Thursday, May 29, 2008

It's worth asking how our wants and "needs" impact the death of these children

10 MILLION CHILDREN PER YEAR. UNICEF figures show that 27,000 to 30,000 children die each day due to complexities of global poverty. In 2007, UNICEF reported that worldwide child deaths were at a record low: only 9.7 million per year. For the first time in modern history, the number of children dying before age 5 fell below 10 million per year. But that’s still 9.7 million children. It begs questions, like: In what ways might our wants and "needs" be contributing to nearly 10 million children dying each year around the globe? What percent of the world's food and energy resources do we consume? At whose expense do we indulge?

AT WHOSE EXPENSE DO WE INDULGE? Riding our bicycles up through the heart of India last year, the dramatic poverty I saw--alongside incredible industry—day after day was seared into my mind and heart. I commented to Free Methodist Bishop Joe James, who was making the 2,000-mile trek along with Bob Yardy and me: “we are seeing the people at whose expense we live.” He corrected me: “No, we are seeing the people at whose expense we indulge.” I think he was right.

WHAT COST “DISCOUNT PRICES EVERY DAY?” On the one hand, some would say that American consumer needs and purchases are creating opportunities for work and income for textile, clothing and manufacturing workers in developing world areas. On the other hand, one could also say that our demand for “discount prices every day” is enabling a slavish system that uses people instead of empowering them, that perpetuates a life of mere survival for millions of people so that people on the other side of the world can get a “bargain” and take it easy.

WITHIN A GENERATION. Christian conscience, at the most minimal level, calls for us to make this connection more clearly, challenge our appetites, change our habits, and transform our economic practices. We know too much now about the downside of economic globalization to continue to act as if we’re na├»ve or innocent of “blood diamonds.” This generation cannot pass with any integrity without a voluntary and vociferous change in buying and selling standards. And it begins with each individual, each household, each purchase, each product. Just like we are all now considering the cost of driving about willy nilly in our vehicles, we must also take fully into account and consider the “unseen” costs in every product and purchase.

DAYS OF IRRESPONSIBILITY. The days and ways of irresponsible consumerism are coming to an end. Either they will end in voluntary self-discipline or they will end in catastrophic social and geo-political upheaval. For these days we need spiritual discernment, wisdom and courage. We need leadership at national and international levels that possesses and utilizes great wisdom. For this, and for our next purchase in the world marketplace, let us pray.

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