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A passionate plea

By Matthieu Ricard on October 12, 2009

Recently the Dalai Lama Center Canada organized a Peace Summit in Vancouver with the Dalai Lama and other Nobel Prize winners and speakers. One evening the rock singer and humanitarian Bob Geldof, whose Live Aid concerts have raised 100s of millions of dollars for Africa, made this passionate plea:
‟For most of us, all we can do when witnessing suffering is to put our hand in our pocket. If a million of us do that, it is a lot of people, a lot of help, and governments should take note. We need to keep children alive long enough so that they can become the doctors and engineers of tomorrow. Without that something will wither and die inside of us.
Many of these children don't have parents because of man-made mistakes like wars. In my life I have met extraordinary people such as Mother Theresa. She would tell me that she saw the suffering of Christ on the broken backs of the poor. I don't see that. I don't see God. I see the malignant hand of man laid bare. And if that is so, it can be remedied, because if we have done it and we can undo it. We can say: ‟Enough!” All this is the symptom of poverty revealed in lack of education and in ill health.
In terms of global wealth, the need is infinitesimal if the political will would be there. How many times do we have to manifest the will of the people to the politicians and say: ‟GET-THIS-DONE!” How many times do we have to create African children's choirs and pop concerts in order to convince human beings to join in the glory of humanity? What are we - a circus or a society?
In truth, the real need represents only a tiny proportion of national budgets. In the case of America, it is 0.16% of the national economy. It is not that Americans are selfish. Surveys show that when asked what percentage of their GDP do they believe goes into foreign aid, Americans say: ‟10%”. And when asked ‟it that enough”, they say ‟no”. But when they actually find out that it is only 0.16%, they are dismayed.”
The Commission for Africa has requested a doubling of aid by 2010 that will total 50 billion US dollars. Three months ago, one private bank in Britain was given 75 billion pounds within 30 minutes to save it from going under.
Yet a billion people will go down, and the cost is less that one private British company, in an economic system representing more than 50 trillion per annum. And one of the world's richest economies can't find a fraction of that. We really are a joke.
When we break our promise to the poor, we break the most sacred promise, because breaking this promise kills people.