Posts tagged with: africa

nigeria-boko-haramWhat’s going on in Nigeria?

During an attack that started January 3 and continued through this past weekend, the African Islamic militant group Boko Haram opened fire on 16 northern Nigerian villages. The death toll estimates range from 200 to as many 2,000 people.

Another 10,000 people who managed to escape have fled to neighboring Chad. Many Nigerians drowned in an attempt to cross Lake Chad to escape what is now described as  the “deadliest massacre” in the history of Boko Haram.

Over the past six months, Boko Haram has taken control of more than two dozen towns in northeast Nigeria, most of them in Borno State, and launched attacks into Chad and Cameroon. As Alexis Okeowo notes, their territory now nearly equals the Islamic State’s in Iraq and Syria.

What happened this weekend?

A girl believed to have been no more than 10 years old detonated a bomb concealed under her veil at a crowded northern Nigeria market on Saturday, killing as many as 20 people and wounding many more.

The explosion is believed to be a new tactic in the Islamists’ campaign with Boko Haram’s decision to use perhaps their youngest-ever suicide bomber.

What was the recent criticism by the Catholic archbishop?

Members of Band Aid in 1984

Members of Band Aid in 1984

In last week’s Acton commentary, “The Worst Christmas Song Ever,” Jordan Ballor touched on the well-intentioned yet harmful message shared by “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” the 1984 song produced by the music group, Band Aid, in response to the famine that struck Ethiopia.

Ballor describes the context and some of the song’s lyrics:

The song describes Africa largely as a barren wasteland, ‘Where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears.’ It continues in this vein. Africa, the onetime breadbasket of the Roman Empire and home of the Nile River is a land ‘where nothing ever grows, no rain nor rivers flow.’ The title question likewise plays into the supposed desperation of the continent. The only ‘Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom.’ The response to this call is supposed to be charity from the affluent West, to ‘feed the world’ and thereby ‘let them know it’s Christmastime again.’

The song perpetuates an image of Africans as helpless and dependent on outside assistance to support their well-being. It is true that dire situations exist and increased awareness and emergency aid is needed to prevent loss of life, outbreak of disease, and other severe conditions. But overall, do negative depictions serve to accurately portray people in the “developing world,” and their capacity for producing innovation and change in the areas in which they live?

This is the question I pose in the PovertyCure blog article, “The Hopeless Results of Graphic Poverty Imagery,” which highlights the 1984 Christmas Song and similar versions that have been produced since.

I argue that depicting Africans as incapable and destitute ultimately neglects their true nature as human beings. Though it is true that poverty exists in some corners of Africa (and this should not be ignored), a vibrant, energized environment can be witnessed in many others. There are thousands of entrepreneurs like Senegalese entrepreneur, Magatte Wade, who are establishing creative solutions and finding new markets for business and trade.


globalslaveryindexThere are 35.8 million people living in some form of modern slavery, claims the Global Slavery Index. The Index is a report produced by the Walk Free Foundation, a global human rights organization dedicated to ending modern slavery.

This year’s Index estimates the number of people in modern slavery in 167 countries, and includes an analysis of what governments are doing to eradicate the this form of human suffering.

According to the Index, of those living in modern slavery 61 percent are in five countries: India, China, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and Russia.


Ramatu Usman, whose 6-year-old son is still missing after a Boko Haram attack

Ramatu Usman, whose 6-year-old son is still missing after a Boko Haram attack

Those schoolgirls captured by Boko Haram? Most are still missing. A boys’ school was bombed. Boko Haram says it wasn’t them, but the people don’t believe them.

In Nigeria, for many people, life is about staying one step ahead of Boko Haram, trying to safeguard their children from getting swept up in the claws of this evil entity.

In neighboring Adamawa state, almost 9,500 displaced people now live in a giant camp — one of five for displaced people in the area. They’ve found refuge in what was a youth center outside Yola, the state capital. The buildings are crammed full of residents. Newcomers are being housed in large green tents.


child south sudanChildren in poor and war-torn countries are often trafficking victims. They are lured from their homes with promises of making money in factories or at farms. Sometimes they are kidnapped. And sometimes, they are recruited for war.

Tom Burridge of BBC News reports on the war in South Sudan, and the prevalence of “recruiting” young boys to fight. On a normal school day, Burridge says that more than 100 boys are kidnapped from their classroom and told they must fight in their country’s civil war. (more…)

popeandwelbyThere are more slaves today than were seized from Africa in four centuries of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. In fact, there are more slaves in the world today than at any other point in human history, with an estimated 21 million in bondage across the globe.  In an effort to eradicate modern slavery and human trafficking across the world by 2020, Pope Francis and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby have personally given their backing to the newly-formed Global Freedom Network.  The Global Freedom Network is an open association and other faith leaders will be invited to join and support this initiative.

In their joint statement, the signatories underscored the need for urgent action:

As Egypt moves through the process of establishing a new, stable government after not just one but two revolutions, the security of the Coptic Orthodox Christian community in Egyptian society has at times been in doubt. Dr. Magdy El-Sanady, an Egyptian Coptic Christian, has worked for over 30 years in health planning, management and community development, and in non-governmental organization institutional strengthening in Egypt. Dr. El-Sanady holds postgraduate degrees in pediatrics and public health from Egypt and an M.B.A. and Ph.D. from the U.K. In 2012, he was assigned by His Holiness Pope Tawadros II to provide institutional support to the Holy Synod. In that context, he has published two books: Christian Witness in a New Era and Holistic Approach to the Christian Ministry.

Dr. El-Sanady joins Acton’s Director of Communications John Couretas for a discussion of the current state of affairs politically and socially within an Egypt that is transitioning from dictatorship to a new, and hopefully better, form of government.