The coronavirus pandemic and restrictions related to it has disproportionately affected the poorest and most vulnerable, from availability of work to access to basic amenities and technology. The digital divide widens the inequality gap further. An estimated 3.6 billion people remain offline, mostly in less developed countries where an average of two in ten people are online. More specifically, people without access to technology are even more disadvantaged than before. In many cases, the lifeline provided by technologies is only available to those who can access or afford them.
INSiGHT | August 2020
June 2019 | 8
AT A GLANCE
Faith And Duty Go Hand In Hand
Member Church News
VIEWPOINTS TAKE A LOOK 18
Foundation For Flourishing Communities: Reconciled Diversity And Justice
God Is Good
My Vocational Calling
Solidarity Not Charity
Solidarity In Crisis
The West Papuan Struggle For Freedom
There Is Still A Knee On Our Neck And We Can’t Breathe
SEEN & HEARD
TAKE A LOOK 54
Digital Outcasts In The Divide
Black Lives Matter: Fairtrade Connections
Let’s Colour The World
A Sustaining Spirituality For The Long Haul
Now Christ Lives Here As He Promised
Faith and Duty Go Hand in Hand The world is divided between people with two kinds of positions, as is usually the case in many issues. There are those who are strong supporters of Mother Earth and the environment, and there are those who preach a different message of scepticism. Where the strong activists provide facts and proof of the problem and even try to work out solutions to correct the wrong we have done to the environment, the sceptics on the other side do not need to win an argument, they just need to create doubt in the minds of the people which will lead to inaction and delays. Paul is reminding us in the text to guard our faith very carefully, and to see that the evil oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s tactic is to create division. Division within the Christian faith is very dangerous, for it will lead us to spend a lot of energy and time arguing rather than doing something helpful and concrete to reflect our faith in action. Sometimes the sceptics only create doubt because it benefits them financially, for they are being paid by the powerful to silence critique by manipulating the facts, by spreading a false viewpoint. This influences our response to the issue of climate change. Our faith in Godâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s sovereign rule and our Christian duty to creation are two realities that cannot be separated, they should go hand in hand. Our loyalty to the Gospel has to be reflected in our relationship with the whole of creation. Forty days and nights without food is going beyond the experience of Israel, who at least had manna in the desert. Famished and starving as he is, Jesus still allows Scripture to speak more loudly than the rumbling of his stomach. The Devil invites Jesus to do what human beings do, which is to put their needs before everyone and anything else.
Prayer Creator God, forgive us for separating our faith in you from our relationship with creation. Grant us wisdom to act responsibly in demonstrating faith in you as we preserve our environment.
INSiGHT | August 2020
SCRIPTURE: Romans 16:17,18 by Tafue Lusama Ekalesia Kelisiano Tuvalu (EKT)
Groaning Creation Scientists have noticed that not only has climate change raised the sea level but it has also modified the way the Earth rotates around its axis. The following information might help us to take seriously this question of global warming: In addition to all the devastating and obvious effects sea-level rise will produce on the planet, such as flooding and erosion, sea-level rise also has the more subtle but nonetheless mindboggling ability to alter the way the Earth rotates on its axis. The connection is through the change in the speed of the earthâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s rotation. Melt water from glaciers can not only raise sea-level but could also shift mass from the pole to the Equator, which would slow down the rotation. If this is so, it would be catastrophic for all living on earth as it would result in slow adaptation of living organisms, in addition to many other big changes which we would have to face (change of seasons, natural disasters, ecological diseases). We do not know for sure what the impact of this adaptation would be but we could lose our orientation. We are reminded by Paul of the suffering of the creation. Godâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s creatures suffer because of the moral decline of the world and the progressive deterioration of the planet. There is a close link between moral decline in a society and the destruction of nature and between the evil in our hearts and the overwhelming ecological problems we face (Solomon Andria in ROMANS- Africa Bible commentary Series- 2012- Hippo Books Publishers- Nairobip.149) People who are living in poorer economies are the ones who suffer most from the effects of global ecological crises. This is an opportunity for the church to live out its missionary task in solidarity with the earth and also with the poor and the oppressed.
SCRIPTURE: Romans 8.18-25 by Rev Yvette Rabemila Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar (FJKM)
Prayer Lord, help us not to be too pessimistic with what science is finding but to be always mindful of the hope which we are reminded of in Romans because with You, there is always something for which to hope.
AT A GLANCE | MEMBER CHURCH NEWS AFRICA Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa (UPCSA) issues statement on femicide and gender-based violence Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa (UPCSA) issued a statement following the deaths of two young casualties of femicide and gender-based violence (GBV) in early June. Naledi Phangindawo, 26, an entrepreneur and a mother of three children was killed while attending a cultural function in KwaNonqaba, Mossel Bay. Tshegofatso Pule, 28, was eight months pregnant when she was found stabbed and hanged from a tree in Roodepoort.
These were reported GBV cases which ended in death, and there could be many cases going unreported, the statement noted. Calling out “persistent, abhorrent acts of femicide and gender-based violence”, UPCSA General Secretary Rev Lungile Mpetsheni implored presbyteries, congregations and fellowships, to act against GBV and empower all to stand against it, especially since such violence was expected to escalate during the lockdown. To promote the sanctity of life and espouse life-affirming theologies and practices, Rev Mpetsheni also reiterated the call for Gender Desks to be established in congregations.
All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) encourages churches to mark World Day against Trafficking in Persons
The World Day against Trafficking in Persons is commemorated on 30 July every year. This year, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the vulnerability of many to human trafficking as people have lost jobs, or have their income-generating activities slowing down or halted. Despite decades of independence, Africa still struggles to provide its people opportunities for subsistence. As a result, traffickers take advantage of their desperation for survival, “luring them into slave-like work without proper or no remuneration in their home country or in other countries”. In a statement, AACC General Secretary Rev Dr Fidon Mwombeki called on church leadership to “advocate with governments to be responsible by providing employment opportunities and enabling environment for the increasing population of youth to be gainfully employed”, to reduce their quests to leave their countries through unsafe means. He also urged churches to caution believers “to follow due INSiGHT | August 2020
processes of migration or travels to (their) country of choice” if they wish to explore opportunities overseas. Churches were encouraged to use special prayers and presentations to increase awareness of the dangers and crime of human trafficking on 26 July or 2 August. All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) urges churches to address unsustainable population growth The All African Conference of Churches (AACC) has called upon African churches to tackle the issue of unsustainable population growth and challenges associated with population explosion in the Africa continent. A high-level webinar consultation on 9 July had convened ecumenical and ecclesial leaders, among others, who affirmed that churches in Africa must look into this issue as it is “central to the dignity of Africans”. In a statement on World Population Day, AACC General Secretary Rev Dr Fidon Mwombeki declared that “unless the Church starts addressing the issue of population growth urgently and adequately, it will not be able to offer transformative accompaniment to its followers.”
Overpopulation has brought about mounting challenges of underdevelopment such as poor access to social services such as health and education; congested classrooms, and increasing number of street children, he said. In addition, Africa is not benefitting from a demographic dividend as the youths are too young to be working, coupled with the lack of job opportunities from worsening economic conditions, leaving many families destitute. Rev Dr Mwombeki asked for the Church to “start debunking prevalent cultural and spiritual beliefs about multiplying and filling the earth”, emphasising “responsible parenthood” as part of Christians’ spiritual responsibility, even as he acknowledged that this would be difficult owing to “established theological teachings”. “The AACC will work with churches in Africa by assisting them to develop an advocacy framework for engaging governments, as well as theological tools for inter-religious dialogue and engagement around sustainable population for sustainable development,” he added.
Presbyterian Church of Korea (PCK) joins Ecumenical Peace Message for 70th anniversary of Korean War Presbyterian Church of Korea (PCK) were among the churches and councils of churches worldwide endorsing a Joint Ecumenical Message marking the 70th anniversary of the start of the Korean War, delivered during a live-streamed event on 22 June. The statement called for an immediate formal declaration to the end of the Korean War, and swift steps towards adoption of a peace treaty to replace the 1953 Armistice Agreement, as a starting point for progress towards peace on the Korean Peninsula. Fulfilment of these, the statement noted, is expected to contribute to “enhancing conditions for pragmatic dialogue and negotiation on current realities on the Peninsula”. The statement was also an appeal to: • Suspend and cancel any further military exercises in the region; • Resume dialogue between the North and South Korea, and between the USA and North Korea, with the encouragement and support of other states who were involved in the Korean War; www.cwmission.org
• normalisation of diplomatic relations between North Korea and the USA. This year, the National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK) and World Council of Churches had been observing “We Pray, Peace Now, End the War”, a global prayer campaign for a formal end to the Korean War and the replacement of the 1953 Armistice Agreement with a peace treaty. Declaration for Korea Peace Agreement launched A Declaration for the People’s Korea Peace Agreement was launched on 23 July at a global Zoom convocation. Initiated by the National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK) and civil organisations, the convention aimed to solidify the ecumenical bond in supporting a peace agreement which replaces the Armistice Agreement. Churches and civil society in Korea had drafted this Peace Agreement for the past six months, and it includes an end-of-war declaration, withdrawal of foreign troops and denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula based on improved relations and trust between both parties.
The treaty should be signed in accordance with existing declarations, and contracting parties are to support peace and reunification efforts 05
between North and South Korea, and to implement a step-by-step realisation of a peace regime. Building a peace regime will extend beyond the two Koreas, and help to promote security for nearby countries, the US, and Russia, and align with UN’s purpose for world peace. Another key outcome of the convention was that the suggestion that women should be included in every peace negotiation was accepted. Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT) elects first female Moderator PCT elected its first female Moderator, Rev Abus Takisvilainan, during its 65th General Assembly on 17 June. This was a nod to gender justice, and affirmation and advocacy of the gifts, humanity and right of places of all persons in society, and where women are equipped and availed of equal opportunities for leadership roles in both church and society. Rev Takisvilainan has been a PCT pastor for 27 years, and hails from the Bunun indigenous group. She paid tribute to female pastors and Christians in PCT who have served faithfully and silently over the past 155 years, and thanked the church for its intercessory prayers.
Rev Takisvilainan added that this glory and position was not for her alone, and also for PCT to implement the value of gender justice in the land of Taiwan, to allow for both genders to work together in fulfilling God’s mission. She also stressed that PCT’s best and sole leader is the Lord Jesus Christ, who will take them forward and shape systems for future generations of leaders to forge ahead. Hong Kong Council of the Church of Christ in China (HKCCCC) General Secretary expresses solidarity amidst Hong Kong’s challenges Anti-extradition conflicts since June 2019, coupled with the COVID-19 epidemic, have beset most sectors of the Hong Kong community, bringing about challenges ranging from health, livelihood, unemployment, the slowing economy to political controversies.
However, Rev Dr So reminded them of their “significant responsibility” to discern how to journey alongside the people of Hong Kong, going beyond being “service providers” to servants of God’s love during this difficult period of time. He voiced his belief that when Hong Kong appears engulfed in pessimism and helplessness, it can be strengthened by God’s faith, hope and love to seek a way out. Biblical teachings can inspire them to persevere when the outlook is grim; imbue them with hope to strive for their ideals, and empower them to be transformed from self-centeredness to mutual care. He concluded with an invitation “to all the Hong Kong Christians to affirm the spirit of the Christian emblem of a vessel with the cross of Jesus encountering a restless sea” to be reminded of the faith, hope and love we have to walk together with the Hong Kong people towards a bright future.” SOUTH ASIA
In a recent letter to the churches, Hong Kong Council of the Church of Christ in China (HKCCCC) Rev Dr So Eric acknowledged that “while many people are struggling with the impact of this predicament, some Christian organisations which receive government’s subvention are relatedly stable.” Most of their services can operate as usual without closures, wage cuts and or retrenchment. INSiGHT | August 2020
Church of Bangladesh (COB) resumes church services, continues support for those in need The Barishal Diocese of Church of Bangladesh (COB) has informed its churches to resume services in smaller numbers, abiding by guidelines from the government. Through the support of the COB Synod and organisations such as YWAM, they supported 706 families in poverty, as well as a few families in Sundali, a new COB parish. Neighbouring
communities continued to receive help from the COB community health and nutrition programme, with supporting pregnant women being the focus in the month of June. The diocese also celebrated World Environment Day on 5 June, where church members cleaned church campuses and local communities, and all clergies preached about creation care, clean environment, and a pollution-free world.
COB and the Anglican Diocese of Singapore also collaborated on “My Dorm Our Home”, a media project to build social cohesion among migrant workers in Singapore, and to strengthen their communal and social-emotional resilience during the COVID-19 period and beyond. COB led the work with a local production company to adapt existing programmes or develop new content such as personal skill development, English lessons, music and art to facilitate group interactions, and the content was made accessible through a mobile app. Besides providing curated online programmes in three languages, it was also a platform for Singaporeans to share messages of encouragement and appreciation, and to hear each other’s stories.
Church of North India (CNI) installs its seventh General Secretary CNI installed Rev Shailesh Dennis Lall, an ordained minister of the Delhi Diocese as the seventh General Secretary of the CNI Synod in a solemn service on 2 July. The service in Bhavan Chapel was conducted by CNI Moderator Most Rev Dr P.C Singh, and viewed by many CNI members and others worldwide on Zoom. Prior to this appointment, Rev Lall was Secretary of the Delhi Diocese and Presbyter in Charge of St. Martin’s Church, Delhi Cantonment, having served for 22 years in both rural and urban settings. Taking up the mantle of leadership, Rev Lall spoke about how the church had worked towards socioeconomic justice and development, pioneered in health and education, and provided spiritual nurture in the country as part of its witness and service.
He considered promoting mental health and wellbeing as another aspect of church ministry that should be prioritised. During the pandemic, psychological challenges were on the rise and likely to continue
post-pandemic, and the Church has the responsibility and potential for psychological empowerment for all ages at all levels, he said.
Rev Lall also expressed his wish to contribute towards meaningful engagement with ecumenical partners locally and globally, as CNI “has preferential commitment to be a leading light in ecumenical initiatives”. Church of South India (CSI) calls for justice for victims of police brutality Church of South India (CSI) General Secretary Adv. Fernandas Rathina Raja, among others, has called for action to be taken against police personnel involved in the alleged custodial murder of Mr Jayaraj and Mr Fenix - members of the Thoothukudi-Nazareth Diocese of the CSI - at Sathankulam, Thoothukudi in Tamil Nadu.
The father and son had been arrested for allegedly keeping their store open past permitted
opening hours during the COVID-19 lockdown, and they died two days after being released from police custody. Their relatives claimed that both of them were subjected to brutal torture. As the gruesome details emerged, the case sparked outrage on and off social media, and gained national attention.
In an open letter to the Chief Minister of the State and The Vice-Chairperson of the National Commission for Minorities, Adv. Fernandas pointed out that the police officers who had used excessive force failed to follow legal guidelines and procedures, and he also drew attention to lapses by the Duty Doctor and Honourable Magistrate. Police violence is said to be widespread and routine in India. According to a recent report, 1,700 people died in custody in India last year, and the police are rarely held accountable. The CSI General Secretary stated in his letter that the CSI, along with the general public, are looking for intervention from the Chief Minister and the Minority Commission Chairperson in this case, and to “take stringent measures so that such brutal incidents does not take place in future.” 08
PACIFIC Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC) and UN Women sign deal to protect women and children UN Women and the Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC) have inked a partnership deal to address the regional epidemic of gender-based violence. The project comprises a regional mapping of faith-based responses to Violence Against Women and Children, gender equality and child protection. Speaking at the signing ceremony, PCC Moderator Deaconess Tamalesi Makutu said that under the partnership, the regional “Break the Silence Sunday Campaign” would help churches to engage regional and national leadership on the issue of violence against women and girls and to deliver strong messages to faith communities on the necessity of education, attention and response to this issue.
