Saturday, 29 November 2014

Kind, blameless, pure, astute

With the kind Thou dost show Thyself kind
With the blameless Thou dost show Thyself blameless
With the pure Thou dost show Thyself pure
With the crooked Thy dost show Thyself astute

 - Psalm 18: 25 & 26

Kindness is becoming ever more prevalent, although cruelty is far from extinguished.  When the richest men in the world like Bill Gates, the most popular like Bono and the most influential like Bill Clinton personify “going from strength to strength” by moving beyond wealth, acclaim and power to philanthropy and altruism – kindness is winning.

The blameless are hard to find.  Even Jesus was blamed – for our transgressions.  He took the rap, leaving us blameless.  If we – like him – are not part of the solution, then we are still part of the problem.  What in the world are we doing, for Christ's sake?!

The pure are outnumbered.  The greatest of human achievements – the Internet – is crowded with smut and filth.  Space exploration has left litter floating precariously above us.  Pollution has reached ozone proportions.  But there are still a few who have proven incorruptible – Theresa, Tutu, Romero and Stott.  Not to mention volunteers who push beached whales back into the deep.

Corruption is rampant.  Who would have thought that this points the psalmist to One who would be divinely astute?  But there would be no crooked if there were no plumb line.  Performance to standards means that there has to be a criteria – and a Judge.  Bono says in a recent essay in TIME magazine that the West's greatness depends on how it deals with Africa....

Allow me to paraphrase the psalmist for our generation:

With wonder drugs Thou didst show Thy mighty hand
  • radiology
  • vaccines
  • antibiotics
With dissidents Thou didst show thy outstretched arm
  • under communism (the Second World)
  • under despots in the Third World
  • under run-away affirmative action that borders on racism
With the assassinated Thou didst show thy timelessness
  • Martin Luther King, Jack & Bobby Kennedy, Malcolm X, Diana
  • Romero
  • Steve Biko & the journalist recently killed in Zimbabwe after filming beaten up Tsvangurai
With the donors Thou didst show Thyself to be the Source
  • They are the water, Thou art the well

I am not suggesting that donors are crooked.  But they certainly are fickle!  Our recent experience has made us realize that we should depend totally on our Provider, even for our breath of life.  He is totally dependable.  But sometimes we lose sight of this and start relying too much on ourselves and our skills and techniques, until we see - in the unexpected -what He is like.

No doubt the greatest problem in Africa today is the HIV/AIDS pandemic.  We began to get involved in training adult practitioners in this respect several years ago, and have enjoyed several consecutive grants from government donors in both South Africa and Canada.  To take what we are doing with some success to scale, we decided to ramp it up and approached the two largest windows of AIDS funding in today's world...

First, the United States President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is the agency handling George Bush's $15 billion pledge.  It has been well run, and I attended a workshop in Denver last May, to become eligible to apply under its New Partners Initiative (NPI).  We did not make the first cut, but were encouraged to re-apply, which we did on November 15th.  Then suddenly the Republican majority in U.S. Congress was replaced by Democrats who imposed spending limits.  We were due to receive a reply from NPI by January 15th, but it has yet to materialize. The reason is that the Democrats introduced a Continuing Resolution (CR) which has complicated matters and slowed down the speed-of-spend.  We are still waiting for an answer...

Second, the Global Fund in Geneva was set up after the international AIDS conference in Bankok seven years ago, on a multi-lateral basis.  This year it has reached its Round 7.  I recently attended a briefing in Pretoria hosted by the South Africa National AIDS Council (SANAC) giving NGOs the guidelines to apply.  They mentioned that money approved last September for NGOs at the Round 6 meeting in Geneva has yet to reach South Africa.  They told us to assume that Round 7 funding will not be available until after June next year!  This is just more evidence of my on-going contention that AIDS is not being treated as an Emergency, certainly not by the U.N. which has included it among the Millennium Development Goals.  We have worked hard to prepare a submission, in spite of several bottlenecks in our province, but meanwhile donor funding has dried up.

So we have been thrown back on total dependence on God's provision.  We do have a baseline of revenue generated by the conference facility, but that just keeps the wheels turning, it does not finance programme or expansion.  For example, it will not cover running psycho-social support camps for orphans and vulnerable children in June.  The two agencies that we had hoped might contribute (Rotary International and Stephen Lewis Foundation) have indicated that funds will not be available in time for this.  I get frustrated as I see needs increasing and resources shrinking.  What happened to the G8 pledge at Gleneagles in 2005 to double foreign aid in five years?!

At the end of his autobiography, Nelson Mandela reflected that he had gone to prison because he had come to realize that gaining his own personal freedom was not enough - he had to help his people gain their freedom too.  But while in prison he also realized that the oppressors, not just the oppressed, had been robbed of their dignity by apartheid, and that they too needed liberation.  He wrote that his mission, when he finished that long walk to freedom out of prison, was to free both the oppressed and the oppressors.

Similarly, I have come to see the mission of the Desmond Tutu Centre for Leadership as more than just adult education in Africa for human service practitioners.  There is also a dimension of educating “informed learners” in North America and Europe.  In the age of globalization, while they may not be oppressors – is there any dignity on either side when the disparities are so glaring?

We need to challenge the “haves” to share the wealth with the “have nots”.  So this is an appeal for contributions to the psycho-social support camps in late June and July for orphans and vulnerable children.  C4L-Canada is sending another team of volunteers and has secured funding for one camp.  We need to stretch that to two, or even three camps.  It costs about $320 Canadian per camper.  C4L is running on empty at this stage and cannot host 150 campers without additional resources.  We will only ask once, there will be no further appeals.  But the need is acute.  One more paraphrase of the psalm pertains: With the generous Thou dost show Thyself generous.