Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
By Chris WittsMonday 20 Jul 2020Morning Devotions with Chris Witts
Looking around us, we could be forgiven for thinking that parts of the world are spinning out of control.
There’s famine in North Africa, the result of war; suffering in southern Asia, caused by extreme weather. The HIV/AIDS pandemic in South Africa; and street people dying of the cold.
There is a growing sense that individuals are powerless in such overwhelming troubles. Repeated appeals for help by the charities are producing the aptly-named ‘donor fatigue’. But before we sink deeper into depression, it might be useful to remember that throughout history, there have been individuals who have made a difference.
Individuals That Made Their Mark
- Joan of Arc was a 15-century French girl who believed that through her ‘voices’, God was directing her to get rid of the English and restore the French throne to the dauphin. Though some believe that she was an epileptic whose seizures were the source of her voices, she provided inspired leadership, restored the morale of the French troops and eventually got the English out of France. In 1431, at age 19, she was burned at the stake as a heretic. She was canonised by the Roman Catholic Church in 1920.
- Mahatma Gandhi developed the concept of passive resistance as an effective means of protest and used it to help India gain independence from Britain in 1947. By refusing to take up arms against the colonial power, he effectively made Britain’s Indian Army into a toothless tiger. With the help of Lord Louis Mountbatten, India’s last viceroy, Gandhi founded the world’s largest democracy which, against all tribal and religious odds, still manages to function as effectively as any in the so-called Third World. Gandhi was assassinated in 1948.
- Mother Teresa, born in Macedonia in 1910, was a young nun who was moved by the wretched conditions of the poor in Calcutta. Taking upon herself the poverty of the people she served, Mother Teresa modelled her life on the example of Christ. She received permission from the Pope to start a new order of nuns, the Missionaries of Charity and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. Before she died in 1997, over 40 thousand of the sick and dying had been cared for with dignity and love in her Calcutta facility. In her later years, she was visited by the famous and influential, including Princess Diana and journalist Malcolm Muggeridge, who lionised her in his book Something Beautiful for God.
- Nelson Mandela spent over 20 years in the Robben Island Prison in South Africa for his political activities while waging a legal and guerrilla battle against apartheid, white South Africa’s pernicious system of racial segregation. As the leader of the African National Congress, his stature and moral authority only increased during his imprisonment until he was released in 1990 and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. He became the first president of an officially multiracial South Africa, and, in retirement, continued to work for peace and racial harmony around the world.
- Jody Williams, a Vermont woman, has an activist history typical of her generation of Americans, including protesting the war in Vietnam during her university years. But it was as the coordinator of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines that she gained international recognition. What started as a lonely task in an unsympathetic atmosphere gained momentum when she got the backing of Canada’s then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lloyd Axworthy. In 1997, the Ottawa Process produced a treaty to ban landmines after only 14 months of preparation, for which Williams shared that year’s Nobel Peace Prize. It ranks as the significant peace initiative of the 1990s.
- Jesus Christ didn’t have a big organisation either—just a ragtag group of followers. He took on the religious and political powers of his day, challenging the very assumptions by which they held their power. He was arrested on a phoney charge, then executed as a matter of political expediency. What made Christ different from other historical heroes was that he was the human incarnation of a forgiving God. He set aside his divinity to live among us, offering the promise of reconciliation with God.
Christ was and is the ultimate example of the power of one.
Douglas Field, Faith & Friends, March 2001