Here at the IRD HQ, I am encouraged to stay knowledgeable about global news and foreign policy that may affect IRD’s current work or reveal opportunities for further IRD programs. This means getting daily emails from UN Wire and Middle East Progress, and checking sites like foreignpolicy.com and CNN international regularly.
The other day during a routine perusal, I came across an intriguing photo essay entitled, “Postcards from Hell.” It features images from sixty of what the essay’s author calls “the world’s most failed states.” Topping the list is Somalia, which is still struggling to recover after two decades of civil war. Following Somalia on the list are four other African countries to round out the top five. IRD does work in many of these countries and is supported by regular aid from the US and many other Western nations. Unfortunately, this aid is not enough, and the political and cultural environments in many of these countries prevent sustainability and progress in the areas of basic human rights and economic stability.
The images provoke sadness and have the potential to invoke feelings of hopelessness; the title of the essay itself insinuates inescapable earthly infernos of suffering, violence, and desolate poverty. Billions of people experience these conditions daily and those who work in international development and foreign policy face the seemingly insurmountable task of trying to alleviate the myriad problems that these regions suffer from.
A belief in the existence of Hell, or even the Devil, is not as widespread among Christians as the belief in Heaven. Yet Jesus talked about both Heaven and Hell as real places. In fact, Jesus instructed us to pray for the Kingdom of Heaven to come, a place where God’s will is done (Matthew 6:10). Hell, on the other hand is the place where sin ultimately leads, a place that devours the body and soul (Matthew 10:28). The sins of greed and pride have undoubtedly led to the corruption and violence that pervade the failed states featured in the photo essay. The debate over the nature, existence, and location of Hell is too broad for me to tackle here, but I do know that those “postcards” reflect the opposite of the Kingdom of Heaven. As I view them I have to resist the hopelessness that attempts to pervade my soul and continue not just to pray that God’s kingdom come, but to ask for guidance to how to help that miraculous transformation take place.