“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news and that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord….” (Luke 2: 10, 11)
Dear sisters and brothers, in the name and on behalf of the
entire family of the Council for World Mission, I greet you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Immanuel, “God with us”. 2020 may be described as a year of disruption, dislocation and, for many, despair. We believe, however, that this description does not represent the full story. 2020 has also been a year of imagination, creativity, adaptability and endurance. The brunt of the coronavirus has hit the world and has taken us to places we did not plan for. Notwithstanding, it has also been a year of immense heart-warming expression of generosity of spirit, of tenacity and of resilient hope. Today, we live with the pain of the loss of our dearly beloved family and friends who had to take that journey alone, without our presence, our touch and the performance of last rites according to our various faith and cultural traditions. And yet, we rejoice at the quality care that many received from frontline caregivers, who spared no effort and at great risk of exposure themselves, in the service of those who
contracted the virus and those who succumbed to its death-dealing vice. There has been an abundance of grace in the midst of pain. We reflect, with a certain degree of consternation, how fearful and grief-stricken we all became when we received the news that we, or our family members and friends, had contracted the virus. It was as though we received our death sentence. But we have weathered the storm, we have held firmly to our faith and we remain hopeful for better days ahead. Not only has close to 50 million of the 71 million confirmed cases been recovered, but we have stood together in a display of care and compassion towards one another. In so many ways, we have demonstrated that we are a family, bound together by our common humanity and our common quest for life in fullness. In these disruptive and disturbing times, we have experienced, in extraordinary ways, the spirituality of faith, of hope and of love, the most precious and priceless gift that we could ever expect or even imagine. Despite our fragilities and vulnerabilities, we have been strengthened and
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emboldened by our faith in God and in each other; we have been gifted with hope, an instrument of perseverance and expectation; and the power of love has come to us as an offering of support and solidarity where and when it mattered most. Indeed, we have been to each other, a spiritual fountain of life-giving inspiration, energy and companionship in these difficult times. As we celebrate Christmas, the season of peace and goodwill, may our spirits be rekindled, with the message of God’s angels: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people”. Surrounded by the cloud of Covid-19 and its continued threat and uncertainties, coupled with all the other social vices that tarnish relationships and destroy life – racial tension, political upheaval, economic unrest, among others - we need to hear anew this message of good news, a glimmer of light and a ray of hope. This then is my message to you this Christmas – the good news is that God is with us in our mixed-up ways, our misfortunes and our misgivings. We need not be afraid.
Confusion and complexities reigned supreme around the birth of Jesus. In the midst of all this upheaval Joseph, the Shepherds, the Magi and so many others, came face to face with God’s angel, with a reassuring message and a word of encouragement – “Do not be afraid…. A Saviour has been born to you….” At that point everything came together and the words of Isaiah rang out loud and clear – “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means God with us” (Isaiah. 7: 14, Matthew 1: 23). There was need for no clearer message then; and I offer it to us today, that we too may be reassured and encouraged. Immanuel, “God with us”, is God’s reassurance that we are surrounded, undergirded, overshadowed and enfolded in the stupendous love and abundant grace of God. When the road is rough and the going gets tough, may this good news keep us going and may we feel securely anchored and protected in God’s life-giving presence. Merry Christmas and a very happy New Year! Collin I. Cowan General Secretary
DEVOTIONAL 01 03
General Secretary’s Christmas Message A Voice Cries out: Advent Reﬂections 2020
VIEWPOINTS TAKE A LOOK 34
Let there be Flourishing Life for All! Seasonal Reﬂections
Covid-19 and The Tree of the Garden in Modern Human Civilisation
Wage Theft, The Unheeded side of Pandemic: The Tragedy of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in the Time of Covid-19
AT A GLANCE 20
Member Church News
SEEN & HEARD
TAKE A LOOK 62
Reﬂections of a Former CWM Trustee
Life-Flourishing and the Habit of Thankfulness: 2020 in Retrospect
Reﬂections in the Year of a Pandemic
ADVENT REFLECTIONS 2020
A VOICE CRIES OUT
CWM offers these reflections for Advent at the close of a turbulent year. Advent is itself a time of turmoil and hope. We use it to prepare for the coming of the Christ-child into our realities and to attend to the prophetic voices indicating where this child will be born, for whom and what new worlds he will institute. The theme also connects us to CWM’s new mission theology which underlines the urgency of a confessing witness. A witness which speaks up and out for Jesus present in the injustices of our generation bringing forth change long prepared in the heart of God. This is to read our world in the prophetic way of Isaiah who so often accompanies us in Advent. These reflections come modelled on and mindful of these words: A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. 5 Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” 6 A voice says, “Cry out!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” Isaiah 40: 4-6 RSV The voices who cry out here name how and where Christ is coming to work again for the transformation of a world of mountainous inequalities, grounded in the upheavals of violence and repression. Voices from India, Taiwan, the Philippines, Europe and indeed the earth and the body are joining with Zechariah and if their voices are heeded: ‘By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace(Luke 1: 78-79)’ So, we sit with these speakers who respond to Isaiah’s question: What shall I cry? and are challenged to raise our own voices in the same way for the kind of peace which makes angels sing. Rev Dr Peter Cruchley, Advent 2020. www.cwmission.org
What Shall I Cry? “I can’t breathe...” “Please, I can’t breathe”: do you remember George Floyd’s desperate cries for help as he gasped for breath and clung to life due to the senseless brutality of the policing machinery? Those few minutes both capture and sum up 400 years of white terror on and over black bodies. The ongoing legacies are still with us, within and across nations in multiple manifestations. Racism continues to dominate as seen in personal and institutional racism that continue to harm human lives, communities, nations and economies.
what shall I cry? rooting out sin Issues that continue to suffocate are many and they intersect. Here I name one – racism. The reach of racism, of racist frameworks – ideas of exceptionalism, supremacy, whiteness – is a long, embedded, and subliminal one. Allow 400 years of asphyxiation and death to sink in. There is an idol, heavy on black bodies, against which cries rise like incense. It is the idol of whiteness. This idol governs cultural, economic, and political norms and it devours black bodies through physical, psychological, and spiritual violence. It leaves a gaping hole in our collective consciousness. The worshippers and beneficiaries of this idol are not interested in uneven ground become level (equity). Will Black Lives ever matter? Consider this slant
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diversion: what do you think good-hearted White Americans are asking about their current President’s refusal to concede? Is it, what kind of system produces a man like this? No. Their mantra is: ‘we must defend the system from this man”.
advent call Where is the system’s boot on the neck, throat, and heartbeat of sisters and brother and where is protest and movement to dare to ask the critical, collective, and systemic questions? Where and how must our life together reflect change so that a fresh and new conspiring (breathing together) may be birthed? What should be toppled and thrown out? What new alliances are needed? How will church space and church community create empowering ‘breathing spaces’, redressing deficits, inequities, and foster life-flourishing spaces? If you are looking for an advent message to soothe hearts, tickle ears and pat backs, and get nostalgic over advent candle flames, Isaiah is not the prophet to turn to. Obsession with a straight path may miss Isaiah’s invitation to building a highway and the disruption this calls for. Advent may be saying: wait not for the majority, it is always the minority that must disrupt the system. Like prophets they mirror (truth-tellers) the ‘now’ to move us toward a different future. For truth to set us free it must first ‘piss us off’, forcing us to see what we would rather not see, chosen to disregard, or pretend we are not. The BLM movement refer to the power the moment and that the struggle is not over until total transformation. Let’s keep building the movement, making it stronger and bigger until we eradicate racism and white
supremacy. May the emancipatory yearnings in the wailings of the prophet propel us until the edifice of racism and whiteness tumble so that all can breathe again and together.
praying boldly God-who-loves-just-ways and who understands our anger at blatant injustices: we groan and cry out for those who suffer from racism, hatred, and all related forms of discrimination and we chant out against the people and systems that perpetuate such violence. Give us confident hearts and strong voices to protest and become active advocates of your economy of full flourishing life for all so that we may break the enslaving spirals of evil, living-out more fully your way of goodness, justice and love. Helpful links: https://blacklivesmatter.com/ [Black Lives Matter] https://www.bl.uk/windrush [Windrush, UK] https://www.ninsee.nl/ [National Institute of Dutch Slavery History and Legacy] https://caricomreparations.org/the-global-reparations-movement/ [The Global Reparations Movement] Rev Dr Michael Jagessar Council for World Mission
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What Shall I Cry? “If we do not rise”
If we do not rise……. the rallying cry, the commitment, the inspiration that resounded in almost every corner of this sprawling and big country. As Christian women we joined in a national campaign, with all women and concerned men reminding ourselves that If we do not rise… the oppression will only grow. This emanates from the power the present dispensation has taken on itself to trample on the secular fabric of the country; and on the right to dissent; impeding the independence of the judiciary and the protection of the rights of minority communities in a Hindutva dominated India. All this among other undemocratic actions makes us aware of our responsibility, our calling! The onslaught is on all of creation as environmental protection laws have been repealed and farming laws that favour big business have been introduced. And yes… If we do not rise…violence against women will not be controlled!
Demonstrators from All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) hold placards and shout slogans during a protest against the recent killings of two teenage girls, in New Delhi May 31, 2014. Source: Reuters.
If we do not rise…. we are concerned that, particularly, the relentless atrocities on Dalit women and their right to a life of dignity and justice and safety at every stage of their lives will go on unchecked. If we do not rise…. was the challenge we repeated to ourselves, on the 29 of October, a month after the gruesome gang rape and mutilation of the 19-year-old Dalit woman in Hathras in Uttar Pradesh, a state in North India. This Dalit woman from Hathras died in a hospital in Delhi. She was gang raped and brutally attacked by four upper caste men (Thakurs) – in the process they mutilated her body. She died on 29 September, in a hospital in Delhi. An even more outrageous act was to follow - the police did not hand over her body to the family of the girl for her last rites, but instead burnt her body in the middle of the night; thus, not only violating the rights of the family and the girl, but wilfully destroying all evidence. The Dalit feminist movement has reminded us that according to government statistics every single day 10 Dalit women are raped in some part of India. If we do not rise… we as concerned women and men all over India reminded ourselves… A small group of women in Kerala (the southern-most state of India) posted their photographs and voices on their group’s Facebook page - each briefly speaking of the culture of rape that is increasing in India. In Jalandhar in Punjab, in North India women took out small
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marches (all with masks and keeping a safe distance between each other as required) as the Covid 19 pandemic rages across India. In West Bengal they showed their protest in the form of drama and powerful poems - some in the group wrote heartrending and poignant poems weeping over the loss of this women and other Dalit women. A national twitter storm on the campaign was trending for a few days….
But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you. (Acts 26:16 ESV) We are women and men who in our collective strength recognise that we have a calling to transform our feeling of helplessness against forces that seem too big for us to confront and like Saul to have a conversion experience. We have to, like the Apostle Paul, recognise that we have no choice but to “get up and stand on our feet” (NSRV) as we too have been appointed and ordained to serve in God’s purposes for the community around us – especially for those so much more vulnerable than u …. the Dalit women in our nation! This advent, in the midst of a deadly pandemic we await the promise of new life in the birth of the Christ Child. All around us we hear the litany of challenge and hope…If we do not Rise, If we do not Rise! Aruna Gnanadason Church of South India
What Shall I Cry? “Global warming is scary. I want to die here!”
Pacific Island climate warriors take on fossil fuel industry. Source: www.greenleft.org.au
The Pacific islanders protest human greed and the profit motive that has polluted the earth and distorted weather patterns. Their protest interweaves fear, creativity, resilience, hope, prayer and daring. Climate change as result of global warming threatens the very existence of island nations. Caused by unsustainable patterns of consumption and use of natural resources, the powerful and wealthy among humans tread the earth that God loves with arrogance and contempt as they utilise its resources greedily and unjustly. The earth itself, and those without power wealth and political clout are denied the flourishing God intends for all creation. For the people of Tuvalu and other Pacific islands, a scary prospect of the sea engulfing their homes is ever present. Flooding, strong winds and distorted ecosystems threaten the livelihood, and desecrate graves, scattering cherished memories that hold the communities’ histories and identities. There was a time when people predicted seasons, planned their lives around them and built robust defences – not any more.
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Still, even now, the people of Kiribati harvest dead corals to defend their homes from the sea waves. They fiercely defend their homes creatively, powerlessly and with resilience. Elsewhere, Pacific Islanders plant mangrove trees - those ‘walking’ trees blockade the land from the sea. They harvest from nature and the remnants of pollution to make ravaged islands habitable. The threat Pacific islanders face is compounded by the prospect of being uprooted and resettled in other lands, away from the cherish home and way of life. The threat of collectively losing home, language, identity and sovereignty. The land and sea that has been home and sanctuary for centuries, and is imbued with collective memories and lore that make a people, is threatened with extinction. ‘Global warming is scary, but I want to die here’, a voice cries out.
‘I am The Lord, and there is no other. I form the light and create darkness… It is I who made the earth and created (hu)mankind upon it. My own hands stretched out the heavens, I marshalled their starry hosts… For this is what the Lord says – (God) who created the heavens … is God; (God) who fashioned and made the earth, (God) founded it; (God) did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited.’ (Isaiah 45:6-8, 12, 18)
Prayer God, who walks on the water of our fears, stretching out a hand to hold us firm, telling us not to be afraid, we come to worship you in faith. God, who speaks to us in story and word, in each other, and in life itself, we come to worship you in faith, for you are our God and we are your people. Creation cries out to us, creation shouts out to us, creation groans, and to our human eyes it has gone mad. It rains in the desert, forest fires destroy life. And we dare to ask, ‘Why, Lord?’ for we ourselves have been the ones responsible for polluting what is good, beautiful and healthy for our human life. We still hope for prophetic voices to be raised by men, women, young people, boys and girls, whose damaged bodies condemn human evil. But we still have hope that the words of the prophet Isaiah will become true in this century: ‘Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things will not be remembered.’ May it be so. Amen. (Pilgrim Prayer The Ecumenical Prayer Cycle, WCC Publications, 2020, pp.193,196) Rev Dr Kuzipa Nalwamba World Council of Churches/United Church of Zambia
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What Shall I Cry? “Chhut Thou ThiN!” Thus, says the Lord, the God of Israel: Let my people go so that they may celebrate a festival to me in the wilderness Exodus 5:1
George Floyd’s agonising “I can’t breathe” has become a solidarity call to the churches and to all people of conscience to hear and heed the cry of the oppressed and the voiceless. The amazing chorus of international response has made it a sign of hope for those in despair. It has become a prophetic call and a source of comfort just as Isaiah did in his time. Since World War II the Taiwanese have been crying out in their struggle for human dignity and national identity. No sooner had they celebrated the end of Japanese colonialism than Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek’s troops invaded Taiwan and turned it into a military fortress in their ongoing civil war with Mao’s Communist Party. Following the cruel February 28 Massacre of Taiwan’s elite in 1947, Chiang Kai-Shek imposed martial law that lasted until 1987. The Formosans Christians for Self-Determination established in 1975 cry out: “Chhut Thou ThiN!”
Taiwan began to experience the hegemonic rise of China as a great power. China employs diplomatic, military, economic, cultural and religious means to stifle Taiwan’s place internationally and intimidate all potential supporters of Taiwan. Only 15 countries recognise the Taiwan government. It is not allowed to join international organisations such as the United Nations, the World Health Organisation, and the World Trade Organisation. Where Taiwan is permitted by China to participate such as the Olympic Games, it is not allowed to use the name, “Taiwan”, and must identify itself as “Chinese Taipei.” The Taiwanese are denied the right to self-determination. Indeed, every Taiwanese feels China’s suffocation and cries out, “I can’t breathe!” Like the characters in Jean-Paul Sartre’s drama, “No Exit” the 23-million Taiwanese are locked in a box in a perpetual detention. They await liberation, healing and restoration described in Mathew 25 vision: “when I was in prison, you visited me, and when I was a stranger, you welcomed me.” The church and the Christians of Taiwan believe that God has given them dignity, talents and a homeland, so that they may share in God's creation, and enjoy the responsibility of participating in taking care of the world. They believe that the fellowship of God's people is called to proclaim the salvation of Jesus Christ while rooted in Taiwan and must identify with all its inhabitants through love and suffering, thus becoming the sign of hope for Taiwan. Archbishop William Temple of the Anglican Communion once said, “Our dignity is that we are children of God, capable of communion with God. In gratitude to the incarnation, our lives should be ordered and conducted with this dignity in view….so that we can glorify God forever.” The “Chhut Thou ThiN!” aspiration of Taiwan is poignantly represented in a sad song, Wu Yia Hue (Rainy Night Flower), from Taiwan:
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The flower is dying on the ground, Who will come and look after me? The ruthless wind and rain ruin my future. What else can I do when the flower is dying on the ground? The rain is ruthless. It doesn't think about my future. And it doesn't look after my soft heart. It takes away the brightness of my future. The rain is dropping. It makes me suffer and down through an endless drop. It tears me apart like the flowers remove from the leaves and branches, No one is ever gonna see me. The flower is dying on the ground, Who will come and look after me? The ruthless wind and rain ruin my future. What else can I do when the flower is dying on the ground?
