INSiGHT - June 2019

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June 2019


“This month’s cover artwork is from an oil on canvas painting by Samoan artists Malu and Lealofi Siaopo from the Leulumoega School of Fine Arts in the Congregational Christian Church, Samoa - a member church of CWM, . Titled ‘Tsunami’, the painting seeks to portray the agony and suffering of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that claimed nearly 200 lives in September 2009. The two faces were used by the artists to symbolise the vulnerability and helplessness experienced by not just Samoans, but also Pacific Islanders in general. According to a May 2019 report by the European Commission, the Pacific is one of the most disaster-prone regions in the world in terms of the recurrence, severity and scope of natural disasters, with high exposure to cyclones, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, tidal surges, landslides, droughts, forest fires and volcanic eruptions, in addition to epidemics.”


June 2019

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CONTENTS

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Foreword Subverting Empire’s Claims To Say What Love Looks Like Subverting Empire’s Claim That Borders Are Sacrosanct, That Migration Is A Crime The Promise Of An Abundant Life

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AT A GLANCE

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VIEWPOINTS

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Empire: How And Where Are We Being Subversive? Healing Relationships: Hope For A New Spirituality My PIM Journey Reflections On ‘2019 Easter Sunday In Sri Lanka’ Religious Diversity, Political Conflict, And The Spirituality Of Liberation The Landing In Conversation With...

TAKE A LOOK Book Review

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SEEN & HEARD

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YOUR SAY

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Behind The Scenes: Resistance Rites And Indigenous Peoples’ Voices From A Valley Of Dry Bones Into A Playground What Is Having A Voice If Not To Advocate For Others And Yourself Testimonies About God’s Grace During CWM Missionary Retreats Are You Hearing Me? “Misguided Sentimentality?” A Personal Reflection On Notre-Dame De Paris Fire Ask And You Shall ‘Believe’ Africa Day Is Useless/Ways


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FALLEN IS BABYLON Reading Bible in the context of empire


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FOREWORD Then I saw another angel flying high in the air, with an eternal message of Good News to announce to the peoples of the earth, to every race, tribe, language, and nation. He said in a loud voice, “Honour God and praise his greatness! For the time has come for him to judge all people. Worship him who made heaven, earth, sea, and the springs of water!” A second angel followed the first one, saying, “She has fallen! Great Babylon has fallen!” (Revelation 14: 6 – 8).

The book of Revelation is a story of inspiration for those who live on the margins of society and a message of sobriety, even warning, for those who believe that absolute power resides in human crafty schemes and politics. The dispirited and broken-hearted will discover that God has a plan for their vindication and the high and exalted will know that the “mighty (have) fallen and the weapons of war perish” (2 Sam 1: 27). The message is essentially about the coming of a “new Jerusalem” (Rev 21: 2), “another world” (Arundhati Roy) where a flourishing environment and peace, goodwill and justice for all define God’s creation. Babylon has fallen! The author of Revelation, who lived in the midst of the terrifying power of empire and its persecution of any and all who resisted her, makes this claim twice. Within a few years of this prophetic pronouncement, Rome had indeed fallen. Empire was humbled by the resistant spirit of movements within its colonised lands, movements like the one stirred up by Jesus of Nazareth. And yet, everyone, including the prophet of this message, cried when Babylon fell (Rev 18). What is meant to be a time of celebration for the oppressed victims of empire is equally a time of desolation. No one seems to win. So, we come, in our era of empire, to announce the good news to a hurting world that Babylon has fallen! This is a statement of encouragement and hope for the weary, the battered and bruised of our time. It is also a warning of the great pain and sorrow inflicted on everyone, both the oppressed and the oppressor, when systems and structures are allowed to divide and eventually destroy society. ‘Babylon has fallen’ is therefore an invitation to all to embrace a different way of being in community, opening the way to a new epistemology, marked by the experience of life is fullness by all. How can we say Babylon is fallen? We do so because in the face of dominant powers we believe in the ultimate power of God, who is counter-creating in our midst a new heaven and earth, who in the company of peasant girls is working to bring the powerful down from their thrones (Luke 1: 52) and to bridge the divide by challenging the oppressors to confess wrongdoing, make reparation and open the door to the new (Luke 19: 1-10). We have the witness of the biblical text to remind and inspire us that Babylon has fallen. The claims, powers and blandishments of empire are empty and bring not blessing but curse. As we approach the text we realise in glaring details that empire is behind the text, in the text and in front of the text. However, thankfully, the dynamic of God’s people, in the midst of empire, shapes the drama of both testaments and our interpretations of the text. How can we say Babylon is fallen? We do so by being part of what subverts it, and reveals its shame, its charade and its life-denying vices. In 2010, CWM embarked on developing a theology and programme of mission which took empire as its main interlocutor. As we survey the threats to life and to God’s sovereignty, in 2019, we felt it was timely to revisit our theology of mission in the context of empire and to once again call this to the attention of our member churches and partners. CWM offers this set of bible studies as a new resource to enable conversations about how God is stirring up life-changing and system-changing moments and movements in our midst. Excerpts of the Bible Studies are featured in this issue of INSiGHT for study, discussion and, above all, action as we invite the world beyond Babylon to break in upon us in hope, light and joy. Rev Dr Collin Cowan General Secretary Epiphany 2019

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Subverting Empire’s claims to say what love looks like The claims of empire:

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Empire makes its claims not only on ‘land’ but also on ‘being’. It seeks to occupy the personal space as well as the public space, and to especially dominate and cow minorities it sees as ‘abnormal’ or subversive of its power and norms. As a result, it also seeks to co-opt the majority to its values and attitudes. The church, which used to be outside of empire, has become deeply complicit in this and is a particular force occupying bodies and souls.

WE AFFIRM that the grace of God in Christ enables sinners to forsake transgender self-conceptions and by divine forbearance to accept the God-ordained link between one’s biological sex and one’s self-conception as male or female.

From the Nashville Statement: [This statement was drafted in late August 2017, during the annual conference of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee. The statement was published online on August 29, 2017. It was signed by more than 150 evangelical Christian leaders]

“I would like to remind and warn all organisations and institutions that campaign and pretend to protect homosexual interests … we are going to arrest whoever is involved and charge them in courts of law … Those who teach such things do not like us, brothers. They brought us drugs and homosexual practices that even cows disapprove of”. - President of Tanzania John Magufuli, June 2017

Article 7 WE AFFIRM that self-conception as male or female should be defined by God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption as revealed in Scripture. WE DENY that adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption. Article 8 WE AFFIRM that people who experience sexual attraction for the same sex may live a rich and fruitful life pleasing to God through faith in Jesus Christ, as they, like all Christians, walk in purity of life. WE DENY that sexual attraction for the same sex is part of the natural goodness of God’s original creation, or that it puts a person outside the hope of the gospel. Article 10 WE AFFIRM that it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism and that such approval constitutes an essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness. WE DENY that the approval of homosexual immorality or transgenderism is a matter of moral indifference about which otherwise faithful Christians should agree to disagree.

WE DENY that the grace of God in Christ sanctions self-conceptions that are at odds with God’s revealed will.

The governor of Dar es Salaam, Paul Makonda, urged his citizens to start reporting people that they suspected to be LGBTQ to the police so that they could be rounded up. “I have information about the presence of many homosexuals in our province,” He added: “Give me their names. My ad hoc team will begin to get their hands on them next Monday.” Re-reading our texts: When David had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. 2 Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house. 3 Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. 4 Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that he was wearing, and gave it to David, and his armour, and even his sword and his bow and his belt. 5 David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him; as a result, Saul set him over the army. And all the people, even the servants of Saul, approved. 30 Then Saul’s anger was kindled against Jonathan. He said to him, ‘You son of a perverse, rebellious woman! Do I not know that you have chosen the son of Jesse to your own shame, and to the shame of your mother’s nakedness? 31 For as long as the son of Jesse lives upon the earth, neither you nor your kingdom shall be established. Now send and bring him to me, for he shall surely die.’ 32 Then Jonathan answered his father Saul, ‘Why should he be put to death? What has he done?’ 33 But Saul threw his spear at him to strike him; so Jonathan knew that it was the decision of his father to put David to death. 34 Jonathan rose from the table in fierce anger and ate no food on the second day of the month, for he was grieved for David, and because his father had disgraced him.

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35 In the morning Jonathan went out into the field to the appointment with David, and with him was a little boy. 36 He said to the boy, ‘Run and find the arrows that I shoot.’ As the boy ran, he shot an arrow beyond him. 37 When the boy came to the place where Jonathan’s arrow had fallen, Jonathan called after the boy and said, ‘Is the arrow not beyond you?’ 38 Jonathan called after the boy, ‘Hurry, be quick, do not linger.’ So Jonathan’s boy gathered up the arrows and came to his master. 39 But the boy knew nothing; only Jonathan and David knew the arrangement. 40 Jonathan gave his weapons to the boy and said to him, ‘Go and carry them to the city.’ 41 As soon as the boy had gone, David rose from beside the stone heap[e] and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. He bowed three times, and they kissed each other, and wept with each other; David wept the more. 42 Then Jonathan said to David, ‘Go in peace, since both of us have sworn in the name of the Lord, saying, “The Lord shall be between me and you, and between my descendants and your descendants, for ever.”’ He got up and left; and Jonathan went into the city.

Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely! In life and in death they were not divided; they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions. 24 O daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you with crimson, in luxury, who put ornaments of gold on your apparel. How the mighty have fallen in the midst of the battle! Jonathan lies slain upon your high places. I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; greatly beloved were you to me; your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women. How the mighty have fallen, and the weapons of war perished!

1 Sam 18: 1 – 5, 20: 30 – 42, 2 Sam 1: 23 – 27 There can be nothing more imperial than denying the realities, complexities and relationships of other: My theology says you cannot be gay so you must not be gay etc. This is at the heart of the Nashville Statement and others like it. And these supposed faith affirmations tie up with and feed into repressive and violent policies, like those in Tanzania and elsewhere round the world. Lying behind much of this repressive legislation was British colonial legislation imposed on countries during the Imperial era. From 1860 onwards, the empire spread a specific set of legal codes and common law throughout its colonies, among them laws proscribing male-to-male sexual relations. The British Empire drafted these penal codes with a moral, religious mission in mind. The intention was to protect local Christians from “corruption” and correct and Christianise “native” custom. Of the 71 countries with such a law still on the books in 2018, at least 38 of them were once subject to some sort of British colonial rule. Enze Han, author of "British Colonialism and the Criminalisation of Homosexuality" said the laws were partly the product of a strict Victorian moral code, which defined any sexual activity not for procreation as taboo. "(The British also) had this conception that the 'Orient', the non-Western subjects, were overly erotic and over-sexed, and that's the reason why they were worried young colonial officers going abroad would be corrupted by those sexual acts".

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The strict Victorian-era laws brought in by British colonists often clashed with decades, or even centuries of complex local cultural attitudes to sexuality. India, in particular, had traditionally maintained a flexible, non-prescriptive view of sexuality and gender roles. But the British administrators paid little attention to local attitudes when they criminalised same-sex relations in 1860, and declared the country's centuries-old old custom of transgender hijras to be "unnatural." This colonial legislation continues to be in force in a number of CWM contexts. In Africa in: Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia. In the Caribbean in Guyana and Jamaica. In East Asia in Malaysia, Myanmar and Singapore. In the Pacific in Kiribas, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu. In South Asia: Bangladesh. Religious powers are organising against LGBTQ people and their human rights. There is an odd inter-faith ‘alliance’ over this agenda where conservative leaders of different religions act together to deny the rights of LGBTQ people to full personhood. This is often happening in contexts and with communities which would be suspicious of inter-faith action. Sacred texts are marshalled to terrorise and to justify oppression while other texts are silenced. This is to use the text in Imperial ways, because we do not own the text or its many meanings. It is easy to dehumanise our opponents in the midst of this issue in churches at the moment, yet this will always result in sin and separation, and especially the sin and separation of homophobia. It is natural and right that all people who enter the sacred text find dimensions of themselves. This is what makes our texts eternal and never new. This is not threatening but deeply moving. Especially, when it comes to the story of David and Jonathan which is unashamedly open about the range, reality and complexity and simplicity of deep and intimate love, especially between people of the same gender. Texts like this one in Samuel invite us back to meeting people in their God given complexity, to reassessing our attitudes and to confront systems which demand people conform to norms imposed by the de-humanising power of Empire. There is debate about the nature of their love for each other. Queer readings interpret it is as it appears, an homoerotic same-sex relationship. Heterosexist interpreters will not countenance this and insist it is a platonic brotherly relationship. But, surely none of us can deny how deeply loving it is, and is perhaps the one time when David’s love is honourable and not exploitative, as it is with Bathsheba, Michal and Abishag.


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Queer readings are inconvenient to Imperial readings of the text, which is precisely why the church should be open to such readings. The love of David and Jonathan is Queer not because it is surely homoerotic but certainly because it is subversive. Queer is to describe ways of being, loving, relating and doing which are subversive and counter-imperial. The relationship is drawn against Saul, Jonathan’s father and Israel’s king, who sees David as a threat and wants him dead. This is the experience of many queer folk, that they are seen as threats and fear and face violence and even death. This means that the forces of the state are ranged against David and Jonathan. So are the forces of patriarchy. When Saul turns on Jonathan, he names Jonathan’s mother as the perverse and rebellious one (v.30). Saul is the very embodiment of imperial and patriarchal power and intolerance, so any reading of this text has to be in opposition to this. Thus, Jonathan and David, in their love for each other, embody the counter loving alternative to the repression, control and order of empire and Patriarchy. This counter love is Queer, and it deeply and powerfully resembles God’s counter love, which is Queerest of all. Rev Dr Collin Cowan, the General Secretary of CWM writes: If our communities are drawn fully and deeply from all kinds of people then we can speak authentically and believably of Christians loving the world. In such communities we see it is homophobia which needs to change, not LGBTQ people. The love we all long for, a love which doesn’t judge, is inspired by the grace each receives in being affirmed fully as followers of Christ. Inclusive communities empower because they send people into doing justice sensitised by the needs of those we live amongst.

The key to seeing the new things that Jesus is doing in our world depends on making room for those who Jesus dwells amongst: the poorest and the marginalised in our societies. Our living in community with diverse people tests whether we are loving like Jesus and reveals the changes Jesus seeks to make in our world. There are vital and urgent contributions to the mission of God which only LGBTQ people can make, especially as they challenge churches to embody Jesus’ life of radical love. LGBTQ people should not be cast away by religious communities but be affirmed in all parts of our communities, including the church. Areas for discussion and reflection: If you were a contemporary of David and Jonathan, what would you advise them to do about their relationship? On the reading of the text do you think it was just platonic? Why would it matter if David and Jonathan were gay? Can’t we let people find themselves in the biblical text as they are and see we are all included in the redemptive work of God? What are the issues around LGBTQ in your place? What is at stake in your opinion? ‘I invite CWM member churches to recognise in the LGBTQ members of its churches, families, communities and nations equal persons God loves fully and calls to follow freely as they are and bring an end to the culture of homophobia in churches’, (Rev Dr Collin Cowan). How do you respond to this? The ‘fallenenss’ of Babylon is not sexual diversity but sexual violence. The church is just as fallen. With whom can we begin to rebuild the loving communities Christ calls us to be?

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Subverting Empire’s claim that borders are sacrosanct, that migration is a crime The claims of the empire:

Re-reading our texts:

Migrants have become easy targets for politicians and the media. And the manipulation of tension and suspicion is a smoke screen to prevent powerful people and systems being unmasked. These are some of the claims and quotes:

[God spoke to Job]

‘Many Gang Members and some very bad people are mixed into the Caravan heading to our Southern Border. Please go back, you will not be admitted into the United States unless you go through the legal process. This is an invasion of our Country and our Military is waiting for you!’ Donald Trump on the Migrant caravan from Honduras heading to the US Oct 29th 2018 "We have no country if we have no border," Trump said during the third presidential debate on Oct. 19, 2016, reiterating his desire to build a wall. "We have some bad hombres here and we're gonna get 'em out … You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people, these are animals, and we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before.” May 16, 2018 "It's certainly not our goal to separate children, but I do think it's clear, it's legitimate to warn people who come to the country unlawfully bringing children with them that they can't expect that they'll always be kept together," US Attorney General Jeff Sessions Sept 2018 “Africa will have ten times as many young people as Europe. If Europe doesn’t do anything, they are going to kick in our door.” Viktor Orban Hungarian Prime Minister—March 15, 2018, Let’s not forget, the Syrian who comes to us has still his Syria, the Afghan who comes to us has still his Afghanistan […] But if we lose our Germany, then we have no more home!” Björn Höcke, head of the far-right party Alternative for Germany (AFD)

Ruth said, ‘Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die— there will I be buried. May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!’ 18 When Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her. 19 So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them; and the women said, ‘Is this Naomi?’ 20 She said to them, ‘Call me no longer Naomi, call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt bitterly with me. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty; why call me Naomi when the Lord has dealt harshly with me, and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?’ So Naomi returned together with Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, who came back with her from the country of Moab. They came to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.