Launched as the “Just and Safe Pacific Communities of Women and Men” as part of the PCC’s 2020-2024 Strategic Plan, the collaboration also includes developing and implementing a Safe Church Policies and Codes of Conduct in member churches. The partnership is significant as it recognises the importance of faith communities in the Pacific INSiGHT | August 2020
region “as partners in a common vision of safe and peaceful communities and homes” and “not just as target audiences of secular programmes on addressing Gender Based Violence”, she added. “There will also be a specific focus on increasing the participation and access of women in Church leadership and theology and on the role of Church Leaders as advocates,” she affirmed. People at the heart of national budgets
On the eve of the announcement of Fiji’s 2020-2021 Budget, PCC urged Pacific Island countries to ensure that they focus on putting their people in the centre of any national budget. PCC General Secretary Rev James Bhagwan said in a statement that the right to water, health services and education is a fundamental right of citizens that should be addressed in a budget, and not as a privilege attached to votes. “Roads and electricity must be provided under the budget in order to open up the most viable economic opportunities in agriculture, fisheries and for Small and Medium enterprises, not as favours to political allies,” he continued.
Even though the impact of COVID-19 has placed severe challenges on governments, the people have a right to be consulted on the budget and how it will affect them, including a just wage and representation by unions. He drew attention to the arbitrary dismissal of civil servants and unjust treatment of hotel and Fiji Airways staff as examples, and called on Pacific governments to “have the courage to speak of an economy of abundance at a time when the scarcity model is the dominant narrative.” Papuan churches denounce state-sanctioned racism The Papua Church Council has criticised the Indonesian government for institutionalised racism in handling West Papua’s 59-year struggle for self-determination, highlighting Jakarta's handling of protests in Surabaya last August. After an Indonesian flag was damaged, Papuan students were subsequently attacked by military officers and nationalist militia, who taunted Papuans with racist slurs, and called them “animals”.
Papuan activist during a rally in Jakarta. Photo by AP.
Papua is home to Grasberg, one of the largest gold mines, a natural gas field, and several other natural resources. It had declared its independence in the early 1960s, but was
incorporated back into Indonesia following a controversial referendum. In a letter to the President Joko Widodo, Papuan church leaders said racism and inequality had "grown and become entrenched" after the Special Autonomy Act 21 of 2002 was implemented instead of granting them self-determination. The council appealed to the government to look into four critical issues - the history and political status of the integration of Papua into Indonesia; state violence and gross violations of human rights; discrimination and marginalisation of indigenous Papuans in their own land; and development failures including education, health, and the economy of the Papuan people. Hundreds of indigenous people protested on the streets to call for justice for a father and son shot dead in Nduga district by Indonesian soldiers on July 18. Resources for this year’s Season of Creation are now available The global reach of COVID-19 revealed our shared human nature and inter-connectivity of our economies, political structures, healthcare systems, food chain production, energy and transportation systems. Thus, it is apt that this year’s theme for the Season of Creation is “Jubilee for the Earth”, as we consider how a respite for the Earth is intertwined with ecological, economic, social and political ways of living.
Observed from September 1 to October 4, the Season of Creation is an annual celebration of prayer and action embraced by the wider ecumenical community to protect and care for our common home. This jointly-produced Celebration Guide provides resources for Christians worldwide to pray, reflect, and respond with bold action as stewards of God’s creation and includes liturgy for an eco-themed prayer service. The guide also includes ideas for advocacy to encourage sustainable living on an individual and institutional level, and organising sustainability events in communities, be it cleaning local waterways, or tree planting. For more information and to download the celebration guide, visit https://seasonofcreation.org/ EUROPE Research on social and religious impact of pioneering spots in the Protestant Church of the Netherlands (PKN) published Maarten Atsma of the Protestant Church of the Netherlands (PKN) recently spearheaded a research project “Pioneering: State of Affairs”, focusing on the impact of pioneering on social cohesion and religious development. education, attention and response to this issue. 09
Shortly after PKN was established in 2004, it reached out to groups of people who do not feel connected to the church or to the Christian faith.
attributed to the contrast to regular congregations, as well as the interactive methods used to engage participants to actively make sense of religion.
The first pioneering spots emerged, with the support of Protestant congregations which bore the hope that the spots would contribute to church renewal as a whole. As of early 2020, the number of pioneering spots which have started or are in preparation have increased.
The conclusions of the research were that pioneering spots met the goal of reaching churchless people and non-practising members of the church; it is difficult to attract participants who have not encountered the Christian tradition at some point in their lives; and pioneering spots are important to the participants’ sense of social belonging and religious development with new and deeper relations formed. Reopening of churches in Wales
The goal of pioneering spots is to be developed into self-supporting congregations, and this project’s researchers spoke to people from pioneering spots to understand what pioneering means concretely in people’s lives. Most of the respondents have had to deal with personal crises, and these turning points played a role in their encounter with the pioneering spot, which functioned as a safety net for people who were socially or psychologically isolated in one way or another. Majority of those surveyed had some form of Christian background, and around half said that their faith has changed after their involvement with the pioneering spot. This deepening and growth of personal faith was mostly
The Welsh government and Cytun (Churches Together in Wales) jointly chaired an online Question and Answer session for faith communities on 16 July, to provide them with the opportunity to raise questions about the process of re-opening places of worship as COVID-19 restrictions would relaxing over the coming weeks. The reopening includes charities, and businesses, with a risk assessment to be carried out. Union of Welsh Independents (UWI) is closely following the guidelines, which stipulate that “faith leaders can gradually resume services when they are ready to do so safely”, and outdoor gatherings of up to 30 people is permitted when organised and supervised by a responsible person.
INSiGHT | August 2020
United Reformed Church (URC) joins call for UK government to help deter West Bank annexation
URC statement west bank annexation.
Church leaders from the United Reformed Church (URC), and several other major Christian denominations have called on the UK government to help deter annexation of the West Bank, which was planned to begin on 1 July. In the statement, they stood alongside the Holy Land’s Christian leaders, who have warned that the Israeli plan to annex part of the West Bank would mean losing “any remaining hope for the success of the peace process”.
Banksy image by thenational.ae
“All our Churches are committed to promoting justice and peace for everyone who calls the Holy Land their home. If annexation proceeds, it would gravely undermine international law with serious consequences for the common good of our global society. “The UK government should do everything in its power to deter annexation. Only a robust
response, working alongside others in the international community, can help to prevent this tragedy. “We remain united in prayer that plans for annexation will be abandoned, allowing for renewed efforts towards a negotiated solution that upholds the human dignity of Palestinians and Israelis alike.” The annexation has since been delayed, as one of the terms of a landmark peace deal between Israel and United Arab Emirates (UAE) in August. This would be Israel’s first formal relationship with a Gulf state and its third with any Arab country. United Reformed Church (URC) produces a guide for churches navigating digital space What does being and doing church look like in our “new normal”? United Reformed Church (URC) has produced and shared a “Roadmap to Digital Discipleship” booklet to help churches consider their shared journey of discipleship in the digital realm.
The pandemic lockdown prompted many churches to create or build on an online presence, creating space for and incorporating essential elements of the discipleship journey - fellowship, inclusion and connection through
technology. The lockdown also showed us a “two-tier church”: members who can physically attend church and activities, and those unable to do so due to ill health. For churches investing in virtual communities, URC’s booklet provides preliminary questions to help them to think through practical issues such as equipment, licenses and online platforms. Congregational Federation (CF) among churches looking into racial justice Congregational Federation (CF) and United Reformed Church are members of Churches Together in England (CTE), whose presidents have issued a statement exhorting churches to embark on the journey of racial justice, with self-reflection and concrete action within their churches and in society. Having listened to experiences of racism including micro aggression in the society, they recognised the racism that blights churches, and expressed their commitment to action to effect real change. One example of ensuring fair practices is scrutinising and avoiding potential discrimination in making church appointments, whether it is done consciously or unconsciously. Concerned about the relationship between the black community and the criminal justice system, the Presidents said that they will be facilitating conversations between young black people and senior member of police service, as well as engaging the Home Office and Ministry of Justice. www.cwmission.org
At the same time, they encouraged churches to “build trust and improve accountability between black communities, the police, civic bodies and wider community group”, and for church leaders to bring about “more inclusive ecumenical leadership” by reaching out to their black colleagues absent from their ranks. In doing so, it is hoped that spaces will be created for authority figures to listen to powerful testimonies of young people of colour as a step towards social cohesion. CARIBBEAN The United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands (UCJCI) organises “COVID-19: Then & Now” public forum UCJCI’s Cayman Islands Regional Mission Council (CIRMC) recently organised a pre-recorded online public forum on the topic “COVID-19: Then & Now”. The guest panelists offered insights into the impact of the crisis, sharing their expertise from the perspectives of theology and ethics, psychology and economy and finance. It aims to allow their congregations and fellowships to benefit from the solutions offered on re-framing and seizing opportunities that may be available in the midst of the crisis of the pandemic. COVID-19 First Responders Honoured An appreciation service was held by a congregation of The United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, Webster Memorial, to affirm and express gratitude to first responders to 11
the COVID-19 pandemic on 19 July. The Jamaican Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, and Leader of the Opposition, Dr Peter Phillips, delivered messages of appreciation. Among medical personnel attending were pharmacists, lab technicians, ambulance drivers, porters, doctors and nurses, as well as sanitation workers, the police and security agents, many of whom were in uniform. Lauded as “Healers of the Nation”, Rev Astor Carlyle, Minister of the Webster Charge, paid tribute to their “indomitable, courageous and compassionate spirit” in rendering their services. In his sermon themed “Jesus, Healer of Broken Bodies” and based on Mark 2:1-12, Rev Carlyle likened their country Jamaica to the paralysed man, and their nation’s frontline workers to the man’s companions bringing vital resources to save the nation. He also challenged the congregation to the compassionate cooperation and companionship that had been exhibited, to “honourably serve with ears attentive to the cries of their sisters and brothers”, and for their actions to speak louder than their words to care for persons. GCU youth supporting families The Ubuntu Young People Organisation (UYPO) supports families in crisis through a Food Hamper Distribution Project. UYPO, is a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) operated by young people in Guyana some of whom are members of the Guyana Congregational Union (GCU). 12
Founder and former Training in Mission participant Ominell Boyce noted, “We have the distribution done annually, so we select families that are finding it difficult to give children the proper nourishment they need.” According to Ominell, to select the families, UYPO works in partnership with organisations within the community including the community policing group, teachers as well as counsellors who work with the neighbourhood and the Democratic Council, an organ of local government. The project was initiated after the young people observed that even though there were feeding programmes within the schools, there weren’t nutritious meals prepared for the children when they got home. UYPO’s goal is to progress to a monthly distribution. The organisation has received feedback that the hampers (mainly groceries) have been a significant help to the families that have benefitted. 18 families have benefitted so far this year and were also encouraged to start a kitchen garden in order to sustain their households.
| HUMANITY WINS Indigenous trackers offer lessons on wildlife The San are an indigenous people living across South Africa, Botswana, and Namibia, who have been passing down expertise on their land and fauna from generation to generation for thousands of years. Louis Liebenberg, an associate of human INSiGHT | August 2020
evolutionary biology at Harvard University, has developed free software that allows the San animal trackers in the Kalahari to share tracking insights and create better data on biodiversity. The San people carry smartphones, using an icon-based interface to input their findings including where they have heard and seen wildlife, as well as sightings of animal tracks and faeces, based on group consensus. Species and geolocation data are uploaded to a solar-powered laptop by trackers and sent to Liebenberg. In exchange, they are paid for their work, turning a way of life into a vocation.
Image via summarizer.co
Liebenberg, also the executive director of CyberTrackerConservation, had been connecting indigenous San groups in Namibia with scientists worldwide for over 20 years, and said that this system is quicker than text-based logging and is inclusive of illiterate people. Since its initial roll out, the app has evolved and been downloaded more than half a million times in over 200 countries, and has been used by indigenous trackers in Australia; for land management in Canada; PhD studies on bottlenose dolphins off New Zealand; whale monitoring in Antarctica and turtle research in the Pacific. 1
Campaign to support Black businesses The number of Black business owners fell by 41% between February and April, a far higher percentage than any other racial group, according to research from the University of California at Santa Cruz. Following George Floyd’s death, however, people turned to supporting black-owned businesses as a response to protest. The “My Black Receipt” campaign was then launched to provide a way where this collective impact was measurable, and for Americans to “put their receipts where their protest is”.
Open storefront in Brooklyn, New York, displaying a Black Owned Business sign. (CNN)
The initiative was started by Black upStart, an organisation that trains Black entrepreneurs, and aimed to motivate consumers to spend $5 million at Black-owned businesses. People are asked to upload their receipt from Black-owned businesses and turn it into more than a one-time purchase. In July, the campaign had garnered over $550,000 in total receipts, and the site also allowed Black businesses to advertise themselves on its preferred shopping list. 2 Immigrants breathe new life into museum exhibits The Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
A person walks past a wall of portraits at the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, which is helping teach migrants about the country's history. (Matt Rourke / AP)
in Philadelphia found a meaningful way to broaden its docent pool and reflect its vibrant, diverse collection. The museum's Ellen Owens and Kevin Schott used a grant to create “Global Guides”, a new program at the University of Pennsylvania-affiliated museum to make its exhibits come alive. On a part time basis, immigrants take visitors on scheduled tours, speaking specifically about artifacts from their home regions, putting them in cultural context from personal experience. The fact that the Global Guides can relate artifacts from thousands of years ago to their first-hand experiences and upbringings sets visitors’ experiences apart from that of other museums, Schott believes. To date, this has ranged from royal Sumerian jewellery to ancient African objects.3
ago. This enabled the purchase of Sea-Watch 4, a boat sent from the seaport of Burriana in Spain to the central Mediterranean to rescue migrants attempting to reach Europe from North Africa. The church’s mission had already been announced in February, after a ceremony in the northern port city of Kiel, which was attended by politicians, volunteers and church leaders.
Sea-Watch 4 is a ‘strong political statement’ against Europe’s migration politics, a spokesperson said. Photograph: Emilio Morenatti/AP
The ship was due to sail from Spain in April, but preparations were stalled due to the pandemic. “This ship has to be out there, because European states do not intend, nor do they manage, to rescue people in the Mediterranean,” said the head of EKD, Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, during the ceremony. 4
German Church sends migrant rescue boat to central Mediterranean United4Rescue, an initiative led by the Protestant Church in Germany (EKD) and backed by more than 500 other organisations launched a crowdfunding campaign named #WirSchickenEinSchiff (“We send a ship”) a few months
The Sea-Watch 4 in the port of Burriana, Spain, as it prepares to embark on its first lifesaving mission to the central Mediterranean sea. Photograph: Hannah Wallace Bowman/MS
500 million Christians urge G20 to ﬁx broken economic architecture Image via wcrc.ch
Council for World Mission (CWM) joined its ecumenical partners to address G20 leaders in an urgent letter on 13 July, just ahead of the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Governors Meeting. The four global organisations, representing 500 million Christians, implored the G20 to leave behind a broken financial system and work towards a truly just and sustainable recovery.: 13 July 2020 The Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors of the Group of 20 (G20) Your Excellencies: Our organisations, the World Council of Churches (WCC), World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC), Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and Council for World Mission (CWM), have followed with profound concern how the COVID-19 pandemic and the related economic crisis have continued to destroy lives and livelihood around the world. To date this has resulted in more than half a million deaths, massive unemployment, increase of debts, poverty, and inequality in many parts of the world. We want to express our appreciation for the G20’s prompt efforts to address the crises by offering fiscal measures to support public health response, temporary debt relief for the poorest countries, and emergency financing facilities as agreed at your last meeting on 15 April 2020. We also welcome the G20’s recognition of the necessity for governments to work together in a coordinated and coherent manner. At the same time, we think that more can and ought to be done to mitigate human suffering and promote a truly just and sustainable recovery. As you are well aware, the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated how many countries are ill-equipped and poorly resourced to respond to an emergency of this scale and magnitude. It has exposed the deeper crisis which is a result of the current economic and development model, namely the exploitation of resources in a manner that destroys the planet and leaves the majority of people in poverty. This moment offers us an unprecedented opening to collectively examine the current order and to ‘build back better’ a different system that nurtures the health, wellbeing and resilience of communities and the planet for generations to come. Here we would like to underline that COVID-19 recovery measures and policies must be compatible with urgent and ambitious action to address the climate crisis. We believe that it is feasible today to embark on essential transformation in global and national development and economic policies and practices because the majority of people do not want to go back to the ‘old normal.’ For these changes to be viable and sustainable, discussions must also take place under the aegis of the United Nations (UN) where there is broad participation of countries and civil society. Multilateralism must remain as a key principle and approach for addressing global challenges.
