June 2019 | 8
02 General Secretary’s Message AT A GLANCE
VIEWPOINTS politics, pandemic 22 Necro and the Prophetic mission
31 Vulnerability of the Earth
34 Caring for our Environment?
General Secretary’s visits to SBC and TTC Singapore
42 Through a different lens
Margins at the Intersection of Feeling the Power 26 The 44 AofPlace of Race and Gender the Pentecost
launches Master of 05 CWM Theology in Theological Education
TIM 40 VOICES
RETROSPECT Spirit as helper 48 Holy leading us to new realities
weapons, but Commemorates International ReConnected PIM Stories 50 More less peace The Paradox 07 CWM Day of Remembrance of the of our Time Victims of Slavery Rise to Life: 37 Engaging in God’s creative action organises World Day of 08 CWM Prayer 2022 in solidarity with 61 TAKE A LOOK Myanmar and Ukraine Partners in Mission Visit 37 CWM General Secretary CWM Caribbean and Europe 10 regions holds International Women’s Day virtual event 38 "Fears & Easter Hope(s)" Summer 11 CCCW Institute 2022 39 Prayers for those who serve... 12 Member Church News 40 Rise to Life 16 Ecumenical News
56 SEEN & HEARD
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GENERAL SECRETARY’S MESSAGE
Pentecost: Spirit of Recreation But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. 2 Peter 3:13
Dear brothers and sisters, Greetings of Peace and grace in the name of the Triune God! As the world opens up after over two years of the Covid-19 global pandemic, various socio-political and economic inequalities are also coming to the surface, exposing the multiple forms of oppression, deeply rooted corruption, greed and structures that are in place to keep certain sections of the people vulnerable. As a result, the powerful are growing into more powerful, and the vulnerable are plunging into deeper vulnerability. The Covid-19 pandemic has been slowly fading away, leaving the society with scars of pain and brokenness. On the other hand, the ongoing wars and military occupations in various parts of the world, the accumulation of modern destructive weapons, and the exploitation of the earth and its resources continuously prove that the global society is at a signiﬁcant threat. These scars on humanity and the planet created by Covid-19 and other forms of exploitation are so deep that only the power of God’s Spirit can heal and reconcile the humanity. It is in the midst of these signiﬁcant challenges we celebrate Pentecost. Celebrating Pentecost in the post-Covid-19 context requires the rebooting and rebuilding of our societies with just relationships and a transformed understanding of life in its fullness for all. As envisioned in the bible, such a vision of a transformed society is nothing but a “New Heaven and New Earth,” the home of righteousness. It is also the home of the right relationship between humanity and creation, a just oikonomia that afﬁrms the economy of life. The new CWM Strategy Framework aims to enable the communities to live out the New Heaven and New Earth by responding to the call to radical discipleship in the midst of this wounded and grieving world. As the disciples, we follow that Christ’s mission is to give life in its fullness to all (John 10:10). And Holy Spirit, God the life-giver, empowers us to Spirit’s mission of life and renews the whole creation. Pentecost reminds us that we cannot go back to the old lifestyle and systems that brought forth the pandemic and deeply wounded the world. We must commit ourselves together in humility and hope to the Mission of the Holy Spirit God who recreates all and reconciles all. Through the Holy Spirit, God afﬁrms the vision of the reign of God, “Behold, I create new Heavens and new Earth” (Isaiah 65:17). “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22), the Breath of Life! Rev. Dr Jooseop Keum General Secretary Council for World Mission
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Prayer Come Holy Spirit transform with newness the world that you love that all creation may rejoice in freedom with you. Come Holy Spirit inspire us to see you in the places that hide you and summon us to witness at your side. Come Holy Spirit convert us from death to life subvert our ways of living trading, being that hurt and harm the earth. Come Holy Spirit enthuse and renew us ﬁll us with song so turning from loss, we join your dance of life. Go Holy Spirit lead and leave us again push us on our way send us to our neighbours and Creation’s future day. AMEN Taken from “Together Towards Life” p49.
AT A GLANCE
CWM launches Master of Theology in Theological Education for an Economy of Life (MTh TEEL) in partnership with Union Theological Seminary, Philippines The Council for World Mission (CWM) has developed a curriculum for Theological Education for an Economy of Life (TEEL). CWM commissioned a team of scholars from Africa, Asia, USA, Europe, and the Caribbean to design it. For its pilot implementation, CWM has partnered with Union Theological Seminary, Philippines in offering a Master of Theology (MTh) degree. This Curriculum emanates from a New International Financial and Economic Architecture (NIFEA) education process that was initiated by the CWM after the Sao Paulo Ecumenical Conference in 2012. This conference that was organized by the World Council of Churches (WCC), Council for World Mission, World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) and Lutheran World Federation (LWF), resulted in a joint statement on the global ﬁnancial and economic system that is based on death and not life. The economic and ﬁnancial system was rejected as exploitative and destructive to God’s Creation and the commons. The Sao Paulo statement emphasized the need for an Economy of Life. Following the statement an ecumenical action plan was prepared by a global ecumenical panel of experts spelling out changes that need to be done at the international and local levels by churches, governments, and international institutions. Part of the action plan was the need for critical education on this subject among the churches. CWM took upon itself to engage its churches in all the six regions through 12 NIFEA colloquia from 2015 to 2019. After completion of the colloquia there was increased demand by the churches to educate young theologians and church leaders on the subject in a systematic and organized education system. This TEEL Curriculum has been developed with a view of moving away from the current conventional system of education to that which will be liberating our young people to embrace an Economy of Life. The Aim of the Curriculum The TEEL Curriculum is composed of three units as follows: Unit 1
Discerning the Signs of the Times and Analyzing the Current System
Exploring and Engaging Alternatives to the Economy of Death
Rising to Life: Living out the New Heaven and New Earth
The aim of the TEEL Curriculum is to produce graduates with certiﬁcates, diplomas, and degrees in the Economies of Life. Short courses could also be developed on the subject for church leaders. The TEEL Curriculum is designed to create critical minds and it is hoped that the syllabi that will be developed under each of the three units will be consistent with the main purpose of producing critical thinkers and doers. In each of the three units, modules have been put in place and what students are expected to acquire in terms of skills and knowledge. Participatory learning process is emphasized and the search for alternatives is highly recommended.
The pilot implementation with Union Theological Seminary, Philippines, is a 30-unit Master of Theology degree that is modular, self-directed, and fully online. It is open to graduates of the Master of Divinity/Bachelor of Divinity degree or its equivalent. UTS is the oldest ecumenical formation center in the Philippines, founded in 1907, and is co-sponsored by the United Methodist Church and the United Church of Christ in the Philippines. Its programs are accredited by the Association for Theological Education in Southeast Asia (ATESEA). The pilot program is scheduled to begin in November of 2022. Deadline for applications is July 31, 2022. UTS’s Prof. Revelation Velunta and Rev. Hazel Joyce Salatan will serve as MTh Director and as Registrar, respectively. To apply, please email them at email@example.com
General Secretary’s visits to Singapore Bible College and Trinity Theological College Singapore On 29 March, CWM General Secretary Rev. Dr Jooseop Keum, visited Rev. Dr Edwin Tay, principal of Trinity Theological College, one of Singapore’s most established seminaries to strengthen CWM’s partnership engagement. This was the ﬁrst in a series of courtesy visits to local church bodies and prominent Bible institutions that Dr Keum embarked on, to deepen understanding about the life and work of the Church here and the communities they serve, as well as to offer solidarity, support and encouragement to churches and partners.
The next day, Dr Keum visited Rev Dr Clement Chia, principal of Singapore Bible College (SBC), where they exchanged ideas about the hybrid concept of integrating community life and theological studies. During the visit, Dr Keum presented his book “Together Towards Life: Mission and Evangelism in Changing Landscape” to Dr Chia and shared about his missional journey with ecumenical bodies.
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CWM Commemorates International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade Brother Quamina, Deacon of the LMS Chapel, Guyana, Leader of the rebellion against the slavery system in 1823. Georgetown’s monument to the Demerara Uprising | ALAMY
25 March 2022 March 25th marks the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, a moment to remember the African holocaust in which millions died and suffered horrors under the dehumanizing economic system founded on slavery and perpetuated by colonialism. It is also an opportunity to reflect upon slavery’s legacy in our contemporary society. For over 400 years, Euro-American nations, their colonies, and organisations based in them presided over and proﬁted from the capture, enslavement, transportation, transplantation, and exploitation of over 12 million African people. This date offers a time for all people to remember, to reflect, and to repent. For the peoples of Europe and America, whose economic dominance is rooted in the proﬁts of the slave trade and whose history since its abolishment is tainted by inequality and racist violence, steps toward reparations are an urgent obligation. The United Nations houses a global family of diverse nations from the global North and South to foster peace and development. However, there will never be authentic peace until there is justice through reparations for the many acts of dehumanisation committed against the most vulnerable. Such peoples include the African victims and heirs of the Transatlantic Trade Slave within the African continent and among Africans in the Diaspora. The theme for the 2022 UN commemoration is “Stories of Courage: Resistance to Slavery and Unity against Racism.” The website of this commemoration states: ‘Behind the facts and ﬁgures are millions of human stories. The stories of those who were ripped from their homelands and families. The stories of those who fought against their oppressors. The stories of those who triumphed against all odds to win their freedom. Those stories continue today as people across the globe keep struggling together against the transatlantic slave trade’s most enduring legacy—racism.”
The United Nations must, therefore, do more to hold the nations morally accountable, especially the USA, the UK and those of nations from Europe that perpetrated and beneﬁted from slavery and the slave trade who must make reparatory restitutions to their victims Since 2017, CWM has taken steps to face up its own history that is tied to the systems of enslavement, colonisation, and racist violence. The London Missionary Society (LMS) began in 1795, when the slave trade was still in full force. The directors from this era owned plantations and invested plantation proﬁts into the ﬁnances of the LMS. Other Western mission societies of the time also perpetuated a European supremacist ideology that belittled the human dignity of Africans and African descendants as lesser human beings. CWM, being the heir of LMS, is committed to repent of and make restitution for this wrong; our history too is not clean. Yet even with this complicity, we also embraced a history of dissenting prophetic leaders who resisted the mechanistic dehumanisation of the slave system and entered into costly solidarity with its victims. CWM, therefore, joins with the UN to acknowledge our past complicity and to challenge contemporary social, political, and economic systems of slavery that exist among many nations and continue to perpetrate racial inequity throughout the world. CWM will mark Aug 23, 2022, the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition as that date to launch its Onesimus Project of remembrance and repentance for all the victims of enslavement as we pledge our acts of restitution and reparation. We, therefore, invite the UN family of nations and the global ecumenical and ecclesial communities of faith to work assiduously for reparation and reconciliation for all victims of God’s creation. Rev. Dr Jooseop Keum General Secretary Council for World Mission
Rev. Prof. Roderick R. Hewitt Chairperson CWM Legacies of Slavery Core Group
CWM organises World Day of Prayer 2022 in solidarity with Myanmar and Ukraine The CWM World Day of Prayer 2022 gathered more than 100 participants from CWM member churches and ecumenical partners worldwide for a time of prayer and to stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in Myanmar and Ukraine. Held virtually on 4 March, the timely prayer and sharing session organised by the CWM East Asia and South Asia Regions allowed participants to come alongside in intercessory prayer for those suffering in the military coup and pandemic in Myanmar and the conflict in Ukraine. The event commenced with words of welcome from Rev. Dr Jooseop Keum, CWM General Secretary, who commended the Ukrainians’ courage and the Presbyterian Church of Myanmar (PCM) for voicing their prophetic witness in society, providing loving care to the people of Myanmar, and prioritising community life over individual interests. “What I found in my long friendship and accompaniment in PCM is that Myanmar Presbyterians have often displayed two striking characteristics regarding their witness of their liberating gospel. One is that the church has struggled against oppressive regimes and another is that church has often approached the issue from the standpoint of the oppressed people. “The traditional missiology of salvation of souls only is not authentic if it does not respond to the dreadful violation of basic human rights and democracy. The mission work among the oppressed should take into account the victimisation, agony, cries, and aspirations for freedom and human rights in daily life,” he added. Subsequently, PCM General Secretary Rev. Ramthanga, PCM Women & Youth Secretary Mrs. Van Lal Hming Sangi, and PCM Youth Member Ms. Van Lal Zawmi, shared brief situational updates via pre-recorded videos. A grim picture emerged, of many PCM church members
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becoming Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), and the pandemic claiming the lives of 6 PCM ministers and many church members last year, said Rev. Ramthanga as he appealed for continual prayer for the restoration of peace in Myanmar and the survival of the church and its ministry. He also expressed his gratitude for prayer and ﬁnancial support from all PCM’s partner churches and organisations, without which the situation would be “unthinkable”. Mrs Van Lal Sangi, PCM Women & Youth Secretary spoke about the perilous journey many faced enroute to uncertain freedom, with some sexually abused before being killed, and children becoming orphaned every day. Mrs Sangi implored participants to pray earnestly for justice for all, especially the vulnerable, while PCM youth representative Ms Van Lal Zawmi summarised the shortage of medical supplies, electricity and media blackouts, a shrinking economy and increased cost of living. Upon receiving these updates, Mr. Sandy Sneddon, Interim Chair of PCM Partners offered an invocation prayer (Psalm 27:1-3), which was followed by pre-recorded prayers of solidarity from leaders of CWM East Asia member churches in their native languages. The next programme segment saw participants observe a solemn moment of silence in remembrance of those who died, and participants then joined breakout rooms, offering poignant prayers to God for those in Myanmar and Ukraine. As the well-organised, thoughtful event drew to an end, Rev. Lydia Neshangwe, CWM Moderator offered the Closing Prayer and Benediction.
