Faith-Based Solutions to Social Issues
Interfaith Summit on Africa
July 19, 2006
Remarks by Bishop Charles E. Blake, Sr.
Founder and President, Pan-African Children's Fund/Save Africa's Children
Senior Pastor, West Angeles Church of God in Christ
To those associated with Church World Service and the conveners of the Interfaith Summit on Africa. To the representatives of all the other organizations comprising this gathering.
It is an honor to participate in this Interfaith Summit on Africa. The knowledgeable and diverse individuals and groups who are a part of this gathering impress me. You and your organizations have done, and are now doing, significant things for the alleviation of poverty and suffering on the continent of Africa. I am here to learn from you, collaborate with you, and affiliate with your good efforts.
From my teenage years, I have loved Africa, and I have sought to connect with my African heritage. I was blessed to begin visiting Africa in the 1980's, and have done so almost annually since that time. In 1998, Rev. Eugene Rivers, III, and his congregation, in Boston, submitted to my Episcopal oversight. His activist aspirations to mitigate suffering in Africa were contagious. I joined him in founding the Pan African Charismatic Evangelical Congress in the year 2000. We wrote open letters to the President, editorials to various newspapers, and held news conferences at the National Press Club, all addressing the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
In April, 2001, we and a group of associates were the guests of Harvard's Center for International Development led by Professor Jeffery D. Sachs, for a special briefing on children orphaned by AIDS in Africa. The stark statistics appalled us. Some have now estimated that, by 2025, as many as eighty-five million people may die, and fifty-five million children may be orphaned because of AIDS in Africa. Even if those numbers are not reached, the pandemic represents, and will continue to represent, a tragedy of mega-epic proportions.
Rev. Rivers and I founded The Pan African Children's Fund, aka, Save Africa's Children (PACF/SAC) in 2001. Our purpose is to support primarily, but not exclusively, indigenous, grass roots and faith based institutions and initiatives that serve orphans in sub-Saharan Africa. To date, we serve more than 350 orphan care programs of various kinds and configurations, in 23 nations of Africa, accommodating well over 100,000 children.
We do not advocate institutional
orphanages as a first resort. We do find that they can be a necessary, better than nothing, last resort. SAC supports a variety of models of institutional and non-institutional care all of which play a critical role in caring for children temporarily or permanently without family care.
We are currently evaluating more than 300 additional programs at this time, intending to include many of them in the next grant cycle. We provide financial support, supplies and equipment, best practices consultation, and we employ a comprehensive approach to orphan care, incorporating principles developed by UNICEF and UNAIDS.
By 2005, an estimated AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa had orphaned 15 million children. If by 2025, only 30 million orphans exist as a result of the pandemic in Africa (and I have heard of no estimate which is that low), 200,000 interventions accommodating an average of 150 children each will be needed. Some of these children will need care for as many as 15 or more years.
It is apparent that no non-African entity or group of entities can execute and administer a task of this magnitude. We must support and consult with Africans as they do it. And those most likely to do it well and right are extended families, local African churches, religious organizations, and community organizations. PACF/SAC seeks to assist those entities involved in orphan care, and we seek to expedite the creation of many additional indigenous orphan care programs. More than 200,000 programs are needed.
If good people do not love, provide for, and rear these orphans, then bad people will rear them to be instruments of destruction and detriment. Can you imagine the negative impact of 40 or 50 million individuals growing up without significant adult guidance, compassion, and provisions? Can you imagine the economic and social impact that millions of untrained, uneducated, emotionally deprived young people might have not only on the continent of Africa, but also on the world?
We cannot allow 40 million children in Africa to live, suffer, and die without all the help we can give them. We cannot allow the majority of the 750 million people in Africa to struggle and die on an average income of less than 200 dollars per year without doing something to help them.
If not us, who? If not now, when? If not here, where? If this crisis does not move us to action and unity, what will?
But, were we to, by some miracle, provide for the needs of all of Africa's orphans, we would alleviate and mitigate only one area of suffering, only one of the factors jeopardizing the well-being of Africa.
Each humanitarian organization has just a few pieces of the puzzle. None of us has the capacity to provide a comprehensive solution, or even have a positive comprehensive impact on Africa. None of us should come to the table with arrogance, or with a sense of superiority. Nor, should a seat at the table be refused to anyone wishing to assist in the endeavor. None of us can afford to operate alone, or even think that we can do the job, that needs to be done, alone. Among the NGO'S serving Africa, there must be openness, and transparency, legitimacy, validity, productivity, and accountability. We together, if sincere, must focus on the highest good for the highest number.
We are hindered when we look upon one another as competitors. We are hindered when we seek to out-maneuver and up-stage one another in the quest for government grants, corporate donations, and media coverage. We are hindered when we deal with one another only from the perspective of the advancement of our particular organization alone. We are hindered when we approach other NGO'S with the sole objective of enlisting them in our agenda, or subsuming them in our cause, or even in our organization.
I believe that it was John Maxwell who said,
It takes teamwork to make a dream work. We must respect the actualities and potentials of every participant. We must work together to maximize our collective impact. We are much more together with respect, than we are apart.
In 1 Cor 12:21, (Amplified Bible) And the eye is not able to say to the hand, I have no need of you, nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. 22 But instead, there is [absolute] necessity for the parts of the body that are considered the more weak.
