INSiGHT - October 2019

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October 2019



October 2019

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CONTENTS

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FOREWORD

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DEVOTIONAL

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11 17 18 19

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Bricks Without Straw Children And Young People - How Do We Recognise Miracles In Life Youth And Suicide - The Value Of Life

AT A GLANCE Member Church News Humanity Wins Ecumenical News CWM News

VIEWPOINTS

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The Role Of Money And Finance In The Economy And Society From The Christian Faith Perspective

32 34 36 38 42 44 46 52

Pilgrim Team Amplifies Calls Of Communities In Philippines Let The Children Come To Me... (Well, The White Ones Anyway) Let’s Rally For Environmental Responsibility Reading And Teaching The Bible In Asia And Asian America’s Pluralistic Context Casting Out The Colonial Evils Of Racism Hear The Cries Of Our Farmers More Weapons But Less Peace: The Paradox Of Our Time The Era Of Conscience War

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TAKE A LOOK

72

SEEN & HEARD

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YOUR SAY

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Should We Be Converted To Our Neighbour? Economic Justice Do We Still Need To Send Missionaries? Roly-Poly Christians

June 2019 | 8


FOREWORD

A few months ago, I heard something that made me stop dead in my tracks. I was with a group of people sharing drinks after a long day of meetings that were being held in Taiwan. I was only partly paying attention to the conversations as I was also keeping up with a few WhatsApp chats at the same time. Then I heard, “But they are a hate group¹, aren’t they?” This grabbed my attention as a mention of hate groups usually does to most who are wary of them. It was the cool and urban looking Taiwanese millennial speaking. Actually, he might be of the Generation Z cohort. As a millennial myself, I certainly felt a slight generational gap between us. I quickly asked who the hate group was, just in case it was already mentioned and I had missed it. Christians. The hate group was Christians. ‘Gen Z’ was narrating an encounter he had with a group of young activists who were perplexed to learn that a group of Christians cared about the same issues they cared about; and wanted to join them. Hence the question. It sounded like this question came from a truly genuine place of confusion and curiosity from someone standing outside the faith, looking in; and needless to say, caught us at a bad time. I have always been against Church or Christian-bashing in spite of the glaring shortcomings of both. But this question, or rather the innocence surrounding this question challenged me to wonder if we, Christians, do somehow give the impression that we hate more than we love. What leads Christians to be so defensive about God to the point of using the same tactics as hate groups to counter divergent views? In his article, ‘Does God Need Our Defense?’², Matt Appling suggests that the reason many Christians defend their faith is the same. “They are not defending God. They are defending themselves. It is their own honor at stake, their own pride and security, their reputation—not God’s. And when our only motivation for defending God is a concern for ourselves, we end up looking ridiculous to outsiders.” Matt argues that if we were truly imitators of Jesus, ’every last one of the accusations levelled against us—that we are hateful, hypocrites, selfish, narrow-minded and backward—would no longer be true’. In short, we would not be mistaken for a hate group.

2 | INSiGHT

1

A hate group is a social group that advocates and practices hatred, hostility, or violence towards members of a race, ethnicity, nation, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or any other designated sector of society. - Wikipedia

2

https://relevantmagazine.com/god/does-god-need-our-defense/


FOREWORD

Council for World Mission(CWM) created INSiGHT to offer a space where people may lay down the heavy burden of shielding God and faith from questions or critique. Through INSiGHT, CWM asserts that it is not theologically defensible to claim being a Christian if that claim does not result in imitating Jesus and his radical engagement with the world. Christians are called to challenge evil in the church and society and call it what it is without fear or favour; to re-write the rules of society so that ‘tax collectors and prostitutes’ are once again put in their rightful places – close to Jesus; to reject all forms of prejudice and re-define ‘neighbour’; and by observing ways of a child, to keep an open heart. It is for this reason that INSiGHT offers space for faith expression as engagement with all aspects of life. Over the past year, it has been one of the greatest privileges of my life to work with the Communications team at CWM. Being a young team, both in mean age and tenure, launching INSiGHT, a bi-monthly magazine that is almost completely dependent on external contributors for material, was daunting. What if no one read our magazine, and let alone want to write for it? As we celebrate INSiGHT’s first birthday, we rejoice and celebrate the generosity of our readers from a wide cross section of society for their rich and varied contribution. This space was created for different voices to be heard, divergent views ventilated and for us all to comfortably and confidently expose our ideas and our understanding of our faith to the constructive critique, careful analyses and biblical scholarship that others can offer. CWM represents a wide community of churches committed to sharing in God’s mission. We are mindful that we possess only a dimmed understanding and a puzzled reflection of the workings of God in the world. We are humbled, challenged and inspired by the struggles, questions, lamentations, devotions, prayers and affirmations that have been entrusted to us by individuals from all over the world. If INSiGHT can serve you as a platform for exposing your own fragility, for sharing your encounters with God’s grace, for imagining this world then you are welcome to join the party because creation is the brainchild of imagination.

Fiskani Joy Nyirenda Assistant to the General Secretary and Mission Secretary for Communications

June 2019 | 8 October 3


DEVOTIONAL


DEVOTIONAL

Bricks Without Straw by Rev Wayne Hawkins, Council for World Mission

Exodus 5 Deuteronomy 28:3-6 In Exodus 5 Moses and Aaron meet with Pharaoh and demand that the enslaved Hebrew people are released “Let my people go.” Rather than releasing the people Pharaoh instructs their task masters to be harsher and that they should “make bricks without straw.” The people complain that Moses and Aaron have made matters worse for them and have now antagonised Pharaoh into harsher treatment. Straw was required to make the clay bricks stronger and more durable, without straw the bricks would crumble. Life is all about interactive relationships. We may wish for something less risky, less demanding or complicated, trying to transpose life into a series of formulas, creeds or even contractual negotiations, but we cannot. Life is about interactive relationships. While we may be baffled at the intricate and complex way in which life comes to us, “we are fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps.139.14). We also know that we are multi-voiced, multi-layered creatures filled with ambiguity and contradiction, deeply needy and inadequate, yet also capable of amazing generosity and kindness. Many people experience being required to “make bricks without straw” perhaps with work that is unfulfilling, repetitious and even exploitative. 4,825 garment factories in Bangladesh export goods chiefly to Europe and Northern America. The clothing trade represents 80% of the Bangladesh export revenue. The garment workers, 88% of whom are women, earn little more than the minimum wages. Bricks without straw. In cities like Johannesburg, Lusaka or Harare informal traders have to fight for their right to live and work. Informal workers form 1.8 million of the world’s population. These are the self-employed, the resourceful peddlers and hustlers, hawkers and street vendors who work hard to make a living. In sub-Saharan Africa 7 out of 10 people are involved in informal work, the majority of whom are women. Bricks without straw. Migrant workers in the UK face racism, abuse and exploitation. The European Union Referendum has created significant job insecurity, uncertain future and workplace racism, spurred on by the referendum and the campaign. Bricks without straw. When the Bible speaks of “shalom” it is concerned with a vision of the common good. Pursuing the common good means investment in the neighbourhood, attentiveness to our neighbours especially those who are left vulnerable, unprotected and in need. Those who make “bricks without straw” who struggle to make a living and find themselves pushed to the margins. The common good means that no-one is left behind – not the widow, orphan, immigrant. It means that God is not free to go off into God’s own self but is summoned to remember promises God has made. Also, that we are not free to seek our own well-being, but that we are summoned back to a vision of neighbourliness and community. Shalom can never be tilted towards simply being spiritual because it is always concerned with political, social, bodily well-being for all members of the community. The proof of faithfulness concerns land, harvested crops, houses and fields that are the vehicles for God’s blessing. “Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb, the fruit of your ground, and the fruit of your livestock, both the increase of your cattle and the issue of your flock. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.” (Deuteronomy 28:3-6) CWM in its NIFEA (New International Financial and Economic Architecture) has sought to engage member churches and partners in exploring what would a global economic system with fairness at its heart look like? An economics that prioritises people over profit; that values the created environment as something to be nurtured and cherished rather than exploited. Join us on this journey and may God bless us when we come in and when we go out.

June 2019 | 8 October 5


DEVOTIONAL

How do we Recognise Miracles in Life?

by Filomena Hunt Leituala, Congregational Christian Church in American Samoa

6 | INSiGHT


DEVOTIONAL

SCRIPTURE Matthew 11:25-27 In the Bible, miracles are usually understood as divine acts which Jesus performed during his mission such as giving sight to the blind, resurrecting the dead, healing the sick, and many other things which only Jesus was able to do. Today, miracles are experienced in many ways such as the sudden healing of a serious disease like cancer, an unexpected receipt of reward and more. When these things unexpectedly happen in our lives, we are surprised by their sudden appearance, urgency, and relevance. It is as if God knew what we needed all along and we have no other explanation but to say that God was at work in us. Jesus speaks out of a similar context when he thanks the Father for being faithful to His word and for witnessing through the work of others. Jesus has testified that God has revealed His essence in him. God chose Jesus as God's revelation to the world. With a heart of gratitude, Jesus thanks God for trusting in him. Jesus was reassured that God is a miracle worker and therefore is at work in him. Jesus’ approach of thankfulness is an example of trust and faith in small things. With the pressured and fast-paced lifestyle we experience today, we become mesmerised by the beauty of expensive things and money. In this way, we have failed to notice that God is revealed to us in little things. In fact, we may neglect our children and their need of our time but they are the miracle which God reveals to us. God reminds us in this text to appreciate the gift of life. God reminds us to slow down, take time to think, and recognise the miracles already unfolding in our lives. The most treasured jewel is our children and they are God's revelation that God is continuously at work in us. Therefore, our text challenges us to rethink our approach to life. Remember that God is always revealing to us if we take time to acknowledge and thank God.

PRAYER

Lord we thank you for your word which continues to teach us to recognise your presence in us. We pray that you use us in revealing your will. Teach us to love one another and appreciate the most precious gift which you have blessed us with, our children. In Jesus we pray, Amen.

June 2019 | 8 October 7


DEVOTIONAL

Youth & Suicide The Value of Life

by Rev Phang Lee Choo, Gereja Presbyterian Malaysia

8 | INSiGHT


DEVOTIONAL

SCRIPTURE Matthew 6: 25-32, Genesis 1:27 and Psalm 127:3 Teenage suicides are on the increase. When youths face failure and challenges in their lives, they resort to ending their lives, which is a great concern. In Malaysia, approximately seven people voluntarily take their own lives each day. Most are young people. In the recent years, young adults under the age of twenty-five, primarily university students, have committed suicide. In 2015, the top student of a famous Kuala Lumpur School jumped to his death. In Kampar, a student previously diagnosed with mental problems hanged himself. In Penang, a student from Tunku Abdul Rahman University committed suicide because of suspected stress and pressure due to studies. And recently the suicide case of a University Malaya medical student suicide case, stirred up the community. There are multiple factors other than mental illnesses that drive people to take their own lives. The majority are unable to cope with mental pressure and the surge of emotions arising from internal conflict and stress. There are those who do it because it is trendy, and a bizarre form of entertainment. How can the church tackle such a dire issue? We believe that every human life, created in God’s image, is a gift from God. We are all precious in God’s sight. We, therefore, have to cherish and nurture every life. The church needs to wrestle with topics such as suicide in order to engage all believers to allow them to express their opinions and learn more. We need to care for the people around us, support them through thick and thin by the grace and love of God, help them find a solution other than death. Most importantly, to help them to understand the grace and salvation of Christ. What actions can I do to help children and youth around me especially?

PRAYER

Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of life. Bestow upon me the courage to face everything in my life, and to cherish all who live around me. Amen

June 2019 | 8 October 9


AT A GLANCE


AT A GLANCE

MEMBER CHURCH NEWS AFRICA Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa (UPCSA) celebrated its 20th anniversary in September. The UPCSA was formed and constituted in 1999 as the outcome of the union between the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa and the Presbyterian Church of Southern Africa. In rejoicing alongside its member church in praise and thanksgiving for God’s faithfulness, Council for World Mission (CWM) was represented at the event by General Secretary Dr Collin Cowan. Dr Cowan delivered the sermon as the guest preacher during the closing worship service at the Nangoza Jebe Hall, Port Elizabeth. Prof Allan Boesak, pastor and reformed theologian who championed anti-apartheid activism in South Africa, gave the keynote address.

Closing worship at the Nangoza Jebe Hall, Port Elizabeth

(Photo by UPCSA)

UPCSA General Secretary Rev Lungile Mpetsheni released a statement on September 6 calling for action and prayer against the increasing rate of femicide (killing of women), killing of children and xenophobic violence in South Africa. He appealed for gender desks to be established in every congregation and presbytery to focus on educating men to respect women and to be responsible for a free and just social order; and empowering women to act against abuse, which had often ended up in femicide. He also urged them to advocate for a peaceful and stable environment as a Church and society, and requested that for the following Sunday, liturgies for every service should take into consideration their sin against God and humanity, and interceding on behalf of their brothers and sisters who suffer from violence. In the letter, he also thanked the churches who have responded with emails and social media posts condemning the senseless killings and xenophobic violence.

The adverse impact of these Afrophobic attacks has also been felt in the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA). An Assembly Training for Ministry Committee (ATMC)’s selection conference scheduled to be hosted by the South Africa Synod had to be moved to another Synod, because other synods’ representatives – including denominational ATMC Director, Synod Secretaries, TMC Directors, intern-ministers - were afraid to drive to South Africa, fearing for their lives. Synod Secretary Rev Thulani Ndlazi shared a litany of lament against gender-based violence and xenophobia on social media, urging all UCCSA churches to use the prayer for Sunday services, and translate it to other languages and make copies for church members and families. Read the litany in full here: https://bit.ly/2PdVqj1

(Photo by UCCSA)

June 2019 | 8 October 11


AT A GLANCE CARIBBEAN #PrayForBahamas In the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, an estimated 76,000 in Grand Bahama and the Abaco islands became homeless, with officials listing the death toll as over 50 and climbing as of September 11. On the island of New Providence, emergency officials said that mortuary facilities were “overwhelmed” with bodies of victims after the powerful Category 5 hurricane, with some having to be temporarily stored in refrigerated containers. Join us in prayer for Hurricane Dorian victims, as they face the long and difficult journey from emergency response to reconstruction and recovery. Working with ACT Alliance (ACT) and the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas (MCCA), the United Church of Canada is accepting funds to help with relief and reconstruction efforts. ACT’s regional office in the Dominican Republic is mobilising a rapid assessment team in the Bahamas to assess humanitarian needs. For details on how to give, please visit https://bit.ly/2pfzqtg

(Photo by UCJCI)

United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands (UCJCI) Moderator Rt Rev Dr Gordon Cowans recently had an article for Jamaica’s Independence Day in August published by Jamaica newspaper The Gleaner. He wrote about how the UCJCI, through its antecedent denominations, has a “cherished heritage of being proactive and responsive as a missional church to the needs of (their) communities and to support initiatives, for example, for more responsible use of land assets and measures to address poverty and generate decent employment opportunities, particularly for women, youth, and persons with disabilities.” Dr Cowans reiterated UCJCI’s commitment to “support the national and regional mobilisation to seek the payment of reparatory justice from Britain for native genocide, African enslavement, deceptive Indian indentureship, other colonial injustices, and the continuing legacies of colonialism”.1 Earlier this year, Dr Cowans also paid his first official visit to the North-Eastern Regional Mission Council (NERMC), one of UCJCI’s four regions. Activities such as visits to retired shut-in, ordained and commissioned ministers and fruit-tree planting at some UCJCI’s institutions culminated in a worship service. In his sermon, the Moderator reminded the congregation about the surety of God’s living Word and encouraged them to fulfil their calling. This was followed by a panel discussion in which Dr Cowans responded to questions about the direction of the Church, leaving congregants with “renewed hope and expectation of a transformed Church”.

(Photo by BBC)

Young adults of Savanna-la-Mar United Church hosted an outreach event earlier this year to deepen and broaden its connection with the community. They interacted and shared the gospel with various groups including police officers, firemen, post office, pharmacy and medical personnel, and staff of the National Housing Trust and National Insurance Scheme. Rev Everton Brissett and Pastor Merton Jones listened and ministered to them as they expressed their needs in their respective sectors of work. The young adults intend to host an event to raise US$1,500 to assist the firefighters to purchase a power saw that will help them in saving lives and property. Another outcome of the outreach was the firemen’s request for Rev Brissett to visit their office to share devotions with the team regularly.

1

12 | INSiGHT

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/news/20190806/jamaica-57-we-need-build-legacy-our-ancestors


AT A GLANCE EAST ASIA Hong Kong Christian Council and Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong organised a joint prayer meeting to “pray for reconciliation, healing and a way out for Hong Kong” on September 6.2 Our member church Hong Kong Council of the Church of Christ in China (HKCCCC), was among the Protestant and Catholic churches who participated, serving as one of the host venues for the prayer meeting.

Photo by Hong Kong Christian Council

#PrayForHongKong In early October, the People’s Republic of China celebrated the 70th anniversary of communist rule with a parade of military might. 3 That same day saw scenes of violence in at least 13 parts of Hong Kong (HK) with exchanges of tear gas and petrol bombs. 4 Protesters, some of whom were armed with poles, petrol bombs and other projectiles, fought pitched battles with police. It was the first time a police officer fired a live bullet – one of six live rounds fired by police - from close range at an 18-year-old protester in Tsuen Wan, injuring him in the chest.5 In June, what had started off as peaceful marches and rallies in HK to protest against a controversial extradition bill escalated into violent clashes between the police and many young protesters, and even a mob attack by suspected HK triad members in a train station.6 The situation worsened with increasing force used in police crackdowns on widespread strikes, and a partial airport shutdown with flight cancellations. HK leader Carrie Lam had announced withdrawal of the extradition bill in September, a welcome move in acceding to one of the demands of protesters. 7 Among other requests from the protesters, the movement grew to include calls for direct elections and amnesty for arrested protesters. 8

In solidarity with the people of Hong Kong in their democracy movement, Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT) General Secretary Rev Lyim Hong-Tiong had issued a joint statement with other leaders of the Churches’ Forum for Peace and Security in North East Asia. In the statement, they affirmed the inalienable, God-given values of freedom, democracy and human dignity, and urged the government to put an end to the escalating violence allegedly used by the Hong Kong police in crackdowns. PCT churches and NGO groups had also collected 1,000 helmets, gas masks and other items to provide tangible, humanitarian aid to Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. This had been initiated by Hong Kong students in Taiwan who were part of a pro-democracy youth organisation “the Hong Kong Outlanders”. On the eve of Mid-Autumn Festival, the Taiwanese sent over 50 cartons of pomelos written with well-wishes to Hong Kong. The fruit “pomelo” (“yu” pronounced in Taiwanese) is similar to the word “friend” (“yu” spoken in Cantonese), to express their best wishes for the Hong Kong citizens’ fight for democracy.

(Photo by PCT)

2

https://www.hkcc.org.hk/acms/content.asp?site=hkccnew&op=showbyid&id=78181

3

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-49891769

4

https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/politics/article/3031044/chaos-expected-across-hong-kong-anti-government-protesters

5

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-49902351

6

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-49317695

7

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-49575381

8

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-49340717

June 2019 | 8 October 13


AT A GLANCE More than 40 leaders of the Taiwanese Language Movement from Taiwan, Canada, Japan and U.S. gathered for the 23rd World Taiwanese Culture Summit held in Taiwanese Presbyterian Church of South Bay, Los Angeles. After the passage of the National Languages Development Act, in which all native Taiwanese languages are recognised as national languages of equal rights with Mandarin Chinese, participants from diverse professional backgrounds attended this Summit to discuss in-depth action plans and strategies for revival of Taiwanese languages and culture. PCT youths joined other young pilgrims from member churches and partners of World Council of Churches for the Korean Pilgrimage of justice and peace at the Demilitarised Zone in August. Themed “Walking with Peace, Reclaiming Hope”, the programme included pilgrimages to sites of Daejon and Nogeun-ri. Raising attention to the wounds and victims caused by such atrocities, and learning about peace, healing and reconciliation of Korea, were key issues in this pilgrimage, as well as enhancing global solidarity among the youth and inspire them to engage in the ecumenical movement.9

Young Christians on a six-day pilgrimage of Korea. Photo: Gregoire de Fombelle/WCC

An inaugural Christian Preschool Teachers’ Dedication Service was held in Orchard Road Presbyterian Church, Singapore on August 31, where more than 600 staff, teachers, principals, pastors and church leaders across denominations renewed their calling to preschool education, and to uphold Christian character and purpose in their preschools.

