreign policy priorities in the 2012 presidential election, wrote about the importance of maintaining U.S. foreign aid to the developing world that has helped make significant improvements in the health and sustainability of myriad nations, including many on the continent of Africa.
They wrote, in part:
It might come as a surprise to learn that less than one percent of the U.S. budget is spent on foreign assistance. It might even be shocking to discover that, despite this relatively small amount, these funds are literally saving millions of lives and improving the lives of many more millions of people.
For example, American investments in cost-effective vaccines will help save nearly 4 million children’s lives from preventable diseases such as pneumonia and diarrhea over the next five years. We’ve also helped to deliver 290 million mosquito nets to Malaria-stricken countries, and put 46 million children in school for the very first time. And thanks to the leadership of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, 8 million HIV/AIDS patients now have access to life-saving treatments, up from just 300,000 a decade ago, making an AIDS-free generation a real possibility within our lifetimes.
Art and iconography — both ancient and modern — from Ethiopian Orthodoxy (also known as Tawahedo or "being made one" in the Ge'ez language that remains the official language of the Orthodox liturgy here) were ever-present — in shops, restaurants, and hotel lobbies as well as in the myriad churches and monasteries, and the sounds of ancient Christian prayers and the chants of monks filled the air from the capital city of Addis Ababa to the kebeles (or neighborhoods) on the outskirts of Bahir Dar, another major city about 60 km from the Sudanese border.
Speak out for those who cannot speak,
for the rights of all the destitute.
Speak out, judge righteously,
defend the rights of the poor and needy.
~ Proverbs 31:8-9
ADDIS ABABA — These words of King Solomon have been running through my mind since our ONE Moms delegation — 13 mothers from the United States, the United Kingdom, and France — arrived in the Ethiopian capital on Sunday.
I hear these verses as a clarion call to action. As someone who strives humbly to follow the Way of Jesus and be involved in The Work that God is doing in the world, I want to respond and do what these verses command.
And as a believer who also happens to be a mother (a fairly novice one, still learning the ropes, if you will), I must do.
Sunday afternoon, after us ONE Moms dropped our luggage at the hotel, piled into our chartered bus, and drove to the outskirts of the city to the Mary Joy Aid Through Development Association, we met our Ethiopian sisters who are speaking out for those who cannot; who are advocating on behalf of the destitute, judging with righteous wisdom, and defending the rights of the poor and the needy.
In 2007, I boarded a plane bound for Africa for the first time.
That trip took me to Kenya, Tanzania, the island of Zanzibar, and Malawi.
And that trip changed me — heart, mind, soul — forever transforming my family and my world.
Today, five years almost to the day since I flew to Nairobi to begin my first African adventure, I'm sitting in the international terminal of Dulles airport in Washington, D.C., waiting to board a 787 Dreamliner bound for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
An adventure lies ahead. And yet, so much more than that.
I've been to Africa twice now (this is my third visit to continent), and each time the people I've met and experiences I've had on the journey — all of it dripping with a grace so palpable I could almost smell it like so much sandalwood smoke wafting from an incenser — have shaped me and recalibrated my spirit.
I don't know specifically what Ethiopia has in store for me, but I am sure of one thing: The Spirit will be there.
The ONE campaign’s mission to fight AIDS has grown wildly since its inception in 2004, and recently, the organization began a new initiative striving to "begin the end of AIDS" by 2015. It’s within our reach, they say, if only we would lend a hand.
In their latest promotional message, they enlist help from the folks at Funny or Die, along with bigger names like Zach Galifianakis, Sarah Silverman, and Tracy Morgan. In a video that seems like a sketch straight out of the "internet absurdity" vault, the celebrities take turns musing on the innovations that might be possible in a future age, the year 2015. After dreaming of hybrid animals roaming the planet, cars that fit into your back pocket, they close by mentioning that in the not-so-distant future, AIDS can be on its way to nonexistence, if only people would wake up.
Our friends at the ONE Campaign took traditional April 1 tomfoolery and turned it on its head with the new video "I Predict," that uses humor to drive home a stone-cold sober reality: Within three years, we may very well witness the beginning of the end of AIDS worldwide.
“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.”
HIV/AIDS is a justice issue. The most vulnerable and poorest people still don’t have access to the treatments that save lives. Jesus’ concern for the lives of the sick in Matthew 25 calls Christ-followers to do everything in our power to make these life-saving treatments available to every person in need.
“America is a great idea,” Bono said.
Fundamental to that idea is the belief that all people are created equal and endowed by their creator with the intrinsic right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
The right to life, the right to liberty, and the right to pursue happiness each demand the will and resources make an AIDS-free generation a reality by 2015.
The news is hopeful. We have seen both progress and proof:
- New data shows that an HIV-positive person on treatment is 96 percent less likely to pass HIV on to others.
- It only costs, on average, $335 for AIDS treatment through PEPFAR (down nearly 70 percent since 2004!).
- 22 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have reduced new HIV infections by 25 percent.
- Clinical trials show that voluntary male circumcision reduces the risk of new HIV infection in men by roughly 60 percent.
Yesterday was truly a momentous occasion. Looking at all the progress we have made, especially in the last 10 years, it is a moment for us to not only celebrate, but in the words of President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, “recommit ourselves,” to end the fight against AIDS totally.
ONE and (RED) have started a community art project of sorts, known as the (2015)QUILT. Driven by the goal to have an HIV/AIDS free generation by 2015, ONE and (RED) are focusing on the 1,000 babies born every day to mothers who have HIV/AIDS. The crux is this: get the 1.4 million pregnant women who are HIV positive on meds that cost $0.40 a day (you read that correctly), 98 percent of their babies won’t have HIV/AIDS transferred to them, and soon enough, we have a healthy generation. How easy does that sound?
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.