The United States is not the only place with a border problem. People everywhere desire at least a meal a day for their children. They go to extreme measures to help their families get from one day to the next.

According to the International Organization for Migration, more 27,000 West African men, using leaky fishing boats, have tried to get to the Canary Islands this year.

These men take risks in hopes of getting work and sending money back home. It is to save their families from starvation.

Some blame their plight on the big foreign trawlers that sweep up great amounts of fish from the sea, putting the Senegalese fishermen at a disadvantage. The locals are left with next to nothing in a poor country led by the usual corrupt government. One man said: “If Europeans take our fish, they can take our people too.”

Ndiro Diop, a 26-year-old man in the village of Mekhe in central Senegal, spoke with BBC correspondent Peter Greste. Ndiro Diop had already tried to get to the Canary Islands and failed twice. He was going to try again.

It is difficult for us in United States to understand why a man in West Africa would leave his home for the unknown. What would drive a man to endure the dangers of the sea, strange and foreign surroundings and the possibility of prison or slavery? He may never see his wife or children again?

Ndiro explained: “The greatest danger a man can face is to wake up to find his children are hungry and he has no food to offer them. The hazards are nothing compared to that.”

As long as there are rich countries, the hungry and poor are going to seek them out. Years ago the president of Notre Dame University gave a talk in which he mentioned he could hear in the distance brown feet coming this way.

Across the African continent the stories are much the same. Hunger, coupled with power-hungry war lords, brings nothing but heartache and pain.

The European powers of the 18th and 19th centuries thought they were helping their “little brown brothers” in Africa, India, Burma and Indonesia. Not to mention the destruction of South and Central America by the Spanish, Portuguese and their misguided religious impulses and agendas.

What we call the Third World today is not just a result of colonial administrations, but also brutal dictators that followed in their wake.

These empires began to crumble after the Second World War. The United States opposed the Indonesians desire to be free of the Dutch. When the Vietnamese ran the French out in 1954, the U.S. took up the battle to save the world from communism. The British reluctantly–like cutting a dog’s tale off, inch by inch–gave up Burma, India and East African Kenya and Rhodesia.

“You will make mistakes,” the British told Gandhi, who answered, “Yes, but they will be Indian mistakes.”

Much good has been done by lots of people and institutions and even governments. The rich countries’ failure is not helping the weaker countries to become self-sufficient. But if we helped them become really self-sufficient, they might compete with us and even catch up. If they do that our insecure Congress might begin to see them as enemies. Take today’s China for example.

The greatest danger and fear of Ndiro Diop is not being able to feed his children. Our greatest danger is to allow such things to continue much longer. The distance between the haves and the have-nots of this world is as great as any terrorist threat.

Britt Towery, a retired Baptist missionary, writes for the Brownwood Bulletin in Brownwood, Texas.

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