By MARY ANN MANJA BAYANG
If Jesus Christ were alive today, what would he be doing this Christmas? Will he be attending a wedding at Cannah? Feeding the hungry and quenching the thirst of the thirsty? Healing the sick on Sabbath day? Throwing a feast for the prodigal son?
Will he be in Iraq cradling a lifeless body of an infant, or be in Disneyland enjoying a vacation? Will he be in Africa giving water to a thin hungry child suffering from AIDS, or be frolicking in the beaches of the Caribbean? Will he be in Afghanistan healing the wounds of war, or be in the land of milk and honey drowning in wealth and wine?
Surely, if Christ is alive today, he will be so very busy – feeding the hungry, quenching the thirst of the thirsty, healing the sick, preventing war and preaching love and world peace.
As we celebrate Christmas and welcome a new year, let us not be drowned in festivities. Let us remember those in need of our help and our prayers. Let us not just honor those who have garnered awards or those who have become richer or those who have become more popular. Let us include in our prayers those who really need a prayer.
In the world today, the following is the picture of humankind – the kind of life for which Christ would certainly die to improve at the least and solve at the most:
• One third of deaths – some 18 million people or 50,000 per day – are due to poverty-related causes. That’s 270 million people since 1990, with women and children comprising the majority, roughly equal to the population of the US.
• Every year more than 10 million children die of hunger and preventable diseases – that’s over 30,000 daily, or one every 3 seconds.
• Over 1 billion people live on less than $1 a day, with nearly half the world’s population (2.8 billion) living on less than $2 a day.
• 600 million children live in absolute poverty.
• The three richest people in the world control more wealth than all 600 million people living in the world’s poorest countries.
• Income per person in the poorest countries in Africa has fallen by a quarter in the last 20 years.
• 800 million people go to bed hungry every day.
• Every year, nearly 11 million die before their fifth birthday.
• One in four adults in the developing world – 872 million people – is illiterate.
• More than 100 million school-age children remain out of school.
• 46% of girls in the world’s poorest countries have no access to primary education.
• More than 1 in 4 adults cannot read or write; 2/3 of them are women.
• Universal primary education would cost $10 billion a year – that’s half of what Americans spend on ice cream.
• Young people who have completed primary education are less than half as likely to contract HIV as those missing an education. Universal primary education would prevent 700,000 cases of HIV each year – about 30% all new infections in this age group.
• Of the 1.3 billion people living in poverty around the world, 70% are women.
• Women do about 66% of the world’s work in return for less than 5% of its income.
• In the least developed countries, nearly twice as many women over age 15 are illiterate compared to men.
• Two-thirds of children denied primary education are girls, and 75% of the world’s 876 million illiterate adults are women.
• Women work two-thirds of the world’s working hours, produce half of the world’s food, and yet earn only 10% of the world’s income and own less than 1% of the world’s property.
• More than half a million women die in pregnancy and childbirth every year – that’s one death every minute. Of these deaths, 99 percent are in developing countries. In parts of Africa, maternal mortality rates are 1 in 16.
• Only 28 in 100 women giving birth are attended by trained health personnel in the least developed countries.
• In our world today nearly 11 million children under the age of 5 die in the world every year – well over 1,200 every hour most from easily preventable or treatable causes.
Continued next week