A woman making her prayer right in the middle of raging clashes. Ukraine, Kyiv. Events of February 19, 2014. Photo by Mstyslav Chernov/Unframe/http://www.unframe.com/
A Prayer for Ukraine by Protestant Church in the Netherlands (PKN)
A Prayer from the Joint Public Issues Team of the United Reformed Church (URC), Methodist Church and Baptist Union
God of love and faithfulness, We pray for the people of Ukraine, all those affected by the terrible violence. In astonishment we see the abominable images, Lord, have mercy on this
God of all, with alarm and concern we bring before you the military intervention in Ukraine.
land and its inhabitants. Let violence and clattering of weapons cease, the weapons be silent. We pray for the Ukrainian community in our country,
In a world you made for peace and flourishing, we lament the use of armed force.
they are deeply concerned about relatives and loved ones. Lord, be close to them when all is so uncertain, give them courage to persevere. Lord, grant that images of enemies may not be magniﬁed unnecessarily, may Your vision of reconciliation and peace continue to carry us no
We mourn every casualty of this conflict, every precious life extinguished by war. We pray comfort for those who grieve and those who are fearful.
matter what. Grant that those voices that want to stay away from fear and struggle are heard, give wisdom to all concerned leaders. That weapons are not given a right to speak, that peace is sought and
Hear our longing that leaders and nations will honour the worth of all people by having the courage to resolve conflict through dialogue.
found. Show us the way of looking after each other, of mildness, trust and gentleness.
May all our human failings be transformed by your wonderful grace and goodness.
Lord, have mercy on this world, in which mutual love is often so hard to ﬁnd, give us a view of your hopeful future. In Jesus' name, Amen.
We ask this in the name of Christ, the author of peace and sustainer of Creation. Amen.
Panel members clockwise from left: Ms. Karen Campbell, URC; Rev. Rev. Dr Janet Wootton, a retired minister of the Congregational Federation (CF); Mrs. Linnette Vassell, a civil society activist and member of the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands (UCJCI); Rev. Ellen Mulenga, a minister of the United Church of Zambia (UCZ); Dr. Elizabeth December-Singh, member of the Guyana Presbyterian Church (GPC), and Miss Vanessa Blissett, President of the UCJCI’s United Church Young People’s Fellowship
CWM Caribbean and Europe regions holds International Women’s Day virtual event Over 139 participants attended “Women Breaking Chains, Nurturing Communities, Planting Seeds of Hope”, a virtual event held by the Gender Justice Working Group of the Council for World Mission (CWM) Caribbean and Europe regions on International Women’s Day. After words of welcome and greetings from CWM regional staff, the lively event commenced with the pulsating beat of drums by the Presbyterian Church of Trinidad and Tobago (PCTT) worship team, a reminder of the Caribbean’s history of using drumming for prayer, worship and communication. Following worship, Rev. Patricia Sheerattan Bisnauth, Chair of the Gender Justice Working Group gave an overview of the group’s objectives, which included analysing and identifying ways to address contextual realities that hinder women’s ministry and leadership, and creating a women empowerment resource to add to CWM’s ongoing work in resisting life-denying forces. Next up was the event’s highlight, an energising table talk facilitated by Ms. Karen Campbell from the United Reformed Church (URC), where the panellists and participants named women across CWM member churches and their hard-earned achievements in church and society, and identiﬁed “patriarchy, misogynism, violence, abuse and inherited theology, bible interpretation, church practices and structures” as factors preventing women from fully participating in the life of churches.
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While younger contributors spoke about a generational gap around gender justice matters, and the internalising of oppression, all conceded the need for renewed solidarity among women and a concerted effort by both men and women to make gender justice a priority of the church. The event was interspersed with poetry, including a poetic interlude by Dr Anna Perkins that served as a grim reminder of the cascading reality of gender-based and intimate partner violence. In closing, the Moderator of CWM, Rev. Lydia Neshangwe highlighted the need to be aware of activism that insists that one’s way is the only way, and proposed a helpful approach to “let a thousand flowers bloom”, where each person takes her place and does her part in her way and in her place. She explained, “This means we do not discourage those whose place, stage, and methodology are different”. For example, some speak publicly on the issue as they have access to public spaces, or are academics whereas others advocate for the rights of the girl child in their homes. Rev. Neshangwe encouraged women to “engage in whatever level you are, whether you are in leadership, or in the home or community” since every level of contribution is valuable, after which she offered the closing prayer.
CCCW Summer Institute 2022 Cambridge Cambridge Centre for Christianity Worldwide (CCCW) is organising its ﬁrst residential Summer Institute on “World Christianity and Global Challenges”. Held between 18-22 July 2022 in Cambridge, England, CWM General Secretary, Rev. Dr Jooseop Keum will be delivering the keynote address on this year’s theme “Grief, Resilience, and Hope amid the Pandemic”. Organised in collaboration with Theological Education in the Anglican Communion (TEAC) and Rose Castle Foundation (RCF), it welcomes theological students, educators, researchers and Christians interested in learning about Christianity in other parts of God’s world to take this special opportunity to listen to, and have conversations with a range of speakers, mentors and supporters as they focus on the pandemic’s impact on churches, local and global communities, and consider how to respond and work together to create better societies built on care, compassion and justice. Successful applicants will participate in workshops where they can listen to one another’s stories of grief, resilience, hope and faith, and biblical and theological insights, and learn about “Action at Home” projects. Besides worshipping and eating together daily, they can look forward to special events, seeing the Centre’s renowned library and archives, and discovering the joys of Cambridge. For more info, please download this flyer and visit https://www.cccw.cam.ac.uk/summer-institute/summer-institute-2022/
MEMBER CHURCH NEWS AFRICA United Church of Zambia (UCZ) launches pilot programme for child abuse prevention
Image by UCZ Synod Communications
UCZ has piloted a three-year programme against child abuse in schools and communities where UCZ has a presence to enhance the safety of young learners and strengthen UCZ’s Child Safeguarding policy.
Image by UCZ Synod Communications
Mulemba Kamfwa, a pupil at Kafue Boys Secondary School, said that the programme will help the pupils open up about the social ills they face and mitigate destructive consequences such as suicide and substance abuse, while the Nambala Secondary School Head Teacher said that this scheme augments the government efforts in child protection.
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Newly formed UCZ health committees to support its healthcare facilities Part of UCZ’s holistic mission has been its mission hospitals and clinics, which have been instrumental in providing healthcare to diverse communities since the era of early missionaries. Some healthcare facilities continue to be run by UCZ today, and others were established more recently in response to growing healthcare needs in communities. UCZ Health Committees have been formed to assist facilities that recently experienced challenges requiring moral, material and spiritual support. They visit clinics in their local areas where UCZ has a presence to provide support for staff and patients, as well as actively seek out income-generating projects to help these health facilities become self-sustainable.
Zambian economist addresses UCZ leaders on economic issues UCZ leaders received a presentation on economic issues by Zambian economist Dr Grieve Chelwa during the UCZ Senior Management Meeting in Lusaka on 29 March, organised under the theme “All One in Christ” (John 17:21). Dr Chelwa spoke about the urgent need for policymakers to formulate
Image by UCZ Synod Communications
Image by UCZ Synod Communications
plans to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine conflict on the livelihoods of ordinary citizens. He also expressed his views on how best the economy can be organised in an inclusive manner that beneﬁts all citizens, such as giving priority to Zambian ownership of some mines and other strategic resources.
EAST ASIA Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT)’s statement on the war in Ukraine The Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT) has released an open letter addressing the war in Ukraine on the 75th anniversary of the February 28 massacre, which was an anti-government uprising met with violent suppression in Taiwan. “Knowing full well from experience that authoritarian governments and dictators do not
represent the hearts of its people”, PCT prayed for those in Russia who bravely protested on the streets, and denounced the attack as a “total contradiction and violation of international law, the UN Charter and basic human rights”.
and candle-lighting, attended by several politicians including former Vice President of Taiwan Mr Chen Chien-Jen.
Image by NCCT
Image by PCT
In the statement, it also expressed its deep concern and prayers for Ukrainian residents, adding its voice to Christians around the world urging governments to “pursue diplomatic channels to ensure a credible and sustainable peace process comes to fruition”.
Over 150 Christians from various denominations heard Miss Zheng Shasha, a young Ukrainian in Taiwan share from the hearts of the Ukrainian people, and Legislator Fan Yun and the representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Chen, spoke about the solidarity efforts of the people of Taiwan and the government in swiftly sending a humanitarian shipment of medical supplies to Ukraine.
PCT’s prayer event for Ukraine. Image by PCT
Inter-denominational service of prayer and solidarity for Ukraine The National Council of Churches of Taiwan (NCCT) which includes Presbyterian, Orthodox, Catholic, and Anglican churches organised a prayer service for Ukraine at Che-Lam Presbyterian Church on 20 March. It was a time of silent prayer, meditation, and
Sharing by Ms. Zheng Shasha, a young Ukrainian in Taiwan. Image by NCCT
SOUTH ASIA Certiﬁcate Course in Eco-theology by Church of South India (CSI) Synod and United Theological College, Bengaluru (UTC) In association with the Church of South India (CSI) Synod, the Certiﬁcate Course in Eco-theology offered by United Theological College, Bengaluru (UTC) has been opened to students recommended by CSI’s mission partners and sister churches in communion with CSI’s Synod. Initially reserved for CSI members, the course generated interest among those outside of India, and the second batch of students who begin this online, six-month course in June 2022 will hail from other countries as well. The syllabus is based on the ﬁve volumes of “the Earth Bible” edited by Norman C Habel, and includes eco-justice principles, eco-hermeneutics, eco-homiletics, climate justice and green movements, eco-feminism and more.
Image by NCCT
PACIFIC Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand (PCANZ) Moderator calls for Lenten Prayers for Ukraine
Right Rev. Hamish Galloway, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand (PCANZ) has called for Lenten prayers for Ukraine, joining other NZ church leaders in a statement of solidarity calling for the aggression to end and the peaceful solutions to begin. “In a region that learnt the devastating lessons of war last century, the pattern has the tragic possibility of repeating. It flies in the face of much of the progress in peaceful coexistence that Europe has made in recent decades,” they said in the joint press statement, adding that the invasion of Ukraine also runs counter to the Jesus values of peace-making, which call for de-escalation, peace talks, humility and kindness. In closing, the PCANZ Moderator added a call to prayer for the Church, in support of the global call to prayer from Pope Francis for Christians worldwide to
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devote themselves to prayer and fasting for peace in this season.
PCANZ Moderator’s Easter Message: Passionately Hopeful With recent struggles of COVID weariness, a widening income inequality due to house prices spiralling out of control, and dismay at the brutal invasion of Ukraine, the PCANZ Moderator Right Rev. Hamish Galloway has encouraged all to see “signs of lights shining through the cracks of despair” in his Easter Message.
“This faith of ours - that the resurrection transforms the seeming despair of the cross into a world-changing victory of life over death, forgiveness over sin and good over evil - remains as powerful and relevant as ever!” he proclaimed.
EUROPE Churches across Britain and Ireland unite in prayer for Ukraine
Christian leaders gathered in prayer outside Ukraine embassy in London
After the Christchurch earthquakes, people looked for signs of meaning and hope, which sprung up in street art on the sides of buildings, and more people came to church on Sunday, recounted the PCANZ Moderator. Rt Rev. Galloway now points to the easing of COVID restrictions and peace talks in Ukraine as signs of hope, and asked Christians to “add a faithful voice drawing attention to the ﬁrst cracks of dawning light at sunrise on the third day, which transformed the despair of the cross to something ﬁlled with hope.”
Hundreds of congregations from churches of various denominations across Britain and Ireland gathered in an act of witness to pray for the people of Ukraine and an end to the conflict in Ukraine on 3 April. Congregational Federation (CF) and United Reformed Church (URC) were among churches that had encouraged their congregations to pray and hold a visible act of witness – including the lighting of candles – in their communities.
UWI General Secretary Rev. Dyfrig Rees (left) at event
In London, the Union of Welsh Independents (UWI) General Secretary Rev. Dyfrig Rees and many other Christian leaders gathered outside the Embassy of Ukraine to pray for peace. In addition, Christian Aid, an international humanitarian charity, organised projections across Westminster Abbey, Methodist Central Hall, St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh, Glasgow Cathedral, and Bangor Cathedral to show the solidarity of churches and Christians with the people of Ukraine.
Protestant Church in the Netherlands (PKN) organises live broadcast of Prayer for Ukraine The Protestant Church in the Netherlands (PKN) organised a time of prayer for Ukraine in the Domkerk in Utrecht on Ash Wednesday (2 March). This prayer for peace and justice in Ukraine was broadcast live by KRO-NCRV, a Dutch public broadcasting company, and led by Rev. René de Reuver, General Secretary of PKN, and Msgr. Gerard de Korte, Bishop of 's-Hertogenbosch. The event offered a place for believers and non-unbelievers alike to reflect, lay down their fears and worries, light a candle and write down a prayer.
“We look at the images from Ukraine with dismay. We cannot help but bring this to God: ‘Lord, we cry out to You for help. Have mercy on the people of Ukraine, see to all who are affected by the terrible violence of war,” said the PKN General Secretary, who also urged local Protestant congregations to pray for Ukraine on Sunday.
Congregational Federation (CF) and United Reformed Church (URC) among members discussing “Reconciling Hope: A broken church for a broken world” Congregational Federation (CF) General Secretary Rev. Yvonne Campbell, United Reformed Church (URC) General Secretary Rev. Dr John Bradbury and URC Moderator Rev. Clare Downing were among delegates at the Churches Together in England (CTE) Forum from 14–16 March. During the event at The Hayes in Swanwick, two joint statements were issued, calling for the immediate cessation of hostilities and for churches to campaign for an end to the Ukraine conflict and appealing to the UK government to support the churches offering sanctuary to Ukrainian refugees. In addition, delegates discussed the theme “Reconciling Hope: A broken
church for a broken world” through the lenses of racial justice and the climate emergency. CTE President, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, spoke on reconciliation in a post-COVID world. He urged the church to embrace its diversity, to disagree in an agreeable manner, and “respond to the crises that surround us, with the love of God that is within us, and with the unity that can be reached between us.”
