There’s charity. And then there’s change. Both are essential given the state of the world, but there is a huge difference. Charity consists of an individual or group voluntarily transferring resources to a group or individual who have fewer resources, an action which, when performed lovingly with integrity and efficiency, can literally save lives, prevent misery and maintain the dignity of the recipient. Yet, Change, and here I refer to Change from our unjust society to a global society in which social justice prevails, endeavours to address the systemic, structural or institutional arrangements through which excessive inequalities producing the need for charity are eradicated. This difference between charity and Change is highlighted numerous times in the New Testament, for example when Jesus reprimands the Pharisees for tithing fastidiously whilst failing to address issues of love and justice (Luke 11v42).
A brief look at statistics indicates the urgency for Change (I use a capital C intentionally) in our global society, in which decisions are made by, and for, a self-constructed ‘elite’ minority. Fundamental imbalances of power in our broken system continue to lead to human suffering on a colossal scale, skewing the distribution of resources so much that 447 multimillionaires own a greater fortune than the annual income of half of humanity, whilst over a third of the global population lack access to clean water and basic sanitation. Meanwhile, diseases transmitted though water and poor sanitation continue to kill an estimated 3,900 children per day, and malaria kills one child every 30 seconds. The UNDP (2005) blames these deaths on ‘a failure to address the structural causes of poverty and inequality’.
It is essential that we recognise, acknowledge and SPEAK out such injustices, refusing to be distracted by the inane chatter of advertising companies, media firms, corporations and political rhetoric which set to distract us from uncomfortable realities indicating that swathes of humanity are shackled by injustice. Having acknowledged this, we must move forward. We must believe in something better. We must believe in Change. We must campaign for Change. In fact, we must- it is a matter of life and (avoidable) death.
There are many ways in which we can do this, but for now let’s touch upon three. Firstly, lifestyles reflect values. For example, consumer-driven lifestyles which demand ‘More for Less’ feed the For-Profit system which allows multinational corporations to drive down prices, keeping their suppliers locked in poverty. Your consumer choices, therefore, matter. Secondly, we must campaign for Change. This does work. SPEAK has been part of movements which have led to the closure of DESO (the old, larger government department supporting private companies arms deals with taxpayers money), changes in company law which, for the first time, introduces duties for directors to consider the social and environmental impacts of their actions, introduced the idea of a ‘supermarket ombudsman’ into parliamentary discussions and proposals, and much more. Thirdly, in financial giving it is important to remember that campaign’s cost- but they are cost effective. Using UN statistics, Christian Aid estimated that changing international regulations and practices governing global trade could result in an extra $100 billion for poor countries, every 8 weeks. Giving at their current rate, Christian Aid would need to have started fundraising around the time of Jesus’ crucifixion to have reached $100 billion. SPEAK estimate that if 200 people gave £25 per month, it would cover all costs, including campaigns, training, events, rent etc.
Inhibiting just and harmonious relationships within our human family, the direct and indirect actions of institutions, systems, structures and individuals relentlessly, and increasingly, lead to avoidable human suffering, and so the world is far from God’s desire for a holistic ‘shalom’. Let us Change this. We Can. We Must.
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