Starvation in Africa, Foreign Aid Debacle, Zimbabwe in Diaspora, Flannery O’Connor and Ludwig van Beethoven

SIGNS AND WONDERS

Conflict Zones. At least 20 million people in South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria, and Yemen are at risk of famine and starvation, according to an article in WORLD Magazine. And that could be just the beginning. According to Mindy Belz, “Aid officials are warning the crisis will grow exponentially if untended by world leaders.” To prevent the crisis from deepening, last week a group of senators, led by Marco Rubio, asked Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for a “diplomatic surge” to deal with the worsening situation.

Foreign Aid Debacle. To make matters worse, it now appears that billions of dollars in U.S. aid aren’t getting to targeted areas. According to the same article linked above, “more than 3 million Iraqis have fled their homes since ISIS seized territory in Iraq in 2014, and the United States has allocated $1.1 billion in humanitarian aid, with an additional $1 billion . . . for ‘economic support.’” However, Stephen Rasche, a representative of the Chaldean Christians in the region, testified before Congress that “the Christian community in Iraq has received nothing in aid from any U.S. aid agencies or the UN.” President Trump has proposed massive cuts in foreign aid in his new budget proposal. State Department officials have complained, but these new revelations suggest the cuts are affecting those who administer the aid more than the people who are supposed to receive it.

A Zimbabwean Returns Home. Robert Mugabe has turned the country he leads, Zimbabwe, into a disaster area. Rampant corruption, economic mismanagement, civil unrest, and human rights abuses have left the people impoverished and now desperate. But a businessman who has spent the past 20 years in Charlotte, N.C., may be providing a solution to the country’s problems. Noah Manyika returned to his native Zimbabwe in January and founded the Build Zimbabwe Alliance (BZA), a new political party hoping to topple the 30-year rule of the 93-year-old Mugabe. Manyika told Newsweek: “Our view is that we actually don’t have economic problems, we have a leadership problem manifesting itself as an economic problem.” I would add this personal note: I have known Noah Manyika for nearly 20 years, and he has been a tremendous asset to the Christian community of my hometown of Charlotte. I have no idea if an honest man can win in such a corrupt country, but what he is doing is an act of great courage, and I pray for his success. National elections happen in 2018, and a quirk in Zimbabwean law allows Zimbabweans in exile to vote. Manyika hopes to mobilize the votes and funds of those in diaspora to fuel his campaign.

Milestones. Flannery O’Connor would have been 92 on Saturday. She was born on March 25, 1925. She died at age 39 of lupus, but she left behind a body of work that grows more significant with each passing year. The grace with which she handled her sickness comes through in her letters, collected in a volume called “The Habit of Being,” and I recommend it as devotional reading during this Lenten season. She wrote several of those letters to her friend and my mentor Marion Montgomery. In 2006 I visited O’Connor’s grave with Montgomery and my daughter Brittany and wrote about that day here. . . . Sunday was the 190th anniversary of Ludwig van Beethoven’s death. If you’ve never seen “Crescendo,” the remarkable short movie loosely based on his mother’s struggles before he was born, take 15 minutes and watch it here. My friend Jason Jones produced the movie, and it has raised millions for the pro-life movement around the country. John Stonestreet and I tell Jason’s story, and the story of the movie, in our book “Restoring All Things.”

Image copyright Movie to Movement.

Warren Cole Smith is an investigative journalist and author as well as the Colson Center vice president for mission advancement.


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