Stephen McGarvey, Faith Magazine, Issue Number 20,June 2008
The stirring film Hotel Rwanda tells the story of Paul Ruasesabagina, a hotel manager who helps prevent the slaughter of 1,200 refugees during the infamous Rwandan genocide of the early 1990s. In one scene when a journalist arrives back at Ruasesabagina’s hotel with video footage of the atrocities, Paul comments with relief, “I am glad that you have shot this footage and that the world will see it. It is the only way we have a chance that people might intervene.”
When the cynical reporter scoffs at Paul’s comment, Paul responds, “How can they not intervene when they witness such atrocities?” The reporter answers, “I think if people see this footage they'll say, ‘Oh … that's horrible,’ and then go on eating their dinners.”
This has too often been the case when it comes to Africa’s problems. The citizens of Western nations, the United States specifically, are largely insolated from the extreme poverty and tribal conflicts that plague sub-Saharan Africa. An occasional two-minute feature on the evening news provides hardly enough information to convey the immensity of most significant problems. In the 1980s Americans were largely focused on communism and the Soviet Union. And in the 1990s, with the USSR’s collapse, we focused almost exclusively on ourselves and America’s domestic concerns.
During these times Americans were largely ignorant of the genocide in Rwanda. We knew little of the civil war in Sudan and the dozens of conflicts across Africa. And we didn’t realize that the most devastating disease outbreak in perhaps the history of mankind was beginning to take hold in the populations of this often ignored continent.
The Greatest Apologetic?
During the “Prescription for Hope” conference hosted by Samaritan’s Purse a few years ago, author and apologist Ravi Zacharias told those assembled, “If the church of Jesus Christ rises up to the challenge of HIV/AIDS, it will be the greatest apologetic the world has ever seen.”
A bold statement certainly, but the devastation of HIV/AIDS around the world cannot be overstated. And the need for Christians to rise to the challenge is dire.