The Struggle for Justice

There is a close link between violence and poverty. It is striking that in a survey of armed conflicts across the globe in 2001, the (London) Financial Times argued that 25 of the 2 7 wars currently taking place were civil wars. Civil war does not automatically correlate with religious or ethnic division, or with economic inequality within a country, but with severe deprivation. Warlords in intensely poor African countries are able to finance their civil wars by the export of, for instance, diamonds or oil. Asian and South American insurgents export the raw materials for drugs and finance insurrections with the wealth from these exports. Western churches have begun to initiate a dialogue with their own governments on this issue, at the same time as churches, and other faith communities, have fought to end the burden of debt repayment, especially through the Jubilee 2000 campaign. Rightly, churches have seen the burden of debt as a great moral evil which stunts human life, and which must be removed as soon as possible. There has been a greater reluctance for some local churches to address the problem of civil wars, and corrupt governments or warlords (for a positive view see Shriver 2000).

Churches played a major role in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, and in Central America against right-wing dictatorships in the 1970s and 1980s. However, the local church has not found it easy to take a stand in the present violence in Zimbabwe and Zaire. The fact that some Anglican bishops in Zimbabwe support President Mugabe illustrates the problem. Much of the violence centers on poverty (e.g. the control of minerals in Zaire) and the abuse of power. The control of raw materials confers power, and access to wealth, in a situation of deprivation and poverty, and enables exploitation and violence to take place.

Churches have increasingly wrestled with the issues of fair trade and global debt. Governing the world economy has become one of the central issues for both campaigners and policy-makers. "The world economy cannot be milked for the benefit of a tiny minority for long without generating unsustainable crisis and conflict" (Coyle 2000). Markets require strong regulation within an institutional and legal framework. Financial instability can overwhelm small, open economies, such as are often found in Asia or South America. There is an incompatibility, perhaps even an "unholy trinity" in developing nations of currency stability, capital mobility, and national monetary autonomy. However, it is not simply market instability that is the problem. There is also the issue of the monopoly power of large corporations, which can control access to new technology by governments of poor nations, and apply lower standards of corporate responsibility in poorer countries.

Free markets can be defended as a way of opening up the interests of the majority of the population against elites wishing to protect their inherited values and interests. The example of the Ming dynasty is a powerful one at this point (Sen 1999b). It is also the case that free markets diffuse their benefits widely, whereas the benefits of restrictions are often concentrated in vested interests. What free markets create is not disorder, but a new form of social order. Jubilee 2000 shows that long-term changes can be won by an effective coalition, however hard the campaign may be. There is a great need to allow the balance of trade to shift to the advantage of the developing countries. Equally important is the need to continue to expose exploitative practices in the third world by means of the world media, consumer campaigns, and eventual international cooperation to raise the incomes of those who work in the industries of developing nations. There are certainly encouraging signs of progress, which is not always the picture that is presented. For example, "the adult literacy rate for the developing countries rose from 43% in 1970 to 64% in 1994" (Hicks 2000). Life expectancy has also risen over the last few decades. If economic change could be achieved by the reduction of the debt owed by many nations, much energy might be released. Poverty and debt act as severe constraints on the ability to bring about the slow transformation of a society to fulfill all the capabilities of its citizens.

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