Every age has its own monumental events and upheavals which often raise up unlikely champions. I think the drought and famine in Ethiopia in the mid-eighties was certainly amongst them. With millions on the verge of starvation, the charities were completely overwhelmed and even their best efforts could not have produced what was needed without intervention on a similarly epic scale.
The BBC’s brilliant reporting as the story broke left the lapsed-catholic punk rock star Bob Geldof undone and he picked up the gauntlet. His Live aid concert raised about 150 Million pounds worldwide and was watched by at least half the population of the planet via the biggest ever satellite link-up. Much of its success was due to his own frank sincerity as he inspired people to give.
In a decade largely marked by selfishness and greed this was a real revolution and outpouring of compassion as the eyes of the world focussed for a moment on the plight of a forgotten people and decided to do something together.
The most memorable moment for me was hearing about a call the phone operators received from a widow in Dublin. She was living on a small pension and whilst she had nothing to spare she offered her wedding rings to be sold to feed someone, as she didn’t need them to remember her husband and knew it could save a life. The call could be heard on the speaker and the phone operator looked over to Bob Geldof as he wasn’t sure how to respond to this offer and he said ‘take it’. Every penny counted. Many people gave a little, some gave a lot, and a few gave everything…
That widow will be long dead now and I doubt she has any regrets. Detachment from our earthly goods is necessary, not only in the heart but also physically (how else would you know?). The tragedies we see around us, in Syria, South Sudan, Burma or Ukraine are an opportunity to love. We cannot be fully alive without charity in our hearts.
Love beckons us to change, to detach and focus on what is important and atone for our past failings (1 Peter 4:8) Above all hold unfailing your love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins and (Sirach 3:30) ‘Water extinguishes a blazing fire: so almsgiving atones for sin. As the region of Tigray in Ethiopia is back in conflict again, spare a thought (and a few bucks) for the many suffering there right now from hunger.