These are my own reflections and may not reflect the opinion of the SIA Board of Directors:
Sometimes praying for peace can seem like the easy way out. Picturing myself in the flow of life, as a Being of light, I feel the peace within me. But those prayers, I am increasingly realizing, are coming from a place of comfort, from a comfortable life.
Around New Year’s I was faced with a slightly unsettling question from Kayla McClurg in her inward/outward email reflection, “Will this be the year we move from ‘wishing for a nicer world’ to making intentional contributions and distributions of light?”
Is now the time to go from wishing and even praying towards making some concrete steps and intentional contributions to justice in the world?
That might be uncomfortable. It might shake me out of my peaceful prayer.
Philanthropy and charity can get pretty comfortable in its work to address the immediate needs of food, clothing, clean water. In that rush, it may never get to confronting the systems that are creating the poverty and inequality.
In an opinion piece in the New York Times Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation, writes about giving to charities during the holiday season, “I worry that through these acts of kindness, I absolve myself of asking deeper questions about injustice and inequality. We Americans are a remarkably bighearted people, but I believe the purpose of our philanthropy must not only be generosity, but justice.”
Justice might be uncomfortable. It might mean that I have to give up something. It might mean that I have to do more than just pray for peace and give money.
Walker continues, “Philanthropy can no longer grapple simply with what is happening in the world, but also with how and why.” We must ask: Why is it still so hard for people in rural Africa to access loans? Why is it still so dangerous for our local coordinator to visit the slum in Nairobi? How do we get more youth educated and then employed in stable jobs? And we will likely find that those answers take more than easy money.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was way more radical than the collective memory suggests. In a passionate lecture to the Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly in 1966, King calls on those gathered to wake up to action. “One of the great misfortunes of history is that all too many individuals and institutions find themselves in a great period of change and yet fail to achieve the new attitudes and outlooks that the new situation demands. There is nothing more tragic than to sleep through a revolution.”
There are the beginnings of a revolution now. A revolution of people demanding justice for black lives, demanding rights for women, demanding for their voices to be heard. Will this be our year to wake up and do more than throw money in the bucket, hoping for change, wishing for a nicer world?
*Pictured above: Working with local leaders in Malawi for economic justice through their savings and loans cooperative is part of SIA’s role in the revolution. Here I am pictured with the leadership of the Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative in July 2014.