The migrations at the heart of the Book of Ruth hinge on the same injustices and tragedies as today. Naomi and her family leave Bethlehem because of famine and leave Israel for Moab as climate refugees. They then return as economic migrants after the deaths of Naomi’s husband and sons. Ruth has to risk prostituting herself for her mother in law. They risk all for their families and become a test of the generosity and justice of their neighbours, like all migrants. The people of Bethlehem don’t fare as well as the people of Moab, who seem to accept without difficulty Elimelech, Naomi, Mahlon and Chilion, who even marry Moabite women, Ruth and Orpah. Yet when Ruth and Naomi arrive in Bethlehem no one seems to mention the duties Naomi’s family have to them, and even when Boaz takes Ruth for himself, he confesses he has known for sometime that they are family. Ruth 1: 17 - 20

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DEVOTIONAL Yet he has been content to let her work like a beggar in the fields and to offer herself for sex in his bed. But Ruth’s arrival as a migrant into Bethlehem becomes a vital link for the coming of Jesus, not just as his great-great-great grandmother, but because it gives him an ironic claim on a home town which the ‘heavenly migrant’ then escapes because of political violence. UN and regional human rights experts met in March 2018 to consider the rise in xenophobia and urged States, civil society organisations and activists to work to overcome violence and hatred. “Vile discourses of explicit hate and ideologies of racial supremacy have moved from the fringe to the mainstream. Racial, ethnic and religious bigotry fuels human rights violations, including extreme violence against minorities, and against refugees, migrants, stateless persons, and internally displaced, including people of African descent, with a particularly acute effect on women, and sexual and gender diverse populations. This bigotry is unashamed,” said a statement issued by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The experts said “the assault on the human dignity of millions around the world had reached alarming proportions”. It cited examples such as crowds of youths marching to neo-Nazi chants in Charlottesville, Warsaw, and Berlin, to the racist and xenophobic attitudes of politicians in the highest levels of office worldwide; from the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims, to the excessive use of military force to police communities of African descent in different parts of the world. They said urgent global attention must be paid to the structural economic, political and legal conditions that stoke racism and xenophobia among populations that perceive minorities and non-nationals as threats. “It also means confronting the fact that the rise of populist nationalism is a product of widespread loss of faith in establishment politics that privilege elites, as well as the offensive, xenophobic rhetoric of extremist ideologues,” the experts said. “This is especially evident in the context of backlash in different regions of the world to refugees and involuntary migrants, where gaps in existing international legal frameworks combine with short-sighted national policies to reinforce chaotic and dangerous movements. This chaos heightens anti-migrant anxieties.” It is incumbent on states, including through the ongoing negotiations for the Global Compacts for Migration and on Refugees, respectively, to provide legal pathways for migration and to take the other concrete steps necessary to create an international framework that prioritises substantive equality for all, they said. The experts said the language of discrimination and intolerance had now become common-place in the media and even in mainstream national political discourses, and they called on States and other actors to redouble their efforts to address the factors contributing to the increase in racial discrimination and inequality. “Putting an end to racial profiling by law enforcement agents is just as urgent as putting an end to violent hate crimes perpetrated by private actors,” the experts said. “Denouncing xenophobic Muslim bans implemented through immigration policies that rely on offensive and flawed assumptions about entire religious groups, is just as urgent as denouncing explicit Islamophobic or anti-Semitic statements made by political leaders.

“Putting an end to the forced displacement and cultural extinction of racial, ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples that results from government and multinational corporation-driven extraction and construction projects, is just as urgent as addressing the resurgence of neo-Nazism,” the statement concluded. http://www.panapress.com/Rise-in-racism,-xenophobia-is-ala rming,-warn-UN-rights-experts--12-630543034-34-lang4-inde x.html

Areas for discussion and reflection: What are the factors driving migration in your context? Are migrants welcome in your place? Why? Who has spoken out for migrants and listened to them? Who has stood up to the bigots in your place? How have churches been engaged in the issues? Only in terms of pastoral care for refugees, or not even that? Empire has done all it can to invade borders, and makes sure that money and capital can easily cross borders. But yet it whips up fear and hate around the migration of people, especially the people its systems impoverish. Do you have any reflections on why this is? Migration reveals the xenophobic heart of empire. Are there communities of love, life and tolerance which reveal Babylon has fallen? Could yours be one of them?

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THE PROMISE OF AN ABUNDANT LIFE by Rev Dr Latu Latai, Malua Theological College

Deuteronomy 15:7-11 (NIV)

If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. 8 Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need. 9 Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward the needy among your fellow Israelites and give them nothing. They may then appeal to the Lord against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. 10 Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. 11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land. 7

The structure of a Samoan house or fale is symbolic of the open nature of Samoan generosity and hospitality. The fale which is open without walls reflects an open invitation for people coming in and out of the house. Outside the fale there are no fences, and it is hard to distinguish the boundaries between one’s land and his or her neighbours. I remember when I was a young boy, when my Mom ran out of salt or sugar, she would quickly summon me to our next door neighbour with a banana leaf to borrow some for our evening meal. I felt no embarrassment then, as this was quite the norm. There was an openness about the way Samoans lived then. Communal life was about sharing. Although you had little, no one was left hungry or without a home. One who is limamau meaning tightfisted, was regarded with resentment. Life then maybe seen as simple but people still experienced the abundance of life in their rich environment and communal sharing. The Samoans today still persistently believe that poverty does not exist in their society, as this is not encouraged in the Samoan culture. If a Samoan is poor, then he or she must be lazy, because there is always an abundance of land to grow food and free access to the sea to fish.

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Today, I sometimes speculate as the voices of despair at the high cost of living are increasingly heard, and poverty is steadily rising at the same rate as European or papalagi houses with concrete walls erected, substituting the open Samoan fale. Iron fences to protect one’s properties, becomes a common sight here and there. Indeed our way of life has changed dramatically within our span of a lifetime. In our modern world, capitalism offers us a prosperous life of abundance in material wealth. Some have already tasted the sweet benefits of this promise. However, we are also seeing that the prospects of economic globalisation for many have yet to materialise. Our generation is so entrenched in the western lifestyle that our way of life now depends on imported goods. The neo-liberal economic theory of supply and demand that promises wealth to trickle down to the average person is only a dream for the many. We are caught in what some have called the TINA syndrome – acronym for There Is No Alternative. Our governments believe that globalisation is the only way forward and the new catchword is “development”. And in our race to become ‘developed’, we have become self-centred, close hearted and tightfisted. Brexit, Donald Trump, the denial of Climate Change, the Refugee crisis - these represent the kind of values that seek to dominate our world. Values that are more inward than outward, individualistic rather than communal. And in such a world, many are trapped in a system based on Darwinism - that only the fit will survive. In the Bible however, Jesus has promised everyone an abundant of life. “I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly.” But how can we see Jesus’ promise of abundant life for many in our world today?

This is the challenge for us; how can we help make that promise a reality for many who are left out? This morning we are reminded again of our crucial mission as Christians. As we hear Moses preaching to the Israelites before they enter into the promised land, we hear clearly God’s despise at systems that create poverty and slavery. In Chapter 15 of our reading, God deals radically with issues of economics and poverty. The first section looks at the cancellation of debts after every seven years. The second section which we’ve heard a portion of looks at God’s message of generosity and care for the poor. And the last section looks at the freeing from slavery. Interestingly enough, poverty, debt and slavery are serious concerns facing our small islands in the Pacific, as well as many developing regions in the world today. Poverty increases as our governments struggle to pay off accumulations of foreign debts. Our young people and children are now prone to slavery in cheap labour and sex trade industries. In Samoa, one of the fastest growing non-government organisations is Samoa Victims Support, which now houses young children, girls and women – victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. These problems, once unheard of in our so-called “paradise” now fill the pages of our local newspapers. Problems that arise out of desperation, born out of sin, not necessarily the poor person’s sin or laziness, but sin that is perpetrated upon them by others, or by the surrounding systemic evil that infects institutions and the culture in general. Sins of greed and power that create cycles of poverty that have trapped many. Sins based on systems that man has created.

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In our passage this morning, we hear God seeking to eliminate poverty and slavery by instituting his economics of grace on the nation of Israel in order to diffuse and derail those cycles of poverty. First by cancelling debts, freeing slavery and instilling in the people a generous and open heart. “If there is one among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother, but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs.” Brothers and Sisters in Christ, as Christians we see that one of God’s primary characteristics in the Bible is that He is a God of mission. Hence God calls the Church to be an instrument of his mission in the world. To always share and relate to the context of the world. Our mission today is to do more and more with salvation in its totality; Salvation, not only for the soul but for the wellbeing of people here and now. Mission therefore, is contextual and situational, to reconcile and to transform; to free people from all forms of injustice, fighting against systems that have exploited, enslaved and impoverished many. Eschatologically, we believe and anticipate in the coming of the kingdom, but we also believe, that in the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ, the kingdom can be experienced now. For many in our world today, that experience of the kingdom, and of Jesus’ promise of abundant life seems a distant reality. This is a challenge for us as a Church, as Christians and as international faith organisations such as CWM. I would like to end with an account of a Samoan woman named Tafu’e who served as a missionary with her husband in Papua New Guinea in the early 20th century.

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Tafu’e and her husband were amongst hundreds of Samoan missionary couples who pioneered the evangelisation of the Western Pacific from 1839 to 1979, in places like Rotuma, Vanuatu, Loyalty Islands, New Caledonia, Tuvalu, Tokelau, Niue, Kiribati and all the way to Torres Strait Islands and Papua New Guinea. In 1905 Tafu’e and her husband were ordained in Malua and posted to Papua New Guinea at a village called Toaripi. In 1911 her husband sadly died from Malaria. Tafu’e instead of returning to Samoa, continued to work on her own at Toaripi. In 1913, the wife of LMS missionary Ellice in a letter addressed to women in Samoa, gave an inspirational account of her work. She reported that missionary Dauncey who was in charge of the district expressed his joy with the work of Tafu’e. She wrote that “she has 89 boys and 76 girls in her school. The church there is well. More are being added to those who are eager for Jesus. Sundays are observed and several dark practices have been wiped out freeing them.” For the next 16 years Tafu’e continued working on her own until she died on 30 September 1929. According to reports, she fell from her fale popo or copra house. A copra house was where coconut kernels were dried in preparation to be sold as copra. The story of Tafu’e is inspirational for me, not only because of her commitment and faith, but because she broke conventional boundaries. She was a woman working on her own – she could never do that in Samoa. Secondly she was industrious – she died making copra to help people in the village where she was working. Our world might be changing, and new challenges arise, but I believe that our mission, our calling is still the same. Jesus Christ gave us that mission, and He also laid out how we should go about doing that mission. To serve others in order that they also receive the promise of an abundant life. Unto to Him be honour and praise. Amen.


AT A GLANCE


AT A GLANCE

IN OTHER NEWS #PrayForHongKong Amendments to Hong Kong’s extradition law which allows fugitives to be sent to China has met with widespread street protests for its review. In mid-June, lawmakers were forced to reschedule a planned debate on the controversial bill “to a later time” after protestors parked themselves outside government headquarters and blocked key downtown routes. Join us in prayer and solidarity for our brothers and sisters in Hong Kong Council of the Church of Christ in China (HKCCCC) during this turbulent time as they grapple with human rights issues, challenges and uncertainty of their country’s future. Pray that God will give the leaders hearts of humility to listen to voices from all sectors of society and wisdom to accept suitable views that genuinely seek the welfare of the people. Pray also that the policy they formulate will be comprehensive in addressing people’s fears, sentiments and concerns, to avoid more violent resistance and casualties. Amidst conflicts, pray that God will grant peace, self-control and restraint, for all parties to be willing to dialogue rationally and find solutions. May the words of Prophet Amos strengthen their hearts, and “let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream” (Amos 5:24). United Church of Zambia (UCZ) consecrates new synod complex UCZ has successfully completed a new Synod Complex building in Lusaka. On 19 February, its Synod Headquarters organised a Thanksgiving and Consecration Service that opened the doors of the facility to the general public. Former Synod Bishop of the UCZ, His Grace, the Rev Bishop Sydney Sichilima graced the occasion. Walking the talk for Cyclone Idai When Cyclone Idai ravaged Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique, the Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa (UPCSA) went further than expressing condolences for families and communities mourning the loss. Their Presbyterian Churches opened their doors and became drop-off points for donations from all other churches, political parties and private companies. They offered to receive the donations at the Central Office (Tiyo Soga House) before forwarding all the aid to Zimbabwe. Ten years of faithfully building a church The South Africa synod regions received a test of faith during a United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA) denominational Executive meeting more than ten years ago. During the meeting, the then Gen-Sec Rev Dr Prince Dibeela and past president Rev Hendrick Pillay challenged them to build a place of worship for Petrusville United Congregational Church (UCC). UCC was situated in a marginalised area and community and the building project took ten years to finally complete.

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In May, it was handed over to the local church, who invited UCCSA to dedicate the building. Rev Pillay preached from Revelations 3:7-13, reminding the congregants that the Petrusville building project is a testimony of God opening doors that no one can close. Now that the doors are open, worshippers should go out to the world and be the church in the world, he said. Conversations on “Ministry in the Margins” More than 50 people became more aware of and better understood the national picture for ministry in marginal communities, and developed ideas for developing their own practice in the UK recently. Organised by United Reformed Church (URC), and funded by Council for World Mission (CWM), the “In the Thick of it” event was held in Yorkshire Dales from 22-23 May. Participants, who were engaged in mission and ministry in marginalised places, told their own stories and were listened to by people in different contexts undergoing similar experiences. The event also facilitated honest conversations on their challenges and solutions, mutual learning, networking and encouragement. Representatives from charities, ministries and networks such as Together for the Common Good, Church Action on Poverty, the Catholic Association for Racial Justice, the Methodist Diaconal Order, and the Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT) provided first-hand accounts of challenges facing Christians and others in diverse situations across UK. In addition, URC voted unanimously to divest from fossil fuel companies when the URC Mission Council met from 13-15 May. The resolution was presented by Moderator of the URC National Synod of Scotland Rev Dr David Pickering. He had prepared it with the support of Operation Noah, a Christian charity working with the Church to inspire action on climate change. The URC also urged its trust bodies to refocus the Church’s investment portfolio on renewable energy and clean technologies. Empowering children to champion children’s rights The Karnataka Central Diocese in Bangalore received 800 children and their accompaniers from Church of South India (CSI)’s dioceses on 20-21 May. Unlike the typical children’s church camp, it aimed to empower children to champion issues affecting their fellow children in the community and introduce salient parts of the draft CSI Child protection policy. Sessions were facilitated in four regional languages Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada - and used creative elements to ease participants into the learning journey. This included puppet shows, story-telling and an enactment of contemporary situations of human trafficking. Parallel storytelling sessions also deepened their understanding about issues faced by children with disabilities; children at risk and children in conflict in their community. At the end, participants were invited to come up with action plans and share suggestions for building a child-friendly church.


AT A GLANCE Engaging radically and envisioning creatively This year’s Discernment And Radical Engagement (DARE) Global Forum was held from 20-21 June in Taiwan, in solidarity with the Taiwanese people and especially with our member church Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT) for their continuous struggle for democracy. During the opening service at Lo-Tong Presbyterian Church, CWM General Secretary delivered the keynote address and launched “Scripture and Resistance” – the second book in the “Theology in the Age of Empire” series. At the gathering, each presenter presented an academic paper, attended and engaged with the presentations by other participants of their stream, and submitted the revised paper for publication. There were six streams – earth, class, race, gender, occupation, and artificial intelligence (AI) – this year. The event, while fruitful, was not all about academia. Participants better grasped the struggles of Taiwanese people, and how PCT is engaged in prophetic vocation when they met jointly with the Taiwan Ecumenical Forum (TEF) Steering Committee on 19 June. They also visited Chilin Foundation and Museum of Taiwan’s Democratic Development. The Foundation aims to expand worldviews and enrich souls through experience and reflection, while the Museum displays the history of Taiwan’s democratic movement and archives the past 100 years of the movement.

WORLDWATCH

Humanity Wins You Might Have Missed Free lunches for the needy in Singapore No such thing as a free lunch? Not for the 1,000 beneficiaries at the “Feed the City” event on 13 April in Singapore.⁴ It was the first time “Feed the City” – a community event started in 2015 by US-based mobile app TangoTab - was held in Asia. The app, which feeds the needy when users dine in partner restaurants, was launched in Singapore at the event. TangoTab has partnered F&B operators such as McDonald’s and traditional cafe Ya Kun Kaya Toast in 500 locations here. Since 2014, it has donated over 3 million meals to charity partners in the US. Over 270 cafes, eateries and hotel chains in Singapore will also remove straws from their premises, or only provide them upon request by July 1.⁶ This Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) initiative is part of the group’s PACT (Plastic ACTion) business coalition and supported by the National Environment Agency and Zero Waste SG. It will continue to encourage more brands to join industry-wide efforts to reduce excessive plastic waste, which includes reviewing product design and switching to sustainable alternatives.

