Have you ever experienced any instability in life?
From 2004 to 2011, my family somehow lived a life of nomads, as we had to move home for four times within seven years. Such frequent house-moves didn’t render us the luxury of settling down in the new environment. We felt like sojourners. Though this was not a pleasant experience, I saw it as a blessing from God, as it allowed me to get a taste of what the displaced people face.
The Bible was written thousands of years ago but it has much to say about what we might see as a modern problem: human trafficking. We will look specifically at the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis, chapters 37–50. Make sure you are familiar with the story before reading this reflection or discussing it with a group.
The US State Department released its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report on 6/27. The report evaluates and grades the efforts of 180 countries in their fight against human trafficking. For the first time, China was graded Tier 3—the lowest level possible, joining Russia, Iran, North Korea, and Syria.
The deteriorated health of Ukrainians probably get worsened because of the political crisis in the country.
Ukraine, once a Soviet socialist republic, became independent with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Ukraine is in a very important strategic position to both Asia and Europe and thus has always been a significant and political base. Russian and American influences are particularly strong in the country. East Ukraine is mostly populated by Russian-speakers who believe in Orthodox Christianity and being in favour of Russia. West Ukraine is mostly populated by pro-European Ukrainian-speakers believing in Roman Catholicism. People staged fierce protests in last November at the President’s refusal to sign an EU association agreement. Deadly street conflicts resulted in multiple deaths in mid February this year.
Ukraine’s prime minister stepped down from power then and a pro-European new government started to rule the country in February. Pro-Russian forces began to gradually take control of the Crimean Peninsula, a Russian military base in South Ukraine. Over 95% of the voters in the Crimean referendum on 16 March support the move to join the Russian Federation and Russia immediately took an action and signed the reunification treaty with Crimea. European Union and United States strongly opposed this and imposed sanctions on Russia afterwards.
Russia, the dominant supplier of natural gas to Ukraine, threatened to withdraw discounts on natural gas from Ukraine in April. This will further weaken Ukraine’s economy and push the country over the brink into bankruptcy. United States, European Union and International Monetary Fund are now considering subsidies for Ukraine. Ukraine’s future is however still uncertain at least until the Presidential elections which will be held on 25 May 2014.
The health of Ukrainians has been profoundly affected by economy and politics. In the 1930s, Stalin’s collectivism of agriculture led to food shortages, and life expectancy in Ukraine fell briefly to record lows of 7 years in men and 11 years in women. World War II and the Stalinist repression in the late 1940s caused further setbacks. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, former Communist countries that developed reasonably functioning democracies see earlier and stronger life expectancy growth than those countries remaining under partly autocratic or partial democratic rule, such as Ukraine where life expectancy see no improvement only until 2005. In a recent analysis that compared the performance of 43 European countries in health policy areas, Ukraine is the worst of all.
Within Ukraine there is a clear east-west gradient, with western regions having lower mortality than eastern regions, suggesting that the Ukrainian health situation is largely determined by cultural backgrounds and positions. More specifically risk factors including smoking, alcohol, and lack of access to good quality health care account for the difference, other than the desperate economic situation. In late 1990s, people lived under absolute poverty in Ukraine rose to more than 30%.
The remedy of Ukrainian health recovery, therefore, is political change: a peaceful transition to full democracy, and the establishment of effective institutions that promote the public good. The outcome of the current struggle will determine whether this will happen or not. The new government in Kyiv needs to tackle money shortage and will likely require funding and support from the European Union, the International Monetary Fund, etc. Yet these potential donors might be tempted to prescribe stringent austerity measures which will likely bring bad consequences for the Ukrainians. [TheLancet]
Meditate on Scriptures:
‘Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt. “Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelites have become much too numerous for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.” So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labour…’ Exodus 1:8-11
The change in a country’s government significantly influences the fate of its people. May God be in ultimate control in these leaders’ tactics, strategies and policies.
Pray for Ukraine:
Pray for the presidential elections in Ukraine which will be held on 25 May 2014. May it be an open and fair election, and a president who truly cares about people’s needs will be elected;
Pray for wisdom and mercy be given to the new government, that it knows and will be committed to introduce favorable policies for the well-being of its people and deliver the country out from its crisis;
Pray for improvement in the country’s health policies and systems, that the health and living of Ukrainians will be improved and protected.