A coordinated aid response for Ukraine by Maidenhead URC
Maidenhead URC Group Photo. Image by URC
A group comprising volunteers and Maidenhead URC members played a central role in fundraising collecting, coordinating and dispatching emergency supplies to Ukraine. With links to families in Ukraine and towns on the border with Poland, ﬁrst-hand knowledge of what was needed fuelled donations. As a result, close to 600 boxes packed with medical supplies, medicines, ﬁrst aid kits, food, sleeping bags, blankets, toiletries and nappies were driven in a lorry to Ukraine on 10 March. www.cwmission.org 15
CWM organises the ﬁrst meeting of General Secretaries of three mission organisations The General Secretaries of Community of Churches in Mission (CEVAA), Council for World Mission (CWM), and United Evangelical Mission (UEM) conducted a successful meeting from 8-9 March 2022 in Singapore. Organised by CWM, this was the ﬁrst meeting of Rev. Célestin Kiki (CEVAA), Rev. Dr Jooseop Keum (CWM) and Rev. Volker Martin Dally (UEM) since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. The two days were a time of biblical reflection, open discussion, fellowship and mutual encouragement as they shared news and information, and strategised over possible joint mission activities. Among the matters in common they conversed on was their shared, grave concern about the Ukraine invasion, which is one of the largest wars in Europe in 80 years, and this gathering was an opportune time for them to join in prayer for peace. UEM, CEVAA, and CWM share similar roots and purpose as a partnership of Protestant faith communities around the world. Over the years, these three mission organisations have actively pursued paradigm shifts to become modern, international mission organisations committed to equal rights of membership, a round table model of decision-making processes, and equality in resource-sharing regardless of geographical location and numerical strength. Rev. Dally addressed CWM staff during their weekly virtual devotions on the topic “Called into Discipleship for leaving trodden paths”, where he spoke about the paradigm shift needed to take a risk and leave well-established paths of doing mission. Following two sessions of discussions on 8 March, their programme included a video interview where they spoke about the changing role of missional organisations and approach to mission in the past few years; the role of women in member churches; and their thoughts on vaccine injustices: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BxLchTZLbL8 Responding to the question on how the approach to mission had changed in the past three years of pandemic, Rev. Kiki highlighted the solidarity among member churches in Europe, especially France where they developed churches in homes, or “home churches” to continue with worship. In the African context, churches grew to adapt to or adopt new technology, making radio and broadcast of church services and information more prevalent. Besides familiarising themselves with YouTube, pastors were more connected to their church members as they made more frequent home visits. 16 INSiGHT MAY 2022
Echoing some of Rev. Kiki’s points, Rev. Dally emphasized that the pandemic had accelerated the transition of German churches to using another messaging platform, WhatsApp in their relationships with member churches in Asia and Africa. Their pre-pandemic complaints of unanswered emails dwindled, as they adopted the use of social media to communicate with their brothers and sisters in Asia and Africa. However, many of those engaged in mission work, especially in Germany, lapsed into old habits on giving, while some in Asia and Africa returned to the archaic role of being recipients. For example, during their donation drive for the most vulnerable, some churches in Germany wanted to make repeated distributions to churches in Asia and Africa who had not requested for aid. Debunking the stereotype that “all Asians and Africans are poor”, he raised the example of a flood in Germany, where around 50,000 Euros in offerings immediately emerged from the communion of churches in Asia and Africa to help the flood victims. As this video interview coincided with International Women’s Day, Rev. Kiki shared that the role of women has already been integrated into both CEVAA and member churches, while Rev. Dally elaborated on practical steps taken towards equipping women for ministry and leadership in member churches, gradually shifting in the direction of gender equality.
Rev. Kiki (above, extreme right) stressed that women leadership is already a reality, in Maohi Protestant Church, New Caledonia, and some churches in Africa, while a former CEVAA President and his immediate successor are both women. He also called attention to a CEVAA prayer event organised the week before in honour of International Women’s Day. Working within the conﬁnes of its influence on member churches, which are mostly independent churches, the UEM General Secretary (above, centre) spoke about their scholarships as a viable way to encourage gender balance, as it is stipulated that churches have to endorse a woman for a scholarship before they can endorse a man for the next scholarship. With this alternating arrangement, they have almost reached a balance – out of 80 scholarships, 38 were for women. Prior to this video interview, the General Secretaries had articulated how the prolonged pandemic has brought about immense suffering and extensive damage worldwide, and they concluded the interview by voicing their thoughts on vaccine injustices. The UEM General Secretary had called for a just distribution as well as the lifting of patent regulations on the vaccines so that other countries can produce these vaccines locally, while the CEVAA General Secretary acknowledged the fear of vaccination that many people in Africa have, and spoke about CEVAA’s ﬁnancial assistance to subsidise vaccines in church hospitals in Lesotho, Zambia, Rwanda, Cameroon, Ghana, and Ivory Coast. During the second day of meetings, the General Secretaries visited the CWM General Secretariat ofﬁce, and a presentation on “Mission in the Context of Covid-19 Pandemic” was delivered. Overall, the entire meeting went smoothly as planned, and it was well-received by CWM’s distinguished guests. Finally, Rev. Dr Jooseop Keum, the CWM General Secretary concluded the fruitful event with a closing devotion.
The Racial Justice Advocacy Forum calls for coverage, prayer and action for Black and Brown peoples facing racial discrimination amidst the invasion of Ukraine
Emmanuel Nwulu, right, a Nigerian studying in Kharkiv, Ukraine, with other fellow students who crossed the Ukrainian border into Zahony, Hungary, on Feb. 27. Africans who had been living in Ukraine say they were stuck for days at crossings into neighboring European Union countries, held up by Ukrainian authorities who pushed them to the ends of long lines and even beat them, while letting Ukrainians through.LAETITIA VANCON/NYT
UK— March 2022 — The Racial Justice Advocacy Forum condemns the invasion of Ukraine. The RJAF is deeply saddened by the loss of life, the destruction of homes and businesses, and the separation of families which has resulted from Putin's war on Ukraine. The RJAF equally condemns the racism demonstrated by Ukrainian authorities towards Black and Brown people at the borders and routes of escape from the conflict zones. We believe that all people are made in the image of God and should be equally afforded the dignity, support, opportunity, and protection currently being withheld from many Black and Brown people fleeing for safety. These actions demonstrate the ongoing racist attitudes in Europe which deprive those considered 'other' of basic human needs. The fact that we are seeing demonstrations of racism unfolding amidst this tragic and unlawful invasion is profoundly disheartening and disturbing. Call to prayer and action Black and Brown people, and people of Muslim faith afﬁliation, are facing racism and prejudice as they seek to escape the conflict in Ukraine. We ask Christians to remember all those who are being treated less than equally and fairly in the evacuation process. We must pray and act. 'It is important for Christians to pray. But for those Black and Brown people experiencing double jeopardy - war and racism - practical support needs to be offered. The fact that vast numbers of Black and Brown people are being prevented from leaving Ukraine is indicative of how deeply racism can lurk.' (Rev. Wale Hudson-Roberts, Justice Enabler – Baptist Union of Great Britain/RJAF) We call upon media outlets to accurately report the racism faced by Black and Brown people, and to raise awareness of the unjustiﬁable acts of discrimination taking place in the midst of a war zone in which every day is a matter of life and death for all those caught up in the conflict. The RJAF encourages people to write to their MPs and the High Commissions in London demanding clariﬁcation of their strategy for intervention and protection of their nationals, and to provide regular updates as events unfold. 18 INSiGHT MAY 2022
We call upon media outlets to accurately report the racism faced by Black and Brown people, and to raise awareness of the unjustiﬁable acts of discrimination taking place in the midst of a war zone in which every day is a matter of life and death for all those caught up in the conflict. The RJAF encourages people to write to their MPs and the High Commissions in London demanding clariﬁcation of their strategy for intervention and protection of their nationals, and to provide regular updates as events unfold. "I think this crisis speaks to the speciﬁcity of those racialised as Black or ‘other’. It highlights the need to examine whom we extend our love and compassion towards, and to whom we deny it. It calls on faith organisations to take the lead in expanding concepts of love and justice to encompass all, and to attend to the glaring omissions that governments and civil society practice when considering whose story is told." (Edwina Peart, Inclusion and Diversity Coordinator – Quakers in Britain/RJAF)
Nigerian students in Ukraine wait at the platform at the Lviv railway station on Sunday. Bernat ArmangueAP
The RJAF will hold fortnightly online brieﬁngs to share updates on the coordinated efforts to advocate for and support Black and Brown people facing racial discrimination in Ukraine. Christian Aid will support these brieﬁngs. For media enquiries, please contact: Richard Reddie Director of Justice and Inclusion Churches Together in Britain and Ireland Email: Richard.Reddie@ctbi.org.uk Revd. Wale Hudson-Roberts Justice Enabler Baptist Union of Great Britain Email: firstname.lastname@example.org The Racial Justice Advocacy Forum is an ecumenical Christian entity that seeks to speak prophetically on behalf of Black and Brown Christians to the government on racial injustice challenges and reparations. The forum comprises representatives from various Christian institutions such as the Ascension Trust, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, the Evangelical Alliance, the Methodist Church, the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), the Salvation Army, the Sam Sharpe Project, and the United Reformed Church.
Christians from 80 countries join Ash Wednesday prayer for peace
Ash Wednesday at St. Patrick Cathedral in El Paso (KFOX14/CBS4)
Over 3,000 Christians heard personal testimonies from Ukrainian pastors and parishioners living in besieged towns and cities and Lenten reflections when they joined in an online ecumenical service of lament, prayer and solidarity with Ukraine on Ash Wednesday. In her introductory words, Rev. Anne Burghardt, Lutheran World Federation (LWF) General Secretary decried the “horrors of war and displacement” and said: “A pall of ashes covers Ukraine. The claim of God calls humanity into responsibility: Where is your brother, Cain? We want to shout this claim into the hearts and minds of those responsible for all this violence.” Reflecting on the need to beat “swords into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks (Micah 4:3)”, Hanns Lessing, World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) Acting General Secretary afﬁrmed the commitment of the world communions gathered for the event to supporting the churches in Ukraine, and spoke of the calling of all churches to the task of peace-making. Those present heard personal testimonies from Mykola Danilevich from Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Moscow Patriarchate, in the capital Kyiv, who said that up to 80 people are sheltering underground in his parish each night to escape from the bombings. Pastor Alexey from the Mennonite church in the south-eastern port city of Berdyansk showed empty streets and closed shops, saying that fuel has been rationed and there are concerns about the availability of food and medicine if the conflict continues. The service continued with a plea for Christians to bring hope through prayers and action at this time of crisis, and concluded with a time of intercessory prayers that extended beyond Ukraine to other war-torn countries including Myanmar, Syria, Ethiopia and the Tigray region, Yemen, Armenia, and South Sudan. Adapted from an article by P. Hitchen, Lutheran World Federation (LWF). 20 INSiGHT MAY 2022
Necro politics, pandemic and the Prophetic mission Proclaiming the good news in word and action towards transformation By Sigamoney Shakespeare
“ because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals- they who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth, and push the afflicted our of the way…” Amos 2:6,7a “. I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10b
Pandemic and the silencing of the Other
The prophetic tradition in the Bible calls the people of God to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ in
action so that the world is ﬁlled with the knowledge of God thereby transforming unjust structures. This article examines how the Covid-19 pandemic has strengthened authoritarian political structures and unjust economic structures, and almost silenced these prophetic voices.
Pandemic and the danger of monologism | Silencing religious societies In some cases, the pandemic conveniently became a situation where only the voice of the powerful institutions was heard while other voices were silenced. Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, social and religious life came to a standstill. Community gatherings, festivals, and celebrations gradually closed. Social interactions became minimal, affecting horizontal communication among the common people. On the other hand, the government and other powerful organizations became the major voices that were heard. Vertical communication grew stronger without any voice to confront it, thus becoming a dominant narrative without dialogue. Religious bodies went quiet and in some countries, religious organisations were forced to shut down. When cases of transmission were found in religious organizations, it appeared on the media. This
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portrayal of places of worship as dangerous places created fear in the minds of people and affected the image of religious institutions. At one point of time, people working in ofﬁces returned to work, and crowds visited huge shopping malls, dining together in restaurants which were back in full swing. At a later stage, even night clubs were opened. In short, everything was back to normal, yet the fear of transmission in places of worship remained and restrictions continued to be imposed on them. Human beings need more than food and money to survive a pandemic, when they are helpless, lonely, and struggling with ﬁnances and the fear of death. Religious life is essential for any society, and religion gives hope that surpasses human understanding in hopeless situations. Sadly, the voice of the religious communities has been suppressed by political institutions, diminishing the space for dialogue.
| Silencing activists Besides religious societies, the voices of social movements and human rights organizations were also suppressed during the pandemic, with humans rights activists unable to gather for demonstrations against political institutions. For example, the military junta in Myanmar killed activists and civilians who rose up and demonstrated against the military dictatorship. The Christian community in Myanmar was persecuted, with churches attacked, pastors kidnapped and killed. Innocent civilians including women and children became refugees, making perilous journeys enroute to uncertain freedom. News of these killings gained little attention globally as international leaders were occupied with and focused on dealing with the pandemic. Voices of dissent were silenced in the Philippines as well, with church leaders who were human rights activists facing persecution. In Russia, voices opposing the Ukraine conflict were suppressed violently, similar to what mainstream media did during the conflict in Iraq, Syria and Palestine where millions of innocent lives were lost.
| Silencing indigenous voices to exploit nature In some nations, natural resources were exploited for political expediency. While the world was in a panic, safety measures that were in place to check the exploitation of nature were removed, and some governments passed laws to gain absolute power over all the natural resources, which would otherwise have not been possible. Indigenous communities who were saving forests and mountains as their ancestral lands were alienated and their voices suppressed so that companies could take over these resources. For more than a year during the pandemic, farmers in India protested against new farm laws passed to allow corporations control over the farming sector. Although this was later repealed, farmers who were breadwinners died in the protests, shattering communities. The church is called to stand up to protect nature not only for ecological reasons but also because nature reflects the image of God.
| Silencing the cries of small businesses Many small businesses folded during the two years of pandemic without revenue to pay rent, in Seoul and cities elsewhere. Large corporations seized this opportunity to acquire shops and businesses cheaply, monopolising the market. With “survival of the ﬁttest” as the principle of capitalism, the cries of small, struggling business owners in brutal economic systems are drowned out by large-scale advertising of large business.
| Pandemic and Necro Politics Mbembe Achille in his book Necropolitics describes the use of social power to dictate how some people must live and some must die. In India, multitudes of the poor died on the streets, unable to reach medical facilities. In some hospitals, many marginalised people infected with COVID-19 died due to lack of access to oxygen cylinders. The death toll was so high that there was a social numbness towards death. Likewise, in Europe, those unable to afford medical facilities were mostly Asians, Africans, Latin Americans, migrants and the poor without medical insurance. The political system has already determined who will live and who will die during the pandemic. Certainly, there were deaths among the rich and elite but at least, they had access to medical facilities whereas the poor could not even get tested in the hospital. One can argue that the situation was inevitable because hospitals were overwhelmed by the sheer number of cases, but the fact is, we have built a medical system that denies access to socially disadvantaged communities. The question one has to raise is, why do the elderly, weak and powerless have to die whilst the rich and the powerful have life-saving access to the healthcare system?
