Oct. 12, 2004
Ibrahim A. Gambari
By Linda Green*
Tenn. (UMNS)-The church must take the lead in both promoting the
positive effects of globalization and responding to the negative ones,
an African U.N. official told United Methodist leaders.
A. Gambari, under-secretary-general and special adviser on Africa for
the United Nations, addressed globalization and the role of a global
church in remarks to the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and
Ministry on Oct. 9. A Nigerian, he played an important role in South
Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy and assisted in
peacekeeping efforts in Burundi, Rwanda, Angola and Mozambique.
Global leadership was a focal point for the board’s governing members at their Oct. 7-10 meeting.
provided four causes of the rapid globalization of the world: the
hardwiring of the planet, which has decreased distances; international
financial transactions of $1.5 trillion that flow daily through the
world’s electronic systems, making a new world economic system; the
ushering in of a free-market path to development since the end of the
Cold War; and the rapid movement of people, goods and services.
can lift countries out of poverty through faster economic growth and
enhancing well-being, he said. However, it also makes no distinctions in
its impact on countries and societies at different levels of
socioeconomic and technological development.
has had positive impacts on some developing nations, but "from
available evidence, the African continent, as a whole, has not fared
well in the globalizing world," he said. It is "the least industrialized
continent in the world."
the marginalization of Africa, globalization is an unstoppable force,
which "needs to be channeled to serve the benefits of all or the
majority of peoples of the world," Gambari said.
is the richest continent in the world in terms of mineral and natural
resources, but its people are the poorest in the world," Gambari said.
is marginalized by international trade and private capital outflow,
debt, slowing agricultural growth, commodity price decline and public
expenditure decline, he said.
wants to trade but the subsidies that rich countries are putting on
farm products are outrageous, he said. "There has to be fairer trade to
allow African products to come to the market of the developed countries
in a free and competitive manner.
challenge is not just on the part of Africans but also on their
partners in the work of trade and eternal debt policies," Gambari said.
"Globalization is a mixed blessing," he said. The "challenge is to make it work for the benefit of all people."
United Methodist Church as a global church must do more than take the
side of the poor and the weak in the globalization debate, he said. "The
church must remind everyone about the social and ethical dimensions of
globalization and recognize that the free market should not be elevated
to the level of religion."
should not worship the free market, he said. It is a tool for growth
and development and the promotion of people’s welfare, he said. "The
church must be a friend of the poor and underprivileged within countries
and between countries."
challenge facing the United Methodist Church and other entities is how
to harness the benefits of globalization while reducing its negative
impacts, he said.
globalization undermine the vitality of the church to carry out its
mission in our new global future?" he asked. "It is essential, in a
world changing as rapidly as ours, that we make sense of how needed
adjustments would affect both the context in which we live and operate
religions encourage members to receive their sense of identity and
self-worth from higher spiritual sources, the marketplace encourages
citizens to derive their identity and self-worth from what they buy and
consume, he noted.
ultimate human goals can never be defined principally in economic
terms," Gambari said, "but in spiritual and relational terms as well. We
need globalization with a human face and the pursuit of free market
economics with compassion through sustained assistance to the less
privileged within and between countries."
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Linda Green, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.