Prayer Oh God, we believe in your mighty works to part the Red Sea again to free the people of Taiwan to determine their own future and to enjoy the full dignity that is your will for all your children. The Taiwanese cry is your Advent invitation to the church universal to be a sign of hope for the people of Taiwan. AMEN Prof Victor Hsu Presbyterian Church of Taiwan
What Shall I Cry? “Stop the attacks!”
This call is part of National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) and its partners’ national and international campaign on human rights and is based on the “Unity Statement for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights in the Philippines, Keep Watch and Bear Witness with the Filipino People” which was released on September 17, 2020 for the International Ecumenical Convocation on the Defense of Human Rights in Philippines.1 This collective cry from the ecumenical movement in the Philippines is addressed to the government of President Rodrigo R. Duterte to stop the killings, unlawful arrests and detention, rampant vilification and red tagging and other forms of human rights violations. Our cries also summon the international community for solidarity and accompaniment - to keep watch and bear witness.
signed the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 into law which legitimises unlawful arrests and detention, undermines the due process of law, and runs contrary to the Philippine Constitution With the new Act in place, human rights violations have continued at an unabated rate and churches and church people have not been spared. At the time this was being written, there were already 37 petitions against the Anti-Terrorism Act filed before the Supreme Court.2 The crisis is getting worse. God, we affirm that each of us is your child and a bearer of your image. The dignity that you have bestowed on your people is disregarded by our very own government. We cry out to you and to our siblings around the world: be with us, accompany us, and embolden us for collective action, to stop the attacks on the rights of the people.
Since President Duterte came into power in 2016, the human rights situation in the Philippines has gone from bad to worse. Violations happen in a climate of impunity and practically no one has been held accountable. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the human rights crisis. With deepening economic misery in the country, the government has simultaneously used the pandemic to further constrict our already shrinking civic space. On July 3, 2020 President Rodrigo Duterte
Amen. Mervin Toquero National Council of Churches Philippines
http://nccphilippines.org/2020/10/02/keep-watch-and bear-witness-with-the-filipino-people-defendcivilliberties-stopthekillings/ . Even before the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Act, there were numerous violations against church people which was reported by the NCCP to the UN OHRCHR. For a copy of the NCCP report to the UN OHRCHR (A/HRC/44/NGO/116) please visit https://daccess-ods.un.org/TMP/2837062.77608871.html or https://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?m=86
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What Shall I Cry? “My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you.” – Audre Lorde
Silence is a tool of oppression Voices from the margins are historically and categorically disenfranchised repeatedly and systematically silenced. These are voices of the social rejects, outcasts, misfits, misunderstood, marginalised and disenfranchised. These are voices who remind us that all have intrinsic worth and value. Silencing voices is a tool of oppression. It invalidates the experiences of those in the margins. It trivialises their subjugation and exploitation. It casts those at the margins as noisy trouble makers, rebel rousers, social disruptors and agitators. It creates a system of fear and intimidation for those who dare contest the powerful in speaking out. This is what silencing does. On the contrary, voices from the margins give agency to disrupt and dismantle dehumanising oppressive systems. Hearing voices from the margins is participating in something powerful. It is a defiant act of humanising those whose backs are pushed against the wall. There is truth in their stories that powerful elites are determined to hide. Those who are cast aside, cast away, and treated as disposable, they matter. Their humanity is intrinsically intertwined with ours. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reminds us of how “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single
garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly”1. And for this we cry out against systems that silence. Silence is violence While those who are in the margins are historically and systemically silenced, those who benefit from various intersections of social privileges such as the privilege of being white or proximity to it, intersections of social privileges such as the privilege of being white or proximity to it, cis-gender male, heterosexual, able-bodied, educated, part of the dominant socio-cultural group and etc., - choose silence when their privilege is made visible. This silence happens when someone makes a racist, xenophobic, homophobic, or ableist remark and they say nothing. This silence happens when the dominant group leaves the emotional or self-reflective work to the minoritised group (Thompson, 2004) . This silence not a neutral position. Rather, this silence is violence. The unwillingness and passiveness in staying silent only adds to the oppression as it reinforces a culture that seeks to silence those already oppressed and marginalised. Silence is complicity and submission to subjugating systems and reinforces privileges we benefit from. This silence is problematic. And for this we cry out against the uncomfortable silence.
Four Korean comfort women after they were liberated by US-China Allied Forces outside Songshan, Yunnan Province, China on September 7, 1944. Source: The Hankyoreh website at https://tinyurl.com/y4dddxjn. Photo by Charles H. Hatfield, US 164th Signal Photo Company. Note: The original photo is available in the National Archives Catalog at https://tinyurl.com/yyumu88z.
Silence shattered - change initiated After decades being silent, it was only in the early 1990s when Korean Comfort women started to speak about the sexual assault they experienced during the second world war. Poverty cast them as unworthy characters. Patriarchy cast them as unchaste, and undignified women. The intersectionality of their gender, socio-economics, sexuality and social standing initially silenced them, and amplified the oppressive dynamics of a shame and culture that prevented them speaking out. It puts the blame and weight of their sexual abuses on them, instead of the perpetrators and the system that supports them. Once they broke the silence a movement grew demanding for justice, an apology and reparations began. And for this we cry out against systems that silence because then change can come, change that has been long prepared. Prayer Comfort, O comfort your people Compassionate One! How long do we wail? How much louder must our cries rise up? How else do we lament in the midst of a culture of silence and its violence? May we commit to be like the daughters of Zelophehad, the persistent woman of Luke 18 and the Korean Comfort Women refusing to be quiet and raising their voices to break the culture of silence. May we be like Rizpah emboldened to confront uncomfortable realities of inequity and oppression. May we hear each voice as holy, beloved and worthy. Helpful links Korean Comfort Women
White Privilege and Male Privilege (Peggy McIntosh) https://www.collegeart.org/pdf/diversity/white-privilege-and-male-privilege.pdf
Lynnette Li Council for World Mission/ Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
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What Shall I Cry? “Let hope be the antidote to fear...” This year has been traumatic at all levels of our life, personal, national and international. Covid-19 has struck at the heart of our economic, social, political and religious plans and certainties. The Covid-19 Pandemic exposes our interconnected economic and ecological crises and unmasks the systemic inequalities which reign in our world. This is the critique the ecumenical community brought to Covid-19 in the first wave of its impact: The crises of the Covid-19 pandemic are rooted in human and systemic sickness. They stem from oppressive and exploitative economic systems that are based on the logic of profit-making, socio-economic inequalities, ecological indifference, political self-interest, and colonial legacies. …The Covid-19 pandemic is both the product of and the spur to the current economic catastrophe. The public health emergency is symptomatic of a deeper economic crisis that undergirds it. Decades of austerity – in the global South, as part of harsh debt conditionalities, and in the global North, as a consequence of the 2008 global financial crash – have rendered many countries utterly defenceless in the face of this threat. Moreover, ineffective and corrupt governance at national levels has exacerbated the inability of governments to support those who are most vulnerable to the pandemic.
Advent breaks over a world in which at least 53 million people have contracted the virus and over 1.2million people have died.1 Unlike previous pandemics Covid-19 seems to have convulsed the world and led some to make changes in work, health care and economic life that hitherto were told to be impossible. News grows of vaccines and treatments and claims are made that we will grow back better. But, even so, the impact continues to hurt most the most vulnerable, and especially those society has least valued or noticed. In the midst of many voices these words of Tedros Ghebreysus stand out, especially for religious communities called to be people of light in the times of darkness: Let hope be the antidote to fear. Let solidarity be the antidote to blame. Let our shared humanity be the antidote to our shared threat. [Tedros Ghebreysus Governor General World Health Organisation] Advent leads Christians to the God who became human, who shared our life, our viruses, our vulnerabilities. Born not in a palace but in a stable, who had to become a refugee in the face of political turmoil, persecution and state violence. We find him in our bodies and find ourselves in his body. This baby cries out for a new humanity and a new world to be born. Attending to this voice can bring down old worlds and raise up new ones which shelters the vulnerable, houses them in dignity, respects the bodies, identities and rights of its people, deals tenderly with the hurting, affirms diverse human community, taxes those most able to contribute, resets the world’s axes away from the centre to the margins where peace can flourish anew. Let us pray in this way Come anew holy child: That hope be the antidote to fear. That solidarity be the antidote to blame. That our shared humanity be the antidote to our shared threat. Rev Dr Peter Cruchley Council for World Mission
Calling for an Economy of Life in a Time of Pandemic: A Joint Message from the WCC, WCRC, LWF, and CWM
AT A GLANCE | MEMBER CHURCH NEWS AFRICA UPCSA opens for public worship, identifies critical areas of focus Several congregations of The Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa (UPCSA) have re-opened their doors for public worship, with many considering or postponing the decision – a move welcomed by UPCSA General Secretary Rev Lungile Mpetsheni. In Rev Mpetsheni’s letter in mid-September, he affirmed that careful environmental analyses of each congregation should form the basis of the decision, and reiterated that the respective government protocols and regulations should be adhered to. The UPCSA General Secretary also commended the ministers and leadership who overcame difficulties to provide pastoral care and counselling for their church members through digital media, ministering to those facing the loss of loved ones, health, jobs or income, or gender-based violence arising from victimisation in society.
During their virtual consultation held on 5 September, the UPCSA and Clerks of Presbyteries identified key areas for churches to prioritise as they re-opened for worship, which spans three broad areas – psycho-social and spiritual support; administrative support; and promotion of gender justice. 20
Psycho-social and spiritual support should be provided to ministers and leaders, the wounded healers of UPCSA. Activities to remedy the trauma and loss suffered include conducting memorial services to honour the lives of the departed since people could not attend burial services; and providing and focused ministry to children and youth. Some families are headed by children and newly-orphaned youths who are also anxious about the academic year. Avoiding the second wave of COVID-19 infections requires planning a hybrid of physical and virtual church services. In the area of administrative support, systems were rendered obsolete by safety protocols to curb COVID-19, and a lack of technological know-how, infrastructure, or/and access to devices hampered ministry and administrative needs. Loss of income and business closures of church members affected cash flow in congregations, and church ministers and workers were unable to receive stipends and salaries. Several recommendations were made, such as training and upskilling of ministers and leaders to use technological devices. They were encouraged to channel funds set aside for travelling to meetings to provide data for people to access virtual meetings. It is also imperative to improve communication systems for maximum reach, and formulate other ways of ensuring financial sustainability.
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The Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa (UPCSA) observes 16 days of activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV), among other activities Many women have shared harrowing stories of violence and abuse using the hashtag #aminext on social media, and gender-based violence (GBV) in South Africa has been described as the “second pandemic”. The Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa (UPCSA) has added its voice to those calling for an end to GBV in all three countries the UPCSA is active in, and has gone further this year to draw attention to the plight of vulnerable communities, so that they can live in safety and with dignity, according to UPCSA Moderator Rt Rev Dr Peter Langerman.
In the Moderator’s November letter to the congregations, he outlined the UPCSA’s plans in observing the 16 Days of Activism Against GBV starting from 25 November to 10 December (International Human Rights Day). A theological statement against GBV and a pre-recorded service was slated for release on multiple platforms on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, followed by a daily devotional for all 16 days.
The Health and Wellness Committee presented a webinar for World Aids Day on 1 December, and the Church in Society Committee hosted a webinar for PWDs and the “Count Me In Campaign – Fight against GBV” for the International Day of People Living with Disabilities on 3 December. The Gender Desk then hosted “Men Confronting Patriarchy”, a follow-up webinar on 5 December. Finally, the Youth Desk hosted a webinar to discuss the Fourth Industrial Revolution. These events, the UPCSA leadership hope, will be catalysts for the churches to desire to serve the vulnerable in their communities, said Rt Rev Dr Langerman. Even though these upcoming events relate to numerous issues, he encouraged them to not be overwhelmed by the size and scope of the challenge, and all the needs to be met. Whether it is gender justice, or HIV/AIDS, or disability awareness or youth development, one can make a difference in this time of activism by focusing on the one thing that can be done for one person in need, he added. EAST ASIA Hong Kong CCCC General Secretary encourages “an extraordinary 2020 Christmas” this Advent HKCCCC General Secretary Rev Dr Eric So has encouraged the church that a meaningful Christmas season is still possible even though there will likely be no Christmas services, celebratory events, and parties due to the pandemic. In his Advent Message, the General Secretary
wrote about how Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the wise men’s spirituality shows that this year’s Christmas can be celebrated differently. “When we can carry out submissive and obedient attitudes in exercising the Christian discipline, living out a praising and peaceful life at home and in workplaces, sharing the good news of Emmanuel with others and dedicating ourselves for God’s mission, people will see our witness and acknowledge that Christ is in the midst of Hong Kong,” said Rev Dr So. Concern for church members’ spiritual wellbeing among top concerns for Presbyterian Church in Singapore (PCS) pastors, according to survey A survey conducted among 54 PCS pastors about challenges they faced in their ministry work surfaced challenges in reaching out to their congregations at a time when physical gatherings are still discouraged, and their concerns on going digital. In terms of support, 60 percent of the pastors would welcome receiving aid in producing online AV material including sermons, followed by digital assistance for the elderly (57.4%), and having spiritual resources to share with their members (50%). Ranked high on their list of concerns in the “Pastoral Care in the New Normal” survey was the worry that the spiritual lives of their church members would be adversely affected by the lack of in-person interaction and fellowship. Next on their list www.cwmission.org
of dangers posed by the pandemic was the dilution of or wrong understanding of doctrine, with freedom and variety of online resources carrying wide-ranging doctrinal teachings. Even though pastors have to adapt to reaching out to their flock and the community in different ways now, nearly two-thirds (57.4%) of them were confident about doing so. One of the greater concerns many pastors and church ministers may have would be that even when services fully resume, a good 44% would still prefer to decide whether to return to physical church services according to the situation. This also means churches may have to consider providing both physical and online worship services, even after the pandemic ends. In conclusion, church ministers recognise the importance of going digital even though there are drawbacks, and recognise this season as a change to strengthen relationships, re-think what the church is doing, and to draw closer in their walk with God. SOUTH ASIA Church of Bangadesh (COB) Bishop conducts liturgical training workshop and pastoral visits, expresses gratitude for humanitarian aid Earlier this year, the Church of Bangladesh (COB)’s Bishop of Barishal Diocese Rt. Rev. Shourabh Pholia led a liturgical training workshop for the diocese’s catechists and some 21
lay leaders, made possible by the support of CWM’s Mission Support Programme (MSP) 4.
damage to church property in the Diocese of Barrackpore, CNI. He assured them that he would do all he could to reach out to contacts to raise funds for the necessary repairs and restoration.
Photo by COB. Training at Barishal Diocese.
Photo by CNI. Barrackpore Diocese responds to Cyclone Amphan
Photo by COB. Training at Kushtia Diocese.
Participants were led to practise in mock sessions on issues including marriage counselling, creation care, child marriage, child labour, human trafficking, and gender-based violence and were confident about implementing the work at the parish and community levels. As and when required, they are free to develop liturgy based on social issues for lay people, bearing in mind peace and justice in the family, church and society. This training workshop was also conducted in Kushtia Diocese, under the leadership of Rt. Rev. Hemen Halder, facilitated by MSP 4 programme head Paul Malakar. CNI’s response to Cyclone Amphan CNI Bishop Paritosh Canning has been at the helm of relief work since Cyclone Amphan swept across West Bengal earlier this year. Shortly after the natural disaster, Bishop Canning visited affected sites and received reports of the 22
Since then, he has made regular visits to Barrackpore Diocese’s churches and institutions, and distributing dry rations. He also encouraged the pastorates in the Diocese to do likewise where possible, and to organise outreach programmes in collaboration with local authorities while observing social distancing.
Photo by CNI. Barrackpore Diocese responds to Cyclone Amphan
Church of South India (CSI) extends care through COVID-19 relief kits to missionaries, holds youth conference Church of South India (CSI) launched the “Always Remember Missionaries (ARM)-AMEN Movement 2020”, a specific missional call to all congregations to support and encourage the missionaries and evangelists unceasingly. The movement serves as a new mission-praxis model to address missional challenges, and an invitation to congregations to INSiGHT | December 2020
mobilise resources for others’ wellbeing without discrimination. Mission and evangelism are key priorities of the Church, and CSI has many of its dedicated missionaries and evangelists serving the under-privileged in their respective CSI dioceses. Even though COVID-19 has presently affected the dioceses’ abilities to meet its basic requirements, CSI recognises the critical role of missionaries in embodying the gospel and being an agent of transformation at the grassroots level. Through the ARM-AMEN Movement, CSI Department of Mission and Evangelism is extending care through COVID relief food kits to its missionaries and evangelists. These food kits which contain grocery items have been distributed to the Missionaries of Global Mission Society in Thoothukudi-Nazareth Diocese in late October. CSI Tiruchirapalli – Thajavur Diocesan Annual Youth Conference themed “Hope for Good” (1 Timothy 6:11-12) was held at Bishop Heber College, Trichy in late October as well. The challenges posed by the pandemic were met by following safety protocols strictly, limiting the number of participants from each pastorate, and arranging for private transport and protective face coverings for all participants. Guest speakers shared thought-provoking and contextual messages, aiming to nurture young minds into developing into responsible
people and actively work towards the development of the church. The conference’s highlights included a debate on being supportive of youths’ faith journey, competitions on Bible quiz, worship and other activities.
