Column: The news is in...we cannot ignore the world's poor

A confession.

Sunday, 21st October 2018, 9:00 am
John Smith: Kettering: Rev Dr John Smith, founder of Cransley Hospice in the garden of his home in Barton Seagrave. Thursday October 26, 2017 NNL-171026-110334009

I am addicted to the news and if I don’t hear it, see it or read about it, I get withdrawal symptoms.

Imagine me, if you would, a passenger in a car. It is 11.55am...almost news time at noon.

It has to be Radio 4; nothing else will do.

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I am distracted and I have missed the bulletin.

My anticipation is crushed and I have to wait almost another hour for the one o’clock news, the big hit that lasts for 45 minutes.

The wait is unbearable.

Imagine this, if you can. It is about 4am. I am awake and make a trip to the bathroom – something men of my age do – and on the way back I pick up my phone, now fully charged, switch it on and read the news.

I scroll down and see what all the national newspapers are saying.

Pathetic, I know, but it is an interesting exercise because more often than not, the lead headlines are different.

So this particular morning it is: Groping MPs – the Speaker told to quit; Oh Baby! – Meghan and Harry are starting a new royal family; Mum-To-Be, Mum’s The Word (three papers agreeing on the most important news, or is it the most appealing?); Evil Thugs – the promise of longer jail sentences for those who prey on the elderly; Ageism Could Be A Hate Crime; May Lobbies EU Leaders; Buck Stops Here Over Back Stop (only two lead on Brexit); and finally, Trump Open To Saudi Denials.

That should be enough news for anybody, but it isn’t for me.

Now partly that relates to my addiction, but largely relates to my sadness at what is not there.

No mention of the tsunami in Indonesia, the suffering forgotten, and no mention of the eight million plus who will die in Yemen from starvation.

The problems in the Yemen were a major news item on television just two or so days earlier.

Instead the news is a froth of superficiality: MPs’ behaviour, royal weddings and royal babies.

I am not saying that what I call ‘froth’ should be eliminated, but there are more important things.

Let me try to put it into perspective: six million died in the Holocaust, four million in Ukraine in the 1930s and millions in the World Wars.

But not eight million. The news should cry out with it and cry with shame too. Only then can we try to do something about it.

In church on Sunday we confessed (admitted to) our forgetfulness of the needs of the poor with these words:

God has blessed us, but still God’s children go hungry,

God has blessed us, but still the poor cry out for justice,

God has blessed us, but still we see inequality and aggression on Earth.

In the prayer we repeatedly asked for God’s mercy.

Let me tell you how that mercy works through us, you and me.

If my news addiction helps me to do that then perhaps it is not a bad thing.

I want to add a postscript.

You are probably saying “well, what can we do?”

And yes it is difficult, we are so very far away.

To my Christian friends I would say, pray and listen, and then go beyond the prayers.

To all of us, try not to look for reasons why we shouldn’t do anything, such as “We must look after those at home first” (and yes we should) and “they waste money we send so best not to send any”.

My experience tells me that aid is spent very wisely, it has to be because there is so little of it and giving money is often all we can do.