TRIGGER WARNING: Some may find descriptions of societal vulnerability below very disturbing. I know I did.
Forbes magazine likes to occasionally compile a list of the world’s most powerful people. For example, in their most recent compilation from 2018, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin and and U.S. President Donald Trump topped the list.
We were inspired to make our own list, but rich and powerful people won’t talk to us or answer our e-mails. So, taking a cue from the ministry of Jesus, who hung out with the poor and the socially despised, we went in a different direction.
Apparently, Jesus said weak and marginalized people are closer to the Kingdom of God than any others.
So to fill the awards “dead space” between the Super Bowl, the Oscars and the Grammys, we’re proud to humbly announce our list of the World’s Least Powerful People – which we’re calling our “Offscouring 2022.”
To compile our list, we considered a range of candidates from various walks of life all around the globe – refugees, prisoners, victims of human trafficking, the sick, disabled and mentally ill, and poverty-stricken peasants on every continent.
Refugees – Of course, because they’re in the news, we first looked at refugee families fleeing Ukraine as well as the Syrian conflict, Sudan, Ethiopia and Libya. But many of these people have some funds and mobility, which would disqualify them from our list. Refugees who were unsuccessful in their flight, like those in U.S. immigration detention facilities, waiting to be shipped back to the gang-infested streets of their home countries, were closer to our target group.
Prisoners – Prisoners of conscience, although usually in dire straits, often become a “cause” and garner supporter from organizations like Amnesty International. So the prisoner category would include only those who are forgotten, insignificant and suffer in obscurity in the most primitive of conditions.
The sick, disabled and mentally ill are found in a variety of situations, depending on the country they’re living in and their family’s social status. Those cared for in assisted living centers ranked lower than others confined to state mental institutions or who simply struggle to live on the streets day to day.
Poverty, though widespread, has been shrinking over the last 50 years. But it’s certainly there – among the pavement-dwellers and untouchable Dalits in India, the drug-gang ravaged favelas in Brazil and the HIV-ridden rural villages of Africa. We also looked at some recent victims of disasters in Madagascar and Haiti.
Following Forbes’ general guidelines, we measured candidates’ lack of power along four dimensions:
– First, we asked whether the candidate experienced oppression from only a few or from many.
– Next we assessed the total financial resources controlled by each person.
– Then we determined if the candidate is impotent in multiple spheres or just one.
– Lastly, we inquired as to whether the candidates were saddled with helplessness for only a short time or for most of their lives.
To calculate the final rankings, a panel of our editors ranked all of our candidates in each of these four “dimensions of powerlessness,” and those individual rankings were averaged into a composite score.
So, who did we rank as the world’s least powerful person?
That distinction goes to Ania, a 6-year-old migrant, who with her mother attempted a journey through the treacherous Darién Gap, a stretch of impenetrable jungle between Colombia and Panama. Called “a nightmare with 1,001 demons,” migrants often encounter the rotting corpses of those who died along the way. Many are robbed, shot or raped by bandits. Ania and her mother collapsed with badly swollen feet and exhaustion after more than a week lost in the jungle. They lived, but were unsuccessful in their quest to reach the United States.
Our two runners-up were:
– Qandi Gul, a 10-year-old girl in the Shedai Displaced Persons camp in Afghanistan, who was sold by her father so the family would have enough to eat.
– Alim (not his real name), a Uyghur prisoner from China’s Xinjiang province – one of 1.5 million Uyghurs in internment camps – who was strapped into a “tiger chair” that immobilized him while being tortured and interrogated by Chinese guards.
The world doesn’t consider our finalists to be as important as Xi Jinping, Putin or Trump, but Jesus does.
We can’t really say “congratulations” to these least powerful, but we can certainly pray for them and their oppressed compatriots, and work to eliminate the causes of their suffering.
In one way their experience has not been in vain. If their stories stir our compassion, then they have helped us briefly glimpse the world from God’s point of view.