The United Reformed Church (URC) National Synod of Scotland representative to the Scottish Church Leaders’ Forum had also joined other Scottish church leaders in writing to Scottish MPs and peers in criticism of the Bill.
UWI provides aid in Madagascar
Union of Welsh Independents (UWI) welcome rejection of Internal Market Bill Union of Welsh Independents (UWI) Churches, which represents Christians meeting in 400 chapels, has welcomed the rejection of the controversial UK Internal Market Bill by the House of Lords. Prior to the vote, the UWI had sent a letter to Welsh members of the House of Lords as they feared that implementing the Bill would have a detrimental effect on food standards, animal welfare, the economy, and the environment in Wales.
Photo by UWI. House of the Lords.
The Bill which had already been passed by the House of Commons, transfers spending power on infrastructure, economic development, culture, sport, and support for educational and training opportunities to UK government ministers. In addition, it has been described as a “power grab” from devolved bodies, and enables UK ministers to break international law by over-riding parts of the Brexit withdrawal agreement.
Photo by UWI.
Several projects in Madagascar have been undertaken and continued to progress through the generosity of churches and individuals in UWI, which had partnered Money for Madagascar, a charity experienced in humanitarian projects islandwide. UWI’s successful fundraising campaign has benefitted four projects over three years – the Topaza children’s centre overseen by another CWM member Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar (FJKM), the Akany Avoko Faravohitra institute for young women, and the partnership with Ivato Theological College. The Topaza children’s centre provides 100 orphaned street children with a home, education, and a family. Without government funding during this difficult time, UWI’s contribution has gone towards a farming project to improve the children’s nutrition and skills. It has also been used to improve facilities in the Akany Avoko Faravohitra institute for www.cwmission.org
orphaned young women, and to purchase sewing materials, books and training resources to help them to become independent. The Ivato project has also begun, in partnership with another organisation to teach food-growing skills in schools. The fourth project involved providing the SAF pharmacy in Antanarivo, which has expertise in eye disease, with the means to procure equipment to treat cataracts and other diseases for many locals. URC publishes updated COVID-19 advice for England’s lockdown in November As the governments of Wales, Scotland and England navigate different paths in dealing with the coronavirus, the United Reformed Church (URC) Synod Moderators have encouraged churches to comply with guidelines to keep themselves and others safe from Covid-19, as opposed to pushing boundaries and finding loopholes to get around the rules. Regulations on using places of worship and community halls during the November lockdown, as well as limits on attending weddings, funerals and other acts of worship have been published on URC’s dedicated page for coronavirus updates. Visit here: https://urc.org.uk/coronavirus.html United Reformed Church (URC) produces Crisis Communications Plan for local churches Research has shown that when the U.K was in crisis, faith 23
groups often stepped up to serve urgent needs in the community. To this end, United Reformed Church has created “Crisis Communications Plan for Local Churches”, a guide to inform and empower church leadership and staff with best practice tips when tragedy strikes.
(CWM) had embarked on with its partner denominations about the ongoing impact of transatlantic slavery on Black communities around the world. Issues of racial justice have come to the fore and stirred a heightened conviction in Black Lives Matter amongst people of all ethnicities and ages following the killing of George Floyd in the U.S. The lockdown seems to have created space to hear the many diverse voices challenging the status quo and calling for change.
Photo by URC.
As local churches provide a visible and flexible presence in their communities, it becomes necessary to formulate and implement a crisis communications plan during times of local or national catastrophes. The booklet includes guidelines on handling local media, identifying key contacts, implementing a strategy on media statements and using social media during a crisis. URC launches legacies of slavery webpage in Black History Month
Having identified online networking as one important way of bringing churches into contact with one another, the United Reformed Church (URC) Buildings Forum website focuses on developing and linking to resources to help churches with a mission-based focus on buildings. The site contains information sources for local churches, covering several aspects of managing and developing buildings.
Photo by URC.
Produced by URC’s Global and Intercultural Ministries (GIM) team and Legacies of Slavery (LoS) Task Group, this webpage provides a wide range of resources for continued reflection and conversation. It includes recommended films and books, YouTube clips, poetry and articles, and even a pre-recorded service which can be used for Black History Month in local churches, the text for a further service, topical hymns, Bible Studies and articles suitable for church magazines.
Photo by URC.
United Reformed Church (URC) has launched a dedicated webpage exploring the legacies of slavery during Black History Month, which is in October. This was partly in response to the Legacies of Slavery Project that Council for World Mission
Individuals and Church families are often shaped by their inherited theology, location and local distribution, and the responsibility to carry the baton to continue their forefathers’ work, and holding it in trust for future generations.
Visit: https://urc.org.uk/legacies-of-sl avery.html URC Buildings Forum website for resources for mission-based focus on buildings INSiGHT | December 2020
Photo by URC.
The Forum currently consists of representatives from URC synods, Mission Committee, and agencies including the Church Related Community Work programme, Mission Enablers and Children and Youth Work networks. They welcome feedback and ideas to develop the resource, and to expand the informal membership by invitation to those interested in its work or relevant experience. Visit the website at: https://www.urcbuildingsforum .co.uk/
PACIFIC Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC) calls for 40 days of prayer and fasting for West Papua
Photo by PCC.
Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC) Freedom Sunday is on 6 December, and PCC is inviting their leaders and congregations from member churches to join in a time of prayer and fasting for West Papua, Kanaky and Maohi Nui as well as their region’s challenges. Human rights abuses in West Papua have been escalating, with recent shootings of a pastor and catechist, leading to a fatality. The West Papuan Council of Churches, in an open letter, has called on Indonesia to enter dialogue towards a peaceful resolution of the situation and an end to militarisation. Over the 40 days of “hunger for justice and peace” until Freedom Sunday, member churches are encouraged to fast for one meal each day, and to fast from sunrise to sunset on designated days in prayer and reflection. Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand (PCANZ) participates in White Ribbon Campaign Some years ago, the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) introduced
introduced the White Ribbon Campaign to New Zealand, which is believed to have the highest rate of reported gender-based violence (GBV) in developed countries. Themed #Challenging the Outdated this year, White Ribbon Day (25 November) celebrates men who lead and are committed to promoting safe, healthy relationships within families. In an interview with White Ribbon NZ Ambassador the Very Rev Ray Coster, Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand (PCANZ) Moderator Right Rev Fakaofo Kaio, Rev David Sang-Joon Kim, Rev Martin Stewart and Rev Ryhan Prasad spoke about unhealthy messages of masculinity they received growing up, and how they’ve changed. CARIBBEAN The UCJCI has urged its congregations to be compliant with COVID-19 safety protocols following the community spread across the island. Jamaica has recently seen increasing deaths, a daily increase in infections, and a fall in recovery rate for COVID-19 cases.
This was the advisory issued on 30 September to UCJCI ministers, lay pastors and congregational boards by the UCJCI COVID-19 Response Team, which meets every two www.cwmission.org
weeks. The Committee also reflected on several issues caused by the pandemic that were common throughout the four regions: lack of fellowship for people unable to attend worship services or be in physical contact with others; vulnerable groups that are being left behind; weariness of workers in some sectors; concern about children’s education owing to lack of internet access, devices, and uncertainty about pedagogy; and spiritual dryness for all. The good news in Cayman is that it now appears COVID-19-free, and most United Churches in Cayman have resumed physical church services. Respond faithfully to God’s Call to Continue, says The United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands (UCJCI) General Secretary Pressing on despite challenging times is probably one of the most difficult tasks in life. However, choosing to continue is an act of hopefulness and requires our faithful response, wrote The United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands (UCJCI) General Secretary Rev Norbert Stephens in a recent UCJCI update. In his message based on 1 Peter, he shared three ways to heed this call to continue: to do one’s duty in acts of Christian service; to be defiant in keeping the faith in the face of evil; and to be distinctive in worship and witness in persevering as persons of integrity.
Human Trafficking Forum – A UCJCI advocacy response Large numbers of young Jamaicans are believed to be trafficked across the island and beyond its shores as part of the clandestine sex and labour racket. In light of this exploitative, illegal activity the north-eastern region of The United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands (UCJCI) collaborated with the Ministry of National Security and the Office of the Children and Family Agency to host a Human Trafficking forum for children and teachers in Primary, Preparatory and Secondary Schools in that geographical region.
The students were encouraged to respond to the presentation by asking questions. They were also encouraged to share the information with their peers and to make informed decisions about the issues. The facilitators distributed brochures with valuable information. They commended the region of UCJCI on the work done and stated that they would inform the National Task Force on Human Trafficking Task of the initiative. Contributed by Rev Dr Henroy Samuels, Regional Deputy General Secretary, UCJCI
The forum was held on February 18, 2020 at the Kingsgate United Church hall. Over 70 students and their teachers attended from the following schools: St Andrew High for Girls, St Andrew Preparatory, Camperdown High, Iona High, Meadowbrook High, Meadowbrook Preparatory, North Street Congregational Primary and Oberlin High. The facilitators were Ms Cheree Russell – Manager, Trafficking in Persons Secretariat and Mrs. Audrey Bulai – Director of Children and Family Programme. In an interactive presentation, critical information pertaining to the meaning, rationale, operation, implications and consequences of Human Trafficking was shared with the audience. 26
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| ECUMENICAL NEWS
Ecumenical organisations appeal to G20 leaders to address debt crisis
Ahead of the G20 Leaders’ Summit held on 21-22 November, Council for World Mission (CWM) and several ecumenical partners wrote an urgent letter about the debt crisis on 17 November. Representing 500 million Christians worldwide, CWM, World Council of Churches (WCC), World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) and Lutheran World Federation (LWF) appealed to the G20 leaders to ease pressure on countries suffocated by debt during the pandemic. Currently chaired by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the 15th Group of Twenty (G20) Summit’s theme was “Realising Opportunities of the 21st Century for All.” Read their appeal letter in full below. Chair Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and G20 leaders: Your Excellencies: Our organisations – the World Council of Churches (WCC), World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC), Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and Council of World Mission (CWM) – represent over 500 million Christians worldwide; and many of our churches and congregations are situated in communities deeply vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic and hampered by heavy debt burdens. We write to you with a sense of urgency as the pandemic continues to ravage the world in a devastating second wave, claiming tens of thousands of lives every day and deepening poverty for billions of people. The economic impact from the pandemic has lengthened the already long list of developing and middle-income countries in sovereign debt distress. Yet even amid the ongoing global health emergency, hundreds of billions of dollars continue to be directed away from life- saving public health and social service systems, towards debt payments. The extension of the debt moratorium granted by G20 creditors to the poorest countries last April 2020 is an important step to momentarily ease the pressure but is insufficient to offer lasting perspectives to countries suffocated by debt. The most difficult period likely lies ahead as more countries are expected to fall into debt default in 2021. Real, more durable solutions are called for to address the debt crisis as well as COVID-19-exacerbated hunger, joblessness, and homelessness.
Our organisations have reflected on these issues over these last months, taking into account various economic, theological and faith perspectives through a process of dialogue. It is with a shared moral responsibility to look out and care for the vulnerable that we continue to urge the G20 governments and international financial institutions to: Provide the means to alleviate and release countries from their onerous and historic debt burdens, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as promote various forms of non- debt funding structures based on mutuality and equitable sharing of risks. Assure adequate funding for low- and middle-income countries, including by expanding and extending Special Drawing Rights (SDR) allocations, to enable their governments to tackle the COVID-19 crisis, building the resilience and livelihoods of people and communities as well as serving as social and ecological reparations for historical debts. Pursue taxation reform as a primary means of mobilising public resources. There is a need for special taxes on the super-wealthy, equity and hedge funds, as well as on multinational, e-commerce and digital corporations that have profited during the crisis, together with measures to curb tax evasion and avoidance. Establish a comprehensive, fair, transparent, and timely international debt restructuring mechanism to address sovereign insolvency. This mechanism must be empowered to audit sovereign debts and to cancel odious and illegitimate debts that are contracted fraudulently or by despotic regimes without public consent, charge usurious interest, involve repayment at huge social and ecological cost, or finance socially- and ecologically-damaging projects. Reject austerity policies and, instead, provide social protection floors and systems that safeguard against the socio-economic fallout of the present and future crises. Renew international financial institutions that would deploy funds in times of crisis without structural adjustment conditions; whose actions would not be dominated by the rich or vested-interest groups; and whose policies would be equitable and responsive to the social and ecological consequences of financial activities at different levels. 1 Your governments have the power and resources to make a positive difference in the lives of many people and communities. As you meet for the Leadersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Summit, we pray that the G20 will step up and make bold and principled decisions that are needed at this critical juncture. Yours sincerely, Prof Rev Dr Ioan Sauca Interim General Secretary World Council of Churches Rev Dr Martin Junge General Secretary Lutheran World Federation Rev Dr Chris Ferguson General Secretary World Communion of Reformed Churches Rev Dr Collin Cowan General Secretary Council for World Mission
These calls were discussed and developed at an Interfaith E-consultation on Just Finance and Reparations which produced the message, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Just Economics for Liberation and Lifeâ&#x20AC;? (https://www.oikoumene.org/resources/documents/just-economics-for-liberation-and-life).
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Interfaith panel addresses debt cancellation and reparations A panel of experts of different faiths spoke on debt cancellation and reparations as tools for promoting justice, sustainability and life-affirming economies in the third 2020 Ecumenical School on Governance, Economics and Management public webinar held on 2 October. The webinar addressed faith perspectives on debt, how financial structures can be aligned to faith-rooted values, and how debt cancellation and reparations are critical for promoting justice, including the need to recolonise financial institutions. “There is a sense that reparation is an ethos that is necessary as a part of the concert of nations. Pride of all money should move to a similar pride to be responsible to issues that arose because of accumulation of that money,” said Jahlani Niaah, co-author of Let Us Start with Africa: Foundations of Rastafari Scholarship. Yusuf Jha, author of the book, The Way of Return: Responding to Economic and Environmental Injustice Through the Wisdom Teachings of Islam, presented an historical overview of “money,” noting that prior to the introduction of coinage, “being in debt was actually a way of cooperation and relationship. When a person keeps money with themselves, he is facilitating a destructive paradigm for himself and the larger environment.” “Muslims envisioned the marketplace as a genuinely free place. They took their prophet seriously and weren’t motivated by their profit,” he said. David Krantz, co-founder, president and chairperson of Aytzim: Ecological Judaism, outlined what he termed “Kosher economics” including the every-seven-year concept of sabbatical (Schmita)—a rest from work and for the land—and every 50 years jubilee (Yovel)—a release from work, slavery, and debt. “The capitalistic system is far from perfect and needs a balance,” he said. “One of the ways the Hebrew Bible balances is with a redistribution of equity. Imagine a system that resets every 50 years.” Karen Georgia Thompson, associate general minister and co-executive for Global Ministries at the United Church of Christ, cited 1 Corinthians 12: “We teach that if one part of the body hurts the entire body hurts, and yet within this body we see the historic abuses of African and African descendant bodies. The movement for reparations is a calling for right relationship and wholeness for all of God’s created.” Addressing ways in which to move toward just economies, Thompson said, “The church has a role to play in the call for reparations, and the church has to provide leadership in this movement for reparations.” “Reparations have to be grounded in the investment in people and righting the wrongs that are associated with working Africans as enslaved people and depriving them of life and liberty for European wealth gain,” she said. “We have a choice—trade can be seen in a format of cooperation or in a format of enmity and separation,” said Jha. “We need to support institutions that support collaboration, unity, and cooperation.” “International funding agencies will have to decolonise and cease to perpetuate neo-colonial activities. Just finance is not just about finance. It is about fairness, equity, trust, and honesty—and that is what we would like to see going forward,” Niaah said. The Ecumenical School on Governance, Economics and Management (GEM) is a joint initiative of the Council for World Mission, Lutheran World Federation, World Communion of Reformed Churches, and World Council of Churches. It aims to build economic literacy within churches by equipping participants with the tools and languages to effectively advocate for urgent transformations in the global financial and economic realm. www.cwmission.org
Photo credit: UNICEF/UN0281344/Tadesse
Just Economics for Liberation and Life Interfaith Message on Just Finance, Debt and Reparations Background and rationale The COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on many lives around the world, and while it is too early to comprehend the full impact of the pandemic, it is evident that this crisis is deepening the debt burden of many poor and middle-income countries. As part of the New International Financial and Economic Architecture (NIFEA) initiative, the World Council of Churches (WCC), World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC), Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and Council for World Mission (CWM) convened an Interfaith Econsultation on Just Finance and Reparations on 02, 12 and 16 October 2020 to dialogue with and learn from diverse faith perspectives and to deepen interfaith cooperation on economic justice. All our faith traditions have a vision for a just and compassionate world. Inspired by such a vision, our different faith traditions reflected on human greed and economic life as well as the role of money and finance in society. While debt may have once been seen within the matrix of mutual obligation in society, it has shifted, with time, to unjust interest-demanding systems of usury. This has been exacerbated by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and climate change, which have come on top of the legacies of colonisation.