INSiGHT | August 2020
In light of the foregoing, permit us to share, on behalf of the churches, some proposals for the G20 to take into consideration at the upcoming meetings of the finance ministers and central bank governors and at the Leadersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Summit in November 2020: Allocate adequate financial resources to the public health and social protection of the hundreds of millions of people whose livelihoods have been decimated by the pandemic and the related response measures. This includes ensuring widespread testing, provision of protective and other equipment for healthcare, essential workers and hospitals; healthcare coverage for all, including the most vulnerable; the search for an effective, accessible, and affordable vaccine or cure; basic income grants, unemployment assistance, and wage subsidy schemes; as well as support for small businesses, and availing finance to support the COVID-19 related and other humanitarian needs. Cancel the external debts of low- and middle-income countries (which were at damaging levels even before the pandemic) to free up resources for governments to respond effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic and to build the resilience and livelihoods of people and communities. Implement global tax reform to fund the recovery. This would include: the initiation of a progressive wealth tax, financial transaction tax and carbon tax at national and global levels; the reintroduction of capital gains and inheritance taxes; measures to curb tax evasion and avoidance; and reparations for slavery and other social and ecological debts. Furthermore, a COVID-19 surcharge must be levied on the super-wealthy, equity and hedge funds, and multinational, e-commerce and digital corporations that are reaping even greater returns from the current crisis to resource the critical response to the pandemic. Safeguard public goods and the ecological commons; guarantee living wages for all; and privilege such life-affirming areas as health, education, water and sanitation, agro-ecology, and renewable energy in both COVID-19 recovery and longer-term plans. Our organisations collectively represent more than 500 million Christians worldwide. We hope that you will take our proposals into account in your deliberations and would appreciate a response to this letter. We pray that you have constructive and transformative meetings. Yours sincerely, Prof Rev Dr Ioan Sauca Acting General Secretary, WCC Rev Dr Chris Ferguson General Secretary, WCRC Rev Dr Martin Junge General Secretary, LWF Rev Dr Collin Cowan General Secretary, CWM
Applications are open for Covid-19 Mission Initiative Fund Council for World Mission (CWM) is inviting member churches and partner organisations to apply for support through the Covid-19 Mission Initiatives Fund. These are days of clear missional challenge, as the first wave of Covid-19 has already upended and threatened all dimensions of economies, governments, corporations, communities and families. Simultaneously, it has exposed the interconnectedness of all people, the foolishness of supremacist ideologies and prejudice hindering our relationships, and the systemic injustices underlying and heightening this Covid-19 crisis. Vulnerable communities including migrants, people of colour, people with disabilities bear the brunt of the pandemic. They are disproportionately affected by the virus, by government policies formulated to tackle the crisis, and are targeted for populist violence. Church communities are not spared the challenges posed by the pandemic, be it discovering how to do and be the Church without physical gatherings for corporate worship, worsened by the loss of income from the weekly offertory. All these communities are central to CWMâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s vision of mission and the commitment we have to invite life flourishing communities. Thus, CWM is looking to assist and resource mission initiatives with grants up to SG$25,000 per member church or partner organisation. We are keen to support projects working with those most affected by Covid-19 in your context or with developing innovative responses to the issues facing churches. Project criteria: Applications can be made for work that particularly focuses on enabling mission initiatives responding to areas such as: The impact on vulnerable groups like minority ethnic communities, migrant workers, informal workers, people now unemployed etc The need for advocacy for these vulnerable groups The heightened incidences of domestic violence under the Covid-19 lockdowns The need to support day labourers, non-union, informal and seasonal workers The need to support health, social and home care workers The challenge of being the church when buildings are closed and corporate worship and face to face work is not possible And to areas distinct to the particular impact of Covid-19 in the context of the member church or partner. For full details and to apply, please click here: https://www.cwmission.org/resources/members-library/application-forms/
Search for General Secretary
The Board of Directors is pleased to invite expressions of interest, from suitable individuals, for the position of General Secretary for Council for World Mission (CWM). CWM seeks an inspirational, ecumenical and experienced General Secretary (Chief Executive Officer) with exceptional interpersonal and communication skills and cross-cultural agility to lead this global organisation in deepening partnership with its stakeholders and living out its vision of fullness of life, through Christ, for all creation. The General Secretary will work with the Directors and Trustees to read the signs of the times and to discern God’s mission for CWM. The GS will lead the management team to align strategy with mission and to develop and implement programme and action plans to further the mission.
A visionary leader who understands and embodies the values of CWM; firmly grounded in and committed to God’s justice and peace Ability to demonstrate a high level of theological understanding, ideally with a post-graduate level qualification. Qualifications and skills related to management or business administration are desirable. Conversant with and confident in leading and contributing to theological discourse and solidarity action with ecumenical partners and people’s movements. Commitment to CWM’s ethos of partnership and equal representation, resource sharing, empowerment of member churches, and ecumenical cooperation. Ability to lead and motivate others and to foster productive working relationships with and among CWM member churches, Board members, member-representatives and staff colleagues. Ability to think and plan strategically and to execute, analyse and problem-solve effectively. Ability to adapt one’s leadership style to different circumstances cultures and peoples; and to manage diversity and promote equal opportunities across all areas of CWM constituency Overall accountability for staff team deliverables and embodiment of CWM’s vision, values and ethos. Excellent listening skills, approachability and trustworthiness.
The role is based in Singapore. However, Johannesburg or London may be considered. Extensive global travel is required.
How to apply
Download an application pack - https://bit.ly/3kgGwWp Download Application form - https://bit.ly/3fz0iZt Download the 2020-2029 Strategy Framework for background information - https://bit.ly/33B94UE *Deadline for applications 9 October 2020 Council for World Mission is an equal opportunities employer and is committed to diversity amongst its staff and its members, and does not discriminate in hiring or terms and conditions of employment because of an individual’s race, colour, ancestry or national origin, disability, marital status, sexuality, age or gender. Due to the nature of the work of General Secretary, and purpose and ethos of a Christian mission organisation, it is a genuine occupational requirement that the job holder be a practising Christian. For any questions related the position of General Secretary, please write to the Consultant on firstname.lastname@example.org
Foundation for Flourishing Communities:
Reconciled Diversity and Justice
by Samuel John Shekhar
Acts 6:1-7 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Pamenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to faith. 18
Introduction We are human. The basic character of human beings is that we live in communities. This due to the fact that none of us can be completely independent, we are dependent on others to meet our needs. The human life in a community ensures that the needs of all individuals are met. Human beings have multiple and complex needs which involve their emotions, sustenance, family, education and so on. However, communities may not always be organised or be governed for the proper benefit of people. We know how ruling elites or aristocrats could oppress the masses or the government can extort tax. We know how in the history of wars people of defeated nations were reduced to slavery or deported to captivity. Israelites also experienced this unpleasant episode in their history when they were conquered by Sennacherib in 722 BCE and Nebuchadnezzar in 596 BCE. In exile the Israelites lived as a subservient community to the Assyrians and later to the Babylonians. Lamentations express the fact that the community of Israelites in Babylon could not flourish. “After affliction and harsh labour, Judah has gone into exile, She dwells among the nations; She finds no resting place”
INSiGHT | August 2020
Given this background let us examine the attempt by the Apostles of the Lord Jesus in the New Testament times to forge a flourishing community. Did they succeed in their endeavour?
The Neonate Christian Community The text for our consideration is taken from the Acts of the Apostles Chapter Six. The neonate community of Christians attempted to forge a common life where the needs of all people would be met particularly the widows among them. They were to be a sharing and caring community. It is evident from the record that the widows had to be fed from a common kitchen. Although this community was new and socially heterogeneous they sincerely aimed to help all members of their community to flourish. It is an accepted fact that a community is a social unit and have something in common, such as norms, ethnicity, values, identity or religion. This neonate community also had a common lineage. It was Jewish in origin and faith in Jewish God and participated in the temple worship. This community which had two distinct social strands i.e., Hebrews and Hellenic Jews.
They were fused in social unity and emotional oneness of soul and spirit in the new Christian community. They had been witnessing signs and wonders by the apostles e.g. healing of the lame man in Solomon’s Portico in the Temple (Acts 5:12). The community believed in commonwealth rather than in private ownership of property. It had a great concern for the poor. A wealthy person like Barnabas often donated much for this community.
It is important to note that Apostle did not indulge directly instead they selected seven men who were inspired in faith and were firm in character. With the common consent of people the apostles delegated to them the responsiblity to manage the distribution of food. Attention should be drawn to the process of common consent i.e. the involvement of the whole community in decision making process. This should be regarded as a mark of a flourishing community.
The Neonate community also started to work for feed its poor. The practice of caring and sharing caused a rapid growth. This is evident from the expression “the disciples were increasing in number”. As a result of this growth new social problems began to emerge.
The other important thing to note is that Apostles recognised their own abilities as well as their limitations. They, therefore, did not engage to do everything all by themselves. They let the community recognise the leaders for themselves in whom they had confidence and trust. This is a mark of democratic principle in the neonate community which is important for flourishing.
For example, discrimination crept in through the fissures of their origin and ethnicity. The primitive distinction of Hebrews from the Hellenists once again raised its ugly head in the neonate community. The daily distribution of ration was in the hands of the Hebrews whose partiality became a peril to the cohesive character of the neonate community. The text also suggests that the widows did not complain rather they silently suffered the indiscrimination as dependent and powerless section of the community. The problem which was troubling the community was henceforth brought in front of apostles. Saint Paul’s epistles also suggest that the community was financially supporting the apostles (1Cor 9). As elders and founders of the community they had to promptly take a decision on grievance before it grew out of proportion affecting the unity of the neonate community. The text records that the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews that they overlooked the interests of their widows. It is important to note that the Hellenists brought the matter of the silent suffers to the knowledge of the apostles. Granted that the measures which the apostles took saved the neonate community from premature destruction from division, yet the rightness of the measure that the apostles took is debatable.
The apostles led with the community wisdom and skill. They recognised their problems, analysed it, and promptly acted on it. They also grasped their responsibility and wisely delegated it clearly communicating their priorities. In other words “problem solving capability” as a collective exercise is the third mark of a flourishing community. In a cultural milieu where on the one hand the Jewish community had excluded the uncircumcised on the other hand and the Greco-roman societies were unequally differentiated into classes of aristocrats and plebeians, the neonate Christians aimed to forge a community which was both inclusive of all people i.e. circumcised and uncircumcised; and was also egalitarian i.e. free citizens and bonded slaves were treated as equals. This was a commendable attempt, but not without difficulties. The Jewish widows of the community who had to be cared for were both of Hebrew and Hellenic cultures. There was some problem in the distribution of meals to these widows. Here we have to fill up the gaps in the narrative of the text. It could be that m during the meals the Hebrew widows were served first.
June 2019 | 19 8
The bread basket which came to the Hellenic widows later got less in quantity consequently the Hellenic widows had much less to eat. It could be that the distributions of bread started with the Jewish women to pamper their scruples of purity. If this was so then this in itself was unacceptable to the ideal of the Christian community. That the Greek widows were “overlooked in the daily distribution of food” (Acts 6.1b) was thoroughly unjust. To sort out this problem the Apostles, instead of directly overseeing the distribution, delegated the responsibility to seven deacons who they immediately ordained to undertake this work.
The Dilemma of the Apostles The dilemma here was this: On the one hand if the apostles were to directly intervene they could be accused of ethnocentricity; on the other hand if they were to distance themselves from the controversy then they could be viewed as shirking their responsibility to ensure justice in the distribution of meal. What were they to do? Let try to understand some aspects of the situation in which the apostles were caught. The apostle on the day of Pentecost had forged a multiethnic and multilingual community. The neonate community was eclectic. This was diametrically opposite to the community of Israel which was acutely ethnocentric. The neonate community was composed as a sign of God’s new way of working in the world through his son Jesus Christ. This new eclectic community was the manifestation that God’s love which included Israel but expanded beyond its boundary to all the nations of the world. This is the first aspect. The second was an urgent sense to care for the needy widows of the community. For this, new believers sold their properties and deposited the proceeds to the apostles. Their love for property was diminished in view of the belief in the imminent return of Christ. However, with the delay in Christ return the poor widows of the community needed to be fed. To sketch a complete picture of the situation in the distribution of food to widows it must be admitted the Jewish believers were unable to 20
overcome their feeling of ritual purity. As a result of which the Greek widows were served food towards the end i.e., after the Jewish widows were all served. As a result, the amount of food must have been falling short in supply. Another reason could be that there was pilferage. At any rate the Greek widows were at a disadvantage. This was not only a matter of inefficient management but also an issue of social injustice. Keeping in view that all the apostles were Jewish and the disadvantaged widows were Greek, the apostles had carefully selected deacons from both Greek and Jewish backgrounds to serve the needs of widows. They hoped that this arrangement would ensure impartiality and transparency. However, to reinstate the dilemma was it right for the apostles to distance themselves from the situation? Should they not have directly supervised the arrangement of food distribution?
In the light of the Law What must be appreciated is this that the care for widows which was an injunction of Mosaic law was being universally applied in the neonate community. Its benefit were to reach both to the Hebrews and the Hellenics. This is what the Law states, At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year's produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. (Deuteronomy 14:28-29 NIV) Notwithstanding the noble provisions of the Law, this case is an example of how a discrimination could rise due to oversight which might have led to a failure of a well-intended arrangement; in this case the oversight of the care for the Hellenic widows. INSiGHT | August 2020
Oversights can also happen in our contemporary social context if we are not alert about some cultural practices. For example, there could be a discriminatory practice against Dalit Christian women within the church. Needless to say, that discrimination is already prevalent in the wider society.
In the Light of Gospel As we have seen, the care for the widows was already provided in the Mosaic law. In the Gospel Jesus was clear that he had not come to abolish the law or the prophets but to fulfil them. This is what he said, “Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19) It is clear from what Jesus has taught that the positive laws of taking care of the needy was not to be ignored. In the sermon of the mount this is what Jesus said,
“So when you give to the needy do not announce it with trumpets... but when you give to the needy do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret.” (Matthew 6:2&4)
Let God Speak to us today: In the light of God’s Word, let us try to address the dilemma which the people in the community face and what is our witness to it. It is true that we have worked with different groups of people and who have cooperated well in the society and communities but let us also see that how the early community witnessed to life in Christ.
The Widow's Mite. Artist: James Christensen
In the socio-political setting of 30-70 CE exclusion and dictatorial governance was prevalent. The Hebrews tended to be narrow and rigid, with few interests outside their own small world; the Hellenistic Jews were generally much more ready to recognise the better features of the wider Gentile world beyond the confines of the Promised Land. Tensions between Hebrews and Hellenists went back a long time, to the very beginnings of Greek domination when many Jews were hellenised. The brilliant world of Greek thought and culture burst upon the Jews and threatened to destroy Judaism, both with its philosophy and by its persecution. We read a record of it in the two books of Maccabees. Amidst these conflicting ethnicities’ ideas, the apostles were promoting the ideals of an egalitarian society were everyone would be equal and shared from the common purse.
For the Jews both Hebrew and Hellenistic who had recently started to live together as a community it was important for the Apostles to ensure that it was to be a caring and a sharing community. This was possible if Christ’s emphasis on egalitarianism was taken seriously. The attractiveness of Christ’s teaching was finally sealed on the Pentecost by the Holy Spirit. It must be noted that the emergence of neonate community was not an excluding event; rather it included diverse language groups. They wanted to be a part of a community which would take care of them as one body of Christ. The keyword for flourishment was “happiness”. This was an interior feeling of believing and belonging was the thrill of the members of this neonate community in Jerusalem. In the words of the hymn writer George Wade Robinson: Heav’n above is softer blue, Earth around is sweeter green! Something lives in every hue Christless eyes have never seen. Were the members of the neonate community happy? That their number grew was an indication of hope and happiness. No doubt that initially there was no complaining, no criticising, no envy, no strife. They all were filled with the Holy Spirit and the evidence of which was visible in signs and wonders. This community was a company of people praising God. The Lord added to their number daily who were being saved (Acts 2:47b). The community did not grow just by adding numbers through baptism but increased in number by the saving grace of God. It was more about repentance and acceptance rather than daily rations or favours. People found neonate community to be free of xenophobia. There was a hope and happiness among the members. Notwithstanding, that “happiness” is the key for flourishing community, the fact is that feeling of happiness does not remain always at a high level. As a community grows larger so does its needs and cynicism find its ways among its members, the cause of which could be the distribution of its resources. There can be murmuring or complaining which can be both sowed or induced. When such complaints or complication surface, for instance in the Neonate community some broke their silence for those who may have suffered silently, as was the case of Hellenistic widows. In a heterogenous community, sensitivity to others is important if not detected in time, the cohesiveness of community is likely to be in jeopardy. The heterogenous character of community was masked by diversity in their religious backgrounds, language and cultures, thus causing inequality in participation in decision-making process and unequal treatment. As a result, the graph of happiness index of the neonate community had gone down. The members of this neonate community who were deeply conditioned by the culture of purity laws, were unable to refocus on the new standard of relationship with other people. They need to apply the new standard of “the law of love” instead of the old standard of “the law of purity and pollution” to forge relationships. To use the figure of speech of Jesus if the new wine was the neonate community then it needed new wine-skin of the law of love.
