Why Bother With Africa?

There’s a mentality that exists here in America that we are to take care of our own before we start worrying about anyone else. Not everyone holds that belief, of course, but I’ve encountered plenty who do. As I find myself preparing for another trek by skateboard across the state of Indiana to raise money for African children who’ve lost parents to the AIDS epidemic, the question, “why bother with Africa?” is ever-present.

In some respects it’s a legitimate question. Yes, there are people who suffer from the ravages of AIDS here in the states. Yes, there are Americans living in poverty. And yes, there are dozens of other issues; diseases, injustices, natural disasters, etc. that call for our attention on the home front. So with so much need here in America, what’s the use in worrying about African children? Why don’t we all just focus on taking care of each other right here in our own communities?

Map of Africa 19th CenturyTo really address this, I think we need to examine the human tapestry closely. When you get down to it, there are very few natural things that separate one human being from another. Physical appearance may be one and personality another, but for the most part, the things that distinguish us are man-made. Things like language, culture, national citizenship, or clothing style are all fabricated by us, humans. So when we use something like nationality to determine who should be helped, we’re resorting to criteria that, realistically, has little to do with need or merit.  Man-made traits, I believe, need to set aside when considering where to help.

That leads me to the classic parable of the Good Samaritan found in Luke 10:25-37. In this particular passage, Jesus is asked by a man who his “neighbor” is, meaning to whom should he be showing love. Jesus responds with a parable that essentially says that anyone who’s in need right in front of us is “our neighbor” and we are to show them love. This particular parable answers the question, “why bother with Africa?” with a simple answer: because there is need.

Now, I must this isn’t a discussion about creating some sort of hierarchy of need. Comparing the problems of Africa to the problems of America proves to be a fruitless endeavor time and time again. What is important here is to recognize need when it presents itself and be willing to do something about it. That’s being a Good Samaritan and that’s why some people choose to bother with Africa.

Now ultimately if you still believe that Americans should only worry about the needs of other Americans, you’re entirely within your rights to do that. But I hope that you’ll take this a think about it. Maybe it’s not worth splitting people into two categories, those who get help and those who don’t, by nationality. Maybe addressing need when it’s right in front of you is a good approach to take.

2 Comment

  1. Thats an excellent point Steve, need should be based on need. I just wrote a brief post for Northview on a girl who’s spending 2 months in Africa with Horizon and the thing that hit me most was context.

    Are we really brash enough to think the situation in Africa has nothing to do with us? Like Desmond Tutu said, “When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said ‘Let us pray.’ We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.”

  2. Great comment Jesse. Thanks for sharing the Tutu quote. It’s spot on.

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