(Photo via PCS)

The joyful service was led by Presbyterian Church in Singapore (PCS) Moderator Rt Rev Keith Lai, and supported by PCS General Secretary Rev Teo Yew Tiong in Chinese. It included a song item and scripture reading by children, and was aimed at bringing together those involved in preschool education for a refreshing of the spirit and to give God glory for great things He has done, and will continue to do. 10

SOUTH ASIA At the invitation of Church of South India (CSI) Moderator Most Rev Thomas K. Oommen, the Archbishop of Canterbury Most Rev Justin Welby visited CSI in September. The Archbishop said that the purpose of his visit was prayer, pilgrimage and pastoral concern, that he was visiting as a religious leader to pray with Christians, to learn about Christianity in India and to share their experiences. In Kerala, he prayed with Christians from CSI, and spent time with CSI’s Sisters Order and Women’s Fellowship in Bengaluru, who inspired him their devotion and their “vital work among poor, oppressed and marginalised women and children.” 11 In addition, the Archbishop dedicated the newly constructed Bishop’s Chapel adjacent to the Bishop’s House of the Madhya Kerala Diocese of CSI in Kottayam. He was also welcomed by the villagers of Kavalam, a predominantly Dalit-Christian populated area near Kumarakom, Kerala. The villagers presented traditional folk dance, an age-old form of planting rice plants and harvesting, and water irrigation. Also, Rev. Prasad John, Vicar of the CSI Church in Kavalam and Rev. Sabu K. Cherian explained the equipment related to agrarian life in the village. 14 | INSiGHT

The dedication service. (Photo by CSI)

Visit to Kavalam Village. (Photo by CSI)

9

https://www.oikoumene.org/en/press-centre/news/a-journey-through-division-and-hope

10

http://www.presbysing.org.sg/news-2019-09-christian-preschool-teachers-day-dedication-service.htm

11

https://www.anglicannews.org/news/2019/09/we-must-learn-from-the-past-says-archbishop-of-canterbury -at-site-of-indian-massacre.aspx?


AT A GLANCE Floods and landslides hit Kerala in August again this year, with more than 40 feared dead or missing. Rescue efforts were hampered as the roads to Wayanad were washed away or obstructed by fallen trees. The Northern parts of Karnataka also experienced severe flooding and landslides, with infrastructure damaged in Belgaum. Nevertheless, the churches in both areas are actively involved in the rescue and rehabilitation efforts, and the church buildings and institutions of the Karnataka Northern Diocese are open to be rehabilitation centres. Church of North India (CNI) hosted the second half of the Archbishop’s trip in Kolkata, where he was welcomed by CNI Moderator Dr Prem Chand Singh and the Bishop of Kolkata, Paritosh Canning. The Archbishop said he was moved and inspired to see how the Churches of South and North India were a powerful force for good in wider society.12 At St Paul’s Cathedral, he visited its Friendship Centre, which reaches out to those in need from any faith or background. The Archbishop said that the centre was an example of CNI’s commitment to those suffering from trauma and grief. “The centre offers that simple, precious and rare gift: a safe space to be listened to and prayed for,” he said. “The world needs more of these places.” Last Christmas, believers from the Gadchiroli area were attacked and persecuted. Forced to abandon their houses, they went into the fields and built temporary huts for shelter. With the support of a few NGOs after a meeting with Bishop Gaikwad, Nagpur Diocese managed to build houses for them. This gesture of solidarity with these persecuted believers was part of the plan for their rehabilitation, after which Bishop visited them, prayed for them, dedicated and handed over the houses built for them. Youths from the rural areas of Etapalli and Bhamragad Talukas of Gadchiroli district also attended a two-week exposure programme, which was organised in association with World Vision India. In the drought-prone, rural areas of Yavatmal district in Maharashtra state, the seven youths learnt from local farmers about issues such as acute water shortage, and gained awareness about caste discrimination, child marriage and malnutrition. A few days later, they attended a seminar on leadership skills and developing self-confidence at Karunya Institute at Coimbatore, India.

The water level in Periyar river and a canal near the airport has been rising. (Photo by NDTV)

PACIFIC 29 August was the International Day against Nuclear Tests, and churches in Maohi Nui (French Polynesia) continue its pursuit for compensation for workers and families who have suffered from the after-effects of French nuclear testing over more than three decades. CWM stands in solidarity with its member church Etaretia Porotetani Maohi (EPM), who has led research on nuclear damage to atolls and oceans. The Church has also chronicled health effects such as cancers and birth defects in nuclear plant workers and their descendants due to radiation exposure. Together with Moruroa e tatou and the support of Pacific Conference of Churches, EPM deepened its pursuit of mission in the context of empire as it persevered in seeking reparations for victims. 13 Legislation has since been passed to award compensation for workers, and CWM looks forward to witnessing positive change and joy among the Maohi Nui people by the power of the Gospel. Papua New Guinea Council of Churches (PNGCC), Bread for the World and the Church Partnership Programme and the Australian High Commission hosted a meeting on “Reweaving the Ecological Mat” in Alotau. A joint collaboration of Pacific Conference of Churches, Pacific Theological College, and the Institute of Mission and Research, the workshop participants discussed the topic of “Reweaving the PNG Household – Towards a PNG Ecological Framework for Development (PNGEFD)”.

Nuclear bomb detonated at Mururoa atoll, French Polynesia. Picture by Pierre J./Flickr

12

ibid

13

https://cws.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Peace-Sunday-2019.pdf

June 2019 | 8 October 15


AT A GLANCE The late President of the Ekalesia Kelisiano Tuvalu (EKT) Rev Kalahati Kilei attended the Pacific Island Forum. During the official opening of the Forum Leaders’ Meeting, the devotion shared by Rev Kilei was a contextual reflection on Matthew 7:24-26 about the wise builder who had a house built on a foundation on the rock, and a foolish builder whose house was built on sand. 14 To build a house on the rock, Rev Kilei said, was a call “to build a strong spiritual foundation that is based on love and justice.” He encouraged leaders to work towards the future of the Pacific which “must not be measured by commercial terms – but rather determined by the smile and the happiness of our children. Jesus Christ is the foundation of our faith, who was convicted and killed because of the economic and political ideologies of the time – hence, he took that cross, pain and agony into his own hands because of his love and compassion for the whole world.”

EUROPE Two ministers of the North Enfield group of United Reformed Church (URC) joined around 300 protesters in #NoFaithinWar, a peaceful protest against an arms fair in September. Together with representatives of different Christian groups, people of different faiths, atheists and agnostics, Mark Meatcher and Melanie Smith were demonstrating against the opening of the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) exhibition. The exhibition was a showcase for many manufacturers of weapons of warfare and would promote weapon sales “by giving arms dealers the chance to meet and greet military delegations, government officials, other arms companies and a host of individual visitors,” Mark reflected. It is believed that the UK government has a track record of exporting arms to highly repressive regimes. Out of the 67 states that received an official UK government invitation to DSEI, 19 are in armed conflict and 14 are authoritarian regimes as categorised by the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index. 15

(Photo by Pacific Conference of Churches)

In an open letter to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, more than 100 faith leaders including those from URC urged him to honour a commitment towards welcoming refugees. This commitment was made by the Home Office in June when it announced that the UK will welcome up to 5,000 refugees between 2020-2021, after the current resettlement programmes expire. In the letter, the leaders expressed their hope that this was not a once-off announcement, but the start of a lasting commitment on their part to welcome migrants. They also suggested increasing the number of refugees allowed to resettle in the UK, stating that “there are children surviving in carparks and on the side of motorways in Europe; preyed on by traffickers and others who seek to do them harm. These are people who deserve a chance to rebuild their lives and to become part of British society, like so many refugees have before them.” 16 The global fossil divestment movement reached a milestone in September, coming from institutions with $11 trillion in assets, according to a joint press release by the Global Catholic Climate Movement, Operation Noah, Green Anglicans and GreenFaith. 17

Peacemakers Newsbanner (Photo by URC)

(Photo by URC)

Police At Arms Fair (Photo by URC)

16 | INSiGHT

14

https://pacificconferenceofchurches.org/f/climate-initiatives-must-change

15

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/sep/09/dsei-arms-fair-invitations-to-repressive-regimes-are-wrong

16

https://urc.org.uk/latest-news/3182-faith-leaders-urge-new-pm-to-accept-more-refugees.html

17

https://operationnoah.org/featured/faith-institutions-divest-from-fossil-fuels/


AT A GLANCE This came after an announcement made by a coalition of diverse faith institutions – which makes up the largest constituency in the global divestment movement - during the Financing the Future summit in September, which focused on accelerating investment in a clean economy. The announcement included URC in the UK, St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Edinburgh, the URC Synod of Wessex, UK, the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa, Caritas agencies in Singapore, Italy, Australia and Norway, and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines. The Rev Nigel Uden and Derek Estill, Moderators of the URC General Assembly, said: “Fossil fuel divestment is a practical way in which the United Reformed Church is responding to the climate emergency. We are taking this step in solidarity with our brothers and sisters around the world who are most affected by the climate crisis, despite having done the least to cause it. Therefore, it is only right that we actively move to support renewable sources of energy instead.”

The “World’s Biggest Coffee Morning” is Macmillan Cancer Support’s biggest fundraising event for people facing cancer. People all over the UK are asked to host their own Coffee Mornings and donations on the day are made to Macmillan, and £29.5 million was raised last year. Congregational Federation responded to this appeal, holding its Coffee Morning in September, at Nottingham Centre Church. During this time of uncertainty due to Brexit, a prayer for caution and wisdom was compiled by the Union of Welsh Independents (UWI) for ministers and members in 400 chapels across Wales to use. “The current confusion is causing frustration and anger. As Christians, we have a duty to pray that people exercise tolerance and respect for those with different opinions.” said Rev Dyfrig Rees, the Union’s General Secretary. *

Other sources: Websites and Facebook pages of respective member churches

HUMANITY WINS Children saving the rainforest Many of us followed the news and watched helplessly as the Amazon rainforest fires in Brazil spread. For “Kids Saving the Rainforest”, their mission was to educate people about the ecological importance of the rainforest and set up programmes to preserve and protect Costa Rica’s rainforest and wildlife. Founded by two 9-year-old girls in 1999 the organisation offers opportunities for young people to foster a love of nature and a sense of ecological responsibility. They maintain a wildlife rescue, rehabilitate forested areas and conduct studies and projects that help preserve the region's natural treasures. 1

Peaceful climate protests by youths around the world Hundreds of thousands of young people from New York City, Hamburg, Oslo, Melbourne, Nairobi and Mumbai peacefully protested climate change on September 20. On the streets of New York, 60,000 young people called upon their government officials, churches, and all adults in their lives to begin a transformation in their daily lives, and not to just pay lip service. 3 The march took place three days before the UN Climate Summit. Young people anxious about their future on an ever-hotter planet expressed a sense of urgency to world leaders and elected officials. They were joined by scientists and researchers who supported them in putting pressure on industrialised nations and corporate leaders to do more about climate change, while the faith community brought a spiritual dimension.

Singapore’s inaugural climate rally led by youths as young as 11 Oliver Chua, 11, was one of the youths who spoke at the inaugural Singapore Climate Rally at Hong Lim Park in late September, which was attended by about 2,000 people. The event came on the heels of the Global Climate Strike, a movement led by Swedish teenager and environmental activist Greta Thunberg. Organisers said they had chosen to stage the rally “in solidarity” even though they were not aligning themselves with the global strikes. Mr Ho Xiang Tian, a founder of environmental advocacy group LepakinSG, also took to the stage, and said that although Singapore contributes only 0.11 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions, more responsibility should be taken for climate action. He pointed out how the nation is the world’s fifth largest refinery export hub, and that the fuel it provides to ships and planes emits almost three times of its own national emissions. People carried placards with messages such as “You’ll die of old age, I’ll die of climate change”, while others participated in activities such as environmental-themed board games, writing postcards to their elected representatives about their environmental concerns, and a “die-in” — a form of protest in which participants simulate being dead.2

1

https://www.kidssavingtherainforest.org/

2

https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/youths-young-11-lead-way-singapores-inaugural-climate-rally

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https://www.oikoumene.org/en/press-centre/news/wcc-joins-global-climate-strike-with-throngs-of-young-people

October 2019 | 17


AT A GLANCE Interfaith network to counter human trafficking launched in Nigeria The Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria launched the Symbols of Hope (SOH) Returnees Network to enable stakeholders to mitigate the impact of irregular migration and human trafficking in Nigeria. This nationwide interfaith network was launched at a public symposium held around events marking the World Day against Trafficking in Persons, by the church's Archbishop Dr. Panti Musa Filibus. The SOH Programme has provided psycho social and economic empowerment support to migrants returning from Libya and European countries. According to the 2018 Global Slavery Index, Nigeria remains a source of transit and destination country for human trafficking. The network aims to help stem irregular immigration within and outside the country. Extreme poverty and internal conflict are cited as key factors that increase vulnerability to trafficking in Nigeria.⁴

Christians in Ethiopia launch campaign to plant 9 million trees During the rainy season, the government in Ethiopia called for its people to plant 4 billion trees as one of the ways to combat climate change. In response to this call, the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) mobilised its members in a countrywide campaign to plant more than 9 million trees – one tree for each church member - in one day. After that, the church’s staff members planted another 2,000 indigenous trees in church compounds near the capital city during another one-day event in August. The public tree planting exercise was described by EECMY President as a “historic event”, and the nationwide campaign motivates the EECMY to continue its long-standing effort to protect the environment in a country that experiences recurring drought and increasing deforestation. The church has set a goal of planting at least 10 million trees every year, including a variety of indigenous species on top of securing the management of natural resources. ⁶

Children of September 11 firefighters continue their fathers’ legacies Children of firefighters who lost their lives in the September 11 terror attacks were among 301 probationary firefighters graduating from the New York City Fire Department academy in September. Graduating after more than four months of intensive training, some of their fathers had died of illnesses related to the World Trade Centre tragedy, and they had now achieved their dreams being in the profession their fathers loved. ⁵ 4

https://www.lutheranworld.org/news/interfaith-network-counter-human-trafficking-launched-nigeria?

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https://edition.cnn.com/2019/09/25/us/children-firefighters-9-11-fdny-trnd/index.html

6

https://www.lutheranworld.org/news/plant-tree-care-creation

ECUMENICAL NEWS Zacchaeus Tax Campaign CWM, in partnership with WCC and WCRC, launched the Zacchaeus Tax campaign as a side event at the United Nations (UN) High-level Political Forum on the Sustainable Development Goals in New York recently. This global ecumenical campaign formed part of our New International Financial and Economic Architecture (NIFEA) process, and was modelled on the transformative story of the biblical character Zacchaeus. Besides offering faith-rooted and gender-just perspectives on taxation and reparations, it shared concrete proposals for corporate and wealth taxation, and social and ecological reparations to reduce inequality and urgently combat climate change. Another aim was to engage churches to encourage national and international systems of taxation that reward work and redistribute gains, promote gender justice and ecological sustainability, and penalise public ills such as speculative, polluting and resource-depleting activities.

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AT A GLANCE Lifting up, reiterating and amplifying the cries of communities in Philippines Convened by the World Council of Churches in partnership with the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Council for World Mission (CWM) was part of a Pilgrim Team Visit (PTV) to the Philippines from 9 to 13 August 2019. The 14 church leaders and activists, made up of women, men and youth from all over the world had embarked on this journey to listen, learn and bear witness to the escalating human rights crisis in Philippines. PCT also participated in this visit. In Navotas City, the pilgrims heard about extra-judicial killings in President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war, and in Negros island, the deaths of sugarcane workers struggling against plantation owners for land rights. They also learnt about Dumagat Indigenous Peoples fighting against construction of a hydroelectric dam on their land; and the plight of Indigenous Lumad communities in Mindanao displaced from mineral-rich ancestral lands to be developed for geothermal energy. Carrying many of these stories, the team of pilgrims met with the Commission on Human Rights, and issued a message to lift up, reiterate and amplify the calls of the communities they had visited. Read more on this in Page 32 in INSiGHT.

CWM NEWS Asia Youth Initiatives 2019 Healing the future: Hope for tomorrow 8-13 August 2019 Bangkok, Thailand In line with its vision of Fullness of life through Christ for all creation, CWM has committed that young people should be included in the life and witness of their churches and communities, not merely as recipients and beneficiaries but as full participants and contributors in God’s mission vital to the ministry and life of the church and communities. CWM recognises young people are gifted with hopes and adventurous spirits and must be provided the opportunity and space to give fresh vision of what it means to follow Jesus in this world. In August, CWM held a cross-regional youth programme in Bangkok, Thailand. A delegation of forty-one (41) participants from CWM member churches across East and South Asia gathered to reflect on the theme, Healing the future: Hope for tomorrow, in the context of the Asian region. Coming from different contexts and cultures, these young people united in a celebration of youth and diversity on this platform provided and facilitated by CWM.

Visit to the Immigration Detention Centre.

June 2019 | 8 October 19


AT A GLANCE

Through a series of worship, bible studies, topical reflections and plenary sessions led by resource persons from member churches, participants learnt, discussed and engaged with missional issues relevant to their regions. Being a part of different working groups allowed the young people to take ownership and leadership of the programme. Pre-assigned group projects facilitated teamwork within participants of the same church while promoting a better understanding of the challenges facing other member churches. Through collaborations with local ecumenical partners, participants attended an international church service, an advocacy workshop on refugee livelihood programmes in Thailand and visited the Immigration Detention Centre as part of their immersion and experience enlargement. Based on the view that each person has something unique to offer, the youth participants were strongly encouraged to not only contribute in the sessions but also to take leadership in various important aspects of the running of the programme. Every worship session was led by youth from different churches, in addition to roles like moderators, chair and the listening group members. As part of the group projects assigned by church, participants were given the chance to present their understanding of missional issues and take on the role of policymakers in suggesting effective policies. The bible study and four topical reflections of Empire, Racism, the Fourth Industrial Revolution and Suicide, led by resource persons experienced in the subject matter, reflected the most common issues faced by young people in South and East Asia. In a dynamic process of simultaneous learning and contribution meant to conscientise and increase awareness, participants were challenged to reach a deeper level of conceptualisation of these issues and be the catalyst of change in their own societies and communities.

Visit to Christ Church Bangkok.

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Attending the international holy communion service of a local church was part of the programme, the purpose of which was to participate in the life of the church together with the local community. The host church extended a warm welcome to CWM delegation and provided two youth representatives from East and South Asia the opportunity to bring their greetings to the congregation of 300 worshippers. The visit to the Immigration Detention Centre was particularly eye-opening and moving for all who participated in it, including the CWM staff themselves. Exploring the uncomfortable topic of urban refugees through a visit to the notorious Immigration Detention Centre, participants interacted with the detainees and learnt first-hand about the unique challenges facing urban refugees that caused many to become stateless, unwanted and indefinitely held in detention.


AT A GLANCE

Several who participated in this visit testified of the strong impact the visit left on them. The advocacy workshop by International Rescue Committee on refugee livelihood programmes, on the other hand, presented the many development and training programmes initiated by international NGOs to tackle livelihood needs faced by refugees living in tightly-controlled refugee camps along the Thai-Burmese border. On the final day of the programme, participants summarised all the learning experiences and developed a Communique of CWM 2019 Asia Youth Initiatives to share with their home churches. As this programme took place during the turbulent period of political turmoil in Hong Kong, everyone gathered around the delegation from HKCCCC to pray for the church and the political situation in Hong Kong as an act of solidarity. During the much-anticipated cultural evening, each church donned their traditional costumes and put up a performance representing their unique culture and the diversity in CWM family. Moving forward, CWM entrusts the youth participants the responsibility of working out this Communique, at the same time encouraging all member churches to listen attentively to the stories and input of their youth.

The youth today face greater challenges, having to tackle new global issues which were less pronounced or even non-existent in previous generations, such as the effects of climate change and environmental degradation, the internet and global connectivity, cyber bullying, rapid urbanisation and overcrowding, as well as global migrant and refugee crises. In order for the youth of today to become the leaders of tomorrow, they ought to be provided the right space, training and encouragement through new approaches relevant to today’s context, with proper guidance and mentoring from church leadership. It has been CWM’s continuous aim to work closely with its member churches to enable youth representation and leadership in most CWM programmes in order to nurture and develop their talents and abilities, along with providing relevant experience needed for leadership roles. The coming together of youth from two different regions was an answer to calls for more youth engagements on a global level. Moreover, this was a platform for them to consider issues and challenges pertinent to regions other than their own. It is hoped that this generation of young people, with the full support of their churches, will be equipped to rise up to the unprecedented challenges of today in order to bring hope for tomorrow.

