It’s always a gamble having too much of any subject in one issue of the magazine. You risk losing those readers who aren’t interested in that topic—especially this one, when readers are apt to tune out stories about the plight of Third World nations. Those countries are far away and practically irrelevant to us. We’ve heard about “the starving children” of Africa or India all our lives. We’ve seen so many images of drought, starvation and disease in Ethiopia, Somalia and Rwanda, Bangladesh, Darfur and Haiti to make us jaded, callous or hopelessly overwhelmed.
So what are we doing? What were we thinking putting this issue together? Well, for starters, that Jesus said to take care of the least fortunate among us, and that whatever we do to or for the least of our brothers and sisters we, in effect, do to or for Him.
We also thought, given Notre Dame’s mission and the call of Catholic social teaching, that these values and their relevance for today’s fractured world deserved a thorough hearing right now.
Then, too, in mid-September the University hosted a major conference to examine this very subject and the moral obligation we all have to care for those in need. The forum was coordinated with the dedication of Notre Dame’s new $70 million Jordan Hall of Science, an impressive 202,000-square-foot facility intended to dramatically elevate science education here. Instead of focusing solely on the building, we turn attention to a remarkable member of the Class of ’06 who exemplifies the kind of student being trained and inspired at the University, where both intellect and conscience get proper cultivation.
We also tell of Notre Dame scientists devoted to eliminating diseases afflicting underdeveloped nations and of Notre Dame engineers improving water quality in Benin, Haiti and elsewhere. We asked photographer Matt Cashore ’94 to help tell the story of Ken Storen ’92 and some other Domers whose work with victims of HIV in Lesotho is both singularly moving and yet representative of the many, many Notre Dame alumni throughout the world who are giving their lives for others.
The cover essay by Paul Farmer, one of the shining lights of humanitarian service in our time, is long but worthy of the space given it. It is handsomely illustrated by Sean Kernan’s faces of Sudan—striking portraits of strangers made intimate by our common humanity.
That’s perhaps the most compelling reason for this issue. It is this one, simple and admittedly naive thought—that we are all God’s children. This world has become so small, so interdependent, so fragile, it is time to live as if we really believed it. It is time to go beyond national borders, the ethnic, racial and tribal boundaries, the geographic distances, the differences that divide us, and acknowledge that we are now all neighbors, that some of us have more than others, and that we must give and do and share, treating all God’s children with the love and care we’d want for our own.
Kerry Temple is the editor of Notre Dame Magazine and the author of Back to Earth: A Backpacker’s Journey into Self and Soul.