Presbyterian Church to feed Venezuelan migrants Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Trinidad and Tobago Rev Joy Abdul-Mohan saw that Venezuelan migrants trying to fill their empty stomachs in her country were being enslaved, and it made her sad. She has since promised that the Church will use its resources to alleviate the migrants’ hunger ¹ as part of its outreach. In the long term, its goals include conducting language and educational programmes for Venezuelan children who initially are not integrated into the school system.² Worried about refugees being trafficked and the police’s alleged involvement, they plan to partner other churches to provide accommodation along the south coast where the Venezuelans will arrive. Argentina and Algeria make history by stamping out malaria Through improvements in detection, diagnosis and treatment, Algeria and Argentina have been declared malaria-free by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in what has been described as a “historic achievement”. ³ This comes after warnings that the global fight against malaria has slipped off the track in recent years, with cases rising in many countries worst hit by the disease. Algeria is the second country in the WHO African region to be officially recognised as malaria-free, after Mauritius in 1973; and Argentina is the second country in the Americas to eliminate the disease in 45 years, following Paraguay in 2018. A human chain of hope Some 500,000 people joined hands across the Demilitarised Zone separating South and North Korea, in a 500-km long human chain to call for peace.⁷ The event marked the first anniversary of the Panmunjom declaration for peace, prosperity and unification of the Korean peninsula, which was signed last year by North and South Korea on April 27. It was also crucial for people to raise their voices to maintain the momentum expressed last year at Panmunjom after the dismal outcome of the Hanoi summit between North Korea and the US in February. A man who runs a Christian charity and led London 2012's multi-faith chaplaincy team, decided to “respond with friendship” rather than fear after the devastating Christchurch mosque shootings in New Zealand.⁸ Mr Andrew Graystone stood outside the Medina Mosque on Friday with a placard that said “You are my friends. I will keep watch while you pray.” A photo was taken of him, and images of similar acts at mosques in the Midlands and North East of England have also gone viral.

http://www.guardian.co.tt/news/presbyterian-church-to-feed-venezeulans-6.2.854321.b0c95ccca7 https://www.trinidadexpress.com/news/local/the-presbyterians-will-help-venezuelan-migrants/article_e5edbbee-807f-11e9-928b-fb17253bb5ca.html 3 https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2019/may/23/argentina-and-algeria-stamp-out-malaria-in-historic-achievement 4 https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/1000-beneficiaries-get-free-lunch-app-feed-needy-launched 5 https://edition.cnn.com/2019/05/17/asia/taiwan-same-sex-marriage-intl/index.html 6 https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/hundreds-fb-outlets-singapore-stop-providing-straws 7 https://www.united-church.ca/blogs/round-table/chain-hope-across-dmz 8 https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-manchester-47595582 1 2

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VIEW POINTS


VIEWPOINTS

How and Where Are We Being Subversive? by Ljavakaw Tjaljimaraw from The Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT)

Young Churches I am grateful that as a first-generation Christian, young in age and faith, I have the undeserved privilege to address this meeting of representatives from five East Asian churches, including my mother church, the PCT. It means a lot to me, but not just to me. Tackling the issue of empire from the perspective of the youth is a very meaningful topic for our gathering, because in a certain sense, we are all young enough to be called “youth”. We all come from very young churches when placing our churches in the two-thousand-year history of Christianity. East Asian churches are by no means old churches that have been around since time immemorial. All of them can trace their origins to the late 19th century when the Western missionaries came to East Asia. We should not ask each other: how old are you? We should ask: how young are you? Yes, how young are we? The Presbyterian Church in Malaysia, also known as the Gereja Presbyterian Church (GPM), traces its origin to 1881; it is 138 years young this year. The Presbyterian Church of Korea (PCK) was founded in 1884, a few years later than the GPM; it celebrates its 135th anniversary this year. The Hong Kong Council of the Church of the Christ in China (HKCCC) was founded in 1918; last year was its centennial. Chin people converted to Christianity in the late 19th century as well, while the first Presbyterian congregation was founded in 1956. That means the Presbyterian Church of Myanmar (PCM) is the youngest among us; 63 years young this year. The Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT) traces its origin to 1865,

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celebrating its 154th anniversary this year. My mother church happens to be the oldest among us, but like its East Asian counterparts I just mentioned, it qualifies as a young church in the long history of Christianity. Being young churches means we are still growing physically, mentally, and spiritually. There are always pains in the process of growth and obstacles to overcome. Roughly speaking, we five churches have each gone through a passage from adolescence to a new stage of learning how to be a responsible young adult. Learning to be a young adult responsible for not only its own church, but also each other and the world we live in. This is the reason why we gather today to discuss and address the issue of empire and the problems it causes.

Contextualisation I was assigned a topic “How and Where Are We Being Subversive (to Empire)?” I have to say this topic itself is very subversive. Perhaps it is too subversive for me, such that after being invited, for a long time I wasn’t even sure how and where to start. However, the term “how and where” reminded me of the most notable theologian in the history of the PCT, that is, Shoki Coe. In the 1970s, Shoki Coe put forth his “contextualising theology” that is highly regarded in the ecumenical community. He argued that we should not simply “transplant” the Gospel and Western theologies and try to accommodate them to our societies and the local culture. Instead, theology should be contextually made and reflected, and it should respond to the very concrete social realities, rather than float above our context.

I think Shoki Coe had proposed a proper methodology of doing theology for East Asian churches, and even for other non-Western churches around the world. Not only that, I also believe that it can be applied to the theological renewal of Western churches. I also believe that it can be usefully applied to our discussion about empire today. In talking about how we can respond to empire, it is necessary for us to discern what really happened to us and our surroundings and to understand what this means for the concrete context in which we are placed.

Malaysia The Presbyterian Church in Malaysia (GPM) was established in a Muslim-majority country – or, an Islam-dominated region if we enlarge our horizon. I think we are all aware that such a social environment is often “harsh” for Christian churches. The GPM as a small Christian denomination has long been frustrated by government policies that are not friendly towards churches. For example, it struggles to maintain the ethos and characteristics of the Christian Mission Schools by protecting them from the pressures caused by the government’s Islamic education policy. There are also certain administrative restrictions on building churches and the church-run institutions cannot access government funds. Even evangelising among certain groups of people in Malaysia is prohibited by law. The GPM has almost no say in amending government policies towards a greater degree of religious liberty. Besides the harsh external environment, the GPM has its own internal difficulties to overcome.


VIEWPOINTS For example, the GPM is in the process of transforming its identity from a Chinese migrants’ church to an indigenous Malaysian church. In this transitional process, the use of different languages in church meetings and wider societal settings presents obstacles to communication and the growth of the church.

Myanmar The Presbyterian Church of Myanmar (PCM) faces an even trickier situation than the GPM in Malaysia. The PCM is based in Chin state, which is the home of the Chin people and one of autonomous regions within the Myanmar federation. Myanmar as a whole is a Buddhist-majority country, in which around 90 percent of the entire population is Buddhist, while Chin State is Christian-majority state within the Buddhist-majority Myanmar with Christians making up nearly 90 percent of its population. In other words, Christians are an absolute majority in Chin state but an absolute minority at the national level. Furthermore, in the Christian-majority Chin state, the Presbyterian Church is a minority denomination, amounting to 7 percent of its population. As a minority ethnic group accounting for only 1 percent of the Myanmar population, the Chin people face significant challenges in protecting their autonomy against pressures from the central government. As a minority denomination in the Chin state, the PCM suffers from a lack of human and material resources to set up ministries for taking care of migrant workers, helping alcoholics and drug addicts rehabilitate their lives, and nurturing the youth and children. The lack of a lingua franca and regional linguistic differences continue to cause problems in communication and publishing. These problems encourage a provincial mentality among synods, threatening the unity of the PCM.

Korea Compared to GPM and PCM, the Presbyterian Church of Korea (PCK) is situated in a social environment that is much more conducive for the mission of Christianity.

Korean churches have experienced massive growth since the end of the Second World War. Before 1945, about 2 percent of the population was Christian; in recent years, around 30 percent or more of South Koreans identify as Christians. Among all Protestant churches, the PCK is the largest one in terms of membership and congregations. Even though Christianity is not a majority religion in Korea yet, it has definitely become a significant minority, achieving a high degree of influence in Korea politics. That is why the PCK has played a leading role on the Korean peninsula issue, earnestly but cautiously promoting inter-Korean reconciliation and seeking the ultimate unification between the two Koreas. This is never an easy task. On the one hand, the Korean peninsula is like a wrestling ring, in which some of the strongest powers in the world, including Russia, China, Japan and the United States, turn up as uninvited players, while on the other hand, the PCK is trying to deal with a nuclearised dictatorship that is probably the most unpredictable in the world. Along with this heavy burden, the PCK is worried about the loss of its credibility in society, the low birthrate within and without the Church, and the decreasing numbers of young Christians.

Taiwan The Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT) shares some similarities with the PCK. Neither as large as the PCK in scale nor as politically influential, the PCT has still played an important role in facilitating and deepening the democratisation of Taiwan. With its commitment to be a prophetic church seeking to meet the challenges and needs of a country suffering from continuous and multilayered colonialisms, the PCT has made unremitting efforts in pursuing transitional justice, realising aboriginal self-government, and making Taiwan into an internationally recognised de jure sovereign state. Difficulties come from without and within. Externally speaking, Taiwan has resisted alone for three decades an increasingly assertive China that has tried every means to overthrow Taiwan’s nascent democracy. Taiwan’s cries might not go unheard, but most states in the world would like to continue doing business with China and so just stand by without lifting a finger.

Internally speaking, besides the low birthrate and the aging of the church, two difficulties that PCT and PCK have in common, in recent years the PCT has faced problems of managing the church-owned universities and hospitals as well as internal divisions on the same-sex marriage issue.

Hong Kong In recent years, the Hong Kong Council of the Church of the Christ in China (HKCCCC) has been in a situation characterised by political turmoil. As everyone knows, the political turmoil originates from the inconsistency between the Chinese Communist Party’s definition of what “one country, two systems” means and the expectations of most Hong Kong people. 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, especially among young people. Several Hongkong friends have asked me about the opportunities to migrate to Taiwan. As a Taiwanese, I am, of cause, happy to hear my Hongkong friends are attracted to the prospect of living in Taiwan. But it is sad that they wish to leave Hong Kong, their hometown, because they no longer consider it a livable place.

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VIEWPOINTS Different Empires When studying the situations of our five churches, we may soon become aware of an inconvenient fact: while we may all face empire, we don’t face the same empire. We can talk about empire with one another in an abstract, conceptual way, but when it comes to the concrete, contextual level, each church confronts different empires. We are called to fight together, but embarrassingly find that we have no common enemy. Some churches may feel certain issues very pressing, while others do not resonate in the same way.

Back to The Early Churches Then, what can we do? I suggest we may draw some inspirations from the early church. What I am mentioning is not the biblical early church in the days of Roman Empire, but the very inception of our East Asian churches. While we may have no common enemy today, we do share very similar experiences of conversion at the very inception of our East Asian churches. It was the time when the Western missionaries, including those sent by the predecessors of CWM, namely, the London Missionary Society, came to Asia and met our forefathers and foremothers in faith. In 2010, CWM produced its theology statement on “Mission in the Context of Empire”, which has become the core of CWM’s programs ever since. What particularly touched me is that the statement reveals a profound sense of self-critique and self-reflection. On the self-reflective basis of “remembering we (that means CWM) are a product of mission and empire going together”, the statement firmly states that: “as we are participants in God’s mission we are called to live in opposition to empire (p. 10)”. As the General Secretary for CWM, Rev Dr Collin Cowan, said in the foreword of another CWM document “Unmasking Empire” that this statement pushed forward a vision of mission that may make many find inspiring but others uncomfortable. I don’t know who might feel uncomfortable, but I personally appreciate and admire the noble qualities revealed in the statement to consciously refine its missionary methodology that was previously, more or less, associated with paternalism into one characterised by equal partnership. 21 | INSiGHT

At the same time, I consider that as one of the most long-standing and important missionary organisation, CWM has no need to blame itself excessively for its missionary history, and that the contributions to East Asian churches and societies made by the early missionaries deserve due credit and are worth revisiting. When it comes to the context in which our churches were brought into being, it should be noted, and could be denied by no one, that empire had already existed before the so-called “Western Empires” came to Asia. The Burmese kingdom, Islamic sultanate, Qing Empire and the Confucian gentry, or Joseon Dynasty and Yangban aristocracy, in whatever forms they appeared, these oppressive, life-denying regimes – or to put it in our terminology, “empires” – did exist before Western Imperialisms and missionaries arrived. In other words, the early missionaries were conducting mission in the context of empire. To be more precise, they were preaching the Gospel in the midst of two kinds of empire – one kind was the native empire, the other the Western Empire. In short, they were situated in a context of empire that was much more complicated and difficult than in our time. Then, we may ask: sandwiched in-between these two kinds of empire, what could the early missionaries do? In fact, as we all come from young churches, we are still benefiting from what they did, and no doubt we can still remember clearly what they actually did at that time. Their contributions are still remembered and commemorated today, as my mother church PCT does frequently within the church as well as in public. However, we rarely link the path the early missionaries took to the context of empire in which we are placed. The early missionaries did not permissively surrender to the native empire nor seek to overthrow it with the help of the Western Empire. As we all know, they chose to empower the powerless through education and medication. Our forerunners in faith responded quickly and fervently, viewing the Gospel as their most valuable treasure. Why? Because they could smell that what the missionaries preached was the gospel of liberation, and that the gospel of Jesus Christ was the gospel for the poor, the oppressed, the marginalised, and the powerless – most, if not all, our forerunners in faith were exactly the people of this kind.

In my view, the early missionaries showed us the “third way”, an alternative both to permissive submission and violent resistance to empire. It is a time-tested inspiration for us to conduct mission in our context of empire, for history has proven that empires, be they native or Western Empire, did not last long, but the enterprises founded by the missionaries, that is, the East Asian churches, are alive and still growing and prospering. From my understanding, claiming ourselves to be the successors of the Protestant and Reformed tradition implies that we are called to be “constructive radicals” in this world. Being constructive radicals means we will never satisfy ourselves with the status quo by overlooking the injustice that still prevails. That is why we keep protesting and asking for reform. As Christians with Protestant and Reformed imprints, we are radical in the sense that we believe in and look for another world that is better and more beautiful than this world, but when trying to realise our ideals and visions for this world, we do it in constructive ways. In this regard, the early missionaries set a good example for us. Unlike the then communists and the contemporary post-modernists, the early missionaries sought to change this world neither through revolution nor deconstruction, but through empowerment – to empower the powerless.

From Me Program to We Program Since solely relying on the Western missionaries as our forerunners did is no longer possible or desirable, I would like to propose the idea of “Mutual Empowerment” as the basis for the missionary work of our East Asian churches in the context of empire. The basic rationale is that: if we are going to subvert empire, we should first get to know our comrades. We should know the strength and weakness of our battle companions, to understand what they need and what they can offer, and to learn something useful from their mission modes in their particular contexts.


VIEWPOINTS To achieve this, I would like to suggest that every year each of our five churches select four promising evangelists or laypersons in their 20s or 30s and send one of them to each of the other four churches. At the same time, each of our five churches should devise a one-year program for the four promising youths visiting from the four churches to learn about and experience the host church. Taking my mother church, the PCT, as an example, we might arrange for the four youths to make long-stay visits to various urban, rural, and aboriginal congregations, to attend the annual meeting of the general assembly and even some presbyteries as observers, to visit the three seminaries, two universities, three hospitals, and one publisher and news press, and to serve as short-term volunteers in the service centers for labours and fishers. The other four churches could design similar programs based on their own local situations.

In this way, after ten years we will have a group of young leaders in our churches who knows their neighbouring comrades well; after twenty years we will have a leadership in our churches who have a deep understanding of how to cooperate with our neighbouring comrades. This will be the time that we can talk of a new phase, what I call “Withstand Empire”. In other words, “Mutual Empowerment” is a twenty-year, or even longer, preparation, with which we may be able to claim that we are ready to “Withstand Empire” together. This happened to be a “ME to WE” transition, if the two terms, “Mutual Empowerment” and “Withstand Empire”, are abbreviated by taking only the first letter of the words. This is only a preliminary idea, and as I am not a minister in our church, I barely know how to make it administratively feasible and practically workable. I contribute what I can contribute, and hope it would not be too naïve an idea. May God lead us and give you, the leaders of our five East Asian churches, the wisdom to realise His will.

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Healing Relationships: The commitment to healing relationships sits at the heart of CWM’s vision for the transformation of the world. The process of healing relationships is based on the hope for a new spirituality, which is anchored in God’s fundamental identity as the Creator. We affirm our belief in a God of life that is committed to the life of the world and to human flourishing. We believe that God wants all humanity, in whose image and likeness we are all created, to be more than we presently are and to be all that we were created to be. The God in whom this faith and commitment is located is revealed in the witness of the scriptures, particularly - the life and ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, in whose name and identity the church is founded. The twenty-first century is being shaped against a backdrop of mounting conflicts between people across our tangled lines of religion, cultures and political ideologies and world views to name but a few.