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The Role of Money and Finance in the Economy and Society from the Christian Faith Perspective by Dr Rogate R. Mshana, Ecolife Centre Director

Introduction The topic of Faith and Finance entails responding to some questions: what is money, what is finance, what is society and even more loaded is the question - what is the Christian faith. This paper outlines briefly the conceptual understanding of these issues and also the role that money and finance ought to play in the economy and society from the perspective of the Christian faith based on the teachings of Jesus Christ.The topic of Faith and Finance entails responding to some questions: what is money, what is finance, what is society and even more loaded is the question - what is the Christian faith. This paper outlines briefly the conceptual understanding of these issues and also the role that money and finance ought to play in the economy and society from the perspective of the Christian faith based on the teachings of Jesus Christ.

What is money? Money is primarily understood as a medium of exchange or a means of exchange. It is a way for a person to trade what one has for what one wants or needs. It was devised so as to solve the intricacies and complexities of the barter system in trade relations. Ideally, money has three critical characteristics: It acts as a medium of exchange; it is an economic good and it is a means of economic circulation.š People today speak about real money and virtual money. Money has been transformed into various complicated instruments such as derivatives² that cannot be understood by people who are not professionals; what we need to know is that it is the commodity used in the modern trading systems – and this is really virtual money. Money has been turned into a commodity instead of in essence being a medium for the exchange of goods and services. A few people benefit vastly from doing nothing but sit at a desk and engage in speculation and become more and more wealthy; while millions of others are impoverished with little access to real money. What we have today is a monetary system that is delinked from real economy. It is here that issues of Christian faith and ethics come into play asking a question, have we reached a point of worshiping mammon instead of God? What role does money have in an economy of life for all people and all of creation?

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See https://economicsandliberty.wordpress.com/what-is-money (accessed on 24-10-15) A derivative short for derivative instrument is a contract whose value is based on the performance of an underlying asset, index or other investment.

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What is Finance? Finance can simply be understood as the science of the management of public money as well as that of companies. Such management is done by governments, banks and many financial institutions. However, today global money has no one global authority to manage it. Is such a global manager and institution essential? The lack of such global control of finance was seen as one of the reasons for global financial volatility and indebtedness that has affected the global crises as well as national economic crises. Currently there are attempts to create another type of money that will replace the central banks or any type of middle men during financial transactions. The proposal is to apply what is called “blockchain technology” which has the potential to transform how people and businesses cooperate. It is a discovery of the Bitcoin with a block chain ledger; which makes possible to use a currency without a central bank³. This makes it even more pertinent to ask the question - should the management of money be with the financial institutions or should it be with the people?

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The third President of the United States of America, Thomas Jefferson (13th April 1743 -4th July 1826) said, “If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their Fathers conquered...I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies... The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs”.⁴ These strong words seems to have fallen on the wayside. On the other hand, what can be noted today is that the current financial system redistributes wealth from the poor to the wealthy through usury. So, we ask again should the management of money be with the people where it belongs? How can this be done? This is another question for Christian faith. Is it the management of a bitcoin or is it local community-based currencies that are the panacea? These are questions that need to be raised as faith communities look for alternatives to the current unethical and corrupted financial management systems.

The Economist, October 31st-November 6th 2015:11. The system is peer-to-peer; users can transact directly without needing an intermediary. Transactions are verified by network nodes and recorded in a public distributed ledger called the block chain. The ledger uses its own unit of account, also called bitcoin. The system works without a central repository or single administrator, which has led the U.S. Treasury to categorise it as a decentralised virtual currency. See www.monticello.org/site/jefferson/private-banks-quotation (accessed on 31st October 2015) June 2019 | 8 October 25


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What is Society? A human society is a group of people involved in persistent social interaction or a large social grouping sharing the same geographical or social territory typically subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations. An individual is a basic component of a society and hence the interaction among individuals with each other gives birth to a group and they together form a society. Interaction among nations creates a global community. Such interactions can be manifested in various forms of life such as economic, political, cultural and social. As far as the subject of our reflection today is concerned - the role played by money and finance in economic interactions in a community/society is crucial.

The management of money destroys community because dependence on money means we no longer need our neighbours. We can get everything from anonymous strangers in return for money. We have no obligation to no one when the bills are paid. Every trade is a complete action: you provide me with something and I give you money. No one does us any favours and we need no favours from any one. This means that money creates individualism and destroys communities. Individuals are seen as more important than communities and society in general. Margret Thatcher, the late British Prime minister maintained that there is no society but only individuals. But as people of faith would we not say that it is people not profits that should determine the role of money and finance in society.

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Christian Faith When we speak about Christian faith, we include all Christian denominations that follow the teachings of Christ Jesus namely the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox churches, and the Protestant churches in their various denominational forms that have now grown to over 3,000 groups worldwide. Despite their differences, Christians have maintained unity of the Spirit as noted in the Bible in the letter of Paul to Ephesians, “in the bond of peace… just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all.” Christian faith is based on the basic belief that Jesus Christ came to the world, suffered, was crucified, died, descended to the dead and was resurrected for the forgiveness of our sins. This faith is summarised in the Apostles Creed recited by Christians every Sunday during worship. Through the teachings of Christ, Christian praxis requires carrying out of the ministry of Christ on Earth as stated in John 10:10b (NRSV), “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Christ came with a wholistic ministry as stated in Luke 4: 18-19 (NRSV), “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he had anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” Christian faith therefore includes good life both on Earth and in the after-life in heaven.⁵ On Earth this means working for social, economic and ecological justice. Christians have to follow the 10 commandments as prescribed by God; and practice to “Love one another” as Christ demonstrated. They are taught to care for the earth by overcoming greed. Instead of only performing good deeds they are driven by the Spirit to go a step further; as stated in Romans 8: 1-39, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” In Christ they are propelled to challenge all injustice in the world.

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Athena Peralta and Rogate Mshana (Eds). The Greed Line: Final Report and Supporting Studies, WCC Publications 2014 forthcoming publication.

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Economy of Life Churches and the ecumenical movement have for many years studied the global economic system and globalisation. From the Christian faith, economy is described as the management of a household, (Oikos), in which all members have access to livelihood and the abundance of life. In that sense, God is the economist and the Homemaker. And human beings, created in God’s image, are called to be economists and homemakers-preservers of creation-organising life and God’s gifts so that all have the requisites for livelihood in order to Secretary, enhance Pacific the life of the by Rev Nikotemo Sopepa, CWM Mission community⁶. Women practice this when they practice the economy of care. Christian faith, therefore, includes economy as a matter of faith. The works of many theologians on the subject have enriched this link between economy and theology in Christianity. Reformers like Calvin and Martin Luther wrestled to relate economy with Christian faith. There are a number of studies done on Orthodox fathers and their reflections on wealth and poverty. All in all, there has always been a Christian concern regarding poverty, wealth and God ‘s creation. Today we are working on promoting an economy of life⁷.What then is the Christian understanding on the role of money in an economy of life? Following the teaching of Christ as in John 10: 10b, Christians are looking for alternatives - an Economy of Life which is different from the current destructive systems. In this understanding the main characteristics of God’s household of life are: The bounty of the gracious economy of God (oikonomia tou theou) who offers and sustains abundance for all. God’s gracious economy requires that we manage the abundance of life in a just, participatory and sustainable manner; The economy of God is an economy of life that promotes sharing, globalised solidarity, the dignity of persons, and love and care for the integrity of Creation;⁸ God’s economy is an economy for the whole oikoumene- the whole Earth community; God’s justice and preferential option for the poor are the marks of God’s economy.⁹

The Role of Money and Finance in the Economy Money is good but its management in the economy and society is bad. In the Bible it is written in 1 Timothy 6: 10a, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” Unfortunately, this verse has been misunderstood as, “Money is a root of all kinds of evil.” What we should understand is that money itself is not evil but what is evil is the love of money. This love of money is what we today call “Moneytheism” – the worship of money. Humanity has constructed a system of “moneytheism” in which the role of money has been that of exploitation of people and destruction of our mother Earth instead of serving them and creation. The following is what happens:

Indebtedness “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.” Proverbs 22: 7. The financial system is benefiting from indebtedness – with systems controlled by debtors. It ensures that as many people as possible are perennially indebted. These are turned into slaves under moneytheism. Today we are indebted through the issuing of credit cards which at the same time encourages consumerism by pushing us to purchase wants instead of needs. Through indebtedness poor countries and individuals have turned into slaves of banks and other financial institutions. Furthermore, money is created when banks grant loans. Thus for every unit created there is one unit of debt. Money is essentially information and has no physical existence yet banks encourage us to think of it as a ‘thing’ so that they can ‘lend’ to us and thereby make a profit by charging interest. The ‘thing’ money has to be created, distributed and controlled so that there is not too much of it. It can also be stolen,lost,bought, sold and counterfeited, with serious consequences for everyone.

The role of money and finance in the economy and society can then be seen from the prism of the above five criteria.

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Aaart Van Den Berg, God and the Economy: Analysis and typology of Roman Catholic, Protestant. Orthodox, Ecumenical and Evangelical, Theological Documents on the Economy 1979-1992, Eburon Publishers, Delft 1998 p.22 See “Economy of Life Now: An Ecumenical Action plan for a new International Financial and Economic Architecture” https://www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/commissions on international-affairs-policy/report-of-the march-2009-ccia-meeting. See Rogate R. Mshana and Athena Peralta (Eds) Linking Poverty, Wealth and Ecology: The Agape Process from Porto Alegre to Busan, WCC publications 2014. Four of these five characteristics reflect the “Criteria towards economic policy- making” presented in the WCC study document on Christian faith and the world economy today, Geneva: WCC,1992, p.29. The document was an important step in understanding that economic matters are indeed matters of Christian Faith.

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The practice of usury “You shall not charge interest on loans to another Israelite, interest on money, interest on provisions, interest on anything that is lent…” Deuteronomy 23: 19f. The practice of usury-making loans at inflated interest rates-ensures that the poor would remain in perpetual need, their paltry wages spent in paying off the interest but not the principal, a form of economic servitude. This banking practice, denounced throughout the centuries by the church, readily condemned the poor to hand-to-mouth existence and chronic anxiety that accompanies such a life. From the Lutheran tradition we have learnt that Luther did not ask for the abolition of bank loans. Rather, he argued that an exorbitant interest rate is not fair and it should be regulated and dropped to the point where a banker was justly paid and a bank client was not perpetually impoverished¹⁰. He followed Christ’s teaching, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Matt 7: 12). The true evil is not the loan in itself so much as the vices of those who apply themselves to lending.¹¹ Usury is almost always accompanied by two inseparable evils: tyrannical cruelty and the art of deception.

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Today banks do not follow the command by Christ even so-called Christian banks. What we need here is still deep theological reflection and praxis within Christianity about how our banks could be unique in their practices. The fundamental argument supportive of all biblical and Christian teaching on lending with interest is that money must not be a source of profit when payment for it is made at the expense of the poor. Money in society is properly intended to come to their assistance, and not to oppress them. Exodus 22:25 directs us, “If you lend money to my people, to the poor among you, you shall not deal with them as a creditor; you shall not exact interest from them.” The question to address: Is it possible to even have joint interfaith banks with practices based on faith so as to overcome usury? What about joint interfaith programs of awareness building for private lenders - some of them have been so tyrannical, to the extent that they force some individuals to sell their body organs such as kidneys in order to repay their debts.

Samuel Torvend, Luther and Hungry Poor: Gathered Fragments, Fortress Press 2008, pp 122 Andre Bieler,Calvin’s Economic and Social Thought, Translation 2005, World Alliance of Reformed Churches, WCC Publications, Geneva, 2005, pp June 2019 | 29 8 October


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Financial Speculation “Speculate” comes from the Latin term speculum, a mirror where when one stands between two mirrors and you see an endless succession of images of oneself. Such a practice produces money from money but without producing any real wealth. This is the fetishisation of money, of greed, a thirst for gain and for accumulating money without limit. This is unethical and a poison to the economy of life. The sign that there is addiction in financial speculation is the growth of the casino industry at local levels and the speculation on currencies in the world. This notion of profiting without producing anything tangible is not ethical. Calvin described it very early in history like this: It is also a very strange and unfair thing, that, while everyone earns their living with much toil. While husbandmen tire themselves out in their work day by day, and artisans serve others by the sweat of their brow, and merchants not only work but also expose themselves to many inconveniences and risks- that money-mongers should sit at their ease without doing anything, and receive tribute from the labour of everyone else.¹² Marcos Arruda describes the global casino system as follows, “In 2002, the value of speculative transactions worldwide reached a new plateau of 1,122.7 trillion US dollars…. including 699 trillion in transactions through derivatives, 384.4 trillion exchange transactions and 39.3 trillion in financial investments. The total is 34.76 times the 32.3 trillion US dollars transactions in goods and services i.e. the real economy”¹³. From a Roman Catholic perspective, we learn: “A financial economy that is an end unto itself is destined to contradict its goals, since it is no longer in touch with its roots and has lost sight of its constitutive purpose. In other words, it has abandoned its original and essential role of serving the real economy, and ultimately, of contributing to the development of people and human community.”¹⁴ The church calls for a financial regulatory system at the global level. How can faith-based communities help in linking finance with real economy today? What about working together on social financing? 12 13

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Ibid 2005 pp.413 Marcos Arruda, Profiting Without Producing: The Financial Crisis as an Opportunity to Create an Economy of World Solidarity published on line in http.www.pacs.org.br and also in Pamela Brubaker and Rogate Mshana (eds) Justice Not Greed, WCC Publications, Geneva 2010 pp. 129 Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, Liberia Editrice Vaticana, 2004pp.207

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Alternatives The search for alternative financial systems in the context of the economy of life can be seen at two levels. First, it is at the level of advocating for an alternative financial system that will address the problems of indebtedness, usury and speculation. Here, interfaith initiatives to deal with global financial institutions and financial policy makers have to be designed and implemented. They can be consistent in combating speculation on the financial, particularly currency markets, with instruments such as currency transaction tax, capital flow controls and regulation of derivatives. It is also imperative to advocate for increasing the share of debt-free public money in contrast to the increase in debt-based money created by the banks through credits¹⁵. Advocacy and education on alternative social finance that promote solidarity and community welfare at local levels could be initiated. Secondly, at the level of practice, interfaith communities could jointly initiate social finance schemes and people’s banks that will enhance either free interest on loans or fair interest rates to enable poor people to access credits that do not enslave them. The novel ground is whether, there can be interfaith alternative banks that will stop the flow of money from the poor to the rich. Can the existing church banks begin to restructure themselves by following the teachings of Christ? In responding to the preferential option for the poor, interfaith cooperation could lift up and scale up existing initiatives at financial alternatives including informal savings groups and micro-credit programs that expand access to finance without imposing commercial lending rates. Can we review the use of local alternative currencies and see if these could be globalised? All in all, can we design a financial system from which poverty and inequality can be eradicated while God’s creation is respected and protected for our future generations? In other words, can we create an economy of life where all people and the whole of Creation have the fullness of life and where money returns to its original role of being a medium of exchange for goods and services?

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Ulrich Duchrow and Franz J Hinkelammert, Property for people, not for profit: ALTERNATIVES TO THE GLOBAL TYRANNY OF CAPITAL, WCC publications, Geneva, 2004, pp.220

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Pilgrim team amplifies calls of communities in Philippines C

onvened by the World Council of Churches in partnership with the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Council for World Mission (CWM) was part of a Pilgrim Team Visit (PTV) to the Philippines from 9 to 13 August 2019. The 14 church leaders and activists, made up of women, men and youth coming from Canada, India, Indonesia, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States had embarked on this journey to listen, learn and bear witness to the escalating human rights crisis in the country. Traveling by plane, jeep, boat and on foot, the pilgrims visited an urban poor settlement in Metro Manila and a key site for the “war on drugs”, peasants struggling for land rights in Cavite and Negros, Indigenous Dumagat communities resisting a hydroelectric dam project and Lumad communities displaced from their resource-rich ancestral domain. In Navotas City, home to the third largest fishing port in Southeast Asia, a team of pilgrims heard from mothers and families of victims of extra-judicial killings in President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody drug war. A mother recalled her son, affectionate and generous with his hugs. He had just returned from the port when 10 policemen came and shot him dead in his own house. A daughter spoke of her father, proud of all the tattoos he was covered in, yet scared of hospital needles. He was abducted along with his wife in front of their children and later found murdered in a cemetery; his wife turned up dead beneath a bridge. A father shared about his son who always came back from the port with fish to cook for breakfast and who would lovingly clean his father’s motorbike. One evening the police came and took him away and a few hours later, he was found in the street, bound in electric wire and shot in front of neighbours.

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The “war on drugs” has illegally claimed thousands of lives since President Duterte came to power in 2016 and has gained considerable international attention, culminating in the recently released United Nations Human Rights Resolution No. 41/2 which calls for an investigation in the spate of murders. But the killings and other human rights violations have expanded and have gone beyond so-called drug addicts and dealers in the cities. The most recent Global Witness Report points out that the Philippines is now the most dangerous place to be an environmental defender and land rights activist; and church workers and priests serving impoverished, rural and Indigenous communities have also become victims of violence and impunity. As one pilgrim put it, ‘How can these people be treated as enemies of the state? These are precisely the future of the state, they are farmers, young people, activists and indigenous people, they are the ones who offer the Philippines hope, not the violent outbursts and outrages of the Duterte government’. A group of pilgrims traveled to Negros, the fourth largest island in the Philippines and home to sprawling haciendas or plantations that turn out around 54% of the sugar produced throughout the country. The island has seen a rash of killings in the past year, the majority of them farmers, but also human rights lawyers, a former major, a city councilor, a village chief, and a school principal. In sharing with the pilgrims, one of the survivors recalled the fateful day of the Sagay massacre last 20 October 2018. “That day we had just started to plant corn, monggo and bananas on three hectares of leased land so that our families would have something to eat in the dead season (for sugarcane planting), and that very night they shot nine of us. Two of us escaped because we were charging our cellphones in a hut close by. We heard the gunshots and hid in the fields. We reported the incident to the police as soon as we thought it was safe, but later we found out we had been charged with the murders.


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Why would we kill our own companions and relatives?” Seven of the nine who were killed were sugarcane workers struggling – against big plantation owners – for the right under the government’s agrarian reform programme to own the land they had been tilling for decades. The pilgrims felt rage and fear, “This is systematic violence and oppression, how can you get justice for your loved one when it is the police, it is the system that ordered and oversaw their murder?” Traversing mountains and rivers to reach the border of Rizal and Quezon provinces in Luzon, the biggest island in the Philippines, a team of pilgrims listened to the story of the Dumagat Indigenous Peoples who are fighting against recurrent proposals to reroute rivers and construct a hydroelectric dam on their land. With quiet dignity, the kapitan (local chief) shared the main fears of the Dumagat people: displacement from their ancestral land and destruction of their beautiful habitat and traditional ways of living. They cannot be the people they are without their land. He said: “Land is the most important thing. It is life to us. If we say ‘no’, we could face violence and the dam project will continue anyway”. At the time of the visit, the community was discussing whether or not to give consent to the project. Yet already, the contract has been awarded to a foreign firm and preliminary construction and preparatory works were visibly underway. In Cagayan de Oro City, another team of pilgrims heard the plight of Indigenous Lumad communities in Mindanao who have already been pushed away from ancestral lands rich in precious metals and minerals, fertile soils, and hot springs which could be developed into geothermal energy. The island of Mindanao was put under martial law since 2017, deepening militarisation and counter insurgency actions that had been put in place to protect current and potential multinational investors especially in the extractives sector. Datu Reynaldo, one of the Lumad chiefs, shared that he refused to sign the document that will allow the military to take control of their land. Yet others have been forced to do so; and, worse, forced or bribed to fight against their own people. Lumad children heartbreakingly spoke about how their parents have been summarily executed and how their schools have been shut down by government authorities. Displaced from their homes, orphaned and school-less, there is no normalcy in their young lives. “As a young woman joining this pilgrimage, I just can’t believe that children and young people are the deliberate targets of this government. What can they possibly achieve through the despair and rage they are creating for today and the future?” “It has been profoundly moving to witness the struggles of the community groups and activists we have met. I am humbled by the risks they have taken to meet us, and the hope they place in us to raise their voices for change. The staff of the NCCP show us who God’s people are called to be, indeed they embody human beings at their best in the face and firing line of those who embody its worst”.

