This is the second article submitted by Dr. Suranjeen Prasad Pallipamula, an Adventist physician in Ranchi, Jharkhand, India.
This health worker was distraught. She wanted us to come to her village and do something about a severely malnourished orphan child. The doctor obliged and made the four mile trek to bring the baby to the Malnutrition Treatment Centre. With more than 50% malnutrition rates in Central India, considerable number of families with severely malnourished children in our project site seemed to be doing well. A little time spent every week by our health workers with the parents discussing ways to improve the food served, sharing new recipes, and just plain encouragement seemed to work. But some families just could not get their act together. Extreme poverty coupled with malaria and other childhood illnesses make life for both parents and children a living hell. Most parents worked for a pittance in the stone quarries or the nearby coal mines from early morning till dusk, leaving the children to be taken care of by their siblings.
In the nearby town, a new franchise for Kentucky Fried Chicken opens close to a popular pizzeria. I walk in to have dinner with my family to enjoy the fries and chips only to spend a little over ten days of wages that the stone quarry worker would have earned. Inequalities between people groups are only widening. The Indian growth story seems to benefit the rich and totally bypass the poor like a tall edifice built on the suffering of millions. Will this story ever been told?
I remembered a sermon preached by Dr. Paulson Yesudian, the medical director of a hospital I worked in earlier – he spoke from Ezekiel 9:4, “Walk through the streets of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of all who weep and sigh because of the detestable sins being committed in their city” (NIV). His sermon centered on the importance of ‘speaking up’. This speaking up is similar to what the development economist Amartya Sen said in his book The idea of Justice—Resistance to injustice draws on both indignation and argument. While anger can motivate us, it is the reasoned scrutiny of the problem that can address it.
To speak up – you need to first ‘have your eyes opened’, and then you need to be able to articulate what you see and finally be able to have a platform from which you can speak. This needs a lot of ‘capabilities’ which unfortunately the poor lack. Amartya Sen defines poverty as ‘capability deprivation’. And that is why the Poor need me – to speak up for them, or better to help them with the capability of speaking up for themselves.
Injustice is so sugar coated that you do not know it is present, nor do you realize that you have been co-opted to be part of the system that causes it. For me to be angry is to ask God to open my eyes to injustice. Injustice can make us feel sad and can move us to be empathetic, but it is outrage that can make us bold.
God wants Justice to roll on like a river and righteousness like a never-failing stream. And so He calls some of us to be the Good Samaritan – just react to the injustice, do not question the root cause of it. This is what I have been doing as a doctor – just working with ill health and not dealing with the injustice that causes it.
But I think he wants some of us to get below the surface, dig it up, name the wrong and shame the people involved. God did ask Elijah to speak up against Jezebel, and Amos and Isaiah to speak against social injustice where the rich looted the poor.
Joel 2:28 says, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.” Can we interpret this to mean that our young men will have their eyes opened to injustice and our sons/daughters will be able to ‘speak up’ like the prophets of yore? Mrs. White states in Prophets and Kings (p. 651) that “The church is in a great degree responsible for the sins of her members. She gives countenance to evil if she fails to lift her voice against it.”
Isn’t it time to open such ‘Schools of Prophets’ within the Adventist Church?