World Watch IX – Foreign aid – Voice of disenchantment

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TEN years ago, it would have been hard to find anyone to question the wisdom and morality of the rich world giving billions of dollars in help to the poor world. A generation reared on Live Aid held these truths to be self-evident. Now, the intellectual trend is all the other way. A stream of economists, politicians and even disillusioned do-gooders have penned powerful critiques of every aspect of aid and the aid industry; men like Paul Collier, William Easterly and Robert Calderisi. Even the high priests of aid, pop stars such as Bono and Bob Geldolf, now preach a much more nuanced and complex gospel than they did in the 1980s.

Yet the intellectual arguments about aid are still conducted largely within a small circle of Western white men. So it is good to welcome a new voice to the debate, and a black African woman too, Dambisa Moyo, a Zambian economist at Goldman Sachs. It is remarkable that so few voices have been raised in Africa, supposedly the main beneficiary of the world’s largesse, about how the aid money should be spent, or even whether it should be received at all.

Unfortunately, Ms Moyo’s contribution ends there, for “Dead Aid” does not move the debate along much. Yes, she has joined the chorus of disapproval—and that in itself might surprise a few diehards who think that Africans should just be grateful for the aid and shut up. But her arguments are scarcely original and her plodding prose makes her the least stylish of the critics.

Moreover, she overstates her case, almost to the point of caricature. There is almost nobody left, even in the aid lobby, who seriously thinks that bilateral (government-to-government) aid is the sole answer to world poverty, as she suggests. “Trade not aid” is only one of several newish mantras among aidniks that seem to have passed her by.

Nonetheless, Ms Moyo is right to argue that the rich world—and Africa—should now focus on other ways of helping poor countries. Ms Moyo shows how some countries, such as Ghana, have successfully tapped the bond markets for funds. She also has good discussions on the virtues of microfinance, venture capital and liberalising trade. By concentrating on these three, African governments might well raise more money on their own; some might even lessen their dependency on aid.

Private investors will always require good governance to ensure that their dollars are not misused. This “trumps all”, argues Ms Moyo. She won’t find many Africans who disagree with that. But getting governments like Nigeria’s or Kenya’s actually to walk the talk has proved a much tougher proposition.

in The Economist


USO Savannah Gets Some Help

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The USO is getting some much needed support.

Funded solely by private donations, today the USO received a check for one thousand dollars from The Priory of St. Vincent, Knights Templar.

The money will help fund the USO’s efforts to support the troops and their families stationed here and around the world.

“This is great! This goes a long ways towards our efforts. We do a lot here at Hunter with the troops who deploy and redeploy and we are doing everything we can to support those stationed in this area,” explains Ray Gaster of USO Savannah.

“I think it’s very important to support all of our military. They are doing a tremendous job for our country. They are protecting us our rights our freedoms,” says Hal Murray of The Priory of St. Vincent, Knights Templar.

If you would like more information on how you can support the USO contact (912) 354-5794.

We must share and seek the forgiveness of the poor

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A Saint and Compassion Fatigue …

There is a story told about St. Vincent de Paul. Perhaps it’s partly myth, but its challenge is real nonetheless.

Vincent once gave an instruction to his religious community that sounded something like this: “When the demands of life seem unfair to you, when you are exhausted and have to pull yourself out of bed yet another time to do some act of service, do it gladly, without counting the cost and without self-pity, for if you persevere in serving others, in giving yourself to the poor, if you persevere to the point of completely spending yourself, perhaps someday the poor will find it in their hearts to forgive you. For it is more blessed to give than to receive and it is also a lot easier.”

That might sound curious. Why do the poor need to forgive us? For what do we need to be forgiven? Shouldn’t we feel good about serving others?

All of us, I suspect, have a pretty good sense of what he means. We all know there is a certain humiliation in needing to receive, just as there is a certain pride in being able to give.

The things we often complain about are really our greatest blessings: What is worse than being too busy? Having nothing to do. What is more painful than having to give away something we own? Having nothing to give away. What is harder than being dragged out of bed to minister to someone in need? Being the person who is in bed and who needs someone to help him or her.

What is harder than being brought to our knees by the demands of those around us for our time and energy? Being on our knees asking someone else for his or her time and energy. It is more blessed to be able to give than to receive and it is easier. But there’s more.

There is a certain divine power, literally, in being able to give. The one who gives gets to be God or, at very least, to feel like God. That’s not an overstatement. God is the source of all that is, the source of all gift. When we are in a position to give, we mediate divine power and we get to feel that power. Whenever we act like God, we get to feel like God.