Gathering Bahá'í, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish and Rastafarian voices, the interfaith econsultation addressed the following questions: What do our faith perspectives have to say on the issue of debt and how it affects people’s lives? How can international financial structures be made to align with our faith-rooted values and visions? What kind of proposals can we put forward for debt action and securing a post-COVID-19, post-debt, post-growth, and life-affirming future for all?
the issue of sovereign debt in the spotlight for obvious reasons: mounting a response to the intertwined health and economic crises and ensuring a just and sustainable recovery require tremendous resources. Many countries in the Global South are now confronted with the impossible dilemma of servicing debt on the one hand or saving lives, resorting to more borrowing, and sliding deeper into a debt trap on the other. As the global economic recession deepens, debt defaults are projected to spiral.
This joint message captures faith reflections on just finance and reparations, identifies common ground and calls for urgent action to tackle the debt crisis and to build more just, reparative, and restorative financial and economic structures.
Debt is about power. Throughout history, debt has been used by the political and economic elite to control, generate and distribute resources, as well as to discipline communities. In the present milieu, debt has been weaponised through harsh and unrelenting austerity measures imposed on indebted countries by international financial institutions and national and private creditors, resulting in weakened social support and public healthcare systems that are now struggling to cope with an unprecedented global health crisis.
Reading the context We, the participants of the NIFEA Interfaith E-consultation on Just Finance and Reparations, are bound together by our common concern for our brothers and sisters who are suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic and its far-reaching socio-economic consequences. The pandemic is aggravating already scandalous levels of inequality and sharpening the experience of hunger, impoverishment, joblessness, homelessness, and indebtedness — as well as the negative consequences of pollution, climate change and environmental degradation — for billions of people all over the world, particularly for those who are marginalised on account of their skin colour, gender, ethnicity, and social class. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the issue of sovereign debt in the spotlight for obvious reasons: mounting a response to the intertwined health and economic crises and ensuring a just and sustainable recovery require tremendous resources. Many countries in the Global South are now confronted with the impossible dilemma of servicing debt on the one hand or saving lives, resorting to more borrowing, and sliding deeper into a debt trap on the other. As the global economic recession deepens, debt defaults are projected to spiral. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought
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Ultimately, debt is a moral and spiritual issue. Across religious boundaries there is a sense that faith expressions cannot be delinked from material, social and political aspects that so powerfully shape whether people live or die. Therefore, it is necessary that we revisit the question of “who owes whom” and call our political economy into accountability by drawing from our various faith perspectives. Faith perspectives on debt and faith-rooted visions of alternative financial systems and economies From a Bahá'í perspective, the two luminaries of consultation and compassion should guide approaches to address the debt crisis. All institutions and structures are meant to advance the wellbeing of humanity and the whole, rather than have humanity be sacrificed for the good of institutions. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the insufficiency of the systems we have been using and the assumptions underlying them – notwithstanding the utility they once had – and provides an opportunity to turn the economic machinery towards justice, rather than profit.
Buddhist teachings see craving (tanha) and attachment (upadana) as the foundation of all suffering. Craving is an affliction (kilesa) based on a sense of inadequacy born of ignorance (avijja). On a systems level, the present economic paradigm sees humans as separate from and having dominion over nature. Changing this view begins with understanding sufficiency or contentment (santutthi), reducing craving (tanha), and being joyful with what we have. Still, it is essential to go beyond the personal and recognise that suffering is caused by injustice and inequality on a larger scale. From a Buddhist perspective, the debt crisis is part of a system of economic suffering flowing from the personal level to the international level. Economic activity that creates consumerist lifestyles, built on debt and amplifying greed, cannot offer safety and serenity. Dharmic economics is a Buddhist vision based on the discovery of natural systems (dharma) that co-exist interdependently, rather than most modern economics systems that feed on craving and ignorance. From a Christian location, the organisations sponsoring the NIFEA initiative have highlighted calls for reparation, both as compensation for the losses and continuing costs of enslavement and colonisation as well as the costs and impact of climate change. This flows from the logic of the biblical figure, Zacchaeus, who realises he is implicated in colonial exploitation and, in his confession for this, seeks to make reparation fourfold for his unjust profit (Luke 19:1-10). This is a further part of the following words from the Lord's Prayer taught by Jesus, “And forgive us our debts, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us” (Luke 11:4). The subsequent interpretations across Christian history and traditions of this text serve as a reminder of how the spiritual dimension of forgiveness of sins is inextricably interlinked with the very material dimension of cancellation of monetary debts, and addressing the systems which create the conditions of enslavement and bondage to debt. Within the matrices of mutual obligation, a Hindu worldview sees debt as a form of obligation, an “ungiven” debt.” All humans operate from a perspective of a threefold moral debt (Rinatraya). This debt is owed to divinity, reinterpreted as our obligation to nature gods or the environment; to ancestors,
reinterpreted as future generations and lineages through our children; and finally to sages, in other words an obligation to transmission and growth of knowledge and those who provide it. This provides a counternarrative to modern forms of international debt which are extractive and exploitative. Within the conditions of hierarchy, the notion of “sheltering” is one way that the powerful relate to those who have little power. Taking from the example of nature (Prakruti) that shelters everyone, this idea when carried to the fiscal world requires the powerful to morally shelter and care for others not so endowed. Hindu teachings mention the way society should function during times of crisis (Apathdharma). The primary emphasis is sustenance of life and livelihoods before every other law, natural or divine. In the Islamic tradition, justice as understood through the Arabic key-word Adl is rooted in the restoration of balance (mīzān) and the redressal (iṣlāḥ) of disparities and unfair advantage. The Quran [Qur’an 2:275-279] denounces the falsity that conflates fair trade (bay, which is permitted by God) with usury (ribā, which is forbidden by God). It advocates the giving up of any ill-gotten wealth gained through interest and other forms of overt or covert usurious practices, including unfair trade treaties and business deals. Islam further affirms charity (ṣadāqah), and indeed, mutual magnanimity (iḥsān), as the antithesis of interest, usury and all other forms of exploitative business, economic, monetary, and financial structures. Such structures and contracts are ruled as invalid (bāṭil) in Islamic Transactional Law (muʿāmalah) due to the inbuilt systemic oppression (ẓulm) of the disadvantaged party. In safeguarding the public good (maṣlaḥah), even seemingly or formally bona fide structures are proscribed when they generate “negative externalities”. Enjoining repentance for the sin of usury and all other forms of exploitation, this verse clearly states: “Oppress not and you will not be oppressed”. Hence, the Islamic tradition advocates for transactional laws that ensure justice, magnanimity, transparency, fairness, mutuality and equity in all commercial and monetary dealings without exception, and thereby promoting an economy of right www.cwmission.org
livelihoods for the common good amongst all nations and peoples. The Jewish tradition, drawing from the Hebrew Bible, strongly rebukes charging interest and warns against the harmful consequences of disobeying this prohibition (Exodus 22:24, Leviticus 25:36-37, Deuteronomy 23:20-21, Ezekiel 18:8, 18:13, 18:17, 22:12, Proverbs 28:8, Psalms 15:5). The practices of Shmita (Sabbatical, every 7th year) and Yovel (Jubilee, every 50th year) highlight the divine commands to release labourers (including non-human animals) from work, from debt, and from slavery to ensure social equity in society. But beyond that, debt forgiveness and reparations are closely related as freed workers are to be compensated for their labour. Land is to be redistributed, radically resetting an economic system where wealth is inherited generationally. These norms that connect both labour and land from the Jewish tradition provide us with fresh ways to read ancient scriptural texts, offer points of contact with other faith traditions, and inspire collective action in addressing the current economic and ecological crisis. Rastafari centres the need to embrace the traditions of our African ancestors along with revising the pessimistic narratives surrounding the African continent and its people. In Rastafarian thinking, decolonisation and the transformation away from hegemonic white supremacist logic and foundation are essential for achievement of freedom from the current enslaving financial systems. The latter systems are anchored in Eurocentric international neo-colonial institutions which still run on the exploitation and servitude of others. There is urgency to move from capital/money-centred to labour/people-centred thinking in achieving reparatory justice. We recognise that organised religions have been captured by dominant cultural, state, and corporate interests and so have been complicit in injustice and the propping up of systems of exploitation and violence, colonialism and slavery included. Therefore, we acknowledge this message is a message for our own religious institutions and systems as well as our financial and economic institutions.
Transforming the international financial architecture through decolonisation Mindful of the deep inequalities and injustices facing our world and the highest values in our religious and spiritual traditions, we call for a reimagining of finance and economics from the perspective of those oppressed by these systems, so that economies can deliver deep freedoms for all our communities and not outrageous profits for the very few. Our gathering highlights the urgent need for system change if our financial structures are to be just and resource economies that nurture life and deliver prosperity for the most vulnerable. We need to repair the harm caused by an international financial system which has overburdened former colonised and enslaved peoples with debt and trade rules which unfairly favour the former colonising and enslaving nations. There is reparation to be paid by those who continue to exploit and enjoy the inbuilt advantages given to them by a long history of colonisation and the privileges afforded them as the key architects of an unjust financial system. International financial institutions have perpetuated neo-colonial economic dependency, through onerous conditions and policies that are required for loans and grants, among other measures. Through structural adjustment they have called for the privatisation of social services and the relegation of development to the market. This has impeded social development, ecological sustainability, diversification, employment and ultimately, the political independence of many countries. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB) seem to believe that economic development, aimed at growth and poverty reduction, only needs the right calibration to achieve progress for all. But, in fact, these institutions in practice continue to favor the conditions for accumulation of capital in already powerful countries and among the elites of the Global South. Release from the enslaving, impoverishing history and power of money and capital means making reparations, including re-envisioning the structures of economic 32
governance and asserting the freedom to live, not the freedom to exploit. It is time for the IMF and World Bank â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and historically colonial nations â&#x20AC;&#x201C; to understand their own responsibilities. New structures and institutions need to be put in their place which make reparations for the injustice of neo-colonialism in the economic system today. Central to this is dismantling the unsustainable and unjust debt placed on less powerful countries. Our global financial system needs to account for the racism and history of colonialism which shape the values, practices and profits of that system. Predicated on the maximisation of profit, the present financial system continues to sacrifice life in the pursuit of this goal. It is therefore with the keeping of all of life in mind that we envision democratic, participatory and accountable international financial institutions; a moving away from financial structures that are based on the principles of interest and usury to economies of care, mutuality and solidarity; and the development of systems of reparation and restitution. More concretely, we join together in amplifying calls for international financial institutions and governments to: Provide the means to alleviate and release countries from their historic debt burdens, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as promote various forms of non-debt funding structures based on mutuality and equity. Assure adequate funding for low- and middle-income countries to enable their governments to tackle the COVID-19 crisis, building the resilience and livelihoods of people and communities, but also as social and ecological reparations for historical debts. Pursue taxation reform as a primary means of mobilising public resources. There is need for special taxes on the super-wealthy, equity and hedge funds, as well as on multinational, ecommerce and digital corporations that have profited during the crisis, together with measures to curb tax evasion and avoidance. Expand and extend Special Drawing Rights (SDR) allocations for the benefit of the countries in the Global South to fund the COVID-19 INSiGHT | December 2020
pandemic response and recovery. Establish a comprehensive, fair, transparent, and timely international debt restructuring mechanism to address sovereign insolvency. This mechanism must be empowered to audit sovereign debts and to cancel odious and illegitimate debts that are contracted fraudulently or by despotic regimes without public consent, charge usurious interest, involve repayment at huge social and ecological cost, or finance sociallyand ecologically-damaging projects. Reject austerity policies and, instead, provide social protection floors and systems that safeguard against the socio-economic fallout of the present and future crises. Renew international financial institutions that would deploy funds in times of crisis without structural adjustment conditions; whose actions would not be dominated by the rich or vested-interest groups; and whose policies would be equitable and responsive to the social and ecological consequences of financial activities at different levels. In alignment with these calls, we reaffirm the liberative elements in our various faith traditions that call us to right relationships that are founded on justice, responsibility, compassion and solidarity. They remind us that economics is a means rather than an end, that wellbeing cannot be construed with material accumulation, and that provisioning and care for human beings and all of life, rather than profit, must be at the centre of any economic system. In solidarity with one another, we advocate a shared vision for a world where all of life can flourish in freedom, fulfillment, and peace, liberated from unfair debt.
The Church & Covid-19 The Church & Covid-19 web page is a platform and an opportunity to offer helpful inspirational guidance and information from our member churches to everyone, and anyone, seeking alternative ways to live, worship and witness as disciples of Jesus during this crisis. We hope the voices and journeys of CWM’s member churches will be a useful source of support and accompaniment for each other as we discover what it means to be a Church at this time. Visit the page at https://www.cwmission.org/covid-19/
“Covid-19 has exposed the undeniable interconnectedness of peoples all across the world; and it has revealed how foolish we have been to allow racism, patriarchy, nationalism and other forms of ideologies of supremacy and prejudice to stand in the way of our relationship with one another. Now in this hour of coronavirus pandemic, we realise how much we need each other and, indeed, how enriching it is to serve and humbling to be served.” ~ Rev Dr Collin Cowan, CWM General Secretary
Let there be Flourishing Life for All! Seasonal Reﬂections by Michael N Jagessar
What shape(s) will the message of advent and Christmas take in the midst of a pandemic? In Britain, the government is keen to
‘save’ Christmas so that families have as ‘normal as possible’ their Christmas experience. What they really mean is saving the economy, retailing, and allowing families to have that traditional expected time together. The three reasons are related as ‘tis the season’ when spending increases by 25%. So, if December is spent in lockdown the economic impact would be terrible, not counting the votes! Sweet Baby Jesus with tinsel, flashing lights, Christmas cards, gifts, eating, and boozing are great for the economy. December may come for many with stables, cradles, lights, angels, shepherds, clean endearing animals, empty inns, carols, festivities and more. By epiphany in January the looming manifestation of unpaid bills, debts and depression will be the wake-up call, with the length of the debt shackle many would have to attend to for the rest of 2021. Faced with the pandemic, there has been a profusion of right-wing theodicies, explanations for suffering and evil, and much more. We see leaders purporting to be god-like. You know who they are. Yet people cannot survive on illusions, the myth of the immortality of nation-states, and with some political leaders prancing around like peacocks. Grief, pain, and death are real. The body literally and the body politic is unwell. We are in desperate need of saving!
repenting and imaging new realities Caught suspended between fear and hope, on the edge of a new day but facing formidable challenges it is easy to imagine our predicament as one of hopelessness. John, the Crier on such a landscape comes as a lone voice with the message that the Divine is not yet done interrupting people's lives for the health and well-being of a world that God still loves! God still favours to realise God’s purpose of doing marvellous things for all of creation. The season has become so commodified that we quickly forget that God becoming human commits God to mutuality, reciprocity, relationship, thriving/flourishing lives (incarnation) and commits us to the same. No wonder the Crier’s message of repentance comes both as an interruption and a counterscript to an otherwise comfortable set of readings. For the festive season of fun, John with his fiery eyes, wild looking image, and extreme diet comes like a wet blanket to spoil our fun. Neither John nor Mary with her Manifesto chant of reversals (polished up as Magnificat) do not fit into the commodification of the season -- that even Churches have bought into. Like the prophets before and after them they named things as they were and dreamt of a different order. John was fearless, denouncing evil wherever he found it and calling all to ‘turn around’. There must have been something about this Crier that made people want to listen to him, even getting Herod worked up and squirming. The invitation to ‘turn around’ (repent) literally means a re-orientation, turning our lives and systems around. It is about going beyond the mind-set we have become locked into and to enter into a new way of seeing, relating and living.This calls for imagining a different world is possible (Mary’s Manifesto) and live it out. If we cannot imagine 34
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it, it will never materialise. So much around us and in us we have accepted as ‘normal’, ending up in our complicity with much that deny God’s offer of full flourishing life for all.
waiting with purpose We are all waiting in expectation. I am waiting too. I confess, though, that the advent language and imagery terrify me. I cringe at the overuse and abuse of light and darkness: reminding me of the dark tribes and the heathens, from that place of total darkness in need of the shining bright Light. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light! Those who live in darkness and embody darkness need light! Imagine this repeated mantra drilled into our psyche over years and then try to understand how easily people of a lighter hues are privileged over those of heavier ones. Now consider why skin-whitening products are such a profit-making business. My terror is compounded not only by this ritual humiliation but the resulting internalisation. My receptors do a blip and long pause at such readings during this season. But this is not all: the imageries of the season from liturgies and lyrics of those “holy than other hymns/carols” ring in and perpetuate the notion of empire: Lord of Might; Thrones shall rest; King of Kings – Make Way, Make Way; He who Shall by Right all the Nations Possess; Everlasting Seat; The Race that long in darkness pined have seen a Glorious Light; His power increasing shall Spread; Him shall all the Tribes of Earth Obey; The Lord Makes Bare his Arms Through all the Earth Abroad. Many have drunk of this wine of intoxication and then reasoned their God-given right to shackle and lockdown others as non-human beings. Today priests of the empire offer freedom, democracy, and free market for the natives, then
steal all their resources. Stir up the power of your Love, O God and Come. Come Lover of the dead corners of the earth and the forgotten wretched of the earth! Consider this: how many in our “holy huddle” really expects Jesus to return? Would the Church really want Jesus to return? Such may be too bad for business: especially having to give up all the power, comfort, and security and be no more. Believe it or not – I am waiting for Jesus to return. Not that I think Jesus got it wrong the first time. I have lots of troubling questions for Jesus.
releasing into flourishing God is interested in the quality of this life, in the flourishing of creatures living and breathing now, on this planet. This is God’s desire as embodied in that Child we celebrate. Our choices should reflect this desire, shifting the focus away from ourselves - to get ourselves out of the way and let the flourishing commence. Prepare a Way; Straighten the Curves of injustice; fill the valleys of fear, cynicism, and despair with meaning and full life; flatten those mountains of hindrances; change your crooked ways; let meaning and peace rule your lives – these are some powerful imageries for this journey towards flourishing life for all. No wonder the call of John is symbolically located by a river, by water. We are reminded of our baptism. Among the baptismal questions and promises is this one: “do you renounce evil?” or as I would like to put it: do you renounce the dominant script? The choice is clear but massively demanding. It has to be ‘yes’.The Jesus way of full flourishing life must mean release from the grasp of the powerful scripts. This is the witness we must embody. Do not be dazzled by the Christmas lights. There is room for all. Let there be life – flourishing life for all!
