Archbishop Desmond Tutu: A promise to the poor is sacred

As you know, Bob Geldof guest-edited Sunday’s edition of the Italian publication La Stampa. In the coming days we’ll be posting English language versions of the featured articles, including this one from Archbishop Desmond Tutu:

A promise to the poor is particularly sacred. It is an act of grace and great leadership when all efforts are made to keep these pacts, and that is why those G8 countries which are leading the charge for the poorest, especially for those in Africa, deserve such credit. But we who praise must also be prepared to censure where it is clearly deserved.

It saddens me that great nations like Italy and France are going in the wrong direction and falling behind with the pledges they made four years ago at the Gleneagles summit. We must all campaign to encourage the forthcoming G8 meetings to get back on track and do what is right.

Of course African development must be driven by African citizens – from all areas of society – but we also need and welcome international support in our struggle against poverty and injustice. That means support from governments, and from good citizens in countries like Italy.

I expect that most of us tend to be deeply distressed, devastated often when we look at the news and see Darfur, Zimbabwe, the Congo. “When are we going to get good news?” we ask. Well I want to tell you that there is good news from Africa.

When I went to Darfur recently, I was particularly struck by those humanitarian workers who keep going back into an awful situation. I want to stand up and shout loudly for the fact that there are so many young people who are incredibly idealistic, who do believe that poverty can become history, who believe that it is possible to have a world without war.

Evil does not have a free rein. I come from a position that says this is moral universe, and good will ultimately prevail. In Africa, just within the past decade, thirty four million more children are now going to school, having the chance to learn to read and write and escape poverty. This is thanks to the efforts of African leadership, and effective aid, including that of G8 countries. It can be hard to imagine that many children, 34 million.

So imagine just one child who can now go to school and receive the gift of education. Give this child the face of a child you know. Give the face a name. It’s not about numbers; it’s about that child – somebody’s son, somebody’s brother.

It is fantastic that this has happened. There is also good news in the fight against illnesses like HIV/AIDS. There are now an estimated three million people in Africa on life saving AIDS treatment. Imagine if you were in a family affected by AIDS, your breadwinner had received a death warrant and you are watching this person slipping away, and then they get antiretroviral drugs and you see a metamorphosis.

We thought our mother was dying but now our mother is well enough to go to work. There are three million such individuals. Because aid has been given. A promise to the poor is particularly sacred. Not keeping that promise is a sin.


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