Response Wednesday is out the window again thanks to almost zero down-time whatsoever so far this week. MCM on Monday night, then last night and this evening I hit the Veritas Forum at Columbia with Dave and Carolynn. The forum has been dealing with the topic of "Responding to Suffering," and its been quite thought provoking.
Tuesday was "Publishing the Cries of the Oppressed: On the Front Lines of Human Rights Journalism," and frankly - as an aspiring writer - I found it extremely inspirational. This is a form of non-fiction that I really see true meaning in, and would love to be able to do some day. The first speaker was Nicholas Kristoff - a guy who does a lot of Op-Ed for the NY Times - who was mainly advocating on behalf of the persecuted people of Sudan (namely, Darfur) - his recounts of the horror there were strickening: estimates of over 300,000 killed and over 2 million displaced. Then came Benedict Rogers, a journalist from the UK who has taken the cause of Burma (an illegal military regime, rather than a real nation) and specifically the persecuted Karen people there - a regime where 20% of the military is comprised of conscripted children. He too had fascinating and sad stories to tell. By the way, Kristoff is raising funds to send Bill O'Rielly to Darfur, which I think is an simply marvelous idea, especially if they choose to leave him there. You can send donations via PayPal to email@example.com. No joke.
Tonight was "Who Will Solve the Problem of Poverty: Bono, Bill Gates, You?" with three incredible speakers. Larry Reed of Opportunity International talked about microeconomics and OI's work to secure small low-yield loans for people in impoverished societies, to help them begin supporting themselves. His speaking points were A) You are part of the solution, B) You are not the main part (the poor are), and C) When you serve the poor you connect with the heart of God. Reed was a moving speaker.
Dr. Jeffery Sachs was next, the author of The End of Poverty and one of the best-known economists in the world today - an advisor to the UN and Bono himself. Also moving, he focused on the incredible need seen in Africa today for the very basest necessities of life and the atrocity that it is that we are not sourcing such simple things. He went on to discuss the revolutions that need to take place in a society to make change a real thing: A) a Green Revolution (food, environment, etc.), B) a Health Revolution (medicine, water supply, etc.), and D) a Connectivity Revolution (basic infrastructure such as roads, electricity, communications, etc.).
More stirring than any of the men from either night, however, was the final speaker, Dr. Vinoth Ramachandra - a former nuclear scientist that left a prominent career to become a pastor in Sri Lanka. I need to find his talk on tape, because no description I could type here would do it justice. Long story short, he pointed out in acute fashion how our lavish lifestyles are subsidized by the world's poor, noting how, similarly, crucifixion was the other side of the Pax Romana. His final line, and the way he summed his thoughts and answered all the necessary questions to what he was saying, was as riveting a close to a speech as I've ever heard.
One last thought, from my notes, from the discussion period with Sachs: "We are the first generation where vast poverty is not just a part of the human condition, but a choice."
Maybe that's a bit of a response Wednesday after all.
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"If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."