The political system has already determined who will live and who will die during the pandemic. Certainly, there were deaths among the rich and elite but at least, they had access to medical facilities whereas the poor could not even get tested in the hospital.
| Contact tracing and mass surveillance During the pandemic, technological applications were created to track and alert people if they came into contact with someone infected. While it looks good as a system, it poses the risk of personal information and data being collected and used for surveillance purposes. The pandemic has been exploited to normalise mass surveillance, denying people the right to freedom of life.
| Pharma-colonial Necro Politics In the past, nations colonised other nations, stripping away their natural resources violently. Today, there is a rising trend of pharmaceutical companies having the power to determine life and death. I have coined the term “Pharma colonialism” to denote how poor nations are controlled and colonised through the provision of vaccines. It is no longer a matter of economics, but also the politics of death and the monopoly of pharmaceutical industries. By dictating terms and conditions of supplying vaccines, a few pharmaceutical companies have power to decide who should live and who should die, with rich nations having priority access to vaccines when people were dying every minute.
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What does God want us to do? | Prophetic voices The book of Amos Chapter 2 states that God is against Israel and will not revoke the punishment of Israel “because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals- they who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth, and push the afflicted out of the way.” The punishment and prophecy in the book of Amos is not a curse out of anger and frustration but shows the heart of God that cares for the weak and the powerless. When they are oppressed, it distorts the image of God in them. The sin of Israel during the time of Amos was that economic development was placed above and at the cost of the wellbeing of the weaker, marginalised section of the society. The poor became poorer and ﬁnally became slaves, deprived of dignity. How did the society come to this point of callousness? It was through silencing voices of dissent and creating a monologic narrative of economy, politics and social life in which the suffering of the underprivileged is ignored by established social systems. Knowing that God is against systems that deprive people of their dignity, the church is called to stand in solidarity with the destitute, making its prophetic voice loud and clear.
A dialogic vision | Towards Life in fullness Jesus exposed the oppressive and inhuman systems of his time when he resisted by standing up for the salvation of entire humanity and creation. The pandemic has exposed the urgency to raise prophetic voices when the impoverished are denied human dignity and also to envision the reign of God here and now. When the missionaries came to new countries, they built educational and medical institutions. These institutions were not run for commercial purposes but to serve those without access to health care and educational facility. Medical mission has to be revived as an alternative to the commercialised medical system, and similar work should be embarked on to fulﬁl God’s mission in economy and education, for a just society in the future where there is space for the marginalized to live life in fullness (John 10:10). Isaiah Chapter 11:6-9, ESV tells us: “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” When God’s mission to ﬁll the earth with the knowledge of the Lord is fulﬁlled, a transformation takes place. There will be no space for a monologic narrative of life because all creatures coexist, living in relationship with one another. The lion eats straw like the ox - it is the powerful that learns not to live at the expense of another’s life not out of pity but because of the fellowship and relationality. It is no longer about the survival of the ﬁttest but living life in fullness together, caring and nurturing each other. Only with a new prophetic order that is relational and dialogic, can all experience life in its fullness. Admittedly, this does not happen overnight, so the call right now is to begin with the prophetic work of proclaiming the good news, standing in solidarity with the weak and oppressed communities. This in turn will strengthen their lives and resist oppressive structures. In heaven there are no zoos, but man and beast will live in harmony without exploiting each other. It is the weak – a small child – who lead the entire system. A system and life centred on the knowledge of God, where the wellbeing of the weakest and the least is taken care of.
The Margins at the Intersection of Race and Gender By Karen Georgia Thompson
“Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy” Proverbs 31:8-9 (NRSV)
Women of Colour in Crisis
their human rights and hindering the flourishing of their lives. Writing for the United Nations, Roberto Cuéllar notes: “In Latin America and the Caribbean, his article was inspired by a keynote speech I gave racism and discrimination have historical, economic, on the occasion of a World Council of Churches social and cultural features which have kept speciﬁc virtual Women’s Pilgrim Team Visit to North America groups, including indigenous populations, in March 2022. The speech opened the two-day Afro-descendants and women, in a state of programme which was attended by women from marginalisation, exclusion and extreme poverty. In Canada, México, United States and the Caribbean this sense, discrimination is a crime, not only and was entitled Race, Gender and the Seeds of because it conflicts with international law but also Oppression, a title which highlighted the exploration because it lays the ground for the violation of basic of the intersectionalities of injustice present for human rights.” African descendant, Latina and indigenous women in the region. Women continue to live on the margins and with them, their children. The marginalisation of women is Women of colour are living within the margins at the global and historic. The list of challenges and intersection of race and gender. Racism and sexism concerns continues to grow with women being left are injustices which marginalise billions violating behind, particularly where economics is concerned.
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Poverty indicators account for the national indicators and global indicators and yet they tell the same story about the living conditions of women of colour and point to the vulnerability present for this population globally.
This global reality holds, because while many point to the wealth present in the United States and to the indicators of development which would name the U.S. and Canada as “developed countries”. There are the truths of the lives of women of colour living in these countries which decry this narrative. Poverty indicators account for the national indicators and global indicators and yet they tell the same story about the living conditions of women of colour and point to the vulnerability present for this population globally.
Women of colour in the Americas live in this state of marginalisation, exclusion and extreme poverty carrying concerns about their lives, their children and their families. They are concerned about the ways in which they are treated by institutions including the church, schools and governmental organisations. They are concerned about what it means to be single parents, partnered or married women providing for their families. Family includes their spouses, partners and children, and for some, caretaking for elderly relatives or parents.
The injustices facing women globally have long been documented and are currently exacerbated as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. More so, women and children of colour continue to be among the most vulnerable populations with race being an additional demographic which compounds and inhibits the ability to achieve successful outcomes for their lives. Women of colour around the world are facing a myriad of injustices which continue to affect their quality of life and in many cases violate their human rights. These include discrimination, lack of access to fair wages, lack of access to health care, low wages, lack of safety in their homes and the absence of resources necessary to care for themselves, for their children, and for their families.
There are over 388 million women and girls predicted to be living in extreme poverty in 2022 due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Close to 23 million are identiﬁed in the Americas as living in extreme poverty based on global poverty indicators. More women than men live in poverty with 56 percent of those living in poverty being women. The number of women living in deep poverty is also larger than the number of men. Deep poverty is deﬁned as a state in which an individual household's annual income falls below 50 percent of the poverty line. More than 18.5 million people in the United States live in deep poverty. The layers of vulnerability are staggering and threatening. Across the biblical narratives, Jesus and the prophets teach the importance of caring for each other in community and more importantly, they name the priority of caring for the most vulnerable in the communities in which we live. This is not a suggestion. It is a part of the call to discipleship. And, as the world continues to confront the problems and opportunities created by the pandemic, the church too has to ﬁnd its place in addressing the widening social and economic gaps being experienced by women.
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Race is a pandemic living among us and has been for centuries. The presence of racism as an injustice experienced by women would take days to unpack. These years of health pandemic, deeper rifts and incidences of racism and all forms of discrimination globally are being exposed. In her article for Brookings Institute on the topic of women and the workplace, Adia Harvey Wingﬁeld wrote: “Race and racism create speciﬁc, unique challenges for women of colour that are too easily ignored with broad platitudes that seek to advance women’s representation without questioning which women are most likely to beneﬁt.” While writing with reference to the US context, this is true for women of colour around the world, even in countries where they are not racialised minorities. Also present is the trauma being experienced by women of colour. There is trauma in living as a woman of colour and I will speak from my own experience as a Black woman. There are hurts experienced and wounds too deep to name as a result of the exposure to racism, sexism and discrimination due to encounter resulting from the embodiment of race and gender. The micro aggressions and dehumanising treatment are traumatising. Fighting to ensure agency for ourselves and those around us is physically and emotionally exhausting. And with each encounter with people and systems that assail our dignity and threaten our welfare, there is the silence and the dismissive ways in which our experiences are ﬁltered by those around us.
Women and COVID-19 The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in over 6 million deaths globally. Along with the escalating death toll, is the impact the related lockdowns and resulting global economic downturn is having on the most vulnerable communities. Writing for Concern Worldwide, Olivia Giovetti identiﬁed seven reasons why COVID-19 is having a tougher impact on women and girls. 1. Emergencies deepen inequalities that are already there 2. Women have lost more income than men due to COVID-19 3. Women are more likely to go hungry due to the pandemic 4. Most frontline health workers are female - but they don't always have a voice 5. In a pandemic, women and girls are most likely to take on the extra labour 6. Women are facing more mental and physical health challenges due to COVID-19 7. A higher male mortality rate also affects women 8. COVID-19 has led to increases in gender-based violence 9. A pandemic can end a girl's education 10. A health crisis threatens women’s reproductive health
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These items noted by Giovetti are noteworthy as the learnings and opportunities of COVID-19 continue to be gathered. Each of these ten items point to challenges for communities, and more especially for women of colour and communities of colour. COVID-19 ampliﬁed the fault lines already present for vulnerable communities. The items highlighted in the article are cause for concern as they further erode the opportunities for women and girls as the pandemic continues. Education and economic progress are at stake for girls and women. Loss of income and the inability to access education have grave implications for the future of girls and impact the health, mortality and poverty of women and children. Equity has to remain a focus for women and girls beyond COVID-19 because as Giovetti notes, emergencies will continue to deepen the inequalities that exist between the genders. Loss of income affects food access and is at the root of the increasing number of women experiencing poverty. As service industries have lost jobs due to the pandemic, women have lost jobs and income, although many were already in low wage jobs. The implications for women’s mental and physical health will require long term attention as well. The stress of pandemic living and the adaptations to the loss of income, inability to procure food and necessary resources are wearing away at the health of women. In addition, the increase in gender-based violence is an additional stress as social isolation and sheltering in place required individuals to be in their homes more. All homes are not safe places for women and girls.
Where injustices are present, the church must lend voice, advocacy and collective action to dismantling systems of patriarchy and privilege and ensure equity and access are available to all.
Intimate partner violence was a problem prior to COVID-19 and has worsened in the past two years. The UN reported that one in three women worldwide has experienced physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, emerging data and reports from those on the front lines, have shown that all types of violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence, has intensiﬁed. The experiences of women and girls during these two years of pandemic has mirrored the experiences of the past and they have worsened. More women are losing jobs. More women are in poverty. More women are going hungry. More women are experiencing physical and sexual abuse. These are women who are a part of the church. These are women who live in the communities we live in and the communities we serve. Women cannot advocate alone for the changes needed to guarantee safety and human rights for women and girls. The church has a role to play to ensure that all of God’s children are able to live as recipients of justice. This moment is inviting us to name the truths of the realities in which women of colour are living. I believe in doing so the church will be responsive and attending to these matters of justice. We have to start with the places where we live, calling the churches to accountability for our complicity in the marginalisation of women in our communities. Where injustices are present, the church must lend voice, advocacy and collective action to dismantling systems of patriarchy and privilege and ensure equity and access are available to all. Where silence persists
in the presence of injustice, we render ourselves complicit in perpetuating behaviours which are harmful to the greater good of all and render the least of these that much more vulnerable. The church must account for the ways in which discrimination and harm are being inflicted upon women and in doing so, must be prepared to act to bring awareness, healing, change and reconciliation to the world. If one among is not well we are not well. Or as Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “If one
member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26). We hope for an end to the pandemic and as we wait, we must address these issues to bring justice and relief for women who are suffering. Women are suffering and more so, women of colour are bearing the brunt of the injustices facing women globally. This is a call for the church to provide leadership in ministry and mission to see a better world for all.