Love is the companion of happiness. The neonate community was founded on teaching of Jesus which was love. In the neonate community, the two factions namely the Hebrew and Hellenist were trying to dissolve their difference and prejudices arising out of the laws of purity. Although they tried to cement their differences, soon complaints surfaced. To address the situation the apostles took a swift action. It is important to note that love for one another is a key to surpass all differences. We are a heterogenous community. We belong to diverse nations, speak diverse languages, follow diverse cultural norms; many of us are vocally dominant and others are forced to silence. The question before us should be this, we who are created in God’s image, are we not to be enabled to make that sacred image shine forth in others? If that is so then are we not to implement the Nazareth Manifesto? (Luke 4:18). It is important that we should be filled with His word, and words of Encouragement. Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:15 “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” It is important to note that Jesus used words of encouragement for those who need it and those who practiced it. e.g. “Go your faith has healed you”, “Sin no more”, “I have never seen such faith in the house of Israel”. For a community to grow in happiness, love, care and stability, it is important. More so, the words of encouragement play a significant role. This can only be achieved when there is love for one another. Love for one another develops a habit of co-existence for those who are dependent. It must be highlighted that a community enriches itself when it generously shares. For this the leaders of the community play a pivotal role. Concerning leadership St. Paul wrote, “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13). The neonate community, despite its ideals, had its drawbacks. As time passed and decades set in, St. Paul had to remind the emerging communities what was expected of their leaders - apostles, prophets, evangelist, pastors and teachers. Besides being honest and committed they were expected to build capabilities of their communities. They were to be made capable to care, share, to learn and teach, to organise and administer the people. Along with personal commitment, the leaders were expected to be wise. An exemplary person for wisdom was King Solomon in the Hebrew scripture. He had asked God to give him a discerning heart to distinguish between right and wrong. God was pleased and gave him a wise and discerning heart (1Kings 3:9-12). In the same way God endowed primitive church leaders with wisdom. Clearly wisdom is an important ingredient for leadership. Leaders fail their communities to flourish if they fail in their exercise of wisdom. For example, when a progressive plan is proposed, it requires wisdom to lay it out for implementation. A skilled leader could do that. Being filled with Holy Spirit, does not only mean infusion of charisma; rather the power to reason is also added to it.
INSiGHT | August 2020
Faith leaders confronting White racism in Charlottesville USA Aug 12th 2017
Being filled with wisdom refers to the human capacity of insight, exercise of reasoning and confidence in making decision. This blending will make a leader capable to lead his community to flourishment and happiness.
There is diversity of religion, language and cultures. Added to this there is grinding poverty and backwardness. In India we have to reckon with the torturous of reality of caste-system.
Luke in his book “Acts of the Apostles” gives a picture of this antique community. It was as imperfect as we are today. This shows the human side of the church and its struggles. The church has never been a perfect community. But it always had believers who strived to live in the perfection of Christ. They worshipped Christ as Lord, and as one who had changed their lives. It is important to note that the neonate community through their action point out that “Christ mediates God’s new covenant both in salvation and service...”.
We are challenged to create two kinds of communities, firstly the national community and secondly the ecclesial community. In other words, every nation in South Asia must reconcile all social and cultural diversity to form a national community, where civil liberties and human rights are well protected. For example, the right to liberty, life and property. In view of the fact that Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam along with various regional practices shape the social, political and cultural life of people, inter-religious dialogues must be given due impetus. Secondly in all South Asian countries the ecclesial communities or the church should also be constituted on similar lines. Therefore various ecumenical endeavour must be given due impetus. Christian Churches in spite of their differences must engage in regular fellowship eucharistic hospitality and study of the Word of God.
The neonate community in some way is present our church today which in a similar way is divided into geographical, socio-economic and denominational segments. Moreover, it can never assemble in one place at one time. There are people who are without food and yet we might never even know them. The chances of being overlooked is much greater today than it was in the days of the neonate community in Jerusalem. It is important that the community’s growth does not depend merely on relief work; instead it depends on various factors, one of which is “belonging” and the other is “believing”.
Concluding thoughts In this study we took the neonate community of Christians into consideration. We appreciated their vision to forge an inclusive community of diverse ethnicities as a model for others to duplicate. The aim was to create “happiness” in their struggles for life. The basis for happiness was love. We discussed that love has a character to be unconditional crossing all ethnocentric boundaries. The decades that followed after the formation of neonate community of Christians, they needed to be reminded that the social diversity they have embraced in love, had reconciled all differences and had included all diversities. This was true also for the other early Christian communities which followed the pattern of neonate church. But something more was required to create happiness in the new community of Christians. We studied that happiness was the result of caring and sharing with the needy in the community. Having studied these basic principles of flourishing community from the New Testament records, we have to apply it in our South Asian context today. The South Asian region is in a post-colonial era. Many countries are democratic but others are not.
We are challenged to create two kinds of communities, firstly the national community and secondly the ecclesial community. In other words, every nation in South Asia must reconcile all social and cultural diversity to form a national community, where civil liberties and human rights are well protected. For example, the right to liberty, life and property. In view of the fact that Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam along with various regional practices shape the social, political and cultural life of people, inter-religious dialogues must be given due impetus. Secondly in all South Asian countries the ecclesial communities or the church should also be constituted on similar lines. Therefore various ecumenical endeavour must be given due impetus. Christian Churches in spite of their differences must engage in regular fellowship eucharistic hospitality and study of the Word of God. At the end we should consider the dilemma of the apostles both sympathetically and critically. Our sympathy lies with their concern, as far as we can make out, to remain impartial. As Jewish men they did not desire to be seen as partisans of one group. For this reason, their decision to delegate responsibility to others was wise. However, our critical observation is their withdrawal from the situation of injustice without giving any verdict. The lesson for us is to stick our heads out for the cause of justice even if it is inconvenient and may risk our reputation. A key for flourishing communities is the practice of justice. Here, I do not advocate social or ecclesial uniformity rather my plea is to promote reconciled-diversity. In this way richness of diverse cultures and literatures will be available for mutual learning, enrichment and progress. This is crucial for making the communities flourish.
God Is Good by Pro Pastor T. Cherry, Presbyterian Church of Myanmar
PCM women have been longing for female pastors for many years and Pro. Pastor T. Cherry is the first woman probationary pastor in the Presbyterian Church of Myanmar, from the Maturam Synod. We will shed some light on the challenges she faces in her ministry.
I am very pleased to have this
wonderful privilege to write about my life through God’s goodness and mercy. Blessed be the name of God who provides me this chance to write about my ministry!
that I missed the following morning’s Sunday school. I asked my mother frequently, “when will I die?” At that time, I was a five-year-old girl but until today I cannot forget the face of Jesus and the strange dream.
I am the eldest sister among four siblings, having two brothers and one sister. Although my father is still alive, my mother passed away in 2004. Since the death of my mother, whom I loved most, I served my family earnestly as a motherly figure for my siblings at home and in Church, as much as I could. But when my father remarried, they moved to another village in which he works as the Church custodian.
The feeling that I felt when I decided to attend Bible College after I had passed my matriculation exam always remains in my heart. When I passed my matriculation exam, I submitted the necessary documents to enter into Tahan Theological College. I completed the Bachelor in Theology (B.Th) in 2001 by the grace of God. The Synod Meeting elected me as the Women’s Secretary in Maturam Synod on April 2001.
From my childhood, I enjoyed attending Children Sunday School so much that I did not miss a lesson. One night I had a strange dream. In my dream, there was a strong wind blowing and I saw Jesus clothed in fine white linen standing on the clouds. He approached me at the door of my house with open arms, calling me, “Come home!” I answered, “Wait! I have to tell my father and mother”, and I went inside the house. I talked to my parents about what I saw, saying “Father! Mother! Jesus has just called me, and I am going now”. The wind calmed down when I went back to the door, but Jesus disappeared. I shouted, “Jesus, Jesus!” but there was no answer and no trace of him. The following morning was Sunday. When I awoke from my strange dream, I shared this dream with my mother. She answered, “If it was the call of Jesus, doesn’t it mean that you will die soon?” That remark lingered in my head. I was so confused by the thought “what should I do if I die”
At that time, I had been working tirelessly with all my strength as Acting Accountant cum Office Assistant, also assisting with every other responsibility assigned by the Synod because Maturam Synod had a shortage of office staff and workers. I was very eager to further my studies, as I knew that my knowledge and experience in theology were limited but the Synod declined my application to pursue theology because, as I have mentioned, Maturam Synod had a shortage of staff and workers. I prayed many times with tears for God to help me with my situation. After serving thirteen years, I was finally allowed to continue studying. What a wonderful opportunity! With God’s guidance, I studied the Master of Divinity (M.Div.) for three years in Academy Integrated Christian Study (AICS) in Mizoram, India, beginning in 2014. In April 2017, I completed my Master of Divinity and I continued my previous work as the Women’s Secretary.
INSiGHT | August 2020
“When I heard that the 2016 General Assembly now accepted the ordination of women, I was happy and excited.” When I heard that the 2016 General Assembly now accepted the ordination of women, I was happy and excited. I prayed to God with tearful joy, “God, you are now revealed in the hearts of the members of the Presbyterian Church of Myanmar that you have called everyone to be ministers without distinction. It was once thought that only men could become pastors. I give thanks to you for opening the door for women”. From that moment, I decided that I must go home when I finished the M.Div. course. I encouraged myself that I should be a minister and I should apply for it. God answered my prayer! The application for Pastor, which I submitted to my local church, was accepted through the Regional Meeting, Presbytery Meeting and Synod Conference. My application was confirmed in the General Assembly on 23rd February 2018 by the grace of God. I was assigned and trained as a Probationary Pastor under the Senior Pastor for the first year at Cangbong Presbyterian Church in Matupi, Myanmar. I have served well especially with the Presbyterian Women Society (PWS), and with all the church members in general. In my second year as a Probationary Pastor, I was assigned to a rural village consisting 30 houses of PCM members. The whole village, including people not from our church, were so hospitable to me. By the guidance of God, I have had no significant difficulties in the ministry till today. God provided a chance for me to visit New Zealand, which was beyond my expectations, through the General Assembly in my first year as a Probationary Pastor in 2018. We visited three metro cities, Auckland, Willington and Dunedin, in which I presented and reported the ministry and activities of the Presbyterian Church of Myanmar (PCM), Presbyterian Women Society (PWS), and Presbyterian Youth Fellowship (PYF). I was particularly happy that I could visit New Zealand. I have always had an enormous inferiority complex by thinking that I am not worthy to be a Pastor, to which I was in need of being prayed for. When I arrived in New Zealand, I came to know that we are brothers and sisters in Christ with those who are very different in culture, character, attitude, personality, food and body shapes, and that they have been praying for our church and for me. Those prayers made me stronger physically and spiritually. A female ordained minister, Deaconess and a Senior ordained minister prayed for me by laying their hands on me, which I had never experienced in my country; some even prayed with tears. I felt so blessed. I learned many things which I had never seen or heard before. Knowing that there are many women Pastors and senior Deaconesses encouraged and helped me grow stronger. It is my prayer that I will serve God with all my strength throughout my life by the grace, mercy and goodness of God, even though I am unworthy and unskilful. Thanks to those who read my testimony and my own short life story.
Myanmar churches are praising God for the tremendous response to the Yangon Love Joy Peace Festival with Franklin Graham. More than 170,000 people attended the 3-day event, with over 7,600 indicating decisions for Christ. Photo via billygraham.org
My Vocational Calling by Thida Lin Mon@Lalawmpuii, Presbyterian Church of Myanmar
She dedicated her life to her Master of Theology studies and she is very interested in education. She then got married to a Presbyterian minister and could not continue her studies and teaching. However, her past education has helped her so much in looking after her family.
I am so grateful to be invited to participate in CWM
In Burma, God’s Kingdom is expanding. Baptism of a new Christian in 2010 in Burma. (Photo, caption courtesy Christian Aid Mission)
Mission Development’s Mission Stories project. Additionally, I am very humbled by this wonderful opportunity to share my life and ministry. As I am just another ordinary housewife who takes care of her household and children, I am afraid my efforts might not be enough. My prayer is that someone might receive the Lord’s blessing through this humble work of mine.
My Life I am the older of two children of Rev Dr Lalengzaua and Mrs Lalhmunsangi. My younger brother is Mr Lalinmawia. I married Rev K. Zoliankhuma on Dec 16th 2009. God has blessed our marriage with three beautiful children, a boy and two girls. My husband left the country in September 2018 for Yonsei University in Korea to pursue his D.Th. studies. So now, my three children and I have settled down in Tahan township. Throughout my childhood education, by God’s grace, I passed all my school exams from elementary to high school with flying colours and received some proficiency prizes as well. Those prizes and blessings motivated and gave me a strong desire to finish the matriculation exam with distinctions in all subjects. Even though I tried my best, I eventually passed the exam with a distinction only in Science (the matriculation result was what determined our future study options). The result was a big disappointment to me; it hurt me so badly that I even had to question God’s judgement. As I was dealing with this sorrowful moment, my friend’s mother paid a visit to our house to congratulate me. Her words of encouragement on that very day lightened up my heart and gave me new hope. I am still very grateful to her to this day for her powerful words to me, “Why are you so sad, my daughter? Despite all your
efforts, your dream was not fulfilled. But never have doubt in God’s plan; I believe God has a better plan for you. Why don’t you try to find out that better plan of God’s and shout to the Lord even louder? God will surely show you this new vision for you”. I did pray and ask God for an answer, and God helped me understand this, that He is the only one who can fulfil dreams (Proverbs 16:1). Whatever may happen to me, I have to stand firm and believe in God more than ever. Struggles and problems take place in order to open up my eyes to see more of God’s grace. I should not doubt but rather praise God. After this peace was upon me, I was filled with new hope. While there were several choices I could choose from, I knew which was God’s calling. So I answered it, and decided to pursue theological studies. I joined the Bachelor of Theology course at Tahan Theological College, Tahan-Kalemyo. With many blessings from God, I managed to study the entire four years without any big problems. During my final year of study in 2005, the Theological Education Board selected me to participate in the Face to Face programme (from August – September, in Bangalore) facilitated by CWM. After participating in that wonderful programme, I continued my studies and finished it with an A+ grade. As for my secular education, I completed my Bachelor of Science
INSiGHT | August 2020
(Mathematics) from the Open Education programme at Kalay University in 2003. Three years after my graduation, in 2006 and 2007, I taught English at the “Children Summer School” organised by PYJC. Again in 2006, the PCM General Assembly sent me to participate as a youth delegate in the CWM Assembly in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.
Life becomes more purposeful and more fruitful with God; no matter how big the trouble may be, I can now solve it with my faith in God. God has made me a stronger and better person. If we hold our faith in God without doubt, God will make us a better, stronger version of ourselves and put us in positions we never thought we could achieve.
As the next step in my theological pursuit, in July 2008 I applied to study the Master of Theology (New Testament studies) at Trinity Theological College, Singapore. After satisfying all requirements, which included acquiring a 6.5 score in IELTS and a research paper proposal, I could finally join the course with a scholarship from the Sweden Korean Fellowship. With the help of God, I finished the Master’s course with a B+ grade in May 2010. I would like to give much appreciation and thanks to Rev Dr Choong Il Cho (Sweden Korean Fellowship), Rev Phua Chi Seng and Elder Richard Chong (Presbyterian Church in Singapore) and Rev Dr Jooseop Keum (formerly World Council of Churches) who supported me with prayer and finances.
