Campaigners challenge Band Aid lyrics
While welcoming the humanitarian initiative behind the re-recording of the 1985 Band Aid Christmas single in Britain, some Christians and campaigners for global justice have raised questions about the impact and accuracy of its lyrics.
On the BBC World Service this morning a spokesperson for the World Development Movement (WDM) said that the challenge the continent faces is not lack of rain, as one line in the record states, but lack of political will for change.
'Those who take their picture of Africa from these lyrics will be mislead about the true nature of the situation', he added, pointing to the shackles of debt, conflict and unfair trade that have afflicted Africaís nations for many years.
WDM was established out of an alliance of church and world poverty action groups in 1970 to highlight the need for justice in economic relations between the rich North and the global South. It seeks to influence government policy on international development.
Agencies like WDM are worried that as the songís message resonates around the world public understanding will be further inhibited by its simplistic portrayal of the situation.
ëThe problem in Ethiopia today is not that nothing will grow, the problem is that the coffee that they are growing is worthless because of the mismanagement of the global economy by countries like oursí, said WDM Director Mark Curtis.
WDM has appealed to journalists and broadcasters to represent the diversity, breadth and complexity of African life and not to reach for the standard disempowering image of famine and drought.
It is also launching a competition for better words for the song.
Justice Africa, an indigenous campaigning organisation, has also claimed that the band Aid lyrics represent their homelands in a negative and patronising way.
A recent survey for the aid organisation Voluntary Service Overseas showed that two-thirds of the British public still thought that Africa was dependent on the West. In reality, for every pound transferred in aid, between two and three pounds come back to our coffers as a result of the structural imbalance of trade relations.
Some Christians have questioned the fatalism of the lyrics and their implicit theological message, too.
ëThereís something rather disquieting about the ìthank God itís them, not usî sentimentí, says Ekklesia associate Simon Barrow, who works with the mission and development departments and agencies of the British and Irish churches. ëDo we really mean to express gratitude that someone else is dying?í
He went on: ëThese words make it sound as if the suffering in places like Ethiopia and Sudan is the result of happenstance, and that the fruits of human injustice and inequality are somehow acts of God. No doubt itís unintentional, but this doesnít reflect an attitude of responsibility or promote a healthy spiritual outlook.í
However in other respects, say campaigners, the new Band Aid initiative is to be welcomed. Money raised from the song will go to assistance in Darfur, and many of those involved in the current recording have a more developed understanding of the challenges facing Africa than was the case in 1985.
'But it's a pity this wasn't reflected by re-writing the lyrics', says WDM