"You'll think I'm off
my trolley when I say this, but the Bush administration is the most radical
- in a positive sense - in its approach to Africa since
and religious rightwingers who surrounded President George Bush were proving
unexpectedly receptive to appeals for help, he said. "You can get the
weirdest politicians on your side."…
Geldof…lauded the US and Britain
for supplying the bulk of the 1.15m tonnes of food aid that has been pledged
to Ethiopia to plug a food shortage that threatens 15 million people….
[He] was adamant that
the EU was the greater villain for delivering just a small fraction of Ethiopia's
staple needs and refusing, unlike the US
and Britain, to supply any supplementary foods, such as oil, which give a
balanced diet. "The EU have been pathetic and appalling.”
It’s sad, of course,
when people in the secular world find it “unexpected” that Christian
politicians should be receptive to appeals for help for starving people.
It’s also sad that the
EU has been “pathetic and appalling” in helping the Ethiopians. But perhaps
that’s less unexpected.
For we live in a world
that is changing fast.
For 2,000 years or so,
we in the West have lived in a culture formed by the stories of the Bible.
Perhaps the greatest of these has been the tale of the Good Samaritan.
Now I do not think
that we could over-emphasise the influence that this simple and moving story
has had on our culture. But the problem is, the story has become so
well-known to us that we somehow think it expresses some kind of universal
Yet there are plenty
of countries where you don’t help a stranger in trouble. Living for 17 years
in Asia I saw that most people felt a strong obligation to help anyone in
trouble from their own family, or from their own group - such as the company
they worked for - but it was an alien notion to help outsiders. Sometimes
those in trouble were said to be fated to suffer.
We in the West are
still caring. I’m sure the EU will be generous when conditions in Ethiopia
worsen. Plenty of non-Christian nations and individuals will also give.
Yet the trend in the
West is to start accusing those in trouble. We say that they didn’t work
hard enough or that they should have saved more money or they should have
stayed on at school, or something. We are starting to blame the suffering
for their misfortunes.
As we abandon our
religion – apparently an accelerating trend in much of the EU - we also lose
the stories that sustain our culture. With no shared heritage, the end
result can only be domination by the strongest.
So praise God for two
Christian leaders – George Bush and Tony Blair – who continue to live our
story. And praise God too for that melancholy, profane, secular saint Bob
Geldof, who spoke the truth.
May 30th, 2003