Jeffery D. Sachs, in his book, The End of Poverty, (p. 82-84) talks about
differential diagnosis, and
treatment regimens, as strategies for analyzing and mitigating extreme poverty in poor nations. Many individuals working for the advancement of Africa have no idea what these concepts mean. I know that I did not. But to accomplish lasting good in Africa we must access the expertise of men like Sachs, and support the good recommendations they make in every way we can. I truly believe that many of these ideas and strategies can serve as guidelines and blueprints for the eradication of extreme poverty, especially for the continent of Africa. This level of economic analysis is essential to the transformation of poor nations. Sachs also stresses that the cooperation rich countries (annual donations of .07 % of Gross National Product), and the cooperation of the governments of poor countries (proper strategies, integrity, and accountability) is absolutely necessary. The international community must also act to eradicate those conditions that make the rise out of extreme poverty impossible. Wars, ethnic conflicts, disease, drought, and malnutrition are examples of the kind of conditions to which Sachs refers.
We, through our organizations and our constituencies can by every means urge our political leadership to aggressively pursue The Millennium Goals.
We can work together and develop strategies to prudently influence and advise the political leadership of poor nations to focus on the needs of the poorest of their poor.
We can also seek to convince private and public corporations that the extraction of Africa's resources mandate a practical corporate concern for Africa's extremely poor. We together can press corporations to attain a higher level of corporate responsibility and accountability.
Our collective advocacy may be as essential, if not more essential, than the good deeds our limited resources permit us to do.
As I move toward the end of my remarks, I am so thankful for the good work that so many predominantly white NGO'S and their supporters have done in Africa. I sincerely pray that their good work will continue. Untold suffering and death would result from any withdrawal of their presence, or any reduction of their efforts. Historically, African-Americans have joined with Europeans and European-Americans in missionary and humanitarian involvement in Africa. Several organizations, denominations, and groups or color, have been very active and effective in their work. But, a variety of factors have caused African-Americans to be less involved in humanitarian efforts in Africa than is acceptable.
I don't want to appear racially divisive or racially exclusive. That is far from my goal. An essential objective of PACF/SAC is to mobilize greater African-American involvement. The African AIDS and orphan crises are the most likely stimulants to move African-Americans to purposeful unity and collective action.
The failure by some African-Americans to recognize and pursue our destiny may be a reason for much of our present despair and downward drifting. When a people lose their sense of destiny and purpose, they will lose almost everything else. Almost everywhere you find people of African descent, they are the poorest, most malnourished, unemployed, uneducated, most oppressed people; and, in that place, they exist at the bottom of all social strata.
Africa's descendents in Africa, the U.S., and around the world have few mechanisms, if any, by which we can unite to identify, confront, and resolve our mutual challenges. Two of these challenges are the AIDS pandemic, and the orphan crisis. But, there are many, many other crises that confront our people all over the world.
We need to promote broad scale African American awareness of the plight of our brothers and sisters in Africa. We need to motivate African Americans with new paradigms and approaches to alleviate an African disaster of epic proportions. We need a movement as intense, and comprehensive, as was the Civil Rights Movement.
We need to instigate, not a temporary response, but rather, a new pan-African vision for mobilizing a comprehensive response to the AIDS pandemic, and to enable Africa's children on the continent and around the world to launch a strategy of empowerment.
We need to dream of black people everywhere joining together in a pan African world community for cooperative mutual enhancement, and advancement. In joining together, people of African descent will be stronger actors on the world stage and more effective advocates on behalf of Africa.
That is the vision, and that is the leverage point from which we can move the world.
In the Old Testament, Joseph had two dreams or visions which molded his sense of identity and destiny. Because of his dreams his brothers hated him and sold him into slavery. Blacks were also sold into slavery, many times by our brothers in Africa. Like Joseph, our forefathers endured many trials, much humiliation and suffering. But, Joseph held on to his dreams. He maintained his relationship with God, and lived on the highest possible moral level, even amid great temptations and adversity. Because of this he was able to endure and to maintain his sanity.
Through a series of supernatural and providential events Joseph was blessed by God to become the vice-president of Egypt. We through a series of phenomenal and supernatural events have by God's grace come to success and power in this land of our captivity. Blacks now direct, or have directed, the foreign and military policy of the most powerful nation on earth: Colin Powell and Condeleeza Rice. Joseph realized this blessed promotion had taken place so that he could fulfill his God-given destiny of reaching back to those same brothers who sold him into slavery and save them from starvation and death.
And in accord with this
Joseph Paradigm, I propose that God has blessed African Americans in the U.S. not just for ourselves, but that we might be
Joseph to Africa. We must reach back to our 750 million brothers and sisters in Africa, and share with them directly and also become advocates and proponents of African aid and development assistance.
African Americans must become for Africa what Jewish Americans have become for Israel.
I propose that this is something worth working together for. When a people find something worth working for, then they become people of purpose. When people find a purpose, they find meaning. And when they find meaning they find significance. And when they find significance, they find a reason to discipline themselves morally, ethically, and spiritually. And when significant disciplined people bring their whole beings into conformity with their purpose, they find greatness, prosperity and success; and they accomplish any goal that they set
It has been my objective to:
- Introduce you to the work of Save Africa's Children/The Pan African Children's Fund;
- Present myself and our organization for cooperative and collaborative endeavors;
- Stress the complexity and vastness of our task, and the need for relevant responses;
- And finally to elaborate and explain the importance of our goal of enlisting more African American involvement in strategically enhancing the plight of Africa's Children or descendants in Africa and around the world.