One of the few advantages of my ‘advancing age’ is that this past Sunday, Valentine’s Day, Janet and I received our first COVID-19 vaccine. It was a very relaxed and pleasant setting and quite easy, yet I felt a jab in more than just my arm. I expect you’ve felt the same uncomfortable twinge as me…
Earlier this month the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) issued a report stating that “Based on the current trajectory, mass immunisation efforts for poorer countries could be delayed until 2024 or beyond, prolonging human and economic suffering for all countries.” Considering that every American is counting in days or weeks until they have access to a vaccine, the bald inequality of the OECD’s statement is impossible to ignore. In effect, a global Hunger Games has been playing out around the world, a Darwinian “survival of the richest.”
There is absolutely nothing God-honoring or redeeming about this. And we are all the beneficiaries of this un-natural selection process. Call it hardball politics or ‘simply how the world works;’ in our hearts, we know we can and must do better.
Enter UK prime minister Boris Johnson, perhaps not the likeliest of Robin Hoods. Just six days ago, he called for a special virtual summit of G7 leaders to “call for further international cooperation on vaccine distribution and to build back better from coronavirus.” He will also call for “a new, global approach to pandemics that learns lessons from the division that characterised the initial international response to the coronavirus pandemic.” He urgently called for the meeting to be held this Friday. President Biden and most/all the other G7 leaders have pledged attendance, and it’s certain their staffs are preparing briefs and position papers, including possible commitments and negotiating tactics.
This is one of those situations where we CANNOT simply act individually to right a wrong or build greater equity. We must do it through our nation, and do so in partnership with other nations.
In effect, this Friday the leaders of the world’s most-developed nations will effectively decide whether or not we have a responsibility for the wellbeing of our fellow human beings.
This is one of the terrible ramifications of “the accident of birth.” To a very great extent, one’s life trajectory is bound-up in where they happened to be born… Something that none of us chose for ourselves. None of us earned it. For instance, an astounding forty percent of all children born in Zambia in southern Africa have permanent brain stunting. Large swaths of their brain cells have starved and died by the age of four or five. Those brain cells will never resurrect or resuscitate. The dulled eyes, the sagging lids, the slow expressions–these children have a permanent limit on their future, simply because of where they were born.
I’ve spent my career reducing the global impacts of the accident of birth, of giving every child the same chance for “life in all its fullness.” Many times, I’ve seen the incredible, tangible impact that we as individuals can have on thousands and millions of children and adults. There is no substitute for individual action.
At the same time, there are times when only corporate action, national compassion, global cooperation are needed to change reality. This is one of those times. We need to right this terrible injustice now–not after every American has been taken care of and we have nothing better to do with our leftover needles.
So please join me in praying for this critical G7 discussion, for boldness, for leadership, for global compassion and cooperation. We can do better. We cannot pray for God’s will to be done and God’s kingdom to come on earth, then turn a blind eye to this massive inequality–the antithesis of that Kingdom.
And be ready to use your voice. The Biden administration may come back with plans and funding requests and “the will to make it so.” But if the only thing our elected officials hear from constituents is “We can’t afford to care for others”–then it simply won’t happen. Those of us with much will have more. Those with little will have less. We will shake our fist toward heaven and wash our hands along with Cain, complaining “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
Those especially who claim to be followers of the Rabbi from Nazareth know the correct answer to that. May we have the courage to help live it out.