Yet, the irony is that our very gifts and strengths, if not given over with the proper attitude, can easily make others feel inferior. It is important to understand this so that we are more careful to not serve others in ways that demean them. It is not automatic, nor easy, to give a gift in a way that does not shame the recipient. Vincent de Paul’s counsel highlights this caution.

But there’s a second lesson here as well. Vincent de Paul meant this too as an antidote to self-pity. For anyone who is in a giving role (a parent, a minister, a teacher, a nurse, a social worker, an advocate for justice, a philanthropist, a politician), there is the temptation to fall into self-pity: “Look at all I am doing! I do all this for others, but nobody is doing anything for me. I am so tired. Is there no end to this? Am I the only one who cares? This is asking more of me than is fair. I have my own problems that I should tend to.”

It is easy, especially when one is tired and frustrated by lack of support, to lose heart, begin to feel sorry for oneself and to eventually feel that we are being unfairly used by others, that we are being asked to give more than our share.

That is very common. Caregivers often feel victimized by those to whom they are giving of themselves. We’ve even coined some terms for this: “compassion fatigue,” “compassion burnout.” Not surprisingly, many good people resent the demands of the poor: the welfare system, the push by various groups for their rights, the pressure for more immigration, the drain that the sick put on the energy and money of our society, the cost of repairing the damage done by youthful vandals and so on.

The temptation is to give up and give in – give up on going the extra mile and give in to the temptation to resign and take care of ourselves.

And so Vincent de Paul’s counsel should be told and retold: If we do not continue to serve the poor, despite our tiredness and self-pity, the poor will never find it in their hearts to forgive us. We need to remember that it is more blessed to give than to receive and it is also easier.

Portraits of Vincent de Paul show him with a strong, warm face, a face that everywhere suggests a comfortable friendliness. He looks like a man you would want over for dinner. But if you had him over for dinner, you might want to make sure that you didn’t complain about the unfairness of life.


Pray for Ramos Horta

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José Ramos Horta, President of East-Timor, Nobel Peace Prize winner and a good friend of the Order was shot yesterday in an attempted coup by rebels. He remains in a serious condition. We ask that all members of the Order and friends include Mr. Ramos Horta in their prayers for a fast and complete recovery.

President Ramos Horta first received a delegation of the Order in 2004 in his capacity as (then) Minister of Foreign Affairs of East-Timor. The delegation was comprising the Master Fr+ Antonio Paris, the Chancellor Fr+ Luis de Matos the Secretary Fr+ Ardino and the member of the Portuguese Parliament Nuno da Camara Pereira. Several plans to include East-Timor in our Order’s priorities for relief campaigns and ethical development projects were laid out and we urge all those interested in cooperating to contact the Chancellery.

From the press:


East Timor’s enduring tragedy

(The Boston Globe – Editorial) THE PEOPLE of East Timor have suffered plenty enough already. The tiny East Asian nation passed directly from Portuguese to Indonesian control in 1975, after President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger gave Indonesia a green light to invade. A quarter century of genocidal repression followed, until Indonesian forces left in 1999.

more stories like thisThis background makes Sunday’s attempted assassinations of East Timor’s two top leaders all the more desolating. President Jose Ramos-Horta, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, was wounded in an attempted coup; Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, a former resistance leader, was unhurt. The episode sends a warning: The world’s newest independent nation must not be allowed to fail.

East Timor’s political leaders must take primary responsibility for the reforms and reconciliation needed to avoid disintegration. Ramos-Horta was trying. He had met with the leader of the attempted coup, former military police chief Alfredo Reinado, seeking a compromise to end a revolt that began in 2006 with a mutiny by 600 soldiers, mostly from the west of the country.

Some 150,000 people fled their homes then, and many of the displaced have yet to return. They fear criminal gangs as well as clashes between armed groups from the east and west of the country. Efforts to end those conflicts and bring rebellious soldiers back into the fold may be more successful now that Reinado has been killed in the attack on Ramos-Horta. Reinado was not the sole leader of the antigovernment forces, but as Sunday’s flamboyant assassination attempts suggest, he was the most zealous to overthrow East Timor’s elected authorities.

A key for reconciliation is to grant amnesty to those military rebels of 2006 who had legitimate grievances while legally pursuing those who took up arms against the government for criminal purposes.

Both reconciliation and reform may be served if a much wider circle of police and military veterans, including those who fought in the anti-Indonesian resistance, are granted pensions. Pensioned officers will owe their livelihood to the government, and they will yield places for new recruits who may then receive properly professional training.