Covid-19 and The Tree of the Garden in Modern Human Civilisation by Dr Park Seong-Won, President of Gyeongan Graduate University
Twenty years ago, when the world shifted from the
1900s to the 2000s, we were excited that human history was entering the 21st century, the new millennium. At that time, there was optimism that “the infinite development of technology would make enormous improvement in human life” during the 21st century, and scepticism that “although technology might develop, without caution in consumerism and ecological destruction, we might be in danger of more diseases and ecological threats.” But what has happened? Unfortunately, as soon as we entered the 2000s, the world fell into a war spiral – with the Gulf War, 9/11 terrorist attacks, Afghanistan war, Iraq war etc. – and the economy was polarised by neo-liberal economic globalisation and continued ecological destruction, resulting in serious ecological crises such as climate change and fine dust. In addition, it was foreseen that new life-threatening diseases which we have never experienced before might arise, and that is now becoming a reality. Dilemma of the Modern Human Civilisation Twenty years ago, I was working at the World Communion of Reformed Churches, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, and whenever I had an opportunity to preach at either a European or Korean congregation, I preached a sermon entitled "The Fruit of the Tree of Garden of the 21st Century" based on Genesis 3.
At that time, in this particular sermon, I mentioned the disease “Ebola” and warned that if we would not change the path of current human civilisation, we would face far more serious diseases than with Ebola. Ebola is a terrifying disease with a fatality rate of 50 to 90 percent that first appeared in the central African Congo in 1976. It swept Africa in 1998, just around the corner of 2000, putting the world in a state of panic. Ebola did not come under the spotlight this year as the world was engulfed with COVID-19, but it actually reappeared in Congo on August 1, 2018, setting a record of 3,470 confirmed cases, 2,287 dead, 1,171 survivors. A record of 1/3 of confirmed cases ended in death and was declared terminated in June 25, 2020. Twenty years ago, a warning was issued about future diseases; unfortunately, this was followed by a series of new, scary diseases. SARS in 2002, MERS in 2013, the Zika virus in 2015, Ebola again in 2014, and COVID-19 in late 2019, just a few days before 2020, resulting in an indefinite stop to all systems around the world. Is this image of us wearing masks during our daily lives the new normal? Is social distancing, for humans who are social animals, the new normal? This situation is clearly abnormal – an absolutely abnormal reality. Many people say "this too will pass!" and hope that the situation will soon end and we will be able to go back to living like we used to. But it won’t. Some say human history should now be divided into BC and AC – before corona and after corona – by comparing COVID-19 to BC and AD. This unparalleled reality is unlikely to change easily, with the world's nations sealed off by a virus which was never seen before. Even the world wars could not shut down all systems for so long and close national borders. Are we going to live like this? Or do we wish to change something?
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These days, there are a lot of analyses and prospects predicting post-corona life style. However, after seeing most of these analyses, I am doubtful whether we actually understand the core of the corona crisis. A leading Korean broadcast programme "Programme on the Way of the Republic of Korea After Corona," focuses on just how to adapt to the corona era rather than look for alternatives. The whole world is focusing on vaccine development in response to COVID-19. Of course, vaccine development is important to prevent the spread of the virus and treatment development is also of importance. Nonetheless, this is a defensive strategy, not a pro-active strategy to overcome COVID-19. What is of more importance is not to adapt and live at this point brought by the Corona crisis, but to thoroughly find out the root cause of Corona and find an alternative way to deal with it. Many different assumptions are said in relation to the origin of the coronavirus â&#x20AC;&#x201C; from the Wuhan Market in China, leaked from Wuhan Virus Research Institute near Wuhan Market, and that the world's dominant forces intentionally spread the virus for population control and digital control and so on. Current information does not tell exactly what the real cause is but most commonly points out the ecological crisis as the root cause. Precisely, the fact that humans have invaded the realm of nature too deeply is an important cause that has led to COVID-19. All modern diseases, such as SARS,
MERS and COVID-19, are caused by viruses which originally existed only in animals but crossed species boundaries from animals to humans. The question is how did it happen? Twenty years ago, also quoted in the sermon "The Fruit of the Tree of Garden of the 21st Century," in 1998, a lab in Canada examined how the animal virus, Ebola, came to humans, and when humans damaged the deep jungles of Africa for resource development, the virus that lived there moved to the monkeys and then to the humans in contact with these monkeys. The new diseases that humans are experiencing now are the cost and boomerang phenomena that humans exploited nature for development and growth. Originally, humans are meant to coexist with nature. However, modern civilisation has gone beyond co-existence with and utilisation of nature. For development and economic greed, humans have ruthlessly damaged nature and disturbed ecological principles through genetic manipulation, forcing nature to invade into human territory. In addition to the human metastasis problem of animal viruses, today farmers are really struggling with animals when farming. In other words, humans are desperately fighting for food with animals, and animals are fighting for food with humans. Animal counterattack began because humans took away their unique places where animals used to live. The
violation of human animal habitats is the first cause of SARS or MERS, or the outbreak of COVID-19, which we are currently experiencing, and the uncontrolled violation of nature by humansâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; beings has brought about this situation. There is another cause besides human encroaching on the boundaries of animal life. It is the development of human technology, especially convergence technology. The Wuhan Virus Research Institute is constantly suspected as the source of the COVID-19 virus leak. Ralph S. Baric, professor of mechanics at North Carolina University and Zhengli-Li Shi, researcher at the Institute for Special Pathogens and Biological Safety in Wuhan Virus Research announced that strains of the coronavirus in Chinese bats can infect people and cause pneumonia and lung damage in 2015 on Nature Medicine, a renowned international journal of medicine. The new virus made here is not a naturally occurring virus but a virus combined by human technology. According to another source, there was a theory that COVID-19 is a combination of AIDS and other viruses, and unfortunately, the treatment drug given to the No. 1 COVID-19 patient in Korea was a cure for HIV and AIDS; news reports stated this patient was completely cured. It is also worth noting that Remdesivir, an Ebola treatment, is constantly being mentioned in relation to COVID-19 treatments.
In conclusion, the virus that is emerging now, whether for economic or technical reasons or military purposes, is ultimately a major cause of the destruction of the ecosystem by human greed and the arrogance of technology. A Theological Reflection on Dilemma of the Modern Human Civilisation We need to pay attention to a Biblical insight with regard to the dilemma of modern human civilisation. First, Let’s see Genesis 1:6-7. And God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters”. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. (Genesis 1:6-7) The keyword of Genesis 1:6-7 is “divide.” The waters above the firmament have been divided from the water under the firmament. This division of the realm of sharing appears steadily if you look at the process of creation. Not only here but all throughout Genesis, we can see that God divides all creation into appropriate places, saying, "God shares light and darkness, shares the day and the night, shares the sun and the moon, divides the seasons. As we can see from this unprecedented rainy season, things in the universe should not be in one place at a time. Everything should be spatially distributed properly. The ecology of the universe created by God is designed this way. Here, we have an important point to make clear. We clearly note here that literal meaning of the term “divide” has been highly problematic in connection with all sorts of unjust political systems like dictatorship, totalitarianism, imperialism, colonialism and etc. which we have been experiencing throughout history. We all know very well a satanic character in Apartheid system. Therefore, the biblical term ‘divide’ shouldn’t be understood as it is. It needs to be understood as a ‘shared’ or ‘allocated’ based on God’s given grace and justice. According to Genesis 1:11-12, all living things in the universe, such as grass, vegetables, and trees, were created according to their kind. And God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth”; and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind; and God saw that it was good. God said, "Give the land the plants that sow, the plants that sow, and the trees that bear the fruit of the seed according to their kind." The earth gave the grass, the vegetables that bear the seeds according to their kind, and the trees that bear the seeds according to their end, which was good for God to see. Let the waters of the earth gather in one place, and the land be revealed, so that it will be as it will be. (Gen. 1:11-12) If we look at Genesis 1:20-21, God not only created plants but also all kinds of animals – birds living in the sky, animals living on land and all kinds of fish living in the sea – and chose distinct habitats for each group. When the people of Israel came out of Egypt and entered the land of Canaan, God again divided the land for each of the twelve tribes to live in. This sharing is God's detailed plan, which gave all beings their own place to carry out the meaning and mission of their existence and arranged it so that it would not cause chaos. It is the principle of dividing the realm of life. In light of this principle, today's COVID-19 problem is the result of human invasions of habitats where animal viruses should exist; the viruses that should be in animals lost their habitat for survival and have moved into human bodies. This is the consequence of breaking the fundamental principle of God's creation. Examples of one organism intruding another’s territory have appeared repeatedly in human history. This is the case with colonial history, world wars and racial conflicts around the world that are taking place now. Isn't all human conflict and injustice - colonial history, war, trade conflict, racial conflict, gender conflict, economic injustice - a phenomenon that occurs when one being dominates or seizes the unique position or rights God has given to another? The norms God has given us are not just the norms of faith and theology. The term “ecology” is a combination of “oikos”, meaning “household”, and “logos”, which means the principle of 38
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knowledge in ancient Greek. Theologically, the universe is the oikos, or house made by God, and ecology is the logic in which the universe operates. What disturbs this order, this logic, is the ecological crisis. Today’s climate change and outbreak of diseases such as COVID-19 came from the ecological crisis that disrupted the logic of the house made by God. The term “Economy” also originated from the same oikos root. Economy is a combination of “oikos”, meaning household, and nomos, meaning rule. Therefore, the economy is the rule and order of God’s house. Economy is not about capital, production, consumption, finance, money-making or investment, but rather a rule that enables the lives of all family members making up the house. The real intention of this economy is distorted by modern capitalism and human greed, and the skyrocketing housing prices, which are now shaking the foundations of Korean society, is also a phenomenon of this distortion. The house is a place to live, not a means of property accumulation, and breaking this rule of economics is leading to confusion. Let's go back to COVID-19. Everything is this world stopped with the advent of COVID-19. A keyword came up in my mind as I faced this unheard-of situation: repentance. ‘Shuv’ is a Hebrew word meaning return; this is the root of “teshuvah” which means repentance or return to God. The famous story of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil appears in Genesis III, and the way I see it, to desire and eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil is to destruct the logic of God in reference to the ecological crisis. In Genesis I and II, after creation, God said all the fruits in the garden were free to be enjoyed by human beings (We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden). However, He said not to touch the tree in the middle of the garden or there will be death. (You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.) This means that human beings can develop nature considerably, but if they break the laws of ecology that God has planted in this universe, life will become impossible. The COVID-19 incident is the outcome of human greed and arrogance that eventually broke the ecological order by crossing the boundaries of life given by God. Hence, repentance, return! If human beings do not turn away from colonialism, domination, and hegemonism that infringes on the existence and rights of nature, there will be no way to stop this cycle of tragedy. There were theories that if human beings don’t stop destroying the ecosystem now, they will suffer from more natural disasters and serious diseases, and since then, the world really has suffered from numerous pain resulting from ecological destruction and diseases such as SARS, MERS, ZIKA, and now the all-stopping COVID-19 in the 21st century. Last year or so, a scientist working in Antarctica shocked us by warning that glaciers, which had never melted under any climate change, had begun to melt and would melt completely by 2030. He stated this would lead to rapid rising of global temperatures and sea levels, putting survival on Earth in considerable risk. Ecologists believe that climate change has already crossed the Rubicon and is completely irreversible. Nonetheless, this world that is experiencing COVID-19 has no intention of stopping this ecological wreck and is still talking about economic activity. My concern is that COVID-19 won't end easily and that if human beings don't immediately stop the ecological destruction, there could emerge a much stronger virus that could lead to a far more serious situation. There was a report that Bill Gates, who has donated an enormous amount of money and is eager to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, reportedly predicted that the disease that will follow COVID-19 will not be a type of coronavirus but a never before heard of disease that will lead to 30 million deaths within 6 months. Although I look into this phenomenon with a theological perspective and not complete accuracy, it seems that Bill Gates speaks with information. What's clear is that if we don't stop here, if we don’t follow God’s creation order here, there will be more serious diseases than COVID-19. We need to stop and turn around. New Normal! Humankind turning around from the current direction of civilisation and converting into a new life civilisation that aligns with God’s creation principle is the New Normal. With the temporary suspension of church ceremonies, churches are questioning if online worship can count as true worship and offline worship services should be resumed at the risk of danger since offerings are decreasing. However, this is not what is important. What really matters is the prophetic mission of proclaiming to the world an urgent message of repentance: that we must restore the history of humankind, the economic activities of humankind, the science of humankind, and the whole life of humankind to God's creative order.
â&#x20AC;&#x153;...if human beings donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t stop destroying the ecosystem now, they will suffer from more natural disasters and serious diseases...â&#x20AC;?
A Grand Direction for Transformation of Future Human Civilisation I believe human beings should now shift its civilisation paradigm. Details should be viewed more deeply and systematically, but from a broader perspective, I believe there are three points in terms of a shift in civilisation. The first is that humans now have to live a life that is close to the soil, that is, nature. Gyeongan Graduate University has been continuing to host the symposium since 2017 to study how humans should live in the fourth industrial revolution and the age of artificial intelligence. This is to find the meaning and place for human beings in the age of artificial intelligence. In the first year of this symposium (2017), I suggested that in the age of artificial intelligence, humans need to become much closer to soil than to machines. 5
To divide world history largely into three equal parts, human beings concentrated on God until the Middle Ages. Since the Middle Ages, in other words, post humanism and reformation, we have so far focused on human beings. However, after the 21st century, humans must focus on soil or natural ecology. Artificial intelligence developers predict that artificial intelligence will achieve a singularity beyond humans in 2040 while ecologists see 2030 as a turning point in the ecological crisis. Nevertheless, Hollywood movies had already covered the prospect of a civilisation crisis beginning in 2020. The period between 2020 and 2040 is a time of divergence in which human civilisation must revolutionise the paradigm shift into entering life civilisation. The nucleus of this transition is centred on land, earth, and ecology. The concentration on this land, earth and ecology, however, should be a new approach, repenting from the humanism of
the past in which man reigned and ruled over nature. It must consider how nature and human beings will live in harmony with the right of life given by God. This is not to say that we should go back to the primitive times. Until now, modern civilisation had been running on industrialisation, but its limitations are finally being revealed, and it is necessary to emphasize getting closer to soil and the structure of life civilisation. Secondly, humans must de-urbanise and restore small-scale village communities. The catastrophic impacts COVID-19 had in such a short period of time was due to globalisation and urbanisation that allowed the virus to flourish in each region. Although they have been the paths to developments of civilisation that humankind has walked on, industrialisation, urbanisation, and modernisation are the dilemmas of modern civilisation in my opinion. On top of that, Globalisation has created a "Development Pandemic" from this dilemma, which is now leading to an ecological crisis and the outbreak of diseases. Sociologists have observed that the race for urbanisation of humankind will not stop until 2050. I don't remember the exact percentage, but they stated more than half of the world's population will be centralised in cities. This will be the disaster. COVID-19 could be a small signal of this disaster. Now the future needs to restructure society in a way as to spread out population and industries into rural areas and create small village communities. Gyeongan Graduate University created a village studies major in the Department of Social Welfare to study the academic basis for creating a village community in anticipation of this. However, perhaps
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people don’t understand the importance yet as not many students are showing interest. What is clear is that in the future, the government should pursue a new social structure in which life on a small scale and on a village unit are woven together. The Swaraj movement which Gandhi advocated to lead an independent life against the British Empire, is needed. Realistically, there can’t not be a city. The important point is that cities and villages must be developed in balance. There is a political capital relocation issue currently, but this does not end with a political capital relocation. The development of local villages determines the future. Thirdly, it is necessary to compose an industrial structure map for the position of agriculture to return to an important position even if it is not the centre of the industry. According to ecologists, 70% of the area where humans live becomes the most ecologically healthy space when farming or pasture is secured. Of course, science must develop and various industries such as heavy industry, electronics industry etc. must develop as well. In the age of artificial intelligence, only 1% of humans who understand and deal with artificial intelligence are said to be needed. What will the other 99% do? Will 99% who cannot handle artificial intelligence become a ‘useless class’ as stated by Yuval Harari? Instead of just saying that basic income should be given because human jobs are lost in the artificial intelligence era, society should allocate 1% of the population who handle artificial intelligence to take care of the industry and have the rest 99% lead a much more relaxed style of living. Nevertheless, the core of the future depends on the food industry that guarantees healthy lives. If COVID-19 had anything to do with food and not human health and diseases, the world would have gone into a war pandemic instead of a corona pandemic during this lockdown. There will come a day when the accessibility of healthy food becomes a very important issue. In order to protect the future, we must design a future that centres life around agriculture. There are endless factors to think about creatively, not just regarding artificial intelligence, but to make life possible in the future of life civilisation. We really must think creatively from now on. A Concluding Remark
You still don’t listen to the earth when Ocean animals are dying due to pollutants in the waters. Glaciers melting at an alarming rate. Severe drought. You didn’t listen to how much negativity the earth is receiving. (…) It was more important to get that latest iPhone than worry about what the earth was trying to tell you… But now I am here And I’ve made the world stop on its tracks. (…) I give you fever … as the fires burn on earth. I give you respiratory issues … as pollution fills the earth air. I give you weakness as the earth weakens every day. I took away your comforts… Your outings. The things you would use to forget about the planet and its pain And I made the world stop… And now… China has better air quality … Skies are clear blue because factories are not spewing pollution unto the earth’s air. The water in Venice is clean and dolphins are being seen. Because the gondola boats that pollute the water are not being used. YOU are having to take time to reflect on what is important in your life. Again, I am not here to punish you … I am here to Awaken you… When all this is over and I am gone… Please remember these moments… Listen to the earth. Listen to your soul. Stop Polluting the Earth. Stop fighting among each other.
