As the election to the European Parliament gets closer, I want to highlight some of the biggest European sins that unfortunately are not very present in the political debates.
Sloth means, according to the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, “disinclination to labour or exertion […] The narrow way stretches wearily before [the slothful] and his soul grows sluggish and torpid at the thought of the painful lifejourney. The idea of right living inspires not joy but disgust, because of its laboriousness.” Sloth is sinful laziness, the slothful is ignorant of the needs of the world and passive when other need their help. It isn’t rest from activism, but refusal to even start being active in the first place. And this is definitely something the European Union is guilty of when it comes to foreign aid.
When discussing aid giving, we have to remember that according to Jesus, generosity shouldn’t be measured in how much you give but how much you have left. While others were impressed of the big money the rich were able to donate in Luk 21:1-4, Jesus pointed out that the two coins a widow gave was all she had, and thus she gave more. It easy to think that the rich give a lot when you see the big numbers they are able to spare, but if you look at what they still keep for themselves it’s usually not as impressive.
According to Concord Europe, the member countries of the European Union gives around 50 billion euros every year to foreign aid. One could think that’s a lot of money – and indeed it helps a lot of people – but since the total GDP of the EU is 16 trillion euros, the amount of aid is actually minimal. Many European countries, together with other rich nations, pledged in 1970 that they would give at least 0,7 % of their GDP, but 40 years later only a few keep this promise.
And based on how Jesus defines generosity, even countries like Sweden that give 1 % of their GDP aren’t generous, since they keep 99 % of their huge wealth for themselves. Wealth that they and other Western countries to a large extent have collected through exploitation of poor countries and neo-colonialism. And as I mentioned in part 2 of this series, neo-colonial capital flight and unfair trade actually makes more money flow from poor countries to rich ones than the amount of aid that flows the other way around.
Now, if European leaders really cared about the poor,they would stop capital flight from developing countries, make trade fair, and increase aid giving dramatically. If they really believed that all people have equal value and should have an equal standard of living, they would not try to be richer and richer but instead aim for simplicity and sustainability so that they could give away what they don’t need to the far more numerous and populous poor countries. I’ve previously proposed the Costa Rica solution: that all countries and people try to live on less than 13 000 US dollars per capita, since that would both make an equal and sustainable world possible.
As it is today, the GDP per capita in the European Union is 32 000 US dollars. In contrast, GDP per capita for low income and lower middle income countries are below 4000 dollars – the poorest are even below a thousand. 17 % of the world’s population consumes 80 % of its resources. And what do they do? They give less than 1 % of their wealth to the poor, which is eaten up by the huge amounts of money that are stolen from the poor due to capital flight and unfair trade.
If Europe continues to focus on how to get richer and richer, more and more people will die. What Europe and other rich nations have to do is to work for economic equality and justice. We need to stop the disastrous sloth and become Holy Spirit Activists.