Rev Dr Karen Georgia A. Thompson is Associate General Minister for Wider Church Ministries and Operations in the United Church of Christ (UCC).
together Written by Karen Georgia A. Thompson
we walk side by side people of faith boldly building new communities connected by Spirit’s ﬁre balancing bounty and need we flourish committed to the body of Christ together
we breathe love visioning the possibilities: new churches revitalised worship communities developing new leaders providing for our neighbours in crisis we are evidence of the church in action together
we are the gift the presence of God revealed reflected in the beauty of all we are at one across the miles of our differences we embrace unity in our diversity the church as one impacting the world around us together
we are miracles insightful and creative Spirit-inspired, generosity-ﬁlled children of love and life giving from the abundance of who we are giving to build the whole church giving to strengthen the Church together
we like trees ﬁrmly planted blossom and bloom courageously changing lives we nurture each others’ spirits needing each other learning from each other we are the Holy Spirit poured out together
we emanate the spirit of Pentecost extending extravagant welcome with arms outstretched we heal touching each others’ lives with grace tearing down walls and building bridges erasing borders and boundaries we are the church growing stronger together 26 January 2022 19:47 KGAT Olmsted Township, OH © 2022 by Karen Georgia A. Thompson. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
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Vulnerability of the Earth An Africo-Missio-Ecological Reflection By Samuel K.B. Nkrumah-Pobi
The vulnerability of the earth in recent times is
alarming. The damage to the earth has escalated over the years even though scholars, various governments and other non-governmental institutions have tried educating the public on the dangers of such damage. According to the Cambridge English dictionary, to be vulnerable means to be in a position of being attacked, being easily hurt physically, or mentally. In 2020 as I visited Ghana as part of my PhD research, two things triggered my call for a rapid response in addressing the ecological crises that we ﬁnd ourselves. First, the change in the climate and second the destruction of the water bodies in my hometown through illegal mining. Thus, from a missio-ecological perspective, I would attempt to propose how the Church in Africa and the world at large could help deal with this problem. My reflection would be limited to the African continent since most of these problems cut across the entire continent.
be careful, informing us that these were holes dug by illegal miners and some of these holes have taken the lives of the indigenes. In the process of sharing the gospel, I met a few people with whom I thought it wise to share the dangers of illegal mining with them. What surprised me was that they knew the dangers of what they were doing but claimed that that was their only source of livelihood. One of them went on to state that if he had a better job opportunity, he would have stopped this illegal mining, which destroys the ecological system. In this regard, one The ecological system has been under serious attack cannot separate poverty, lack of employment and in recent times in most parts of Africa. Some of this economic factors from the destruction of the destruction of the ecological system is founded on ecological system in Africa. This makes the whole the capitalistic nature of the world. The bible is situation in Africa complex and unique from the indeed right to opine that the love for money is the world. Thus, it can be proposed that the Church in root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10). In Africa, one could Africa can do something to resolve the problem; identify various forms of destruction of the however, their plans to salvage the entire situation ecological system, from the pollution of the air and might not work without the collective effort of all various water bodies, the degradation of the land, including the government. and the destruction of the various forest reserves, with the continuous biodiversity loss. These factors In this regard, poverty becomes one of the main have led to two main problems in Africa. First, reason why most people in Africa destroy the climate change and second, as pointed out by the environment because such destruction has become United Nations Environment Programme, serious their source of livelihood. Earlier on, I pointed out that health issues like diarrheal disease, and respiratory the destruction of the ecological system was alien to illness due to the destruction of the ecosystem. the people of Africa. My assertion is based on the fact that various African worldview demonstrates the One cannot also rule out the underlying factor in harmony that exists between nature and humans. I Africa leading to the destruction of the ecological would limit my assessment of such worldviews to system, which previously was alien to the continent. I two. The ﬁrst is the Ubuntu philosophy and the would expatiate on my assertion that the destruction second is the title of King of the Akyem Abuakwa of the ecological system was alien to the African people of Ghana. The Ubuntu philosophy that states, continent as I proceed in this reflective paper. One “I am because we are,” has often been translated or main factor leading to such destruction is interpreted from the anthropocentric perspective. socio-economic issues. In 2017, I joined a team of What I mean by this point is this idea is normally missionaries made up of the Apostolic Students and limited to the relationship between humans. This is Associate of the University of Ghana to a mission due to the self-centeredness of humans. Given the ﬁeld in the Akyem Abuakwa kingdom in Ghana. The understanding of the African worldview, which is kingdom has experienced the destruction of its water holistic in nature, this philosophy cannot be limited to bodies and forest reserves through illegal mining just the relationship, which exists between humans. popularly known as “galamsey” in Ghana. The It further extends to the relationship that exists interesting thing was that the head of the local between humans and nature as well as the sacred council of Churches in that community took us round world. In this regard, the survival between humans, demarcated certain boundaries and cautioned us to nature, and the sacred is intertwined and not
dichotomized. Such a relationship could be well understood with the title ascribed to the King of Akyem Abuakwa of the people of Ghana. In the Akan language, he is called Kwaebibiremhene, translated as King of the sacred forest. Africans regarded such a holistic relationship between humans, nature and the sacred as intertwined. It must be noted that for most the African ecological system was a living thing. The point here that one should note is the term “living thing” goes beyond the scientiﬁc understanding of living things. For the Africans, nature could hear, could speak, have emotions etc. just like humans. Africa further perceived most of its ecological system as sacred and accorded it with much respect. In some parts of Africa notably Ghana, most of their traditional festivals are connected to the ecological system. For instance, the Ohum (Yam) festival as celebrated by the people of Akyem Abuakwa is connected to the Birim River.
Thus, I call for a reorientation of such a worldview, a shift from anthropocentric thinking to anthropocosmic thinking. In this regard, how does the Church in Africa respond adequately to these problems? In the Churches’ response to the ecological problem in Africa, I suggest that the Church should reclaim life-giving environmental protective philosophies in the African cultural milieu, which could be reinterpreted in the light of the gospel. Let me point out that missio-ecology praxis is not something new. Our ancestors, since time immemorial, have participated in the aspect of the mission of God, which is related to the environment. John Mbiti and Bolaji Idowu and many other African scholars have argued that Africans already knew God and God was present in Africa before the coming of the Western missionaries. In the light of this, most Africans participating in the missio Dei saw themselves as caretakers of the environment and protected it. Africans revered the environment and Thus, the title ascribed to the King mandated him to believed that nature had emotions as pointed out protect the forest no matter the consequences even earlier. This African understanding of nature with his life. It is sad to note that in recent times, the possessing such features is not different from Jesus government of Ghana, which is supposed to protect Christ speaking to the ﬁg tree. If indeed the ﬁg tree the forest, was telling its people to agree to its died, then it means it heard Jesus Christ. Thus, proposal to mine one of these forests since it has Africans had respect for the environment. economic gains. Thus, in recent years, it could be Furthermore, the Kwaebibiremhene’s responsibility observed that most African ideas on environmental as stated earlier was to protect the ecological conservation have become theories or history system. The position he holds is divine and backed instead of being practical. There has been a shift in by the sacred world. Thus, by his act of protecting contemporary times from the practical African the environment participates in the mission of God, perspective, which was anthropocosmic in which has its foundation of life and not death. understanding, meaning, it clearly demonstrated the Furthermore, the African understanding of Ubuntu harmonious relationship that existed between nature philosophy is not anthropocentric in nature but rather and humans, which was one of respect and love. anthropocosmic. “We are because of the What we are witnessing now is one that is environment and the environment is because of us.” anthropocentric in nature, one that is centered on That is the African understanding between humans humans alone and relegating the ecological system and nature. It is one of harmonious living one of to the background due to the love for money. Thus, it protection, not one of greed and the love for wealth, becomes a surprise why a sudden shift. The main which results in the destruction of the ecological cause of such a problem I opine is due to the system. By reclaiming these African philosophies demonization of most of the African culture, and reinterpreting them in the light of the gospel, the philosophies and ideas by Western missionaries, Church in Africa could address the problem at hand. which has left an indelible mark on the minds of the people and secondly the capitalistic nature of the world we live in today. 32 INSiGHT MAY 2022
...poverty becomes one of the main reason why most people in Africa destroy the environment because such destruction has become their source of livelihood.
Furthermore, the mission of God has always included the ecological system. In the flood story in Genesis 6, God instructs Noah to include livestock in the ark. Thus, this act demonstrates that the mission of God since the beginning has always included the ecological system. In addition, one could observe how Jesus Christ instructed his disciples to preach the gospel in Mark 16:15 to all creation. In preaching the saving power of God, God did not omit any person or thing. God’s salvation and deliverance is for all, which has also been holistic and inclusive. The mission of God has always been to give life. Thus, the good news of the Cross, as we are in the season of post-Easter, in the act of liberation does not only refers to human but also the entire creation which includes the ecological system. A rereading of Romans 8:18-25 from an ecological perspective demonstrates how creation (ecological system) is in pain, labour, anguish, corrupted and waiting for the manifestation of the children of God. The ecological system has been corrupted. It is in pain and anguish. It is waiting for those who are ready to participate in the mission of God in liberating it.
Thus, scriptures, which are ecological friendly, could be reinterpreted in the light of African ecological philosophies to help address the ecological crises facing the continent. I suggest African ecological philosophies because identity is key in resolving problems confronting certain people. May we always be ready to participate in the mission of God to give life to everything or everyone, which seems dying or dead. Rev Samuel Koﬁ Boateng Nkrumah-Pobi is an Ecumenical preacher and currently a PhD Candidate with the Global Institute of Theology, Yonsei University. He is also the leader of Azusa Revival Outreach Ministry.
Caring for our Environment? A humble, prayerful attitude is essential By Fiona Gannon, Union of Welsh Independents (UWI)
f we believe in our duty to act as stewards of creation (Gen. 2.15), caring for our planet and nurturing it, we cannot avoid being painfully aware of our failure to do so. Far from being able to pass on a flourishing legacy to future generations, we are now living on a planet in crisis, which is rapidly reaching an irreversible tipping point as regards climate change, and where the gleeful squandering of the earth’s resources by the wealthy minority has created an environmental emergency. Not only are we endangering the ability of future generations to sustain themselves – we are rapidly creating a planet which is unrecognisable, and where large portions of the world’s population are forced to become migrants, since their former homes are no longer inhabitable. Understandably, many church congregations are engaging increasingly with environmental matters, by moving across to sustainable energy suppliers, taking advantage of chances to install solar panels, etc. Many are established fairtrade churches, and have made conscious decisions to use no single-use disposable items, raising awareness amongst their congregations and communities of environmental issues. Some are also ﬁnding ways of using church grounds to promote biodiversity, plant trees, and create green havens/wildlife service stations. However, how can all this be reconciled with the many church buildings that are nothing short of an environmental nightmare? Is it possible to claim to be following a green agenda if we are a small congregation meeting in an ancient building that is, to all intents and purposes, an uninsulated barn? Do we hear any echoes of Jesus’ words: ‘Woe to you ... you hypocrites’ (Math. 23)? How can we distance ourselves from our attachment to bricks and mortar and truly practise what we preach? In our personal lives, we may feel it’s easier to control the various aspects of our lives which could be greener. Many of us will have been making green choices for quite some time now. Perhaps we’ve moved over to renewable energy and installed a smart metre in the house. Covid may well have helped us to reduce our mileage in the car, and it’s also likely that we’ve developed more local shopping habits as a result of the pandemic.
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However, here again, there is a pressing question as regards our credibility, or possibly it might be fairer to refer to our relevance as part of the bigger picture. As someone who can afford to do so ﬁnancially, I am privileged to be able to make environmental choices, but even if all those in Wales who are in a similar position to me move to a greener way of life (and that’s a big if), to what extent can that be seen as effective when almost 30% of the population of Wales is living in poverty? When living in poverty, matters of environmentalism can quite simply cease to have relevance, since the battle to keep one’s head above water eclipses all else. The costs of the energy supplier are immeasurably more important than how green they are, every penny saved counts, and the over-riding concern is ﬁnding a means of feeding the household, keeping them warm, and clothing them. How, then, can we respond to these issues? We may ﬁnd some guidance in the story of the rich young man, where Jesus tells him to sell all his possessions (Math. 19). As so often in the stories we are told in the New Testament, Jesus knows the characters he talks to better than they know themselves (another obvious example of this is the woman at the well in Samaria), and after making a connection with them, he gently pushes them out of their comfort zone. He immediately spots the stumbling block which is preventing the young man from living a life where God is at the centre. The call to sell all his possessions, therefore, is a challenge to this young man’s mindset. Jesus knows that money and possessions hold the central place in his heart, so he challenges him to place God there instead. I wonder how he would challenge us in Wales to change our mindset in 2022? According to Shelter Cymru last summer, 1 in 3 people in Wales are living in unsafe or unaffordable housing. In that context, I wonder whether Jesus might challenge us to ‘ﬁnd a way of providing shelter to the homeless, rather than maintaining out of date, dilapidated buildings that are only used for a couple of hours a week’. Similarly, in the context of poverty, I wonder whether he might challenge us to think at a more
We may be doubtful as to whether such campaigns could succeed, but certainly, at a personal and church level, we need to push ourselves out of our comfort zone and be prepared to venture. We should approach God humbly and prayerfully, and ask for guidance as to our next steps. We should also be prepared to make sacriﬁces. If we can already afford to make many greener choices ﬁnancially, perhaps our personal stumbling block is time and/or convenience. Perhaps we’re too attached to certain aspects of our life, and can’t bear to think that they’re not environmentally sustainable. Perhaps we’re frightened of change, or sceptical that a seed already planted in our hearts could ever bear fruit.
groundbreaking level. When Jesus said ‘the poor will always be with you’ (Math. 26) he was acknowledging that all earthly systems become corrupted, with the rich proﬁting at the expense of the poor. Environmental issues are yet another example where those in poverty have fewer choices and possibilities, so however satisfying and essential it might be to improve our personal environmental practices, we should be setting our sights higher, and constantly challenging government at all levels to truly promote the green agenda.
Whatever is preventing us from moving forward, if we turn to Jesus and offer ourselves to him, just like the characters in the Bible stories, he will engage with us, and then, very gently and lovingly, show us what we need to do to move forward with God on our environmental journey. Only time will tell whether we will be brave enough to respond to that challenge. As we know, although Jesus could see his potential, the rich young man in Mathew’s gospel failed to do so. As we venture forward, we should remind ourselves that we want God to use us to help to achieve his aim of life in all its fullness (John 10:10), and that if we offer ourselves, God has an unfailing ability to achieve more than we could ever have believed possible (Eph.3.20).
There are plenty of areas where we should be campaigning: rather than a future where those already on the poverty line live in fear of further energy price rises, we need policies that subsidise energy from renewable sources; rather than public transport which is incompatible with work and caring responsibilities, we need to ensure that sustainable transport choices are an option for all; the food industry needs to be totally restructured, so that food of the best quality is accessible to those members of our communities who need it most.
