Kevin Sims is the editor of All the World, the magazine of the international work and mission of The Salvation Army. It is produced at International Headquarters in London, England, and published four times a year.
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Editorial: It's a start, but . . .
by Kevin Sims
It's a start, but . . .
A friend of mine was giving a public thanks for a meal. We’d had gammon to eat and, as he’s generally not too keen on gammon, Ian was surprised how much he’d enjoyed it. That was fine, until he stood up to say thanks to the cooks. ‘I don’t usually like gammon ...’ he started, before going on to say how much he’d enjoyed this particular meal. Unfortunately, the damage was done with his opening phrase and a stony silence descended.
‘I don’t like ... but’ isn’t a good start. It’s like ‘I don’t mean to be offensive, but ...’ when you actually do want to be rude or ‘I wouldn’t say he was stupid, but ...’
So then, I hope I don’t put you off reading this issue of All the World when I say I wasn’t going to make a major feature of the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster, but ...
But what? But I have! I’ve come to a gradual realisation that the world has been touched by this disaster in a way not previously seen – the sheer scale of public response in terms of giving is unprecedented. There is some amazing work being done by The Salvation Army that deserves to be reported ... but we’ll soon have pushed this massive catastrophe to the back of our minds and carry on as before – so it’s best to strike while the iron is hot!
Perhaps more significant is why I didn’t want to place too much emphasis on the tsunami relief work. Well, I’m concerned. I’m worried that the publicity surrounding the tsunami has taken people’s attention and money from other equally-deserving causes. The tsunami took 300,000 lives almost in an instant, which is probably why it caught the imagination of the world.
What’s easy to forget is that HIV/AIDS kills the same number of people in Africa every month and that 14 million children are orphans because of the disease. It’s also easy to forget that, while much of the developed world deals with obesity issues, up to 800 million people suffer from hunger and malnutrition. I could go on.
I’m not saying for one moment that the tsunami wasn’t significant – I just don’t want it to blot out from people’s consciousness that dealing with the after-effects of this tragedy is just a start. The tsunami victims need our help, but so do countless millions of other people who suffer every day because of war, disease and – above all – poverty.
One of the development workers I spoke to when putting this issue together admitted that, in some ways, the tsunami was a means for good. Some of the programmes that can now be put in place were needed before but the funds weren’t there. Now, with the massive public response, the possibilities are almost endless.
I guess that if the world has been made more tender, more generous by this disaster then the long-term benefits will be massive. I don’t want to be negative, but ... I’ll wait and see.