The story ends by quoting a poem that has been widely mentioned on the internet written by a poet named Vivienne Reich. Coronavirus’ “Letter to Humanity” The earth whispered but you did not hear. The earth spoke but you did not listen. The earth screamed but you turned her off. And so, I was born… I was not born to punish you… I was born to awaken you…
Stop caring about materialistic things. And start loving your neighbours. Start caring about the earth and all its creatures. Start believing in a Creator. Because next time I may come back even stronger…
The earth cried out for help… Massive flooding. But you didn’t listen. Burning fires. But you didn’t listen. Strong hurricanes. But you didn’t listen. Terrifying Tornadoes. But you didn’t listen.
COVID Times by Rev Jill-Hailey Harries, Union of Welsh Independent Churches (UWI)
At the beginning of the year we watched the world being
affected and infected by the Coronavirus, later called COVID-19. We watched the world, as if we were not part of that world, here in Wales. We thought we were untouchable. But I am sitting writing this from my study during a second lockdown or ‘firebreak’ as the Welsh Government wishes to call it. Whatever its name, we are very restricted, something that none of us have experienced before this year. We have asked many times what would this new experience bring, what would we have to relinquish? That regular meeting up with friend for coffee would have to go, no more visits to the gym, no football or rugby training, no ballet or piano lessons. The school, the pubs and even the chapel closed. And for a moment it felt like a blessed relief, we were relieved of our duties, and we had time to think and to rethink our lives and what to do with our time. We started by cleaning the house, sorting out the cupboards, we decluttered our homes and spent time in the garden. We telephoned friends we hadn’t spoken to for years, we clapped on our doorsteps for the NHS (National Health Service), some even sang, well we are a nation of song! And on those nights when we clapped we got to know our neighbours, sometimes for the first time ever. The rhythm of our lives had changed, it was time to change the beat. The rhythm of our lives defines us in many ways, during our journey through life it will change many times over. If that is the case then we shouldn’t be worried about it changing again now. We need to ask, did our lives have a rhythm before the pandemic or was it just us rushing around. We have certainly been in too much of a rush to keep our homes tidy and in order, and if that is the case, what else have we been careless about? We have questioned whether we need as
many worldly things and whether we need to be as involved in so many extracurricular activities, so much so, that we don’t really give our all to anything. At the beginning of lockdown we noticed the rhythm of nature for the first time in years. We heard bird song, we saw the beauty of the creation around us, and for just a moment we were in tune with it all, we were following the same beat. We liked what we saw, and we saw that it was good. Then came Zoom ... and we were reminded that we couldn’t just sit in our gardens and homes, we had work to do. We missed the life we had, Zoom helped us to get some of our old lives back. Churches began holding their services on Zoom and on other social media, schools and colleges started teaching over the internet. And we started to cry out for what thought we had lost. So many have compared the situation to the Israelites wanting to return to Egypt, forgetting they had been captives there. They were heading towards something completely new, and they didn’t like it. No more than we like it when faced with something new. We are reminded how like the Israelites we are as lockdown is relaxed and we enter back into our community slowly, little by little, as the Israelites slowly returned from Babylon. For them rebuilding the temple seemed too difficult, too much like hard work. When eventually they did rebuild it, people said it wasn’t big enough and not at all splendid. Some have dipped their toes back into the community and been back to their church buildings, other churches have held services on Zoom, and we have tried to imitate the services we used to hold, an hour long hymn sandwich! Are we captives to the past? We needed this second lockdown, because we need to think again, this is a time for reform, life is complicated, spiritual life is complicated, and the Christian life is certainly complicated. There is a rhythm to be had, and God calls us through Jesus Christ to find that rhythm. It is not an easy
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“We need to ask, did our lives have a rhythm before the pandemic or was it just us rushing around.”
rhythm but it is simple enough: Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him.(N) 14 He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach. Mark 3:13–14 That they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach,’ to be with him in prayer and devotion, and to go out into the world, it is the world we are part of, although we don’t always see ourselves as part of the world. We need to understand the rhythm of the world, so that we can empathise, sympathise, unite, forgive, apologise. It must have been after the 1904 Revival in Wales that the Nonconformist church wanted to set high moral standards. In doing so, they alienated those in their communities facing real problems and struggles in life, they became an elite and society became ‘them and us’. We concentrated on who were the best people to have in our churches and how many members could we get on our books. We like to know how many people attend our churches, we count them in and count them out. When I next open the doors of my church building, a maximum of 35 people only will be allowed to attend and if more come then I shall have to turn them away. No one will be able to boast that they have hundreds in their buildings any longer. So now we are set free, yes, to use Zoom for our services and to post them on YouTube so that people everywhere can hear the good news. Perhaps our buildings will become houses of prayer quite literally, whilst others go out to share God’s love.
share it in a new way. Everybody is hoping for a new normal. Can’t we just accept there will be a new dawning, and that it could be the greatest experience we have ever had. That it will bring communities together, and it shouldn’t be a virus that draws us closer to each other, rather it should be God’s love. We do not seek a new normal, just the new, and that God’s normal should return.
Jill-Hailey Harries was ordained as a minister in 1986 with the Union of Welsh Independent Churches. At present she is a minister in south west Wales, two of her chapels are UWI and the other two are PCW. Elected president of UWI in 2018 to serve for two years, however due to COVID19 she remains in post. On weekends, before this time of Coronavirus, she served as a street pastor in Swansea and also worked as a sports chaplain for the Scarlets women’s rugby team. Additionally, she is a trustee for a small charity working against domestic abuse. Jill is one of the newly elected members of the CWM board of trustees. In her free time she enjoys paper-crafting.
There is nothing new in our message, it’s just that we must www.cwmission.org
Ki ora! by Jione Havea
n several native languages in Oceania, the term “ora” translates as “life.” Ora appears in several of our local greetings: kia ora (Māori), ia ora na (Ma’ohi), ‘i-ora-na (Rapa Nui), kia ora na (Kuki). These greetings express the wish for ora (ola is the alternative spelling in Samoan and Tuvaluan) to be upon the ones that one greets and welcomes. As with other native languages, several of the native words in Oceania have multiple meanings. This is the case with ora as well, and two of its connotations are significant for this reflection.
life First, in popular usage, ora refers to “life.” The one who has ora is alive, and breathing is the most obvious evidence that someone has ora. To be alive requires that one breathes. The link between ora and breathing is presupposed in the Genesis garden story (Gen 2–3). God formed a model or figure out of the dust from the ground, then God breathed ora into it. In the Māori bible, manawa ora (Samoan, mānava ola) is the “breath of life” that God gifted to the molded figure. The outcome was that the figure gained life. The figure or model became a human person because of the ora. In this biblical narrative, ora is a gift from God. When a person stops breathing, ora leaves the body and the body dies. Without ora, a body returns to dust and to ash. This end is natural for all bodies, as Qoheleth puts it – there is a time for everything under the sun, including “a time to be born, and a time to die” (Eccl 3:2a). Dying is natural. Like ora, one could argue that death is a gift as well. No human body lives forever, except in some legends and in some movies. In my humble opinion, it would be quite painful to live into eternity. The human body naturally gets weak and fragile with the passing of time, and to trap ora in a vulnerable body would not be a happy situation. In this regard, death is a gift that releases ora from the fragility of existence. However, when a body is forced to stop breathing, God’s gift of ora is robbed from that body. The irruption of the Black Lives Matter (#BLM) movement in the USA in the middle of 2020, accompanied by solidarity and anti-racist movements in other parts of the world, was sparked by the murder of George Floyd, an African American man who pleaded “I can’t breathe” more than twenty times1 to his captors. But to no avail. When Mr. Floyd was forced to stop breathing on 25 44
May, by being pinned down under the knee of a White American police officer, ora was forced out of his body. The gift of God was robbed from Mr. Floyd, and from many other Black bodies before and after his death. Ora is at stake, but in a different way, in the End of Life Choice Act2 that was endorsed at the 2020 General Election of Aotearoa New Zealand. This Act (the first of this kind in Oceania) will become effective from 7 Nov 2021, and it will give people who are terminally ill, and who experience unbearable suffering, the legal right to ask for medical assistance to end their lives. There are remaining details and concerns to be worked out with regard to how the requests are assessed, and their implications, but i wish to stress here that the End of Life Choice Act affirms the right to ask rather than the right to end one’s life. This Act should not be confused with attempting or committing suicide, which is prevalent in Oceania and literature are available3 on the impacts of this struggle upon the Māori and Pasifika communities. The End of Life Choice Act is especially challenging for Māori and Pasifika natives because ora is more than just breathing. Ora is also related to health and wellbeing, and i turn to this connotation next.
health Second, ora also refers to “health.” The local greetings noted above accordingly express the wish that the ones being greeted and welcomed have health. Breathing is required for one to be alive, and health (understood to mean sound and meaningful life) is a necessary condition for ora. While the one who is not in good health may continue to breathe and live, she or he does not experience ora to its fullness. Put in religious terms, the one who lives an unhealthy lifestyle abuses the ora that God gifted her or him. The one who lives ora to its fullness is complete. One of the biblical labels for this state of being is “holiness” – which translates the term qadosh in the Hebrew language of the bible. The root word for qadosh is used in the invitation to “be holy because I [the LORD] am holy” (Lev 11:44). There are two popular ways in which this invitation is understood: On the first hand, the invitation is understood to mean that one needs “to be separate” – the one who is qadosh/holy is to be “set apart” for the Kingdom of God (which is expected
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Ethnic Minorities do not receive sufficient health and support services. Time will tell the final tally of victims and the economic cost of this pandemic, but human ora has been assaulted in 2020. Moreover, this pandemic will linger for several years into the future. Viruses do not disappear; they mutate and wait for the next (super)spreader to take them into more homes and across more limits and borders. COVID ushered in the “new normal” and we have had to learn on the run how to work, study, keep home, care for family, do church and theology, and keep societies and nations hobbling without the normal services and resources. From many who struggled in the old normal, ora has been robbed and even snuffed out. In these troubling days, the invitation ki ora (to and for life and health) requires that we walk humbly with one another.
to be outside the world of the living). This understanding has unfortunately led to separatist and supremacist ways of thinking. For instance, some qadosh/holy people assume that they are destined for heaven and they are therefore superior to (better than) the other peoples of the world. On the second hand, the invitation is understood to mean that one needs “to be whole” – the qadosh/holy one is expected to live a wholistic and balanced life on earth (as one would in heaven). This however is easier said than done. One might be able to reach “wholeness” on some occasions, but it is impossible to maintain that state (compare with moksha and mukti in Asian religions, the state of emancipation from samsāra) throughout one’s lifetime.
Second, climate change: the ora of creation continues to be under threat in 2020. Many, but not all, powerful nations have set targets to clean up their acts and messes by 2050. In this case also, time will tell what the ora of our inhabited world will become by 2050. In the meantime, in the coming days of ecological gasping and spewing, the ki ora invitation seeks individuals and communities to flourish ora (life and health) in all corners and aspects of life. Obviously, ora is not the privilege of humans only. Ora is a gift to all creatures on earth, in the sea, in the air and under the ground. Earth, sea, air and the underground are the homes in which ora lingers and multiply, flee or extinguish. The key challenge for us in our pandemic and climate affected times is to learn to nurture ora for other creatures in our shared homes. Ki ora!
The fullness of ora includes both understandings. To “be set apart” is helpful in that one is thereby encouraged to be careful, but it is not helpful when one as a consequence is trapped in separatist and supremacist ideas and practices. Seeking to “be whole” is also helpful, not as an escape from the wanderings of life but as an opportunity to embrace the circles of living. In the circles of life, everyone has a place and a role to play in the ora of the land (so in the Lion King).
ki ora I use ki to indicate direction – this reflection invites moving to and for ora (life, health). This invitation is critical at this point in time, at the end of 2020, and i extend it with sincere humility because i do not experience ora in its fullness. I have had a few passing moments but i am not always healthy, so pardon this invitation by someone who talks more than walks ora. While many crises continually challenge ki ora in Oceania, i mention two here (without ranking these against other crises like poverty, racism, sexism, classism, et cetera) to close this reflection. First, the COVID pandemic: The year 2020 will go down in history as an unhealthy year. There have been other pandemics, but COVID has a public impact and global spread that reaches most (is)lands. All people are susceptible to the Covid-19 virus, with the elderly and sickly being more vulnerable, and across the board the Blacks, Browns and
Wage Theft, The Unheeded Side of Pandemic
The Tragedy of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in the Time of Covid-19 by Hadje Sadje, Volunteer - Centre for Migrant Advocacy-Philippines
Source: Filipino Migrant Centre
‘Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.’
