Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 29, 1999
WCR Letters to the Editor
Forgiving debt not only way to economic equality
I'm writing regarding the current campaign to have the debt forgiven for certain countries. I presume that those who are sponsoring such a scheme have good intentions.
The strident manner with which this campaign is being promoted should give anyone pause. It seems a thoughtful reflection on what is being proposed and what it can reasonably be expected to achieve should be encouraged.
Yet such a thoughtful exercise appears to be put aside in favour of an emotional reaction. As if the "feel good" emotion of forgiving the debt is more important than examining carefully what may be the consequences.
I invite the readers to consider this example of good intentions causing harm. In the early 1970s the country of Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso) was in desperate need of food. Generous people in the Western world were shown this and told they must act by donating food. They did, in abundance.
The result was not good, the local farmers in Upper Volta could not sell their harvest (however inadequate) because food was being given away. Farmers quit farming and the country's food shortage was worsened.
The better way to have solved the problem would have been to buy whatever food from local farmers at reasonable prices and then, when that supply was exhausted, to distribute other food. But the sloganeering appeal prevented a thoughtful response.
Martin Luther King's insight is very appropriate: "Peace is not the absence of tension but the presence of justice." To remove the tension of economic debt from those countries will not address the underlying reason for poverty.
If we want peace and prosperity for these countries, our actions need to encourage economic justice, not for romantic reasons but for economic reasons.
In the case of the forgiveness of the debt there is good reason to suspect that the rich of those countries will gain and the poor may end up worse off.
The rich will benefit from the forgiveness of the wealth, because the question of how they exploited the loan and why the poor were left to pay will not be discussed if the debt is erased. Without resolving that question, the poor in those countries are doomed to economic serfdom.
If it would be helpful I would repeat that phrase a hundred times: Without resolving the question, the poor in those countries are doomed to economic serfdom.
Economic research has shown an essential ingredient of the economic "miracles" of countries like Japan, Korea was because the ruling class was forced to adopt measures that allowed the working poor to enjoy the fruit of their labour and ingenuity.
As long as those developing countries have economic structures that frustrate the working force from enjoying the fruit of their labours, we have very good reasons to believe economic hardships will continue.
Does that mean we can do nothing. No. We can do something. But for the sake of those we are trying to help, let us think and weigh carefully in a sober manner all of the options.
I suspect the best answer will not give us the emotional satisfaction of forgiving debt. Perhaps the answer is that no more loans will be made until such time that those countries adopt economic, legal and social programs that have proven themselves to be neccessary to successful economic development.
That would include economic equity for all.
Honduran bishop pleased with aid to Mitch victims
My dear Canadian Friends:
I am pleased to tell you how touched we were by the speed with which Development and Peace responded to the crisis in our country following Hurricane Mitch.
When I telephoned Cardinal Turcotte, the archbishop of Montreal and president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, to describe the catastrophe in our region, I never imagined my native country would respond with such a massive outpouring of solidarity for this tiny, relatively unknown country in Central America.
In fact, emergency relief funds from Development and Peace were the first to reach our region. This financial support helped us respond to the extreme situation we faced so suddenly.
Donations arrived within a few days, allowing us to get food, medicines, clothing and other essentials to the victims of the disaster.
We are now planning reconstruction: in the Diocese of Choluteca in southern Honduras, with a population of 523,000, there are 6,500 houses to build and another 3,500 to restore. The money we have received, combined with funds still expected, will subsidize the construction of 2,000 homes.
We expect that emergency relief will be required until after the next harvest, which will only take place next November (1999).
It is important to realize that hurricane Mitch showed the world the hardship which already existed, especially in my poor diocese. The greatest number of victims came from the poorest communities, those who were already "marginal-ized" by society.
The misery in which hundreds of thousands are presently living is not simply the result of this natural disaster. It is the result of inequities which are built into the very social fabric, keeping a huge portion of the population in completely unacceptable socio-economic conditions on this, the eve of a new millennium.
Right now, the people of Honduras are planning a better Honduras. Undoubtedly, hurricane Mitch was the worst disaster in our history, but we believe it is also a great opportunity which has been given to us to make this country a better place, where everyone has the opportunity for decent housing, a steady job, education and basic health care.
Development and Peace is in the middle of its annual Share Lent fundraising campaign. Share Lent is your chance to renew your personal commitment to build community and fight poverty, not only in Central America, but also in Africa, Asia and South America.
From this far-away place, I urge you to reinforce the solidarity you have shown us, by giving generously to Share Lent '99. You will help thousands of brothers and sisters in different parts of the world prevent similar disasters by supporting land reform and sustainable development projects.
Your contribution to Share Lent goes further than you think. For the people of Honduras and the other countries where Development and Peace supports community projects, your donation is concrete support for change and a move towards a decent quality of life. Since last November, we have felt your presence and support in a most precious way.
In closing, I want to thank you for your solidarity and great caring, and for the financial support which helped us so much. I am sending this thanks not only in my name, but on behalf of the bishops of Central America who also benefited from your support and are most grateful.
Thanks to all of you who supported us at a time when we felt powerless before the massive destruction caused by this natural disaster.
May the Lord bless you for sharing in this great feast with those who are less fortunate as spoken by Isaiah.
+ Real Corriveau
Bishop of Choluteca, Honduras
President of the Central American Bishop's Office
Enthralled by bishop's article
I was enthralled by Archbishop-elect Thomas Collins' article on the rosary in the March 15 WCR entitled "Repetitive prayer brings us closer to God." I think I'm going to listen to him intently.
I'd rather listen to the ideas of a dishwasher who says his or her rosary than a theologian who does not.
The Blessed Virgin Mary said, "Recitation of the rosary shall defeat heresies." Well, then, our own personal heresies should be the first to go.
When I say the rosary, I ask the Lord to direct my thought, then I pray for whatever may come. Overcome evil with good.
Collins made an outstanding statement which is worthy to be underlined: "God is simple. We are complex."
Need for early morning Mass
There is a need for an early morning Mass to be re-instated here in central south Edmonton. I believe in the haste to meet some of the recommendations of ToPs, that somehow that early morning Mass which was held at St. Agnes was forgotten.
Please for the sake of those of us who are early risers, would one of the parishes have a 7:30 or 8 a.m. Mass on Sunday morning.
Immaculate Heart Parish