It was our Harvest Services today in Waringstown Presbyterian which is always one of my favourite services in the year as we are reminded of God's goodness to us. The sermon this morning was given by a South African minister who is currently ministering in a church in Belfast. He set out to challenge us in the reality that whilst we are very blessed, others in the world are not. I have heard many sermons from people who are very passionate about poverty and injustice in the world but i have never been so challenged as i was this morning.
He shared first hand experience of living in a country were he was privileged to be 'white' whilst his 'black' neighbours lived in poverty. He shared a story of the stark contrast between two sons born around the same time. One was his own son and the other was the child of the gardener he employed. M&S clothing vs 'hand-me-downs', disposable nappies vs linen nappies, private health care vs NO health care, healthy vs HIV, life vs death. All because of the colour of skin. He explained that African funerals are massive occassions for the whole community. At the funeral, everyone attending will say something. They will start with the youngest and finish with the oldest and therefore wisest person there who will be no older than 40. However the funerals of babies and children are much simpler. At the funeral of the gardener's son there were only a few people present and the occassion was much less tragic. Why is this? Simply because there is a much greater expectation that children will die beacuse it happens so regularly. We live in a society were it is a tragedy when a child dies because we believe it is our right to a long and full life. The poor people of South Africa, and many other countries of the world, have never been conscious of this 'right' and so their reality is very different.
With anger in his voice he reminded me that only a few years ago the goverments of the Western world were informed that it would take $300 billion to wipe out world poverty and they concluded that they could not find that amount of money - yet recently, when financial crisis hits the world, the US government seems to have found $700 billion without much difficulty.
He concluded with the following powerful video from The Miniature Earth Project. You may have seen it before but if you haven't, you need to watch it as it cleverly breaks the injustice of the world into figures that are easier to get you head around.