Looking back at the relationship between God and His people, the Israelites, we can see that they were blessed during the times they followed and obeyed God’s will. Likewise, since I’ve dedicated myself to God’s ministry, God has shown me great things and blessed me in ways I could not even imagine. Moreover, over my six years of studying about God, I have been guided towards mental and spiritual maturity. To this day, the verse I’ve been holding up in my life is from Proverb 3:6, “…in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight”. This is my belief that if we call on God, He will always provide a way in the midst of all troubles.
In the same year I finished my study in Singapore, I joined Tahan Theological College as a part-time lecturer. However, in 2011, since my husband was assigned to a far, remote area for his pastoral ministry, I had to leave my teaching ministry at TTC. My husband was re-appointed at TTC as a full-time lecturer in 2013, hence I could also teach again at the same college. As I wasn’t given enough time to prepare teaching materials for class due to all the household work and parenting, I had to stop my teaching job in 2018. Despite all the support I received from the church and the people of God throughout my theological studies, I feel sorry for being unable to contribute more at this point. On the other hand, even though I am not a full-time church minister, what I have learnt has benefitted me in my daily life. I continuously praise God for this. Life is not always easy; sometimes it can be exhausting. But I have now learnt how to live a good, thankful life through Christ. Every day I try to build a deeper faith and seek guidance on how to use God’s gift in me for a better purpose.
Ministry For now, I am unable to contribute to any women’s ministry in church. In the words of Reuben A. Torrey, “Nothing is as honourable as being a good wife”. Now I am fully focusing on looking after the most precious gifts we receive from God - our children. I totally accept that is the duty God has entrusted me for now. Till God gives me a new challenge or bigger duty in ministry, I believe this is the best I can do for the kingdom of God. Here are three of the most important ministries I believe a wife in a household can do:
Raising our children with the Word of God It is very important to remind ourselves of the importance of fulfilling our vows when we have our children baptised: to raise and guide our children in God’s way and in faith until they become adults. As parents it is our sole duty to make sure our children receive salvation (Ps. 127:3; Matt 16:26). We should not just depend on pastors, elders or Sunday school teachers for our children’s spiritual salvation.
“Struggles and problems take place in order to open up my eyes to see more of God’s grace.” To teach the word of God is one of the foundations in raising our children. We should start when the baby is still in our womb, with unceasing prayer and reading the bible. As they are growing up, to read bible stories to them, buy and teach the Sunday school textbooks, make them memorise some bible verses before bedtime and have family devotion, which is very important for planting the seed of God’s word. Believing that the word of God can transform even the most difficult heart, it is vital to let children grow up with the word of God so they won’t live sinful lifestyles in the sight of our Lord (Ps. 119:11). In such a manner, everything we do for our children in God’s name won’t fade away; God will bless us and we will see the result in our children. Again, I have to stress how important it is to bring our children to Sunday School, and also to bring them with us to regular church services so they could have a positive impact on our children even though they might not be able to understand everything that is going on during the services. People used to say, “Children who are brought to the path of the church will never end up on the streets”. In times of sorrows and struggles, they will always find refuge in the house of God. When we are at the church with our children, it is very important that they realise how sacred and important a role the church has. In that way, they will learn how to worship God in the right manner and attitude. The church should be able to offer creative programmes that will attract the children’s attention, such as praising and chanting the word of God. In that way we would be able to worship God in a livelier manner.
Solidarity Not Charity by Sara Barron
Sara Barron is a Baptist minister in Cornwall and also works for CURBS, which supports those working with children in marginalised communities. This reflection was first published in "In the Thick of It" booklet, a collaboration by CWM, The United Reformed Church (URC), and Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT).
I spent most of the last 16 years living and working on a
large outer urban estate of 33,000 people. The most deprived wards in Hampshire sit in this estate which had a significant number in financial poverty. Therefore, there was much input given, often not what was needed, and much came from a place of judgement and power. Marginality came with a postcode, as it was perpetuated by those living round the outside of the estate who looked down on the people in it. Recently I have moved to a small fishing town in Cornwall, a rural context where wealth and poverty sit together with little interaction. Cornwall is the poorest county in UK with average wages touching £15,000pa, far below the national average. Multiple deprivation indices are high in just one area where those who service the tourist industry live. Here marginalisation comes in the form of isolation with lack of transport, seasonal low paid work and high housing costs.
I work two days a week for CURBS who support, train and resource those working with children in marginalised communities. My husband and I are Baptist ministers and half our time is focused in the community where we have been missional listening for the last year looking for where God is at work and joining in where we are invited. It is like living in a goldfish bowl as people watch to see ‘does it work’ – hope comes from seeing that Jesus works whatever is going on in life. You need to be your vulnerable self – people want real. Joseph Rowntree Foundation figures show that 1 in 8 households in full time work fall below the minimum income standard (MIS) and this is a rising figure. Child poverty has risen by 500,000 in the last 5 years. The biggest single factor which creates marginalisation is the growing feeling of isolation that people feel.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
INSiGHT | August 2020
June 2019 | 8
What glimpses of the kingdom of God do you see from the margins? Though the systems may be failing many and do not look set to change much at present, I do see glimpses of hope. The first is around collaboration. Now more than ever schools, colleges and community supporting groups are feeling the pinch. When we work together, we are more creative, more effective and more sustainable. Our relationship with the school began by asking what we could do to help. The answer came: become a governor, support us with the growing number of children with a connection to social services by providing a therapeutic listening service, turn up to help out at things, promote activities, speak well of the school or group to others. Which is what we did. This led to being asked to be a chaplain for the teachers, staff and parents as well as the children, bacon rolls with staff early on a Monday morning, a prayer room set up with prayer stations available for staff and children, visiting staff off work due to sickness, attending back-to-work meetings. This led to conversations about how we could make a difference in the community – tackling food poverty – gathering all who may get involved and working together to support each other. Food bank, school buy in to surplus food scheme, which it shared with the food bank and then used to provide holiday lunch programme, and a community fridge in the school. Lunch programme in the holidays supported by local volunteers grows to add breakfast provision and an evening meal one day a week every week throughout the year. Christmas Day lunch held at and supported by the local school and church together.
Photo via www.standard-freeholder.com.
The story just goes on and on finding more and more opportunities to work with others bringing the kingdom of God to the people of the margins through using all who care for the community. Using the underpinning of solidarity rather than charity. My second source of hope is how children and young people’s voices are being heard on the issue of climate change. Children and young people are often those whose voice is the least heard in society. It is deemed they do not know enough to speak until they are older. But I believe that out of the mouths of babes we often hear the prophetic. At present, my 14-year-old son along with thousands of other young people across the world are trying to make their voice heard on the prominent and hugely important issue of climate change. This has sparked a passion in my son which is giving him opportunities to share his love of the world and nature, which comes from his faith in God, with those in and outside the church. In the local church he has preached on the subject with many telling him after that how they were challenged. This passion has seen a number of young people get involved in change with the school - no more plastic, recycling waste separated and a consistent voice to challenge when things don’t change. The international strikes have given opportunity to talk to the local council, the chair of the county council, the head of recycling and waste management. I am excited that the young people are being heard and taken seriously. We need to support their challenge and play our part in making changes to the way we care for our God given planet. Here I see the kingdom of God bringing hope to the next generation and to all humanity.
Solidarity in Crisis by Rev Dr Alesana and Lemau Pala’amo
Malua Theological College 3rd Year students visiting Bereaved families who had a 12month old son pass away. The other 2 children in this household survived after being infected. We offered spiritual and emotional support in Mar 2020, just before lockdown from Covid-19. L-R: Sekuini Fiavaai, Fuifui Anae, Nepo Anae, (2 students and a student's wife-Nepo's wife) bereaved family members and children, Rev Dr Alesana Pala'amo (Team Co-ordinator).
A s a CCCS (Congregational Christian Church Samoa) minister and minister’s wife teaching at Malua Theological College in
Samoa, and Co-Founders of Soul Talk Samoa Trust, joining the MHPSS Mental Health Psycho Social Services unit at the outbreak of measles in Samoa was an inspiring and humbling experience on many levels. As frontline responders to the Samoa Measles Epidemic in 2019 (MES-19), we were inspired by the resilience of the Samoan people during tragic times. In the face of possible death once infected with measles, many Samoans still placed their faith in God for peace amongst the uncertainty they faced. We were further moved by the immediate and professional response of the global EMTs (Emergency Medical Technicians) and volunteers mobilised from different countries around the world to help a crippled nation impacted by disease. By the time MES-19 was contained and foreign personnel started to return to their sending countries, 41 different rotating teams from 12 countries, and nations from Europe and the United Kingdom, made up the 557 foreign personnel dispersed to help Samoa during this tragedy.
Samoa Measles Epidemic 2019: MES-19 The first reported case of MES-19 was around October 2019 that coincided with the White Sunday event in Samoa. White Sunday is celebrated annually in Samoa and most Samoan churches abroad, as a special day to celebrate children as God’s gifts to families and villages. On such a day the children and the youth are given utmost importance. These young members of parishes lead local worship at their congregations, and share the Gospel of Christ by re-telling Bible stories through song, creative dance, reciting of Bible verses, and drama. Although White Sunday is a joyous day for most, the weeks and months that followed in 2019 was anything but happy times with 83 unsuspecting lives lost to the outbreak who mostly were children. An incident in Samoa two years prior where two infants died from malpractice when immunised for mumps, measles, and rubella (MMR), sparked hesitation and fear amongst Samoans to immunise their children. An outbreak of measles occurred in South Auckland in New Zealand just before the first reported case in Samoa, yet the outbreak was contained with no fatalities. Several medical practitioners believed that the measles outbreak in nearby New Zealand together with the remarkably low immunisation rate on island at the time, were key contributing factors to the 30
measles outbreak in Samoa. As the epidemic developed from its first known case to around 5,700 infections by the time the outbreak was contained, Samoans were shocked at the ease of spread of measles that took the lives of many children, a disease that rarely leads to fatalities in the modern era.
Contribution After the official announcement of the outbreak of measles in Samoa, Soul Talk Samoa Trust was summoned by the Ministry of Health (MOH) Samoa for assistance. The Director General of MOH Leausa Dr. Take Naseri mobilised selected non-government organisations (NGOs) and community leaders to join the Mental Health unit at the National hospital, and form the MHPSS Mental Health and Psycho Social Services unit. The primary task of this unit was to provide spiritual and emotional support to those impacted by measles, through counselling, hospital visitations, and home visits. The Mental Health unit staff provided the clinical support through its doctors, nurses, and social workers, while the selected NGOs and community leaders provided the spiritual and emotional support. Soul Talk Samoa Trust, the agency that we founded and operate, contributed our pastoral counselling and social services to the MHPSS unit as frontline responders to MES-19.
INSiGHT | August 2020
June 2019 | 8
The different teams assigned daily by the leader of the MHPSS unit Seiuli Dr George Tuitama included groups from visiting PACMAT (Pacific Island EMTs from New Zealand) and locals made up of psychiatrists, psychologists, mental health nurses, social workers and counsellors, together with community faith leaders such as church ministers and the wives of ministers. For our part in the assigned teams, we provided spiritual and emotional support to the people we visited, together with counselling and social services of presenting issues during our visits. We undertook roles as liaison, mediating between foreign EMTs and carers and families of patients, especially due to the limitation of Samoan-speaking medical staff available when we turned up for our visits. In addition, the MHPSS unit received many requests for basic needs such as nappies, wipes, towels, and sheets, which our unit provided through the generous donations received locally as well as from abroad. One important contribution that we made to the MHPSS unit as well as the HEOC Health Emergency Operations Centre daily briefings was to begin these gatherings in prayer and song. Such traditional practices highlight that Samoans are a God-worshiping nation, and drawing strength and guidance from God daily is part and parcel of our way of life. During a crisis such as MES-19, to worship and honour God remained at the forefront of our work as a nation.
Inspiring The Bible teaches many life-lessons to its readers from the contexts and situations of ancient times. When challenged by unforeseen life situations and crisis presents itself in the world we live today, many of these teachings are sought by faithful believers in the Word and Sacrament for comfort and solace. As witnessed being frontline responders to MES-19, visiting carers of the sick in the hospital wards and bereaved families in the villages, faith in God was the strength Samoans turned to at such a time of tragedy. It was inspiring to observe first-hand that Samoaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s national motto E faavae i le Atua Samoa, Samoa is founded upon God, continues to live up to its emphasis upon God as the foundation of its people. Observing the solidarity of the visiting global medical teams who assisted
with the crisis, shows that there is a common good amongst the world that we live where strangers strive to save and preserve life. It was inspiring to see the care given to the sick during MES-19 as health care comparable to any hospital in places like Australia, New Zealand, and the UK, given the many different foreign teams who worked around the clock during their rotations. These teams offered their time, wisdom, and skills, to help save and preserve the lives of the Samoan people.
Humbling The global EMTs who worked the wards often commented to us of the value in the work undertaken by the MHPSS unit. It was humbling to receive such reports, especially from medical professionals from different faith backgrounds to our own who hold to their own belief systems, yet they allowed teams from our unit to share time with patients and carers. Some of these foreign workers expressed how they noticed a difference in the patients, carers, and families we visited, who displayed renewed spiritual and emotional strength following our visits. To be used by God in this way, to align with the MHPSS unit and become part of a team that offered coping strategies for Samoans in need, was truly humbling and rewarding. The reward for our MHPSS teams was to witness and hear of the impact our visits made in the lives of the carers of the sick and bereaved families. Humility was a common trait we observed in the several global EMTs and volunteers that we grew to know, as we worked
alongside them and their life-saving work for the thousands of sick Samoans. We grew accustomed to seeing our global EMTs identified by their respective medical scrubs working the hospitals and out in the field: the AUSMAT team (Australians) had their sky blue scrubs; NZMAT (New Zealanders) also had their sky blue scrubs with khaki trousers; PACMAT (Pacific Island EMTs from New Zealand) had their dark blue scrubs; EMTs from Israel had their green scrubs and many others. Countries that responded to assist Samoa in her time of need in addition to those mentioned above include the following: Fiji, Hawaii, Japan, Kiribati, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tahiti, USA, and nations from Europe and the United Kingdom. Regional representatives from WHO and UNESCO and global bodies such as Save the Children UK and Samoa Doctors Worldwide were also key responders to the MES-19. It was amazing the passion and love these medical professionals and volunteers from around the world had for the thousands of sick Samoans they dedicated their time and knowledge to save and restore to life. The hospital wards were filled with our global helpers and one could easily have been mistaken as walking into a hospital in Australia or New Zealand or the UK, with the several foreign EMTs working the wards. Many EMTs continued to care for Samoans right up until their last shift saving lives in the hospitals.
Massey University NZ, Affirming Works NZ donate to our MHPSS unit during MES19, through partnership with Soul Talk Samoa Trust. L-R: Dr Siautu Alefaio-Tugia (Senior Lecturer Massey University/ Clinical Psychologist), Aunty Agnes, Lemau Pala'amo, Professor Roger Mulder (Otago University/ Psychiatrist PACMAT), Rev Dr Alesana Pala'amo, Wesley Tugia.
As frontline responders to MES-19, we both dedicated our time to the MHPSS unit. It became apparent that we were placing our young sons at risk each time we returned home, despite taking strict measures to avoid bringing the measles home with us. So, we arranged to send our sons unaccompanied to Sydney to be cared for by family members and away from the epidemic. When MES-19 plateaued and conditions improved, we had the opportunity to quickly fetch our sons and bring them back home. We boarded the plane from Samoa alongside returning AUSMAT doctors, nurses, and team members who had completed their rotations on island. These returning EMTs had foregone their usual medical scrubs we were so accustomed to, for plainclothes attire. It was on this flight that we witnessed the commitment these EMTs had to saving lives. One of the young doctors from AUSMAT who we grew to know working the ICU ward at the hospital, was returning to Sydney on the same flight. While most fellow passengers were sleeping or glued to their entertainment screens two hours into the flight, we noticed the young Australian doctor pacing slowly up and down the plane, looking at everyone who were seated in their places. Once he came to our seat, he recognised us and greeted us with ‘Reverend.’ I then responded ‘Doctor,’ and commented that I should stretch my legs as well just as he appeared to be doing. The young doctor leaned over to us and whispered that he was checking whether anyone leaving Samoa showed any signs of being sick. Even off-duty and leaving the country, he was still working endlessly trying to save lives, and prevent taking the disease with us to Sydney. The majority of the 83 fatalities to MES-19 came through the ICU ward where this young doctor was stationed. To most passengers and airline staff, he was just an ordinary visitor returning from a trip to Samoa stretching his legs walking up and down the plane; yet for us who knew him, he was responsible for saving so many young Samoan lives from the epidemic. It is without a doubt, that had it not been for the skills and wisdom from our visiting EMTs, the fatalities and infections from MES-19 would have been so much greater in numbers.
