ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE: Front line stories from international aid workers
Posted: 02 Nov 2006 @ 00:00
by Carol Bergman, editor
Earthscan £17.99 (1-84407-034-4)
WHAT IF YOU GOT INVOLVED? Taking a stand against social injustice
by Graham Gordon
Paternoster Press £8.99 (1-84227-243-8); Church Times Bookshop £8.10
WRITTEN in celebration of the altruism and courage of all humanitarian
workers, Another Day in Paradise has an honesty about it that can come
only from direct experience. The writing is often angry, sometimes poetic,
frequently reflective, and always immediate, and comes from people who confess
having mixed motives for what they do, and who sometimes question its
effectiveness. "Do you feed us so we can die with a fat belly?" relief workers
were asked in Sarajevo.
They want you to share their anger, and rightly so. Patrick Dillon in
Somalia describes himself with proud defiance as "a human disaster area . . .
forty pounds underweight, shitting water, and covered with parasitic skin
lesions from one end to the other"; but his real grief is for the death of his
ten-year-old bodyguard, "a grinning little boy with his own automatic weapon".
Rwanda, for Philippe Gaillard, is "a season in hell, an obscene and
ferocious madness". But he reiterates the neutrality of their work, as they all
do, emphasising: "We did not turn tail; in the hell of Kigali, we talked to all
the devils." Marleen Deerenberg in Afghanistan variously feels like a princess
in a harem and a warlord, and is pitied by the Afghan women for being, at 34
and unmarried, "elderly and expired".
There are huge contradictions: in the fragile peace of Thailand, Dr
Panayotis Ellinas finds himself ministering to the "daughter of a butcher’s
henchman". As for reporters, Iain Le-vine in Sudan suppresses a smile at the
journalist in quasi-military khaki waistcoat, for whom the trip is "one big
adventure". It’s a sobering but magnificent read.
Graham Gordon’s track record as the former public-policy officer for
Tearfund, and his current work with one of the organisation’s human-rights
partners in Peru, gives him every authority for writing
What if You Got Involved? It is directed principally at Evangelicals
who are wary of involvement in social justice, and not convinced that it has
any biblical basis or practical usefulness.
Being condemned to poverty and injustice is not what God had in mind for an
individual, he argues. And he argues in just the sort of structured way that
will appeal to the constituency — answering ten arguments against involvement,
suggesting six reasons why injustice must be tackled, offering solid teaching
on the Kingdom of heaven, and emphasising the mission of the Church as both
prophetic and practical.
Every chapter concludes with a list of questions for reflection, and an
impressive bibliography. He writes sensibly and articulately about
understanding and engaging with power; and he charts the Christian heritage of
political involvement before using experiences around the world to show that
Christians can fight the system, as well as give direct service. Section 3 is
all about practical ways of getting involved.
It is a bold and accessible book, and, while being eminently persuasive, it
succeeds in not wagging the finger at anyone.
To place an order for either book contact