Rise to Life: Engaging in God’s creative action Let’s begin with a word study. In the Old Testament the word qûm and ‛ūr in Hebrew mean “to cause to arise,” “to awake,” “stir up” (Ezra 1:5; Isa 41:2). In the New Testament the chief words are egeírō and anístemi: “to awaken,” “arouse” (Mt 3:9; Lk 1:69, 3:8), frequently of raising the dead. In many instances the verb qûm refers to preparatory activity, e.g., “rising up” which entails the end of such action: standing. It is also interesting to note that the word qûm is frequently used in martial contexts. It refers to preparation for (Jud 7:15), engagement in (Ex 2:17), and victory in war (or struggle, Josh 7:2). Sometimes, qûm connotes anticipated or realized victory. Notably in the Old Testament narratives when God engages in combat victory is certain. Thus the word may denote God’s creative and saving action and often the suffering and the oppressed beseech God to rise in their behalf. Rise to Life beckons for our response: What does it mean to follow Jesus in the world today? This calls us to discern God’s creative action from the side of the marginal and to afﬁrm that Good News was preached to and from the poor. Indeed, it reminds us that we are together in mission to “stir up” with Jesus and with each other. Rise to Life invites us to be a witness to God’s creative action in the community of grace and truth where all life, systems and relationships are redeemed, transformed and realized in the love of God. It reminds us that we are together in mission, mutually upholding each other in our struggle as well as in celebration. Rise to Life calls us to prepare for and engage in God’s creative action in the midst of all injustices and life-destroying forces in the world so that our life and work as a family of CWM bring change rather than just preserving interests and assets. This act of rising to life reminds us that we are together in mission to dismantle all forms of inequalities that exist. Rev. Julie Sim Mission Secretary, East Asia & South Asia
Partners in Mission Visit CWM General Secretary
From left: Rev. Dr Li Hau Tiong and Mrs. Hsu Su-Fen (Partners in Mission), Rev. Julie Sim (Mission Secretary - East and South Asia Regions) and Rev. Dr Jooseop Keum (CWM General Secretary)
Jooseop in conversation with Hau Tiong and Su-Fen, Partners in MissionJooseop in conversation with Hau Tiong and Su-Fen, Partners in Mission
Partners in Mission from the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT) now serving with the Presbyterian Church in Singapore (PCS), Rev. Dr. Li Hau Tiong and his wife, Mrs. Hsu Su-Fen, visited the General Secretary of CWM in February 2022. They are the ﬁrst partners to visit the General Secretary amid the pandemic.
"Fears & Easter Hope(s)" Security must have been on high alert, given all the reported claims from Jesus about coming back to life. That will be disastrous for the status quo, hence the attempts to make the tomb secure
(Matthew 27:64) and to give a sense of having things under control. Control is what we seek today as fears multiply around us. Who will roll the stones of fears away? Whatever location or context you are reading this brief reflection from, we will be grappling with a multiplicity of questions and anxieties. Pause and name them. There is nothing to be ashamed, including those fears and anxieties. Consider also where and in what we would wish to locate our sense of security. This is important given the many around offering the illusion of hope and enticing securities.
Easter and resurrection suggest that all our efforts at making the tomb secure and at ‘sealing things’ merely serve to create a greater sense of our own insecurities. In the Easter and
post-Easter stories, the Divine breaks through all human attempts to safely contain (Status Quo); to follow from a safe distance (Peter); and to wash our hands from taking responsibility as agents of death (Pilate). There was also that unpredictable earthquake that shattered the security cordon around the tomb, causing some to faint from fright! The women, of course, did manage to maintain consciousness, able to ride the surprises around them, unafraid, and running towards (not from) to share the good news.
Easter meant boldness and freedom for them, not having their lives dictated by the agents of death. Death, of course, is so easy to accept as the norm as it is all around us. It is more difﬁcult to believe
that life will triumph over death and good over evil.
Easter afﬁrms that God is not in the business of formulating a strategy for containment, but an adventure of generous abundance. This is the fullness of life project – full and flourishing life for all which is at the heart of our life together as Easter communities. Easter declares: that God
is creating a new heaven and a new earth (which we desperately need), that love is working overtime, and that biodegradability is not the ﬁnal word. Our arising and rising up God reigns!
A new day with new possibilities has dawned and now our part in the story of Easter begins! How are we planning to live and practice an Easter life-style, floating with the promise and hope of our rising-up One accompanying us into the present and future?
break through the heart of what chains us; deliver us from the pain and grief which drains the colour of life out of us make us realise that what we want and what we need are two different orders of reality.
Give us this day saving moments of spaciousness and invitation to take, in faith, daring steps we have never tried before. In the name of the-Lord-of-the-dance embrace our every movement, taking our hands, as we step out not always sure of our next move. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Michael Jagessar, Mission Secretary, Caribbean region (Interim)
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PRAYERS for those who serve... Rev. Dr. Garnett Roper is a Partner in Mission with the United Church in Zambia. He is from the Jamaica Baptist Union, an ecumenical partner.
Our God, our heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ our Lord, we thank you for your call upon our lives. We thank you for putting us to work in building your eternal kingdom, we thank you for the gifts, challenges and communities which you have given us. We thank you for all the ways in which you are using us. We pray for your church in the world that it may always remain a mission sending and mission receiving and partnering church. We bring to you all the mission partners scattered in remote villages or in large cites, those working in academic institutions or in churches and elsewhere, we pray for those who work alone and we pray for their families. We especially pray for those whose families are back home and have to manage without them. Give them your succour and support. Be with them. We pray for those on the continent of Africa, in Asia, on the Islands and wherever you have placed them. We pray for those who have gaps in their resources, those who have illnesses, and those who face discouragement. Give them your peace and your presence. We pray your blessing on the CWM family. May we continue to give effective witness where we serve. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Rise to Life Mrs. Jewell Sinclair Torrington is from the Guyana Congregational Union (GCU).
Most awesome God; Our loving Saviour. As we celebrate this season of Easter with joy and
hopefulness, may we be mindful that there are many among us who live in loneliness, anxiety, fear, and uncertainty. This unjust world makes them feel like they are being cruciﬁed every day. We pray for those who are still persecuted for your name’s sake; our brothers and sisters who suffered because of their beliefs; those who are tormented because of the colour of their skin; forsaken because of political afﬁliation; ignored because they are different or because they dare to speak out.
Faithful God, we acknowledge your sovereignty. We know that you are able to do more than
we can ask, think or imagine. So we seek you Lord, for those who are patiently awaiting for your compassionate arms to pull them out of their pains, depression, abuse, and exploitation. To free them from the dark tombs of poverty, hate, bitterness, mistrust and unforgiveness. To free them from the tombs that have held them hostage, for far too long. We ask you to roll away the stones of greed, political interference, selﬁshness, and prejudice that stifle progress. Lord, remove all obstacles that hinder them from experiencing life in its fullness.
Lord, as we boast in your resurrection power, we pray that you breathe life into thedead areas of our existence. As we celebrate this season of Easter with joy and hopefulness,
may we be mindful that there are many among us who live in loneliness, anxiety, fear, and uncertainty. This unjust world makes them feel like they are being cruciﬁed every day. We pray for those who are still persecuted for your name’s sake; our brothers and sisters who suffered because of their beliefs; those who are tormented because of the colour of their skin; forsaken because of political afﬁliation; ignored because they are different or because they dare to speak out.
Help us never to take for granted your unconditional love. May we, never miss the opportunity to follow your examples, to love more, to be more compassionate, to forgive more, to pray and to do more. Protect us from anyone or anything that will bring death to your plan and purpose for us. We say thank you Lord,
for through your death and resurrection we have this blessed hope that all will be well, for you desire that we have life in abundance. This we ask in the name of our resurrected Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
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Through a different lens By Renita Barnes
ost people Renita Barnes participated in Council for World Mission’s Training in Mission (TIM) programme with could not locate on the map the Cayman Islands where she hailed from. But the journey across continents in 2017 was not just a lesson in exploring the world but one that helped learn many things in common personal, contextual and within their respective churches. “My family background and ancestry is similar to that of my country which is influenced and strongly tied to different areas of the Caribbean, Jamaica, Cuba, and Honduras,” says Barnes about Cayman Islands, one of the few British colonies within the Caribbean which is better known as a tax haven.
“Before the TIM programme my understanding of the church and its mission was influenced by the colonial understanding of it. Mission was meant to convert sinners and non-Christians and spread the gospel to everyone. But the TIM programme broke down these understandings and showed me that Christianity as a religion was so much more than that. When the colonial lens is stripped you see clearly how missional the religion can be,” says Barnes.
A member of the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands (UCJCI), Barnes travelled and lived for seven months with nine other persons from Samoa, South Korea, Myanmar, Zambia, Kiribati, Rwanda, South Africa, Taiwan and Guyana for the TIM programme. “Throughout the journey, I learned so many new things about myself and, more importantly, I realised how much I didn’t know about my country and the Caribbean region,” says Barnes. CWM has been equipping young people for the ministry and mission of its member churches since 1981 through the Training in Mission (Diploma in Mission Studies) programme. Ten to 12 participants from the member churches are brought together for about seven months of intensive mission training. In every church, TIM participants are seen as living expressions of CWM’s idea of partnership in mission. So far, over 350 young people have gotten a new practical and radical understanding of what witnessing to Christ means.
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For instance, many questions began to bother her. Who were the indigenous people of Cayman? Is the Caribbean beginning to suffer from climate change? Is the economic situation in Cayman ethical? Is patriarchy seen as ‘normal’ in the Caribbean rather than as oppressive to women?
Barnes says TIM has deﬁnitely increased her curiosity about gender, theology, and feminist studies. “Many of the Bible studies I lead now with the youth groups within my church or even with the young adult ministries focus on topics of inclusive communities (highlighting gender injustices) and co-existing with creation.”
“The programme challenged me to become more aware of what is going on globally as well as within my own context, the Caribbean region. I am now more conﬁdent in challenging and addressing issues rather than ignoring them as is so often done in Cayman,” she says.
An unforgettable experience for her throughout the programme was with Lifewise, a Methodist Church initiative in Auckland, recognised for providing sustainable solutions to social issues, and working with families and homeless people. “I couldn’t believe a church was a part of so many radical projects and ways of transformative mission,” says Barnes, who was inspired to do many similar things back home.
It also made her ponder over the growing rates of divorce, the increase in youth crime and drug abuse, and the growing numbers of domestic violence cases in the Cayman Islands. Travelling to New Zealand, Fiji, Kiribati and Taiwan as part of the TIM programme, she says, opened her eyes to many things often taken for granted in Cayman, such as fresh air, low levels of poverty, clean water and a comfortable lifestyle. The programme introduced Barnes and team members to climate change and climate justice. “Seeing God in nature challenged me…. Seeing the Earth as a co-creator of life, and realising how much humans are sucking the life out of the Earth…, challenged me to want to read up more on climate justice and to begin researching and see how much the Cayman Islands is being impacted,” she says. She says the programme left such an impact on her, especially after the trip to Kiribati, that she is now concerned about the need to make the “carbon print” smaller for her country and the Caribbean region. An epiphanic moment for Barnes was the decolonising of the scripture “because I did not realise how colonised my mind was in regard to how I was taught to interpret scriptures.” It was never from the point of view of the marginalised but only about something like targeting the sins of the woman at the well (seen as a prostitute for being married many times) or about the “sinful” woman who anointed Jesus and how Jesus or God’s grace saved her. “With decolonising scriptures, I was able to see how sexism, patriarchy, and oppression are embedded in the Bible, and that the real mission of Jesus is to bring these issues in society to the surface,” she says.
A trip to Rainbow Youth, a charity that supports queer and gender diverse youth in Aotearoa, New Zealand, Barnes says, “helped me to see how close-minded and conservative my church and the Caribbean region is towards homosexuality. Visiting the rainbow youth was very empowering, it was a safe space for youth who are confused, transitioning, or just need support in any way. Whereas, in my church youth who are confused about their sexuality are ignored or counselled into changing or becoming a Christian to ‘save their soul’. The placement helped me to see clearly how wrong I was, and my church was about mission, and that there is so much more we can be doing.” In Fiji, it was the unheard voices of the slums located on the outskirts of Suva city that caught the attention of the group. In Kiribati, it was climate change that was the real problem. “As participants of the TIM programme, we are constantly challenged to explore how mission is possible within today’s empires. One of the key ways to doing so is by learning to listen to the unheard voices and to recognise the struggles of the marginalised,” says Barnes. The TIM programme, Barnes says, constantly challenged the way one saw the world. “The programme has shaped my future to ministry in a way as to help my church revisit mission and youth ministry in a new way, and to reveal more about the Bible than just to hope and pray but unearth the social issues and challenges that the Bible also speaks too.” www.cwmission.org 43
A Place of Feeling the Power of the Pentecost By Rev. Goodwin Zainga (TIM 1995 - 96)
start by thanking God Almighty who allowed me to be in a group of 12 exciting and loving young people from different parts of the world. In our TIM group, all the six regions of the Council for World Mission (CWM) were represented. I also express my gratitude to TIM 95/96 gurus: late Rev Ernest Cruchley, may his soul continue to rest in eternal peace, Prof Roderick Hewitt, Madeline Logan, Francis Brienen, Bishop Pothirajuru, not forgetting staff members of both St Andrews Hall, Selly Oak Colleges, Birmingham, UK and Tamilnadu Theological Seminary, Madurai, India, Churches of Christ in Malawi (CCM) leadership who accorded me such a life changing opportunity. Finally, I thank the church leadership of Congregational Federation Church (CF) and United Reformed Church (URC) in the UK, as well as the Church of South India (CSI) for accommodating us during our journey. The TIM 95/96 was a very rewarding experience as it was a conducive place encountering God at many fronts.
Rev. Goodwin Zainga on the right, attending a youth conference.
Experienced the Power of the Pentecost If one knows the Pentecost story in Acts 2 as a glorious story only, then one misses the point because it is also a story of chaos and confusion as is also reported in Genesis 11:1-9. This describes my TIM 95/96. At ﬁrst, I was both excited and confused, at certain times I was the one causing confusion. I remember one particular night whilst I was at Stepney Green church in London, instead of switching off an electrical kettle, I switched off a fridge switch and that was after evening devotion. We all slept nicely, but in the morning we all woke up to a pool of water in the kitchen. I kept quiet as we were mopping the floor, whilst others were furious and others were laughing while cleaning the mess. For me that was one the confusion. It was during evening devotions that I confessed to the group members as I was the culprit. We all laughed and hugged each other. The other confusion was during washing, when all of us 44 INSiGHT MAY 2022
had to use the same washing machine as a group. How could I mix my underwear with those of my sisters in the washing machine? I was puzzled, this was another confusion as I was coming from a dominant Malawian and African patriarchal society. Another confusion was experienced in India at Madurai, when I was hospitalized for two days due to dehydration and diarrhoea. The ﬁrst time to be admitted and in a hospital in a foreign country. Am grateful to Kenneth Tlhabiwa from Botswana who was my guardian and my ‘brother’s keeper’. I remember him scolding me because I was groaning like a baby in the hospital in front of female nurses. “Behave like a man” he charged at me. That was harsh my brother, Ken, but it did the trick as I stopped crying like a baby. On the contrary, I then embraced totally the power of Pentecost, as during prayers one
evening at Stepney Green church, we all prayed the Lord’s Prayer in our mother tongues, for me that was a very rewarding experience of the Pentecost. I realised that the God that was once monopolised by ‘early missionaries can hear me in my Chichewa language even when am in Europe. The other wonderful experience was when I led devotion at St Andrews Hall in Birmingham on Luke 17:11-17, ‘Jesus Heals Ten Men with Leprosy’. The theme of my devotion was in a form of a question, “Do we give thanks to the Lord?” Towards the end of the devotion, I asked everyone who was present that Jesus’ in ones local language, I started by saying ‘Zikomo Yesu’ in Chichewa and then I invited all to do the same, I could see people’s face smiling, mind you at St Andrews Hall we had friends from different parts of the world including Americans and Lebanese. I remember a Lebanese young man who came to me afterwards and said thank you Goodwin this is the ﬁrst time I have spoken in my local language in a group like this since coming to the UK, for me that was a Pentecost moment.
