Would Youth Give Up Discos for the Poor?

A G-8 Watcher´s Advice to Summit Protesters

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ROME, JULY 11, 2001 (ZENIT.orgFides).- Father Piero Gheddo, journalist and missionary of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, has traveled the world as director of World and Mission magazine. He has just written a work entitled «David and Goliath at the G-8: Dialogue on Globalization,» published by St. Paul Press.

In the following interview, Father Gheddo comments on the upcoming Genoa G-8 summit.

–Q: Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi met with the Pope. As a missionary, what would you say to Berlusconi?

–Father Gheddo: I would tell him, like I would Italy and the G-8, to be concerned about the gap between the rich and poor. This is the greatest scandal of our time. I would like to see the eight greats give priority attention to the peoples who are not even regarded as worthy to enter international trade.

Until the decade of the ´70s, black, sub-Saharan Africa had 3% participation in world trade; today it has only 1.1% participation. In fact, it is marginalized. Globalization is a train that runs with advanced technology but leaves these people out.

–Q: Do you agree with those who challenge the G-8?

–Father Gheddo: I interpret this protest in a positive sense. I am well aware that it has anarchic, violent and anti-Christian tendencies. But there is also a just reaction against this split in the world.

Statistics show that at the beginning of the last century the proportion of wealth between the North and South of the world was 8 to 1. Today we have reached around 70 [or] 80 to 1.

It´s not possible to go on like this; it is neither right, human nor peaceful. It is not possible that there are 49 countries classified as less developed nations, which live only on aid, and are not capable of participating in world trade with their own, specific contribution.

–Q: In this protest, is there not a certain paternalism in relation to the poor?

–Father Gheddo: This is true. Among young protesters I´m afraid there is virtually no one who has visited the Third World and, perhaps, has not even the desire to go [there].

Earlier you asked me what I would say to Berlusconi. Now I will say what I would advise the G-8 protesters: Young people, I admire your intentions, but you must become brothers to the poor in a real way.

I propose, as a minimum, action against useless and superfluous consumerism, for example, the closing of discothèques at midnight. However, a more serious proposal would be to go to live with the poor. Come with our missionaries to Africa, don´t just let yourselves be truncheoned by police.

In 1985 there were 1,700 Italian lay volunteers of various associations and organizations in Africa. Today there are only 400. This is because the Italian government has reduced its contribution to these organizations, but no one has protested this measure.

There are no longer youths who want to give three or four years of their life to the poor. When the money disappeared, so did the volunteers. One cannot protest against the G-8 and then enjoy the abundance of the North.

–Q: During the Jubilee, the Italian Church launched the proposal to cancel the foreign debt. This proposal, also the Pope´s, has received a weak answer in the West.

–Father Gheddo: I am more than in agreement with this campaign against the debt, but I am amazed that the Italian Church, and these commissions, including missionaries, are only affiliated to the slogans of the moment: Foreign debt is fashionable, there is talk about the foreign debt.

There are other things that no one talks about, not even Christians. In the past few days, Catholic and missionary associations published an anti-G-8 manifesto. Is it possible that in that document there are only criticisms of the G-8, analysis of the gross national product, technology, taxes. Is it not considered important to state somewhere that Jesus Christ is the only savior who changes the heart of man? This, in fact, should be the fundamental task of missionary institutes.

I have visited Africa very often over the past few years and have spoken with the missionaries about the foreign debt. All of them said to me: If you only cancel the foreign debt, you help the dictators. You must exert pressure so that governments will change.

How is it possible that African governments allocate 30% of their budget to the armed forces, only 2% to education and 1.5% to health? It is necessary to change the elites through a profound education. In this respect, the missionaries can do much.

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