• Embarrassed but thankful

    Posted by John

    18 March, 2013

    I’m rarely embarrassed. My family is often embarrassed by me, but I’m rarely embarrassed.

    Tonight I was embarrassed. Embarrassed to be an Australian. Embarrassed to be me.

    I’ve known Francois for 4 years. We’ve met three times in that 4 years. Every 2 years Micah Challenge Coordinators from around the world gather for fellowship and planning. Francois is the Coordinator of Micah Challenge in the small African nation of Burundi and we are together in South Africa at the moment.

    I arrived last night and this morning we hugged and renewed our friendship. Tonight we sat together to pray for our nations. We were each given a profile of our nation with various poverty/justice indicators on the sheet. I was embarrassed.

    This is not new to me. I know there is mass inequality in our world. So tonight I was surprised at how fresh the reality of that inequality was for me as I sat next to Francois. I didn’t want him to look at Australia’s profile because I was embarrassed by it. I didn’t like the way it made me feel.

    Australia’s Human Development Index (HDI) rank is 2. That means that across a series of indicators that monitor quality of life, Australians are deemed to live in the second most fortunate nation in the world. Burundi’s rank is 185. Australia is considered by Transparency International to be the 7th most transparent nation in the world. Burundi is 165th.

    Perhaps looking at national statistics is a bit abstract. What about these statistics - Francois is a few years older than me. According to the statistics, he only has 5 or so years left to live. I will live another 42 years. For each of those years, I will make 100 times more money than him every single day. According to the statistics, his children will have less than 3 years at school. My children will have 12.

    Why was I embarrassed? Most days I look at injustice in reports and on pieces of paper. It is removed from me. Tonight I sat in the room with injustice, or perhaps tonight I even embodied injustice.

    Injustice is not abstract. Injustice makes relationship hard. Francois should not be able to see past the enormous inequality that exists between the two of us. We should not be friends. When Francois sits with me, he should be angry because I embody the reality of what he does not have.

    Yet because of God’s grace, Francois and I can be friends.

    I wondered tonight - would my friends, my family, my church members be embarrassed to sit next to Francois? Would you be embarrassed?

    I’m thankful for the embarrassment. As uncomfortable as it made me feel tonight, I believe it was the prompting of God’s Spirit reminding me that Jesus would not be OK with this. As a follower of Jesus I’m not OK with it either. Thanks God for the reminder.

    This blog post was written whilst John Beckett, Micah Challenge Australia's National Coordinator,  was in South Africa  for a Micah Challenge International conference (4-12 March).