INSiGHT | August 2020
â&#x20AC;&#x153;Our prayer is that God will bless, comfort, and lead Samoa now, and into the future as it still mourns and recovers from the impact of MES-19.â&#x20AC;? Way Forward Crisis brings people together from all sectors working towards the common good of helping those affected; MES-19 witnessed the church and the state working in solidarity to help Samoans find peace and resolve from an epidemic that crippled Samoa to its core. Yet God continued to share His Grace through the love and work of our global professionals, working alongside their Samoan counterparts united as one to help overcome the tragedy. One outcome from the work undertaken by our MHPSS unit, was to highlight the importance and relevance of the work undertaken by the Mental Health Unit of the National hospital, together with its Social Services counterpart. Both these units are vital for Samoa all the time, and especially during crisis. The road ahead for the recovery of Samoa from MES-19 although is long and uncertain, yet with the solidarity of community faith leaders aligned with MHPSS, Samoa started a positive and encouraging partnership to pave a possible way forward. At the last HEOC meeting we attended in mid-February 2020, Director General of MOH warned of a possible added threat to Samoa in the face of COVID-19. At the time of writing, Samoa is preparing for COVID-19 that has infected over 16 million people worldwide, and taken the lives of around 650,000 globally. MES-19 has taught many valuable lessons for Samoans, which saw the Samoan Government close its borders early at the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our prayer is that God will bless, comfort, and lead Samoa now, and into the future as it still mourns and recovers from the impact of MES-19. Many of our foreign helpers during the measles epidemic in Samoa, no doubt are continuing to work around the clock as EMTs in their own countries, as frontline responders to COVID-19. May God bless, comfort, and heal the broken world impacted in so many ways from the COVID-19 pandemic. God bless all nations around the world, and God bless Samoa.
New Zealand Minister for Pacific Peoples visits our MHPSS unit during MES19. L-R: Lemau Pala'amo, Hon Aupito William Sio (NZ Minister for Pacific Peoples), Rev Dr Alesana Pala'amo.
The West Papuan
Struggle for Freedom by Nikotemo Sopepa
On 16 August 2019, the Indonesian police, a number of
West Papuan students burned an Indonesian flag outside their local dormitory in Surabaya, a city in Java. This act provoked a response from some Indonesian nationalist militia who gathered outside the dormitory and called them “monkeys”. The students were also threatened. But these threats did not deter the students from what caused them to burn the flag at the first place. The threat and intimidating slur ‘monkey’ however caused a people to rise above their fear and despair and took up fifty-seven-year long fight for independence and free determination. The burning of the Indonesian national flag was not a sign of treason as most Indonesians see it.
A Papuan student, his face painted with the colours of the separatist Morning Star flag, holds a poster during a rally near the presidential palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, in 2019. (Tatan Syuflana / Associated Press)
Rather it was a cry for freedom from an unjust treatment of West Papuan people in their own land. What is happening to the West Papuans reminds me of Francis Hazel’s book Strangers in Their Own Land, a story of a century of colonial rule in Micronesia. Although the Micronesians in the Northern Pacific gained their independence in 1986, they are still a protectorate of the United States of America. The Micronesians were colonised by Spain, then the Germans, then Japan, and finally the USA after World War II. The 1986 independence was more of a concealment of USA’s hidden interest in the region – a military bridge between USA and Asia.
independent in 1949, West Papua did not join the new independent nation. This is because these are two different sets of people with different cultures. The West Papuans belong to Oceania (Pacific). Their culture is similar to other people in the Oceania like Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Kanaky (New Caledonia), Papua New Guinea, and Fiji. More so, the West Papuans, like their family members in Papuan New Guinea have traded with the Solomon Islands and other Oceania islands pre-European/Westerners contact. They identified themselves more with people of Oceania, and Oceania has regarded them as brothers and sisters before Dutch colonisation.
West Papua’s case is not different from that of Micronesia’s. The USA’s military interest has cost West Papuans not just their land, but their freedom, and many lives. Over half a million lives were taken by the Indonesian military and police. West Papuans were hunted down in towns, villages, and even those who fled to the darkness of the forest were not spared. This is because the Indonesian government believed that the defected West Papuans were traitors. The cry for freedom and justice is seen by the government as the most treasonous act. But how could you commit treason when your hands are tied behind your back against your will in your own house?
When Indonesia became independent of Netherlands, the Dutch government recognised West Papuans as a people with a different culture and ethnicity. For more than a decade the Dutch government prepared West Papua for their independence. In 1961, West Papua declared independence and raised its flag – the ‘Morning Star.’ The Morning Star signifies a people’s struggle for freedom and justice, and that is exactly what they achieved in 1961.
Both Indonesia and West Papua were colonised by the Dutch in the late nineteenth century. When Indonesia became
Within months of its independence, West Papua was invaded by Indonesia. This caused conflicts between Indonesia, Netherlands, and the indigenous Papuans. Unable to fight against its former colonial master, Indonesia turned to Russia for support. The USA saw Russia’s involvement as a threat to its global presence, especially since Russia’s association with the issue will signal the spread of communism in the region.
INSiGHT | August 2020
Papuans protesting during a visit by a UN envoy in the run up to the vote. Image via ulmwp.org
On 2 April 1962, US President John Fitzgerald Kennedy wrote a secret letter to the Dutch Prime Minister Jan de Quay to hand over administrative control of West Papua to the United Nations, whereby US businessman and diplomat Ellsworth Bunker will mediate the talks to hand over West Papua to Indonesia to prevent the spread of communism, which according to President Kennedy, is a threat to the West and the Free World. Indonesia finally annexed West Papua in 1969 under the United Nations Treaty known as the New York Agreement. The first paragraph of the agreement reads, “The Republic of Indonesia and the Kingdom of the Netherlands, having in mind the interests and welfare of the people of the territory of West New Guinea (West Irian) hereinafter referred to as " the territory." This paragraph betrays the Papuans and robs them of their right to free determination. A referendum called the ‘Act of Free Choice’ was held, where one thousand twenty-five West Papuans were hand-picked by the Indonesians military to vote in favour of Indonesia’s annexation. This “Act of Free Choice” is known to West Papuans as an ‘Act of No Choice’ for it was undemocratically held under the
close supervision of the United Nations, who has the interest of the West, more so the United States of America than the people of West Papua. From that day onwards, the Morning Star flag became a sign of civil disobedience, and a threat to Indonesian democracy. But for the West Papuans it became a sign of hope. Since 1969 the West Papuans have been fighting for their freedom. They have not accepted their political fate as a people of Indonesia. Many of them have been bribed to shut their mouths, others to discard their own people. There are more deaths by murder than natural deaths in West Papua. The killing has been going on for fifty-one years, for the West Papuans never gave up on their hope to run their own lives in their own land. Equally impassionate is the Indonesian grasp on the necks of the West Papuan people. But it is not the Papuan people the Indonesian government is interested in. This is evident in the merciless killing of West Papuans by the Indonesian military and police even to today as I sit here in my living room writing this article. Women were raped, tortured, and murdered in front of their children and
husbands. In 2014 I was asked to write an article on pressing issues in the Pacific with pictures to show the struggle people in the Pacific go through. I wrote on West Papua, and included a few photographs of the merciless killing of West Papuans by Indonesian military and police. Among the photographs was pictures of a mother who was raped and killed, that of a man whose had brain spread on the road, and of an elderly man who was considered as a hunting trophy by the Indonesian military. When the article was published the photographs were missing. I inquired about the exclusion of the photograph, and received an email stating that the pictures were too ‘bloody and barbarous.’ But that is exactly what I wanted the world to see. That is exactly what the West Papuans want the world to see. I wanted the world to look through the eyes of the children whose parents have been taken away from them. I wanted the world to see through the eyes of men whose wives were raped, or through the eyes of women whose husbands have been murdered. I wanted the world to see through the eyes of many West Papuans who witnessed many villagers flee to the safety of the jungle, only to be hunted down and killed like wild animals.
Over three quarter to a million Indonesians have migrated to West Papua in a government migration scheme to Indonesianise West Papua. The World Bank has been the main financer of this migration scheme. Indonesians from overly populated Java and Sulawesi have moved permanently to West Papua. West Papua is rich with mineral resources like oil, timber, gold, copper, and natural gas to name a few. Corporate companies like the Anglo/Dutch Shell, the Freeport McMoran company of Louisiana, and RTZ company of the UK continues to plunder West Papua’s resources. The Grasberg gold mine in West Papua is the largest gold mine in the world. The University of Texas reported that “very little of the revenue returns to West Papua, and only a small proportion benefit the native Papuans” from all its resources. It seems like the intricate but well stratified system that works against the West Papuans’ will for freedom is working well, with all its chains well-greased by first world countries, including the United Nations. For these, the West Papuans fight. And for these they are killed. Human rights abuse in West Papua is curtained behind the pretext of repressing separatist Papuan groups. But this is how Indonesia kept its economic and business agenda in a land where people’s cry for help has fallen on many deaf ears. The international community has neglected West Papua’s cry for too long. They have taken petition after petition to the United Nations, but the United Nations seems to exist for a chosen few.
“”Since 1969 the West Papuans have been fighting for their freedom. They have not accepted their political fate as a people of Indonesia.”
INSiGHT | August 2020
“Environmental destruction and rampant militarism walk hand in hand in WestPapua” via Twitter. Photo by Buchtar Tabuni.
“The killing has been going on for fifty-one years, for the West Papuans never gave up on their hope to run their own lives in their own land.” Human rights activists and churches in the Oceania have taken on the fight outside of Indonesia. But nothing much has changed. Political leaders around the Pacific region even turn a blind eye to the reality of the matter in West Papua. The political stance of respecting Indonesia’s sovereignty over a people’s struggle for independence is hogwash. Many feel that West Papuans should take up armour and fight like the East Timorese did against Indonesia. But the poverty-stricken Papuans have resorted to peaceful advocacy like elsewhere in the world. There are West Papuans who resorted to violence, a tactic condemned by many including myself. But I ask myself, to what cost will I go to protect my children and community against intruders in my own home? This is why West Papua’s plight must be taken seriously by all those who believe in the freedom of all humanity. It is when we stand up for those who have no power that guns are laid down. Violence should never be a tactic, but how long will West Papuans keep the peace while their blood is spilt like seasonal offerings to the ground?
Members of the Papuan Students Alliance hold a banner during a protest against the signing of the New York Agreement In 1962 on August 15, 2013 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Ulet Ifansasti / Getty Images
If the world continues to turn a blind eye, the slow and silent genocide of West Papuans will continue until it is too late. The land of West Papua has drunk too much innocent blood. Surely, the church cannot be silent anymore. We must stand with and for West Papua. They must have their independence. They must have the right to determine their own future – in their own land.
There Is Still A Knee On Our Neck And We Can’t Breathe by Sindiso Jele
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. :2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. :3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. :4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. :5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. :6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. :7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? :8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? :9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, :10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, :11 Cretans and Arabs-- in our own languages we hear them speaking about God's deeds of power." :12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "What does this mean?" :13 But others sneered and said, "They are filled with new wine." Acts 2:1
he 2020 Easter was the first of its kind to me in ministry. I am used to the Easter pilgrimage, journey of faith influenced by the Easter episodes that led to the crucifixion of Jesus, his death and his resurrection which is the story of insurrection especially to those who are in the margins. The stories are full of pain, betrayal, brutality, but they also include the stories turning of the table (transformative actions). As I continue to reflect on these stories in the context of racism and corruption, there are people, who want us to believe and accept that we are in the same boat in this time of difficulty. I don’t agree; however, I may agree that we are in the same ocean but not boat. In this article, I will deliberately use the phrase, “Jesus of Nazareth” as opposed to Jesus Christ. The title “Christ” seem to be elitist in this article, it plays down the life of the young Galilean, son of a carpenter. It was not by choice that Jesus had the identity of the soil of Nazareth, which is in the northern part of the country (of Galilee). And, according to the Matthew, southern Herod(s) were so dangerous and wanted to kill him. The phrase “Jesus of Nazareth” captures well how brutal the Herod(s) (of the Roman Empire) were and community activism was embodied in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. It was his hate of injustice that led him to be killed and it was his love of justice that led him to be anointed. Therefore, in order for us to talk about the breaking away from Babylon; i.e. to remove the knee off the community, we need to engage the Jesus of Nazareth first before we engage the Jesus Christ whose identity was captured by the religious elitist.
INSiGHT | August 2020
This text can be better read within the Easter narratives: Jesus enters Jerusalem…. There were people who wanted to silence the voices they did not agree with….If they are silenced the stone will speak (Justice). As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, :38 saying, "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!" :39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, order your disciples to stop." :40 He answered, "I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out." Luke 19:37
A demonstrator is arrested by police at a protest for more government food distributions during the Covid-19 crisis, 18 May in Kampala, Uganda (Sumy Sadurni/AFP via Getty Images)
This deals with theological and ideological tolerance in society or community, except that those you consider to be ‘...dump stones…’ do have some prophetic voices of insurrection that can inform and transform the society. Jesus of Nazareth proceeded to the temple where he was to attend to economic corruption and injustice; I am reminded of both the Zimbabwe and South Africa scenarios, where the politician, and or those connected to the politicians looted the monies meant to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. This goes beyond corruption but an insult to the basic moral compass, an insult to the very philosophy of ubuntu that defines our Black African-ness and African spirituality where the wellbeing of the society comes first and cannot be equal to the selfishness of the politician and their cronies. Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. Matt 21:12
And he gives reasons for that reformation and transformation of the economic system: He said to them, "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer'; but you are making it a den of robbers." Matt 21:13
The way the business has been conducted has become a ‘…knee on the peoples’ necks…’ As he called and implemented these reforms, he provoked the systems that were benefiting from it, even those who did not like his ministry had a chance to accuse him.
DARK MOMENTS OF THE EASTER NARRATIVES My church’s Easter calendar is Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, resurrection Sunday. There is no activity for Saturday. According to my reading of the Easter narratives, the period of hopelessness is the Saturday of the Easter. Then it gives the impression that Saturday is not as valued as another day of the Easter period. In other words, my church disappears when it matters most. People were not sure whether or not Jesus of Nazareth would be resurrected as he indicated to come and remove the knee on the neck of the community. Saturday becomes critical in the theology of hope as it is the one of those moments that define the cry “I can’t breathe”. This could give testimony that each paradigm has its own gramma that helps to name Babylon whose knee is on the neck of the people. But we need to accept that Babylon is not universal, each race, social group has its own Babylon. Some activists can be Babylon to others. Be careful in the use of the theological gramma lest you commit the very crime you speak against.
AFTER RESURRECTION UNANSWERED QUESTIONS When Jesus of Nazareth was killed by the Roman Empire (Babylon) with the conspiration of the religious leaders of the time, that is a replica of the church going to bed with the oppressor. As such it compromises its ability to remove the knee from the neck of the community as it becomes an active participant in the oppressive system. Jesus stood according to the people of the first century Palestine, and still hold the belief that if he was to be in Palestine today, would ask him the same question, though with changed gramma:
(cf. Matt 11:29 “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. :30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.") This was purely a political statement, therefore the suggestion by Jesus of Nazareth was the socio-political alternative. We still speak of corruption, economic looting, gender-based violence, nepotism at work places, there is freedom before speech and no freedom after speech, and these were a challenge when Jesus was still there and still with the world today, hence the title of the devotion.