Above all, the government must seek advice from all quarters as it reforms the security services and governance. The United Nations mission to East Timor can help by devoting enough staff and resources to provide the government with substantial help in consulting with disaffected soldiers or police. Because the United Nations administered East Timor after 1999 and international security forces have been keeping the peace since 2006, a failed state in East Timor would also represent a failure of the international community.


FACTBOX: Five facts on wounded President Ramos-Horta

(Reuters) – East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta was shot in the stomach on Monday when rebel soldiers attacked his home, a military spokesman said.

Here are five facts about the president of the tiny country, which became independent in 2002, more than a quarter of a century after Indonesia annexed the former Portuguese colony.

* Ramos-Horta, 58, was an anti-colonial journalist and activist when Portugal ruled East Timor, and was seen during that period as a fatigue-wearing rebel with bushy black hair.

* He spent years abroad as a spokesman for East Timor’s struggle for independence from Indonesian occupation. Fluent in not just the country’s Tetum language, but also Portuguese, Spanish, French and English, Ramos-Horta lobbied foreign leaders to highlight East Timor’s plight under Jakarta’s often-brutal rule.

* In 1996, having earned the respect and friendship of a number of foreign leaders and with a high profile as a diplomat, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with Catholic Bishop Carlos Belo. He returned to East Timor in 1999 after two decades abroad.

* Ramos-Horta took over as prime minister in 2006 after the country’s dominant Fretilin party was blamed for failing to control riots that spun into deadly violence in which more than 30 people died.

* He won a resounding victory in presidential elections last May. Outgoing president and former resistance hero Xanana Gusmao then became prime minister after parliamentary elections in July. The pair are generally seen as allies and somewhat more friendly to international investment and the West than Fretilin stalwarts.

Simple Pleasures

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I have been a professional caregiver for twenty years and I continue to learn a valuable life lesson everyday. I’m always amazed how sorrow and pain can bring such wonderful gifts as wisdom, patience, insight and love. I think it is very easy to make the mistake of tunnel visioning on the tasks we have at hand. We get so caught up in the daily necessities and routines that we forget or ignore the very things that can bring us joy and teach us many valuable lessons.

I was hired to care for a very special lady. I was to prepare meals for her, make sure she took her medication properly, do light housekeeping, and provide transportation to and from the market and her doctor’s appointments. All of these tasks were important and necessary so that she could remain living independently. Our focus was just that — helping her to remain independent.

It was on a cold rainy night, she had just crawled into bed, and she turned her little head and smelled her pillow. I noticed tears running from her eyes. She looked up at me and said “It’s been such a long time since I’ve had clean sheets; I love the smell of fresh clean sheets. I couldn’t change the sheets myself anymore, I didn’t know how to manage hanging on to my walker and changing the sheets at the same time. Thank you so much for changing my sheets.”

Such a simple pleasure as smelling clean sheets brought such great joy to her life. That was the day I learned unconditional care. The next day we sat down and talked about what was important to her, what she liked, and how she had done things all these years. The key point learned here was we were trying to help her remain independent, assisting her with the things she had always done for herself . . . but we forgot to ask how she liked those things done, and what was important to her.

She was the sunshine in my life. I never knew how much I would enjoy and learn from her sharing her life experiences with me. Meal time was not just another chore or necessity of life; it was an event to her. She showed me all of the beautiful and delicate dishes she had collected all of her life. Each one had a special story and held fond memories for her. Her personal favorite was the oblong dishes she used for individual ears of corn. She loved lots of melted butter, not margarine, smothering her ear of corn. Her mother had given her the corn dishes as a wedding present sixty-five years ago. Not a day goes by now that when I eat corn on the cob or climb into my bed which has fresh clean sheets, that I don’t see her beautiful little smiling face, so full of joy and hope from such simple pleasures.

I’m so thankful for the lessons I have learned . . . the lessons I almost missed because I forgot to slow down to look and see the beauty that was right in front of me.

By Angelica White

Church Aiding East-Timor Development

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Benedict XVI and the president of Timor-Leste discussed the role of the Church in education and the fight against poverty on that island nation.

José Ramos-Horta visited the Pope today in the Vatican. He then met with the Holy Father’s secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and the secretary for relations with states, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti.

The Vatican press office reported: “During the discussions, mention was made of the cordial relations between the Holy See and the Democratic Republic of East Timor, and of the cooperation between the Catholic Church and the state in the fields of education, health care, and the struggle against poverty.

