On October 13 we celebrated our tenth birthday with a very special Love London Sunday. As part of our celebrations, we wanted to give a gift to charities who are making a great contribution to our city, our nation, and overseas. We divided a gift of £10k between four great charities, one of which was World Vision UK.
In this post, Johan Eldebo, Senior Humanitarian Policy Adviser at World Vision, explains a bit about what they do.
Recently a study revealed that 1% of the population of the world owns approximately 50% of its wealth. About 1 billion people in the world live in extreme poverty, on less than $1.25 a day. Meanwhile, the richest 85 people in the world have about the same wealth as the poorest 3.5 billion. Inequality between the rich countries and the poor has more than doubled over the last 50 years, at the same time as inequality within both rich and poor countries have increased.
But these are just the economic numbers.
Today 51m people are forcibly displaced due to conflict, the largest number since World War 2. The conflict in Syria is in its fourth year, with 6.5m displaced in the country and more than 10.5m people in need of assistance. In South Sudan some 4m people need aid. About half of those in need are children, many of whom will be more likely to learn how to work in a field or as a soldier than learn how to read and write.
The total need for humanitarian crises in 2014 is estimated to $20bn, around the same amount the World Cup cost to organise, what it cost Facebook to buy Whatsapp and what it costs to run Kentucky for two years.
Of this, 45% has so far been provided, leaving more than half of the needs of emergency assistance such water, food and shelter in the world unmet.
For many people, this is simply not good enough.
For some people, coming face to face with a world like this will change their lives.
Robert Pierce was one of those people. As an American missionary he went to China to preach the Gospel. While there, many came to believe through his teaching. One evening a child, White Jade, who had earlier that day accepted Christ, came knocking on the door at the house where he was staying. She had been cast of our home for becoming a Christian, and was now, beaten up, standing in front of Robert with nothing. His hosts explained to him that the orphanage, which they were running, was already full. They then asked him a question that would stay with him:
What are you going to do about this?
For Robert, this meant that preaching the Gospel was no longer enough, and he promised to finance the care of this child in China by raising support in the US. In addition to hearing about the love of God, White Jade was now going to experience the love of God through the church. That initiative by one person to support one child has now grown into one of the largest charities in the world, serving children and communities in close to 100 countries.
World Vision focuses its work on children in need, in areas of both poverty and conflict. Those most in need tend to be in areas that simultaneously are hit by poverty and conflict, making life and assistance difficult. Today, this means Syria, South Sudan, Afghanistan and the Central African Republic. In those areas World Vision often provides safe places for children to be, learn and play in. These places, known as child friendly spaces, are often inside refugee camps and provide an escape from the chaos outside the door. Inside, we can then provide teachers and health care and ensure there is enough food and water, giving a glimpse of normalcy in an environment of utter chaos.
This is made possible by connecting the rich world with the poor world, or more precisely people in the rich world with people in need. Dividing my time between the conflict zones of the world and Zone 1 in London, I get to live with the tension of the two seemingly different worlds. It provides a lot of opportunities to think about why and how we in the rich world connect with less fortunate parts of the world.
The ‘why’ is easy from a Christian perspective. Jesus did it, and he told us to do the same. He came to the people no one liked, and spent time with those whom society didn’t want. The rich and the powerful didn’t like him; the poor and the hungry did. I wonder, if Jesus came back today, would he come to our neighbourhood? What would he say about our communities and our priorities? What would he say about our level of involvement with the displaced in South Sudan or the homeless in London?
The ‘how’ is perhaps more difficult. There are plenty of things wrong with this world, and different people care about different wrongs. Robert Pierce’s heart was broken by what happened to White Jade, and as a result of that he started World Vision. Our challenge in the rich world isn’t so much what our heart breaks for, but that we make sure it breaks for for something. Our danger is that we get so lost in our first world problems that we forget what happens in the rest of the world.
To find out more about World Vision, visit their website.
Note: The views in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of World Vision.
Image: DRC IDPs11, by IRIN photos, used under CC