ASCENSION This episode becomes interesting as it is presented as if the disciples were just there silently looking to the ascending Jesus of Nazareth. I don’t agree. When Jesus of Nazareth was resurrected, the people’s hope in the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel was re-ignited (Acts 1:6ff). His ascension would score against the hope again. Maybe this could tell as to why they were looking at him when he went. Those looking at him, I suppose, each had a different question. Imagine what the Black Americans would be saying, the Zimbabweans, the Northern Mozambicans under the attack of the ISIS related group, the raped women, the immigrant workers, and the Rohingya, and the Black Africans dying in the Mediterranean seas. Jesus ascends leaving all these with knees on their necks.
THE COMING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT!
So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?" (the independence of Palestine and remove the knee of the apartheid in Palestine) :7 He replied, "It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.” Act 1:6 The problem was that what the community had was political and Jesus was to attend to that. Jesus was aware that there was a yoke on the necks of the community, so the spiritualisation of the question is scandalous. Jesus of Nazareth did not die because people were sinners, this is to make the victims guilty. He died because there were knees on their necks, he wanted to remove those knees as the people could not breathe. Even today, we still have the same question; Jesus affirms our cry;
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. :2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. :3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. :4 …and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability….” Acts 2:1
They started to speak the language of the people. When the church or a mission organisation start to speak the language of the communities it is serving, then we will speak of the them having received the Holy Spirit. If you are not speaking the language of the people then you are ministering and prophesying to yourself. Speak the language of the raped woman, trafficked girls, young men working in the farms whose future is just but dark, speak the language of the migrant workers in Singapore, the dying African in the Mediterranean and waters of Libya as economic refugees.
INSiGHT | August 2020
The question the readers of the bible must ask is: What is/was the language of the people? Was it the language of economic injustice, racial bullying and genocide, or the people crying that there is the knee on their necks? Central to my argument is the question (s); what language was spoken by those who were looking at Jesus of Nazareth, what exactly were they saying, I don’t think it was just silence gazing up the skies. Interesting there were people who celebrated that their language was spoken, at least they will now be heard. As such, it must be argued therefore that Theology is not shy to take sides. It can either support the oppressor or the one who cannot breathe. Theology is not a neutral exercise; it is bold, intentional, decisive and chooses the language of those who are oppressed and/or exploited.
PRAYER My prayer for and with those who are struggling to remove the knee on their necks and trying to raise the voices to be heard by the ascending Jesus of Nazareth: May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, and leadership, so that we may live deep within our hearts. I can’t breathe May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that we may work for justice, freedom and peace. I can’t breathe May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and turn their pain into joy. I can’t breathe And may God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in this world, so that we can do what others claim cannot be done. I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe! And I can’t say Amen!
We are, in 2020, navigating uncharted waters. To face the current disruptive ways of living requires discernment and radical engagement (DARE). Struggles of the past (poverty, racism, sexism, climate change, and a host of identity- and community-based injustices) continue and intensify in 2020, and Covid-19 comes on top of those to further reveal/underscore the systemic intersecting ills that prevent the flourishing of life for all. Our challenge is still the same – DARE. More than just a crisis in the global context, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to function in a so-called new normal. It challenges us to review the effect of our God-talk. Who profits from, and who is minoritized due to, what our God-talk takes to be normal? This question opens us to other concerns: the shape(s) of mission, ministry and being church in the context of the Pandemic; the role of theological education in shaping the future of mission and ministry, and the "nature of the context" that shapes our thinking and behaviour. This year, CWM’s DARE forum moves to a virtual platform to connect and learn from each other on the impacts of the pandemic and on the different ways our responses will (re)shape, affirm and challenge our God-talk. Taking COVID-19 as an opportunity to reflect on the ‘normal’ assumptions and practices of theology, mission and ministry, presenters from different regions of the world will present their views on the impacts of the pandemic, and on different ways we are and might respond to it.
Stay tuned for more information about presenters and their topics, webinar schedule and registration details. Watch this space.
Women of Worth Podcasts
Women of Worth (Dissenting Women) is a series of podcasts by Council for World Mission (CWM). This series is part of our efforts to challenge thought and instigate action – as well as starting conversations on issues and topics which beckon for attention and response. Produced by the CWM staff in the East and South Asia and Caribbean regions, this series features voices of women across the regions of CWM through interviews, conversations and presentations. Four topics will be covered in nine podcasts which will be focused on women whose actions challenged the status quo of patriarchy in their societies. Each podcast will feature biblical characters who were dissenting women who acted in the face of patriarchy - systemic exclusion of women and preferential favour of men particularly in leadership. The topics will reflect SMART women, using the stories of Esther and Rahab; SHAMED women using the stories of Tamar and the unnamed woman caught in the act of adultery; STRONG women, using the stories of Deborah and Rebekah; and SILENCED women, using the stories of Vashti and Hagar. These podcasts will provide opportunity to explore topics such as gender-based violence, intimate partner abuse and incest. The series will feature voices of women across the regions of CWM through interviews, conversations and presentations and is produced by the CWM staff team in the East and South Asia and Caribbean regions. Visit https://www.cwmission.org/wow to listen to the series.
The speakers in this category look at the Biblical characters of Esther and Rahab. The stories may be found in the book of Esther and Joshua 2. The key areas of focus are on how Esther strategised in the face of the threat against the Hebrews and Rahab’s action which saved her life and that of her family. They also offer words of encouragement to women who must act SMARTLY to challenge an unjust status quo of patriarchy.
The speakers in this category focus on Gender Based Violence (GBV) and incest by highlighting the biblical characters of Tamar and the woman caught in act of adultery. We are taken to the Old Testament for the story of Tamar in 2 Samuel 13 and to the New Testament for the woman caught in the act of adultery, John 7:53 to 8:11. They engage in a conversation guided by the question: How can women today 'rise to life with Jesus? They discuss how women may experience restoration and create a new reality for themselves from the SHAME of having experienced GBV, Sexual Gender Based Violence or incest? In closing, they look at how we may participate in creating the kind of life flourishing communities which will enable these women to rise to life with Jesus.
The speakers use the example of two women who exercised their influence Deborah and Rebecca, (the mother of Jacob and Esau). Judges 4 and 5 give Deborah’s story and the focus on Rebecca’s influence on her younger son, Jacob, may be found in Genesis 27. The speakers in the podcasts look at the ways Deborah and Rebecca’s actions and circumstances challenge the status quo of patriarchy. They also offer women helpful tips on how to exercise their influence even in contexts of limitations in STRONG and positive ways. You will gain an understanding of how there are opportunities which may be seized or have been seized in contemporary life to utilise strengths to exercise influence for good and to go against the stereotypes of women as weak.
In these podcasts, the stories of Hagar (from Genesis 16) and Vashti (from Esther 1) are discussed. They were both victims of injustice in a patriarchal society. One experienced injustice at the hands of another woman, the other by her intimate partner. The speakers look at how SILENCED women can find and use their voice, how we can be alert to the perpetuation of injustice against women in our circles.
SEEN & HEARD |
Love After Love
INSiGHT | August 2020
The time will come when, with elation you will greet yourself arriving at your own door, in your own mirror and each will smile at the other's welcome, and say, sit here. Eat. You will love again the stranger who was your self. Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you all your life, whom you ignored for another, who knows you by heart. Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, the photographs, the desperate notes, peel your own image from the mirror. Sit. Feast on your life. ~ Derek Walcott, Collected Poems, 1948-1984
“A church that doesn’t
provoke any crisis, a gospel that doesn’t unsettle, a Word of God that doesn’t get under anyone’s skin, what kind of gospel is that? Preachers who avoid every thorny matter so as not to be harassed do not light up the world.
INSiGHT | August 2020
â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Archbishop Oscar Romero Assassinated 24 March 1980 #AnInconvenientFaith
It is time for Nature. The UN reminds us of the bare truth: “The foods we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink and the climate that makes our planet habitable all come from nature: To care for ourselves we must care for nature.”
– Most Rev Dr P. C. Singh, Moderator, Church of North India (CNI) 48
INSiGHT | August 2020
5 June | Environment Day www.cwmission.org
SUBSCRIBE & RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER Write to us at email@example.com and inform us of your mailing address. Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll send INSiGHT straight to your letter box.
Connect with our global family
You can also subscribe for the digital copy of INSiGHT by clicking https://www.cwmission.org/subscription/ or by scanning the QR code provided below.
19 20 ry rua Feb
9 il 201
TAKE A LOOK |
“Re-imagining Church as Event: Perspectives from the Margins" book series to be released.
Upcoming book launch: Faith in the Age of Empire by Y.T Vinayaraj
The first Book of the "Re-imagining Church as Event: Perspectives from the Margins" Series is coming soon.
Here is what reviewers have to say about the second book in the “Re-imagining Church as Event: Perspectives from the Margins" series:
Church and Gender Justice by Aruna Gnanadason Women have always been marginalised by society and the church; their labour and skills, and their theological and spiritual gifts, are ignored or undervalued. It is a struggle for them to move beyond the walls of patriarchy, class, caste and gender. The book seeks to explore the role of the Christian faith and the use of the Bible in perpetuating patriarchy and looks at ways to rediscover the liberation potential of the faith and gospel. Gender justice is the new wine that cannot be poured into the old wine skin of a gendered texture and nature. Birthing this new vision of being church is challenge of the hour. For this to happen, we need to engage in more critical conversations about the meaningfulness and urgency of bringing about gender-just relations in the domestic space and in the public sphere. The coming into being of a gender-just church could happen in the bargain, though not without the birth pangs. -Kochurani Abraham The book lays bare the gender politics that are involved, suggesting ways in which gender justice can be achieved within the church and society. It further addresses issues of patriarchy in the church, sexuality and the human body, topics that the church has long shied away from. I am sure that this work will serve its purpose of providing churches and Christians with resources in the struggle for gender justice. -Philip Vinod Peacock
What kind of God, church, Christ, human, sacrament and mission are we looking for? What kind of religion, politics and theology do we uphold? These are some of the fundamental questions that determine, design and reshape our faith, our spirituality and, of course, ourselves today. In the Old Testament, faith facilitates the people of God to envision a radical life of freedom and justice in the context of slavery and exploitation. In the New Testament, the Jesus movement adds new meaning to the faith practices of God’s people. It envisions a radical civil society of justice and freedom and encounters the Roman system of subordination. Reclaiming the validity of Christian practices is the need of the hour in this age of globalising empire too in order to confront various forms of domination and fragmentation and to envision a world of hope and justice. The book tries to initiate discussions on the imperial desires and designs deployed in Christian doctrines in the early period of the church to this day. It tries to discuss the need to reshape Christian theologies and doctrines in a postcolonial sensibility. In order to get to the good news, it is important to develop an understanding of the bad news. This is what Vinayaraj does in this volume, guiding us from the oppressions of the Roman Empire, with which early Christians had to contend, to the medieval empires, European empires of colonial modernity, and the more current embodiments of empire in our own globalising age. -Joerg Rieger The specific empire in Vinayaraj’s sight is a religious one—Christianity, which spread over India along with the colonial expansion of the British Empire. With the mana of postcolonial spirituality, Vinayaraj shows that the Christian faith could be released from the colonial legacies of Christianity. -Jione Havea
About the Series In these eleven volumes, a collective of Indian theologians envisions Church as an Event that happens in particular contexts in the life of the communities at the margins. They argue that in the life of the communities who experience on their bodies the violence and hegemony of dominant power relations, morality, and religious dogmas and practices, the church happens as counter cultural experiences that disrupt the logic of the prevailing order. These experiences enable and empower them to affirm and celebrate their differences, knowledge and beauty even as they weave their liberation. Church as event is a call to rising to life, creating life-flourishing communities that live out the foretaste of the reign of God. www.cwmission.org
Inequality – how wealth becomes power The biggest, most pressing social problem that plagues the world today is inequality. It is apparent that for the rich and highly industrialised countries, wealth tends to be unevenly distributed within its population, leaving many trailing way behind those who are obnoxiously rich and unimaginably powerful. This film by DW Documentary explores why the middle class and poor are doomed to be caught within the perpetual cycle of poverty while the rich gets richer, and how it would possibly be a threat to our society. https://bit.ly/2FkZtXR
Do Not Resist Do Not Resist is a documentary about the militarisation of the police force in America and what it means for the American people in the future. In the recent spate of wrongful and unjustified African American deaths committed by law enforcement officers, Craig Atkinson gives viewers a glimpse of how even police departments in smaller towns are equipped and empowered with military grade fire power and equipment and taught to perform “righteous violence” when required.
First They Killed My Father A film directed and co-written by Angelina Jolie, depicts how the lives of a young Cambodian girl and her family were disrupted and torn to shreds due to the Khmer Rouge regime. Surrounded by death and despair, the 5-year-old girl was forced to learn the propaganda of hate, to be recruited as a child soldier and to lay mines in the jungle. Through the harshness of the environment of concentration camps, Ung and her family were separated time and again while they fend to keep themselves alive in hope to reunite with one another again, in hope of surviving starvation, illnesses and the war. https://bit.ly/2CkWrSa
Jobless: Life Unemployed Real Stories gives us a glimpse of how joblessness in Britain is like for families through the eyes of the children. It catches the struggles and helplessness of how the families tries hard at coping through the stress of paying the bills and staying afloat amidst facing countless of rejections from potential hires after being made redundant from their previous employments. Many of them have been with a single employer for a long time and are experiencing being out of a job for the first time in their lives, is making it difficult for them to be accepted back into the workforce due to various reasons. https://bit.ly/3kEMyjI
Charm City The city of Baltimore in the United States of America is a highly volatile environment for its inhabitants. With high occurrences of daily homicides due to poverty, inequality and violence, its community needs to fight hard for their livelihood and home. Fortunately, there are dedicated government personnel like community leaders, law-enforcement officers and councilman working together with a common vision to eradicate the common evil that plagues the city. https://bit.ly/2DUtEo2
INSiGHT | August 2020
Mind The Gap: Exploring Gender Inequality The documentary explores if there really is equal rights between men and women today. If so, then how are women equal in rights when it comes to politics, before the law or even with the financial aspects of their lives? If there is change, how much has been done and what need to be improved further? Sexism is still largely prevalent in society, which is why, until today, jobs that are held by women are still paid lesser than their male counterparts as well as access to the availability of work. https://bit.ly/3ivaYKu
The COVID-19 recovery can be the vaccine for climate change “There are clear connections between COVID-19 and the climate crisis. For starters, climate change increases the likelihood of COVID-type pandemics — through changes in the habitats of disease vectors, for example, or increased inter-species contact resulting from deforestation.”