An Interface of the Gospel and Culture During TIM 95/96, I started to see and discover that the Gospel of Jesus Christ confronts culture. I realised that one’s culture can either help or hinder the extension of God’s kingdom here on earth. The Gospel confronts toxic and dominant masculinities in my culture which state that a girl child is not important as compared to a male child. The bone of contention being that in terms of education, it is better to educate a male child because he will be a ‘bread winner’ as opposed to a girl child who will end up being married after all. It was a turning point for me to learn from TIM sisters in the group who displayed quality leadership skills not only in decision making processes of the group, but also in praise and worship during church services. Vinise Moananu was a such a powerful worshipper and introduced me to Vineyard Worship Music my favourites being “Reﬁners Fire” and “Change my Heart o God”. Another dominant masculinity which I started to question is a notion that a young person cannot lead or contribute in all levels of leadership. I vividly remember late Rev Ernest Cruchley, quoting to all of us 1 Timothy 4:12, “Do not let anyone despise you because you are young….” In many cultures, young people are denied the opportunity to lead and serve in the church, even to contribute in decision making processes in the church and community.
A Solid Foundation of a Theological Inquest I learnt that ‘mission’ is a contested term, but in our TIM 95/96 we discovered that ‘as the ﬁre exists by burning so the church exists for God’s
mission’. Missio Dei (God’s mission) according to Bosch (1991: 10) means “God’s self-revelation as the One who loves the world, God’s involvement in and with the world, the nature and activity of God, which embraces both the church and the world, and in which the church is privileged to participate”. Notably, Bosch emphasises that churches are only participants in God’s mission and that is the only reason for the existence of churches, to be active players in God’s initiated mission. TIM laid a theological foundation that enabled me to further my theological studies with University of Wales Lampeter (UK) and University of Kwa-Zulu Natal (RSA) where there was a fruitful reunion with Prof. Hewitt who once again was my pastor, mentor and lecturer. It was at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal that I further ascertained that, according to Mitchell (2012: 417), a conceptual framework of Missio Dei includes the following tasks: “Proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ; Protection of and reverence for all life, both human and non-human; Denunciation of all exclusionary practices in our communities; Modelling a way of living together that demonstrates that we are sincere in what we profess regarding God’s saving activity in Christ”. In this regard, the marginalised’ are part and parcel of God’s mission of liberation who are affected by the brokenness of the world …who face life-denying challenges in their daily lives (Mitchell 2012: 415). The brokenness of the world is manifested by some of the following: hunger and starvation, various forms of marginalization, climatic changes, disregard of human life and dignity, tyrant political leadership, abuse of public ofﬁces in all manners, teen age pregnancies and many more. The manifesto of our Lord Jesus Christ as recorded in Isaiah 61:1-3 and repeated in Luke 4:18 challenges churches to participate in dealing away with life denying forces and promoting life flourishing activities. I came across a mission methodology framed by Osmer which helps churches to have a meaningful engagement in the church and community that promote life flourishing. Osmer (2008: 4) accentuates that his theological method responds to the following questions. “What is going on? Why is this going on? What ought to be going? How might the church respond?” Therefore, Osmer’s tasks assist in helping churches and communities to outline mission activities following a logic sequence. This Osmer’s mission methodology is in line with our TIM 95/96 thinking where we discovered that “there
are no problems and impossibilities in life, but only challenges that need solutions.” www.cwmission.org 45
An Understanding of the Concept of Partnership in Mission One of the CWM’s strategic pillars discovered in our time, is the concept of partnership in mission. Prof Hewitt used to say “Beware of mission lone rangers as they are dangerous to God’s mission.” After my theological studies in RSA, in 2014 I was appointed as a mission secretary in CCM up to now. So, in 2016 this concept of partnership was employed, CCM with the help of CWM and Churches Action Relief development (CARD) was involved in a community development project which targeted winter crop irrigation farming in three districts of Balaka, Mangochi and Phalombe in the southern region of Malawi. The three districts where adversely affected by floods of 2014/2015 growing season. In this project, 301 farmers were given 5 kgs maize seed, 10 kgs basal dressing fertilizers and 10 kgs top dressing fertilizers. Through this partnership with CARD I gained knowledge of community engagement that I will use in other CCM initiated programmes. On the same concept of partnership in mission, the youth invited me as a guest speaker during the October 2021 annual youth conference held in Dedza district in Malawi and the theme was based on Colossians 3:2. Though ordained but youth ministry which I embraced during TIM 95/96 is still alive within myself. At the youth conference, about 500 gathered together to praise and worship God, sharing the word of God, receiving teachings on giving and also doing some sporting activities with fellow youth from the area where the conference was held.
rev. Goodwin Zainga during the veriﬁcation exercise of the community engagement programme.
Conclusion My sincere thanks also go to the following TIM 95/96 members: Ye Yi-yung – Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT) Ann San-joo – Presbyterian Church in Korea (PCK) Tang Charles Chu-yin – Hong Kong Council of the Churches of Christ in China (HKCCCC) Lisa Lewis – United Church Jamaica and Cayman Islands (UCJCI) Vinise Moananu – Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand (PCANZ) Sepola Matusi – Ekalesia Kelesia Tuvalu (EET) Marion Llewellyn – United Church of Scotland (UCS) Garth Frazer – United Church in Canada (UCC) John Pakiarajah Bose – Church of South India (CSI) Jose Macauze – United Congregation Church of Southern Africa, Mozambique Synod (UCCSA) Tshireletso Kenneth Tlhabiwa – United Congregation Church of Southern Africa, Botswana Synod (UCCSA). I owe them my gratitude for putting up with, Zikomo to all tutors and placement supervisors. Amen!!
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This article first appeared in the June 2020 issue of INSiGHT.
Holy Spirit as helper leading us to new realities By Lynnette Li
This year’s Pentecost is different. Drastically different. This is a watershed moment that offers to reflect upon our mission and witness as disciples of Christ. Global trade, movement and manufacturing is signiﬁcantly slowed or forced to a standstill. Many of us have been sheltering in place for several months by now. Many have not had the opportunity to gather as communities of faith in worship, service and fellowship. The global pandemic of Covid-19 has forced us to worship and connect with each other creatively. And perhaps some might say, that this is an opportune time to reflect and re-imagine how our call to be followers of Jesus the Christ is lived out. In the midst of the global pandemic of Covid-19, we ﬁnd sanctuary in the safety of our homes. This strikingly mirrors the experience of the early disciples who stayed hiding in the aftermath of Jesus’ persecution and cruciﬁxion. Like the early disciples, we face a mix of uncertainty, fear and grief – for the lives we were accustomed to have changed and may not return. And like the early disciples waiting in the upper room for a more hopeful and hope-ﬁlled future, we ﬁnd ourselves waiting.
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At Pentecost, it reminds us of how Jesus told the disciples that a helper, the Holy Spirit, will be sent to teach, guide and remind them of his teachings (John 14:26). For the disciples, who had travelled on dirt roads and rough seas with Jesus, this meant their journey of discipleship continues. Those words of the promise of a helper were words of assurance that they would not be alone to navigate uncertain journeys in Jesus’ absence. Those words brought comfort in a time when their very association with Jesus could lead to severe hardship and persecution. The word “helper”, or “parakletos” in Greek, is deﬁned as ‘called to one’s aid’1. The word parakletos is used to describe an advocate, aid, comforter and helper. We are told that the helper who would empower, advocate, guide and accompany. We are told that the helper energised and animated the disciples to do extraordinary and miraculous things. There is great welcome, humility and celebration to receive this helper – the Holy Spirit. Yet, when it comes to helpers in our midst such as domestic workers and migrant workers, societal attitudes and treatment are different. The book of Acts captures the drama and
excitement of the day of Pentecost. It captures what it was like when the Holy Spirit ﬁlled the upper room where the disciples had gathered. And when the Holy Spirit descended into the room, there was a plurality of languages spoken and heard. For many this was beyond amazing. It was bewildering! For some, the speaking of languages from far and wide was ridiculed. For others, this moment of speaking in variety of languages by the disciples was dismissed, unwelcomed and considered a public display of drunkenness (Acts 2:5-13). This was when the Apostle Peter quotes the prophet Joel In the last days it will be, God declares, I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, In those days I will pour out my Spirit; And they shall prophesy. Acts 2:17-18; Reference Joel 2:28-29, NRSV
reaction and reception to their words? Is there celebration and welcome to the embodiment of the Spirit in all, even those considered least among us? Or is there ridicule, contempt, denial or refusal to acknowledge that the generosity of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit goes beyond our prejudices and biases? The embodiment of the Holy Spirit on all flesh makes us re-think, re-imagine and reconsider what radically inclusive and hospitable communities can look like. The pouring out of the Holy Spirit on all flesh is a destabilising and deﬁant movement against the dehumanising ways of racism, colourism, xenophobia, sexism, heteronormativism, ageism, ableist, classism, casteism, nationalism, elitism and all form of systemic oppression. The pouring out of the Holy Spirit on all flesh forces us to recognise the intrinsic worth and dignity in every human being. This is what transformative power does! The power that reveals our culpability and complicity in systems of oppression that causes suffering of another. The power that calls us to dismantle patriarchal and hegemonic ways. The power that is liberates and frees all to be who they are without conforming to gender, social and cultural norms! Pentecost allows us to move into new realities of freedom, liberation and just-living - a reality of the fullness of life beyond empire. Can we allow the Holy Spirit, as helper lead us into such a reality?
The Apostle Peter reminds us that the outpouring of God’s Spirit on all flesh is an act of radical inclusion. This notion is tremendously revolting to some as “all flesh” would include those who are in the fringes of society. When those who are in the margins proclaim prophetic words that reveal the brokenness of society, what is our response,
More weapons, but less peace The Paradox of our Time by Hadje C. Sadje, Belgium
This article first appeared in the October 2019 issue of INSiGHT.
Ground Zero, New York City, N.Y. (Sept. 17, 2001) -- An aerial view shows only a small portion of the scene where the World Trade Centre collapsed following the Sept. 11 terrorist attack. Surrounding buildings were heavily damaged by the debris and massive force of the falling twin towers. Clean-up efforts are expected to continue for months. Photo by U.S. Navy Chief Photographer's Mate Eric J. Tilford.
side from the emergence of several highly militarised societies, “why do we have more weapons, but have less and less peace today?” After the 9/11 attacks, fear grows (Resnik 2017). When American and its allies withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal, it gives the people the impression that a new war is coming soon. While Western mainstream media exaggerate the “Iran-phobia” and “Russophobia”, the American and its allies are creating an atmosphere to normalise war of aggression on the world stage. Actually, scholars have seen that these are the days of normalising international crimes of aggression (Lange 2016). The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court articles 8 bis 1 and 2 state: “The crime of aggression means "the planning, preparation, initiation or execution, by a person in a position effectively to exercise control over or to direct the political or military action of a State, of an act of aggression which, by its character, gravity and scale, constitutes a manifest violation of the Charter of the United Nations". Despite being repeatedly asserted by various organisations of civil society, the noncompliance with these norms was widespread. The ideology of no alternatives for a war was pursued. War, speciﬁcally, preemptive war, has become standard, usual, or expected. This set of ideology or ideology of no alternative for war was manufactured and maintained by Western policymakers and the Western mainstream media. Miserably, war (over arbitration, the World Court, conciliation, and conference) became a permanent condition for global peace. Ironically, many people believe and embrace that there is no alternative but to accept war. Even without an asserting legitimate right of self-defense. As Rosa Brooks (2016) argues, “...everything became war, and the military became everything”. The normalisation of war, nonetheless, is not striking new. As a matter of fact, the classical view of modern state formation relied on the monopoly of violence, military conquest, oppression, and occupation to constitute nation-building, especially based on the historical experiences of European states (Tilly 1985; Hobbes 1997; Joireman 2004; Taylor 2008). And it has had a long and depressing history (Axtmann 2004). But nowadays, many scholars are opposed to war. They believe war is not the best option to solve international disputes, not because it is the most politically effective or advantageous position (Joireman 2004). Rather, war is a false choice and an indication of a weak state. Lamentably, the twentieth history has, once again, seen a reversal of desire with war culture. It is increasingly becoming normalised in everyday media and social platforms (Farhat 2015). Alongside the normalisation of war, the obsession of some Western and non-Western nations with military culture continues. The militarisation of civil society have become a new normal (DeFrieze 2014; Evans 2017). For instance, according to Global Militarisation Index-Bonn International Center for Conversion (2016), “...ten countries that have the highest levels of militarisation for the year 2015 are Israel, Singapore, Armenia, Jordan, Russia, South Korea, Cyprus, Greece, Azerbaijan and Brunei.” GMI added, “These countries allocate particularly high levels of resources to the armed forces in comparison to other areas of society (2016)”.
