I’m asking people to take photos of ‘human bridges‘ while I am out running during the 10 City Bridge Run during March. The intention is to present 24,000 photos of ‘human bridges’ as a pictorial petition to appeal to the leadership at the Paris G20 Summit in June 2011. Together along with the G20 leadership, can we create a ‘life bridge’ that “focuses on concrete measures…to make a tangible and significant difference in people’s lives“ by making specific mention of child mortality in the G20 Final Declaration when mentioning extreme poverty?
My personal belief as a Christian brings another dimension to the metaphor of ‘life bridge’. Jesus is recorded saying at John 10:10 something which might sound far-fetched in the light of suffering that exists from child mortality:
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
Can this be true for all people especially those living in the worst of poverty? We ought to look to the needs of those living in poverty, and at the same time recognise that there is a deeper spiritual poverty underlying this issue which ultimately needs to be addressed. The Bible calls Christians to act: “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead (James 2:17)”.
Few people would argue against reducing child mortality, and it is certainly not a concern exclusive to Christians. There is nothing new about the idea that we have a strong moral obligation to help those in need- it is common across all cultures. Muhammad Yunus is widely recognised for his work in microfinance and well deserved his awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. The Chinese philosopher Mencius (second only to Confucius in influencing Chinese thought and regarded as the most authoritative interpreter of the Confusian tradition) and ‘King Hui of Liang’ who lived around 300 BC had this exchange about helping the poor as Mencius arrived in the king’s court:
There are people dying from famine on the roads, and you do not issue the stores of your granaries for them. When people die, you say: “Is it not owing to me; it is owing to the year.” In what does this differ from stabbing a man and killing him, and then saying: “It was not I, it was the weapon?“
The distinction I would make is that Christians have a particular responsibility to take action. Regardless of what you believe, I hope you will join me in building human bridges to form a ‘life bridge’ with the potential to transform the lives of many.
The story of Christmas as it is told is a little bizarre, even completely weird. Allegedly, if we are to believe the Christmas narrative, it involves a bunch of angels appearing and delivering messages, first to two women who were relatives, and then later to a group of shepherds minding their own flocks.
Whether you believe this narrative or not, I think it provides a story of hope for those who are most vulnerable – newborn babies entering the world. Not just newborn babies, but in this story a baby who was also homeless, born into poverty, and into the care of a young and ill-prepared mother.
Life is such a fragile and precious gift, and we too often just take it all for granted. For me, the Christmas message this year is about the possibility for hope and transformation in all of our lives through the birth of a baby called Jesus. In particular, this year I am thinking about how this relates to the calamity of child mortality – is it realistic that we might we also claim a sense of hope and transformation there are well?
I often think that the book which records this Christmas message, the Bible, is often greatly understated leaving much to the imagination. We could do worse than echo the hope given to a bunch of vulnerable shepherds, who responded in this brief vignette recorded in an historical account from a physician called Luke:
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about”.