Carrying these and many other stories with them, the participants of the Pilgrim Team Visit to the Philippines met with the Commission on Human Rights and at least one foreign mission. At the end of their visit, the pilgrims issued the following message: “We lift up, reiterate and amplify the calls of the communities we visited: For the international community to support and monitor the implementation of the UN Human Rights Council Resolution No. 41/2, which mandates a comprehensive review of the human rights situation in the Philippines. For the Government of the Philippines to comply with the HRC Resolution No. 41/2 and open its doors to investigators, as well as to fulfil its human rights obligations towards the Filipino people to put a stop to the criminalisation, red-tagging, vilification, harassment and murder of farmers, Indigenous Peoples and human rights and ecological defenders, including church people; to address the culture of impunity; and to extend protection to human rights and ecological defenders to put a stop to the killings in relation to the “War on Drugs”, bring perpetrators to justice and to develop and pursue a more holistic approach to drug dependency and the poverty which drives it to end martial law in Mindanao and “state of emergency” declarations in other provinces which are pretexts for militarisation to halt militarisation and development aggression in Indigenous territories, to respect the rights and ancestral domains of Indigenous Peoples, to reopen Indigenous schools and allow Indigenous communities to go on with their daily lives to resume peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and to free all political detainees; to address the roots of the escalating human rights crisis – landlessness and deep-seated poverty – through genuine land reform and other socio-economic reforms For the global community of churches to raise these issues with their national governments with a view to sustaining the UN HRC investigation to build solidarity with and accompany churches and sisters and brothers in the Philippines in these difficult times.” We are saying to the witnesses we have met, “We believe you. We believe in you and we will rise with you in your struggle for justice”

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Let the Children Come to Me...

(well, the White ones anyway) by Peter Cruchley, Council for World Mission

One of my most painful moments in the CWM Legacies of Slavery Hearings was in Jamaica. Our group met with twenty

young people, all students at the University of the West Indies. They began to open up about their perceptions of blackness and the pressures around them as young black people in Jamaica. They were outwardly confident gifted young people but several began to tell about their attempts to bleach their skin, to try and look fair. Those with the darkest skin colour shared that even in Jamaica they experience prejudice, and felt looked down upon. Beauty is perceived in terms of fair skin colour, the fairer your skin the more beautiful you are. Some even told stories of friends who had even attempted to bleach the skin of their babies.

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This was profoundly disturbing for the Hearings group to process. It told the group that even in majority black cultures the experience of blackness is still occupied by whiteness, and measured in terms of whiteness. And that it begins not in adolescence but in infancy. If this is the experience of black children in Jamaica, what is the experience of black children in majority white cultures like the UK for example? On a CWM-World Council of Churches workshop on evangelism and colonisation in Canada we heard examples of the legacies of slavery there in terms of black on black violence amongst young people, which is spiralling from a feeling that, as one young person put it, ‘I am dead already’. In Dec 2018, the Ontario Human Rights Commission released a report based on seven years of data on police action which revealed that Black Toronto residents are 20 times more likely to be shot dead by police. While black residents make up less than 10 percent of the city’s population, they accounted for 61 percent of all cases where police used force that resulted in death and 70 percent of police shootings that resulted in death. In the UK, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) reported in 2019 that racial abuse and bullying of children has risen by a fifth since 2015. This is a further manifestation of the racist white supremacist urges in the UK driving Brexit, and the underlying failure by White people to repent of racism and convert their cultures and systems to embrace the diversity and complexity of God’s good creation. This explains why one of our black participants in the Legacies hearings said her granddaughter first experienced racism at the age of 3, as soon as she was old enough to enter the education system.

This is a profoundly religious and spiritual issue. How can Whiteness invade Blackness and occupy the norms and metaphors of beauty and goodness without a spiritual force behind and around it? How do churches made up of all ages and generations and races tolerate such a situation, let alone perpetuate it? How can Jesus be allied with this? Because Jesus is white. He has been made the figurehead and poster boy of White empire, and the image of White Jesus remains omnipresent in the iconography, even of Black churches. We saw images of White Jesus in churches in both the Africa and Jamaica Legacies Hearings, for example. How do churches help Black and white children and young people navigate white dominant cultures and racist social systems? Are churches aware how we perpetuate White norms in our ways of working, worshipping and believing? How should a post-colonial mission organisation respond? Especially one which wants to tackle the legacies of slavery we have? The veteran Black Theologian, James Cone, challenges us: If God is White, Kill him. As part of this putting to death of the White God, CWM is planning work on children and racism and the work churches can do to create spaces where racism is named and challenged. There will be a planning group meeting Oct 17-19 in the UK to begin our thinking. Churches need to be places where all children especially experience the freedom of Christ, and find themselves known and loved and affirmed, not just the white ones. Churches could be places where children are strengthened for their struggles and are the first place where they know without a shadow of doubt that black is beautiful and powerful, that they are not dead already and God certainly is not white.

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Let’s Rally for Environmental Responsibility by Abigail Scarlett, United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands

Abigail Scarlett is from United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands (UCJCI). She recently interned with World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) and is passionate about gender justice and environmental issues.

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fter seeing the disasters that have been taking place around the world: the fires in Amazon rainforest and across Angola to Madagascar and the tropical hurricane and depressions that have devastated northern Bahamas, it is fair to say that the topic of caring for the environment cannot be exhausted enough. There should no longer be a question of why we must consider the environment. Economic growth is important but not so much for us to be neglecting the signs of the times and excavating our way into all our natural reserves. If nothing else, the recent disastrous natural events should be provoking us to think sustainably. All countries are seeking to achieve economic growth yet there are still those who do not see the link between environmental responsibility and sustainable profits. We need to see sustainability as a broad term. It is best to remember its three pillars: environment, social and economic ensuring that the importance on each is weighted heavily. It is impossible to focus solely on the economic aspect and expect it not to affect the social and environmental facets. Sustainable development should be treated as having counterparts in which the goal- ‘development’ cannot be achieved without the other pillars of sustainability. Biodiversity and natural resources (example: water, wood, coal, etc.) are important in building up the country’s economy. Agboraw and Jones (2017) confirms that natural resources increases a country’s wellbeing and its economic wealth. More jobs are created, there is increased manufacturing and a higher standard of living, as well as an influence on the financial sector. This therefore means that an increase in care for the country’s natural resources can only result into something good. Pollution, and environmentally unsustainable choices would cause the earth to collapse therefore causing natural resources to be depleted (Higgins 2013). Each time we pollute, over-exploit resources, clear lands without replanting trees, or clear lands without assessing the species present, with the aim of making more money, we leave fewer resources to utilize in the future. Now this inhibits us from our ultimate goal- being financially secure!

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VIEWPOINTS So what do we do to mitigate against that? We can embrace sustainable living. Many countries have already been implementing plastic and styrofoam bans. Some countries have even opted out of mining their resources which are in protected areas. Others have converted a number of their public transportation to more energy-efficient ones. As we continue in this direction of living sustainably, we can take care of our own spaces such as our homes, schools and offices. Let us reduce our garbage waste, plant more trees, endorse recycling and educate those around us about the benefits of being green. If these actions are not already being taken, then it is not too late to start now! Environmental responsibility may seem daunting, but it takes a conscious effort to get a big result. Also, pushing environmental stewardship in institutions (schools, churches, companies) is a positive way in getting our countries in the direction they need to go. Hopefully giving this example will get you interested. In Ghana, crop yields were reduced, the productivity decreased rapidly and there were many water shortages as a result of clearing land, soil erosion and over-exploitation. The cost of Environmental degradation (CoeD) in Ghana was a tenth of the GDP and a half of the Official Development Assistance (Fredua 2014). This simply means that as environmental degradation increases, more money will be needed to fix the problems created which would leave less money for the country to grow economically. If that is not enough, here is another story that may get you on the ‘go green’ campaign. In 2014, it was admitted that the multiple water shortages in Jamaica was due to the mismanagement of water and the ineffective storage, collection and distribution of it (Jamaica Observer 2014). With approximately 10 hydrological basins and 26 watershed management units, Jamaica should have sufficient water to last throughout the dry seasons without creating much problem. Being unsustainable, therefore, is futile and only causes a decline in the development of our countries. In trying to grow our countries’ economy, don’t ignore the environment! The environment can reap benefits depending on how well we take care of it. Let us challenge more of our youths, our bosses, our church community and our country’s leaders to promote environmental sustainability. Let’s build our business plans, our laws and our organisations on the foundation of a sustainable environment and guarantee a positive feedback. Even if your passion is not specifically the environment, a better country should be enough to fuel each person’s desire to care for its resources. It takes work and a combined effort to get your country to the place we desire. Let us put in the effort.

Agboraw, Efundem & Jones, Aled. 2017. Resource constraints and global growth. Gewerbestrasse: Springer Nature.

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Fredua, Kwame Boakye. 2014. "The Economic Cost of Environmental Degradation: A Case Study of Agricultural Land Degradation in Ghana". SSRN Electronic Journal. Elsevier BV. doi:10.2139/ssrn.2534429. Higgins, Karen. 2013. "Economic growth and sustainability – are they mutually exclusive?". Elsevier Connect. https://www.elsevier.com/connect/economic-growth-and-sustainability-are-they-mutually-exclusive. Jamaica Observer. 2014. "Water shortage in Jamaica is a man-made disaster, not an act of God". http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Water-shortage-in-Jamaica-is-a-man-made-disaster--not-an-act-of-God_17221554. June 2019 | 37 8 October


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Reading and Teaching the Bible in Asia and Asian America’s Pluralistic Context by Dr Benny Liew, College of the Holy Cross, USA

How should one read and teach the

Bible in a pluralistic context, especially in the specific situation of Asia and Asian America? I would like to start with three affirmations before I address this specific question. First, I want to affirm the importance of linking discussions of pluralism with religion. Too often discussions of pluralism in the broader academy and the even larger culture to include various groups and canons have ended up excluding considerations of religion and religious texts (Eck: 4-7; Spinner- Halev: 6, 128).¹ As Robert Fullinwider writes, “Although religion almost always appears on the list of ‘differences’ that multiculturalists address, it seldom received any substantial discussion” (15).² Second, I think this topic really requires multiple inputs and perspectives, since any dependence on a single person’s efforts or hint of singularity would have violated the spirit of pluralism. Third, given my own investment in Asia and Asian America, I would like to put the “pluralistic context” aside momentarily to affirm a pluralistic understanding of Asian/American sacred texts.³ Not only are there multiple sacred texts of different contents and origins in Asia and Asian America, these texts also have multiple literary and non-literary forms.

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although I do plan to end with some more general comments about sacred text(s), pluralism, and context(s). I focus on the Bible for a reason that is at once historical and philosophical. I don’t think I need to spend time addressing issues that have been discussed at length by others: the importance of “cultural For too long, the concept of sacred text capital” for transnational has either been limited to the Bible, or Asian/American/s (Ong); the “cultural dictated by the popular (mis)understanding of the Bible as a fixed capital” that the Bible represents in the geopolitical West in general, and the USA book of reified and crystallised words on in particular (Frye; T. Smith; Aichele); or paper (Levering: 3-4, 9; W. Smith; Graham). If David L. Eng is correct—and the greater rigidity that tends to exist between Abrahamic religions and sacred I think he is—that canonisation (a close texts (W. Smith; Graham; Van Voorst). I cousin of sacred texts, conceptually do want to, however, follow up on Neil T. speaking), identification, and hence Gotanda’s insight on “Asiatic identity formation are all related racialisation” in the USA to argue for the processes, then pluralisation and strategic importance of engaging the problematisation of sacred canon(s) are imperative for Asian/American identities Bible in Asia or Asian America. not to end up becoming uniform, According to Gotanda, in contrast to identical, and one and the same.⁴ Africans who are mainly racialised in terms of “inferiority,” Asians are Having affirmed the significance of racialised in the USA as “foreign,” “alien,” religion for pluralism and the and “pagan.” If so, then Asian Bible pluralisation of Asian/American sacred “brokers” (to keep up with Pierre texts, as well as acknowledged the Bourdieu’s economically loaded problematic dominance of the Bible in terminology) present a simultaneously many conceptualisations of sacred text, appealing and appalling image. let me return to focus on the question of reading and teaching the Bible as one Asian/American sacred text in a pluralistic context, The crucial point here, in addition to the heterogeneity of Asia and Asian America, is that we cannot talk about one book, or even just the world of books when we talk about Asian and Asian American sacred texts.

I do not mean to imply here that sacred texts are necessarily “religious” in the conventional sense. Since sacred text is at least partly a relational concept (that is, it depends on people’s reception), I am not going to venture into defining any further the characteristics of sacred text as if these characteristics are inherent. Brief examples of such “definitions,” however, can be found in Levering: 8-13; and Van Voorst: 5-10. To say that religion should not be underestimated in discussions of diversity and pluralism is not the same as overestimating the significance of religion in such discussions. I disagree with Richard John Neuhaus, whose tunnel vision on religion causes him to (dis)miss other (multi)cultural sites of mediation, thus resulting in his thesis that the absence of religion would inevitably lead to a “naked public square” that falls prey to the monopoly of the state. The irony of Spinner-Halev’s book is that while he argues for the inclusion of religion in multicultural debates, he sees no problem in excluding so-called “non-Western religions” from his discussion by a mere hint that he lacks “certainty” or knowledge in this area (22). Is this narrowing of the topic a “moral economizing” move to facilitate discussion (Gutmann and Thompson: 85-91), or is it a “mortal economizing” claim of human finitude? I will return to this question in a latter part of this paper. Eng’s short but important piece relies on a psychoanalytic framework. For a longer and provocative work on the critical but unstable relations between identification and identity, see Diana Fuss. This issue of identification and identity is particularly pertinent to Asian/American/s, as the title of Fuss’s book, Identification Papers, indicates. One should also keep in mind that Sigmund Freud constructs his theory of identification on a metaphoric logic. As Fuss reminds her readers, the Greek word for “metaphor” (metaphora) means also “transport” (5). Freud himself also describes the ego that seeks to stabilise identity as a “frontier-creature” (46). In that light, it may be somewhat ironic that only the last chapter of Fuss’s book (141-65) deals specifically with racial/ethnic others.

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First, Cha transports or translates what she finds in the Bible onto or into a new (con)text not for the sake of “application,” but in a spirit of interruption and opposition. In a “chapter” focusing on her mother as a “woman warrior” who fights for survival rather than glories in martyrdom, Cha cites from the Authorised Version (KJV) rather unexpectedly the entire episode of To illustrate how Asian/American/s who Jesus being tempted in the wilderness by the devil (50- 53). This citation of are committed to pluralism may (ab)use Matthew 4:1-11 is both framed and the Bible for disruptive and/or (de)constructive purposes, I will resort to fragmented by Cha’s description of a dream or hallucination of heaven that her a canonical— thus salient if not “sacred”—text within the “ethnic canon” mother experiences while living under Japan’s colonial rule and falling ill in of Asian America: Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictee.⁶ In addition to its canonical Manchuria. In contrast to the Matthean status within Asian American literature, I Jesus who secures angelic service by refusing to eat, to jump from the temple am choosing Dictee because it is truly a pluralistic text in terms of both form and top or worship the devil on a content. Dictee or dictation deals with the mountaintop, Cha’s mother refuses three fluidity between what is spoken and what times the angelic service of heavenly food, and ends up being pushed from is written; as Eun Kyung Min suggests, dictation is a process in which “the heaven back down to earth by an angel. audible turns visible and the visible Time won’t allow me to do a detailed becomes audible” (309). interpretation of Cha’s use of this Within the pages of Dictee, one will also Matthean passage. I will simply suggest find drawings and photographs, as well as that Cha is here protesting or questioning words in Chinese, English, and French. the biblical rhetoric or logic that How does the Bible function in this privileges hunger for “spiritual”/heavenly diaglossic (Ferguson), heteroglossic food over earthly food. For Cha, survival (Bakhtin), or simply but by no means on earth may well be equally or even simple pluralistic (con)text? They represent a potential tension, a possible disruption. Or, to use a more theoretical language, “Asian Bible-brokers” may break open a “hybridised” third space/moment (Bhabha), or bring about a “contact zone” (Pratt) where two supposedly binary and separable spaces or elements merge and mingle.⁵

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more meaningful than martyrdom for the reward of entering heaven. In other words, she circumscribes, disrupts, or re-contextualises the dictates of a Gospel text. After all, unlike the Matthean Jesus who is articulate in his refusal of the devil as well as assured of his identity as the “Son of God,” Cha or Cha’s mother is a female transnational traveller whose speech is often denied, and identity in flux. In Cha’s pluralistic (con)text, even biblical citation does not dictate, but is dis- placed and transformed by means of a transporting, translocating, or translating act. Second, Cha also dis-places the Bible by placing it as but one text in a vast “library” of texts (written or otherwise). To put it in a term made popular by Dipesh Chakrabarty, the Bible is “provincialised” in Cha’s pluralistic (con)text. In the last “chapter” of Dictee, Cha narrates a story that is simultaneously similar and dissimilar to the story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4 (167-70). It is dissimilar because this meeting at the well does not result in the Samaritan woman at the well going to evangelise her townsfolk upon meeting a Jewish man; instead, it ends with a woman at the well giving a girl some medicine to take back to the girl’s neighbouring village to cure the girl’s ailing mother.

Psychoanalytically speaking, one can also think about the problem and the potential associated with “Asian Bible-brokers” in terms of the fluid boundaries between identification and disidentification. As Judith Butler suggests, a disidentification may well be “an identification that one fears to make only because one has already made it” (112). For my more detailed analysis of Cha’s Dictee, see Liew: 115-33. June 2019 | 39 8 October


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In the last “chapter” of Dictee, Cha narrates a story that is simultaneously similar and dissimilar to the story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4 (167-70). It is dissimilar because this meeting at the well does not result in the Samaritan woman at the well going to evangelize her townsfolk upon meeting a Jewish man; instead, it ends with a woman at the well giving a girl some medicine to take back to the girl’s neighbouring village to cure the girl’s ailing mother. It is dissimilar because Cha seems to be mixing the story of John 4 here with at least two other texts: (1) an ancient Korean shamanistic myth about a young princess who, by virtue of marriage and the birth of seven sons, receives healing water from her husband’s well to make her mother well from a deadly illness; and (2) the ancient Greek myth about Demeter and her rest at an Eleusian well in her search of her daughter, Kore(a?), who has been abducted by Hades into the underworld because Kore(a?), unlike Cha’s mother who refuses to eat other-earthly food, has eaten a few seeds in Hades. I am going to sidestep the interpretive issues surrounding this specific episode within Dictee. Rather, let me just state that this practice of interweaving texts (biblical, Greek, and Korean) points to competing texts and traditions not only alongside, but also inside any dictate. If the Korean myth on princess Pari Gongju is a competing tradition that is separable from the Bible, such a neat separation cannot be made between the Demeter/Kore myth and the Gospel texts. The Greek myth is, of course, associated with the ancient mystery religion of Eleusis, and thus in competition with the Gospels in the first four centuries of the Common Era. However, if one considers their common emphasis on trans-world travels and rebirth, and the fact that the Greek myth and the mystery both predated the Gospels but continued to be circulated and celebrated in the Christus und die Samariterin am Brunnen. Artwork by Angelika Kauffmann same geographical and cultural zones of the Gospels, one will be hard pressed to deny the influence that this and other ancient Greek myths might have on the Gospels. Instead of repeating the biblical dictate that “in the beginning was the Word” and “the Word was made flesh” (John 1:1, 14), Cha inscribes not only that her own “words [were] made flesh” (18), but further insinuates that there are multiple words or texts as well as multiple beginnings with her two introductory invocations of the muses: “Beginning wherever you wish, tell even us” (7, 11; emphasis mine). I think Cha’s Dictee points to the need, in a pluralistic context, for not only a pluralistic understanding, but also a pluralistic “reading” of sacred texts. By that I do not mean the by-now rather popular notion of multiple interpretations; that is, different people from different contexts, or the same person at different times and contexts may interpret the same text in different ways. What I mean by pluralistic “reading” is, first of all, a single “reading” that highlights differences and even contradictions within one (sacred) text. I am driving at the re-cognition that within each sacred text, there is more than one single, definitive word or viewpoint. Instead, there are different, even contradictory positions. In contrast to the “gospel impulse” to simplify (Gates: 141), my imperative is to multiply and pluralise. While I generally do believe in the progressive potential of Derridean différance, my suggestion here has more to do with pluralism’s affirmation of options and choice. If pluralism promotes room for more than one viewpoint in the world, then a pluralistic “reading” should do the same with the narrative world of a (sacred) text. I would further argue for such a “reading” by appealing to another word in the title of my essay: context. Alan Sinfield, for example, has argued convincingly for the presence of multiple viewpoints and options (what he calls “faultlines”) in any single text because (1) textual production does not happen in a vacuum but in context (Macherey); and (2) context is inevitably contentious and complex (thus pluralistic?) rather than congruent, consisting of dominant, residual, and emergent elements (Williams).⁷

