“I Must Not Do Nothing”

[This post goes back to my Road Trip to London weekend.] 

Next stop – the Halls of Parliament.  [Considering the thousands of years of conflict between France and England, I’ve always found it humorous that the British would name its most magnificent government building based upon a French word – essentially, parliament means a place to talk (parlez-vous anglais?)] Our group had a meeting scheduled in the House of Lords with Baroness Caroline Cox to explore how Christians, even (or especially) when in unique political or governmental positions, can put heir faith into action.

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Over thirty years ago, the Baroness started Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (“HART”), which has focused on providing aid to those areas where the large, international relief agencies won’t go where there are questions of national sovereignty.  HART works with communities in active conflict zones (as in Burma and Sudan); post-conflict areas still devastated by war (such as Nagorno-Karabakh, South Sudan, northern Uganda and Timor Leste); or areas where people are marginalised, oppressed and exploited for cultural, political and economic reasons (such as the Dalits and Temple Prostitutes in India).  We had an hour-long presentation of their projects, and although it was obvious that Baroness Cox and the HART organization was going where it was too dangerous or controversial for others.  Their focus is on combining advocacy with aid and being a “voice for the voiceless.”

“HART is not just ‘another aid organisation’. We are distinctive in that we combine aid with advocacy, working for peoples suffering from oppression, exploitation and persecution who are generally not served by major aid organisations and are off the radar screen of international media”

Caroline (Baroness) Cox

 HART logo

Looking at the work of Baroness Cox can only leave one in amazement. It also nags at most of us as we ask not whether would we do the same, but are doing enough now. Can we do more?  Should we do more?  What does our heart or our faith tell us the answer is to these questions.  I, for one, am convicted – guilty!  I am not doing all I can.  Baroness Cox lives by a motto she shared with us: “I can’t do everything, but I must not do nothing”? This recalls the tough questions about “Wealth Ethics” with which I ended the post “Just for Carl – 2.0”.

I struggled with this issue in my journey – in chapter 8 of The Race Before Us I write about the desperate circumstances faced by many rural Guatemalans we served on a mission trip and how that experience impacted me – causing me to wonder “why I had been so fortunate to be born in the United States”?

While the Oxford community may be among the elite of the elite intellectually, the community is highly blessed financially as well (only London has higher real estate prices), I am exposed daily to a broad community that is from or travels regularly throughout the world.  In any ultimate sense I am reminded that we are all enormously wealthy.  Living in the U.S. gives us a false view of so much of the world. Anyone within the “middle class” in America has riches beyond belief when we understand how desperate every day life is for billions of people every day.  Realizing this, one must wonder – as we explored intensely in “Wealth Ethics” – what obligation do we have to these “voiceless” people.

 In his gospel, Matthew writes about this issue in reporting about Jesus speaking to his disciples about judgment day.  Regardless of where you might be on your own journey of faith, don’t we all have a longing to see that justice prevails ultimately in life?  And doesn’t this leave us with a nagging question that I too may be judged some day?  What Jesus says about this also gives a glimpse (one we may not really want to confront) about this issues of “wealth ethics”.  Here is what he says to those he has determined are righteous:

 ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’  Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

It would be hard to say Baroness Cox has not taken this mandate to heart.  The problems throughout the world often seem completely overwhelming, but as she says, “I cannot do everything, but I must not do nothing.”  No one can say that Baroness Cox is doing nothing.

You can learn more about and/or support HART at www.hart-uk.org/

You can read more about Baroness Cox and her work in “Baroness Cox:  Eyewitness to a Broken World”

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