Friday, April 3, 2009
The G 20 and the Common Wealth
All who believed were together and had all things in common;
they would sell their possessions and goods
and distribute the proceeds to all,
as any had need.
Tuesday night I was at a meeting with our Bishop, Peter Weaver. He was commenting on the current economic crisis, and reflecting on the witness of the early church, and he said, "We need to think deeply about what it would really mean to 'hold all things in common.'" Then he laughed and said, "Now I suppose someone's going to go home and say, ‘Our Bishop is a Communist’." He paused and then concluded, "I'm just trying to be a Christian.”
What would it mean to “hold all things in common,” when a recent United Nations calculation says that the 500 richest people in the world earn more money than the 416 million poorest people? The poorest people, who bear no responsibility for creating the current crisis, will suffer most acutely from it. In his column in the New York Times this Thursday, Nicholas Kristof wrote about what is at stake behind the concerns for banks and billion dollar corporate bailouts.
As world leaders gather in London for the Group of 20 summit meeting, the most wrenching statistic is this: According to World Bank estimates, the global economic crisis will cause an additional 22 children to die per hour, throughout all of 2009. And that’s the best-case scenario. The World Bank says it’s possible the toll will be twice that: an additional 400,000 child deaths, or an extra child dying every 79 seconds.
As usual, the greatest price for incompetence at the summit will be borne by the poorest people in the world — who aren’t represented there and who never approved any bad loans.
It is hard for us to think in global terms, when we are so concerned about the situation in our own country. In times of economic uncertainty people naturally pull back. Helping others becomes a luxury we believe that we cannot afford, economically or emotionally.
Kristof observes that, “One of the most preposterous ideas floating about is that the world’s poor feel ‘entitled’ to assistance.” He is right that it is preposterous. And he is right that it is in wide circulation. It is the rich, not the poor, who feel entitled.