So I saw the story on the front page of the Washington Post today about the drought and famine in Somalia. I also got a notice from World Vision about the devastating drought that has crippled the horn of Africa. And I thought it appropriate that both came on Good Friday - when the Son of Man laid down his life as a ransom for many.
The article talks about people who have been killed in fights over wells. The writer - Emily Wax - writes that the situation is made even worse because there is no central government to enforce property rights - including wells - in Somalia.
The United Nations World Food Program says it has distributed 10,700 tons of food so far to 646,000 beneficiaries in southern Somalia as part of its drought response intervention. That might sound like a lot, but in a country where an estimated 2.1 million people - out of a total population of more than 10 million - are in need of emergency food and water aid, that is not much.
The thing that is really tragic from this situation is that even when people receive aid, gunmen often force the people to surrender the food - and the water - once they leave the distribution site. Others are forced to hand over the life-giving supplies because they cannot bribe the guards at checkpoints. Militiamen killed at least six people earlier this week in a gun battle involving a U.N. convoy trying to deliver relief supplies.
Most Americans probably remember Somalia from the crisis in October 1993 when American soldiers were killed in street fighting against forces loyal to warlord Muhammad Aideed. The incident was dramatized in the movie Blackhawk Down.
But that was 13 years ago. The water crisis in the horn of Africa has been going on for more than two years. In neighboring Kenya, rains fell last week, but there is still a great need for relief supplies. Children go hungry, and thirsty every day. People line the roads to beg for water!
Christian Aid, a non-profit that is working in the region, recently had people traveling in Kenya and Somalia, and their website had a sobering thought.
People do not die of thirst because our world lacks resources. We have been given a world with enough to sustain everyone, a world in which no one should have to worry about the most fundamental needs of food and water.
People are dying of thirst because of the crippling poverty brought about by the actions, as well as the complacency, of the developed world.
Irresponsible lifestyles adopted in the developed world have contributed to changing climate patterns creating conditions that are prone to drought. And lack of investment in roads, schools, irrigation and agriculture has left people vulnerable to its consequences.
So how does this relate to Good Friday? Remember one of the words that Jesus said on the cross? "I am thirsty!"
The word there is dipsayo, which means to suffer thirst. A.W. Robertson writes of this cry that Jesus did not make it mechanically. Thirst is one of the agonies of crucifixion.
And what was given to Him? Vinegar, specifically wine vinegar. You know, like Balsamic Vinegar salad dressing? That was the best they had to offer Him. Vinegar is acetic acid made from fermented sugar products. It's great for household cleaning and for other uses, but as a drink it's probably the worst thing you would want. It has an astringent quality to it that makes you recoil.
Yet He voluntarily subjected Himself to this torture and death in order to redeem us. Three days later he rose, and now He calls us to reach out to the "least of these my brothers." And we can do it for less than the cost of a bottle of water each day.