Thursday, November 17, 2011

"We Are The World:" Crisis In The Horn Of Africa

Many of us remember the famine that swept Ethiopia in the 1980’s, but the reason we do is because of a song recorded in 1985. Many big music stars came together and sang a song written by Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson. “We Are The World” topped the charts, raised awareness of the famine, and garnered worldwide support in an instant. In 2010 the song was re-recorded by top artists in response to the tragedy in Haiti.

Now a similar drought threatens Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa, but is it even on the world’s radar? The Horn of Africa is made up of four countries. Eritrea and Djibouti are both small countries on the East Coast. Ethiopia and Somalia are well known. Kenya is a bordering country. According to U.S. Census stats from this summer, the total population of these four countries is estimated to be 107,496,000.[1]

The current drought in this region is the worst in 60 years, including the famine in the 1980’s. Rains stopped in late 2010. As a result, food prices are going up in the area. Somalia is experiencing horrible drought and rain. People are leaving in droves. 1/3 of all children are acutely malnourished. Somalians are fleeing over the border to Kenya, and Kenya is reporting receiving 1,300 Somalian refugees per day. Consequently, the price of grain in Kenya is spiking, with a 30-80% rise in price.[2]

The U.N. is intervening. They report 13.3 million are in great need in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Djibouti. Thousands of children have died. Over 320,000 people are malnourished and it’s life threatening. The U.N. has taken over 10,000 tons of supplies there. They’ve treated 108,000 children who are malnourished and vaccinated 1.2 million children for measles. They’ve provided 2.2 million people access to safe water. The U.N. is still trying to raise $40 million to use this year. Next year they hope to raise $402.8 million.[3]

We certainly need to pray that God will catch the attention of the World, send relief to the Horn of Africa, and bless every relief effort during this time. There are certainly many relief efforts to support. One is the Joshua Campaign, a faith-based group with four objectives: 1. Humanitarian Relief; 2. Church Planting; 3. Mission Schools Training; and 4. Pioneer, Tribal Evangelism. In their Gospel campaigns, they have seen over 3 million people come to Christ. They’ve ministered to over 300,000 in some of their crusade services.

Not only do they have missionary zeal, the Joshua Campaign also maintains a focus on practical service. They have a HIV Living Center, housing women off the streets and teaching them a trade. They conduct Street Children Projects and Adoption. They are involved in food and relief efforts.

Karl and Jennifer Hargestam are the Founders of the Joshua Campaign to the Horn of Africa. They are joined by Per and Abbi Akvist, Mission Directors to Ethiopia. Abbi herself was born in poverty in Ethiopia.[4] Certainly groups like this can use our prayers and support during this time.

For Christians, the Horn of Africa is not only a distant mission field, but also part of our rich history. A couple of Bible passages point to this area. In 1 Kings 10.1-13 (also see 2 Chronicles 9.1-12), we see that the Queen of Sheba is impressed with Solomon. This may have had long-term religious consequences for this region. In Acts 8.26-40, we see Philip winning an Ethiopian to Christ from the palace of Queen Candace. Possibly from this connection, Ethiopia became a Christian nation.

Later, when the Muslims started to conquer, they took Jerusalem and swept northward into Turkey and East Europe. They swept westward across North Africa and north into Spain. The North African countries were mainly Christian, and one by one they fell. However, the Islamic forces did not attack Ethiopia. In an earlier time, Ethiopia had harbored some Muslim refugees. Because of this act, Muslim forces did not invade.

Ethiopia stood strong as a Christian nation. When other nations fell, the Ethiopian Church even preserved many of their historical documents. At one point in the 7th Century, Ethiopia was the only Christian nation left in Africa.[5]

When we see the devastation in the Horn of Africa today, let’s remember that they’re some of our oldest spiritual ancestors. Many great Christian theologians came out of Africa. At one time, Ethiopia was the only African country holding the torch. We have a lot to be thankful for, because of what they preserved. May our understanding of their sacrifices for us then, fuel our prayers for them now.



[1] U.S. Census Bereau, “International Data Base,” http://www.census.gov/population/international/data/idb/country.php (accessed November 2, 2011).

[2] B.B.C., “Horn of Africa sees ‘Worse Drought in 60 Years,’” British Broadcasting Company, June 28, 2011, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-13944550 (accessed November 2, 2011).

[3] U.N., “At UNICEF centre, British royals highlight plight of children in Horn of Africa crisis,” U.N. News Centre, November 2, 2011, http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=40289&Cr=horn+of+africa&Cr1=# (accessed November 2, 2011).

[4] Joshua Campaign International, http://joshuacampaign.com (accessed November 2, 2011).

[5] Dale T. Irvin and Scott W. Sunquist, History of the World Christian Movement, Volume I: Earliest Christianity to 1453 (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2009), 215-219 and 295-297.

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