In the news business, there’s a saying that goes, “One dead fireman in Brooklyn is worth five English bobbies, who are worth fifty Arabs, who are worth five hundred Africans.” I quoted this in my first book, The Hole in Our Gospel.
It’s understandable that we identify and sympathize with the people closest to us. We have a harder time empathizing with people who are somehow removed — whether geographically, culturally, religiously, or nationally. It’s normal.
But it’s not okay.
God cares as much for the mother in Angola as for the fireman in Brooklyn. Some 1.8 million people have been affected by a drought in the southern African country of Angola, but you won’t see news coverage of it.
While a mother’s milk dries up from a lack of food, and a baby with a swollen belly suffers acute malnutrition, our newspapers offer tips on enjoying the Fourth of July weekend.
I read a World Vision field evaluation from a few weeks ago that described how Angola’s drought has destroyed the country’s harvest. Farmers are only reaping 25 percent of their typical maize crop. As many as 150,000 people are suffering from severe food shortages.
As a result of the ruined harvest, the price of grains has risen fourfold. This is in a country where two-thirds of rural households live on less than $1.75 per day. As many as a half-million children are already suffering from malnutrition, and the situation is expected to continue to grow worse before next year’s harvest begins in February — eight long months from now.
But for many families, even the next harvest is uncertain. Eliza Naquinda ate the seeds she had intended to plant next year. Her hunger, and that of her baby, couldn’t wait until planting season. “If I don’t eat well, my milk dries up. My hunger turns into my child’s hunger as well,” she says.
Eliza traveled 50 miles to find food at a World Vision feeding center for her 13-month-old son, Filipe, who is badly malnourished. They eat no more than one meal per day.
I believe that we are all equal before God, and that suffering in Angola is as tragic as suffering in Akron, Ohio. World Vision is working to care for those affected by Angola’s drought: We’re providing immediate food and medical treatment, as well as agricultural training for families like Eliza’s so they can grow abundant harvests when rains return.
Let’s not let the newspapers determine for us who is important and who isn’t. Seeing the world through God’s eyes, we know that all people are worth our care and concern — because all have been created in the image of God.
Do you agree that it’s difficult to display the same level of compassion for people who are far away — because of geography, culture, or otherwise — as we do for those who are closest to us? Why or why not? Share your thoughts with us as comments.