no toilet no bride

There are some things so basic in life that (if we have them) we cannot imagine life without them. I’ve just bought (and had installed) a new toilet. It’s white and shiny, easy to clean and if you’ll pardon the pun- it does the job nicely.  Yet today I read of the appalling conditions of up to 700 million people in India. With virtually no access to a toilet, they have to… you’d better just read the article. We are dealing with an ongoing public health catastrophe of huge proportions. Yes, we are. How can we all be letting this happen, with all the subsequent preventable diseases affecting families? India is the world’s largest democracy, yet the toilet situation requires political will of the most determined kind. One province, Bihar, has set itself the target of building 478 toilets per hour. Wow, that’ll keep the copper industry afloat for years to come. Some parents, recognising the humiliation their daughters may be subjected to, have started the ‘no toilet, no bride campaign’ – a level of negotiation that puts the whole issue in context.

When the pressure of our public finances leads some to question the necessity of the overseas development aid budget aiming to be 0.7% of GDP we might like to think of the one third of the world’s population with nowhere (sanitary) to go. We’ve been told we can twin our toilet with one in a developing country. A tiny gesture certainly but maybe it will make us all the more thankful for what we have- and for the diseases we don’t. And when candidates come knocking promising goodies for us in exchange for a cut in the aid budget… we might remember those heading for the bushes at nightfall.


2 thoughts on “no toilet no bride

  1. Hi Gareth; long time since we last met (I was at Surrey CU with Dave Bish).

    Anyway; if the goodies are benefits, wealth distribution, nicer food in hospital I’m inclined to agree.

    However, if the goodies are tax cuts, we’re talking about the difference between compulsory giving to overseas people in need, and potential ‘cheerful giving’.

    So there are two questions. 1) Which is more important; toilets and disease prevention across the world, or genuine, cheerful philanthropy (not a straightforward question to answer). 2) Does any government have the right, under God, to forcibly take money from their citizens to distribute to others? For sure, Christian citizens should pay either way, but is the government being righteous or unrighteous in doing so.

    1. Hi Paul; remember you too- it was good to see Surrey CU in good form again last November.
      The point I’m making is to challenge our thinking, from me-centred to neighbour-centred. The wider point you make is up for discussion. My view is this- looking at Romans 13:1-7 the authorities have explicit responsibility for ensuring law and order (v2, 3) and trade (v7). But implicit is a further duty of care as they are are there to do their subjects good (v4) and to carry out the work God intended them to do (v6). We can have a debate about what doing good means but my impression is that it goes beyond the basic requirement of justice in a court of law, it looks at the well-being of citizens that ensure a just and fair society. Now whether this achieved by taxation/wealth redistribution or by leaving more money in our pockets to encourage us to be generous is a question of strategy. Here are a couple of thoughts, firstly that given our sinful nature we have to recognise that our tendency is to keep it to ourselves- so a structured tax redistribution (achieved through persuasion and democratic elections in our case) can be an effective way of ensuring basic provisions for the most vulnerable in society. Secondly, look at the maths; we have perhaps 5% of the population as committed Bible-believing Christians – can we provide all the welfare needed purely through church giving? In the US it’s very different (the figure is nearer 30%) so in pragmatic terms the church there is able to deliver so much more, hence the level of tax may be lower. I love the exercise of genuine cheerful philanthropy and would not want it discouraged but there is so much to do that I believe we need both. I guess it comes down to a question of balance- what I fear is that in economically tight conditions we only think of ourselves. And that is my problem and yours.

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