INTERNATIONAL EVERY PROBLEM: IS A SPIRITUAL PROBLEM The writer lives and works in a Muslim country in South Asia. His name and location are withheld for security reasons I was personally challenged by a recent article describing the problem of social and institutional corruption that is rampant in Lebanon and the Middle East. According to the writer, it infects all levels of bureaucracy, hampering even the smallest task from being completed in a just and timely manner. As I read, I couldn't help but recognise with striking familiarity the same strangling noose of corruption that is so evident here in South Asia. Peoples' everyday lives are put on hold; precious dreams of personal achievement are crushed; gross injustices are perpetrated; and huge amounts of time and money are sacrificed on the altar of corruption. It is a sickening evil that, when encountered, seems to suck the hope out of a person, leaving only despair and a great sense of powerlessness. Even good people are drawn unwittingly into its effects. A few weeks ago I was talking with someone about the current administration of one of this country's provinces. He commented that the new provincial leader had deliberately appointed young idealistic people to key government posts in an attempt to bypass the endemically corrupt “old guard.” But instead of delivering a cleaner, more equitable administration, the young blood adopted an attitude of “making hay while the sun shines.” They figured that this new government may or may not last. So when the opportunity presented itself, these young, supposedly idealistic bureaucrats milked their positions for all they were worth! 28 | EMPOWERED MAGAZINE Last night, while in conversation with a group of local Christians whom I respect, we talked about the process for getting a driver’s licence. My wife and I described being helped by an acquaintance who knew an influential person at the Drivers Licence authority. We were ushered into his office and cordially greeted. Clear instructions were given to a personal assistant who accompanied us to the processing centre where everything was completed, forms, photos, and fingerprints, within an hour. All this happened quickly and efficiently on the commanding word of one man: the friend of a friend. We were assured that, had it not been for this one man, the process could easily have taken a month or more to complete. My Christian friends then related their own experiences of getting a driver's licence. One spoke about using a similar tactic to ours, the friend of a friend of a friend who expedited the process on his behalf. Another told how he paid a fixed amount to one official who gave a licence to his daughter without her needing to take a driving test. Others told similar stories about the various ways they had managed to avoid the “run around” and get what they needed with a minimum of fuss. As I listened to these experiences, that same sickening feeling of hopelessness swept over me. I realised that this group of Christian people, myself included, had all inadvertently extracted benefit from a corrupt system. In fact, we had happily participated in its twisted methods, all for the sake of quickly getting what we wanted. Although one can question where the line should be drawn between just and unjust systems or between appropriate and inappropriate methods, one thing is sure: it is impossible to overcome darkness with darkness. Nothing will change for the poorest and most disconnected people if those with connections are happy to take advantage of them. The humility required to identify as a coconspirator with those who perpetrate actually produces the strength required to overcome our personal fraility Returning to the article I read. The author discusses how people often approach issues like corruption by using a problem-solving frame of mind. Humans play the blame game. We look for people or systems or institutions or ideologies upon which we can dump responsibility for the problems we face, and then we try to reform those people or structures. Although reform may be necessary, the author suggests that the problems are so multifaceted that our best efforts at finding solutions usually end in frustration. He exhorts people to look to God, who is “our saviour from all our problems” and the only one who can ultimately deliver us from them all.