Proverbs 31:9 NIV
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic reveals the socio-economic inequalities and deepens human rights violations across the globe. In a briefing paper titled, Power, Profits, and the Pandemic (September, 2020), Oxfam has concluded that: The worsening inequality crisis triggered by COVID-19 is fuelled by an economic model that has allowed some of the world’s largest corporations to funnel billions of dollars in profits to shareholders, giving yet another windfall to the world’s top billionaires, a small group of mostly white men. At the same time, it has left low-wage workers and women to pay the price of the pandemic without social or financial protection. Since the onset of the pandemic, large corporations have put profits before workers’ safety, pushed costs down the supply chain and used their political influence to shape policy responses (Oxfam, 2020). Slavoj Žižek points out that the moral task during this pandemic is to alleviate suffering, not to 'economise' (Žižek, The Guardian, 2020). Instead of making human rights a top priority, many states and corporations save their political and economic interests rather than protect the well-being of its people, especially the poor, vulnerable, and underprivileged groups (UN, 2020; WHO, 2020; Human Rights, 2020). Migrant workers, for instance, is one of the most unprotected and affected sectors by COVID-19 pandemic (European Commission, 2020). In fact, World Health Organization latest report shows that: Migrants – particularly in lower paid jobs – may be both more affected by and vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19 in countries already impacted and those countries where the pandemic is spreading, but migrants also play an important role in the response to COVID-19 by working in critical sectors. As of 3 November 2020, emigrants from the 20 countries with the highest number of COVID-19 cases accounted for nearly 28 per cent of the total international migrant stock and they had sent an estimated 37 per cent of all remittances globally to their countries of origin in 2019” (WHO, 2020). Moreover, in the worst-case scenario, many migrant workers are victims of as well of unjust labour practice called, ‘wage theft’. But what is wage theft? Wage theft covers a variety of infractions that occur when workers do not receive their legally or contractually promised wages. (Wage Theft Org., 2020; Centre for Migrant Advocacy, 2020; Wage Theft is a Crime, 2020). The common forms of wage theft are the following (Wage Theft Org, 2020): • non-payment of overtime • not giving workers their back wages and/or end-of-service benefits after termination or resignation • not paying for all the hours worked • not paying minimum wage • not paying a worker at all. 46
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Source: © Reuters
Unfortunately, despite many laws having been passed to prevent it, the crime of wage theft being experienced by the migrant workers thrives in the midst of pandemic is underreported and sometimes ignored by the duty-bearers in Arab Gulf states. In terms of nationality, for instance, overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) is one of the largest migrant workforces abroad (Almendral, 2020). Sadly, a massive number of overseas Filipino workers are forgotten and stranded in a dire situation due to the global outbreak of Covid-19. Last October 28, Department of Labour and Employment (DOLE) reported that a total of 486,446 OFWs are displaced due to the pandemic. These OFWs suffer from a prolonged uncertainty during the lockdown period like some of them contracted the virus and have not been receiving the rightful wage or work benefits. According to reports, ‘...many of their complaints are: employer’s lack of food provision, non-payment of wages, and being forced to resign if they want to go back to the Philippines immediately (CMA, 2020; POEA, 2020). Many of them would go back to their country of origin [Philippines] empty handed, in fact, they have not received pay and food allowance as early as March of this year. And the problems faced by women migrant workers are also compounded by gender-based violence at the same time (CMA, 2020). These OFWs have been informed by their employers that if they wish to leave, they must sign a waiver which means they agree on not receiving any unpaid wages or unsettled compensation or benefits. Aside from that, repatriation was not easily feasible due to temporary travel restrictions. Let me share with you some of the narratives of OFWs that CMA Phils. Inc. documented, specifically lifted from their 2020 Direct Assistance Report. These are migrant workers who have endured unfair labour practices at the hands of their foreign employers (in accordance with data protection I used fictitious names of the complainants): Ara, a repatriated OFW, message CMA Phils. Inc. last July 22 to ask for legal assistance due to illegal termination and unpaid wages. She used to work as a call cleaner in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for almost two years. Her work involves cleaning of
business establishments each day for 8 hours. Her contract was cut short due to her health condition which she felt lacks sufficient evidence to prove that she has an infectious disease. She said that last May 6, she noticed a small lump on her neck but it was removed on June after which a biopsy test was conducted. The test revealed that she has a tuberculosis. Her employer isolated her for 3 weeks. She said that she borrowed money from her co-workers because some of the laboratory works that she went through were not covered by the insurance. It became more difficult due lockdown because they had not been working since March and in the succeeding months, they were paid half of their salary and sometimes only the food allowance was given to them. She returned to the Philippines last July 31. She went through again another set of medical examinations and it was found out that everything is normal (CMA, 2020). In the second case last October 10, John contacted CMA Phils. Inc. to ask for assistance for immediate repatriation. Based on his testimony, he is one of the 20 workers in a construction firm located somewhere in Saudi Arabia who suffers from unpaid wages. Since July, they have not been receiving wages and food allowance as stated on their employment contract. They have to buy drinking water outside because water in their company’s accommodation is unsafe in fact, some people have gotten sick already. They promised the store owner [located inside the building] where they usually buy their food to pay him back once they received their wages, however, it’s been long overdue and the store owner is demanding for them to pay up. John further shared that he and his co-workers are doubtful if their employer will settle their unpaid wages. They need to be repatriated immediately due to their situation as unpaid and undocumented workers are having difficulties on procuring food and financially incapable of buying plane tickets to return to the Philippines themselves. They are at constant risk of being jailed for at least 1 day each time they are caught by authorities because of lack of proper documentation, which already happened to one of them twice. Many also have expired health insurance which makes
“Migrants – particularly in lower paid jobs – may be both more affected by and vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19 in countries already impacted and those countries where the pandemic is spreading, but migrants also play an important role in the response to COVID-19 by working in critical sectors.”
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them more vulnerable, in fact, one of them paid over 5000 riyals (1,333.00 USD) for a medical procedure with no discounts. They made a prior request to Philippine embassy last August, but they have not received any response since. Also, they have received little to no aid of any other kind from their recruitment agency. Recently (Oct. 21), their employer reminded them that if they want to leave the company, they need to submit a formal resignation and pay 10K riyals (2,666.40 USD) for whatever he paid for their employment including the iqama (residence permit). They have been informed by their employers that if they wish to leave, they must tender their resignation which means they agree on not receiving any unpaid wages or unsettled compensation or benefits. After signing papers of resignation, only then they will receive their 2 months’ worth of wage, plane ticket and exit visa (CMA, 2020). Upon receiving reports such as these, key government agencies (DFA-OUMWA and POEA) and non-government agencies (Migrants Forum in Asia and Centre for Migrant Advocacy Philippines, Inc.) were alarmed. Immediately, CMA actively joined other migrant-cause oriented groups to advocate for the rights of the migrant workers in view of wage theft to generate pressure on government agencies. Last August, they released an article to magnify the lamentable situation of the OFWs entitled : “ OFWS Facing wage theft as Covid-19 pandemic rages”, where they shared that Migrants Forum in Asia (MFA), of which CMA Philippines Inc. is a member, together with Lawyers Beyond Borders (LBB), Cross Regional Centre for Refugees and Migrants (CCRM), South Asian Regional Trade Union Council (SARTUC), ASEAN Services Employees Trade Union Council (ASETUC) and Solidarity Centre have launched a global campaign for the immediate establishment of a Transitional Justice Mechanism to address wage theft cases of repatriated and migrant workers (Inquirer, 2020). The main objective of the Transitional Justice Mechanism is to address grievances, claims and labour disputes of repatriated workers who have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic (Call for Urgent Justice for Wage Theft, 2020). They added, “...that the mechanism needs to be advanced, accessible, affordable, and efficient (Call for Urgent Justice for Wage Theft, 2020). Aside from that, the Transitional Justice Mechanism, accordingly, has three primary goals: first, establish an International Claims Commission, second, to set up A Compensation Fund, and lastly, reforming National Justice System (Call for Urgent Justice for Wage Theft, 2020). The first objective states ‘... it should be a priority to guarantee that all repatriated workers with legitimate claims are able to access justice and some kind of compensation. The second objective noted ‘... while it must be of the utmost importance to ensure that cases are resolved as soon as possible, without delay, especially in cases involving labour disputes, safeguards must be put in place to ensure that migrants are able to pursue their cases post return’. And lastly, the third objective demand ‘...states should require employers and businesses to keep all employment records, including payroll, employee lists, and hours worked and allow workers to take copies with them’. Arising from these cases and the increased awareness on the prevalence of unjust labour practice or wage theft across the globe, the question is, what is the role of the church in combating exploitation of the weak by the strong? Or what does it mean to be the ‘Church’ in response wage theft? In accordance with Christian tradition, this form of human rights violation has to be something that registers loudly on our hearts and minds. Obviously, wage theft is the conflict between powerful and the weak, it is an exploitation of migrant workers. At its core, wage theft is a moral and spiritual issue, rather simply unethical and illegal conducts. It is a form of oppression of the vulnerable, and underprivileged groups. As Jesus Christ encourages and urges faithful believers to defend human dignity, natural rights, the weak and vulnerable communities. In fact, it is deeply embedded in the Israel’s history (Hebrew Bible) and Christian tradition that explicit commends to “do justice” (Mic 6:8) and to “seek justice, defend the oppressed, take up the cause of the fatherless, [and] plead the case of the widow” (Is 1:17).
Churches therefore have a particular role to play in critiquing, condemning, and countering wage theft at all levels. The churches must support every endeavour to fight this form of exploitation of the weak, vulnerable, and underprivileged groups. For instance, there are six ways the churches can serve migrant workers. Firstly, the churches have to educate themselves about wage theft across the globe, especially how to identify wage theft, including workers' rights and employers' responsibilities related to wage and hour as well as other labour laws (Wage Theft is a Crime, 2020). Secondly, the churches should join the advocacy and sign the petition to hold duty bearers both in the country of destination and origin accountable for upholding the rights of the migrant workers. Thirdly, the churches should mobilise Christian lawyers to provide free legal services. They must support public event, political, and social protest campaign against wage theft. Fourthly, Christian preachers or ministers must address human rights violations, chiefly wage theft. They must be the voice of the voiceless. Fifthly, the churches should know how to take action to fight wage theft. More importantly, churches need to design a program or ministry that educate and empower documented and undocumented workers about their rights. And finally, churches must work with governmental agencies and non-government agencies to promote undocumented workers’ rights. To know more about the Wage Theft Campaign, please visit the following websites: • Justice for Wage Theft, https://justiceforwagetheft.org/ • Wage Theft is a Crime, https://wagetheftisacrime.com/Campaign.html • Migrant Forum in Asia, https://mfasia.org/call-for-applicants-media-consultant-for-the-justice-for-wage-theft-campaign/ • Centre for Migrant Advocacy Phils. Inc., https://centerformigrantadvocacy.com/
Sources “Wage Theft Public Awareness Campaign,” Wage Theft is a Crime (2014). https://wagetheftisacrime.com/Campaign.html. Anna P. Navarro and Shella Marie Z. Gonzales, “OFWS facing wage theft as Covid-19 pandemic rages,” Inquirer (August 13, 2020).https://usa.inquirer.net/57691/ofws-facing-wage-theft-as-covid-19-pandemic-rages. Aurora Almendral, “Crucial yet forgotten: the Filipino workers stranded by coronavirus,” Nikkei Asia (July 15, 2020). https://asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/The-Big-Story/Crucial-yet-forgotten-the-Filipino-workers-stranded-by-coronavirus. Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs (COWA) (2020, October 28). Updates. Source: https://www.facebook.com/HouseofRepsPH/. CMA Direct Assistance Report (January to October 2020), Centre for Migrant Advocacy. https://centerformigrantadvocacy.com/ 50
INSiGHT | December 2020
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SEEN & HEARD |
INSiGHT | December 2020
It is ouR children whose future is being mortgaged, and who will be unable to undertake any meaningful development when their time comes because of the burden we are putting on them before they are even born. in the short and medium term, we are increasingly seeing the sovereignty of some countries now at risk because of debt, and the governments are hiding this.
~ Rev dr fidon mwombeki general secretary all africa conference of churches
â&#x20AC;&#x153;Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.â&#x20AC;? ~ Arundhati Roy
INSiGHT | December 2020
Slavery is theft theft of a life, theft of work, theft of any property or produce, theft even of the children a slave might have borne.
– KEVIN BALES, Understanding Global Slavery
INSiGHT | December 2020
2 December | International Day for the Abolition of Slavery
TAKE A LOOK |
This is the fifth book of the series "Re-imagining Church as Event: Perspectives from the Margins”. Cover Design by Immanuel Paul Vivekananda
Dalitekklesia: A Church from Below by Raj Bharat Patta
What is the locus, where is the locality and where is the location of the church in India today? These are the questions that this book “Dalitekklesia: A Church from Below” primarily engages with. The margins in India are nothing new, as most of the church and society are defined in terms of purity and pollution, privilege and prestige or principalities and powers, leaving a major section of people and perspectives as powerless and on the margins. This book’s locus is on understanding God, church and theology from the perspectives of Dalits, who have been pushed to the margins for ages as they have been outcastes in the hierarchical caste system. “Dalitekklesia: A Church from Below” offers a Dalit understanding of God as a suffering God, and offers the church as a church of the margins, recognising and acknowledging the agency of Dalits in this endeavour. The locality of the Indian church is discussed by bringing in the contextual social analysis of the margins, particularly discussing the locality as Peta, which is used for Dalit localities. The location of the church is defined by its public witness and therefore this book offers some perspectives in that direction of reimagining the church from below. The aim of this book is to engage in critical reflection on the very understanding of church from below, for the church traditionally has been understood as a hierarchical church running on the model of exercising power top-down. This book is an invitation for all those people who see the vision of a church bottom-up, where powers and principalities are dismantled. When all our churches become churches from below, the vision towards a new creation is possible.
Raj Bharat Patta’s desire to broaden the scope of Dalitekklesia to be dialogical by engaging with the works of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar for a theological praxis finds relevance in building Dalit solidarity and theology. His imaginative conversation engaging three prominent progressive contexts—his own Dalit Christian identity, the Martin Luther Reformation tradition, and the Ecumenical initiatives by the Pope—is interesting, opening a new window to the history of Christianity from Dalitekklesia. - Praveen Perumalla Liaison Officer for EMS Germany, Church of South India Synod Raj Bharat Patta has brought about how 'No one can serve Christ and Caste' very clearly through the perspective of the most marginalised in our society and is urging us to reimagine our public witness through the Dalit missiology which we have most neglected in our church bodies as well as in our own families. - Paul Divakar Convener, Global Forum on Discrimination Based on Work and Descent, and Chairperson, Asia Dalit Rights Forum
INSiGHT | December 2020
Church and Disability The sixth book of the series "Re-imagining Church as Event: Perspectives from the Margins" is “Church and Disability” by Samuel George. How wide are church doors in including people with disabilities in its life, ministry and mission? How open are we in decolonising our minds, biblical interpretations and theological constructs that privilege able-bodied people and demonise, ostracise and exclude people with disability? The issue of disability has always been a thorny issue within the faith communities, including the biblical communities. Either they are seen as beneficiaries of charity or their disability is seen as a curse from God. In recent years, we have witnessed a shift in this ableist approach thanks to the affirmation of the rights of the people with disability as human rights. This has created a ripple effect even in churches. However, there is still a reluctance in including them in the total life of the church. Their inclusion requires genuine introspection and metanoia from the part of the church. This volume, coming from the lived experiences of people with disability, helps us to understand disability as a faith imperative and justice issue. It represents the determination of the community to reclaim the sanctuary and to redeem it by destroying the walls—physical, mental, theological, biblical and cultural—that reduce people with disability to the status of recipients of sympathy and charity. The book further offers theological and missional guidelines for the faith communities to live out their faith in Christ, the incarnated disabled God.
For many years, disability was seen as a medical issue. Churches also pursued a charitable approach, assuming that disabled people are incapable. This book problematises this view and addresses the disability issue as structural injustice. It calls for a just and community-oriented transformative diakonia, and that requires radical changes in our ableist worldviews. This book affirms that persons with disabilities are not just a gift for the family and society but are also an opportunity for us to grow in love, mutual aid and unity as we are all called to be a gift to the other, to be Christ to our neighbours and to see Christ in our neighbours. - Wati Longchar Consultant for Theological Education in East Asia, American Baptist Churches, USA This book invites us to approach disability as a window for the church to revision its mission and ministry differently. In this process, the church not only sees the face of the other differently but also experiences its being alternatively, welcoming the disabled without prejudice with an alternative vision. In this radical vision, we affirm God’s preferential option for the disabled. The power of God is manifested in the impairments of the vulnerable through the abundant grace of God where the vulnerability of the disabled can function as a catalyst for the transformation and liberation of God’s creation in its totality. - M.C. Thomas Professor, Mar Thoma Theological Seminary and The Federated Faculty for Research in Religion and Culture, Kottayam
Save the Children Syrian Refugee Crisis Millions of Syrian families have been internally displaced or have unwillingly become refugees as they’ve been forced to flee from their homes as the chaos of war raged on for 9 years in Syria, leaving them in desperation and despair. The refugee camps that the children and their families are sheltered lacks the supplies they critically need in order for them to survive the volatile and harsh environment.
The True Cost Have we ever thought about where the clothes on our backs are manufactured, and at what cost besides the price tag we see upon making that purchase? Mass production of clothing lines driven by the fashion industry shrouds our eyes from the grim reality of the people who are thoroughly exploited in the chain of production and the injustices towards human and environmental issues that are prevalent of such unethical and inhumane practices in the name of profit.
https://bit.ly/3mOOgPT 5 Broken Cameras 5 Broken Cameras the first-person account of a Palestinian farmer in Bi’lin, a West Bank village that has been threatened by the encroachment of Israeli settlements. Through the lenses of his 5 cameras, Emad Burnat was able to capture the turmoil faced by the non-violent villagers as their homes and land were being forcefully taken away from them. https://bit.ly/3jHTJWE
War School - The Battle for Britain’s Children Militarisation of children in British schools have crept into the classrooms in the forms of propaganda. The Ministry of Defence elicits support and sympathy of the youngsters through their respect of war veterans which is deemed disturbing as unlike adults, they lack discernment to recognise media manipulation. Children are also exposed to instruments of warfare and war tactics and strategies in piquing their interests towards the military.
Transforming Lives through the Power of Clean Water More than 1 billion people in the world lack access to clean, drinkable water. Unlike many of us, where multiple sources of potable are effortlessly within our reach, there are plenty of those who don’t. For them, their day would involve locating water and bringing it back home even if it takes multiple trips, leaving them with little or no time for anything else, provided that the contaminated water doesn’t do them any harm first. https://bit.ly/3oMjYin
INSiGHT | December 2020
Terror and Hope, The Science of Resilience Delve into a hopeless world experienced by refugees, where vulnerable children are faced with nothing but a bleak foreseeable future, one that is filled with oppression, violence and trauma. With the help of researchers, humanitarian volunteers and aid workers, science is enlisted in helping these children break from the circle of violence due to war and displacement, finding courage and resilience in order for them to recover and grow.