One can in fact argue that contexts are always already pluralistic. That is certainly true for the Bible, which was written and collected in times of colonial conflicts that involved more than one culture and one religion. This is particularly obvious in another sense when one talks about the Christian Bible, since it also incorporates (some of) the sacred text(s) of Rabbinic Judaism. One should also realize that people may potentially have different interpretations of what makes up “the” context of any given (sacred) text, thus again making “pluralistic context” in a sense gratuitous. A better word for it today may actually be “global.” 8 I am indebted here to John Guillory’s reading of Bourdieu and Cleanth Brooks, despite the fact that Guillory is really using Bourdieu and Brooks to talk about a related but different topic: namely, the (historical) entanglements between literary sensibility, religious belief, and scientific truth in modernity (136-75). 9 A good, though somewhat one-sided, illustration of this is the way the Christian Bible is made up of both the Jewish scripture (renamed the Old Testament) and the “New” Testament. A better example may be the way both Confucians and Taoists accept certain ancient Chinese classics like the I Ching as secondary sacred texts (Van Voorst: 8). 10 The dynamics of cultural production is of course what Eng is trying to get at when he interprets the process of canonization in terms of repetition (14). 11 It is obvious that no curriculum can cover all sacred texts, Asian/American or otherwise. As Guillory correctly points out, the word “canon” (and we may say, “sacred texts”) really stands for an “imaginary totality of works” (30), since the inclusion or exclusion of such works is always contested and changing. This fact does not diminish, but in fact deepens my argument that professors of the Bible committed to pluralism must begin to consider the issue regarding teaching and learning other(s’) sacred texts. 12 The term “immanent critique” comes from traditions of Western Marxism; see Warnke: 35. 7

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VIEWPOINTS Finally, let me point to yet a third key word that is important for us to consider: sacred. If the word “sacred” implies, among other things, otherness, then one’s “reading” of sacred texts should involve a “reading” of what is other or different. If “sacred” texts are, among other things, supposed to bring one into the presence of glory (however defined), this supposition expressed in Greek would result in an understanding that sacred texts are by definition “paradoxical” (para, “in the presence of”; doxa, “glory”).⁸ I would further argue that there is a close connection between this presence of plurality and the continual reception of certain texts as sacred by people in different times and/or places. Texts without multiple lives are texts that die out over time and/or space. Since I am talking about Greek, I may as well go back to the Bible. I contend in this regard that it is no longer enough to say that the Bible is part of a “library” of texts or that the Bible is itself a library of texts. Each text within the biblical library turns out to be itself a “library.” If I may return to the episode of Jesus’s temptation in Matthew 4, we find there an incredible conflict that is intertextual and pluralistic. Jesus and the devil are both quoting from Hebrew scripture(s) to make claims and counterclaims in a war of holy words, or a dispute over sacred text(s). What we find there then is a great illustration that neither Matthew nor the Hebrew Bible is “a monolithic entity in which all of its statements point in one direction” (Snodgrass: 118). This re-cognition will, I hope, remove the fundamentalist excuse of “thus saith the Lord,” and enable people to discuss and argue for their different positions with better reason and greater honesty. A pluralistic “reading” of sacred texts involves, however, more than just “reading” for options and contradictions within any single given sacred text. As pluralistic as a single given sacred text maybe, no one sacred text is pluralistic enough. Sacred text(s) within one’s tradition(s) cannot be completely adequate for self- examinations and/or universal aspirations. My suggestion for a pluralistic “reading” of sacred texts then requires also a “reading” with, or a “reading” through various sacred texts, Asian/American and otherwise. In a way modelled by Cha’s reading of John 4, this pluralistic “reading” should feature both the similarities and dissimilarities of different sacred texts, since my goal here is not building consensus but promoting understanding without understating differences. Such a “reading” may even promote a pluralism that allows people to draw on or from two or more (religious and/or cultural) traditions. In other words, a pluralistic society need not be one made up of different but definitely self- contained and isolated communities.⁹ I am once again referring to a hybridised or impure model of pluralism that I alluded to when I talked about the simultaneously appealing and appalling image of “Asian Bible-brokers.” Guillory has issued a caveat that current debates about canons and pluralism often fail to acknowledge (1) institutional contexts and dynamics; and (2) the issue of cultural production in addition to that of cultural representation or reception. Guillory’s caveat or warning is most relevant to my suggestion above. If (religious and/or cultural) pluralism requires and facilitates knowledge and understanding of sacred texts beyond one’s own tradition(s), what does it mean for someone like myself who teaches the New Testament in a liberal arts college in the USA? Am I, as an Asian/American, forgetting other—or, more accurately, my mother’s—sacred texts. Not only does this silence or silencing produce students who lack knowledge and understanding, it will reproduce or multiply this lack with compound interest. Why? Because if some sacred texts are not currently represented or received in my classroom, these same texts will not have currency in current and future cultural production of my students.¹⁰ Or, at the very least, their currency is and will be greatly short-circuited. This is well illustrated by Spinner-Halev, whose “uncertainty” or ignorance about other(s’) religions results in a book that affirms religion and pluralism without referring to any religion outside of Judeo-Christian traditions (22). If I may adapt Guillory’s language, dissemination of (other/Asian/American) sacred texts provides a cultural basis for the dispersion of (Asian/American) political power (100). I know that not all of my students will be ready to or even should consider this. For those that are committed to (religious and/or cultural) pluralism, however, I would like to end by posing them with this question: What does pluralism require of “us” in terms of other(s’) sacred texts, Asian/American or not,?¹¹ While I am not sure what my pluralistic “reading” of sacred texts would mean in the mission for and towards divinity, I do think that it—with its emphasis on internal or immanent critique,¹² as well as on interreligious and intercultural “literacy”—will, in the words of Martha C. Nussbaum, help “cultivate [a] humanity” that is both happy in and helpful to a pluralistic world (8).

Tat-siong Benny Liew is Class of 1956 Professor in New Testament Studies at the College of the Holy Cross, USA. He is the author of Politics of Parousia (Brill, 1999), and What Is Asian American Biblical Hermeneutics? (University of Hawaii Press, 2008). In addition, he is the editor of the Semeia volume on Present and Future of Biblical Studies (Brill, 2018), and Colonialism and the Bible: Contemporary Reflections from the Global South (with Fernando Segovia; Lexington, 2018), among others. Liew is also the Editor-in-chief of a critically acclaimed academic journal in the field of biblical studies, Biblical Interpretation (Brill); in addition, he is the Series Editor of T&T Clark’s Study Guides to the New Testament (Bloomsbury). Born and raised in Hong Kong, Liew self-identifies as both a Chinese American and an American Chinese. This short piece addresses the concern of pluralism, particularly in terms of religion, as our world is simultaneously becoming smaller and closer but potentially more conflictual because of globalisation. June 2019 | 41 8 October


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Casting out the colonial evils of racism by Bianca Gallant, Protestantse Kerk in Nederland

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fter the first CWM conference on the theme “legacies of slavery”, I felt a change of heart, and my attitude of “let’s move on with our lives” changed to “how can we arrive at a suitable approach to the painful history of slavery?” As a representative of the Protestantse Kerk in Nederland, it was an honour to participate in two CWM Legacies of Slavery hearings in London and in Jamaica. While preparing for the conference, I was touched by the position paper clarifying the hearings which stated: “Slavery (past and present) is an open wound, it is difficult to heal, it is complex and it is a sin.” The legacies of slavery hearings are a part of the journey toward healing and wholeness in the brokenness of silence and complicity. The brokenness of a world where manifestations of racism and racist attitudes are becoming more common. The project is a time of listening, story-telling, lamenting and confessing to live into the authentic reality of Jesus’ call to love and full liberation for all God’s people. This was literally the beginning of a call for me. Any faithful Christian would and should feel obligated to get more knowledge of all this. After these two meetings, I became more aware of the legacies of slavery and the impact on people's lives. This context is also very much applicable to the history of slavery and the colonial past of the Dutch conquerors in Suriname, my birthplace.

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My first conclusion was: If the church/Christianity has done so much harm back then, it is up to the church/Christians today to make a significant contribution to dismantle the power dynamics that divide and conquer, to continue casting out the colonial evils of racism that violate the gift of community, the meaning of church and the integrity of creation. The call to restorative justice should be considered a concrete sign of repentance and renewal. And that is exactly what the Legacies hearings invite us to do. In the Christian faith, there is a shared sense of sinfulness and brokenness of people. Thus, churches or places where Christianity is practised should become places where there is space for a conversation about the mistakes of the past, lamenting and the possibility of being healed again. Every year around the first of July, the Day of Abolition of Slavery in Suriname, Keti Koti (meaning “broken chain” in Surinamese) is celebrated by our Evangelical Lutheran Churches in the Netherlands. This denomination is part of the PKN, the main church of which one is found in the heart of Amsterdam. There will be a service held on the topic of slavery and freedom, and a meal of exotic snacks is shared before we move to the order of the day.


VIEWPOINTS We know and realise that this is not enough. Thus, we have sought support from the Moravian church in Amsterdam and The National Institute for the study of Dutch Slavery and its Legacy (NiNSee), which is the knowledge centre of the Dutch slavery past and its consequences for contemporary society. They became involved, and the result of this cooperation was the beginning of a working group that aims to research how to work towards a suitable approach to the history of slavery. The starting point chosen was the following statement of the Council of Churches of the Netherlands issued in 2015, which was the year marking 250 years of the abolition of slavery: Justification of the slavery past We as churches in the Netherlands, united in the Council of Churches, attach the following to the churches and descendants of the people who were once traded as slaves and had to work as slaves; descendants live in different countries, including in Suriname, Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten, the Caribbean Netherlands and the Netherlands. We know from the Bible that all people are created in God's image, but we have not judged people as image bearers; they have not been treated as would be desirable in accordance with the Charter of Human Rights, which was subsequently formulated. We acknowledge our involvement in the past of individual church members and of church associations in maintaining and legitimizing the slave trade; slavery took place for centuries until 1863 under the Dutch flag. There was no or insufficient respect for Biblical and human values. Hundreds of thousands of people were taken away from home and hearths and had to live in captivity for a lifetime, were exploited, had no chance to live their lives in freedom of belief, expression and work. Many died during transport. Millions of people were enslaved. As churches, we know our share of this guilty past and we must find that theology has been abused in certain circumstances to justify slavery. As churches, we name this involvement, and we want to help do justice to the descendants of those who are sometimes enslaved and exploited for generations, while we as churches realise that churches differed in terms of possibilities at the time and that there are also different sounds within different churches were heard. Who can forgive the guilt and offer forgiveness for people who can no longer speak and who have had to spend their lives in slavery until the end of their lives? We realise that we have talked too late, have had the right insights too little at the right time and have been guided by misguided pursuit of profit and abuse of power. It is a form of injustice that affects the present generation, where part of our society is built on the abuse of others and where discrimination is not sufficiently eradicated. There are many things that we can no longer change. We acknowledge descendants of the slaves that we have caused much suffering to. We express the wish to work with them and with all those who want to seek justice and peace for a society in which decent living, freedom, responsibility, solidarity and respect are fundamental values. We hope for a joint commitment to society, because we realize that even today, equality of people is by no means self-evident and will have to be discovered, acquired and defended every time. Council of Churches in the Netherlands June 2013 at 150 years of Keti Koti (literally translated as “shackles broken”).

Now 6 years later, we have come to the conclusion that there is a good explanation in taking responsibility, but that the actual elaboration of this statement is still complicated. Cooperation of so-called migrant churches and fellow Christians is still in its infancy. This also applies to what is called the Black Pete discussion* in secular society in the Netherlands, a clear example of the pain that black people feel and continued to be ignored by a large group of white Dutch people. In my humble opinion, the process has started here in our Lutheran Dutch community. This is because white and black church members look each other in the eye and feel more comfortable talking about this theme. I still regularly hear an undertone of incomprehension, but we can and will no longer say to each other “let’s get on about it and move on”. We, the Lutheran Church in Amsterdam, have now held two conferences with the third planned in November 2019. An essay competition has been organised with the aim of acquiring educational material and we have had three sermons around this theme in the run-up to 1st July. There is still a long way to go, and this lies in reaching other (especially) "white" churches, to also be involved in finding a suitable approach to help us process a shared past. With the help of the assignment that CWM has placed upon them, there is hope to apply God's Word in daily practice for visible progress. Being in a broken centre where Jesus Christ himself preceded us and then died on the cross for the forgiveness of all our sins, we too will continue on a beneficial path together. With good courage and contribute to a society where people can look each other in the eyes and say to each other with full conviction: “let ’s move on together with Christ himself in our midst”.

*

Anti-racism activists see Black Pete as a prime example of how racism and traces of slavery are present in the ordinary traditions of Dutch culture today. In recent years people of colour have started speaking out, detailing how often they’ve been compared to Black Pete, jokingly or otherwise, and how offensive that is. Meanwhile, self-proclaimed pro-Black Pete activists have said that getting rid of Black Pete, or changing him, would be tantamount to selling out Dutch national identity. (Theguardian.com) June 2019 | 43 8 October


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Hear the cries of our

FARMERS by Eykaey Tadiosa, Philippines

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am here in the hospital with my grandmother. She has an unstable angina, and a realisation came to me, that I should renew my license as a registered nurse even though I am a pastor. At first, I thought that not renewing my license is fine because I am not always practicing my nursing skills, but something needs to be continued. I need to save lives. Last ecclesial year 2018 until 2019, I was an intern administrative pastor assigned to two United Church of Christ in the Philippines’ churches, a mother and daughter church. As a church, they are different in dynamics and 27km away from each other but share the same needs. As I stayed in the daughter church in a very remote area where it took for me a 3-4 hour walk just to visit the houses of the congregation, I saw and heard their different stories and cries. I had the opportunity to experience living with them, working with them. Sadly, on the current situation of this province, their livelihood as coconut and palay (pre-husked rice) farmers was affected by the low copra and palay prices. Their hope on coconut and palays as their source of income gradually decreases. It was so sad to see that due to this, no one would like to spend time in the agricultural field. Many couldn’t finish their studies because their families could no longer can afford their expenses in school. Many of the youths are leaving their rural communities and looking for jobs in the urban industrial area. Because farming cannot sustain the needs of the family, the parents just let their children marry at a young age. And I think this is one of the factors in the Philippines where we have so many young mothers aged 14-15 especially in the rural areas. Many would say that living in the rural area is better than living in the city but “simple living” shouldn’t be a definition of being inhumane to farmers. We should give them what is right and what should rightly be theirs. We shouldn’t take advantage of their weaknesses because they weren’t able to study besides learning to count, to write their name and to read in our native language. They are really kind, generous, hospitable and loving people. They know how to care for and feed people even though I knew they have nothing.

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They are giving their blood and sweat just to produce food for us to eat. But the real score here in the Philippines, is that not only is climate change a headache for the farmers and peasants but also the capitalists who are eating them alive. Buying their produce for low prices until they fall into debt and will lease or sell their land so that they can pay for their debt. But these different land developers are silently clapping their ears and invisibly jumping in joy because they can now buy these agricultural lands. Agricultural land here in the Philippines is really cheap compared to residential and commercial land. For capitalists, that’s why this kind of land is a good investment since they can then convert it and resell it at a higher price. Then it is no wonder why houses in the subdivisions are flooded, being sunk into the ground. Many of the fields are converted into industrial and residential use, and it was sad to see and hear that not only the farmers are crying but the land is screaming. I want to speak up. I need to continue the farmers and peasants’ advocacy. I must do something. But I am afraid to speak up and end up just like the young female human rights activist who was being red-tagged and forcibly arrested by the military because she’s defending the rights of the farmers. The farmers and their families are getting hungry everyday and this kind of corruption running in our government is getting worse. I thought we are just importing from different countries goods which are uncommon to produce in my country, but it is alarming to know that we are also importing bananas, mangoes and rice grains which are all very native to my land. And I am being challenged to plant a seed of hope, awareness and action. Something must be done. I can’t just let my tears fall without doing a concrete way of helping the farmers and their families. Yes, I am mad and angry. But I have a greater role as a shepherd of the flock, spiritual leader and chief executive officer of the congregation being entrusted to me. I will equip this congregation to be God’s vessel of fullness and to live meaningful lives, especially the youth who are the future hope of my motherland. I need to act in such a way that no one will be harmed and hurt. Although we have this kind of human rights violation issues especially if we get in the way of the selfish and greedy in power and wealth, I will still continue to raise awareness. I now understand why all of my ancestors were striving hard for justice and peace; it was not only for those they are helping but for everyone and for the future generation. Truly, everyone and everything are connected to each other. And I will continue to save lives in every way I am capable of, with the help and guidance of the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.

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More weapons, but less peace The Paradox of our Time by Hadje C. Sadje, Belgium

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Ground Zero, New York City, N.Y. (Sept. 17, 2001) -- An aerial view shows only a small portion of the scene where the World Trade Centre collapsed following the Sept. 11 terrorist attack. Surrounding buildings were heavily damaged by the debris and massive force of the falling twin towers. Clean-up efforts are expected to continue for months. Photo by U.S. Navy Chief Photographer's Mate Eric J. Tilford.

side from the emergence of several highly militarised societies, “why do we have more weapons, but have less and less peace today?” After the 9/11 attacks, fear grows (Resnik 2017). When American and its allies withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal, it gives the people the impression that a new war is coming soon. While Western mainstream media exaggerate the “Iran-phobia” and “Russophobia”, the American and its allies creating an atmosphere to normalise war of aggression on the world stage. Actually, scholars have seen that these are the days of normalising international crimes of aggression (Lange 2016). The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court articles 8 bis 1 and 2 state: “The crime of aggression means "the planning, preparation, initiation or execution, by a person in a position effectively to exercise control over or to direct the political or military action of a State, of an act of aggression which, by its character, gravity and scale, constitutes a manifest violation of the Charter of the United Nations". Despite being repeatedly asserted by various organisations of civil society, the noncompliance with these norms was widespread. The ideology of no alternatives for a war was pursued. War, specifically, preemptive war, has become standard, usual, or expected. This set of ideology or ideology of no alternative for war was manufactured and maintained by Western policymakers and the Western mainstream media. Miserably, war (over arbitration, the World Court, conciliation, and conference) became a permanent condition for global peace. Ironically, many people believe and embrace that there is no alternative but to accept war. Even without an asserting legitimate right of self-defense. As Rosa Brooks (2016) argues, “...everything became war, and the military became everything”. The normalisation of war, nonetheless, is not striking new. As a matter of fact, the classical view of modern state formation relied on the monopoly of violence, military conquest, oppression, and occupation to constitute nation-building, especially based on the historical experiences of European states (Tilly 1985; Hobbes 1997; Joireman 2004; Taylor 2008). And it has had a long and depressing history (Axtmann 2004). But nowadays, many scholars are opposed to war. They believe war is not the best option to solve international disputes, not because it is the most politically effective or advantageous position (Joireman 2004). Rather, war is a false choice and an indication of a weak state. Lamentably, the twentieth history has, once again, seen a reversal of desire with war culture. It is increasingly becoming normalised in everyday media and social platforms (Farhat 2015). Alongside the normalisation of war, the obsession of some Western and non-Western nations with military culture continues. The militarisation of civil society have become a new normal (DeFrieze 2014; Evans 2017). For instance, according to Global Militarisation Index-Bonn International Center for Conversion (2016), “...ten countries that have the highest levels of militarisation for the year 2015 are Israel, Singapore, Armenia, Jordan, Russia, South Korea, Cyprus, Greece, Azerbaijan and Brunei.” GMI added, “These countries allocate particularly high levels of resources to the armed forces in comparison to other areas of society (2016)”.

