Atheists, Priests, and Dependency in Africa

I don't think that I'll try to provide a direct answer to the questions from Paul Theroux, as posted below. Instead just a couple stories and thoughts that seem to bear upon the issue. The most significant is an amazing article sent to me by the good James Paternoster from The Times, by Matthew Parris, entitled "As an Atheist, I Truly Believe Africa Needs God." I recommend it in it's entirety. It's subtitle reads: "Missionaries, not aid money, are the solution to Africa's biggest problem - the crushing passivity of the people's mindset." He then goes on to make claims that even I, as a Christian, might not be so bold as to make. The main supposition is that Africa needs a new worldview, one that encourages initiative and ingenuity, and does not bow to thuggish pseudo-dictators. He (almost reluctantly) admits that he finds this change taking place in the areas where missionaries have been the most active within Africa. Of course, this falls into the category of "faith in God as a means to an end", which is a camp in which I cannot put myself, but nonetheless, it gives me great optimism about our goal of Word and Deed.

The second story that has seemed relevant to me is that of Abbe Pierre, a French priest that Paul Brand (long-time leprosy doctor/hand surgeon/missionary in India) met years ago. His story is that he started a mission to help the homeless of Paris, and found the greatest effect in having the homeless serve someone more needy than themselves. This apparently turned out to be enormously successful, to the end that they were in the danger of not having enough need to serve. This, in turn, brought Abbe Pierre to Dr. Brand in India, and he found in Indian pariah lepers someone for the homeless of France to serve. He expressed his great concern to Dr. Brand that a lack of service would turn their focus inward and thus be their own destruction. Service as simply a means to your own fulfillment is fraught with difficulty, but I do agree with basic ideas here, and thus remember that turning a blind eye or a hard heart to the suffering in the world is just as likely to be our own end as theirs.

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