Friday, December 05, 2008

Hope for the Hopeless

For years my mother has supported the fine work of Dr. Paul Thistle (pictured above,) the chief medical officer of the Howard Hospital in northern Zimbabwe. Dr. Thistle is a Christian, a Salvation Army officer, who goes about his work with incredible grace and good humour despite circumstances which would overwhelm most of us. The hospital serves 250,000 people with an annual budget of $40,000 and only two doctors.

You may have heard that Zimbabwe is dealing with a cholera epidemic. That's not correct -- the country is not addressing this serious outbreak because there is virtually no health care infrastructure. Along with staggering inflation, food shortages, the stifling of political opposition, there is next to no state-run health care in Zimbabwee. Hospitals such as the one Dr. Thistle runs is reliant on donations from foreigners.

Desmond Tutu has expressed his deep frustration with what he sees in Zimbabwe by saying that the country which was once the "bread basket" of Africa is now a "basket case." So much of this collapse must be laid at the feet of the dictator Robert Mugabe. His disregard for the people he rules is evil, plain and simple. Recently an international delegation which included former U.S. president Jimmy Carter was denied access to the country and foreign reporters must be careful about what they say to the rest of the world. Mugabe does not want us to hear about the political suppression and the suffering of citizens.

What do we do? An international military intervention? If ever there was a case for U.N. intervention, this is it.

We can certainly pray for change and for the safety of Dr. Thistle and those like him. And we may choose to support oases of hope such as his hospital.


Deborah Laforet said...

It's interesting to think that at one time we may have had no problem interfering. As Christians, we have a history of interfering in the cultures of other peoples (which I believe in some ways have caused some of the destruction across the globe). Now, we are hesitant. Should we interfere? Should we turn a blind eye?

I know that we need to question our motivations when we choose to intervene in the situations of others, but how long do we sit and watch and contemplate whether we can help? Millions of people have died because of cruel dictators or national genocide, while more abundant and secure countries who had the resources to help did nothing. I think we have a moral responsibility to do something, and not to just parachute in, provide resources, and leave. We need to discover ways of listening to the needs of the people (especially those who are suffering) and together finding solutions.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that one of the most often claimed reasonings for a rejection of a belief in God is God’s apparent lack of compassion for Third World countries. God handed out hearts and hands in abundance, and in this sense has provided for the compassion of others, but we easily reject this gift and wait for God’s compassion to come in the form of a bigger more spectacular miracle, such as an immediate massive curing without a corresponding human effort. We have the cure. It has all ready been given. “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Mat.25:40) Intervention seems hard to reject in light of that.

David Mundy said...

The challenge will always be deciding which bodies can intervene and why. Iraq has proven to be a disaster because of the U.S.'s unilateral action. There is also the risk of a modern-day form of colonialism. At some point, though, the international community has a responsibility to answer the question "who is my neighbour?"