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In connection, the normalisation of war-military culture and arms proliferation goes hand in hand. The report shows that the volume of international arms transfers has grown steadily since 2003, especially small arms, light weapons, illicit arms, and weapons of mass destruction (GRIP 2017; Amnesty International 2019; EU-EA 2019; ). According to Amnesty International (2019): despite the arms trade treaty, the global spending on arms is booming. AI also stated that “...SIPRI estimates that the total value of the global arms trade in 2017 was at least $95 billion.” And, the “United States accounted for 36 percent of world military spending in 2018”. While the “Saudi Arabia became the world’s largest arms importer and the US and UK are by far the largest suppliers (Amnesty International August 23, 2019)”. How about the human face of war? It should not be forgotten that the human costs of war are certainly profound and devastating---direct and indirect victims. For instance, according to estimates of Control Arms, “...8 million light weapons are produced each year. 2 bullets are produced each year for every person on the planet. 2 out of 3 people killed by armed violence die in countries "at peace". 10 people are injured for every person killed by armed violence” (Compass 2012). A similar observation was made in a recent report of the Uppsala Conflict Data Program (2019), accordingly, “2,436,351 people have died in armed conflicts since 1989 – with over 77,320 in 2018”.

Of course, this is only a conservative estimate and the people have died is increasing, including an unknown number of civilians. Similarly, in 2001, the Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs (2001) write a perfect summary of the costs of war: (a) over 480,000 have died due to direct war violence, and several times as many indirectly (b) over 244,000 civilians have been killed as a result of the fighting (c) 21 million — the number of war refugees and displaced persons (d) The US federal price tag for the post-9/11 wars is over $5.9 trillion dollars (e) The US government is conducting counter-terror activities in 80 countries (f) The wars have been accompanied by violations of human rights and civil liberties, in the US and abroad. In addition, WIIPA (2001) also showed that more than 400 million metric tons are directly contributed to climate change due to war-related fuel consumption, specifically United States military operations. Evidently, these brutal realities of war-military culture raise political-economic and moral-theological challenges. But, the Christian churches have adopted different positions on war-military culture. There are many theologies that justified violence and support war-military operations (Gentile 1990; Graham 2017). Of course, it is notoriously dangerous to make generalisations. Nevertheless, in every part of the Christian community and every theological tradition there seem to be some common trends.

Despite such diversities, a general revival of interest in the great theological disciplines: systematics, church history, ethics, and, perhaps above all, the Scripture to justify violence and support war-military operations. On May 14, 1948, for instance, the declaration of the establishment of the modern State of Israel was supported and justified by the theology of the Christian Zionists (Burge 2003; Sizer 2004; Masalha 2007). With the use of violence and methods of ethnic cleansing, the Zionist movement successfully take up some 78 percent of historic Palestine (Pappé 2006). Up to now, Israel’s colonisation, human rights violations of Palestinian rights, and the militarisation of the Palestinian society continue. It is getting worse day by day (Amnesty International 2019; HRW World Report 2019; OHCHR 2019). Sadly, it is politically, culturally, financially, militarily, and theologically supported by global Zionist Jews and the American Christian “fundamentalists” (Chomsky 2010; Finkelstein 2016). Another example is the American invasion and occupation of Iraq in September 2001. The American global campaign “war on terror” becomes “holy crusade” against Muslim nations (Aljazeera 2006; Haberski, Jr. 2009). During the American campaign to remove the Saddam regime, a professor of religion Charles Marsh observed, the American evangelicals had a shaky theological basis to support the Iraq War. In his article entitled “Wayward Christian Soldiers“ which was originally published in The New York Times (2006), Marsh writes:

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“The war sermons rallied the evangelical congregations behind the invasion of Iraq. An astonishing 87 percent of all white evangelical Christians in the United States supported the president's decision in April 2003. Recent polls indicate that 68 percent of white evangelicals continue to support the war. But what surprised me, looking at these sermons nearly three years later, was how little attention they paid to actual Christian moral doctrine. Some tried to square the American invasion with Christian "just war" theory, but such efforts could never quite reckon with the criterion that force must only be used as a last resort. As a result, many ministers dismissed the theory as no longer relevant.” Marsh continued: “Some preachers tried to link Saddam Hussein with wicked King Nebuchadnezzar of Biblical fame, but these arguments depended on esoteric interpretations of the Old Testament book of II Kings and could not easily be reduced to the kinds of catchy phrases that are projected onto video screens in vast evangelical churches. The single common theme among the war sermons appeared to be this: our president [George WH Bush Jr.] is a real brother in Christ, and because he has discerned that God's will is for our nation to be at war against Iraq, we shall gloriously comply.” Obviously, this is the situation that is cloaked by the theology of American exceptionalism provided by the ideology of the dominant class (Haberski, Jr. 2009). It is useful to the American government and the American Christian fundamentalists, to justify to their ideological “preordained quasi-messianic mission”---the messianic sense of the nation’s destiny (McDougall 1988). It would, however, be totally consistent with the Christian faith and the theology of the Church if America would show a very strong commitment to support just-peace and totally reject the war-military culture. Even in non-Western nations, there are some theologies supported the state violence. For example, the Philippine President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s bloody war on drugs campaign is actively supported by many Filipino Evangelical and Pentecostal churches (Ravillas 2018; Cornelio and Medina 2019). In fact, it is publicly continued to express by various Christian groups (Cornelio and Medina 2019).

King Nebuchadnezzar Besieging Jerusalem by Frans Pourbus the Elder

Saddam Hussein in 1988.

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There are two ways, by the theologians and the people of God, to counteract the normalisation of war-military culture and arms proliferation, whether a theologian, a minister, and a student, every voice counts. In the same way, everyone has a unique reach and can create a ripple effect across our spheres of influence. But, first and foremost, “be informed” or “educate yourself”. The global Christian churches should seek alternatives. There are other theological views. In contrast with theology above, some theologies opposed state violence, participation in the war, and reject military culture (Hauerwas 1983; Kaufmann 1989; Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches 2014). Most of these theologies are not popular and not appreciated, often misunderstood by other Christian communities. Yet, the challenge has been undertaken. For instance, the Mennonite Church has long been associated with peace theology and conscious objection to war and military operation. Their publications contributed to the entire range of theological research on just-peace issues. Using the Mennonite peace theology, it might be worthwhile rediscovering and reevaluating our theological propositions as one of the alternatives. For example, Mennonite Position on Military Service (Mennonite Church 1917), Mennonite Peace Theology: A Panoramic Types (1991), The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder (1968), Living Gently in a Violent World by Stanley Hauerwas (2008), If Jesus is Lord: Loving Our Enemies in Age of Violence by Ronald Sider (2019). The theology of non-violence articulated as part of a broader work: The Anabaptist Vision by Harold S Bender (1944), The Upside Down Kingdom by Donald Kraybill (1978), The Naked Anabaptist by Stuart Murray (2010) to name a few. It is not that easy but it is worth.

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Next, “the public opinion shapes public policy, therefore theology should influence the public opinion” While on the ground, state violence and the militarisation of civil society has become commonplace, the global Christian community should develop a theology that can penetrate the moral crisis of military discourse, especially on war culture and arms proliferation (Brueggemann 2001; Oliver 2004; Lindsay-Poland 2017; Koehler 2018). Scholars argue that war is a large scale social behavior and carried out by a polity. Therefore, the Christian churches should actively participate in the formation of public opinion and subsequently affect policy (Joas and Knöbl 2012). But, the involvement of Christian churches in the formation of public opinion does not exclude other faith traditions and non-believers. Through the formation of public opinion, political action is made possible that will provide the condition, including condemning the illicit arms proliferation and the normalisation the war-military culture. The global Christianity need a small step beyond the parameters of conventional beliefs that rejects the conventional left-right or pro-anti-war spectrum. They should take their faith tradition into public arena with intellectual humility, willingness to be proven wrong, espouse tolerance of diversity and reject discrimination. In conclusion, let us get back to the main question, “why we have more weapons, but we have less and less peace today?” The facts speak for themselves that the global superpowers lulled the global community into a false sense of peace and order---Pax Americana. It can be certain, however, the normalisation of war-military culture and arms proliferation (small, light, and illicit weapons) caused immense destruction across the globe. The money, time, and political capital invested in pursuing the “War on Terror”, rather than investing in fighting global warming, massive poverty, AIDS, lack of education, unemployment, malnourishment, and hunger (UN Global Issues). Simply put, the global actors focusing on the wrong front. If people think that there is no viable alternative, then accept the militarism and propensity of war, think again. Or, if people think, it’s not a problem that’s the problem! As Jesus says in Matthew 26: 52, “Live by the Sword - Die by the Sword”. An invitation to pray and ponder offered by the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches document entitled, “Christian and War” (1993):

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Pray for peace and for people in government. Make every effort to obey the law; however, do not accept military service that involves training in how to kill fellow human beings who are also made in the image of God. Join a relief organisation to serve unarmed in war zones; provide aid to the victims of war. Do not avoid dangerous assignments while doing good; Christians are not cowards. Even in honourable professions and businesses, do not exploit the tragedy of war for personal gain. Make a living by producing goods and services that sustain life; refuse jobs associated with killing and destruction. Be willing to accept the penalties the state may impose for those who refuse to participate in military action. Witness to the conviction that Christians who believe Jesus taught his followers not to kill cannot serve as soldiers but willingly serve their country in constructive ways. Urge the peaceful resolution of all disputes while recognising that leaders of countries are part of this world’s system and do not, therefore, rule in full accord with the biblical principle of peace. Share the good news of salvation even in time of war.

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The Era of Conscience War by Ljavakaw Tjaljimaraw, Presbyterian Church in Taiwan

From Cold War to Conscience War The late British historian Eric Hobsbawm termed the twentieth century as “the age of extremes.” In the latter half of that age, the world was divided into two blocks: one was the United State-led capitalist camp and the other the Soviet Union-dominated communist camp. This is the era that we all know as the “Cold War.” This is the time the world was divided by two empires. The five countries in which our churches are located, i.e., Japan, Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Myanmar, share with each other the important geopolitical characteristic of being located on the Eastern fringe of the Eurasia – to be more precise, these five countries are in fact situated in-between Mainland Asia and two great oceans, that is, the Pacific and Indian Oceans. With this geopolitical commonality, the peoples in these five countries had indeed experienced rather similar sufferings and struggles as they stood unwillingly on the forefront of Cold War. With the support of the United States, military dictatorships or authoritarian regimes that were infamous for their corruption and brutality were set up in Korea, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Taiwan in the name of containing communism, while the American-imposed democracy in postwar Japan soon ossified into the so-called “1955 System,” which meant long-term domination by a right-wing conservative party. In spite of the highly constrained world order in the Cold War, the peoples in the five countries worked hard for freedom, human rights, and democratisation. UCCJ, UCCP, PCM, PCK, PROK, and PCT were all involved into these hard-fought battles, and some even have played a significant role in facilitating and consolidating democracy in their respective countries.

In the wake of the breakdown of the Soviet Union, the world seemed to become more optimistic, believing that a new, much better world would come into being in a future not far away. Indeed, anti-communist authoritarianism could no longer find legitimacy for its continuation after the Soviet Union collapsed. Democratisation and the rotation of power began in the late 1980s, first in the Philippines and Korea, and subsequently Japan and Taiwan, and eventually in Myanmar. In this ongoing process, we devoted our energies to pursuing goals such as protection of the environment, respect of human rights, social-economic equality, and self-government for small nations or ethnic minorities. Our efforts were made in the belief that we were observing and fulfilling the will of God and, by doing so, enhancing the quality of our countries and improving the lives of our peoples.

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Representatives of UCCP, PCM, and PCK failed to attend this meeting held in Tokyo due to some reasons.


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At the international level, we were also heady with optimism. Neoliberal politicians, economists, and globalisationists, particularly those who were based in the Wall Street and the Eastern and Western Seaboards of the United States, convinced us that the remaining communist regimes, of which China is the largest in size, could be transformed and brought into a greater partnership with the world if we brought them into the global capitalist system. Pro-globalisation neoliberals portrayed a rosy prospect where freedom would prevail as economic liberalisation spilled over and thus contributed to the realisation of the freedoms in other forms. Those who held this view were even given an innocent-sounding nickname: “Panda Huggers.” However, in spite of a promising start, things soon began to turn sour. Let me quote Matsuda Yasuhiro, a Japanese scholar of international relations from the University of Tokyo, who remarked that “there was a fantasy that after China became rich then the lower class will rise and democratisation would follow.”

Today we cannot help but start to doubt our naivety in believing that communist China would become as innocuous as a panda. Take Taiwan as an example. Since the early 1990s when China was still under sanctions imposed by international society following the Tiananmen Square Massacre, Taiwan has been one of the most helpful and receptive countries in the world to give China open access to its economy and satisfy China’s thirst for foreign aid, investments, and technologies. How has Taiwan been repaid by China? Today, Taiwan is still targeted by thousands of Chinese missiles and still unfairly and unjustly barred from participating in most international organisations, including the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO), simply because of pressure from China. The even more heartbreaking, and indeed inhumane, reality is that each time Taiwan faces a disaster or emergency, for example, the major earthquake in 1999, the outbreak of the fatal disease SARS in 2003, and Typhoon Morakot in 2009, China tried every means to impede or delay international groups providing relief, rescue, or medical cooperation from entering Taiwan until they submitted to China’s political claim that Taiwan is part of China, which was obviously irrelevant to task of saving lives.

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Regrettably, the bright outlook at the end of the Cold War has not come true. The reality is that we are not facing an innocent and friendly panda, but an out-of-control Frankenstein risen from the ruins of communism and sustained by state-sponsored slave labour. In our terminology, we use the concept of “empire” to refer metaphorically to a variety of oppressive, life-denying powers or regimes. But this term has become literally true when we describe this Frankenstein empire. Neither China’s economy nor environment are sustainable in the long run, but Xi Jinping has now constitutionally ensured that his leadership will last indefinitely. Now only death can separate Xi from the presidency, and China has in reality become an empire under the unconstrained rule of an emperor for life. In recent years, we have heard our brothers’ and sisters’ bloods cry out to God from the ground under the rule of the empire. The sounds of their cries have become louder and louder, so that no one can remain unperturbed by them.

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Listen! Our Brothers’ and Sisters’ Bloods Cry out to God from the Ground… Uyghurs, Tibetans, Trafficked Christians, and Missionaries

Brides,

Cries come from Uyghurs in Xinjiang. More than one million Uyghur Muslims are currently imprisoned in the so-called “re-education camps,” a modern-day equivalent of concentration camps, where they are subject to around-the-clock brainwashing and torture, or even death. Female survivors of the camps said they were given unknown drugs and injections that made them sterilised. Children have died on the streets because their parents were detained in camps. Uyghurs, following the members of Falun Gong and other dissidents, have become the main source of organ harvesting in China. In Xinjiang’s airports, “Green Channels for Human Organs” have been established to ensure that the transportation of organs can be done as speedily as possible. Cries come also from Buddhists in Tibet. Over the past decade, more than 150 Tibetan monks have set themselves on fire to protest China’s repression of their beliefs and culture. Cries come from the teenage brides trafficked to China from Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, and Pakistan. Cries come also from house-church Christians. They have witnessed crosses torn down, bibles burned, churches harassed, raided, or shut down, ministers arrested, and believers put in jail. Among these suffering Christians, more than one thousand Korean missionaries were deported between 2013 and 2017, and many churches established by these missionaries were shut down. In 2018, another two Korean missionaries were arrested in the city of Wenzhou and their church searched by the authorities. Other than Koreans, nineteen Japanese Christians were held in China and later deported to Japan in 2017, and another twenty-one Japanese Christians were arrested in 2018.

Falun Gong Exhibition against Organ Harvesting

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Listen! Our Brothers’ and Sisters’ Bloods Cry out to God from the Ground… As history attests though, a repressive dictatorship rarely constrains its suppression within its own borders. Just ask Hong Kong, which was promised “one country, two systems” but actually got nothing but lip service. Over the last two decades, the world has witnessed how Hong Kong’s democratic progress has been blocked, the basis of the rule of law and good governance in Hong Kong undermined, Hongkongers’ freedom of speech eroded, and the credibility of Hong Kong as a global financial city destroyed. The influx of massive politically-driven capital flight and immigration from China into Hong Kong has degraded socio-economic conditions, triggering a new wave of emigration from Hong Kong. Hong Kong has quickly become a place that is unliveable for Hongkongers, especially for its young people. However, in the recent anti-extradition bill protests, it was young Hongkongers who showed the most impressive fortitude and courage to protect their city. For this, how were they treated? First one million citizens, then two million went out onto the street to voice their demands, but the Hong Kong government dared not to respond positively under pressure from Beijing. Out of desperation, eight young people committed suicide as martyrs in protest against the tyranny. A first-aid nurse was shot in the right eye by the police, while another seven suffered the same brutality and will lose their sight forever. Around a dozen people were allegedly killed by the police on the street or in metro stations, some of them were later claimed to have “committed suicide” by jumping from buildings or into the sea. Another eighty were seriously injured by gangsters with the connivance of the police, more than two thousand arrested and beaten, and more than one thousand prosecuted. Countless more were injured or exiled. Most shockingly, many of the women arrested were sexually abused and harassed by the police. This also happened when Koreans and Taiwanese were fighting for democratisation. The police did this on purpose to humiliate these young women and deter them from taking the streets again. Any decent person will tremble with anger when hearing about this shameful treatment that Hongkongers were subjected to.

Military Expansion Authoritarian expansionism does not stop at Hong Kong. China is brandishing its fist like never before. Chinese ships routinely patrol around the Senkaku Islands, Taiwan Strait, and the Spratly Islands. It has also deployed advanced anti-ship and anti-air missiles on military bases constructed on artificial islands. China’s intention is apparent. In Beijing’s strategic consideration, the East China Sea, Taiwan Strait, and the West Philippine Sea, which currently serve as international waters where all countries of the world enjoy freedom of navigation, should be converted into China’s inland seas where the freedom of navigation is allowed only for Chinese ships and others approved by Beijing. By claiming these three important waters as its inland seas, China can extend its military power to half of the Pacific, a strategic aim which Chinese President Xi Jinping has reiterated: “The Pacific Ocean is big enough to accommodate both China and the US.”

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Debt Diplomacy Authoritarian expansionism does not appear simply in military form. China is manipulating so-called “debt diplomacy” to expand its influence through the two paths widely known as “One Belt, One Road.” By offering hundreds of billions of dollars in infrastructure loans to governments from Asia to Africa to Europe, China is inducing these developing, and mostly non-democratic, countries to take on massive debt to allow Chinese state companies to build facilities such as seaports, airports, railways, highways, power plants, and so on that are of questionable commercial value and not affordable. The case of Sri Lanka is typical. Three years ago, Sri Lanka was forced to handover a Chinese built port because its government could no longer afford payments for the project. This port has now become a forward military base for Chinese navy. Even worse than that, these massive loans are often delivered to the targeted countries through use of corrupted local politicians as brokers, worsening existing domestic divisions and even triggering civil war or ethnic cleansing between rival groups.

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TAIWAN not CHINA, TAIWAN be TAIWAN. Photo by ©Tim Maddog

Learn a Lesson from Taiwan’s Suffering and Struggling Taiwan is a textbook case that demonstrates how China is exporting democratic crisis to surrounding countries. More precisely, China is trying every means to overthrow Taiwan’s democracy. The Hong Kong protestors have repeatedly sent a warning signal to Taiwan with the slogan “Today’s Hong Kong, Tomorrow’s Taiwan,” which means what is happening in Hong Kong now may be Taiwan’s fate in the future. I believe Hongkongers’ warning should be taken seriously not only by Taiwan but also by all neighbouring countries. It is not difficult to imagine that today’s Taiwan will be tomorrow’s Korea, tomorrow’s Japan, tomorrow’s Philippines, or tomorrow’s Myanmar if China’s authoritarian expansionism is allowed to run its course. As we Taiwanese stand at the forefront of resisting this authoritarian expansionism, I feel obligated to warn our neighbours of this new form of comprehensive and multi-dimensional warfare and hope you may learn from what we Taiwanese are suffering and struggling against.

Local Politicians Over the last decade, China had aggressively bought off Taiwan’s local politicians, from city mayors to members of local councils and even down to chiefs of villages, through a variety of channels, such as expenses-paid tours to China, subsidies, privileges, franchises for doing business in China, agricultural purchases, donations to local cultural events or festivals, religious exchanges and so on. By doing so, China is systematically influencing the political views of local politicians in China’s favour, and in elections they have been effectively turned into agents that mobilise grassroots voters for pro-China candidates.

Media To widen its influence on more diverse strata of Taiwan society, the Communist Party has instructed business owners with strong China connections to buy media outlets that enjoy nation-wide coverage in Taiwan and turn them into mouthpieces and propaganda outlets for Beijing. TV news programs and talk shows are used as weapons to attack the Taiwanese government and as brainwashing propaganda to promote pro-China politicians twenty-four hours a day.