Given the fragmentation of the world, the desire for a renewed push for healing relationships is not a theoretical or an abstract concept. Rather, it is a recognition that the world needs to be changed. For the church to be faithful to her identity and existence, we need to be committed to being a part of a creative process that is seeking to change both systems and structures, as well as human hearts and consciousness. Healing relationships can be identified in a number of forms and represents the all embracing nature of God, who is making all things new (Rev 21:5). So whether in terms of climate justice, seeking to heal the relationship between human kind and the creation - which is God’s gift to us, for which we hold responsibility for its care and sustainability, or witnessed in inter-ethnic, cultural and national reconciliation between warring peoples, the cause of healing relationships remains a key commitment for CWM and its member churches. Realising that our commitment to healing relationships is rooted in God’s grace and power, it should come as no surprise, then, that the hopeful intention for the changes we wish to see in the world and in all peoples, is founded on a relational and transformative spirituality that is God’s gift to us.

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Hope for a New Spirituality by Prof Anthony Reddie, CWM Mission Secretary, Europe

God, in Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit is pouring out God’s spirit onto all peoples (Acts 2:17), seeking to bring about transformation and healing. A key feature of this healing and the spirituality that underpins it, is the relational quality of God’s work, in which CWM and its member churches are invited to participate. The reconciling work of Christ that brings God’s love to all human kind and fosters communion between peoples, represents the relational quality of Christian mission to which CWM is committed. The transformative mission of God is founded on an active, gracious love that is costly, rooted in Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross, in which justice is a key feature of what we understand in terms of reconciliation and healing. Too often, we note a kind of ‘false peace’ in which structural injustice and fractured relationships are covered over with a form of camouflage that seeks to disguise the true depth of human sin and the disregard for the other. The gospel of Jesus Christ reminds us that perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18) and that the mission of God that is seeking to bring about healing relationships cannot be accomplished on the false truths of compromising with injustice.

Rather, the Church is called to bear witness to the truth and this means we must be committed to confronting injustice and all the factors and forms that limit the prospect of abundant life that Jesus promises in John 10:10. We are called to love ourselves and the neighbour, realising that this relational dynamic cannot occur outside of the contexts and cultures in which human beings and communities are rooted – for mission and human encounter are never lived in a vacuum. It is for this reason that our commitment to human flourishing must include climate justice and the care for God’s creation because it’s within the context of specific cultural settings that God’s mission is realised. Given the present context of deep divisions between peoples and nations, people trafficking, climate change and economic injustice, we know that renewal will only occur when the Body of Christ is willing to make the supreme sacrifice of immersing itself in the suffering, tears and the broken-heartedness of the world. We are called to work in partnership with God to help realise the healing transformation of all creation for which Jesus came. (John 3:16). Let us step into this commitment with boldness and confidence, safe in the knowledge that in the name of Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit, nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39). June 2019 | 24


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My PIM Journey

by Rebecca Lalbiaksangi, Llanfair Uniting Church, Penrhys

My journey as Partner in Mission (PIM) started in April 2003. It was such an exciting time for me to take this new big step. I worked in Madagascar for eight years at Akany Avoko Ambohidratrimo. Owned by the Federation of Protestant Churches, Akany Avoko is a centre for girls, and where children and young teenagers who are orphans and some with court cases are cared for. It was such a blessing to be able to take part in raising the most vulnerable girls. Despite Screen grab of Rebecca Lalbiaksangi in Wanstead, London - 23 July 2016 the many challenges, we have witnessed some girls coming from a very difficult background but are now achieving so much success in their lives. I also worked in the AIDS project run by the Church of Jesus Christ Madagascar. I was and still am impressed by the church for taking the lead to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS far in advance before the problem breaks in Madagascar. I think this is the reason why the percentage of the HIV/AIDS rate is so low compared to the other countries in Africa. Having worked with and counselling the people affected by HIV/AIDS in Mizoram, I enjoyed working in this FJKM project. I also had a wonderful experience being accepted in a group with People living with HIV/AIDS supported by the Malagasy government. I got married to Miara, who is from Madagascar, in 2007. Our first daughter Hannah was born in 2008. In 2011, the three of us moved to work at Llanfair Uniting Church, Penrhys in Wales. Miara serves as a full time volunteer and works with me and the team at Llanfair. Llanfair Church is the heart of the community and it serves the community in various ways. Then Seren, our second daughter, was born in Wales in 2014. The girls play an important role connecting us with other parents, children and the community. During our time here at Llanfair, we received so much love and care. This often reminded us of Jesus who asks us to love one another. The Church sets an excellent example for others on how to reach out to the community without being judgemental and to stay inclusive always. It is wonderful that everyone in the community accepts Llanfair as his/her church, including the children. As Partner in Mission, it is important to understand the mission of where we serve and be a partner in fulfilling their mission.

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Often we have our own way of doing our mission and stick to our own mindset forgetting that we are there to support, empower and inspire the receiving church in their local mission. It is important to be open and flexible. My time as PIM has taught me so many things. The way a Church functions may be different but it was wonderful to help each other and support each other as God’s family. Bringing my experience and culture from Mizoram and India to Madagascar and Wales, learning about other churches, the people and culture and way of life was a tremendous experience. At the same time, we share what we experience with our sending church during our home leave or in a newsletter which is very important too. This can open up new ideas too. I believe PIM is the living link, connecting and strengthening the relationship of at least two churches within the CWM member churches. Recently, nine people from Llanfair’s Bible study group visited Madagascar with us after hearing about Madagascar many times during the sessions. It was an eye opener for them to see FJKM’s projects, other charities and meeting Malagasy people. As a family, we were invited many times to churches, schools and informal groups to talk about Madagascar. Here in Wales, people are impressed and encouraged to hear the first Missionaries who came to Mizoram and Madagascar are from Wales. We often reminded them that we are the fruits of their hard work and prayers, and that it is our turn to come to them to give back what they gave us many years ago. I do hope that CWM is still planning to continue the PIM Programme. This is the most direct way we learn from each other, promoting an integration of God’s big family and growing together. Here in Penrhys, there is always great excitement when someone is coming to help in the church. Lastly, I thank God for giving me and my family an opportunity to serve God and to be able to take part in the mission for the fullness in life through Christ for all creation. I also would like to thank CWM, my sending Church Presbyterian Church of India, Mizoram Synod and FJKM for their assistance and prayers over the years. And also to Llanfair Church and the Presbyterian Church of Wales for their endless encouragement and support. May God continue to bless each and every one of us as we continue to serve God.


CWM’S PARTNERS IN MISSION PROGRAMME The Call To Mission The call to mission is to everyone who desires to join in partnership with Jesus Christ in His work in the world. His vision that all may have life and life in abundance is a compelling one for all to hear God’s cry for humanity wherever people live outside of the experience of life in fullness. It is also an invitation to respond by offering hands, minds and resources. To this end, Council for World Mission’s Partners in Mission (PIM) programme provides an opportunity to offer and receive partners to accomplish specific mission priorities as member churches or partner organisations respond to God’s call to mission. The PIM programme is a coordinated approach to sharing people. The term ‘Partners in Mission’ refers to an individual who serves in a context outside of his/her own nation and member church, using skills, experiences and gifts which are needed in the new context that they serve. The term ‘Partners in Mission’ demonstrates the organisation’s commitment to accompanying our members as partners. It recognises and affirms that each member has something to share and offer and that our members are already participating in God’s mission through the church and in the world. He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore, ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.” Luke 10:2 (NRSV) For more information about this programme, please contact the Mission Secretary in your region Africa Region - Rev Dr Sindiso Jele A Suite 21 & 27 1st Floor, Block B Metropolitan Park 8 Hillside Road Park Town Johannesburg 2193, South Africa D +27 11 486 9384 P +27 0114804850 Ext. 4850 M +27 71 061 0427 E sindiso.jele@cwmission.org Caribbean Region - Mrs Karen Francis A 1st floor, UCJCI Building 12 Carlton Crescent, Kingston 10, Jamaica W.I. P (876) 920 0931 M (876) 432-7057 F (876) 906 3592 E karen.francis@cwmission.org East and South Asia Region - Rev Julie Sim A 114 Lavender Street, #12-01 CT Hub 2, Singapore 338729 P +65 6887 3400 M +65 9011 5467 F +65 6235 7760 E julie.sim@cwmission.org Europe Region - Prof Anthony Reddie A 11 St Georges Circus, LONDON SE1 8EH, United Kingdom P +44 (0) 207 222 4214 F +44 (0) 207 222 3510 M +44 (0) 79 5834 6379 E anthony.reddie@cwmission.org Pacific Region - Rev Nikotemo Sopepa A 78 Vuya Road, Veiuto, Suva, Fiji Islands. P +679 3311133 M (679) 942 4458 E nikotemo.sopepa@cwmission.org The Partner in Mission Unit is located in the Caribbean region. Contact details for the Coordinator: Mrs Karen Francis - Partner in Mission Coordinator A 1st floor, UCJCI Building 12 Carlton Crescent, Kingston 10, Jamaica W.I. P (876) 920 0931 M (876) 432 7057 F (876) 906 3592 E karen.francis@cwmission.org

About The PIM The Partner in Mission joins in and contributes to what the member church/ecumenical body is already doing or has planned to do. CWM facilitates the sharing of people with administrative, communication, logistical and management responsibilities through members of the CWM staff team at the regional and global levels. A PIM’s work in a particular context is designed to facilitate the accomplishment of mission priorities. Consequently, PIMs may be medical professionals, teachers, pastors, community development workers to name a few. For the short term mission engagement programme persons with an even wider variety of skills are welcome as projects lasting less than two years may be undertaken. The PIM makes himself/herself available to share skills, gifts and experiences to enrich the places that they go to serve and open themselves to also be enriched by their own encounters where they serve with a view to contributing to their sending context upon return. Through CWM’s short- and long-term engagement programmes we aim to help our member churches and partners to accomplish the goals they have identified in their own communities. This may involve addressing a variety of needs e.g. educational, medical, leadership development, socio-economic development. It may also involve sharing the resource of people who have the skills, qualifications and experience to respond to needs in another part of the world. The PIM relationship arises out of agreed commitments to send, receive and go.

SENDING CONTEXT Offers an individual with skills, gifts and experiences to a receiving context.

RECEIVING CONTEXT Receives an individual with the requisite skills, gifts and experiences to meet needs of the context in line with its mission priorities.

The sending context, receiving context and the PIM play specific roles and carry out specific responsibilities.

SHORT TERM PROGRAMME Relates to an engagement of less than two years

LONG TERM PROGRAMME Relates to an engagement of more than two years.


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Reflections on ‘2019 Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka’ by Jude Lal Fernando, Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College Dublin

(This is an abridged version of the text I spoke at the memorial mass offered at St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Dublin on 28 April, 2019 by the Archbishop of Dublin, attended by the President of Ireland, government representatives, members of the Sri Lankan community in Ireland, Muslim representatives and a large section of Irish Catholics.)

A relative of a victim of the Easter Sunday massacre in Sri Lanka mourns after a Sunday mass on April 28, 2019. (AP / Manish Swarup)

Dear Archbishop, Dear President I would like to thank you and all our friends in Ireland for extending your prayerful solidarity with the people in Sri Lanka in this tragic moment. On Easter Sunday morning, when my wife and I contacted my sister and niece who live a short distance away from St Sebastian’s church in Negombo in Sri Lanka, my niece was in the nearby hospital, weeping inconsolably as she was with her staff members, desperately attempting to identify the lifeless and disfigured bodies of her pupils. She is a primary school teacher. Her school alone lost seven pupils along with eighteen of their family members. It is only one amongst hundreds of agonising stories. The faithful of this church is Sinhala-speaking. The congregation of St Anthony’s Church in Colombo, which was affected, is mostly Tamil-speaking, also bilingual. In the eastern province of Batticaloa, the faithful of the Evangelical Zion Church were Tamil speaking. Amongst others they lost fourteen children. The tourists who were affected belonged to different nationalities, to different faiths or no faith. 27 | INSiGHT

Where is God now in this massive loss of lives, pain of injuries and deep pain of losses? God in whom we believe is not a god of death, but the God of life who sent Jesus to give us life, life in abundance. Therefore the blood of all the people killed not only on Easter Sunday but for decades in Sri Lanka, including the lives of 70,000 Tamils who were massacred 10 years ago in the last phase of the war cry out to heaven and in it we can hear the voice of God. What do we hear? It is only by the way in which I – I as a believer in the Resurrection – respond to suffering and death that I can find meaning in both death and life. By surviving I become responsible for the meaning of those who did not. I believe that it is not the suffering, blood and death of Jesus that saved us. The cross is not the will of God. With, but beyond the cross, is the daring, loving response of Jesus. He who vehemently opposed and condemned those who laid heavy burdens on people, on that agonising cross, goes to the extent of forgiving his own tormentors. This response is death-defying. It is lifegiving. It is God’s response to both death and life. God proclaims life.


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Allah is the source of life. In his own life, the prophet Mohammed who stood for justice and unity, when he was ridiculed by opponents, forgave them: he reminded them of how Joseph treated his elder brothers and gave them amnesty. This is the creative response that transforms our relationships and politics. We are all survivors in one way or another who are still alive when scores of people are no more. Our responsibility is high and delicate. Words of condemnation of atrocities are not enough. Perhaps it is easy to do so in a mechanical and ritualistic way. We have to join the journey of recreating life which is the most challenging, but rewarding task. It is highly distressing to hear that one of the main responses generated after the Easter Sunday killings in Sri Lanka leads us further to the path of death and destruction. Not life but greater ‘security’ is the call. Further militarisation has been called for in a country where the density of soldiers to civilians is one of the highest in the world. Since last Sunday the existing lethal global narrative: Islam vs. Christianity, or Islam vs. the West, or Islam vs. the Rest has been imposed on the country of my birth. First, and for the first time, in a country where there have been no Christian-Muslim clashes at all, there is now a path to unite all the communities by naming a common enemy, our Muslim sisters and brothers. This is a new experience for both communities who have undergone discrimination and oppression along with the Tamils under a mainly Sinhala Buddhist state, a state that has violated every ethical principle in Buddhism, of course with the full support of the most powerful states on earth, let me add. We are being led by a sinister agenda of these powerful states who create this destructive narrative to justify their wars and the lesser powerful non-state actors who reinforce this narrative with their violence and are perhaps covertly supported by the most powerful states who promise us world peace.

How has the story played out? Muslim clerics or Imams have been prevented from attending the funerals. Joint memorial ceremonies have been strongly discouraged. Instead, retaliation has been encouraged under the deadliest narrative of Islam vs. Christianity. Churches are closed. The mosques do not use public address systems to conduct their prayers. Affected Christian families live in deep sorrow. The Muslim community lives in fear and are unable to step out of their homes. Both Catholic and Protestant leaders have to listen to the security advice of the state that knows nothing but retaliation. The path of both Christian and Muslim faiths is not to react to suffering and death as the powers of the earth and their agents want us to, through further militarisation and vengeance, but instead we are called to give a daring and loving response to suffering and death that can give meaning to those who are killed. The opposite of war is not the peace of armies that mass along borders and brutally divide people from people. The opposite of war is creativity, a creativity that sees beyond rigid divisions, a creativity that people of faith – whether Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim and so on – find audacious and loving. We must stand against those who would say that Christians have been persecuted by Muslims on the most holy day of the liturgical year. This is the rhetoric of death that many far-right groups and political parties in historically Christian-majority countries tell; it is the story of great powers that have hidden agendas. But, we are an Easter people; our story is holy; our story is of resurrection, recreating new life, the breaking of barriers, of allowing our Muslim sisters and brothers to cry with us at the wasting of every and any life. Let me conclude with a story of one of the families whose only daughter was killed on Easter Sunday’s blast in Negombo, the place I was born. She had been to the Vigil Mass. She was curious, so she went to the morning Mass. At her funeral, there was a small group of Muslim imams and Catholic priests and nuns and Protestant pastors who dared to come together. Her mortal remains were buried within 24 hours. It was the imam who led the prayers. Her mother was Catholic, father was a Muslim. The only little daughter was Muslim. Let her story and thousands of similar stories across the globe give us the vision and courage to ‘passover’ this valley of division, destruction and death to a future of life-giving web of relationships.

Pray for Sri Lanka - solidarity in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany (Photo by Andreas Schwarzkopf)

May the Risen Christ and all the messengers of God (praise be upon them) be with all the people of Sri Lanka, in particular with all the survivors of war and violence, and with the people of Ireland, in these hours of multiple trials and challenges.

