Saturday, February 16, 2008

President Bush, Africa and Prayer

Darfur Genocide

So President Bush is in Africa. I am pleased. No matter what one's politics are, once a President touches foreign soil it creates discussion about that far away place. We need to talk about Africa. It is a continent of unbridled promise, rich in resources, cultures and energetic people. It is also a continent that has known far too much suffering. In a world increasingly viewed as a clash between Christian and Muslim nations it is Africa, not the Middle East or Asia that has the most potential for such conflict. Because a number of the nations of Africa have large numbers of citizens from both faiths it is also Africa that has the potential of showing the world how to live in peace.

President Bush will be visiting Rwanda, Ghana, Liberia, Tanzania and Benin. These are countries that can showcase progress made with the help of U.S. assistance. That is good, any lessening of suffering is good. That is not however the whole picture. While parts of Africa are showing signs of healing and growth other parts of the continent are hemorrhaging.

Sudan grasps for a peace between the Muslim north and the Christian and animist south but that is not it’s only struggle. Lives are still lost at an alarming rate in the Darfur region and the humanitarian crisis is now spilling over into Chad. Ethiopia and Eritrea are edging closer to yet another war. Somalia has not had an effective central government in decades.

Zimbabwe is a land of conflict, dictatorship and increasing poverty. The Congo is attempting to hold unto a fragile peace after fighting the most deadly war since World War II. This was a war that left five million people dead.

Currently the most shocking conflict is the struggle of Kenyan against Kenyan after their last election. This strife has resulted in 1000 dead and 300,000 displaced citizens. The churches of Eastern Africa and the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan work to try to find some compromise that will allow both sides to put down their arms and begin to act again as Kenyans.

The nations the President will visit are not without their challenges. The President of Tanzania is the new in-coming president of the African Union. His nation is struggling to care for refugees that are arriving from neighboring Kenya. Rwanda has the largest number of peace keepers in Darfur. Ghana has taken on an increasing high profile role of negotiating African conflicts.

There are examples of hope that are not dependent on the stability of a government or aid from the West. In Kenya Father Ludwig Peschen of the White Fathers has been helping all who suffer by remaining neutral. He is in negotiations with Aid to the Church in Need. His job is a big one. He assists all in Nairobi who have lost their homes and all their possessions. He visits refugees and brings the essentials when he has them. Otherwise he simply visits so they know they are not forgotten. The priest is a physician and a psychotherapist. Clearly he could be doing other things with his skills, but this is his calling.

The good father is skilled in what he does. He treated trauma victims in Sudan. He is part of a cadre of men in women throughout Africa who are confronting war and brutality with love and compassion.

President Bush is looking for success to associate with his presidency. His HIV/AIDS programs and his support of fighting disease have helped many. Let us pray that his trip is not just the trip of a president in his last year in office. Let us pray this trip marks the beginning of a new and positive relationship between the United States and the many nations of Africa.

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