signs of the times

Locals know where to find the best eateries. On my first night in Gaborone, Botswana, a land-locked republic in southern Africa, friends…

Locals know where to find the best eateries.

On my first night in Gaborone, Botswana, a land-locked republic in southern Africa, friends volunteering there with the Mennonite Central Committee took me to a great fish and chips place.

It was well off the normal tourist path, which normally doesn’t stray too far from  ‘The Mall.’

I only managed, though, to nibble a fry or two right away. The crisply battered, newspaper-wrapped supper of white fish stayed put.

My hosts wanted to give me a good view to go along with the good food. We drove up to a small park on the edge of the reservoir that supplied the drinking water to the dusty capital city down below.

From our picnic bench the horizon stretched off across an invisible border towards the east into the Transvaal.

Back in the 1970s that was as close as I was going to come to South Africa.

If I wanted to continue traveling in Africa a passport stamp from the apartheid regime there would make crossing other borders difficult, if not impossible.

The institutionalized racism of the apartheid regime in South Africa ended with that country’s first fully democratic elections in 1994.

All South Africans, regardless of skin colour or ethnic background, could vote then for the first time as equals.

The ‘rainbow nation’ that Archbishop Desmond Tutu celebrated, though, continues to face enormous challenges.

The HIV/AIDS pandemic, high unemployment and an enormous gap between rich and poor may be signs of coming times for us as well.

Earlier this week Mervyn King, the highly regarded governor of the Bank of England gave a speech in New Delhi, India.

He called for the fundamental reform to the International Monetary Fund.

Initially set up in the last days of the Second World War as a way of dealing with balance of payments problems, the fund has lost its way.

“Mr. King would like to see the IMF beefed up and transformed into an executive organization that is taken seriously when it pronounces about the need for exchange rate adjustments and the dangers of imbalances or ‘balance sheet issues’,” William Keegan wrote in the Guardian on February 14th.

“But here we are — with sensational ‘imbalances’ in the world economy, many analysts forecasting dire things if and when the dollar collapses, and an IMF that does plenty of analysis, but has precious little clout,” Keegan wrote.

If the gigantic fiscal deficits in the US aren’t addressed, a dollar crisis can’t be too far in the future.

With our economy so tightly tied to the fate of our southern neighbour the implications of a dramatic economic fall are staggering. Are we ready?

A Manchester Guardian article late last month noted that the conditions for an HIV/AIDS ‘perfect storm’ in the US have been allowed to develop.

It has now become the No.1 killer of black women between 25 and 34 years of age in that country.

Have the ripples of this social trend already spread northward?

The Whitehorse United Church will host this year’s World Day of Prayer on March 3rd at 7 p.m.

South African woman have prepared the service around the theme Signs of the Times.

They call Christians to understand “that faith cannot be separated from society — one can neither believe nor live in a vacuum.”

Their call for transformation “in times of hardship and trials” is for all of us and all are welcome to this ecumenical service.