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Religious Diversity, Political Conflict, There is no other region in the world, where religion and politics interact, collide, and conjoin like in the Middle East. The region I come from, called the Middle East, is on the one hand the cradle of three monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and is on the other hand a region of diverse ethnicities, religious minorities, and multiple identities. Add to that the fact that the modern history of this region has been marked for over a century by colonial history, conflicting imperial interests, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and regional instability. In this paper I will analyse three different contemporary case studies that will show the use and misuse of religion in contexts of political conflicts. In the first case study I will look at the latest debate at the United Nations Security Council regarding Israeli Settlement in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In a second case study I will look at the interaction between religion and state in the Arab World in relation to power, and in the third I will look at the role Christian Zionists play within the current context. While the first case study will focus on a Jewish Israeli case, the second will look at a case within the Arab-Islamic region, and the third is an intra-Christian western case. After analysing these case studies, I will try to draw three important conclusions from a liberation theology point of view. Religion in the context of Occupation The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the longest ongoing conflicts in modern history. 29 | INSiGHT

This conflict, however, has its roots not in the Middle East, but in nineteenth century Europe. It was exactly 100 years ago, on November 2nd 1917 that the British Lord Arthur James Balfour promised the land of Palestine to another British-Jewish Lord Rothschild. It wasn’t the Lord God who promised the land to the Jews of Europe, but Lord Balfour. This was not done out of religious convictions, but rather part of British Imperial expansion policy on the one hand, and of interior political necessity on the other. On the one hand the European Jews were to colonise Palestine and to settle there serving British Imperial expansion and interests. On the other, the sending of the European Jewish community to Palestine was supposed to solve an interior European issue, the integration or non-assimilation of Jews in Europe. Nonetheless, religion played indirectly a role behind this declaration. For many Zionist Christians in Great Britain the restoration of the Jewish people was a precondition for the second coming of Christ. A subtle anti-Arab and anti-Muslim theology was the other side of this coin. The Balfour declaration was issued at a time when the British army, stationed in Egypt, were ready to storm southern Palestine. The plan for a National Home for the Jewish people was thus one of the deals and outcomes of the WWI. This plan was made possible in the aftermath of WWII. It was in this context that in 1947 (70 years ago) the United Nations adopted the partition plan to divide Palestine into two states. A year later the State of Israel was established. The new state chose a biblical name “Israel” for itself.

The branding of the Israeli state as “biblical Israel” accelerated after 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank including East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights (50 years ago). The name chosen for the war “Six days” had a biblical connotation: like God who finished creating the creation in six days, Israel was able to finish its job by occupying the rest of Palestine and before they can rest. 1967 didn't bring rest neither to the Israeli nor to the Palestinians. On the contrary. When the international community and the political leadership of both peoples failed in achieving a just peace, people started turning more and more to religion searching there for answers. The longer the conflict remained unsolved with human intervention, the more it started getting religious connotation. The outcome of the 1967 war gave a boost to Jewish religious nationalism and to “messianic” extremist Jewish groups within Israel, who started settling in the West Bank claiming it as ancient “Judea and Samaria.” Judea and Samaria was not so much a geographical description but rather a religious claim with a clear political agenda. The Iranian revolution and the petro-dollar that flooded the gulf region gave a boost to certain forms of political Islam. Christian Zionism experienced a revival and their followers started celebrating Israel victory as a direct Divine Intervention. After Oslo and when political leaders were ready for a political compromise, the opposition utilised religion to empty that peace agreement. Rabin was killed by a religious Jewish Israeli person, and Hamas started a series of suicide attacks on Israeli targets.


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and the Spirituality of Liberation by Rev Dr Mitri Raheb, President, Dar al-Kalima University College of Arts and Culture, Palestine

Expanding Israeli settlements in the Palestinian land became a tactic of the Israeli government who have been subsidising the building of settlements through soft loans, tax exemptions, and a modern infrastructure. This is just the background for the first case study I would like to analyse. On December 23rd 2016 the UN Security Council met to discuss the expansion of Israeli settlement in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. A resolution 2334 (2016) was adopted by 14 countries in favour and a US abstention. The resolution reaffirmed the Security Council stand that Israeli Settlement have no legal validity and constitute a flagrant violation of the Internal Law. The full text reads as follows: “The Security Council, “Reaffirming its relevant resolutions … “Guided by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and reaffirming, inter alia, the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force, “Reaffirming the obligation of Israel, the occupying Power, to abide scrupulously by its legal obligations and responsibilities under the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, and recalling the advisory opinion rendered on 9 July 2004 by the International Court of Justice, “Condemning all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem,

including, inter alia, the construction and expansion of settlements, transfer of Israeli settlers, confiscation of land, demolition of homes and displacement of Palestinian civilians, in violation of international humanitarian law and relevant resolutions, “Expressing grave concern that continuing Israeli settlement activities are dangerously imperilling the viability of the two-State solution based on the 1967 lines, “Recalling the obligation under the Quartet Roadmap, endorsed by its resolution 1515 (2003), for a freeze by Israel of all settlement activity, including “natural growth”, and the dismantlement of all settlement outposts erected since March 2001…”i I was watching the debate live and listened to the 14 council members talking about the fourth Geneva Convention and International law and how important it is to abide by them. The US representative explained the decision to abstain rather than veto the resolution by saying that settlements are undermining Israel’s security and eroding the prospect for a two states solution, thus peace and stability. Once all 15 Security Council members were given the floor, it was time for Danny Dannon, the Israeli representative to the UN to address the council. This is what he said: “Mr. President today is a bad day for this council…This council wasted valuable time and efforts condemning the democratic state of Israel for building homes in the historic homeland for the Jewish people. We have presented the truth time and again for this council and implore

you not to believe the lies presented in this resolution. I ask each and every member of this council who voted for this resolution: Who gave you the right to issue such a decree denying our eternal rights in Jerusalem? …We overcame those decrees during the time of the Maccabees and we will overcome this evil decree today. We have full confidence in the justice of our cause and in the righteousness of our path. We will continue to be a democratic state based on the rule of law and full civil and human rights for all our citizens and we will continue to be a Jewish state. Proudly reclaiming the land of our forefathers, where the Maccabees fought their oppressors and King David ruled from Jerusalem.” And just before ending his speech, something interesting happened that captured my full attention. Mr. Dannon pulled a Hebrew Bible, lifted it up in his hand, and said: “This holy-book the Bible contained 3,000 years of history of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel. No one, no one can change this history.” It wasn’t a surprise for me to hear such rhetoric from an Israel politician, but what struck me was the act of raising the Hebrew Bible at a UN Security Council with the aim of undermining International Law and the Geneva Convention articles. It is interesting to see the words and language Mr. Dannon uses in his speech. Mr. Dannon is convinced that he owns the truth: “We have presented the truth time and again.” He is convinced of the justice of his cause and the righteousness of his path.

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VIEWPOINTS He uses words like "historic homeland" and "eternal rights." He kept shifting between biblical Israel and the state of Israel of today as if they were one and the same: “Proud live and reclaiming the land of our forefathers, where the Maccabees fought their oppressors and King David ruled from Jerusalem.” And “This holy-book the Bible contained 3,000 years of history of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel. No one, no one can change this history.” The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a political conflict over land and rights. The UN Resolution clearly refers to international laws applicable in contexts of occupation. Mr. Dannon doesn't address this issue. He avoids it on purpose because there is no human excuse to it and there is no way that one can excuse their colonial expansionist policy. The last resort to defend the Israeli settlement policy is God. Mr. Dannon is basically saying this: “We don't adhere to international law, we do not abide by the Geneva Convention, we don’t care about the bill of human rights, because we possess divine and eternal rights.” Religion is here used to avoid a political solution and to religiously legalise what is politically an aggression. I asked myself: How did we arrive at a situation today where divine rights trump human rights? Is it possible to violate the human rights in the name of divine rights? Is it possible to use the biblical text to white wash military occupation and the oppression of whole nations? Can religious convictions lead to a severe violation of international law? The matter here is not about religious convictions, but rather how religious convictions are instrumentalised for political ends. And how Divine rights are utilised to allow for the violation of human rights and to avoid solving a political conflict. And while Jewish Israeli are given land to occupy in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Palestinian towns and villages are being striped of any possibilities for expansion or natural growth. This situation is a clear case of discrimination, segregation, and apartheid and can't be defended by modern international standards thus the resort to the Bible as the last resort and legitimising tool.

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Graffiti in Tel Aviv, Israel - March 2009 (Photo by David Miller)

Christian Zionism as a tool of the Israel Lobby The third case study I want to focus on is an intra-Christian debate. During an international conference commemorating the 30th anniversary of Kairos South Africa on August 20th. 2015, a delegation from Palestine was present. One of the members of the delegation was Rev Dr Robert O. Smith, at that time he was serving as the Program Director of the Middle East and North Africa at the ELCA and co-Moderator of the Palestine-Israel Ecumenical Forum of the World Council of Churches. Dr. Smith is the author of “More desired than Our Owne Salvation: The Roots of Christian Zionism,” which is his doctoral thesis at Baylor. During the conference, Smith and two other Palestinians were invited to speak at an evening panel organised by one of the South African Palestinian Solidarity groups. In his short input, and after describing himself as a citizen of the United States and a citizen of the displaced Chickasaw Nation, and as a current resident in Jerusalem, Robert wanted to talk about the responsibility of international Christians to the Christians of Palestine, and raised the question about why the Christian community in the world react to the suffering of the Palestinian community the way they do and why do they allow Israel to behave the way it does. He mentioned three reasons: First, “I would say that the Christians in the United States and I assume also in South Africa often do not know that Christians are present in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and within the State of Israel. They have a false imagination of what Israel is and what Palestine is. They falsely assume that Israel is made up solely of Jews and that the West Bank is made of solely of Palestinian Muslims but this is not true

and even if it were true it does not excuse the actions of the State of Israel. Secondly Christians in the United States and in many other places have negative conceptions of Islam and Muslims. They operate out of a fundamental fear of Islam and Muslims along with the false understanding that the conflict is at its foundation religiously formed; that it is a conflict between Islam and Judaism. This is so far from the truth; it is a conflict over land; it is a political conflict over resources; it is a political conflict over self-determination and decolonising principles. It is not first and foremost about religion although the continuation of the political conflict brings us closer to very dangerous religious conflicts. And finally Christians in the United States and in many other places and I’ve heard many South African friends this week tell me are influenced by the Imperial theology known as Christian Zionism. Christian Zionism is first and foremost political activity. It is not really a theology; it is not a commitment to doctrines and principles of faith; it is a political ideology that supports Jewish control over the land that now contains Israel and Palestine...It is essential that all of us understands that the Israel of the Bible, the ancient Israelites, are not linked in any substantive or material way to the contemporary modern Israel. The biblical narrative of Israel has almost nothing to do with contemporary Israel other than the intentional manipulation of sacred texts to justify a political project. We must reject the theological justification for the present acts of the State of Israel and we must instead draw from our sacred texts the Quran the Torah the Tanakh as a whole and the Christian scriptures to instead inform resistance to empire that is faithful to our traditions.”ii


VIEWPOINTS This presentation was tapped as many other presentations. Suddenly on April 4th 2017 Robert Smith became a target for a social media smear campaign orchestrated by an American Christian who describes himself as a media analyst, his name is Dexter van Zile. The smearing campaign uses a quote from Robert Smith presentation in South Africa that reads: “The biblical narrative of Israel has almost nothing to do with contemporary Israel other than the intentional manipulation of sacred texts to justify a political project.” In any debate about any Christian doctrine, theologians can speak their mind, critic almost everything. One can question the existence or non-existence of god, the divinity of Christ, the historicity of any biblical story, but dare anyone question anything regarding the State of Israel. There are watch dogs who watch every word, watch every YouTube, follow every tweet, and every post. It seems that when it comes to the issue of Israel, neither religious disagreements are allowed nor diverse political opinions are tolerated. Even worse, every credible Christian theologian or researcher who dares to question the religious Hora of the State of Israel becomes a plausible target for all kind of Israeli Watch dogs groups. The Israel lobby is very clever. They don’t want to be at the front of such attack, so they hire Christian Zionists to do the dirty job for them.

The message is not debated here but rather the messenger is targeted. Killing as well as character assassination in the name of God becomes a religious duty. After looking at these three case studies allow me to add three theological conclusions: Divine rights and Human Rights In contexts of conflicts, as in the Middle East, groups often utilise divine rights to deny others equal human rights. We find these groups within all three monotheistic religions. These are not only Islamist groups in Iraq and Syria, but also Jewish groups in Israel as well as Israeli politicians. These are also Christian Zionists, who keep attacking fellow Christians who dare to challenge the Israeli Occupation.

All people are created equally in God's image. In fact, all three monotheistic religions could agree on this. As Christians we believe also that in Christ and in Bethlehem, God became human so that all human lives are sanctified. Such a theology of liberation is essential in our region today. But in today's world we adhere to the universal declaration of human rights that clearly states that "All Human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights." It should not be acceptable by religious or political terms to violate human rights in the name of divine rights, or to play God against humanity. Groups who do that are misusing the scriptures for their own political ideologies. The scriptures and the Human Rights charter are there for one and the same reason: to defend the meek, protect the rights of the weak, put limits to those in power, and to make sure that the state adheres to the laws. Both religion and state have to ensure that the power of law and not the law of power prevails. No religion or human legislation is entitled to give the Israelis more rights than Palestinians, Muslims more privileges than Christians, or men higher wages than women. Equality is something we cannot compromise on neither religiously nor secularly. The Cross as the ultimate critique of state and religious terroriii

A graffiti by the street artist Banksy on the Israeli West Bank barrier.

Dexter van Zile is one of those hired in 2005 by Charles Jacobs to be the director of Christian Outreach and to oversee an initiative called the Judeo-Christian Alliance at the David project. A year later, Dexter moved to another watchdog group called CAMERA “The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.” He does the dirty work of targeting Christians. If one follow the smear campaign done over two days one would notice the following: the campaign is intended to scare Robert so that he starts censoring himself. By mentioning Notre Dame University, Robert’s employer, in the campaign, the university is dragged into the issue and will either exert pressure on Robert or even fire him. One religious or political view on Palestine can therefore cost people their job, their reputation, and comes close to a character assassination. And last but not least, there is no room for dialogue or diverse opinions or academic or political disagreement.

Two forces are currently violating the human rights in our region: so-called "security states" who don’t allow people to move, to have an opinion, to publish controversial books, to question policies, or simply to think critically; and religious movements who leave no room for people to choose their beliefs and to breathe freely. Both forces create systems based on fear. The fear of the state and the fear of God become two sides of the same coin. A society that is based on fear rather than on freedom kills the soul and spirit of its people, their innovation and their creativity. There will be no future for the Middle East until we break out from the bondage of the security state as well as of oppressive “religious laws” to a wide open space where human lives and security is protected, where freedom is free to blossom, and where human rights become sacred. For us as Christians, a spirituality of liberation is a spirituality of creation and incarnation.

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. Jesus was one of the many who experienced on his own body the violence of both state as well as religious terror. The cross is a permanent reminder of the millions of people who are persecuted either by the state or by the religious establishment because they raise their prophetic critique to an unjust ruler or to corrupt forms of religion. 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.