The Rich, the Poor and the Trash One man’s trash is another man’s treasure – this couldn’t hold more truth in this documentary about the growing rift in inequality in the population, where the rich are becoming richer whereas the poor are stuck at the bottom of the pit. All the waste that has been generated by the affluent and frivolous are piled up into mountains of garbage where people living in poverty savage for spoils that can be repurposed and sold in order for them to make a living out of it.
https://bit.ly/3enUz9V Tomorrow Looking at critical world issues through a more positive perspective, this French documentary showcases ten countries that have set themselves up as examples with their exemplary efforts at targeting issues pertaining to social and environmental with concrete solutions. https://bit.ly/32kGWDR
What is the Fourth Industrial Revolution? The Fourth Industrial Revolution, we will be witnessing the shift in reliance of people and animals in keeping our world going and running in order. Machines and technology will rise and dramatically change the way we operate and produce in the not too distant past. This change and its adoption will be exponentially rapid and unstoppable.
Beasts of No Nation This film is about the militarisation of children, where a young West African boy was enlisted to become a child solder as his country broke out in civil war. The story reflects the horrors and adversities that the boy had been subjected to during his ordeal, and how the terrors would continue to haunt and torment him even after coming out from the predicament. https://bit.ly/31YYjK7
YOUR SAY |
REFLECTIONS OF A
FORMER CWM TRUSTEE By Jeff Williams
In 2012 I was asked to represent the Union of Welsh Independents on the CWM council, a role that includes being a trustee for that body. As a trustee, you are only allowed to remain a trustee for two consecutive terms – eight years in total. So, in June 2020, my time came to an end. In this article, at the end of my time, I’m looking back at my dealings with CWM and sharing my impressions of the organisation What does CWM mean? We often use the acronym, Cee‐Double U‐Em, and forget the full name, which is the Council for World Mission. The Council for World Mission, or CWM, is a partnership of denominations and nonconformist churches. The Council was formed in 1977 when the London Missionary Society (the Independents were members of the LMS), the Commonwealth Missionary Society and the Presbyterian Board of Mission joined forces. These organisations came together in order to empower and vitalise the mission in local churches by sharing the resources and experience of different locations across the world. There are 32 denominations as members in CWM. Between them they represent around 21.5 million Christians, and over 50,000 congregations in over 40 countries from the Pacific Ocean Islands, Asia, Africa to Europe and the Caribbean. The variety of experience and insight within CWM is a treasure that we contribute towards and also benefit from. The Welsh Independent churches have benefitted from being a part of CWM in many ways over the years: they have received grants to fund the Union’s programmes such as the Y Ffordd (The Way) programme, the Development Programme, the Training Programme and much more; chances to learn about the worldwide Church through attending meetings, conferences and celebrations and welcoming visitors from churches abroad into our midst; by attending events and taking part in the CWM programmes, in Wales and abroad. Many of our young people have had experiences that became the bedrock of their faith and their commitment for the rest of their lives. Wales, and the Independents in particular, have contributed much to the life of CWM over the years; many of the representative denominations within the Council have a high regard for the wise leadership of the Union’s general secretaries and mission secretaries and their contribution towards the development of CWM. In Guyana people remember Guto Prys ap Gwynfor, Siân and the family with fondness following their time as missionaries out there; often people from churches across the world ask me about somebody or other from Wales who they came into contact with through CWM. CWM is like a big family and its members share the same vision – a fullness of life through Christ for the whole of creation.
INSiGHT | December 2020
As well attending the board meetings three times a year, I was asked to fulfil another two tasks, which were; to help CWM restructure their way of governance through their trustees and the way it is answerable to the churches whilst keeping to the requirements of the Singapore Charity Commission (where the main CWM office is and where the charity is registered) and London (where CWMâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s interest are situated), and also I continue to be a part of the executive that is formulating and promoting the CWM antiâ&#x20AC;?racism strategy. What are my impressions? Two things stand out among many. The first is the prophetic challenge CWM gives on the question of Empire, which is the political, economic and religious forces that form the world. CWM has continued unstintingly, against much criticism from the denominations, to concentrate on this reality as the context within which churches testify. This is the testimony of CWM and the churches: whereas God releases, Empire hears the cries of the oppressed, and refuses to see the destruction that its rapacious greed wreaks, it cannot respond with mercy and love and it cannot do justice. CWM is prophetic. The second thing is that CWM can simultaneously achieve their role locally and worldwide. CWM walks side by side with churches and their huge variety of different circumstances, they share resources with the churches so that they can achieve their mission of sharing the wonderful Gospel of our Saviour Jesus Christ. At the same time, it takes its place with other ecumenical organisations on the worldwide stage in proclaiming the Good News within the context of the serious matters of our times. My experience with CWM has been an exciting one; it has been a privilege and a responsibility to be a trustee with such a pivotal body that is so central to the life and testimony of the Church. It was enjoyable also to share my time and socialise with sisters and brothers from other contexts so different to each other and to discover in the process that we had so much in common also. Thank you for the opportunity.
LIFE-FLOURISHING AND THE HABIT OF THANKFULNESS: 2020 IN RETROSPECT By Sainimili Kata
When I reflect upon the past year, I am overwhelmed with an uneasiness that unsettles my spirit. For many, this year was going to be the year. More than just a new year, the new decade brought hopes of new beginnings, renewed strength and the promise of better days. Unfortunately, this year has not turned out to be what many hoped or expected it to be. As a family, we usually celebrate New Year’s Eve with a huge party, however, NYE 2019, was very quiet and it wasn’t our typical ‘hurrah’ into a new year. Besides, I was not hooked on this idea of ‘the roaring twenties’ that everyone was talking about. Comparing the new year to the 1920’s offers an interesting comparison: of economic prosperity and carefree living. In the 1920’s it was mass consumerism, mass culture and dancing. In 2020 it has been self-isolation, online shopping with next day delivery and group video calls & parties. There has been a shift in life as we know it, and to be honest, I am amazed at how quickly we have adapted to it. As I think more about that saying ‘the roaring twenties’, I can’t help but imagine a large lion, standing on a large rock, and roaring over his pride and territory. (Yes – I’m talking about the Lion King and pride rock). Naturally, my brain then continues to question, when and why do lion’s roar? Well, as far as my online research has shown, lion’s roar when they are trying to communicate, when they are marking their territory and when they are hunting. A lion will follow its prey stealthily for a long period of time before releasing a loud roar that will, in turn, shock his prey, and therefore, enabling the lion to capture and kill it. Slightly morbid yes, but here is what I’m getting at – 2020 has almost been the same for many of us. The coronavirus pandemic has snuck up on us unexpectedly, and shocked our ‘normal’ lives, causing many of us to feel trapped and lifeless. Working from home, job loss, national lockdowns, restrictions on when and where you can meet people, and for how long – this has removed agency from many of our lives. Personally, I’d like to think that I have not been badly affected. However, whilst writing this, I am starting to realise that it is possible that I have just been in a state of shock that has caused me to not fully comprehend what has happened this year. It is now the end of the 2020. We are in a moment of transition. There are hopes that the end of this year, will also bring the end of the pandemic and lockdowns. However, we know that this will not be the case. As we gather together with our families for Christmas celebrations, whilst we share gifts and remember the birth of Christ, I want to encourage you to not only focus on the gifts that may bring you joy, but to consider what it is about the gifts that bring you joy. Too often we can be surrounded by so many blessings and opportunities, yet fail to see it because we cannot see past what we do not have.
INSiGHT | December 2020
Let us be thankful for those around us, for our homes, for the smiles that we see and the food on our tables. For what we may forget to remember is that through the turmoil and pain of the past year, God has brought us through it to a new season. And because of this, we continue to be a part of God’s desire of flourishing life for all. I recently watched a sermon online, and the preacher spoke about how gratitude is not an innate part of us but rather, something (a habit) that we need to practise. I have a two-year-old son, and I know for sure that saying thank you was not something that he was born with. It is something that we need to practise with him every day, and even though we do, he still forgets to say thank you. As adults, this can also happen to us. And if anything, 2020 has taught me that it is not just about having a grateful heart, but about practising my gratefulness, because in all honesty, it has been a hard year, and without practising thankfulness, my heart would not be as grateful. And so, the roaring 20’s. Going back to our imagery at the beginning of this piece, I now invite you to change the image that you have in your mind. Instead of a timid, scared and trapped animal, imagine the strength, boldness and pride behind the lion’s roar. Image a roar of gratefulness. A roar of praise. Imagine the power behind the praise and gratefulness. A roar of thanksgiving for what we have survived this past year. A bold exclamation of the life flourishing community you are a part of. Like the Bible passage Psalm 107:2 says, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so”. So, let us end the year by saying it! Let us say we struggled, but let us also say that we have made it through. Let us say that even though we walked through the valley of the shadow of death, we fear no evil. Even though we have not worked this year, we will not fear about our future. Even though the church doors have been closed, we will not worry. Even though our communities have not been able to meet, we will fear no evil. Even though we may have experienced sadness, pain and loss, we continue to hope. For the Lord is with us. May we end this year, with a roar of thankfulness and grateful hearts. Let us head into 2021 with an attitude to practice and deepen the habit of gratefulness. Let us roar with thanksgiving for all that God has brought us through. In the first quarter of this year, I lost someone extremely close to my heart, my grandfather. He was my best friend. Much of who I am today, is owed to him. Much of my interests and passions in life, are because of him. I thought I would not be able to live through the pain of losing him, but I have. Yes, some days are hard, but most days I smile as I think of him, and I allow my heart to be warmed by his memory. There is one thing that he would often say, and it was “Whatever my lot in life, it is well with my soul”. So, as you enter the new year and as you begin to work with others to grow life flourishing communities, I encourage you to continue to be grateful for everything that will come your way. And through it all, I urge us to say, it is well and it will be well, with a heart of thanksgiving.
REFLECTIONS IN THE
YEAR OF A PANDEMIC By a stranger in a stranger land
The close of a year is often a time of introspection, taking stock of the year past and making plans and bearing hope for the new year. In keeping pace with coronavirus news, the inevitable COVID-19 fatigue has set in. Fortunately, promising vaccine developments have brought hope. Over this year, there are milestones and memories seared in my mind, shared in this reflection. Memento mori (“remember you must die”) Right after the lunar new year, COVID19 pummelled the world, shutting down tourism and travel, overwhelming healthcare systems in European countries to the point that painful decisions had to be made about who should live or die even if they were perfectly healthy pre-COVID19. The death toll grew exponentially, and continued to rise. The only time I’d learnt about mass burials was World War 2, and it almost felt like one when I saw footage of a mass grave dug in New York earlier this year, because there was a shortage of funeral services for burials. With people disallowed to visit patients dying alone of COVID-19 in hospitals during lockdown and restrictions on the number of people allowed to attend funerals, I often thought about those alive who were unable to bid goodbye to friends, distant relatives, and colleagues in wakes and funerals, and the possibility of the lack of closure in their grief. This pandemic has, again, forced me to slow down and consider the incredible fragility of life, and how precious each day really is. In youth, many of us believed and lived like we were invincible and eternal. Only when confronted with death as we grew older did we pause to process the fact that we’ll inevitably grow old, sick and die. It is with anger that I recall by the over-spiritualisation of the coronavirus by Christian leaders and its grave implications and consequences. I never really grasped the dangers of prosperity gospel teaching until now, seeing prominent church pastors and evangelists proclaim that: church services in person can continue and wearing face masks are not necessary because as anointed servants of God, COVID-19 will not afflict them; and that the coronavirus is Satan’s tool to keep people from churches. While there is some truth in these, God’s blessing of protection and healing is not a free pass for us to throw caution to the wind and insist on conducting physical church gatherings, especially when these many of these churches are fully equipped to have church services electronically. When we look at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, Jesus did say to not put God to the test when Satan goaded Him to. The initial spread of COVID-19 in South Korea because of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus should be enough of a warning for us to take precautions. The only reason I can think of for such irresponsible actions is an anxiety and determination in church leadership to maintain their coffers. Without church attendance, many churches are facing significantly lower tithes and offerings, and for smaller churches, this prolonged financial drought that could mean shutting down the church. However, as Christians, it is our duty as responsible citizens and residents, to love our neighbours by taking appropriate action in finding alternative ways of worship and ministry. The gospel has spread far and wide thanks to online church services, which has been said to reach non-believers, and Christians who have backslided or are from different churches. God’s work is still flourishing, even if Satan keeps us from gathering in person. I doubt I will ever forget seeing and feeling the public panic around February to April, with canned food, instant noodles, groceries, and even toilet paper flying off the shelves in the supermarkets as people hoarded necessities. The ugliness of human nature when opportunists tried to make a quick buck selling masks, which were in severe shortage back then. If there was ever a time in life I felt that the end of the world was near, this was it. For the initial few months, it was surreal to wake up each day and remember that I’ll be working from home since my country was in lock-down. In the onslaught of negative news reports, the only points of reference I had as a millennial were SARS, H1N1, the 1997 and 2008 financial crises, and it soon became clear that the COVID19 pandemic had far exceeded those in proportions that I still cannot grasp and assess. I could barely believe my eyes at a convenience store when I caught a newspaper headline that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said this economic recession is the worst in six decades.
INSiGHT | December 2020
It slowly sunk in for me when many people lost their jobs or had major pay cuts, and freelance work slowed to a trickle. Reading stories of mid-career professionals getting retrenched, depleting their lifetime savings, and queueing for welfare benefits, I feared for my future. Nobody seemed to know what to do with this almost unknown virus at first, which annihilated small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and multinational companies took a hard hit. My country drew on its reserves – something I’ve only heard about and never experienced, or thought I’d ever experience in my lifetime. In less than four months, an unprecedented four fiscal packages totalling $100 billion almost 20 percent of our GDP - were rolled out to help individuals, families, and businesses. This included a substantial wage subsidy to encourage companies to keep their local workers, measures to help with liquidity, and even delaying of mortgage, rental and other payments, and relaxing of requirements before people file for bankruptcy. It has been said that the COVID-19 will be the defining challenge of our generation. Future generations will hear about how we overcame by staying united. How we all did our part to keep everyone safe by staying home for a few months to slow down community transmission, buy precious time for research and testing for a vaccine, and to not overwhelm our healthcare system. In such a truly unimaginable situation, many including myself have tried to see the silver lining behind the dark clouds of this thunderstorm. I saw what it means to lead and serve with passion and compassion, in outreach and ministry to migrant workers who accounted for the majority of those testing positive for COVID19 in my country. Without the explosion of cases in migrant worker community, their poor living conditions and nutrition wouldn’t have come under local and international scrutiny and hopefully there will be a gradual improvement. I saw that heroes don’t always wear capes, especially in the healthcare professions, where they continue to work long shifts, month after month, with no light at the end of the tunnel until a vaccine arrives. Man proposes, but God disposes. Decimated economies and jobs seem to have brought about collective humility, humanising political leaders in my country who many have seen as detached from the struggles of the man in the street. We saw the human(e) side of those in positions of power, acknowledging and considering the deep pain the population is facing, and the multi-ministry task force going all out to work together to bring this virus under control. They made the best decisions they could based on available information at that point in time, and were able to change course when later developments indicated otherwise. One example was how mask-wearing in our country was initially discouraged but later made mandatory. The pandemic also drove home the point that every profession is equal and all should be respected if people are making an honest living. During the lock-down we saw that those who are lowly paid – cleaners, janitors, food delivery riders, hawkers, and nurses – are “essential services”, while the rest of us are working from home because we provide “non-essential services”. It subverted elitist perspectives in hierarchical societies. Without mindless consumerism, we have slowed down to reflect and contemplate on powers beyond our control. Like the cry of mother nature, finally unleashing her wrath on us for our insatiable greed and unsustainable consumption. With a global economic recession and the predicted global shrink in demand when things improve, we are compelled to separate our “needs” and “wants”; we are learning that we need very few things in life to survive. I’d like to believe that we are humbled into consuming less, and growing in compassion for those who are harder hit by the pandemic than we are. That we can be genuinely grateful each day to wake up with more health than sickness, to know we still hold a job not purely due to merit, but also because we’re in a sector that hasn’t been crushed by the pandemic. For many parents, working from home means spending more quality time with those you’re working so hard for, and finding that the little things in life mean the most. After years of adamant refusal to consider remote working, companies have discovered that working from home and virtual work meetings are possible, and that Zoom and other virtual meeting applications means than work travel can be greatly reduced for our carbon footprint. According to researchers, global carbon emissions have fallen by a record 7% this year due to lockdowns and travel restrictions. A naïve hope of mine is somewhat captured in a beautiful quote I came across, about how during this time, we reorient our hearts to the silent and sedentary, and the land lies fallow, to produce a bountiful harvest later on. Another wishful hope I have is that the countries and people who need the coronavirus vaccine the most will get it, and that when the world recovers from COVID19, no matter how long it takes, fulfilling lives can be lived without the charades of hedonism, materialism and greed.
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INSiGHT | December 2020
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