Human suffering

All human beings experience in varying degrees physical, mental and spiritual afflictions, which are the three facets of human suffering.
In Africa, for example, the 1980s was characterized by severe and progressive deterioration in practically all facets of socio-economic development, eroding many of the impressive gains achieved in the previous two decades. The result was human suffering and misery on an unprecedented scale. The unyielding crisis was the consequence of a number of internal and external factors.

Internally there were structural imbalances and weaknesses of national economies and domestic policy failures. The coalescence of these factors allowed persistent differentials between rural and urban areas to continue unabated, giving impetus to massive rural-urban migration, which in turn explains, to a large extent, the low productivity of the rural sector, culminating in severe food crisis and food insecurity. Policies did not adequately respond to the need for employment creation and labour absorption. This situation was exacerbated by national calamities resulting in mass starvation, further exacerbated by civil strife.

Externally, worsening terms of trade, the result of persistent falls in prices for primary commodities, were compounded by an inhospitable international economic environment in which the debt burden escalated. The situation was exacerbated by the widespread implementation of orthodox structural adjustment programmes, with devastating effects on the social sector, especially health, nutrition, education and employment.

1. The voluntary acceptance of suffering, supernaturally motivated, has a definite place in authentic Christian asceticism, and there can be times and circumstances in which physical suffering is not only implied in the pursuit of Christian perfection but may even be demanded in adherence to basic Christian morality.

2. Therefore, to suffer and endure is human, and although men may strive in all possible ways, they will never be able by any power or art wholly to banish such tribulations from human life. If any claim they can do this, if they promise the poor in their misery a life free from all sorrow and vexation and filled with repose and perpetual pleasures, they actually impose upon these people and perpetuate a fraud which will ultimately lead to evils greater than the present. (Papal Encyclical, Rerum Novarum, 1891).

(B) Basic universal problems