The recent news reports of the famine in the horn of Africa have been very sad. The pictures of emaciated adults and children in the aid camps are deeply moving. They have all walked many miles in the hope of finding the food and water they need to survive the worst drought in 60 years in East Africa. Children and adults are dying each day and it is taking a massive aid operation to try to save many lives. More than 10 million people are threatened by starvation in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya. Over the past 2 years 25% of Somalia’s population have been displaced.
The drought has been caused by the lack of rains and the failure to finance agriculture and irrigation schemes. Somalia is worst affected because it is a failed state. Two decades of non-stop fighting have had devastating consequences on ordinary people. A militant group, al-Shabab, controls many southern and central areas, including those where the famine is worst. In 2009 al-Shabab forced most Western aid agencies out of the areas they control, severely hampering the aid effort in much of Somalia.
We are all capable of being indifferent to the needs of others. We can be busy pursuing our own agenda, like the Somali militants, who are callously indifferent to the desperate plight of their own people. In the UK the government is cutting back on spending and some have suggested that the international aid budget should be slashed. Yet, we have food to eat and plenty of rain to ensure a good harvest. International aid is a life and death issue for many in our world, like the people in East Africa.
Caring for the needs of others matters. When we experience the love of God in Jesus we are delivered from our preoccupation with ourselves and are filled with a love for other people. Jesus said that at the end of history all nations will be gathered before him and he will separate them into two groups. To those on his right hand he will say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these my brothers, you did for me.”