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Nipping it in the bud

While we are justifiably nauseated and sad by the recurrent news of thousands of human beings drowning in the Mediterranean, we hardly hear our politicians protesting against international exploitation and underdevelopment in continental Africa.

While we are justifiably nauseated and sad by the recurrent news of thousands of human beings drowning in the Mediterranean, we hardly hear our politicians protesting against international exploitation and underdevelopment in continental Africa.

The problem of refugees – whether one sticks to legal or other parameters – will be with us for a long time. The rich capitalist countries are the main culprits of this growing problem. I am opposed to Matteo Salvini and his ilk as darkness is to light, especially in regards to refugees. However, one cannot ignore that sometimes there is method in their madness!

We often speak of a global culture in a world that is progressively interlocked economically, politically and culturally. However, we rarely speak of a world where its globalised poverty and marginalisation are still prevalent.

The Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989. A few months earlier, Francis Fukuyama published an article entitled ‘The End of History’ in the journal National Interest (summer 1989). Here he stated that with “the triumph of the West, of Western idea, is evident first of all in the total exhaustion of a viable systematic alternatives to Western liberalism”. He further developed these ideas in his book  titled, The End of History and the Last Man, published in 1992. Here, Fukuyama contended that the dawn of Western liberal democracy may herald the endpoint of humanity’s sociocultural evolution and the final form of human government. This implied the inversion of the Marxist philosophy of historical materialism – where Marx saw the endpoint of history in a communist society – by the triumph of capitalism, in its economic form and cultural ideology, which in philosophical terms is equivalent to communism.

Charity without a constant fight for justice can be fake charity

While we are justifiably nauseated and sad by the recurrent news of thousands of human beings drowning in the Mediterranean – and have no illusion, elsewhere too – we hardly hear our politicians protesting against international exploitation and underdevelopment in continental Africa and elsewhere. These are the underlying causes of this tragedy.

Neither can we ignore Gunder Frank’s position that the world capitalist system involves both development and underdevelopment as the two sides of the same coin. Is poverty in Africa a datum of nature or the result of historical circumstances? Are the core capitalist countries rich simply by the hard work or intellectual acumen of their citizens? Can’t we see in all this the invisible hand of the power to exploit others and what naturally belongs to them?

Politicians are too silent on these issues. Not because they do not know these facts but often because it does not suit their nationalistic or ethnocentric interests.

Christians are not simply called to help those we call ‘refugees’! We are called on to analyse the causes of this predicament and shout loudly and consistently on the real causes. We seem to have become oblivious of the adage which goes “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”.

Charity without a constant fight for justice can be fake charity. That is why Pope Benedict inverted the words of St Paul – which, of course, remain valid – from “proclaiming the truth in charity” (Eph 4: 15.) to “charity in truth, to which Jesus Christ bore witness by his earthly life and especially by his death and resurrection” and proposed this as “the principal driving force behind the development of every person and of all humanity”. Archbishop Oscar Romero was in fact not murdered because he has provided a hospital or because he gave money to the poor, but mainly because he would denounce any injustice along with its perpetrators.

In face of the inhuman drowning of people seeking asylum from hunger, war and persecution (or perhaps, in search of better conditions of health and work) it would be good for us Christians to study deeply the teaching of Pope Paul VI (soon to be canonised) in his great encyclical Populorum Progressio – The Development of Peoples.

Charity is the highest virtue. However, we ought to anticipate it by politically and economically fighting to put an end to injustice and poverty that we have seen all too frequently ignored.

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