I just heard a report on the BBC about the current level of endowment at Harvard - 25 BILLION Dollars
. They talked about what that could buy - five aircraft carriers (without the planes), a football team (with lots left over) or...
Twice the GDP of a dozen impoverished African nations. Or you could use it to immunize every child there against something like 15 diseases. I was stunned at the wealth of just one university - only to be reminded of what good that money could do. Then I got the following note from Sojourners and thought this note from Jim Wallis might be worth sharing.
What would Jesus do at Davos? by Jim Wallis
Once each year, the quiet and spectacularly beautiful Swiss mountain village of Davos is taken over by top business and political leaders from around the globe for the World Economic Forum. The motto of the event is "Committed to Improving the State of The World." Last week, 1,200 of the world's elite gathered, carefully protected by 8,000 security personnel. The topics were wide - ranging, the panelists among the most famous people in the world, the discussions often quite provocative.
The kind of globalization that drives for unbridled economic growth and unlimited corporate profits, while imposing financial conditionality on poor countries, often to their detriment, has been a persistent problem for real development in the global south, and an offense to the requirements of justice. Yet, in the many sessions I participated in there was a serious critique of those very practices and structural problems, especially in regard to the global health care crisis and the serious reduction of extreme poverty. That was a sign of some hope.
Since Sept. 11, a few religious leaders have been invited to join the conversation with the hope of creating interfaith dialogue to breach dangerous divides and add broader moral and ethical perspectives to the deliberations over the "state of the world." During a West - Islamic World Dialogue meeting the first morning, the diverse religious leaders said they hoped to "understand the differences, and affirm the commonalities." This year, 24 religious leaders came from around the world to talk with each other and with the gathered business and political leaders. The group was convened each day by my old friend, Lord George Carey, former archbishop of Canterbury and regularly dispersed to listen and present to the many interactive sessions with the leaders of governments, corporations, and civil society. Six of us came from the United States.
I was encouraged by the frank conversations about global poverty and the diseases which so adversely affect the world's poorest people. One session pointed out that of the 10 million children who die every year, one quarter could be saved by the vaccinations that routinely prevent their diseases in the developed countries but are still not widely available in developing nations. About a 20 - year gap now exists between when new life saving and enhancing drugs are introduced in the rich and poor parts of the worlds, and the difference in life expectancy between the two parts is now at a shocking 40 years.
Business people like Bill Gates of Microsoft pointed to the "market failures" of a health care system that caters to the rich world and called for "grand risk taking" to save many lives. It was impressive how the world's greatest architect of computer software has so thoroughly educated himself on the world's greatest health crises and begun to invest so much of his fortune and of himself in finding answers. Underneath the discussions was the dramatic disparity and acknowledged moral indictment of how life is less valued in the world's poor places than the rich ones - about 100 times less, one presenter estimated.
In an extraordinary session on "Next Steps for Africa," panelists spoke of 2005 as a year of glaring promises, but that 2006 must become a year of delivery and of monitoring those commitments. Nigerian President Obasanjo offered a consistent prophetic voice as a leading African reformer who has courageously taken on both the corruption in his own country and the corruption in the dealings of wealthy nations and companies with African countries. Bono, Irish musician and activist, spoke strongly about the need for trade justice if impoverished nations are ever going to escape poverty, called for "preferential treatment" for the poorest countries. He said agricultural subsidies in the West, which pay every European cow the equivalent of two dollars a day could make Africans living on less than a dollar a day wish they were cows instead of people.
And Gordon Brown, Chancellor of Exchequer in Great Britain, quoted Martin Luther King Jr.'s comments on democracy from a Birmingham jail in hoping that the "promissory note" of Western pledges for development would not end with "insufficient funds," and then offered his creative vision of "innovative financing" to meet the most urgent global needs - lie universal education and health care for the world's most vulnerable children. Most agreed the answers lay both in African empowerment and responsibility taking in the rich countries.
In her opening address, new German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to honor her county's development aid pledge of 0.7% of GDP, despite domestic pressures to renege on those commitments. World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz didn't speak to U.S. commitments, but acknowledged that many problems in development in poor countries still exist, such as start - up business fees in many places of up to $500 which, he said, would only be "an expensive lunch" for many of the people at Davos, but a tremendous obstacle for most of the world's people.
I spoke to a session called "Should We Despair of Disparities?" and showed how the biblical prophets only rose up when inequality became a societal problem (as it is today), and to another entitled, "The Hand of God in U.S. Politics," in which many Europeans were relieved to hear that the Religious Right isn't the only faith - inspired movement in America. Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life, and I met for the first time in Davos and found that we shared many common commitments. We talked at length about how the "pastoral agenda" and the "prophetic agenda" for the churches could compliment each other in the struggle to overcome poverty.
Many of the likely candidates for U.S. president in 2008 were on hand, including Sen. John McCain (R. - Ariz), Sen. John Kerry (D. - Mass.), and former Gov. Mark Warner of Virginia. Former President Bill Clinton packed the house when he spoke of the three greatest threats in the world today: global climate change, social and economic inequality, and religious and cultural conflict; but called the assembly of talented and powerful people to believe these problems have solutions if we work hard and persevere.
Among those gathered at Davos were an impressive and hopeful collection of emerging leaders and social entrepreneurs who are already making a real difference. I met one of them at a session on "delivering services and doing good" - a young Swiss man named Pierre Tami who became a Christian and went to Cambodia where he began to rescue women and children caught up in sex trafficking. In twelve years, Hagar, the Christian development organization he founded, has touched the lives of 100,000 women, many of whom have been freed from sexual slavery and have found new ways to live and work through a myriad of successful small businesses started by Hagar. After I spoke to the group, Tami told me, "I know who you are.... I get SojoMail!"
Davos is the ultimate networking experience, and the religious community is playing an ever greater role in this global town meeting. One Christian leader commented that he believed Jesus would have come to Davos if he were invited, and a rabbi whispered under his breath, "But I'll bet he would have overturned a few tables." Indeed.