It’s not every day that perhaps the most famous artist alive provides the front-page image for a daily newspaper. Then again, it’s not every day that perhaps the most famous rock star alive gets to edit the British newspaper, The Independent. In order to promote RED, a campaign that aims to involve big business in the fight against Aids in Africa, the Indie handed the helm of last Tuesday’s (May 16, 2006) paper to RED’s chief agent provocateur, Bono.

The first thing the U2 frontman did was to ask Damien Hirst to provide a fitting image to replace the usual front-page splash. He chose a red field, of course, and imposed on it a cross made of icons: a skull, praying hands, a syringe, some pills and, at the apex, a dove.

The headline said simply, ‘NO NEWS TODAY’ – with a footnote: ‘Just 6,500 Africans died today as a result of a preventable, treatable disease.’ Centred above the cross was a Bible reference, Genesis 1.27, to remind us of our common humanity: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

The Independent should be praised for the way it so often uses its front page to draw attention to those continuing humanitarian or ecological disasters that too rarely find their way into our papers. And few people in the world are better at drawing attention to themselves than Bono. So, it was a marriage – if only for one day – made in heaven. Some people are critical of the role of celebrities in campaigning. Some supporters of Make Poverty History voiced disappointment over the response of the leaders of the G8 to all the effort of Live8. Maybe celebs just don’t grasp the complexities of the issues. Bono is well aware of his detractors but, as he insisted in his editorial, he has no choice but to act. He has witnessed too much suffering and injustice in Africa to allow concern for his credibility to paralyse him. “Celebrity is ridiculous,” he admitted in another article. “But it is currency and I want to spend mine wisely.” His memories of a continent ravaged by disease spur him to fight for people who are suffering needlessly. So, too, does the cross that graced the Independent’s front page. I hope it does the same for us. – Taken from a London Institute for Contemporary Christianity email.

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