This book documents the emergence of Rock superstar Bono as a major theological force in the interest of ending extreme poverty in Africa, where six thousand die of AIDS each day. He is becoming the Martin Luther King of Africa aid relief.
"There is a continent--Africa--being consumed by flames. I truly believe that when the history books are written, our age will be remembered for three things: the war on terror, the digital revolution, and what we did--or did not do--to put the fire out in Africa. History, like God, is watching what we do." This quote is accompanied by the words FREEDOM and EQUALITY repeated numerous times in the form of a map of Africa.
Bono updates Isaiah 58:9-11 to report on the presence of God in today's world. "God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both of their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them."
Bono founded the advocacy group DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa) in 2002. It is a member of ONE, the Camapaign to Make Poverty History. In 2006 he launched Product (RED) to engage businesses in the fight against AIDS. He lives in Dublin, Ireland with his wife and four children.
Bono wants the United States to give an additional one percent of its federal budget annually to end world poverty. Beside a picture of a barely clothed African child, Bono says "Where you live should no longer determine whether you live." He adds, "We hear that call in the One Campaign, a growing movement of more than two million Americans left and right together, united in the belief that where you live should no longer determine whether you live."
Bono eloquently summarizes more of his agenda, "Preventing the poorest of the poor from selling their products while we sing the virtues of the free market--that's a justice issue. Holding children ransom for the debts of their grandparents--that's a justice issue. Withholding the life-saving medicines out of defeerence to the Office of Patents--that's a justice issue. And while the law is what wwe say it is, God is not silent on the subject."
Bono is of both Protestant and Catholic ancestry in a land deeply divided by literal warfare over the differences between these religions. "Religion often gets in the way of God, " Bono says. "I was cynical. Not about God, but about God's politics."
Bono was called to action by concept of the millennial year of 2000 being a Jubilee year, "an opportunity to cancel the chronic debts of the world's poorest people. They (the advocates of a Jubilee year) had the audacity to renew the Lord's call--and they were joined by Pope John Paul II, who, from an Irish half-Catholic's point of view, may have had a more direct line to the Almighty."
This is a book to stir people to action by man who, the publisher notes, "has brought about tremendous change--billions of dollars in debt relief have been forgiven and thousands of lives have been saved. But more than that, he has opened our eyes to the dignity, beauty, and strength of this continent. His eloquence when speaking about Africa at the National Prayer Breakfast inspired this book. My hope is that it will inspire you as well."
This is a book that does stir people to action, that ought to be read by people who want ideas on how to use their time and money to solve major problems facing the world. Bill Clinton, active in raising money and public consciousness for African relief in the years since he left the White House, describes this book as "Inspirational words from a man of faith and action. Bono's message is one of unparalled hope and challenge. He goes where others don't and makes us want to follow."
A rock star as an international moral leader? It is an unusual concept to be sure. But Bono says, "When churches started deomonstrating on debt, governments listened--and acted. When churches started organizing, petitioning, and even that most unholy of acts today, God forbid, lobbying on AIDS and global health, governments listened and acted.
"I'm here (at the National Prayer breakfast) today in all humility to say: you changed minds; you changed policy; you changed the world.
"Look, whatever thoughts you have about God, who God is or if God exists--most will agree that if there is a God, God has a special place for the poor. In fact, the poor are where God lives."
Bono notes the intense interest in poverty in the scriptures. "It's not a coincidence that in the Scriptures, poverty is mentioned more than 2,100 times. That's a lot of airtime, 2,100 mentions." He praises our country for doubling aid to Africa, tripling funding for global health, putting 900,000 people onto life-saving anti-viral drugs and providing 11,000,000 bed nets to protect children from malaria.
"Outstanding human achievements. Counterintuitive. Historic. Be very, very proud. But here's the bad news. There is much more to do. There's a gigantic chasm between the scale of the emergency and the scale of the respons. And finally, it's not a questions about charity after all, is it? It's about justice."
Bono works to incite his audience to action. "But justice is a higher standard. Africa makes a fool of our idea of justice. It makes a farce of our idea of equality. It mocks our pieties; it doubts our concern; it questions our commitment."
This is book that is moving, provocative, and insightful. The greater its audience, the greater will be the world's response to one of the great international challenges of our time.