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VIEWPOINTS The cross becomes a mirror that shows God’s vulnerability and the cruelty of political and religious behaviour. For the peoples of the Middle East, who are living either in contexts of the Israeli occupation, or in the context of political despotism, or affected on daily basis by religious extremism, this dimension of the The Gaza Strip after eight days of bombing by Israel. (Photo New York Times/HH) cross is of utmost Alexander and Company had the importance. Both religion and the ambitious plan to pour all tribes and state must be under the rule of law as groups into one gigantic melting pot. a mean of protection from political The outcome of this forceful unification despotism on the one hand, and from was utter confusion. The empire fell tyrannical and repressive religious apart and dissolved. The Romans tried extremism that bans what it dislikes the same experiment and were no more and legitimises what suits its successful. The Byzantine emperor, ambitions, on the other. The role of Constantine, thought that by forcing one the state is to safeguard the rights of creed at Calcedon he could unite his all its citizens. On the other hand, empire behind one emperor and one religion has an important role to faith. The Oriental identities and inspire its followers to be expressions of faith were thus declared compassionate. Securing human heretical and were persecuted. dignity and the well-being of the people is at the core of religion and the The Arabs tried to push their language ultimate raison d’être for statehood. on to the Berbers of North Africa and on There is a dire need for a prophetic central Asian countries which led to the and dynamic faith that does not run opposite effect-of less identification with away or hide from the challenges of their empire by those tribes. This issue is the society but instead engages the central for a Middle East which is society for the good of all citizens. The pluralistic in nature. No single empire alternative to state and religious terror has been able to force the region into is a society based on civil laws, uniformity. There was never a single freedom, compassion, and equal Catholic Church that monopolised the citizenship irrespective of one’s Christian faith in the Middle East but religious convictions, cultural identity, rather national churches: Copts, Syriac, socio-economic status, or race. Marinates, Greeks, etc., each worshipping in their own native A vision for a world marked by Diversityiv language and possessing, as they do today, a distinct cultural identity. The The story of Pentecost in the Book of same is true for Islam. It too has Acts (2: 1-13) is imperative to different expressions according to understanding the spirituality that is different regions: Shiite, Sunni, Alawite, needed in the Middle East because it Druze etc. All efforts to forcefully unify provides a counter narrative to the them have come to naught. The Middle logic of the oppressive regimes. The East continues to be one of the most narrative of oppressive regimes is diverse regions in the world with found in Genesis (11: 1-9) in the story multiple ethnicities, religious of the Tower of Babel, where a mighty affiliations, and plural identities. For any empire with a strong economy reaches empire this was and is both a challenge to heaven and with one language holds and an opportunity. A challenge because the empire together. This is exactly the region resisted all attempts of what Alexander the Great and the forceful inclusion. But an opportunity Greeks tried to do with imposing because the empire was forever keen to Greek and Hellenistic culture on their play one group against the other and conquered peoples. ensure that the region remained

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preoccupied with internecine fighting so that the empire’s job of control was easier. This is part and parcel of colonial history in the Middle East. In this context, the story of Pentecost shows an alternative vision of the region by reversing the story of the Tower of Babylon. Jerusalem becomes the counter narrative of Babel. Here various nations and cultures meet. They don’t speak the language of the empire, but rather their own native languages. Their identities are respected and embraced. The Spirit provides the software for communication so that they understand each other. In this story the rich diversity of the region is embraced and celebrated. It is regarded as strength rather than a deficiency. The multiple identities of the region are viewed not as contradictions, but as a treasure to save. In Jerusalem the people from the whole oikumene “stood” on equal footing, "Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrdne; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs". The moment Pentecost was taken out of its original context it became a nice story without any particular significance. It became a tale about speaking in tongues, and thus lost its contextual relevance. The Church born in Jerusalem was meant to counter the empire; not by creating another but by providing a new, ecumenical vision. The spirituality so urgently needed today, more than at any previous time, is one that embraces diversity and celebrates it as strength. A Christian spirituality of liberation is a crucial contribution not only to the survival of the Christian community as such, but is crucial for the future of the Middle East at large ensuring that human rights are protected, prophetic critique is raised, and diversity is celebrated.

http://www.un.org/webcast/pdfs/SRES2334-2016.pdf Robert Smith Jerusalem World Council of Churches: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etTBIHHYq6M For more, Raheb, Mitri & Watts Henerson, Suzanne, The Cross in Contexts: Suffering and Redemption in Palestine. Maryknoll: Orbis, 2017. Raheb, Mitri, Faith in the Face of Empire: The Bible through Palestinian Eyes. Maryknoll: Orbis 2014, p. 110-112.

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The Landing

The poem was performed by Argentine performer and composer Leon Gieco and musician Lito Vitale. It can be viewed at https://youtu.be/NCH7X8uB2DY There are those who resist and never complain (Están los que resisten y nunca se lamentan) Those who say: "What do I live for" (Los que dicen: "yo para qué vivo") Those who recover fast their strength (Los que recuperan rápido sus fuerzas) Those who profit from what I have lost. (Los que lucran con lo que he perdido.)

Waiting for a new skin of this sun (Esperando una piel nueva de este sol) We do not pretend to see the change (No pretendemos ver el cambio) Only having left something (Sólo haber dejado algo) On the road traveled that happened. (Sobre el camino andado que pasó.)

There are those who yield and stands (Hay quien sucumbe y se levanta) There are those who stay there always lying (Hay quien queda allí siempre tendido) There are those who help you take off and those who never (Hay quien te ayuda a despegar y los que nunca) Recognize you when you are defeated. (Te reconocen cuando estás vencido.)

It's normal to see kids without shoes (Ya es normal ver chicos sin zapatos) Looking for food in the trash (Buscando comida en la basura) And it's a postcard the door of the church (Y es una postal la puerta de la iglesia) From that mother with her child. (De esa madre con su criatura.)

How many there are who think it's late for everything (Cuántos hay que piensan que es tarde para todo) And how many cry "always ahead!" (Y cuántos claman "¡siempre adelante!") How many who see the stone on the road (Cuántos los que ven la piedra en el camino) And how many who never look at anything. (Y cuántos los que nunca miran nada.)

While this happens there will be no glory (Mientras esto pase no habrá gloria) It's sand that escapes between your fingers (Es arena que se escapa entre los dedos) It's pain, it's lies, it's hypocrisy (Es dolor, es mentiras, es hipocresía) It's a fragile time these days. (Es un tiempo frágil de estos días.)

Joy with strength feeds (La alegría con la fuerza se alimenta) And there are no walls or bars that slow it down (Y no hay muros ni rejas que la frenen) There are those who land burning with a shout (Hay quienes desembarcan ardiendo con un grito) Without boats and without weapons for life. (Sin barcos y sin armas por la vida.)

Ignorance can sometimes with a people (La ignorancia a veces puede con un pueblo) And tyrants and executioners win (Y ganan tiranos y verdugos) We believe that the story was made in a minute (Creemos que la historia se hizo en un minuto) And everything lived, a bad dream. (Y todo lo vivido, un mal sueño.)

Is there someone who blesses this beautiful communion (Hay alguien que bendiga esta hermosa comunión) Of those that we thought seemed? (De los que pensamos parecido) We are the least, we never were the first (Somos los menos, nunca fuimos los primeros) We do not kill or die to win (No matamos ni morimos por ganar) Rather we are alive to walk (Mas bien estamos vivos por andar)

Sometimes we are our enemies (A veces somos nuestros enemigos) We polluted the routes and the rivers (Ensuciamos las rutas y los ríos) We kill in the war and in the streets today we have (Matamos en la guerra y en las calles hoy tenemos) Old monuments of murderers. (Viejos monumentos de asesinos.) There are those who land burning with a shout (Hay quienes desembarcan ardiendo con un grito) Without boats and without weapons for life ... (Sin barcos y sin armas por la vida...)

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VIEWPOINTS

IN CONVERSATION WITH... Rev Nikotemo Sopepa

We welcomed Rev Nikotemo Sopepa to our CWM family earlier this year as our new Mission Secretary for Pacific Region. Rev Niko is no stranger, as he is an ordained Minister of Ekalesia Kelisiano Tuvalu (EKT), our member church. He takes time to share with INSiGHT how he sees his job as an opportunity to serve in the mission field and bridging the gap between theology discussed from the pulpit and mission on the ground. He tells us about matters close to his heart – ranging from climate change; economic justice; preservation of indigenous culture and how culture can be a double-edged sword. He’s a man on a mission, and thinks that education can be a game-changer for churches in the Pacific. CWM in its mission is the embodiment of what many pulpits echoes every Sunday morning. It is the making flesh of the spoken word we so often preach. And in joining CWM I found out that the gap between theological discourse and mission on the ground can be quite vast. Engaging in mission with the people in their local context can sometimes offset our theological theories in seminaries and pulpits. I am not saying that theological theory is insignificant to practical mission on the ground. What I am saying is that the real issues are found not in our theologies, but in the lives lived by the people, and all of creation. Speaking of ethos, there is no better philosophy than one that bring and vouch for life – life in fullness through Christ Jesus. How has your journey with the CWM family been so far? Any meaningful experiences or take-aways that you have received since coming on board?

Do share with us some of the pressing issues (in the Pacific or in the world) that keep you awake at night, and drives you to be the voice of activism and change.

My experience since joining CWM in late March 2019 has been wonderful. Working with people whose passion evolves around Christian mission is a great opportunity for spiritual growth and nourishment. In this short time that I have been with CWM I can say that I have learnt a lot. But if there is something that stands out of all these great experiences, it is the simplicity of life found in the direness of mission situation in the Solomon Islands. What I mean is the people of the Solomon Islands, specifically in the Western Province where the United Church of Solomon Islands is situated, have burning missional issues, but the answer to all of these lies in the simplicity of the life they live. The complexity in life is created by the presence and rise of a neo-liberal capitalistic wave in the Solomon Islands, but the people refuses to let go of the traditional island lifestyle their forefathers lived before the European-contact era. That simplicity, is indigenous, and in it I see the answer to their problems.

Right now I guess the most pressing issue for Pacific and world is climate change. The displacement of millions of people in a few decades from now is going to be catastrophic. This is because it is not about the movement of people only, it is also about the loss of identities, the disappearance of cultures and languages, and the extinction of several indigenous communities.

What made you want to join CWM? Was there a particular quality or ethos of this organisation that made you want to serve here? The opportunity to serve in the mission field, as in contrast to being confined to the pulpit is what made me join CWM. Rev Niko visited and preached at a local parish in Congregational Christian Church of Samoa, our member church in the Pacific region during the recent Annual Members Meeting in June.

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In relation to the above question, what would be a positive game changer for churches in the Pacific? And how do you see CWM’s role (or your role) in helping to facilitate this process? Education is the key. Education is a knock on the door, the door may not open any time soon, but that does not mean the knocking has to be dictated by the locks that keeps the hinges fasten. The hinges and locks can only remain in their position if they are not being shaken or tampered with. Keep knocking by educating the minds of the populace, and one day the lock doors will give way for life to enter.

Rev Niko with his family - his wife Elmihner John, daughter Tapuloto and son Epafeloti.

The claim of lost possessions is going to be an issue, and I don’t think any form of compensation can replace what is going to be lost. Again the climate change problem is a product of neo-liberal capitalism, free trade and the unending drive for profit and more profits (monetary profit). We often talk about partnering Member Churches to help them find their missional journeys in their own context, or to address the issue of empire. Share with us some the challenges (or issues) that are stumbling blocks for Churches in the Pacific today as they seek to address these life denying issues. In light of mission in the Pacific I can say that culture is one of the most stumbling blocks to the advancement of Christian work. Let’s say the issue of women ordination. Many Pacific churches have allowed for women ordination, some only in principle. But the true test of our advancement in this regard is to see how many women you find in the church leadership. What is stopping this advancement is not theological, it is cultural. The close association of culture and church has been a blessing for the Pacific churches at the same time an obstacle to liberating of everyone. We often speak of the gospel transcending cultures, but this I can say only to some extent, there are issues where culture transcends the gospel, and the women issue is one of these issues.

Developing more awareness programmes and educational workshops on issues such as equality for all humans will break these tenacious cultural stances. Added to this, there is a need for the Pacific church to reread scripture, rereading it in a way that is liberating and life affirming. Only then can people see that the gospel is non-discriminatory – it is for all of creation. What do you think our Lord is saying to Churches in the Pacific? Is there a particular message or call to action? Yes! Many people around the world think we are small because of our land sizes. We are made of water more than land. But the size of our ocean is what define us. Our lands may be insignificant in size compared to the world continents, but our ocean is the largest. What I mean by this is that we are not small, we do not see ourselves in terms of our population or land mass, but in terms of our ocean. What God is saying to us through the definition I just gave is that our responsibility is to look after this vast ocean, or vast portion of our planet. And as a church we would not bow down to any countries, corporations or ideals that undermine the life God has given our people in this part of the world. I guess in our ocean-vastness we also have an important role to play in the keeping of the balance of life in the world. The Tuvaluan Prime Minister Hon. Enele Sopoaga coined the phrase, ‘save the world by saving Tuvalu.’ Hon. Sopoaga was referring to saving Tuvalu from the devastation of climate change, but I can rephrase his phrase by saying that if we, the people of the Pacific fail our responsibility to look after this part of the world, the rest of planet earth will be in chaos. Globally, we are one planet, one people created by God, one creation, depending on each other for life, and depending on God for the strength to do so, and insight to do so abundantly.

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TAKE A LOOK


BOOK REVIEW Deenabandhu Manchala in his chapter, Rescuing Christian Faith Traditions from Empire affirms the very presence of the web of the empire, in our very life deceiving us and trapping us into its vicious circle. He critically engages with the current alternatives such as the present form of democracy and the concept of development. To tackle the issues, he proposes certain theological alternatives aiming at questioning the concept of power. He concludes “The transformation of our societies and the world cannot take place as per the plans and schemes of the powerful and the privileged, but as per the visions and aspirations of those who are yearning for life with dignity and freedom.” Jooseop Keum reiterates the need to rediscover the faith at the margins. In his chapter Transforming Discipleship: Faith, Love, and Hope after Empire he calls for a transforming discipleship with power of love to defeat the politics of fear and hope as the agents for change. Eleni Kasselouri-Hatzivassiliadi identifies the relevance of Orthodox Theology in challenging the empire and emphasises on ministering to the needy people to establish justice. M. P. Joseph brings light to the current trends of cultural nationalism where the religious symbols are appropriated to form a political religion for political governance. He argues that the function of theology is to subvert the religio-political narratives which legitimise the imperial political order.

Jione Havea, ed., Religion and Power, Theology in the Age of Empire Series, New York: Lexington Books/ Fortress Academic, 2019, xii, 210. ISBN 9781978703544

Religion and Power is a collection of essays, first in the series titled Theology in the Age of Empire, Jione Havea being the editor of the series. This edited work includes twelve essays with a determination to radically engage with the powerful and life negating clutches of the empire in diverse dimensions. This work probes into the ways and means where empire makes nexus with Religion and vice versa, the under currents of which is quite complex. The motivating factor of the contributors, as Jione Havea observes, is the agony of the ‘involvement of religions especially Christianity, in the collaborations with the empire.’ This work presents its discourse in two parts. The first part Dare to Discern, and the second part Dare to Disturb direct the readers to discern and disturb the dynamics of the empire and its allies. Discerning and disturbing approaches are mutual in action, intersecting and inter-feeding each other, so that one needs the other for sustenance and redirection.

Email empowerment@cwmission.org for more details.

Joerg Rieger in his chapter Empire, Deep Solidarity, and the Future of Resistance cautions any attempt to limit the work of the empire to certain dimensions, and he realises that empire is a massive concentration of power which permeates all aspects of life. Any attempt to counteract the works of the empire needs deep solidarity among different approaches as empire affects everything viz, politics, economics, culture, intellectual life, emotional sensitivities, personal relationships, and images of the sacred. Book of Revelation gives good glimpses of effective resistance against the actions of the empire. Michael Jagessar gives a novel reading of the Book of Revelation in this regard and he emphasises the ‘un-end’ aspect of the Book of Revelation. Imbibing from the experiences of the Chicano movements, the ethnic Mexican activists in the United States, Jacqueline M. Hidalgo views how the institutionalisation of religion becomes a fertile land for empire and she prefers ‘spiritual’ to ‘religious’ to explain her views. By shifting to the terrain of ‘spirituality’ one can pay more attention to what people, rather than institutions, do with religion. Y. T. Vinayaraj in his chapter Religion as the Ethico-Political Practice of Justice challenges the ‘imperio-colonial’ baggage of religion and tries to redefine religion through the lens of Ambedkar. Deeply influenced by the philosophical presuppositions of Buddhism, Ambedkar understood religion – a political community that gives a collective identity to the marginalised people of India. Reiterating the same, Vinayaraj perceives religion as Dhamma- the ethico-political practice of justice. Allan Aubrey Boesak rejects any interpretation of the Bible which has an imperialistic connotation. He calls it a scandalous interpretation and opines that the central and enduring message of the Bible is liberation, freedom, justice, dignity, peace and inclusivity. He understands Bible as the ‘site of struggle’ between two voices, two traditions, two understandings of specific contexts within biblical stories, and two alternative futures for the people of God. In eleventh chapter titled (Global) Climate Crisis and (Detroit) Water Struggle: “Re-schooling” Christianity through Indigenous Challenge James W. Perkinson points to the imperialistic interpretation of the Bible as the chief reason for the environmental crises. As an alternative, he points to the indigenous culture and society where they nurture life and its various systems. Mark G Brett also continues to emphasise the importance of the Indigenous people and he argues that a serious engagement with Indigenous peoples is effective in reframing the Christian identities and in forming a radical response to global capitalism in a time of climate change. He opines “A Christian praxis will need to be active first in local contexts, countering nationalist aspirations, and in second in transnational contexts, countering globalisation with a different kind of international relationality.” The work Religion and Power encourages the readers to enter into the arenas of new epistemologies based on an understanding of God’s love for the world and its life forms. This text offers as Anthony G Reddie rightly observes, “important insights in our understanding of the dynamic between religion and power that cross disciplines, cultural contexts and epochs” and hence it is a must read. Rev. Aby M. Thomas Tharakan D Th Research Scholar in Religion FFRRC, Kottayam June 2019 | 38


TAKE A LOOK “In a collection of engaging and provocative essays, authors from diverse locations from the Global South explore the different ways of rereading and resisting the biblical text written under the umbrella of empire.” - (Gale A. Yee, Nancy W. King Professor of Biblical Studies Emerita, Episcopal Divinity School) “Scripture and Resistance continues the paradigm shift in the self-understanding of Biblical Studies by bringing to bear the theoretical perspectives of the margins on the hegemonic center. An international group of scholars explores the Bible as a site of struggle in these Neo-liberal times. I highly recommend this excellent work!” - (Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, Krister Stendahl Professor, Harvard Divinity School) Scripture and Resistance contains reflections by authors from East, West, South, and North — on resistance and the Christian scriptures regarding a rainbow of concerns: the colonial legacies of the Bible; the people (especially native and indigenous people) who were subjugated and minoritised for the sake of the Bible; the courage for resistance among ordinary and normal people, and the opportunities that arise from their realities and struggles; the imperialising tendencies that lurk behind so-called traditional biblical scholarship; the strategies of and energies in post- and de-colonial criticisms; the Bible as a profitable product, and a site of struggle; and the multiple views or perspectives in the Bible about empire and resistance. Here are what reviewers have to say: “Scripture and Resistance—the second title from Lexington Books’ Theology in the Age of Empire series—brings together yet another collection of radical engagements with, and resistance to, empire from internationally acclaimed authors. Jione Havea, in this volume, has again masterfully woven together several strands of global voices that seek not only to reread scripture as a site of struggle, but also to resist any scriptural traces of, and textual alliance with, empire. The works in this volume are both challenging and prophetic, and it is highly recommended for resistant and discerning readers in academic, ecclesial, and public settings alike.” - (Nāsili Vaka‘uta, Trinity Methodist Theological College)

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For more information, email empowerment@cwmission.org

Held from 20-21 June in Taiwan, CWM’s DARE Global Forum was a platform where theological and biblical scholars, activists and interested peoples engaged creatively to critique mainline scholarships, confidently rooted their views upon on the ground struggles and concerns and shared their radical engagements with global readership.

