The Egyptian revolution now underway has a personal connection for me – my niece Annie is attempting to pursue graduate studies in the middle of the chaos. I had a conversation with her mother, my sister Marilyn this morning: “So what’s Annie doing? Trekking to the airport every day to try to get out?” “Not exactly – she’s trekking to demonstrations every day…” Anyone who knows Annie – heck, anyone who knows her mother – would not be at all surprised by that. Marilyn’s family lived in Egypt for a number of years, and she has been covering the crisis very competently on her blog here if you’d like a well-written day-to-day overview including occasional eye-witness reports from Annie.
There are so many dimensions to this uprising that it’s hard to know even where to start. There are plenty of obvious dimensions of this crisis: A hard-pressed population’s desire for freedom. The fear many have of the possibility – maybe remote, maybe not – of an Iran-style Islamic state taking the reins after Mubarak leaves.
Peeling back the layers, though, there is a dimension of this crisis that directly affects the topic of this blog – creation care. In yesterday’s New York Times we read
Entrenched corruption, the depredations of police forces and demands for free elections have all helped drive the protest movement, but for many Egyptians, rising prices and unemployment were the strongest motivations to stand up to the government.
When people can’t work or can’t even feed themselves they will do desperate things. From last night’s All Things Considered:
ROBERT SIEGEL, host: Among the many forces driving political unrest in Egypt, Tunisia and other countries is the rising cost of food. Prices for wheat, corn, rice, sugar, coffee and other basics have been surging. A U.N. report shows its food price index is at the highest level ever recorded. Food subsidies in Egypt have helped tamp down some of the anger there, but concerns are growing along with prices.
NPR’s Chris Arnold reports.
CHRIS ARNOLD: In the past six months, the price of wheat and corn has nearly doubled in many parts of the world. And in areas where people spend as much as half their income on food, that’s making it very hard for people to feed their families.
This is at least part of what’s driving the desperation and anger that’s sending people out into the streets of Cairo, such as this protester who spoke to Al-Jazeera.
Unidentified Man: (Through translator) We are tired, ma’am. We are tired. Stop the price hikes. We are suffering. We are Egyptians. We love Egypt. But stop this. We want to eat. We want to live, we and our children.
ARNOLD: Across a continent in the snow-covered city of Davos, Switzerland, economist Nouriel Roubini spoke to CNN.
Dr. NOURIEL ROUBINI (Chairman, Roubini Global Economics): What has happened in Tunisia is happening right now in Egypt. And also, riots in Morocco, Algeria, Pakistan are related not only to high unemployment rate and to income and wealth inequality, but also to this very sharp rise in food and commodity prices.
ARNOLD: So why are food prices rising so quickly? One reason is that bad weather has ruined crops in many parts of the world. There have been floods in Australia and Pakistan. Extreme heat last summer in the U.S. hurt corn production. Russia was hit by a severe drought last summer.
The unrest of these past few weeks is just the beginning. It is no longer conflict between heavily armed superpowers, but rather spreading food shortages and rising food prices—and the political turmoil this would lead to—that threatens our global future.
If we are not willing to feed the hungry for their own sakes, setting aside what Jesus clearly teaches us, would we be willing to feed them for the sake of our own security? I wonder – and mostly because feeding the poor now doesn’t mean bringing a can of food to church for the food pantry or even donating to an international development organization. Neither of these will hurt, but when the problem is weather (read: climate) , or water, or soil degradation, they aren’t going to help much either. Lester Brown again:
Unless governments quickly redefine security and shift expenditures from military uses to investing in climate change mitigation, water efficiency, soil conservation, and population stabilization, the world will in all likelihood be facing a future with both more climate instability and food price volatility.
And many more scenes like this:
So how do we respond? Where to begin? The people of God have got to take these things seriously. We may not be able to solve all of the problems, but we can start. Check out some other recent posts on the role of the church in mobilizing in response to problems like this.