“The political and social situation of the country was also examined, with particular emphasis given to the process of national reconciliation and to the support of the international community for the consolidation of democratic institutions”

Timor-Leste has a population of just over 1 million, some 98% of whom are Catholic.

Ramos-Horta won the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize.

Chad Varah, founder of the Samaritans, died on November 8th, aged 95

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“HE’S not the finest character that ever lived. But he’s a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid.” In 1953, four years after Linda Loman’s famous soliloquy in Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman”, the Rev Prebendary Chad Varah pioneered a wonderfully simple and effective way of paying attention to people to whom terrible things were happening.

The early years of the Samaritan movement he founded were centred on the dank, gloomy crypt of a beautiful Christopher Wren church, St Stephen Walbrook, a stone’s-throw from the Bank of England in the City of London. Volunteers would take phone calls and receive visits from the lonely, the desperate and the suicidal. As a young curate nearly 20 years earlier, Mr Varah had conducted his first funeral—a 13-year-old girl, who had started menstruating and thought she had some dreadful venereal disease. Confronting suicidal thoughts and sexual ignorance became the theme of his life.

In the 1950s, it was said that in the London area three people killed themselves every day. His simple insight was that many suicides could be averted if the despairing had emotional support in their darkest hour. This the Samaritans offered. He called it “active listening”, or “ befriending”. It was secular and non-judgmental: a kind of aural hug, perhaps all the more consolatory for coming from a stranger.

As Mr Varah himself put it: “There are in this world, in every country, people who seem to be ‘ordinary’, but who, when meeting a suicidal person, turn out to be extraordinary. They can usually save lives. How? They give the sad person their total attention. They completely forget themselves. They listen and listen and listen, without interrupting. They have no message. They do not preach. They have nothing to sell. We call them ‘Samaritans’.”

It caught on. Partly because Mr Varah had a flair for publicity; more importantly because they were soon seen to fill a need, the Samaritans spread rapidly in Britain, helped by a change of the law in 1961, before when attempted suicide was a crime in England and Wales. There are now 202 branches in Britain and Ireland with more than 17,000 trained volunteers. Through “Befrienders Worldwide”, founded by Mr Varah in 1974, there are now Samaritan operations in almost 40 countries across the world. He loved to travel, and visited many of them.

Many Samaritans who met him on his travels, as well as journalists and others, were rather taken aback by Mr Varah in person. They expected a saint-like figure of all-encompassing compassion. They found a charismatic, clever, argumentative, puckish and emotional man, who seemed obsessed with sex. Unshockable himself, he apparently enjoyed shocking others. He liked to tell young Samaritan recruits how he had dealt with a manipulative regular caller who had telephoned him at home and threatened to kill herself if he did not reschedule an appointment: “You do that, sweetie, and I’ll piss on your grave.”

Besides the Samaritans and his clerical work at St Stephen, Mr Varah had in the 1950s supplemented his income by writing comic strips, such as “Dan Dare” in the Eagle. He also had a lifelong career as a self-styled sex therapist. In Lincoln, in eastern England, where, after studying at Oxford, he went to theological college and had his first curacy, he made a name for himself with “marriage-preparation classes” including detailed sex education.

He counted himself an expert, he later explained, having enjoyed “amorous dalliances with most of the girls in my age group within cycling distance”. In 1940, though, he settled down in marriage and had five children. He would tell his marriage-preparation students that fidelity was a “privilege” not a problem. He later wrote a column for Forum, a sex magazine. Having said that he did not mind being considered a “dirty old man” at the age of 25, he liked to think of himself, when a nonagenarian, as the world’s oldest sex therapist, and claimed to have invented the permissive society.

Samaritan, heal thyself
As the Samaritans grew, he lost control and often found himself at odds with those leading the movement he had launched. Sex, typically, was one battleground. As might be expected of a number offering boundless sympathy and plenty of female voices, the Samaritans often attract telephone masturbators, a topic to which Mr Varah devoted one of his many books. Unlike some colleagues, he saw these callers as an opportunity rather than problem—if only they could get beyond their “presenting problem” and talk of their real troubles.

Mr Varah was an unconventional Christian. The title of his autobiography, “Before I Die Again”, which appeared in 1992, refers to his belief in reincarnation. He was also an unconventional Samaritan. Disenchanted with the movement he founded, he marked its 50th anniversary with a call for an end to its charitable status. He also had to be reminded that “founder” was not a post from which you can resign. Before his death, however, he was reconciled with those tending his legacy. They understood that he too was a human being, and that he thought terrible things were happening to his creation. Attention was paid. Millions are in his debt.

in The Economist