Every year at this time the leaders of both the Church of England and the Catholic Church deliver a state-of-the-world address to their flocks. In accordance with the tenets of their faiths they will let the world know what they consider to be the most important issues of the day.
Of course they aren't the only ones who have their say. Other religious leaders, national leaders, and the deep thinkers in the press all have their lists ready for consideration: Political events, war, terrorism, intergovernmental relationships, and all the other matters of importance which affect policy, economics, and the perceived balance of power in the world.
Since we all share the same planet, it is quite amazing how so few of these leaders agree on the major global issues. They all have their own agendas and advocate what's important from their perspective: events that have helped fulfill their goals, events they are involved in, or things that challenge what they believe to be the way one should lead a life. Nothing that does not directly impact upon the objectives of their country or way of thinking seems to ever make it onto these summations.
Some will offer platitudes about world peace, famine, and the scourge of AIDS in Africa, but only insofar as it suits whatever social-political agenda they stand for. It's easy enough to say what a shame it all is, but it's another thing to actually advocate doing something about it.
The pundits worry about where the next wave of terrorism is going to come from, but the answer is right in front of them, and they don't seem to have noticed. But then again why should that be different from the way that Africa has been treated in the past? If the refugee camps of the Palestinians were hotbeds for recruitment by the PLO and others in the 1960s, what about the camps currently in Africa?
It's been the policies and beliefs over the years of the major powers that have allowed situations to get to the acute and chronic level they're at now. Why is there still fighting in Somalia when the Americans invaded it years ago to pacify the region? Why is there still the same border war between Ethiopia and Eritrea that filled refugee camps and led to famine in the 1980s?
How did the massacres in Rwanda occur when the United Nations' commander on the ground kept telling the world it was happening – and nobody could spare any troops to help deal with the situation? Why are there people living in camps in Darfur when the American government declared it was a case of genocide in the making?
Price of Neglect
Africa has to be the story soon, or we will all be paying the price for our neglect. What kind of anger and resentments must be brewing there that could easily be inflamed and brought to focus against us for real and perceived injustices?
What the reality is doesn't matter anymore. Facts like the fundamental Muslim groups in Somalia being no more likely to agree to family planning practices when it comes to preventing the spread of AIDS than the Catholic Church or the current American Administration will be irrelevant in the face of emotional appeals for vengeance.
Anti-Western sentiment in Africa will begin to escalate unless we change our policies from being where we are perceived as an exploiter – the one who caused all the problems – to being the compassionate friend who offers help with no strings attached. Any group that is looking to recruit for the "cause" probably won't have too much difficulty finding volunteers.
It's not just a matter of giving money or relieving debt; we need to be on the ground in the camps working with people on an almost one-to-one basis. Our governments need to be serious in their attempts to get AIDS medicines to African victims and push for the development of a free vaccine. Our presence needs to be felt above and beyond celebrities adopting cute black babies.
Compassion has to rule our dealings with Africa, and not profit or belief systems. We can no longer simply consider the present, but have to take into consideration the future, and how we can ensure there is one for the people of that continent. It shouldn't have to be for political reasons. We should be working from the standpoint of compassion for our fellow human beings who are suffering. But if nothing happens soon, for whatever the reason, it might be too late.
Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Middle East are all current hot spots that we can't ignore of course, but neither can we continue to ignore the situation in the Sub-Sahara and the rest of Africa. Maybe they don’t have to be on this year's listing of top events, but if we don't start making Africans important, they might just become so – for all the wrong reasons.
That can't be allowed to happen.