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Something Must Be Done

Children with AIDS in Africa

From a story by Sharon LaFraniere in the NY Times:

In Lesotho, as throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa, children with AIDS were generally considered a lost cause. Treatment, to the extent it existed, was limited to adults, for whom antiretroviral therapy is cheaper and easier. Now, that is slowly changing. Through some charitable foundations, pediatric AIDS medication is available for as little as $200 a year, half of what it used to cost and only $60 more a year than adult medication. Governments, international agencies and private charities have begun to train the region's ragtag health care corps to treat children. Still, only a few children get help. Death comes swiftly for those who go without. Half of all untreated H.I.V.-positive infants die before the age of 2 for lack of medication that can produce transformations seemingly overnight. With medicine, some American infants infected since birth have survived into adulthood and become parents themselves. Specialized and costly tests are needed to determine whether a child under 18 months is infected, although treatment can begin based on symptoms alone. Children are also more complicated to treat, partly because their medication must be constantly adjusted as their height and weight change. And pediatric drugs cost more than adult medication - until recently, up to three times as much. In Lesotho, a nation of 1.8 million encircled by South Africa, more than one in four adults is believed to be infected with H.I.V., the third highest infection rate in the world. Treatment for adults began only in November 2004. Treatment for children followed last April. Caseloads have been swelling ever since. But with an average of one doctor for every 20,000 people, patients sit shoulder-to-shoulder, sometimes waiting more than a day to be seen at a hospital. Health care workers continue to leave for better-paying work in South Africa, Britain or elsewhere. Lesotho officials have yet to treat AIDS like the national emergency it is, said Tim Rwabuhemba, Lesotho director for the United Nations AIDS agency. But other experts praise the government's determination to battle the epidemic, and foundations and charities are beginning to flock here. The World Bank and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria are pouring millions into the national budget for AIDS programs. The Clinton Foundation persuaded one pharmaceutical firm to halve its prices for pediatric AIDS medicines, and is donating the drugs to Lesotho and other nations.

Lord's Resistance Army

If you want to do so, it's a breeze to find a multitude of reasons to be depressed. Folks in Nigeria and Iraq murdering each other daily in the name of religion. Yesterday, Travis Stanley posted some excerpts from a NY Times article about the on-going genocide in Sudan. Yesterday I read an article about Uganda by J. Carter Johnson from

Sixty years after Allied soldiers liberated the Nazi death camps, the world stands silent in the face of another holocaust-one so horrifying that U.N. officials call it "one of the worst human-rights crises of the past century." The perpetrators commit atrocities with such malevolence that even the most irreligious people familiar with their acts describe them as "unrestrained evil." The targets of the butchery are children. They rape, mutilate, and kill them with a rapaciousness that staggers the imagination. Worse, they compel children to kill one another and their own families, fighting as "soldiers" in an armed force deliberately composed of children. Perhaps the greatest atrocity is teaching these children that they spread this carnage by the power of the Holy Spirit to purify the "unrepentant," twisting Christianity into a religion of horror to their victims. It is spiritual warfare at its very worst, and it could not be more satanic.

The Lord's Resistance Army (what a name) is to blame for the atrocities in Uganda. The most depressing thing is that it is hard to imagine what can be done to fix these problems. Here are the suggestions from the ChristianityToday article about Uganda:

The people most familiar with LRA terrorism agree that the best hope for ending the carnage is putting it on the radar screen of the Western world. Akello Lwanga, a physician, spent two years treating LRA victims at an internally displaced persons camp in Pader. "If Americans saw this on TV as often as they see the Middle East," he said, "it would stop." "People need to see what's happening in northern Uganda," said U.S. ambassador to Uganda Jimmy Kolker. "The suffering of these children is unimaginable. Absolutely, it is important for the public to know about this as a step toward bringing it to an end." Ordinary Christians can help stop LRA terrorism. Presenting the issue to churches, continuing in intercessory prayer over the conflict, donating to Christian agencies that work with Ugandan children, and pressing government officials for action all work to save LRA victims. Michael Oruni, director of Uganda's Children of War Rehabilitation Center, told CT he was urging Christians to get involved: "Imagine your own child taken away, being raped as your family is killed in front of your eyes. If it were you, what would you feel like? "Kids in Uganda-kids just like yours-are taken every night and enslaved, raped, mutilated, murdered. You can make a difference. Talk to your government. Help us."

