The Common Good

The kairos moment on global poverty continues

Sojomail - July 13, 2005

Quote of the Week » A bigger tent on abortion
Hearts & Minds » The kairos moment on global poverty continues
Action Alert » Stop CAFTA!
Politically Connect » London: A sad reminder of a hollow claim
Global Vision » Cuba and family values
Soul Works » Poetry in the age of glare
Boomerang » Readers write
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1. When given the opportunity to use our ability to reason, make decisions, and take responsibility for our actions, we experience joy at work.

2. The purpose of business is not to maximize profits for shareholders but to steward our resources to serve the world in an economically sustainable way.

Visit for the rest of the Top 10 and discover why everyone's reading Dennis Bakke's national bestseller JOY AT WORK.


"A lot of people think the Democratic Party is the party of abortion on demand. We need to change that.... I think there's been a tremendous turnaround as far as a willingness to include pro-lifers in the party."

- Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America, which has launched the "95-10 Initiative" to reduce the number of abortions by 95 percent in 10 years.

Source: Christianity Today


The kairos moment on global poverty continues
by Jim Wallis and Adam Taylor

Thank you for your prayers and actions around the recent G8 summit. Prior to leaving for the U.K. we felt that a kairos moment was at hand around the crisis of global poverty. While the G8 failed to achieve the historic breakthrough that was hoped for, the incredible mobilization of people of faith across the political and religious spectrum provides further evidence of a new convergence around the call to end extreme poverty. The watershed events of 2005 have just begun. We must now translate greater public awareness generated by the G8 and the Live 8 concerts into sustained action and build even greater momentum in advance of the Millennium Summit in mid-September and the World Trade Organization meeting in December.

This year's G8 summit was overshadowed by the wanton destruction of human life caused by the terrorist bombings in London. Our prayers and solidarity go out to the people of London. Fighting despair, desperation, and destitution requires an antidote of hope.

While the G8 summit resulted in important steps, we must be truth-tellers about the degree of progress relative to the actual scale of need. While the G8 reached an agreement to provide an additional $50 billion in aid to developing countries with $25 billion designated for Africa over the next five years, an estimated $30 billion of this pledge is made up of money already committed in previous promises. At the summit President Bush reiterated a promise to double U.S. foreign aid to Africa. However, the majority of this doubled aid is being achieved through already promised increases to the Millennium Challenge Account and the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, with only $800 million in new money to support initiatives around primary education, fighting malaria, and empowering women. The agreement to 100% debt cancellation for 14 African countries represents a significant step forward, but includes only 1/3 of the countries that desperately need 100% debt cancellation in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. These crushing debts must be cancelled through an expedited process that ensures accountability and transparency while removing harmful economic conditions that have previously been attached to debt relief. Little to no progress was made in ending export subsidies and making trade rules more just for the world's poor, and the U.S. continued to block any real progress in addressing global warming at the summit.

Following this G8 moment we should be reminded of the words of the ancient Hebrew prophet that "where there lacks vision, the people perish". In our response to the most dehumanizing and crushing forms of global poverty, we must hold up a bold and prophetic vision. While this year's G8 summit did not yield a historic breakthrough, a new consciousness has been awakened that must now be tied to a bold vision to end extreme poverty across the world. This vision is tied to biblical and moral imperatives to build a more just and secure world.

Kairos is not a time for quick fixes or easy victories. Generating the necessary political and moral will to end extreme global poverty will require building a movement that is capable of changing the wind around the interlinked issues of increased and better aid, 100% debt cancellation, and trade justice. Movements often fail when their vision becomes too short-sighted or compromised by the desire to claim immediate victory. We must acknowledge and celebrate every step that is made in moving us toward this vision, but continue to be prophetic about what is needed to truly make poverty history.

Prior to the G8 summit Sojourners co-convened a forum between religious leaders in the U.S. and U.K. hosted at Lambeth Palace by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. The forum agreed to a powerful church leaders' statement on the G8 that can serve as a critical theological and political framework for mobilizing the prophetic voice of the church around global poverty. Religious leaders also committed to pursuing the idea of convening a regular church forum to address the crisis of global poverty. We were able to learn a great deal from our religious counterparts in the U.K. as well as the Make Poverty History Campaign about how to popularize and deepen a movement to end poverty. The degree of public consciousness and media coverage paid to the issue of global poverty in the U.K. provides a stark contrast to our fleeting and often shallow attention in the U.S. to the daily struggles for survival of our brothers and sisters in the developing world.

