James 3:17-18; Matthew 8:5-10,13
19th Sunday after Trinity: 11.10.15
Rev Tulo Raistrick
Today as part of harvest we are focusing on Burundi.
Burundi is a tiny country in the centre of Africa, home to 8.5 million people. It is a green and fertile country, home to a resourceful and dynamic people, and a growing and vibrant church.
But it is also a place of poverty. It is the third poorest country in the world; life expectancy is only 51 years of age; 1 in 4 children die of diarrhoea; and 81% live off less than a £1 a day.
With the cubs this week we have been thinking about how best to respond to this situation. We have thought about a boy called Sadiki who can’t get to school because he has no shoes. Our immediate response was to send shoes but we realised that this was only a short term solution. He would grow out of them in a few months and would be back to square one. Or we could support the local church in providing agriculture training to his family, so that they could grow and sell enough food that they could buy shoes from the local cobbler, improving the local economy as well giving them a greater sense of dignity and self-worth.
Jumping in to solve people’s problems by meeting their immediate needs may feel attractive at times but it isn’t always what is needed. It is interesting that Jesus didn’t tend to just jump in. Great healer though he was, he didn’t simply walk down the street healing everyone he saw, whether they asked him or not. He involved people in the healing process. He valued them. He listened to them.
Jesus calls us to work with him. We are not just to expect him to sort it all out for us. We are to get involved, whether by faith, like the centurion in our Gospel reading, or by action, like the friends who dig a hole in a roof so that they can get their paralysed friend to him. Jesus treats us not as passive recipients, but as co-workers with him.
And that’s why some of the best development work overseas is not about handouts but about working with communities, giving them the start they need. That’s why we will be supporting CORD this harvest.
But there is a problem. Often development work is not enough. Without peace, all the benefits of development get swept away. One of Burundi’s neighbours, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, should a wealthy country given that the materials used to make mobile phone technology are mined there. But instead, its people live in desperate straits due to the civil war that has claimed the lives of millions. In Burundi there is growing concern that the terrible violence of ten-fifteen years ago when civil war led to horrific genocide, could be repeated. There is growing tension between the government and the opposition, often down tribal lines. Businesses, schools, and churches are being burnt down; people are having to move from their homes; and increasing numbers of being killed through rebel uprisings and government oppression.
But it is not yet too late. Civil war can be averted; peace can come.
The Dean of Bujumbura Cathedral has asked for help from our own cathedral’s Community of the Cross of Nails. They want help in training churches in peace building and reconciliation initiatives, to help heal the growing rifts between tribal groups. That’s why this harvest we are also supporting the Community of the Cross of Nails.
We can all contribute to conflict in our world by our attitudes to our families, our neighbours, our colleagues, to strangers, to those of other nations.
Or with God’s help, as the letter of James reminds us, we can be people of reconciliation, working for peace.