What Bono Said

bono.jpgHere's a link to a transcript of Bono's remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast that I mentioned before. It's an interesting read. Some excerpts:

Look, whatever thoughts you have about God, who He is or if He exists, most will agree that if there is a God, He has a special place for the poor. In fact, the poor are where God lives. Check Judaism. Check Islam. Check pretty much anyone. I mean, God may well be with us in our mansions on the hill - I hope so. He may well be with us as in all manner of controversial stuff - maybe, maybe not. But the one thing we can all agree, all faiths and ideologies, is that God is with the vulnerable and poor. ...6,500 Africans are still dying every day of a preventable, treatable disease, for lack of drugs we can buy at any drug store. This is not about charity, this is about Justice and Equality. Because there's no way we can look at what's happening in Africa and, if we're honest, conclude that deep down, we really accept that Africans are equal to us. Anywhere else in the world, we wouldn't accept it. Look at what happened in South East Asia with the Tsunami. 150, 000 lives lost to that misnomer of all misnomers, "mother nature". In Africa, 150,000 lives are lost every month. A tsunami every month. And it's a completely avoidable catastrophe. ...I truly believe that when the history books are written, our age will be remembered for three things: the war on terror, the digital revolution, and what we did-or did not to-to put the fire out in Africa. History, like God, is watching what we do. Thank you. Thank you, America, and God bless you all.

Bono Calls

bono.jpgFrom an AP story on MSNBC:

Quoting from Islamic, Jewish and Christian texts, rock star Bono called Thursday for the U.S. government to give an additional 1 percent of the federal budget to the world's poor. Speaking to President Bush and members of Congress at the National Prayer Breakfast, the U2 front man said it's unjust to keep poor people from selling their goods while singing the virtues of the free market, to hold children to ransom for the debts of their grandparents and to withhold medicines that would save lives. "God will not accept that," he said. "Mine won't. Will yours?"

Lefty Religious Protest

Here's a link to an article from mid-December from The Washington Post titled "A Religious Protest Largely From the Left. Conservative Christians Say Fighting Cuts in Poverty Programs Is Not a Priority." It describes plans of left-leaning Christians to protest proposals in the government's budget planning for cutting programs for the poor. It boils down to that same old debate: can the government effectively meet the needs of the poor, the vulnerable, and the powerless or is "the government not really capable of love?"

Why in recent years have conservative Christians asserted their influence on efforts to relieve Third World debt, AIDS in Africa, strife in Sudan and international sex trafficking -- but remained on the sidelines while liberal Christians protest domestic spending cuts? Conservative Christian groups such as Focus on the Family say it is a matter of priorities, and their priorities are abortion, same-sex marriage and seating judges who will back their position against those practices. Jim Wallis, editor of the liberal Christian journal Sojourners and an organizer of today's protest, was not buying it. Such conservative religious leaders "have agreed to support cutting food stamps for poor people if Republicans support them on judicial nominees," he said. "They are trading the lives of poor people for their agenda. They're being, and this is the worst insult, unbiblical." At issue is a House-passed budget-cutting measure that would save $50 billion over five years by trimming food stamp rolls, imposing new fees on Medicaid recipients, squeezing student lenders, cutting child-support enforcement funds and paring agriculture programs. House negotiators are trying to reach accord with senators who passed a more modest $35 billion bill that largely spares programs for the poor. At the same time, House and Senate negotiators are hashing out their differences on a tax-cutting measure that is likely to include an extension of cuts in the tax rate on dividends and capital gains. To mainline Protestant groups and some evangelical activists, the twin measures are an affront, especially during the Christmas season. To GOP leaders and their supporters in the Christian community, it is not that simple. Acting House Majority Leader Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said yesterday that the activists' position is not "intellectually right." The "right tax policy," such as keeping tax rates low on business investment, "grows the economy, increases federal revenue -- and increased federal revenue makes it easier for us to pursue policies that we all can agree have social benefit," he said. Dobson also has praised what he calls "pro-family tax cuts." And Janice Crouse, a senior fellow at the Christian group Concerned Women for America, said religious conservatives "know that the government is not really capable of love." "You look to the government for justice, and you look to the church and individuals for mercy. I think Hurricane Katrina is a good example of that. FEMA just failed, and the church and the Salvation Army and corporations stepped in and met the need," she said. Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council, said the government's role should be to encourage charitable giving, perhaps through tax cuts. "There is a [biblical] mandate to take care of the poor. There is no dispute of that fact," he said. "But it does not say government should do it. That's a shifting of responsibility."

There are links to press coverage of the "Civil Disobedience for a Moral Budget" on the sojourners web site. There's also more info on the "call to renewal" website, "a faith-based movement to overcome poverty."


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