Wednesday, May 9, 2012
HAPPY BIRTHDAY BONO! 'GOD WILL WATCH YOUR BACK'
by Jean Lowrie-Chin
Observer column | Monday, January 01, 2007
Bono was at the microphone but it wasn't a U2 concert. He was addressing the rich and powerful at the USA's National Prayer Breakfast last February. I saved his riveting speech from the "ONE" website. Today, the first day of the New Year, I offer you his challenging words.
Who is this Bono, who received an honorary knighthood a couple of weeks ago? Why has this pop star chosen to spend his time walking amongst and working for the poorest of the poor instead of living the high-flying life of the jetsetter he is well qualified to be?
He is the product of a Catholic mother and a Protestant father, and grew up in a time when his native Ireland was riven by religious differences. "I remember how my mother would bring us to chapel on Sundays. and my father would wait outside. One of the things that I picked up from (them) was that religion often gets in the way of God."
Bono remarked on the self-righteousness of various religions. "I was cynical," Bono confessed, "not about God, but about God's politics."
But Bono reported happily that "a couple of eccentric septuagenarian British Christians ruined my shtick, my reproach" when they advocated successfully that the year 2000, the Jubilee Year, should see the cancellation of debts of the world's poorest.
Then the church took on AIDS, said Bono: "conservative church groups hanging out with spokesmen for the gay community. soccer moms and quarterbacks. hip-hop stars and country stars. this is what happens when God gets on the move: crazy stuff happens!"
But even as Bono praised the charity of the church and the government, he gave them cause to pause. "It is not about charity," he said tersely, "it is about justice."
And he focused the eyes of the crisply dressed gathering on the sorrowful face of Africa. "Africa makes a fool of our idea of justice; it makes a farce of our idea of equality. It mocks our pieties, it doubts our concern, it questions our commitment."
He asked them to reflect on the tragedy of the Asian tsunami that took 150,000 lives. "In Africa 150,000 lives are lost every month. A tsunami every month. And it's completely avoidable."
Bono must have shaken that room when he pointed out that "preventing the poorest of the poor from selling their products while we sing the virtues of the free market . that's a justice issue. withholding life-saving medicines out of deference to the Office of Patents . that's a justice issue."
Bono remembers his moment of awakening. "I was always seeking the Lord's blessing. and this wise man said: 'stop . get involved in what God is doing because it's already blessed'."
Bono's big appeal was for more aid to save Africa. And I reflected on Ken Jones' account of the positive influence of Marcus Garvey's works on the movement for independence among several African nations in the 50s. I remember the passion of Pablo Moses singing "We should be in Angola", and Bob Marley's many hymns to this continent of creative fire. I remember Claude McKay quoting Antar, a 12th century African poet whose lyrics influenced well-known European poets.
Jamaicans may not have the money that Bono is asking the US to invest in Africa, but we can exercise our influence. After 200,000 people have perished and millions wander homeless in the Sudan, only Buju Banton in Jamaica has written about this tragedy in Darfur (thanks Kathy Kleinhans for info), not one line in the various messages from our leaders over the season. We are more connected than ever before, yet more disconnected from the realities of our world and our responsibilities to it.
If Africa is too far away for us, let us break it down to right now, the first day of January in the year 2007, to right here in Jamaica. Let us look at the tenuous lives of our children, abused in their own homes, turned into little "shottas", prostituting themselves. Let us ask how we could have prevented the death of those lost to fires, gunshots, road accidents and disease.
No matter how bright your New Year may be looking, it comes to naught if it is not used to brighten someone else's year. God's blessing is on the children and the poor, so to receive it, we should take Bono's advice, "Get involved in what God is doing because it is already blessed".
Our own National Leadership Prayer Breakfast will be held in a few weeks, an event I believe is the perfect launch for a purpose-driven year. Rick Warren, author of the bestseller "The Purpose Driven Life", has an interesting perspective on life: "God is more interested in your character than your comfort. I used to think that life was hills and valleys. I don't believe that anymore. I believe that it's kind of like two rails on a railroad track, and at all times you have something good and something bad in your life... you can focus on your purposes or you can focus on your problems. the easiest way to get rid of pain is to get the focus off yourself and onto God and others."
Few will forget that resounding speech given by Capital & Credit founder and CEO Ryland Campbell at the Jamaica Observer Business Leader Award Ceremony earlier this year. Campbell quoted his principal of Mico College the late Glen Owen: "Work! Thank God for the might of it - the urge of it, work that springs from the heart's desire, work that sets the soul on fire."
And so we know why Bono must do what he does: his work has set his soul on fire. This is why Rick Warren refused also to live luxuriously after he made millions from his book. Instead he set up a foundation for children, and repaid his 24 years of salary back to his church.
We will have to challenge ourselves to go beyond the charity of lukewarm volunteers, to a mighty work for justice in the conviction that we are all equals and therefore, all-deserving. To the people of many faiths at the US prayer breakfast, Bono quoted the New Testament, the Koran and the Old Testament. He ended with the prophet Isaiah: "Thus sayeth the Lord: bring the homeless poor into the house, when you see the naked, cover him, then your light will break out like the dawn and your recovery will speedily spring forth, then your Lord shall be your rear guard."
And Bono commented: "That is powerful incentive. The Lord will watch your back. Sounds like a good deal to me right now." In fact, it's the best deal to make 2007 our best year. Happy New Year!