Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 14, 2007
Faith-based angels heal poverty pockets
Seasoned journalist recounts how NGOs step in and stay to fight for the world's poor
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
"No, I am afraid of no one or nothing – only God"
- Lech Walesa
Concentration on Africa's failures contributes to a sense of defeatism and ignores the marked improvement in the lives of millions through the efforts of small-scale, often faith-based projects, he said.
The story of those successes parallels Stewart's personal transformation that eventually led to his becoming a faithful Presbyterian.
The role of faith in those successes is not taken seriously enough, even provoking "titters" among mainstream journalists, he said.
In the 1960s, Stewart's generation declared organized religion was on its death bed. It underestimated the strength of spiritual hunger and the "human drive to serve and to help others."
Since then, he has witnessed the "galvanic force of faith in action," a faith he described as "hard, institutionalized, organized and clear-sighted."
Since the Cold War, aid has shifted from "big aid battalions" and "five year plans" he said, to smaller, independent NGOs who "partner" with local people and have "refused to give up their sense of mission," he said.
He said he regretted the fact that the words "muscular Christianity" had passed out of fashion, because that is what he has observed on the front lines of famine, war and catastrophe, where he and his crew were almost always greeted by Christian workers who had arrived first.
"A lot of good things start up quietly in humble church halls," he said, pointing to the 1787 meeting of 12 evangelicals in a church basement that launched the movement to abolish slavery.
He noted the rise of the Solidarity trade union in Poland. With the support of the Catholic Church, Solidarity helped bring down the Iron Curtain.
Stewart recalled meeting Solidarity leader Lech Walesa in a stairwell as he was on his way to Mass.
It was shortly after he had been released from prison in the early 1980s and many feared Walesa would be assassinated. Walesa was asked whether he was afraid.
"No, I am afraid of no one or nothing - only God," Walesa said.
"It was a transcendent moment," Stewart said, revealing that no force or empire could ever extinguish the power of faith.
Stewart emphasized the important work the CCP and ARCCC was doing in getting the word out about these successes.
The CCP marked its 50th anniversary at the conference, while ARCCC marked its 25th. The CCP represents religious newspapers and magazines from a wide range of Christian denominations. ARCCC represents Catholic communicators for dioceses and organizations.
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