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Of course, China has not overlooked local broadcasting companies and emerging social medias. Disinformation launched by the Chinese cyber army can be found everywhere on these platforms. Although Facebook and YouTube are strictly forbidden within China, the Chinese cyber army has recently purchased hundreds, if not thousands, of popular Facebook fan pages and YouTubers as a means to influence the younger generation. Fake news and deliberately misleading information are created with the intent to create chaos and sow division within Taiwan society.

Chinese soldiers browse online news on desktop computers at a garrison of the People's Liberation Army in Chongqing in 2013. (AP/Gao Xiaowen)

Last September, as our Japanese friends may remember, a senior Taiwanese diplomat working in the Osaka Office of the Taiwan Embassy in Japan committed suicide after he was defamed by an internet rumour which quickly became headline news on around-the-clock TV news programs and talk shows for several days. This rumour claimed that the Taiwan Embassy did nothing to help hundreds of Taiwanese tourists trapped in Kansai Airport by Super Typhoon Jebi, and instead it was the China Embassy that sent fifteen buses to rescue them. The result of this disinformation was a tragic and even criminal loss of life.

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Academics China also exerts pressure on academia and tries to silence or buy off scholars. Universities, colleges, departments, research centres, think tanks, and even individual professors and students have been contacted through a variety of academic activities and exchanges, and many of them have even been drawn in with grants, cooperation plans, or job recruitment offered by the Chinese government or universities.

While the funding offered by Beijing is often very generous, the unmentioned precondition is to observe self-censorship by avoiding even mentioning ideas or issues that the Chinese government finds dangerous or offensive. As you all know, the Communist Party is sensitive to so many things that you can hardly avoid them. Issues related to the “three Ts” – Tiananmen, Tibet, and Taiwan – are the most strictly forbidden. Another “T” – East Turkestan – can now be added to this list. All China experts, regardless of nationality, know that their visas will be delayed or denied if their research diverges from Beijing’s propaganda. What is worse, Beijing has consciously fostered academic institutions’ and individual scholars’ psychological addiction to and financial dependency on funding from China. We all know that only academics of integrity can benefit our countries and peoples. But how can they be fair and honest if they are in a constant state of unease that China may withdraw funding from their research projects? June 2019 | 61 8 October


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Business Circles Beijing also holds hostage businesses that have bet the lion share of their profits on China. The tourism industry is a classic case of this. The tourism industry includes a variety of businesses that involves a large amount of domestic investment and employment, such as hotels, transportation, restaurants, resorts, recreation parks, shopping malls, local specialty stores, scenic spots, tourism services, and so on. It is very difficult for these tourism businesses to refuse easy money from Chinese tourists once they are allowed to flood in. As soon as the dependency on Chinese tourists is created, the tourism industry became vulnerable to China’s unrestricted warfare that actually deploys Chinese tourists as a political weapon. By simply threatening to limit the “export” of Chinese tourists, Beijing can easily turn the industrial chain of tourism into a huge lobby group that leverages domestic policy and politics in China’s favor. The same political-economic manipulation applies to China’s agricultural purchases. Believing the false commitments to buy a large amount of agricultural and aquafarming products, many farmers and fishers in Taiwan have suffered from over-investment and even technology-theft. The political-economic warfare is also waged against foreign companies that have operations in China. Our Korean friends might remember the Flag Incident involving Chou Tzu-yu, who comes from Taiwan and became a leading member of the K-pop girl group Twice.

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One of the largest Korean entertainment companies, JYP Entertainment, forced Tzu-yu, under the pressure from China, to apologise and confess her “mistake” in a video uploaded to YouTube in the same way that ISIS treated its captures, simply because she previously identified herself as a Taiwanese in a Korean TV program. Our Hong Kong friends will also be familiar with the recent incident where shops selling Taiwanese bubble tea, which seems to have become popular in Japan too, were forced to openly declare that they supported China’s “One Country, Two Systems” policy on Hong Kong and opposed the demands of Hongkongers, simply because one of those shops in Hong Kong expressed sympathy with Hongkongers’ cause and responded to calls for a shopkeeper’s strike. These threats have been wielded not only against small companies, but also big companies like airlines. Last year, twenty airlines, including Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Philippine Airlines, and Korea’s second-largest Asiana Airlines, caved to Chinese pressure to rename Taiwan as “Taiwan, China.” In doing so, they were creating the worrying precedent of letting China dictate new international norms – in this case regarding Taiwan’s status – by threatening the airlines with a drop in the number of Chinese passengers.


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Listen! Our Brothers Authoritarian expansionism does not stop at Hong Kong. China is brandishing its fist like never before. Chinese ships routinely patrol around the Senkaku Islands, Taiwan Strait, and the Spratly Islands. It has also deployed advanced anti-ship and anti-air missiles on military bases constructed on artificial islands. China’s intention is apparent. In Beijing’s strategic consideration, the East China Sea, Taiwan Strait, and the West Philippine Sea, which currently serve as international waters where all countries of the world enjoy freedom of navigation, should be converted into China’s inland seas where the freedom of navigation is allowed only for Chinese ships and others approved by Beijing. By claiming these three important waters as its inland seas, China can extend its military power to half of the Pacific, a strategic aim which Chinese President Xi Jinping has reiterated: “The Pacific Ocean is big enough to accommodate both China and the US.” Tibetan People Demand ~ Remember Tiananmen Remember Tibet in NYC on the 20th Anniversary of June 1989 Massacre in Beijing, China. Photo by SFT HQ (Students for a Free Tibet)

Am I My Brothers’ and Sisters’ Keeper? (Genesis 4: 9-10)

Let’s Wash Our Hands as Pilatus Did? (Matthew 27: 24)

The humanitarian crises experienced by small nations under Chinese rule and the democratic crises that China is exporting to the world, in whatever form they have appeared, have our conscience under interrogation. The world is once again approaching a crossroads. However, this is not a repeat of the Cold War, nor what scholars of international relations call the “New Cold War” or “Cool War.” In my view, we are actually entering the era of “Conscience War” when the bloods of Uyghurs, Tibetans, Hongkongers, and so many unnamable cry out to God from the ground.

Let’s take water, wash our hands in front of the world, and say, “Our hands are clean of Uyghurs’ blood, Tibetans’ blood, underground Christians’ blood, Hongkongers’ blood, trafficked brides’ blood, and probably Taiwanese’s blood in the near future. It’s China’s responsibility. It’s all the Chinese government’s responsibility.”

We hear the cries, and we see the innocents crucified at the cross erected by a contemporary empire. While Falun Gong has accused the empire of being “an unprecedented evil on this planet” and young Hong Kong protestors slammed it as “Chinazi,” a new term combining “China” and “Nazi,” our churches seem to hesitate to call it out or to help and show solidarity to those who are suffering from the empire. We must fear the Lord who may ask us as He had asked Cain: “Where are your brothers and sisters?” We might harden our hearts as Cain did to reply: “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” Dare we reply: “Am I the Uyghurs’ keeper?” “Am I the Tibetans’ keeper?” “Am I the underground Christians’ keeper?” “Am I the Hongkongers’ keeper?” “Am I the Taiwanese’s keeper?” “Am I the trafficked brides’ keeper?” “Am I the Korean and Japanese missionaries’ keeper?”

Is it legitimate for us to do that? One thing we should always bear in mind: Hitler did not kill six million Jews by himself but by utilising a super-efficient military-bureaucratic machine. Neither did Xi Jinping build the concentration camps, set off tear gas, and crack down churches and temples by himself. It took a huge military-bureaucratic machine to accomplish all these things. Thirty years ago, China was one of the poorest countries in the world and the Chinese economy was on the verge of a breakdown. However, over the last two decades, China’s military expense has become equivalent to that of that of the combined expenditure of the remaining Asian countries, and it spends even more per year on so-called “maintaining stability,” which actually means suppressing Uyghurs, Tibetans, Hongkongers, and many other dissidents and innocents. Then, the question follows: how has this huge military-bureaucratic machine been built and run?

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The inconvenient fact is that we help build this mass-killing machine and keep fueling it, even thought that was not our intention. China is now the top trading partner with many countries. The five countries in which our churches are placed are no exceptions. Korea, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Myanmar all have China as its top trading partner. When looking from China’s perspective, you will see these five countries have remained in the list of China’s top ten trading partners over the last decade. Just take a look at China’s top ten trading partners by country in 2010: unsurprisingly, the United States ranked first, while Japan was placed second, followed by Hong Kong in third place, Korea in fourth place, and Taiwan in fifth place. This ranking by country of China’s top ten trading partners has largely remained unchanged over the last decade. In 2014 the United States was replaced by the European Union in first place; Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan ranked in order from fourth place to seventh place; the most conspicuous thing was that ASEAN, in which the Philippines and Myanmar are included, was ranked in third place. It is fair to say that this “China Empire” could not develop and run its huge military-bureaucratic machine without the inflow of aid, investment, trade, and technology from our governments, companies, universities, and even churches. And we keep fueling this machine by doing business with China while turning a blind eye, consciously or unconsciously, to this inconvenient fact. The inconvenient fact is that we helped build the military-bureaucratic machine that is used by China to do very evil things. And we keep funding this machine, otherwise it could not run for one more second. The inconvenient fact is that the money you spend on any item of made-in-China clothing bought in a department store could be turned into a brick that is used to build the concentration camps in Xinjiang. The inconvenient fact is that the profit generated from any cargo of made-in-China shoes shipped to your country could be appropriated to manufacture a tank that patrols the streets of Tibet. The inconvenient fact is that the cost of any item of consumer electronics you bought for yourselves and your children could help make the tear gas that has been set off in the metro stations of Hong Kong. We must fear the Lord who will ask, “What have you done? Listen! Your brothers’ and sisters’ blood cries out to me from the ground.” We have to confess that we all have a stake in that evil and we have our brothers’ and sisters’ blood on our hands. We have to confess, and we have to do something to redeem the debts we owe to our brothers and sisters.

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A man passes by a symbol reading 'Made in China 2025' during a manufacturing expo on November 29, 2018 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by VCG via Getty Images)

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Moral Obligation and Just Courage to Be on God’s Side I would like to share you with a successful example set by our forerunners, a beautiful story of how our churches showed solidarity with suffering people. Half a century ago in the 1970s, the United States carried out its opportunistic Kissingerian diplomacy to switch diplomatic ties from Chiang Kai-shek’s so-called “Free China” exiled in Taiwan to Mao Zedong’s Communist China in Beijing. At that time, the Taiwanese people were in state of a great anxiety that Taiwan might be misused as a gift sacrificed in a Machiavellian trade between the United States and Communist China. It was in this critical juncture that the PCT came forward at real risk to their lives of those involved to speak for the then 15 million Taiwanese people who were terrified and silenced by the White Terror of Chiang Kai-shek’s “Free China” regime. The PCT published three declarations in succession as a distress signal to all nations and churches in the world. In confessing “that Jesus Christ is Lord of all mankind,” and in believing “that human rights and a land in which each one of us has a stake are gifts bestowed by God,” the PCT appealed to the countries concerned, in particular the then American President Carter, and to all churches throughout the world, requesting them to take effective steps to “uphold the principles of human rights while pursuing the normalisation of relationships with Communist China and to insist on guaranteeing the security, independence, and freedom of the people of Taiwan.”

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The then General Secretary of PCT Rev. Ko Chùn-bêng, together with some other church members, were imprisoned by the so-called “Free China” government for publishing the three declarations and sheltering leaders of democratic movement. But it was indeed heartwarming and encouraging that the distress call was answered by overseas bodies such as the Vatican, the Department of State of the United States, World Vision, the Presbyterian Church in Canada, the NCCJ, and many other our partner churches. It was with the valuable solidarity offered by our partners and the just courage showed at this critical time that the Taiwanese people were able to make a narrow escape from being crucified once again at the cross of international power games. Today, Taiwan is no longer Chiang Kai-shek’s “Free China,” but the Taiwanese people’s Taiwan. Taiwan is no longer the “Orphan of Asia,” but the democratic David standing in front of the imperialist Goliath. As written in the Bible, the small but valiant David was not alone. Behind David stood the army of Israeli, the chosen people of God. As the “Conscience War” is going to be worldwide, and as Taiwan stands at the forefront of resisting the empire against humanity, we once again request earnestly for your solidarity out of your conscience in faith and the just courage to be on God’s side.

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TAKE A LOOK


TAKE A LOOK

Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. In this TED talk presented at a conference, Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice -- and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding. Her stories and novels are inspired by Nigerian history and tragedies mostly forgotten by recent generations of westerners and have been described as “jewels in the crown of diasporan literature”.

In tackling major social justice issues, it's vital to listen to marginalised voices. The United Reformed Church (URC)'s 'At Home in a Strange Place' is a collection of resources to enable, encourage and stimulate what URC has called ‘sacred conversations’ on migration. It was produced for use in congregations and by small groups and helps to unpack views from migrants and refugees. http://bit.ly/2ZJV5a7

https://bit.ly/1RCNuzV

A young girl from Sierra Leone, Khadija Gbla was subjected to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and has lived with the consequences of FGM. She is determined that this form of abuse against young girls will end, and she wants to end it in her lifetime. Khadija strives to combine her African and Australian heritage and values in order to advocate acceptance and equality within the community. https://bit.ly/1LJzkho

“Living Undocumented” is a six-part documentary series chronicling the fates of eight undocumented families, each facing the threat of deportation for one or more of its members. As US immigration policies transform, this advocacy film series puts faces on families struggling with the immigration system and seeks to debunk familiar arguments through interviews with immigration attorneys and other experts. This documentary can be viewed on Netflix.

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UNHCR The Refugee Agency puts together 7 independent videos to challenge viewers in rethinking, reevaluating and most importantly, perhaps relating themselves with the real issues faced by refugees everywhere – and that the problems are hitting much closer to home than they realise. https://bit.ly/2DoyPtM

According to the United Nations, 2,680 indigenous languages are at risk. In a bid to preserve their languages, indigenous peoples are teaching them to the next generation and non-indigenous speakers. This collaboration with a Google Map contains markers where you can listen and learn from 55 indigenous language speakers around the world sharing traditional greetings, sayings and songs.

Not far from the beauty spots, Bali’s villages hide disturbing secrets. The mentally ill are left untreated and possibly hundreds are held in makeshift shackles. But one doctor wants to make a difference and who's single-handedly trying to save Bali's mentally ill from abhorrent conditions. https://bit.ly/2ohXJGL

http://bit.ly/2OMnsSs

Many Saudi women are wealthy, well-educated and told they have everything, but when they disobey their male guardians, life becomes more like a Handmaid’s Tale dystopia. Hundreds end up trying to desperately to escape Saudi Arabia, fleeing the strict male guardianship laws that control every aspect of their lives. This is their story. https://bit.ly/2MFq5UL

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TAKE A LOOK

Mohammad Shasho is a Syrian teenager whose family was displaced from their home in Aleppo due to the Civil War in 2013. Son of a medical doctor and homemaker, his background is not very much different yours and mine, and yet, his predicament is something not everyone can emphatise with.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims have been forced to flee from their homes in Myanmar. Sky News has witnessed distressing scenes including babies being dumped and left to die on beaches. Sky's Alex Crawford travels to Myanmar's Rakhine State, witnessing first-hand the military's brutal crackdown on Rohingya Muslims.

https://cbsn.ws/2N80yCn

https://bit.ly/31A35KR

The ingenuity of transforming readily available and unused roof space into plots of farmable land has allowed Boston Medical Center to ensure that the freshest crops harvested would, in turn, provide its food-insecure patients with the healthiest and most nutritious ingredients that would go onto their plates. https://bit.ly/33VhrHw

“You are stealing our future.” Powerful words from a fifteen year old that speak volumes about the global inaction on climate change. Fifteen-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg shows you that you are never too young to raise your voice and be heard. https://bit.ly/2mFLGSx

Every day, 1,600 trafficked, enslaved and abandoned women and girls sell themselves for £2 a time. In the midst of the trade live 300 children, many born in the village. Some will be groomed to be the future of the business like their mothers and grandmothers. With education and support, a few may find their way out https://bit.ly/3699XCL

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SEEN & HEARD


SEEN & HEARD

Every child comes with the message that God is not yet discouraged of man. — - Rabindranath Tagore, Bengali polymath

October 2019 | 73


SEEN & HEARD

Over the past year, we’ve had the privilege to host a plethora of voices from all other the world here at INSiGHT. Here’s a snapshot of some of them. Canon Subir Biswas’ diaconal call to action in throwing open the doors of St. Paul’s Cathedral to welcome the refugees has echoed in Indian Christian memory for many decades now….The refugee not only calls us for a response, but provides the dialogical space for our own self-understanding and, perhaps, with great humility, we may encounter the incarnated Lord in the faces of the bordered people. - Allan Samuel Palanna United Theological College, Bangalore Amongst an Exiled People: A Solidarity Visit to the Rohingya People INSiGHT October 2018

Realise that your church doesn’t exist simply to help people in their individual faith journeys. It’s meant to be a living organism that helps people encounter the living God together and grow closer to Him. Know that God’s essence is one of loving relationship because He is a Trinity, and, because He has made people in His image, they’re designed to live in relationship as well. Understand that it’s crucial for your church to be a strong community to fulfill its purpose. - Tan Li Huay (Ms) Gereja Presbyterian Malaysia (GPM) Speaking Out On The Issue INSiGHT December 2018

This remains the open question, as to whether or not political priorities and programmes ought to include the repossession of land and the redistribution of land for the purposes of causing the people of the land to flourish and prosper. Is there a narrative that can rescue such policies in the name of the people from the risk of distortion and demonisation? It also raises a question about theology deployed in the interest of human flourishing by seeking to bring grace and power of God in Jesus Christ to bear upon the lived reality of the people in spaces of domination and oppression. Is this a legitimate concern of theology and does theology offer a response to both the residue of empire and the resurgence of empire? - Garnett Roper Jamaica Theological Seminary Empire 2.0: Separating Adam from Adamah has kept Empire in place: Land as locus of liberation INSiGHT August 2019

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This long absence of the female voice has impoverished the churches intellectually and spiritually. The inherited theologies and traditions have given the church legitimacy to subjugate women. Undoubtedly, our cultures have also helped to form the myths against church on women. Ultimately, these two major factors reinforce a theology that defines women as inferior to men. Hence our theological perspective has been one-sided androcentrism which has resulted in the suppression of women’s theological voice. The absence of a specific contribution from women’s perspective in theological thinking exposes the prevailing theology as a ‘dying theology,’ for it is not nurtured by the life experience of the total humanity. - Van Lal Hming Sangi (Mrs.) Presbyterian Church of Myanmar (PCM) How and Where Are We Being Subversive INSiGHT April 2019

Christians are called to obey the Lord of life, and thus to defend and respect life. Defending life is about criminal justice. It is our duty to protect the victims, but the rights of the suspected criminal should not be sacrificed. This is what the Bill fails to protect. Respecting life is about the right of freedom of expression, and more importantly, the right to participate in the decision-making for the future of the society…We say no to the Bill, not because we are afraid to be judged unfairly, but because we love life, and life should be protected and respected. Christians in Hong Kong have found their public voice in protests against the Bill and their calls for human dignity. - Lap Yan Kung Hong Kong Christian Institute Political Theological Resistance in Hong Kong INSiGHT August 2019


SEEN & HEARD

“ The notion of God’s solidarity with the oppressed and marginalised, a key insight in various liberation theologies, is sharpened in light of deep solidarity. The God who is found to be in deep solidarity is not the God of the dominant imagination. In the Exodus traditions, for instance, shared by Jews, Christians and Moslems, God does not remain above the fray but takes sides and enters into the struggle of the people. In the Christian tradition of the incarnation, God joins the majority of working people in Jesus Christ, who grew up as a construction worker and maintained relations with common people all his life—thus embodying deep solidarity.

Above all, any existential revolution should provide hope of... a radical renewal of the relationship of human beings to what I have called the ‘human order,’ which no political order can replace. A new experience of being, a renewed rootedness in the universe, a newly grasped sense of ‘higher responsibility,’ a new-found inner relationship to other people and to the human community—these factors clearly indicate the direction in which we must go... When creatures in the crisis of a break down such as the one we face today in relation to ecological catastrophe, we need to turn to God, the Creator, who created the cosmos in God’s eco logos(ecology) to ask for advice for fixing the human-made disorder. Partial repair could be done by human beings, but for the whole restoration we may return to the Creator.

