Checking the news for the day I came across this article by Nelson Mandela. I know, Aids is a difficult subject for many Christians. I think most Christians my own age are past the whole, "God is punishing a continent for its sins," viewpoint (which I find to be particularly distasteful). But be forewarned, that if you are uncomfortable with this subject I'm about to discuss it. That is, discuss what little I know, which is definitely not much.
Back at Hillsdale we had a week long lecture series on marriage and family. One of our speakers was this crazy woman who decided that instead of talking about marriage and family she was going to talk about whatever the hell she wanted to talk about. I don't remember her name. I only remember that she said, in all seriousness, that Aids can only be spread through homosexual intercourse and infected heroine needles. When challenged by a student who had worked in Aids camps in Africa and seen many children who had contracted Aids while in the womb, the speaker mocked this idea openly. While some of the students chose to be very disrespectful to the speaker I can understand it to some degree. Ignorance is not deserving of total rudeness, but that was a bit over the top. Personally, I was ashamed that my school could bring in a speaker who would make such assertions. It sure doesn't look good for us when we pay people like that. Anyway, if your beliefs fall within that speaker's then I am sorry. And you will not like my own opinion.
Aids is a terrible problem that has afflicted a continent which has been monumentally mistreated by the rest of humanity. I do not know much scientifically, but I have studied African politics. While I do not go all out in the view that white people are the only problem with Africa, I do at least agree that we have not helped matters. In fact, we have not tried to help matters. Most of what we have done has been exploitation until recently. First there was colonization, which included the almost barbaric monopolization of natural resources. It also took from most Africans the ability to govern themselves because European nations took over governance and did not teach Africans to better themselves, rather they taught them to be corrupt in their governance of themselves. I understand that Europeans were opposed to practices such as human sacrifice and I am okay with that. But where things could have been made better, they were not. South African apartheid is a terrible example of exploitation and abuse. The Afrikaaner government made laws that were very similar to Hitler's anti-Jewish laws. While it did not set out to exterminate black Africans it did set out to separate the races economically, socially and politically. Eventually, however, it began to ammend its ways and it was a white government that released Nelson Mandela from prison and helped bring in a representational government. South Africa is doing rather well now compared to the rest of the sub-Saharan continent. Suffice it to say, that I think Africa has been exploited. I am saddened that those of us who believe that we have good governing methods could so purposefully harm countries that did not meet our standards.
I also find it somewhat arrogant that we always believe that the nation-state is the only way to govern properly. The African patrimonial system could have been made to work as well as our systems. Besides, how is the patrimonial system so different from our system of taxation? They take money and bribes, yes. But we have taxes and the only difference is that our methods are institutionalized. While I realize that bribery is wrong, I challenge anyone who believes that a system of taxation that lets wealthy people and corporations find and utilize every tax break in the book is more right than the patrimonial way. Okay, back on topic . . .
In the case of South Africa it took internal changes as well as external pressures (i.e. trade embargo) to change its ways. I find it interesting that in his article on Aids Mandela cites both of these things as ways to fight the HIV/Aids pandemic. While he is somewhat vague he does argue that behavioral changes must take place and through this education is the best offensive tactic. All in all, I agree with his conclusion. For too long the international community has let Africa slide away. For too long we have exploited its resources, but avoided aiding it because it is not economically advantageous to aid it. External pressure and aid combined with the internal motivation to get things done is the best way. Funding community based organizations has been proven to be very effective in African countries in decreasing the practice of female genital mutilation. Surely something like that could help against Aids as well.
Now, I know that many different countries have done a lot to help in Africa. I applaud these efforts. Change is difficult there, like anywhere else. However, I am not just talking about letting the government help these countries. I am not just talking about pressuring a government to send more aid. I am -- like Mandela -- suggesting that people do something to help with this cause. It is the interest of individuals that will do the most in this case. Help fund organizations that are actually getting something done in Africa. Take some personal responsibility instead of just letting the government do whatever. The government is not a charity operation anyway, but people can be.
Now maybe this is helping against a problem that has become a problem because of too much sin. I ask you, what human problems are not caused by sin? Besides, Jesus did not come to earth to condemn us, look down upon us and beat us over the head with news of our own death. He came to suffer our punishment, offer us forgiveness and redeem us from eternal death. He did not spend time with the righteous when he was here, he spent time with those who knew that they needed his mercy and love. It is not for us to judge, but it is for us to follow Christ's example.