Participants better grasped the struggles of Taiwanese people, and how PCT is engaged in prophetic vocation when they

met jointly with the Taiwan Ecumenical Forum (TEF) Steering Committee on 19 June.They also visited the Chilin Foundation and Museum of Taiwan’s Democratic Development. Take a look at the live-streaming videos and photos taken on CWM’s official Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/cwmiss ion

In consultation with liturgist Dr Claudio Carvalhaes, CWM embarked on the new “Re-Imagining Worship” project in 2018, with four workshops geared towards creating alternative liturgical resources with contextual relevance to member churches and the wider ecumenical community. The workshops framed worship as an act that works against empire, and aimed to develop a network of liturgists from the margins while building the capacity of local congregations to respond to God’s invitation to become life-affirming communities. It is also intended to help them develop their own worship resources and use alternative models of worship. Delegates reflected and interpreted liturgically other local or global issues including immigration, inter-religious dialogue, climate change and ecology, military occupation and sex trafficking. Plans are underway to produce a resource book, and an open website where the general public can access and add relevant materials, such as blog posts and videologs of interviews with locals and worship with local communities. Keep an eye on the developing website here: https://liturgyafterempire.stanford creative.com


SEEN & HEARD


SEENYOUR & HEARD SAY

“AK”, the artist and author of this artwork and poem, is a young woman born in the Philippines to parents who are justice and peace advocates. She grew up in Sunday school, and for thirty years, took what she was taught about gender roles as gospel truth. These gender stereotypes dictated by society was reinforced by the same teachings found in her school’s curriculum.

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YOUR SEEN &SAY HEARD

June 2019 | 42


SEENYOUR & HEARD SAY

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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

BEHIND THE SCENES:

RESISTANCE RITES AND

INDIGENOUS PEOPLES’ VOICES By Dr Ferdinand Anno, Centre for the Arts, Liturgy and Music, Union Theological Seminary-Philippines

The resources and guides for the liturgical celebration of indigenous peoples’ struggles in the Philippines were drawn mainly from the narratives of resistance among the Y-gollotes (Igorots) of the Cordillera region in Northern Philippines. The Cordillera region is peopled by at least nine major ethnolinguistic groups that include the Y-Kalinga (Kalinga), the Isneg, the Kankanaey, the Y-Fontoc (Bontoc), Y-Tineg (Itneg), Ibaloi, Ifugao, Bugkalot and Bago. Named collectively as the Igorots, the people of the Cordillera mountain region were known for their storied centuries-old resistance against foreign aggression. The Igorots never submitted to the Spanish and American colonial rule until the consummation of their gradual political integration to the American colonial government. Christianisation played a crucial role in this process of colonialisation. With the integration of the Igorot came the exploitation of their ancestral lands. Dam projects, mining, and logging activities soon started to harm their mountains, rivers, and streams and displace Igorot communities from their lands. These helped fan the embers of resistance among the Igorots. The resistance to development aggression was heightened during the time of the Marcos dictatorship. The Chico Dam Project in Bontoc and Kalinga, the Cellophil Corporation’s logging spree in Abra, and the open pit mining activities in Benguet and Mt. Province among others became the issues that rouse the people of the Cordilleras from their slumber. The rest was history. The struggle surges on. The foregoing was the context of religio-cultural renaissance among the Igorots. Their rites of prayers, and dancing and singing became their most potent weapons once more. Resistance liturgies in the Philippines and in Asia need to give these indigenous “leitourgia” of struggle a second look and try to see in their (indigenous peoples’) dancing the passion of the subversive Christ, and in their songs and chanting the laments and celebrations of the warrior Spirit, and in their ritual performances the movement of a liberator God. All our materials or resources are original, and the lines drawn from the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples were either paraphrased or re-phrased to read and sound more liturgical.

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YOUR SAY

FROM A VALLEY OF DRY BONES

INTO A PLAYGROUND By Julian Ebenezer, Ferdinand Anno & Carleen Nomorosa

God of Life, we are living in a valley of dry bones We have lost our identity …we have lost our humanity We are unable to feel, we are so numb We are unable to reach out to the poor, to those we have segregated as religious and social outcast We have forgotten our being adamah: the tiller… the steward. The whole of creation groans in travail God of Life, we are living in a valley of dry bones We have lost our identity … we have lost our humanity Wars, killings, acts of terror and insurgencies surround us Deaths happen in every corner People are dying before their time every tick of the clock Children and women are being trafficked everyday in the millions Our communities are disintegrating and descending into chaos and lifelessness. God of Life, we are living in a valley of dry bones We have lost our identity, we have lost our humanity Descend upon us, once again May your Spirit, restore to wholeness our humanity May we image You, once again Enable us to touch our neighbors and build solidarities Enable us to build peace and institute justice in our relationships Enable us to break the barriers that are destroying our communities Enable us to bridge the gaps that separate us from each other Transform this valley of dry bones Into a playground of the children of God. Amen. A Prayer For the roads that we have blocked For the bridges that we didn’t build For the empty table that we didn’t fill Forgive us. I Shall Not I shall not mourn for deaths framed as self-defence Nor shall I mourn for children starved to death I won’t mourn for lands consumed by the selfish Or even lives denied by slave-shops Never! I will not give the rich the satisfaction of my vulnerability Instead, I mourn for the loss of their humanity And I mourn for the Nazarene Who worked so hard to redeem it So if ever my tears drop They send atomic ripples beneath ivory towers

This piece was produced during the CWM Re-imagining Worship Workshop in Manila, Philippines in 2018. 47 | INSiGHT


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WHAT IS HAVING

A VOICE IF NOT

TO ADVOCATE

FOR OTHERS AND YOURSELF By Abigail Scarlett from Jamaica

Esther 4:1-17 ESV Esther Agrees to Help the Jews 4 When Mordecai learned all that had been done, Mordecai tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and he cried out with a loud and bitter cry. 2 He went up to the entrance of the king's gate, for no one was allowed to enter the king's gate clothed in sackcloth. 3 And in every province, wherever the king's command and his decree reached, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting and weeping and lamenting, and many of them lay in sackcloth and ashes. When Esther's young women and her eunuchs came and told her, the queen was deeply distressed. She sent garments to clothe Mordecai, so that he might take off his sackcloth, but he would not accept them. 5 Then Esther called for Hathach, one of the king's eunuchs, who had been appointed to attend her, and ordered him to go to Mordecai to learn what this was and why it was. 6 Hathach went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king's gate, 7 and Mordecai told him all that had happened to him, and the exact sum of money that Haman had promised to pay into the king's treasuries for the destruction of the Jews. 8 Mordecai also gave him a copy of the written decree issued in Susa for their destruction,[a] that he might show it to Esther and explain it to her and command her to go to the king to beg his favor and plead with him[b] on behalf of her people. 9 And Hathach went and told Esther what Mordecai had said. 10 Then Esther spoke to Hathach and commanded him to go to Mordecai and say, 11 “All the king's servants and the people of the king's provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live. But as for me, I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days.” 4

Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king's palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Then Esther told 12

And they told Mordecai what Esther had said. 13 Then

15

them to reply to Mordecai, 16 “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.”[c] 17 Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him.

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Are you a leader? A young activist? A person with a platform? Or in any position at all to help others? The answer should be Yes! With or without a high position we all have a voice and what is having a voice if not to advocate for others or speak up for yourself. Know that even in a high position, or in a seemingly safe community, or with wealth, you're not exempted from misfortunes that the rest of the world faces. Use your advantage for good because "who knows whether you have not come into this world for such a time as this?", to share with others and make great change. Esther risked her life for her people, she dared to stand up and say what she believed in. Even though keeping quiet would not directly affect her, she could see how it could affect others. At first she thought that Mordecai needed just a change of clothes but what he really needed was her effort; for her to speak on behalf of him and her people. Don't stay quiet. Whether you're in a position of authority or not, speak up for change towards justice. Sometimes it is easier to only offer money but you also have a voice, so speak. You may have time, so lend it. It may also be easier to overlook the struggles that others face. Sometimes, because of us focusing on our own situations, it can be easy to forget that other people have their own ordeals or may even have worse situations than ours. However, advocacy gives you the desire to want to care for others and their needs. The experience and exposure also keeps us grounded. Like Esther we should lend our platforms to speak on behalf of others. In many cases you can see justice coming forth because of advocacy and awareness. More persons know of the situation or case you advocate for and it stirs people to want to be aware themselves and wanting others around them to be aware. This chain reaction meets the goal: POSITIVE CHANGE! We can see this in cases of the #MeToo movement, where there have been years of voices speaking out against their victimisers without having gotten redressed. However the more persons are aware, the more the matter becomes addressed and it has allowed for a revolution. We all have to be in this together, to make a difference. Let us be like Esther and choose to speak up. Why should we speak? I get asked a number of times why I want to be an advocate for women. It is questioned especially in the area of sexual harassment and violence even though I have not gone through it. It's a valid question. But then I think it's like asking why do I empathise? I empathise because we're all in this together. Women threatened by all that we are threatened by. What I want for us is to not be naive. Never say, "that could never be me!". Don't be naive to think that because of your status, that you are exempted from assault or injustices. No woman is exempted. It matters not our station in life; it matters not our age, race, or socioeconomic background. We should all be aware and stand together as sisters. There has always been a desire for me to want girls and women to strive. There's just a pain in my heart that irks me when women are abused or taken for granted; Knowing that we have so much power in us, so much talent and so much to give. Women have so much to contribute to this world. However, it's being threatened by fear, violence and harassment which is just a few of the injustices the world faces already. I won't pretend that I know the pain that victims of major injustices have gone through. However, my desire is for victims to be rehabilitated and empowered and for those who have never had the misfortune to never experience it. It is a continued struggle for all of us to be educated, empowered and equipped with tools to be great and to make a difference. So let us fight for ourselves and others to make the world as we know it can be, Female-Friendly.

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TESTIMONIES

ABOUT GOD’S GRACE

DURING CWM

MISSIONARY RETREATS By Dr. Razafindramary Parfaite Rakotondramasy

Jesus says: ”You did not choose Me, I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, the kind of fruit that endures. And so the Father will give you whatever you ask of Him in my name.” (John 15.16) My husband I and were serving as missionaries (later on changed into Partner-in-Mission) with the Kiribati Protestant Church (KPC, later known as Kiribati Uniting Church, KUC) in the field of the Council for World Mission (CWM) after serving in the United Church in Solomon Islands. Wherever we go, we experience Christian fellowship even in places we do not expect it. Once, we left Kiritimati Island on board the only weekly flight serving the island to attend a CWM-Pacific Region missionary gathering in Nadi, Fiji. We arrived earlier than the other partners in mission (PIM) of the region, and we could go to the closest Christian Church to our hotel on the following Sunday and we could enjoy the warm welcome of the believers of a Methodist parish. The PIM gathering went well from the beginning to the end, under the leadership of the then CWM-PIM coordinator, with the help of the then CWM-Pacific Regional Secretary, the Bible studies run later from which we gained spiritual strength. Rev Dr Collin Cowan, the CWM General Secretary came and talked about the place of PIM in the CWM unfolding mission during one session of the retreat. Spiritually, I can say I have gained so much from the missionary retreat through the Bible studies, from sharing with the other PIM, from praying for one another, and here I would like to share some messages I received:

Dr. Parfaite and her husband after attending a service in a Methodist parish-Nadi

God, the provider: we could remember during the gathering that where we served, we went through different trials and God had always solutions in store. We came to the realisation that we did not have everything we needed in the places where we worked for Christ but He always provided us a way out. That was why we could find happiness in the midst of struggles because we are in God’s mission. For instance, during our stay in Kiribati, the island is almost desertic, so the only plants they could grow are coconuts, breadfruits, papayas, and pumpkins. Some kind-hearted people gave us fish, breadfruits; so we could happily live there during our stay. The rest of our needs were imported. The power of prayer: I shared during the retreat the fact that I am a dentist and I happened to handle patients with different diseases almost every day, but through prayer and faith in God, I did the work with confidence and believed that God protected me and guided me and I had a renewed assurance that God listened to my prayers, and provided me everything I needed. I still experience God’s presence and assistance nowadays in our daily life. June 2019 | 50


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Dr. Parfaite with her patients in front of the trailer which was changed into a dental clinic on Kiritimati Island

Through the sharing during the missionary retreat, I could hear that other missionaries too faced problems in other areas of life such as housing. For example, the missionaries working in American Samoa were allocated houses during their working days, but when they went home on holidays, those houses were used for receiving church guests and the missionary’s belongings were displaced without their assent; they suffered from that situation. They asked for a solution from the receiving church. They prayed all along and at last they could have houses of their own where they could leave their things securely during their absence. Here is another example of God responding to prayer, a real story shared during the retreat: a CWM young lady missionary was harassed for some time by some ill-intentioned person who knocks at her door every night to which she did not respond but prayed each time with her friends. At last the harassment stopped and she could continue her mission peacefully. This one is on my heart about my own case, and I experienced it during a previous retreat. I shared a problem I had on Kiritimati in my prayer group and a missionary minister was with us. In the hospital I worked, there was no proper Dental Clinic but I was allocated a small room, not enough for a proper and serious dentistry work. I brought the problem to the doctor in charge of the hospital before I left for a missionary retreat but I did not get a clear response. And I brought the problem in my prayer group where the minister was during the retreat. Later on, at my return to Kiritimati, a big trailer was given as a Dental Clinic with two rooms. What a miracle! How great is our God, He listens to and answers prayer. On Kiritimati, we did not have too often the occasion to hear spiritual food in languages we understand, we prayed in Malagasy at home though, but during retreats I could get encouragement from a language I understand and I could interact with people speaking one common language with one concern in preaching the Good News though all came from different nationalities. To conclude this sharing, I would say God chooses people to share his love to all people on earth, and he takes charge of those He has called to work for his kingdom. And from missionary retreats, we went home refreshed, relaxed, strengthened and confident to continue carrying out the mission God has assigned us. God is faithful, and He keeps his promise, He is listening to and answers our prayers, so do not give up praying. Do not give up going for mission. He is working miracles. When we returned to our working place we felt so privileged in serving the Lord in the field of CWM, and how privileged the people who received us. God is always with us. Glory be to his Holy name.

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ARE YOU HEARING ME? By Axel Lim, Taiwan

Are you hearing me Church? You want to know why I left – why your numbers are falling and why your pews are getting fighting empty. You ask me why all your efforts seem to come to naught, why all the your aggressive ‘call to actions’ in the form of bulletins, video announcements and social media posts have fallen on deaf uninterested ears? Why? You ask. You say you think you might have an idea why it’s happening. But I don’t think you do. You think it’s because our culture and generation is so lost, so perverse and so beyond help that they are all walking away. You believe that they’ve turned a deaf ear to the voice of God; chasing money, fame, social status and material things. You think that the LGBTQ community, drug addicts, gamblers and ‘sinners’ of the world have influenced the morality of the world to such an extent that people have walked away from the faith. But those aren’t the reasons people are leaving the church. They aren’t the problem, Church. You are the problem. Yes, you. To start, your Sunday services have drawn me further away from God, rather than bring me nearer to Him. For those who turn up every Sunday to seek and have an intimate encounter with God, the stage, flashy lights, band and video screens have morphed into white noise that disrupts and distracts. I know that this packaging attracts the younger generation, but please remember that there are some (or many) of us who are wrestling with the painful and difficult trenches in life, and are not looking to be entertained or uplifted by temporary artificial thrills. Yes, worship is critical to giving our Lord the glory and honour, and is an important lead-up to prepare us for our personal encounter with God. But Church, you seem have lost the heart of worship – where you get so caught up with the glossy high-tech perfect production values, and have become more concerned with putting on a flawless good show. But Church, until you can give us something more than a Christian-themed ‘performance piece’ – an experience that would touch our hearts and minds in a meaningful way, and stay with us long after the service is over, many of us are going to stay away. You speak in (foreign) tongues. Because you want to impress, and because you want to dazzle instead of reach, the words these days from the pulpit are just…words. Words that are dusty and dead – rhetorical soundbites that have no resonance in our ears. You somehow seem to forget that all the religious buzzwords that worked 20 years ago, no longer do. You shy away from topics and real issues: homosexuality, justice, sexual, social and economic discrimination – preferring to skirt around them instead of boldly stepping forward to offer a firm guiding hand to your congregation.