- Joerg Rieger Vanderbilt University Divinity School Empire, Resistance, and International Solidarity INSiGHT April 2019

- Park Seong-Won Gyeongan Theological Graduate University Humanity and Spirituality in the face of the Fourth Industrial Revolution INSiGHT August 2019

We have spoken about how the justice of God is for the powerless, the outcaste, the least and the excluded but the question that we have to ask is what about the powerful, those who exclude others, those who perpetrate all kinds of injustice and discrimination? Does the justice of God have no place for them, are they excluded from the justice of God so to speak? The answer is a resounding NO. The justice of God is for all and it welcomes all those who are willing to live within the principles of God within its fold. To those who oppress others and perpetuate all kinds of discrimination, to the powerful who trample upon the powerless, God calls into repentance and into God’s Kingdom. - Philip Vinod Peacock World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) God’s Justice For Workers INSiGHT February 2019

For too long we have tried to spiritualise the notion of liberation in the Bible. We replaced liberation with salvation, and the cross became nothing but an atonement. We have to put the cross in its original context of political and religious violence... The cross is a reminder of all those innocent killed in the name of God. There is an urgent need today to discover this dimension of the cross. The fact that Jesus died on the cross by a combination of state and religious terror is of utmost importance as a critique to both powers. The cross becomes the ultimate critique of state as well as religious violence. The cross becomes a mirror that shows God’s vulnerability and the cruelty of political and religious behaviour. - Mitri Raheb Dar al-Kalima University College of Arts and Culture, Palestine Religious Diversity, Political Conflict and the Spirituality of Liberation INSiGHT June 2019

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SEEN & HEARD

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SEEN & HEARD

Prayer for Hong Kong God of justice and mercy, in Christ You break down the dividing wall of hostility and in your Spirit you guide us to the paths that lead to peace; bless the people of Hong Kong, that as they seek their true identity they may discover truer belonging, as they long for greater security they may ďŹ nd deeper understanding, and as they face an unknown future they may be renewed in larger hope; through him who is our identity, our security and our one and only hope, Jesus Christ your son our Lord. Amen. – Rev Dr Sam Wells, Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields October 2019 | 77


Your Say


DO YOU HAVE BURNING ISSUES TO GET OFF YOUR CHEST? Looking for an outlet to contribute your reections on social, socio-political and economic issues which plague our world today? Is your passion taking the stand against the current structures of society, and empire?

If you want to be heard, we invite you to be part of this publication by sending your material(s) to insight@cwmission.org You may also write to: C/O INSiGHT Council for World Mission Ltd 114 Lavender Street, #12-01 CT Hub 2, Singapore 338729 *We reserve the right to edit articles for space and clarity


YOUR SAY

SHOULD WE BE CONVERTED

TO OUR NEIGHBOUR? By Peter Cruchley, Council for World Mission

In a letter we received and published in the August issue of INSiGHT - critiquing the CWM Bible study on love, the author raised two main questions: why do we use the term ‘empire’, and how can we use scripture to support an inclusive reading of LGBTQ persons. As a result I would like to respond in three interconnected sections: Empire, Use of Scripture and Should We Be Converted to Our Neighbours or Them to Us?

Empire Sometimes our difficulty understanding the term ‘empire’ depends on where we are in it. Typically, White Europeans and White European descendants have had most difficulties accepting this critique and concept. This is because we are so close to empire and our culture has lived centuries of unquestioning accommodation to the powers of empire, and has developed privatised models of faith which are uncomfortable when political issues are raised. CWM uses the term ‘empire’ as a way to name powers at work in our world which are not located in one country under one government, but in many places, locally, nationally and globally. It is a concept which helps us see manifestations of power and their connections in history and today. We tend to view politics through the lens of the nation state. This means we think ‘empire’ has to have some place on the map, some shape in political geography, so, for example, the British Empire was centred on London and extended the national boundaries and interests of the British nation, even though it was in the territories of Africa, Asia etc. But, we live in a new manifestation of imperial power, which is present more in trans-national terms than in the nation state, take Trans National Corporations for example. So, this is not about the past because empire is all around us still. We live in the culture of empire because it locates itself in all aspects of our life and world. It is present in our political, economic, ecological, social, legal, religious, personal, relational, biological, sexual, spiritual lives and reveals itself in all forms of domineering power. Some of the outcomes of empire’s power and presence in our lives include economic injustice, climate change, patriarchy, conflict, xenophobia and homophobia. Thus, we use empire as a way to speak about these powers and operations of power today and see them in their past. While this dispersed multi centred form of empire is distinct to our time, the term also helps us see continuities with the past. The empire we speak of hasn’t fallen out of the sky but is part of a history of empire and empires. Thus, the racism which scandalises our world today has its roots in the colonisation of the past. As CWM has looked at the world it has discerned forces and interests that are connected in their desire to control, profit, occupy and exploit peoples, planet, minds, bodies and allegiances. In a world of national differences, global movements nevertheless exert power and influence which destroys the earth, divides peoples and damages the most vulnerable. This is not accidental or unintentional, it is deliberate and planned. These forces and interests are political, economic, financial, military and cultural, and they are also religious. They might be disconnected in geography but have a connection in intention and interest.

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YOUR SAY

These connected forces are what we name empire. It brings death and destruction to the many and wealth and security to the few. Empire makes itself most evident in how power is used and profit made and for whom. Empire enables us to name the contested space between God and the world, for this is not the world as God wants it, not the fullness of life for all that Christ promised, nor the vision of shalom inspired by the Spirit. This contested space is where God enters in mission and calls others to share in counter-creating the world beyond empire. Empire is the key biblical context for mission. The Bible is produced against the backdrop of the Assyrian, Egyptian, Babylonian, Greek and Roman Empires, as well as the politics of the Kings of Israel and the actions of the Sanhedrin and the Pharisees. So, empire is the context for mission because it is the context that shaped the Bible and it is the power that thought it could put Jesus to death. We can see that empire destroys all that God creates. Empire oppresses all who God seeks to liberate. Empire distorts the vision of life in fullness Christ offers. Empire seeks to make God useful to empire and resists and silences God and the prophets God calls when they are not useful. Therefore, God’s people are part of an uprising of God’s life and love against empire. This is the struggle God joins on the side of those empire despises and destroys. And God calls the church to this side also. So, for CWM, empire is not a distraction from the salvation and transformation of the Gospel of Jesus, but central and indivisible. Use of Scripture CWM like Congregational Federation is rooted in the Reformed Tradition which makes the Bible central to all faith understanding and expression. But, it resists narrow proof texting because our mission praxis, our historic experience and scholarship tells us that our approach to the text needs to recognise that the Bible emerges over thousands of years of history, that it comes from distinct cultures unlike our own and from an awareness that the Bible is and has been used oppressively by us and against us. Congregationalists know that in the era of the Radical Reformation and the Anglican Restoration that the Bible was used to defame faithful Congregationalist Christians. So much so that many chose to leave the UK and head West to the US for a new world and a new land. When they arrived, these Congregational and Presbyterian Puritans found people living there already and turned to Scripture to justify the occupation of the land they had ‘discovered’ and the killing of those indigenous people. In this way Reformed Christians try to ask critical questions about the Biblical text, especially its application, and more so, who it defends and who it attacks. As a result, we have developed skills and approaches to deal with all texts, especially texts which justify things like slavery, racism, Patriarchy as well as deal with texts that recommend arcane practices like the execution of witches, wearing of mixed fibres, consuming of blood, clean and unclean foods, female purification after childbirth and menstruation, and sabbatical years. No Christian takes the Bible literally and where we are not honest about that, we risk only applying the Bible to our lives (or others), when it suits our own beliefs. In the case of homosexuality many Christians come with an a priori attitude, already closed to homosexuality and denounce homosexuality from Scripture when the Bible says nothing about "homosexuality" as an innate dimension of personality. Sexual orientation was not understood in biblical times. There was no word in Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek for "homosexual" or "homosexuality." These words were invented near the end of the 19th century when psychoanalysts began to discover and understand sexuality as an essential part of the human personality in all of its diversity. Consequently, it cannot be claimed that the Bible says anything at all about it. The writers of the Bible had neither the understanding of it nor the language for it.

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YOUR SAY

There are references in the Bible to same-gender sexual behaviour, and all of them are undeniably negative. But what is condemned in these passages is the violence, idolatry and exploitation related to the behaviour, not the same-gender nature of the behaviour. There are references in the Bible to different-gender sexual behaviour that are just as condemning of violence, idolatry and exploitation. But no one claims that the condemnation is because the behaviour was between a man and a woman. When it comes to issues of violence and our text, CWM has made very clear that all homophobic readings of text create conditions for intolerance and hatred, and this does very real violence to Queer people, which many religious people either tolerate or propagate. CWM will not be complicit in this any longer. Speech which explicitly or implicitly questions the humanness, dignity and equality of Queer people is of the same order as questioning the humanness, dignity and equality of Black people, Women, People with disabilities and so on. Questioning the inclusion of Queer people as the persons they are is to deny them at the deepest level, it is to deny they reflect the image of God and to impugn their calling by God to life and leadership in the mission of God. Should we be converted to our neighbours or them to us? Well, of course we should be converted to Jesus. We make Jesus central to our biblical teaching and so his approach to Bible is also important. Christianity, like Judaism, has a struggle at its heart, which is whether it understands God demanding Love or Purity of the people of God. This becomes clearest in all his dealings with the Pharisees who used Scripture to define and limit Love. We could say in contrast Jesus used Love to define and open up scripture. This seems to undergird the critique of Matt 23 and Luke 11 for example. In Jesus we see radical love and the challenge to the religious to be converted to their neighbour, not as an act of charity, but because in these unexpected, misjudged neighbours we see or fail to see Jesus, (Matthew 25:31-46). It’s as if Christians should operate a list system for those who God loves and calls. In this list system there is an Accepted List, Rejected List, and a Pending list. Particular types of people are put on the accepted list, and we would have to admit that White men are always there for example. And then there is an argument about those on the pending list whether they can be moved to the acceptable list. Women for example have been moved back and fore over these lists for example. But, how can this be true to the one who was on the rejected list, so much so that he made his home amongst those who were despised by religious people and even died the death of a criminal? Thus, CWM is pressing for authentic love as a mark of Christian community and discipleship, because it is only in the community which is open and loving that Jesus can come and be recognised and followed and his Salvation and transformation convincingly witnessed.

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YOUR SAY

ECONOMIC

JUSTICE By Timasi Aleve Bird, United Church in the Solomon Islands (UCSI)

In the Christian arsenal, the bible is considered to be the most powerful form of weaponry when it comes to fighting against the injustices of the world. However, within using the bible itself, it is important to understand there are two worlds that is in war with unjust systems, the world of the reader and the world of the author. In Luke 1: 46-55 we see Mary’s song also known as the Magnificat. In the world of the reader, this scripture can be interpreted in countless ways, all depending on who the reader is. For instance, feminist theologians interpret that these scriptures speak about how the saviour to all of mankind is from a woman. In the world of the author, Mary’s song preaches out against the economic injustice that was happening during the time this text was written. Injustices that oppresses women such as Mary herself. Mary’s song spotlights the huge eco-religious arms that feeds off the impoverished. Mary’s song stands up for the hungry against the rich. Her gratification towards the Lord is based on the reign of a messiah who will dismantle the oppressing, unfair and unjust economic system that marginalize the minority groups that are suffering from poverty and hunger that leads to social problems that prevents God’s fullness of life. Jesus was not praised in this song by Mary to be a man of heavenly magic, but to be the one who will speak for the voiceless, a bearer of support for the disabled, a beacon of hope for Jewish community who suffers from the economic injustices of that time. Despite the thousands of years that separates us from the world of the author, these same issues are occurring around the world today. As Christians, it would be hypocrisy to be the arms and legs of an economic system that disconnects society from having fullness of life. We must follow in Christ’s example and create a world that is just for all of humanity.

June 2019 | 83 8 October


YOUR SAY

DO WE STILL NEED TO SEND MISSIONARIES? By Rev. Samoelijaona Rasolonjanahary R., former CWM missionary in the Pacific

therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in “ Go the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

- Matthew 28.19 (New King James Version)

Some people wonder whether there is still any need for missionaries nowadays. Some people think we live in a world of liberty nowadays, where we are free to run our own life in the way we think is convenient, according to our own desire as long as we do not hinder others and others do not disturb us. Some of us feel uncomfortable with the notion of a divine power ruling our lives. The notion of guilt depends on how the community wants to direct its cohabitation. Anyway, different religions exist, and they preach different notions of faith. So why don’t we tolerate one another? Therefore, is there any need for a mission for one God, an ambiguous representation with one who is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit? Do we have to serve Jesus Christ?

Rev Samoelijaona Rasolonjanahary R. with his wife, Dr Razafindramary Parfaite Rakotondramasy after conducting the HolyCommunion

For some of us Christians, the notion of mission seems beyond our understanding. Why should we have to send missionaries abroad if paganism and other theologies are sprouting on our land at home, which we still have to tackle? Since that is so, why should we busy ourselves about foreigners? Yes, Christians must preach the Good News of Christ at home and abroad. The mission of Jesus must be carried out everywhere. We should go for mission in our own country and abroad to make known the Gospel of Christ. We do not have to wait for the full spread of the Gospel at home before we go out to the whole world. Staying at home is selfishness, if not laziness. If the former missionaries had that thought, we would not have heard about the Gospel at all.

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YOUR SAY

Outreach into a village is in Kiritimati Island (Kiribati) where Rev Samoelijaona Rasolonjanahary R.(center) preached the Gospel.

Christianity is regressing in the European countries. Where we are in Madagascar, Christianity is still thriving in spite of the work of Satan who creates new religions and other battle fields to destroy Christian faith. The Presbyterian Church of India works hard in sending Christ-missionaries all over the whole of India and they send missionaries abroad too; the FJKM (Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar) strives to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ all over the island and sends missionaries abroad. They are just examples, but the aim to is on the same target: to bring the whole world to salvation, to bring humans to God, the Creator. You might add that where you send missionaries, there are already local ministers. Yes, but can they cover everything, since they are so busy with financial problems and they are educated by some Europeans - most of whom think that they do not need to go into the details? I had been a missionary of Jesus for 22 years: 14 in the Solomon Islands, 8 in Kiribati. I saw people who are starving for the Salvation through Jesus Christ in different places. They want to know why they are sinners in the eyes of God, and they want to straighten their relationship with their Creator. Some believers struggle with the understanding of the Bible and want help: they cannot imagine a shepherd (John 10.2, 10.11‌) and sheep, all they know are fish, pigs, chicken but not sheep. In the islands those animals do not need someone to keep them, they are kept in fences, or left roaming in the nature. Some of them do not understand the salt Jesus talks about in Matthew 5.13, they need explanation; some others cannot imagine a fig tree, all they know are coconut trees; they cannot explain the reason for people resorting to cruelty before killing Jesus‌ Those and other questions need to be addressed by someone who knows and who can transpose them into the local context, otherwise they would be void of meaning. Then we need to send missionaries. Some people might argue, that Christianity was instrumental to colonialism, even to slavery. Missionaries have to explain the way of God in those phenomena, and not give up and leave the questions to the one bestiality of humans. The descendants of slaves are nowadays good missionaries of God where they are and elsewhere. Which is instrument of which: Gospel before colonialism, or the other way round? Wherever it is possible, let us send out missionaries, without setting limits. To God only be the glory and may the world be his fully.

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YOUR SAY

ROLY-POLY CHRISTIANS By Elephant in the Room from Thailand

As far back as I am able to remember, at a very young and tender age of my formative years, it has been ingrained into me, the need to respect my elders - unconditionally. This is a very Asian way of upbringing where the young ones are inculcated with behaviours in which would deem appropriate in their social setting. However, it also means that anyone older than you typically will be seen as wiser than you and would likely be unable to do wrong. Hence, it is always easier for an older sibling or relative to get away with the mess they’ve caused when the younger person happens to be in the situation somehow and so conveniently made the scapegoat just because of being younger of age. The adults would simply perceive the young as brash, ill-disciplined and mischievous to the point that when something goes wrong, they would be faulted by default, no questions asked. One could only imagine how indignant these individuals would have felt, to be a convenient victim of blame and to suffer needlessly of being wronged by others. But what about being a Christian? When we are taught to “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself”? Because I know myself - principles, code of conduct and ethics I live by. But I couldn’t speak the same for my neighbours as I do not know them, I can’t possibly know every single one of them. Do I love them when they are intentionally bad people as well? Does this doctrine imply that as Christians, we should just simply forgive and forget whatever bad things that have been done onto us? Should we render ourselves as people-pleasers and just avail ourselves like a rug to be trampled on and have the dirt swept beneath us, hidden away and borne solely by us? What is the notion of being a good Christian? Are we to be pushovers like Roly-Poly toys, incessantly toppled over yet expected to resiliently bounce back up as if nothing had happened every time without fail? We are not encouraged to turn the other cheek of the problems of our neighbours but what about the problems of our own inflicted by others? Are we only good Christians measured by the number of injustices meted out at us? “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” - Matthew 5:39 Some people, by nature, thrive at bullying others. The moment they are able to identify the other party’s weakness, they would target their Achilles heel, by taking advantage of them, or to make life as miserable as possible for them, to their delight.

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YOUR SAY

But if we are to offer ourselves willingly to such abuse, are we not subjecting ourselves as defenceless sitting ducks set in the line of fire? I’ve known of an acquaintance who pursued her faith as a Christian by being just that. She would allow herself to be faulted when the problem was caused by others, just to allow the matter to rest sooner — never blaming anyone else but herself, believing that this is how Jesus would want her to lead by example. But it takes the perspective of a bystander to clearly see how such behaviour could be permanently damaging especially for one to be in such an oppressive state always. When a person has gone through an identical negative situation far too many times, he or she will be inclined to believe that it is how it should be. Thus, they will lose their ability to standing up for themselves, allowing them to be “martyred” and self-sacrificing for the sake of others. Surely to defeat evil with kindness does not work in all situations? What happens if the instigator of bad behaviour is unrepentant even in the face of perpetual patience and forgiveness that has been offered time and again? Is it part of God’s will and preparation of Christians to learn to withstand and or to react accordingly in the face of such adversity? Could anyone be able to really pray for their enemies with sincerity and genuinely positive intentions? Is responding in tit for tat really an unchristian like behaviour? But history is fraught with examples on the repercussions of not reacting in some way as a show of unacceptance rather than in kind. For instance for children who are incessantly bullied in schools due to their meekness till their psyche is totally stripped away and torn down, to drive them into attending school one fine day with firearms and dispensing the ammunition at everyone there. Being a subject of constant ridicule and bullying is also the reason for teenage suicides all over the world. Thus the meek in this aspect, shall not inherit the earth, as the taking of lives be it someone else’s or our own is a definite one-way ticket to the depths of hell. So what would be the right thing to do? To react or not to? By keeping the faith that judgement will come to those who sin against others does not remove the inherent issue that is causing grief to one party. There is only so much abuse a person can take until it reaches the limit of one’s endurance and boiling point. We are humans, after all, and we are all redeemable sinners in the eyes of God. Good and evil are paradoxically dependent on each other, coexisting within the realm of our space. Is it right to not stand up for what’s right or not be vocal about what’s not the proper behaviour? To shake off abuse and mistreatment, allowing others to antagonise and be offensive continuously, wouldn’t that be seen as a form of encouragement to the perpetrators? Would Christians be deemed as weaklings to be taken advantage of as we have more bark than bite? And like most Christians, we would end up asking the same question, “What would Jesus do?”

June 2019 | 87 8 October


Lord by your cross and resurrection

deliver us

By your witness to the truth

deliver us

By your passion and death

deliver us

By your victory over the grave

deliver us

From the desire for power

deliver us

From the despair of the age

deliver us

From the plundering of the world’s resources

deliver us

From the dispossession of the poor

deliver us

From these forces of death

deliver us

By the light of the gospel

give us peace

By the good news of the poor

give us peace

By your healing wounds

give us peace

By faith in your word

give us peace

By hunger and thirst for justice

give us peace

By the coming of your kingdom

give us peace

~ Peter Cruchley

Hong Kong Umbrella Revolution. (Photo by Pasu Au Yeung)



Council for World Mission Ltd 114 Lavender Street, #12-01, CT Hub 2, Singapore 338729 T (65) 6887 3400 F (65) 6235 7760 E council@cwmission.org W www.cwmission.org Company limited by guarantee Registered in Singapore Unique Entity Number 201206146Z Copyright Š 2019 Council for World Mission Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Content may not be reproduced, downloaded, disseminated, published or transferred in any form or by any means, except with the prior written permission of Council for World Mission Ltd.


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