What humanitarian crisis?

David Mansfield

I was the guest speaker at an Anglican church recently.

It wasn’t in our diocese, but it could have been. I was completely at home with the informal, friendly tone with its strong emphasis communicating the Bible in a way that was easily accessible to people from all walks of life.

Before the meeting, the minister checked what he should ask me during the brief interview before the sermon. My usual response is, “Surprise me.” He did.

“How should we as Christians respond to the current humanitarian crisis facing the world?” he asked when the interview was in full swing.

My mind went into overdrive. Which humanitarian crisis was he referring to? I wanted to answer the question in a dozen ways. But I knew I only had a twenty-second window to nail the crisis I thought he had in mind.

Was it the humanitarian crisis of nearly nine million children under five, that people are tired of me talking about, who are dying of hunger and preventable diseases every year?

Was it the nearly twelve million men, women and children in the Horn of Africa whose lives are at risk from a famine sweeping the region?

Was it the 150 million people who will have to be relocated from the delta regions of India and Bangladesh in the next 30 years if the climate sceptics are wrong and we should have been heeding the climate change advocates all along?

Was it that many people who believe in heaven and hell, and that Jesus can rescue us from the judgement of the latter to the safety of the former, seem content to bring that message to the world with the speed of sludge?

Was it the millions of people in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Sudan (North and South), Zimbabwe, Lybia and countless other places who will never see justice on this earth as victims of crimes against humanity?

Was it the genocide of 90,000 pre-natal babies in a highly civilized nation like Australia, let alone the figure for the planet, every single year? The one place in this scarily dangerous world that should offer the greatest level of security becomes the location of greatest danger, scandal and vulnerability. Talk about sleeping with the enemy!

Or was it, is it, the frightening fact that the www. members of the planet (wealthy, white, westerners) don’t really care about human suffering? “How awful”, we say, as we order our expensive European cars, book our tenth once-in-a-lifetime holiday around the world and replace our three-year-young decor because we tired of the old colours.

Is that the real humanitarian crisis?

“Think!” I said to myself. “Your twenty seconds starts in less than one.

I went with The Horn.

But should I have gone with the hearts of indifference? Especially my own heart?

Should I have gone with the hearts of the wealthiest billion whose compassion and sacrificial generosity could make a real difference to the lives of the poorest billions?

Should I have gone with the hearts of people who belong to Jesus but whose hearts don’t seem to be burning with a passion for souls?

I keep thinking that Jesus’ words may have a bearing on these issues:

Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body... What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean’. For from within, out of men’s hearts, comes... greed... arrogance... folly (Mark 7:18-22).

What would Jesus say if he was put on the spot (and he often was) with the question:

“Jesus, what should our response be to the latest humanitarian crisis facing the world?”

“Jesus, how should people who bear your name respond to the current humanitarian crises facing the world?”

And the Horn of Africa wouldn’t be far from his heart.