An Asian Christian woman living in London blogging about the everyday issues of religion

Thursday, 30 December 2010

I am not Miss World but...

I do believe in the concept of 'world peace' much as the contestants of the bygone televised Miss World contests used to wish for when asked what their ambition was. 'I wish for world peace', they would breathe heavily into the microphone. The whole idea of world peace then became synonymous with the trappings of superficiality. This need not be so.

I have been pondering on what specifically I wish to pray for that will make the world a better place in 2011 and onwards. Now, world peace isn't going to happen overnight but I believe that one powerful engine for generating world peace lies in micro finance for the following reasons. The link between wealth and peace is a strong one. World peace cannot be secured while we have people living in squalid conditions. Peace has become a luxurious commodity and can only be attained if people's living standards are raised. Too many people have dropped out of the global economy through no fault of their own. Economic revitalization and peace building is recognised by the UN as a two-headed joint initaitve.

Money has become the root of all evil. Witness the decades of corruption that has resulted in a global divide of stupendous proportions between the rich and the poor mainly in Asia and Africa. Money that should have gone into infrastructure, education, health and housing has, instead, been used to build mansions for those in power and financed their wives' shopping expeditions. The poor have become aspirational and resort to crime to get what they want. Stripped of all dignity and hope they live a lawless lifestyle that sticks two fingers up at the concept of civil and structured society. Because governments cannot be relied on in many parts of the world to lift the poor out of their appalling living conditions it falls to the third sector organisations to fill in the gap.
Micro finance means offering small loans (below £100)to low-income people to help them set up a small business or engage in some activity that will make their lives better in a sustainable way. It is similar (but not the same) to the familiar concept of buying a goat for a family in Asia or donating enough money so a fruit tree can be grown in somenone's backyard in Africa thereby enabling them to sell the fruit and to make a living. Helping someone to help themselves in a sustainable long term manner.
The concept of microfinance originated in the mid-1970s in Bangladesh through a pioneering experiment by Dr Muhammad Yunus, then a Professor of Economics. His aim was to offer poor people:
financial services, entrepreneurship opportunities, an end to mistreatment by money lenders and a system where they could produce, manage and maintain their own finances. Microfinancing ensures that the money goes straight to the needy, bypasses corrupt bureaucrats and is seen to make an almost immediate difference to the recipient's lifestyle. 
By no means am I advocating that microfinancing will bring about world peace single handedly. What I am saying is that world poverty will not be solved at macro level by corrupt governments and while these corrupt regimes leave people powerless and penniless there will be a large amount of lawlessness that breaks out at micro level. Third sector organisations and civil societies have a massive role to play in operating at micro level to help the poor earn a living and to restore their dignity. When the link between peace and economic development is strengthened a significant source of tension is removed thus paving the way for world peace at some future date.
 Please pray for micro financing to work. for more information.

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