During an inspiring meeting between religious leaders and Chancellor Gordon Brown, the Chancellor offered visionary words by saying that "we used to talk about what we can do for Africa but now we must talk about what an empowered Africa can do for itself." Embedded in this statement is a commitment to move from a lens of charity to justice and from paternalism to empowerment. President Bush also echoed this principle in his recent speech on foreign assistance in which he said "overcoming extreme poverty requires partnership, not paternalism." We must affirm the spirit of these words and ensure that a true partnership with Africa includes removing the structural barriers and power imbalances that exacerbate poverty and block development. We have a moral responsibility to replace a legacy of exploitation with a future of real justice and opportunity.

We will continue to build the political and moral will to ensure that these pledges are achieved and quickly surpassed. As we approach the Millennium Summit and the World Trade Organization ministerial meeting, greater and more costly leadership will be needed to advance the aid, debt, and trade agenda. Now that the G8 has adjourned, we will continue to speak boldly and prophetically for those who cannot speak for themselves. We ask that you will join us in shining a spotlight on these issues during the Millennium Summit in September. September 14-16 in NYC, Sojourners is co-organizing three days of fasting, praying, and acting to end global poverty. Look out for more details to come. The action alert below also provides an urgent opportunity to advance trade justice by stopping the passage of the deeply flawed Central American Free Trade Agreement.

For a more in-depth look at progress made at the G8 around the debt, aid, and trade agenda, check out the links below:

+ Make Poverty History

+ Jubilee USA Network

+ Peter Rogness: So many are standing together to end poverty

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by Elizabeth Palmberg

The good news is that we can defeat the Central American Free Trade Agreement in the House of Representatives when it comes to a vote as early as next week. The recent approval of CAFTA in the traditionally pro-trade-pact Senate was its closest trade vote in modern history. The Bush administration, despite its full-court press in the House, doesn't currently have enough votes to pass CAFTA there - and it won't get them if constituents call their legislators and make it clear how they feel.

Why is it so important that we do win? Let's do the math: CAFTA is likely to destroy far more Central American and Dominican jobs in farming than it creates in maquiladoras (factories). NAFTA barely created enough manufacturing jobs in Mexico to keep pace with lost agricultural jobs, according to a Carnegie Endowment report - and Mexico started with a much lower percentage of its population working on farms. What's worse, Central America will have to compete for maquiladora work with China, where labor is even cheaper and where more and more garment jobs are headed now that WTO restrictions are killing the previous national quota system. Without manufacturing jobs, many of the displaced Central American campesinsos are likely to risk the dangerous desert crossing of the militarized U.S. border; CAFTA will have given them the desperate choice between leaving their families and not feeding their families.

Winners: big U.S. agricultural corporations, big U.S. garment retailers. Losers: poor Central American farmers and their children; U.S. manufacturing workers (whose wages will be lowered just by the threat of exporting their jobs) and their children.

What about the displaced campesinos who do find work in maquiladoras? Their situation will not be wonderful either. According to a report which the Labor Department commissioned (and then kept secret for a year), labor laws and sanctions in Central America are inadequate to prevent workers from being fired, or worse, with impunity whenever they try to unionize. CAFTA, which simply requires member nations to enforce their own laws, is therefore not a real step forward. Winners and losers: see above.

In addition, there's a problem with truth in labeling: the pact is not a "free" trade agreement. While it lowers trade barriers to agribusiness, it prevents free trade in generic medicines by enforcing new monopoly rights for drug companies - privileges that go beyond WTO patent protections and threaten lifesaving, low-cost drugs for impoverished AIDS patients.

Winners: big corporations. Losers: poor sick people, middle-class sick people, and anyone in the region who wants to avoid the spread of public health disasters.

See a trend in the winners and losers? The decade after NAFTA saw income inequality rise in Mexico (as it has in the U.S.). Let's not repeat this mistake in Central America and the Dominican Republic.

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London: A sad reminder of a hollow claim
by Alistair Millar

The simultaneous attacks on London's rush-hour commuters were barbaric and horrific - but are pretty much equal to a standard day in Iraq since the "coalition" invaded. Figures released by the Iraqi government in June indicated that 670 Iraqis and 77 Americans were killed in the previous month alone. Plus, Lt. Col. Steve Boylan, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, has been quoted in the press as saying that insurgents are staging about 70 attacks nationwide per day.

This is the road our leaders navigate for us, employing a short-sighted and ineffective counter-terrorism strategy based primarily on the use of force.

Cooperative strategies of denying terrorists access to resources, increasing the capacity of states to track terrorist activity, and providing underdeveloped nations with the resources they need to enhance good governance are essential but not given sufficient attention by the Bush administration. Such efforts not only protect against current terrorist threats but also address longer-term root causes, whereas strategies based primarily on military force undermine cooperation and fan the flames of violent extremism.

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Cuba and family values
by Andrew Hoeksema

The recent House vote didn't set off a flurry of talk show antics. It barely registered as a blip in the blogosphere. I had to scour the Internet for coverage about an issue that reflects the true priorities of our "family values" legislators: a 211-208 vote that maintained the stringent Cuban family travel rules imposed by the Bush administration in recent years. The vote defeated an amendment sponsored by Rep. Jim Davis (D-FL) that would have eased the outmoded restrictions.