Before The Flood “If you could know the truth about the threat of climate change — would you want to know? ‘Before the Flood’, presented by National Geographic, features Leonardo DiCaprio on a journey as a United Nations Messenger of Peace, traveling to five continents and the Arctic to witness climate change first-hand. He goes on expeditions with scientists uncovering the reality of climate change and meets with political leaders fighting against inaction. He also discovers a calculated disinformation campaign orchestrated by powerful special interests working to confuse the public about the urgency of the growing climate crisis. With unprecedented access to thought leaders around the world, DiCaprio searches for hope in a rising tide of catastrophic news.” https://bit.ly/2DE21jr
Living Without Water “What's it like to live without running water? In Peru's sprawling capital, Lima, this is the everyday reality for 1.5 million children and adults, forced to pay up to a week's salary for just one day's water. And the problem isn't confined to the capital, across the country, the shortage of water is putting lives in danger and provoking conflict, as it displaces communities and threatens their agricultural livelihoods. This film goes right to the heart of the water crisis - showing how society's poorest are caught in the middle of a struggle between business, climate change and international politics.” https://bit.ly/31Q2sz9
Climate Warriors “The film presents people from diverse backgrounds who show resistance against the adverse and devastating effects of climate change on our planet. Those climate warriors are strongly aware that we need a fast transition in order to save the environment and keep the human rights in balance in favour of peace. They raise their voices for resistance to lobbyists and inhuman social realities.” https://t.ly/s7mE
June 2019 | 53 8
YOUR SAY |
IN THE DIVIDE By A Cheok
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed not just the info-communications landscape itself – but also the way we use it. The kingdom of simple text messages is now a thing of the past, replaced with vibrant sound and vision of the person halfway around the world. We embraced this newfound connectivity with hesitant but open arms, grateful for this silver of companionship during our forced isolation when the pandemic broke. Against the bleak backdrop of death and despair, families, loved-ones and long-lost friends were reunited and reconnected, while the Body of Christ went literally went beyond its walls and doors into the community. A cartoon captured the following conversation: Satan: “With COVID-19, I closed your churches!” God: “On the contrary, I’ve been opening one in every home”. But the pandemic has opened up another chapter to this story – one that in my opinion has been lurking in the background here in Singapore, always present but never really showing its true colours. Until now. We are all too familiar with the digital divide and have read or seen it in some form. But with the pandemic forcing the populace to adopt a ‘digital lifestyle’, the digital divide has moved from obscurity to take center stage – not just in Singapore, but in many parts of the world. While the computer literates reap the benefits of seamless technology and connectivity, the rest remain in the void – shut off and out from the rest of the world. It has added a new dimension of urgency and troubling new findings that put the privileged at an advantage. Yes, I will be the first to acknowledge that equitable access to digital infrastructure is critical during this period of instability, and the increased demand and implementation of digital technologies to connect and respond to the crisis has helped many in numerous ways. However, the rapid application of these technologies during this time of crisis has in fact broadened the digital divide even further. At a time where timely accurate information dissemination is critical, communities, households and individuals with limited or no access to the internet become the disadvantaged – with little access to vital health-related information – let alone the socioeconomic opportunities and benefits that digitalisation has to offer. At the end of 2019, a survey by the International Telecommunication Union estimated that around 3.6 billion people remain offline. The situation is much worse in least developed countries where an average of two out of every ten people are online. And despite Singapore’s strong info-communications infrastructure and connectivity, the pandemic has weaved a similar tale where the advances and benefits of technology are available to those who can access it, or afford it. A recent survey showed that a surprising 1 in 10 households in Singapore are not connected to the internet, and more than 5 in 10 households living in 1 and 2-room flats have no internet access or a personal computer. That’s not all. The stark truth is the pandemic has shown a significant struggle when it comes to digital literacy and skills- not just among the needy and disadvantaged, but also the differently-abled and seniors. One Singapore Nominated Member of Parliament recently lamented aptly that this group are “not digital natives or immigrants, but digital outcasts”: cut off, left behind and forgotten while the rest of society continues the happy ride aboard the technology bandwagon. And even if we turn our heads to try to see them, they are no longer in sight because the gap has become too wide, too relentless and too fast. I couldn’t agree more.
INSiGHT | August 2020
Introducing my 82-year old mother to the digital world and technology allowed me first hand to witness the frustration and even trauma the older generation has to go through – just for the sake of keeping up and being not left behind. From the most basic of function of handling a computer mouse, to composing e-mail and attending her bible study fellowship virtually, it was a huge mountain to climb which took her many weeks to fully understanding how things work and how it all came together. There were numerous times she wanted to give up, saying it was all too much and too late - that her generation was a ‘lost cause’ to learn the tools and skills for the future. My efforts to explain and assure her that all this was the ‘new normal’ did not change her mindset or allay her fears, and in fact made her more anxious about whether she could cope with her journey. It was only after countless hours of step-by-step tutoring; walk throughs and assurances did she eventually peek her head out of the woods to boldly continue to trek through unfamiliar territory. This episode made me stop and think – and come to a realisation about another issue that been overlooked and lost in the chasm of the digital divide. When we talk about the divide, the first thing that comes to mind is hardware and infrastructure – of equipping communities and individuals with technology for them to have access to connectivity and the information superhighway. The image of corporations donating computers, mobile devices and other peripherals as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives to make ‘better lives and living’ for those in need. Don’t get me wrong: I applaud their efforts and was also part of many such initiatives. But I realised that crossing and closing the digital divide goes beyond making technology and info-communications pervasive in the lives of individuals and communities. I believe it’s more than that. To fully allow technology to build and enable life flourishing communities, we need go back to basics – of having hearts to care and the hands to build. Bridging the divide is a call to action where everyone plays an active part to help those make their first step to cross their Jordan. It’s not a technological connection, but a hands-on human connection to be a catalyst and middle point for the ‘digital outcasts’ in our communities. We often assume that they will somehow catch on by being constantly exposed to it. But nothing could be further from the truth. Just like a famer cultivating to a piece of fertile land, we need to dirty our hands to work to plough, sow, fertilise and treat the land that we are cultivating. The end point of closing the digital divide doesn’t end with just blessing the have-not with the tools. Who is teaching and guiding them? Are we willing to invest our time and effort to bring these ‘outcasts’ home? I remember many years ago, my previous company embarked on an ambitious CSR programme to build a state-of-the-art computer section at a children’s home. We were all excited about it as the home specialised in children’s education and for many years was looking to incorporate computer-based learning into their pedagogy. The project was a success and the home official launched this ‘digital corner’ after three months. When I arrived at the home on launch day to make the final rounds and to enjoy the moment of blessing the community, I found a little boy of about nine already seated at one of the terminals – anxiously looking at a blank screen. Puzzled, I went over to jokingly ask him if he liked his new ‘toy’. With a shrug and a straight face, he replied: “Don’t know. I don’t know how to use it.”
BLACK LIVES MATTER:
FAIRTRADE CONNECTIONS By Rev Melanie Smith , United Reformed Church (URC)
‘Black lives Matter’ and I will go further. If we say that Black Lives Matter, and yet buy tea, coffee, sugar, bananas, chocolate or even cotton or condoms which are not Fairtrade, we are walking in the footsteps of slave traders and owners. We are continuing in the subjugation of people already disadvantaged by the legacies of slavery. We may as well be worshipping at the foot of Colston’s plinth. We may as well be flying a White Lives Matter banner. Harsh? I don’t think so. The products I’ve mentioned are all grown in countries that were integral to the triangular slave trade. After that slave trade came to an end formally, it continued informally as workers had to remain on those farms or starve, the slave owners were compensated, and the colonial enterprises continued to trade. We didn’t stop eating sugar when the slave trade stopped; it came from the same places with the same winners and losers. That distinction remains today. Most of the products we consume from the Caribbean Islands, Africa and India are still produced by people who are living on or around the poverty line with few labour rights and educational opportunities, and some using child labour. Slavery by any other name. To put it simply, if you say Black Lives Matter, and yet consume Wispa, then please shut up; you are exposing yourself as a hypocrite. If you don’t want to take a break from Kit Kat, as Nestlé, one of the most profitable food companies in the world, reneges on its already flimsy Fairtrade commitment, then take a walk away from #BLM; you have simply jumped on a bandwagon. If you put non-Fairtrade sugar in your non-Fairtrade tea, then you’re full of bile. If you find this a little harsh, then thank you; as a Christian Minister, I take my lead from the line of Hebrew prophets and Jesus in setting out the stark challenge of justice. Now is the time to change the way you live. Or stand accused of double standards. This is gospel; this is good news for the poor. You may be starting to make excuses; this is something that hasn’t occurred to you? It has now. Perhaps you haven’t found a Fairtrade coffee you like? Try other brands – you know that you can adapt quickly when it comes to saving lives; just look what you’ve achieved during the coronavirus pandemic. You’re worried that it will cost more? It should – you are contributing to fair not slave wages. If Black Lives Matter, your shopping basket will look very different from now on. From your next shop. And then every shop.
brains at the supermarket door and forget that as well as being an ally to BAME people with our words, that we must ally with BAME people through our wallets. Or rather, if you only ally with your words and not your wallets, you are like a noisy gong or clanging cymbal; you don’t love. This is not rocket science. Start buying Fairtrade and stop buying non-Fairtrade. Rainforest Alliance is OK with its strong environmental credentials, yet, Fairtrade is good on sustainability and great on human rights. Or do your own research and discover which small, single source supplier are ensuring that all its workers receive a fair wage and rights; a great lockdown activity if ever I heard one. But be careful, other brand specific self-certification schemes, such as Cocoa Life, Fairly Traded, and Cocoa Plan, are inferior, whatever the claims of the companies themselves. There are many other products that are Fairtrade certified, not least Fairtrade gold – do you really want to wear a band signifying love 24/7, knowing that miner’s basic human rights are exploited? If you are buying tea, coffee, chocolate, bananas, sugar and can’t find Fairtrade, or Rainforest Alliance at a push, yet believe Black Lives Matter, then go without. I rarely, if ever, ask people to share my own thoughts. But this is different. This (or your own adaptation of the key points) has the power to transform lives all over the world. As individuals, it is almost impossible for us to know how we are to make recompense for the legacies of slavery. Fairtrade is probably the most direct way any of us can start to redress the injustices of the past. If we don’t bother with Fairtrade, we are part of the problem. If we insist on Fairtrade, we will start an economic revolution; and that can start today. With you. And I say all this knowing that I slip at times, I see something on a shelf that looks attractive and I can be seduced. I know I must do better. I recommit to Fairtrade. Will you?
Of course, not everyone is as white privileged as me, price is important when you yourself are on the breadline, or you may have dietary requirements – perhaps an autistic child that insists on a certain cereal. Please, don’t feel bad. Do what you can, make changes where you can, but this is not aimed at you. This is aimed at those of us who leave our
INSiGHT | August 2020
LET’S COLOUR THE WORLD By AK, Philippines
Let’s colour the world by touching, by listening, by smelling, by tasting, by seeing, Black facing the shadows of our past ghost that enveloping our loneliness trapping our shouting feelings, thoughts and knowing but we will face you heads-on freeing ourselves inside the cage of fear Green plant the seed of hope giving life to the hopeless and share the taste of greenness of life to everyone with a pinch of za’atar to give flavour and olive oil for the classic and pure taste of new beginnings Red steadfast blood will continually flow through our veins a legacy of steadfast life in the midst of struggle flaming hearts of hope will never die we have the power to bring change and will shout with fierce and gladness that we will fight until the end White We’ll not surrender the life that the Maker has given us Bonded by solidarity and understanding for each other These are some of the powerful weapons that the Author of Life has given In the midst of these cruelty and struggle Sharing blessings to uplift everyone’s life And illuminating light of hope to the slowly, dying, beating heart… Come, let’s colour the world!
A SUSTAINING SPIRITUALITY
FOR THE LONG HAUL By Michael N. Jagessar
What is a current question pre-occupying churches at this time? Our answer may vary depending on context(s), on the ground realities, and maybe what you are looking for from the response of churches. My attention was drawn to a blog post by a colleague who identified what he termed a very pertinent question asked by one of his church leadership: ‘how is the church being missed today by the community around us’? Now, this may an open and honest question about how a community perceives its presence and engagement with a local church community or its relevance in that community? Reponses may range from: missed very much – little – immaterial – and with online presence (for those who have such a luxury) making some think twice about relevance of church buildings that eat up so much money, energy and debates around funds for keeping the edifice a sight a beauty or for local mission. For others (at least in the UK) it may be about the huge loss of income from rental to the building and space(s)? While not wishing to dispute the relevance of the question, I find myself reflecting on what the question may also be revealing of the mind of Church leadership, rather than what the Spirit may be asking of all of us during this time of a pandemic while noting that this is not the only pandemic around. If Paul and others are correct that the Divine (you may wish to say God) does not live in ‘shrines made of human hands’, the question may not be such a pertinent and urgent one. Or perhaps it is an organisational question: the kind we quickly flip into in an ‘unprecedented’ situation. I also make this deduction, as over the years many have somehow equated the movement of the Divine (God’s Spirit) and God’s working as being primarily (if not only) through churches. This belief is then regulated and protected with a whole heap of disenfranchising rules that have literally created an endemic ‘housing problem’ for the Divine. God in Christ has become a stranger in what ought to be God’s oikos (house). And, I have not even touched on the idolatrous part of such thinking that informs such God-talk (theology) and practice. Churches may or may not be missed. Yet, the unchecked and maverick Spirit that took hold of the people of the way, following Jesus’ (a)rising up from crucifixion, is there in the thick of all those lives being sacrificed on the altars of economic and various forms of sinful expediency. Social or physical distancing may be necessary for our safety. But an underlying fact must not be missed: it is also the case that the temple (economy) feeds upon and needs our well-being, given that all parts of our lives have been overwhelmingly commodified. Just reflect on how quickly into this pandemic ‘cost’ took a central and primary part in the discourse around the pandemic. The economy must be saved: and the very governments that could not find funds to support those most vulnerable can suddenly find tons of money to feed our economic gods. 58
But back to ‘social distancing’. For many, social-distancing (not of their own doing) has been their everyday reality just because of who they are, what they look like, and their postcode (where the live). While I am referring to ethnic minorities, migrants, and many poor working-class people in the UK, it is the case across the globe. The pandemic is undressing the scandalous endemic disparities in society between and within nations. Who are the people most vulnerable, are dying, and why? That I would suggest should be a pertinent and an urgent question for churches. So, while lock-down may be eased with many coming out of the imposed isolation and pundits are theorising around a so-called ‘new normal’: the reality is that for many of the above, no amount of ‘words’ to describe the so-called ‘new-normal’ may bring change to their lives of penury, all sorts of marginalisation, hate, and continuing crucifixions. Many years ago, and in a different context but in responding to the ongoing crucifixions, the late Philip Potter called for a ‘sustaining spirituality for the long haul’. That remains the case. Perhaps, we may wish to revisit and re-read the story of the Good Samaritan and reflect on and ask questions that we have never thought of about the story, especially around all sorts of distancing imposed by religion, cultures and traditions, and ideal for systems not so ‘invisible hand’ to maintain. In the story there is the one who steps-out (or in) to risk breaking the rules and the taboos, coming to the help of someone in dire need. There are those who are visibly shown as keeping their distance away from the one in desperate need. Then there are the not so invisible culprits – the robbers and the systemic thief. While the former takes by brutal force with no regard for life (and may claim to be a product of the system); the latter includes those responsible to ensure that the road was safe for every traveller, as well as, the crafters of rules so rigid that its believers cannot even be moved by compassion to respond to the dire/urgent need of another human being. But back to the question that started this reflection. The communities in which churches are located will keep their distance from us and what we are about, if our focus is about our own organisational agenda like repairing finances, restoring events, and the preservation of doctrines and teachings that continue to marginalise and exclude. The ‘new normal’ of the way of Jesus is always and only about full and flourishing life for all. The habit of any ‘normal’ of this new is that it will challenge every attempt at normativity. God in Christ will continue to seek home in the hearts and lives of those pushed on the margins, to the extent of distancing from the very body that may pretend to be speaking on God’s behalf’. This I have no doubt about.
INSiGHT | August 2020
NOW CHRIST LIVES HERE
AS HE PROMISED By David Coleman
Hymn for Creation Time Now Christ lives here as he promised, having once prepared the place: Now we live as kingdom people shaped, re-shaped at frightening pace; Now, whilst still we live and struggle Justice and Earth’s voice speak loud Now immersed in this day’s trouble Humble friends of Christ are proud! Now the scriptures find their meaning: told, re-told, refined by toil. Choking air may yet be fragrant; Fertile our degraded soil Now the teaching we have sidestepped: Love for all we can’t evade: Grace, forgiveness sets us free, in joy to live as Jesus prayed. Now and for our lives remaining; Laurels offer feeble rest. Times and seasons shape commitment By immediacy blessed. Be not tempted by ‘Good Old Days’ Now, the days of Christ are best Christ incarnate in Earth’s family Flesh and blood, God, manifest. Yeast in dough and shining city Salt for Earth and light for all Not as domineering tyrants but as friends for this long-haul! Every day, the chance to follow Not one step we walk in vain; Green our God is, sending Spirit: energy from buried grain.
Sung to the tune of ‘Courage, brother, do not stumble’ (CH4 513) otherwise 8787D E.g Blaenwern, Abbot’s Leigh, Beach Spring, Converse. This first appeared on https://www.facebook.com/lectionaryclips
LAST PAGE |
CLIMATE CHANGE: Don’t undermine the science just because you don’t like the economics. That’s a dangerous slope, because the problem of course is you’re not undermining just that, you’re undermining the basis of rational decision-making in society.
– Brian Cox
INSiGHT | August 2020
Council for World Mission Ltd 114 Lavender Street, #12-01, CT Hub 2, Singapore 338729 T (65) 6887 3400 F (65) 6235 7760 E firstname.lastname@example.org W www.cwmission.org Company Limited by Guarantee Registered in Singapore Unique Entity Number 201206146Z Copyright ÂŠ 2020 Council for World Mission Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Content may not be reproduced, downloaded, disseminated, published or transferred in any form or by any means, except with the prior written permission of Council for World Mission Ltd.