The ONE Campaign is a non-profit, non-partisan, grassroots activist organization whose sole purpose for being is to work toward seeing to it that the US government increases the aid it sends to extremely impoverished nations. One question that is commonly asked is "Why should the US government - or any government for that matter - make foreign aid a priority when the citizens of their own countries are in need?" The answer may be surprising.
While it is always important to tend to one's own and while it is always important to work to take care of one's neighbors, it may be surprising to learn that one way to assist one's local neighbors is by helping one's long distance neighbors. Many countries exist in extreme poverty, poverty that is, by US standards completely unbelievable. A large portion of the world survives on less than $2 per day and many spend their days scrambling to find simple, basic survival items such as water.
Where extreme poverty exists, desperation exists also. Poverty and desperation go hand in hand and following on the heels of poverty and desperation is the ease of exploitation. Exploitation does not simply mean exploiting people for personal monetary gains, but it also means exploiting people for the furtherance of one's own agenda. When we are desperate, we are more likely to believe that which we are told. When we are desperate, we always seek to find the source of our desperation. And when we are desperate, it is easy for us to become envious of those who are not desperate, especially those who we perceive as having so much while we have so little.
Desperation makes the desperate believe the words of those who seek to assign blame for the suffering of the desperate. Terrorist organizations use the desperation of their people to convince them that attacking other countries, the countries that seem to have so much while they have so little, is the best way to help themselves. These groups and organizations start exploiting the misery of their follow countrymen at young ages as can be seen in the recruitment of child soldiers. Terrorist organizations paint the US as a country living in isolated bliss and glory, unconcerned with the rest of the world.
And while those living in the US, the citizens who comprise the country's population know that Americans are giving, loving, caring people who will literally give their own lives to help those in need, the people who need to hear this message hear nothing of the sort. All the people hear are the words of those who paint America in a far less than flattering light. And when our government fails to reveal the truth of American generosity and compassion by failing to assist those who are living in pain, then the people who hear the terrorists' messages have nothing to prove them wrong.
But when the US government sends aid to foreign countries in the form of food, medical supplies, and medications to ease suffering and give support, the US creates allies, the US makes friends, the US reveals itself as a country that is not simply a military machine, but a powerfully compassionate nation that seeks to provide a foundation wherein the rest of the world can see that the "American Dream" is not confined by the US borders.
Assisting foreign countries not only reveals compassion, it stabilizes regions that are likely to become hostile. It gives people an opportunity to live out their hopes, rather than their fears. When our neighbors are happy and hopeful, that happiness and hope radiates outward, creating benefits not only for those receiving aid, but also for those lending aid. By helping others abroad we actually help ourselves. Foreign aid is also domestic aid.
When the US lends aid, the US creates friends. Friends are far less likely to harm other friends. They are also far less likely to support those who would seek to harm their friends. Friends are likely to see to it that their friends remain their friends. One can never have too many friends.
*~Aisling Ireland~* is long time human rights activist, a active member of Amnesty International, a One Campaign supporter, writer, and an ordained Interfaith Minister and Spiritual Counselor.
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