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In connection, the normalisation of war-military culture and arms proliferation goes hand in hand. The report shows that the volume of international arms transfers has grown steadily since 2003, especially small arms, light weapons, illicit arms, and weapons of mass destruction (GRIP 2017; Amnesty International 2019; EU-EA 2019; ). According to Amnesty International (2019): despite the arms trade treaty, the global spending on arms is booming. AI also stated that “...SIPRI estimates that the total value of the global arms trade in 2017 was at least $95 billion.” And, the “United States accounted for 36 percent of world military spending in 2018”. While the “Saudi Arabia became the world’s largest arms importer and the US and UK are by far the largest suppliers (Amnesty International August 23, 2019)”. How about the human face of war? It should not be forgotten that the human costs of war are certainly profound and devastating---direct and indirect victims. For instance, according to estimates of Control Arms, “...8 million light weapons are produced each year. 2 bullets are produced each year for every person on the planet. 2 out of 3 people killed by armed violence die in countries "at peace". 10 people are injured for every person killed by armed violence” (Compass 2012). A similar observation was made in a recent report of the Uppsala Conflict Data Program (2019), accordingly, “2,436,351 people have died in armed conflicts since 1989 – with over 77,320 in 2018”.
Of course, this is only a conservative estimate and the people have died is increasing, including an unknown number of civilians. Similarly, in 2001, the Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs (2001) write a perfect summary of the costs of war: (a) over 480,000 have died due to direct war violence, and several times as many indirectly (b) over 244,000 civilians have been killed as a result of the ﬁghting (c) 21 million — the number of war refugees and displaced persons (d) The US federal price tag for the post-9/11 wars is over $5.9 trillion dollars (e) The US government is conducting counter-terror activities in 80 countries (f) The wars have been accompanied by violations of human rights and civil liberties, in the US and abroad. In addition, WIIPA (2001) also showed that more than 400 million metric tons are directly contributed to climate change due to war-related fuel consumption, speciﬁcally United States military operations. Evidently, these brutal realities of war-military culture raise political-economic and moral-theological challenges. But, the Christian churches have adopted different positions on war-military culture. There are many theologies that justiﬁed violence and support war-military operations (Gentile 1990; Graham 2017). Of course, it is notoriously dangerous to make generalisations. Nevertheless, in every part of the Christian community and every theological tradition there seem to be some common trends.
Despite such diversities, a general revival of interest in the great theological disciplines: systematics, church history, ethics, and, perhaps above all, the Scripture to justify violence and support war-military operations. On May 14, 1948, for instance, the declaration of the establishment of the modern State of Israel was supported and justiﬁed by the theology of the Christian Zionists (Burge 2003; Sizer 2004; Masalha 2007). With the use of violence and methods of ethnic cleansing, the Zionist movement successfully take up some 78 percent of historic Palestine (Pappé 2006). Up to now, Israel’s colonisation, human rights violations of Palestinian rights, and the militarisation of the Palestinian society continue. It is getting worse day by day (Amnesty International 2019; HRW World Report 2019; OHCHR 2019). Sadly, it is politically, culturally, ﬁnancially, militarily, and theologically supported by global Zionist Jews and the American Christian “fundamentalists” (Chomsky 2010; Finkelstein 2016). Another example is the American invasion and occupation of Iraq in September 2001. The American global campaign “war on terror” becomes “holy crusade” against Muslim nations (Aljazeera 2006; Haberski, Jr. 2009). During the American campaign to remove the Saddam regime, a professor of religion Charles Marsh observed, the American evangelicals had a shaky theological basis to support the Iraq War. In his article entitled “Wayward Christian Soldiers“ which was originally published in The New York Times (2006), Marsh writes:
“The war sermons rallied the evangelical congregations behind the invasion of Iraq. An astonishing 87 percent of all white evangelical Christians in the United States supported the president's decision in April 2003. Recent polls indicate that 68 percent of white evangelicals continue to support the war. But what surprised me, looking at these sermons nearly three years later, was how little attention they paid to actual Christian moral doctrine. Some tried to square the American invasion with Christian "just war" theory, but such efforts could never quite reckon with the criterion that force must only be used as a last resort. As a result, many ministers dismissed the theory as no longer relevant.”
Marsh continued: “Some preachers tried to link Saddam Hussein with wicked King Nebuchadnezzar of Biblical fame, but these arguments depended on esoteric interpretations of the Old Testament book of II Kings and could not easily be reduced to the kinds of catchy phrases that are projected onto video screens in vast evangelical churches. The single common theme among the war sermons appeared to be this: our president [George WH Bush Jr.] is a real brother in Christ, and because he has discerned that God's will is for our nation to be at war against Iraq, we shall gloriously comply.” Obviously, this is the situation that is cloaked by the theology of American exceptionalism provided by the ideology of the dominant class (Haberski, Jr. 2009). It is useful to the American government and the American Christian fundamentalists, to justify to their ideological “preordained quasi-messianic mission”---the messianic sense of the nation’s destiny (McDougall 1988). It would, however, be totally consistent with the Christian faith and the theology of the Church if America would show a very strong commitment to support just-peace and totally reject the war-military culture. Even in non-Western nations, there are some theologies supported the state violence. For example, the Philippine President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s bloody war on drugs campaign is actively supported by many Filipino Evangelical and Pentecostal churches (Ravillas 2018; Cornelio and Medina 2019). In fact, it is publicly continued to express by various Christian groups (Cornelio and Medina 2019).
King Nebuchadnezzar Besieging Jerusalem by Frans Pourbus the Elder
Saddam Hussein in 1988.
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There are two ways, by the theologians and the people of God, to counteract the normalisation of war-military culture and arms proliferation, whether a theologian, a minister, and a student, every voice counts. In the same way, everyone has a unique reach and can create a ripple effect across our spheres of influence. But, ﬁrst and foremost, “be informed” or “educate yourself”. The global Christian churches should seek alternatives. There are other theological views. In contrast with theology above, some theologies opposed state violence, participation in the war, and reject military culture (Hauerwas 1983; Kaufmann 1989; Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches 2014). Most of these theologies are not popular and not appreciated, often misunderstood by other Christian communities. Yet, the challenge has been undertaken. For instance, the Mennonite Church has long been associated with peace theology and conscious objection to war and military operation. Their publications contributed to the entire range of theological research on just-peace issues. Using the Mennonite peace theology, it might be worthwhile rediscovering and reevaluating our theological propositions as one of the alternatives. For example, Mennonite Position on Military Service (Mennonite Church 1917), Mennonite Peace Theology: A Panoramic Types (1991), The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder (1968), Living Gently in a Violent World by Stanley Hauerwas (2008), If Jesus is Lord: Loving Our Enemies in Age of Violence by Ronald Sider (2019). The theology of non-violence articulated as part of a broader work: The Anabaptist Vision by Harold S Bender (1944), The Upside Down Kingdom by Donald Kraybill (1978), The Naked Anabaptist by Stuart Murray (2010) to name a few. It is not that easy but it is worth it.
Next, “the public opinion shapes public policy, therefore theology should influence the public opinion” While on the ground, state violence and the militarisation of civil society has become commonplace, the global Christian community should develop a theology that can penetrate the moral crisis of military discourse, especially on war culture and arms proliferation (Brueggemann 2001; Oliver 2004; Lindsay-Poland 2017; Koehler 2018). Scholars argue that war is a large scale social behavior and carried out by a polity. Therefore, the Christian churches should actively participate in the formation of public opinion and subsequently affect policy (Joas and Knöbl 2012). But, the involvement of Christian churches in the formation of public opinion does not exclude other faith traditions and non-believers. Through the formation of public opinion, political action is made possible that will provide the condition, including condemning the illicit arms proliferation and the normalisation the war-military culture. The global Christianity need a small step beyond the parameters of conventional beliefs that rejects the conventional left-right or pro-anti-war spectrum. They should take their faith tradition into public arena with intellectual humility, willingness to be proven wrong, espouse tolerance of diversity and reject discrimination. In conclusion, let us get back to the main question, “why do we have more weapons, but we have less and less peace today?” The facts speak for themselves that the global superpowers lulled the global community into a false sense of peace and order---Pax Americana. It can be certain, however, the normalisation of war-military culture and arms proliferation (small, light, and illicit weapons) caused immense destruction across the globe. The money, time, and political capital invested in pursuing the “War on Terror”, rather than investing in ﬁghting global warming, massive poverty, AIDS, lack of education, unemployment, malnourishment, and hunger (UN Global Issues). Simply put, the global actors are focusing on the wrong front. If people think that there is no viable alternative, then accept the militarism and propensity of war, think again. Or, if people think, it’s not a problem that’s the problem! As Jesus says in Matthew 26: 52, “Live by the Sword - Die by the Sword”. An invitation to pray and ponder offered by the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches document entitled, “Christian and War” (1993):
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Pray for peace and for people in government. Make every effort to obey the law; however, do not accept military service that involves training in how to kill fellow human beings who are also made in the image of God. Join a relief organisation to serve unarmed in war zones; provide aid to the victims of war. Do not avoid dangerous assignments while doing good; Christians are not cowards. Even in honourable professions and businesses, do not exploit the tragedy of war for personal gain. Make a living by producing goods and services that sustain life; refuse jobs associated with killing and destruction. Be willing to accept the penalties the state may impose for those who refuse to participate in military action. Witness to the conviction that Christians who believe Jesus taught his followers not to kill cannot serve as soldiers but willingly serve their country in constructive ways. Urge the peaceful resolution of all disputes while recognising that leaders of countries are part of this world’s system and do not, therefore, rule in full accord with the biblical principle of peace. Share the good news of salvation even in time of war.
Seen & Heard
““Social Justice means greater equality in the world. Yet, the pandemic exposed how far the world remains from equality. Global solidarity is needed to protect the most vulnerable and to support a human-centred recovery from the crisis International Labour Organization
“No one is safe until everyone is safe. The recent mutations prove this beyond doubt. This is not only about health; it is also about the economy. The investments needed in vaccines are considerable, yet they are minimal compared to the costs of economic downturn.” ~ Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway ~
Take A Look
An Idiot’s Guide to Climate Change Rain Wilson, known for his role in the popular comedy series “The Ofﬁce”, takes on another role as a vocal climate activist who doesn’t know much, to begin with, but has a whole lot of heart and willingness to learn from the leading experts in the issues, making the journey and incredibly educational and informative for the viewers. From his perspective as a complete greenhorn while taking on the issues headﬁrst, the viewers are able to experience the exhilaration and terror of what unfolds in front of the camera. https://bit.ly/3J09DsQ
The Hate U Give Teenagers who are growing up in predominantly African American neighbourhoods are not unfamiliar with racism and violence as many would have experienced it at one part, if not most of their lives leading up to adulthood and beyond. However, it is a disheartening reality for them that a lot of such confrontations between the law and order in which they were supposed to serve and protect are marred and tainted by the same racist behaviours which often results in the tragic loss of innocent lives. https://bit.ly/3hOiyBG
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Catching the Sun
Hooligan Sparrow Hooligan Sparrow is a moniker branded on Ye Haiyan for her bravery and tenacity in championing the rights of sex workers, as well as justice for 6 young school-going girls between the ages of 11 to 14, who were sexually assaulted by their principal. With ﬁlmmaker Nanfu Wang documenting her experiences in her advocacy of human rights, Wang managed to capture footage over footage of government surveillance, interrogation, harassment, physical violence and threats and even imprisonment. However, true to her given moniker, the Hooligan Sparrow is the least fazed by the imposing threats and marches on into the battle. https://bit.ly/3KtTImV
What is clean energy and how does it beneﬁt us? Catching the Sun provides viewers with insight into a solution that was downplayed despite its effectiveness in providing innovative and climate-friendly solutions. However, from an economic standpoint, it is perceived to impede or sacriﬁce proﬁts when clean energy solutions are utilised. As people from the solar energy sector are being let go of en masse, how can business owners within the clean energy sector achieve solutions between income inequality and climate change? https://bit.ly/3vPrcIk
Foundation This sci-ﬁ series loosely based on the award-winning trilogy of novels by Isaac Asimov - tells the story of how a band of underdogs, going against all impossible odds to rebuild a civilisation that will beneﬁt all humanity while ﬁghting to deliver the oppressed from the rule of the Galactic Empire. https://bit.ly/3wUpqX2
Simple as Water
Period. End of Sentence.
Simple as Water showcases a series of different stories on displacement endured by 5 Syrian families due to the Civil War in Syria. The no holds barred video storytelling masterfully details the raw emotions, tragedy and grimness of the predicament which surrounds these displaced families. However, in the face of such extreme adversity, these families band around each other and demonstrated love and support for one another despite the pain and suffering – when all hope and faith appear futile, it is the bond we have in our families that will keep us moving forward.
Tightly heeded cultural and religious beliefs can often impede the necessary progress required for a society to move forward. In the case of Period. End of Sentence., the stigma which surrounds menstruation as it is regarded as taboo in a rural district of India located in Hapur, here the womenfolk are struggling with obtaining proper knowledge in menstrual health management as it could be too costly, or the act in itself would be deemed unnatural. Schoolgirls are skipping school not only because of pain and discomfort resulting in menstrual cramps but also due to the fear and shame of staining their clothes.
CODA (Child of Death Adults) Being born able-bodied in a home where your parents and sibling are deaf, the ﬁlm CODA (Child of Deaf Adults) provides viewers with the perspectives of the challenges and expectations of 17-year-old Ruby, who is naturally assigned to aiding her family members in navigating the world’s social norms. The ﬁlm depicts and offers heart-warming insights into a young girl’s love and responsibility to her family while juggling the dreams and aspirations she has for herself. https://bit.ly/3stRz4e
White Helmets The White Helmets are also formerly referred to as the Syria Civil Defence is made up of thousands of volunteers from vast backgrounds and expertise spanning from educators, engineers, tailors to ﬁreﬁghters, who banded together to assist and rescue those who are caught in the destruction of the civil war – regardless their ethnicity, religious or political beliefs. These ordinary day-to-day civilians have taken into their own hands, humanitarian responsibilities which ﬁrst and foremost, could prevent and minimise the senseless and reckless loss of life. https://bit.ly/3pQVnel
Crip Camp It’s hard to live a day in the life of someone, let alone one who is drastically different from us – for instance, disabled persons. How are we able to properly exercise empathy when we are able-bodied from birth? Crip Camp addresses the issues faced by children with disabilities and how assumptions are constantly made of them by those who are normal. It is easy to stereotype disabled persons as unworldly, inexperienced, incapable of being loved, getting married, having children of their own and living within the social norms prescribed by our society. https://bit.ly/3pOnL0E
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