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We, your faithful congregation, are not coming to you every weekend for a ‘quick-fix’ pill that would make us feel good for two hours or the rest the day. We are seeking comfort, spiritual direction and guidance from a world that is rapidly changing, and we need you, dear Church, to speak in a language we can understand and is relevant to our times. We’re not looking to be paid lip service or Instagram worthy quotes. We need to hear a language that speaks to our hearts – a language that reflects the sign of the times and our struggle to find ourselves in this turbulent landscape. Let’s face it: telling a frustrated person that it’s wrong to be frustrated is, well, frustrating. Safe Behind These Walls. Church, your flashy video announcements, your wonderfully decorated visitor’s center, your perfectly produced bulletin and your trendy youth centre tells me you are in the pink of financial health. Good for you. But shouldn’t you be spending your precious resources on bringing people to where you are instead of reaching to those who already are? Shouldn’t you be stepping out of your walls and going into the streets. neighbourhoods, schools and communities instead of worrying about what food and beverage to serve at the next gathering? These days, you seem to celebrate on the good (and bad) things that’s happening instead of what’s within your four walls, and are totally oblivious to how God is moving outside and in the world. You direct God’s message of love and salvation to those already sitting comfortably within your walls instead of reaching the unreached and those at the margins. Your greatest harvest and mission field is right outside your doorstep, and you don’t even realise it. If you want to reach the people who are walking or have walked away from you, leave the building. And since you don’t leave your building, it seems that… Your brand of love seems selective. At first look, it may seem like a ‘come as you are’ party, where everyone is welcomed at the door and at the table. But somehow these days, it seems that your door is getting narrower and the table is getting smaller. Jesus hung out with tax collectors, prostitutes and outcasts. His love was for the sinner and the saint, the reckless and unreconciled. It doesn’t feel the same with you Church. Can you love me if I don’t fall into line with your theology and vision? Will you still allow me to sit in your pews if I define love, marriage and family, different? Will I still be welcomed if I smoke, drink or have tattoos? In fact, your ‘selective love’ has made me feel shunned, judged and ridiculed – where my ‘biblical ignorance’ and ‘love with my sin’ is the cause of my sordid state and me straying from the Church. Maybe I’m the problem. But this is me – someone who is “…fearfully and wonderfully made”. And it’s here - in my messed up, turbulent, confused, jaded and disillusioned world that I need you to meet and get real with me. I need you to be in the dirt with me; to help me drag myself out of the sinking muck instead of ignoring me, or worse - standing by nonchalantly saying, ‘it’s just a small puddle of water’. Dear Church, stop preaching, judging and sin-diagnosing us so you can hear our hurts and see our broken lives. Even if we sinners are the problem, we are tired of feeling like nothing more than a religious agenda; a year-end statistic, a point to make or a soul to save. You need to see and acknowledge that amidst the filth and sin, we are starving for compassion and authenticity from you Church. Even if some of us are indeed the adulterous woman, doubting follower, rebellious lesbian teenager or promiscuous gay man, we can’t be anything else right now at this moment. And we need a Church big enough; loving enough to show us your love and your God is real.

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“MISGUIDED SENTIMENTALITY?” A PERSONAL REFLECTION ON NOTRE-DAME DE PARIS FIRE By Hadje C. Sadje, Belgium

During and after the Notre-Dame De Paris fire, social media was flooded with strong emotions. Inevitably, it attracted public attention from across the world. The public mourned, stunned, and become sentimental as the medieval iconic cathedral fire unfolded. In many ways, it has become incredibly trending news within a short period of time. And then, both religious and non-religious were unified in both grief and mourn---sentimentality. Diverse sentiment expressions on social media goes viral very quickly. For instance, some Facebook users applied an overlay of the French flag on their profile pictures in solidarity, while previous tourists uploaded their pictures or photos (before, during, after the fire incident) that showed themselves standing next to the iconic landmark of the Notre-Dame De Paris, as well as the prayers and good wishes. The most impressive responses to the tragedy, however, French billionaires pledged 680 million (euro) to rebuild Notre-Dame De Paris, including François-Henri Pinault, the Arnault family, and the Bettencourt Meyers family (Forbes 2019). According to David Chazan (Telegram News 2019): “Two of France’s richest families pledged a total of €300 million on Tuesday to help rebuild Notre-Dame cathedral, ravaged by a catastrophic fire that destroyed its spire and most of the roof.” Besides, online donation and fundraising event flows after the sad news. Chazan writes (2019): “Members of the public were also donating money in response to appeals by France’s heritage foundation, the Fondation du Patrimoine and President Emmanuel Macron. Online donations were climbing rapidly on Tuesday. An AFP tally of donations announced so far reached €600 million by the afternoon.”

Since the large amounts of money donated to rebuild it, however, France’s billionaires have copped a lot of backlash from prominent figures and social media (Forbes 2019). For example, a British media personality, Janet Street-Porter, publicly expressed (2019): “...the donations would be better spent on social problems.” Like Street-Porter, Mike Stuchbery, a writer and historian, argues (Huffington Post 2019): “It’s important for some to remember that such a wonderful edifice was built to celebrate a faith that emphasises giving aid and comfort to the poor, regardless of who they are.” Nonetheless, some people viewed these statements as something absurd and spouting nonsense at a greater rate. For them, the destruction of the historic Notre-Dame De Paris is equally indicative of the destruction of our shared human culture or historical heritage (DW 2019).

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But this raises the question: Why do some tragic events, like the burning of Notre-Dame De Paris, receive more worthy of global attention than others? It also raises a question: why do we feel more sentimental about some tragedies and disasters than others? Of course, answering these questions is not always an easy task. However, some questions are not intended to be answered rather, designed to be thought-provoking or may take some serious contemplation. Today, there has been a lot of brutal and horrible events without much scrutiny. For example, the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip (OCHA 2019), the so-called, “the forgotten war of Yemen” that killed nearly 5,000 civilians and children are starving (UNICEF 2019), the ongoing genocidal crisis of Rohingya minority in Myanmar (Dussich 2018; Human Rights Watch 2019), and Sudan political crisis (Aljazeera 2019) suffered from disproportionate public attention. Simply put, compared to Notre-Dame De Paris fire, humanitarian crisis, refugee crisis, high poverty rates, and disasters in other countries are not getting lots of global media attention as well as sentimentality. Although, sentimentality is a loaded word and often used interchangeably with emotion. To most reasonable people, sentimentality is one of the basic human needs. But, for the past century, many philosophers have discussed (and problematised) the concept of sentimentality and its relation to modern morality. For instance, in his book entitled, Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals (1751), David Hume, a Scottish English philosopher, concluded that “morality is determined by sentiment” rather than from reason. Like Hume, however, a German prominent thinker, in his two books Beyond Good and Evil (1886) and Human, All Too Human (1878), Friedrich Nietzsche has come to view sentimentality (emotion) as opposed to cognitive (reason). On the other hand, Oscar Wilde considered sentimentality as the bank holiday of cynicism or pessimism. Wilde writes, “...As soon as you have to pay for an emotion you will know its quality, and be the better for such knowledge. And remember that the sentimentalist is always a cynic at heart. Indeed, sentimentality is merely the bank holiday of cynicism” (De Profundis 1905). For Wilde, sentimentality makes you weak and pathetic. In fact, a recent study showed that sentimentality is an excessive emotion at the expense of rational thinking (Howard 1999; Waldman 2014). Nowadays, various scholars have again turned their attention to the psychological-economic-political-social view of “sentimentality.” For them, nothing is wrong with being an emotional individual, especially being sentimental. For example, in his book, In Defense of Sentimentality (2004), Robert Solomon offers a multidisciplinary approach to sentimentality. According to Solomon, sentimentality or emotional sensitivity is an ethical virtue. It proves that we are human beings that have been touched by particular events. Either way, certain events are as good as certain events are bad. Solomon rejected the notion of sentimentality as partiality----inability to see the whole truth and a blindness to the evil of the world (2004).

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Others argue that the problem is not the duality between the good and the bad. But rather the misguided sentimentality. Coming from the political thought of Slavoj Žižek, he describes (2010), “When we are shown scenes of starving children in Africa, with a call for us to do something to help them, the underlying ideological message is something like: "Don't think, don't politicise, forget about the true causes of their poverty, just act, contribute money, so that you will not have to think! (2010)”. For Žižek, misguided sentimentality is grounded in a superficial understanding of the situation. To put it another way, it is depoliticisation of social reality. But what do we mean by depoliticisation? Accordingly, ‘depoliticisation’ can be seen as a tendency inherent in modernity, accompanying and simultaneously threatening efforts to make social phenomena subject to political-democratic processes, i.e., politicisation (Straume and Humphrey 2010). The public sentiment and discourse about the Notre-Dame De Paris is a concrete example of Žižek’s misguided sentimentality (similar to Habermas’ concept of communicative rationality that threatened by instrumental rationality) that resulted in the depoliticisation of social reality in France society---unaddressed issues of income inequality and corporate greed. For example, the overwhelming public and private response on the Notre-Dame De Paris fire seem to have been bizarrely forgotten the struggles of the Yellow Vest (gilets jaunes) movement by many today. In fact, to critique the selective and misguided sentimentality might seem to be inappropriate. They urged people to act and sacrifice but do not think and politicise. In Žižek’s words, “...Don’t think, don’t politicise, forget about the true causes of their poverty, just act, contribute money...” to rebuild the Notre-Dame De Paris. As French billionaires donated to the rehabilitation of the Notre-Dame De Paris, the Yellow Vest movement demands remain largely unmet (AP 2019). A feminist and coordinator of Center for Global Prophetic, Coy Dionco perfectly described the disproportionate public sentimentality between the Notre-Dame De Paris fire and the Yellow Vest movement in France is worth citing. Dionco writes (2019):

There are actually two fires happening in France. The first is drawing more sympathy for obvious reasons, especially from Catholics. One former student from Vietnam posted photos of her last visit to the cathedral. She is heartbroken. There is actually a second fire. It began in November 2018 and was fueled by social unrest due to increasing inequalities. Macron has already announced rebuilding the cathedral and Selma Hayek’s billionaire husband has pledged millions of Euros. No pledges for rebuilding the economy. I understand the emotional attachment to Notre Dame, even by those who have never been to France, and they can rebuild the cathedral if they want. I don’t have that attachment which does not mean I am against rebuilding it. But I wonder what would be the witness if French Catholics would say that the rebuilding of the Notre Dame must not justify government’s inaction to address increasing inequality where economic growth flows disproportionately to the rich like Selma Hayek’s husband. The Notre Dame Cathedral fire is now under control but the other one is still burning and could be more destructive.

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Although addressing the Yellow Vest movement demands is impossible with the existing global capitalist system (Žižek, Counterpunch 2019), Dionco believes that the movement will succeed sooner or later. One of the most encouraging phenomena of our time is a sincere world-wide desire for mutual understanding, a genuine thirst for solidarity and cooperation---common good. Yet this urge towards the common good is hijacked and appropriated by individuals and corporations. At this crucial point, some Christian communities falling prey to consumerism, Sylvia and Keesmaat argue (2015) that global Christianity should not be sucked into consumerist ideology. The church must exercise its prophetic role to clear-cut the dominant ideologies that alienate people from their own dignity. In conclusion: this short reflection is not arguing that rehabilitating the Notre-Dame De Paris is a stupid idea and completely absurd. French billionaires’ generosity and public sentiment deserved to be recognised and praised. As Jesus stated, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God the things that are God's” (Matthew 22:21). However, in his time, prophet Hosea reminded the nation of God that “...Yahweh desire mercy, not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings (Hosea 6:6).” Nevertheless, this short article seeks to address the disproportionate public sentimentality between the Notre-Dame De Paris fire and the Yellow Vest movement in France, including several brutal and horrible events without much scrutiny across the world. Thus, recognising the harm of misguided sentimentality and the deepest effects of depoliticisation tactic, as Žižek describes, will be cut off from the dominant ideology that misleads people at the real root of all problems---the political-economic (dis)order.

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ASK AND YOU

SHALL ‘BELIEVE’

By Retrospective from South East Asia

Matthew 7:7-8 (KJV) 7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: 8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seekth findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

Prayer is a sacred gift given to us through the sacrifice of Christ. It is an act that allows us to have a personal relationship with God and the opportunity to connect and divulge to the Almighty on what would have already been known. For God is omnipresent, who hears all and sees all. It is a time where we unburden ourselves from all that is mundane, remove the shields and armour we put on daily and come before God as we are. And since God knows our hearts and minds, what we verbalise in confession should naturally be in sync. But what should prayer involve? I’ve been informed by multiple people that we can talk to God about absolutely anything under the sun. It could vary from the guilty pleasures of cheating on your diet and to the remorse that comes from it, or complaining about how you had tried to get your hands on the latest gadget by queuing in line for 4 hours and when it is your turn, it’s completely sold out. This leaves me to wonder sometimes if we should bother God with such superficial and insignificant nuggets in our lives? I’ve always assumed that it would be appropriate that we share about our joys and worries, thoughts and concerns, and aspirations and fears. And the act of prayer, should it be done on our knees every night before bedtime? Could we talk to God at anytime as we please, while being stationary, waiting to cross the road to the other side or in the classroom or meeting, or at any moment that’s necessary? And, as we pray, should we be sharing or asking? For God has evidently provided for all our needs, should we be asking for more? Should our faiths be tied to our wants and is it right to emotionally blackmail God and betray the unfailing love that’s given to us? In the course of my faith, I’ve met countless of people who would pray to God for their wants rather than their needs. “Ask, and it shall be given you”, as stated in the Bible is likely the most misinterpreted of God’s Word. Hence God becomes Santa for all seasons. Probably there have been more requests prayed for, for the latest iPhone than the pleas to forgive us for our sins. I often ask myself if that is right? Are we not suppose to go to God to unburden ourselves emotionally and to seek direction? Is it right to be materialistic in demands with God? Is it right to ask for our wants due to purely selfish reasons?

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YOUR SAY

Then there are those who would lament about how the power of prayer does not work because of the fact that what they’ve asked for did not materialise. That alone is rather indicative of the self-centred and narrow mindsets of these individuals and the faith they obviously lack. As Christians, we ought to be aware of God’s greater plan for us and how we should have absolute trust on this path, “28And we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28), and this path of ours should not be littered with petty requests for material needs of temporal gains, but be in abundant with spiritual ones. Hence, could we be sinning in greed and envy each time we pray for a new designer garment, tech toy or other material riches beyond us right in the face of God? For parents who are driven up the wall with their offspring who keeps harping on the things they want, we ought to be really grateful that God is patience personified, “4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud” (1 Corinthians 13:4). And your personal prayer should be an intimate and private conversation between God and yourself, not to be broadcasted on social media platforms or messaging applications and shared with people, so that they are indirectly prompted of your wants and struggles. There is absolutely no faith demonstrated in that, it just shows that the good people of God are taken as an instrument for manipulation in feeding the selfish wants of others, good will being taken advantaged of as the wicked are quick to exploit in the name of prayer. I often wonder for those who are apt at committing to such “prayers”, how strong are they really in their faith? Are they not worried of the repercussions of such actions in times of judgement? How could or would one justify that such actions derive from pure heartedness when prayer is used to steer things and situations to one’s benefit by emotionally influencing or blackmailing others? Because such behaviours are never just a one-off thing, it is habitual and a vicious pattern that keeps repeating itself just because the devious formula and strategy works perfectly for them. Prayer should be entirely faith based and even though God has all the answers, it is not for us to expect instantaneous response, as God’s plan for each of us does have its divine course to take before it reaches fruition at the long ends of those complex trenches in our lives. God doesn’t owe us anything as everything has already been provided and planned out for us. What we need is to trust in God and believe faithfully that things will work out eventually as it always has. What is only expected of us is to lead our lives committed to his Word. Thus, it is through prayer and the faith applied to it that we will eventually witness and believe the love God has for each of us, while we stay close and connected to the Divine, pure heartedly.

59 | INSiGHT


YOUR SAY

AFRICA DAY

IS USELESS by Tapiwa Muskwe, London, United Kingdom

In most African countries in Africa, Africa day is a public holiday to commemorate the foundation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) on 25 May 1963. It is disgusting that this African Union is a totally ineffective organisation that lost its mandate a long time ago. African Union has failed on Zimbabwe and Somalia and its current role is highly questionable. This organisation should be liquidated as it has failed even to tackle the mass migration of Africans who are perishing in the Mediterranean in search of better life in Europe.

June 2019 | 60


refugee not only calls us for a “The 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.

“

Rev Dr Allan Palanna CWM 2018 South Asia Regional Assembly, Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, May 2018



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