It's easy to love Africa the vastness of its geography and the diversity of its wildlife; the richness and variety of its cultures and peoples; the courage, resilience, spirituality, and joy of Africans in the face of adversity and challenge.
But although Africa is rich in many ways, a few facts show the magnitude of the needs of Africans. Over 40 percent of the sub-Sahara's 659 million live beneath the poverty line, which is equal to one US dollar a day. More than 140 million young Africans can't read. Life expectancy on that continent, already more than 20 years below that of the developed world, continues to fall, due mainly to the AIDS pandemic, which in some countries affects more than 25 percent of the population (see www.g8.gc.ca/summitafrica-e.asp).
In the face of these challenges, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. But what I've seen through prayer convinces me that we all can help.
Several years ago, when a friend was visiting from West Africa, I learned that because of government corruption at a high level, the economy there had become paralyzed. My friend, a professional, was sometimes having to miss meals because of lack of money, while his wife was forced to bring in what she could by selling produce on the city sidewalk.
I prayed, and I got an idea. Why not host an evening to celebrate his country and culture? I invited friends and asked each of them to contribute $12. Though most men in his country don't cook, he can. So he planned the menu, and on the day, he cooked from early in the morning until people arrived.
What a celebration! Many people came, and some of us dressed in African clothing. Many who couldn't come contributed financially, some very generously. Others brought things that my friend and his family needed, such as paper and binders. A woman purchased a beautiful dress made by his brother. That evening, we raised close to $1,000 Canadian, enough to substantially help him and his family.
Though my experience illustrates helping Africa on a micro level, the G8 Summit in Kananaskis, Alberta, June 2628, will provide a historic opportunity to advance Africans' quality of life in a macro way. At the 2001 Genoa Summit, a delegation of African leaders presented the New African Initiative, now titled the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD). One of three items on the Kananaskis agenda will be to respond to this initiative.
Through prayer, we can support this G8 Summit. "Tremendous power is made available through a good man's earnest prayer," the Bible promises (James 5:16, J.B. Phillips translation), and Jesus certainly proved the power of prayer to meet human needs.
As the response of people around the world to the events of Sept. 11 showed, many give generously when they truly understand there is an urgent necessity. We can strive to see that there is both the goodwill and political will needed to respond to the needs of Africans. God gives the G8 leaders vision, courage, and creativity to respond to this African initiative.
The NEPAD document emphasizes the importance of good government and leadership in Africa. We can pray that there be capable leaders in that continent, as several have already proved to be through their honesty, integrity, and moral vision necessary to move Africa forward.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, was also persuaded that she could help advance the world through prayer. She wrote: "From the interior of Africa to the utmost parts of the earth, the sick and the heavenly homesick or hungry hearts are calling on me for help, and I am helping them" ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," pg. 147).
Africans need food, safe water, education, and other basics that many of us take for granted. But could those needs represent something greater a need to feel loved and to know that people all over the world care about them, their families, and their lives? Humanity can prove that God's love for Africans, as for all people everywhere, is powerful and saving. Now is the time for overcoming old limitations and obstacles.