What is this policy so ardently defended in Congress? Last year the Bush administration implemented new rules that allow Cubans living in the United States to visit their family for a total of only 14 days in the span of three years. That's immediate family only - no aunts, uncles or cousins. And no exceptions - not for births, marriages, nor deaths. To add insult to restriction, per diem spending limits during visits and total remittance limits cut off what could be life-sustaining income for many Cubans....

Cuba is more than just the receptacle of bad foreign policy for the last half-century. Cuba is made up of people - some of the most loving, welcoming, and celebratory people I have had the joy to know. The family travel restrictions to Cuba are not just about an embargo, a socialist government, or a potentially hostile territory so near to our own shores. These restrictions affect families first and foremost. "Family values" must also be more than a receptacle for bad policy, rhetoric, and moral divisiveness. It is my wish as someone who has been received, embraced, and shaped by a very short time with families in Cuba that our government would recognize how policies affect real people in very real ways.

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Poetry in the age of glare
review by Rose Marie Berger

In Lewis Hyde's masterpiece The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property, he writes, "A market exchange has an equilibrium or stasis: you pay to balance the scale. But when you give a gift there is momentum, and the weight shifts from body to body."

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A Slender Grace by Rod Jellema
Burnt Island by D. Nurske
Carthage by Baron Wormser

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Readers write

James Stewart writes from Grand Rapids, Michigan:

I appreciated Adam Taylor's rallying call ["The G8 and poverty: 'Beyond empty symbolism,'" SojoMail 7/6/2005], but feel that perhaps he overstates what we are likely to receive as an outcome of the summit. The G8, by its very existence, solidifies the disempowerment of the world's poorest people. It is a rich nations' club that holds back the tides of democracy by presuming that historical precedent and control of capital flows is sufficient mandate to set policies that so radically affect the whole world. Those of us who truly want to see the poor empowered must be careful not to lose touch of the need for decisions to be made by truly representative bodies as we seek our more immediate and pragmatic goals.


Rick Peterson, Ph.D., writes from the University of New England:

Thanks for your reporting, and Jim Wallis' commentary, on the G8 Summit ["The G8 and global poverty: God is acting," SojoMail 6/30/2005]. I want to however, offer a minor but extremely important correction - the 18 nations whose debt was cancelled last month, are NOT the world's 18 poorest nations, but 18 nations that have signed on to the conditions for debt cancellation set by those countries (notably the United States) holding the real power in the world, conditions which may in part be praiseworthy, but which may also facilitate the interests of the world's most powerful nations to find new arenas in which to grow their own wealth and tap into new markets. Debt cancellation is a good step but one not immune from geopolitics.


Martin Dodge writes from Mexico:

I don't believe massive aid to many of these countries has done anything for their people over the past decades and will do nothing for them in the future so long as the despots who run so many of these nations remain in control. Much aid money has gone to building palaces for these potentates, financing their personal fleets of Mercedes Benzes, and maintaining their armies of bodyguards. I drive a junker and see no reason why I should enable, through the foreign aid my taxes support, some selfish strongman in his purchase of yet another limo.

I have absolutely no objection to extending aid to those nations where the funds will be directed to programs intended to preserve the environment and bring the downtrodden out of their poverty. But why not set an example for all of Africa by aiding those nations that have beaten back corruption and have installed progressive, compassionate governments? For these societies, progress is possible. Elsewhere, our good-hearted benevolence serves simply to keep creepy dictators in power.


Brian H Breuel writes from Princeton, New Jersey:

I read Jim Wallis' book and sat in the auditorium at Princeton University when Jim and Cornel West captured the hearts of a well educated audience. As a concerned Republican, I've been distressed for a long time and believe someone has finally articulated what is really important - and not just political mush and moral sensationalism. My heartfelt thanks.


Nancy Novak writes from Fort Worth, Texas:

A big thank you to Sojourners for continuing to support Mr. Glen Stassen's positions on abortion and the economic/political policies of this country ["The pro-life movement and economic justice," SojoMail 6/29/2005]. His point regarding whether so-called pro-life advocates care about reducing abortions or whether their aim is to solidify their power is well taken.

I have found that to be the case with abortion opponents who are also Republicans. Rarely do they focus on the underlying causes of abortion, and what to do about it. The Stassen and Guttmacher analyses clearly show a trend reversal, however big or small it might be. Our economy clearly shows a trend reversal from the 1990s. I agree with Stassen that economics play a key role in many domestic issues, such as abortion, marriage, and violence. I live in a "red" state, and see it everyday. Most of my Republican friends refuse to believe this, which I think is very sad.


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