INSiGHT - August 2019

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August 2019


“To commit a crime against the natural world is a sin. For humans to cause species to become extinct and to destroy the biological diversity of God’s creation ... for humans to degrade the integrity of Earth by causing changes in its climate, by stripping the Earth of its natural forests, or destroying its wetlands ... for humans to injure other humans with disease ... for humans to contaminate the Earth’s waters, its land, its air, and its life, with poisonous substances ... these are sins. We have become un-Creators instead of stewards of the Creator. Earth is in jeopardy at our hands.” - Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

‘Nature with Christ’. A wood sculpture carved by students from the Leulumoega School of Fine Arts in the Congregational Christian Church, Samoa.


August 2019

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CONTENTS

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DEVOTIONAL

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Litany Of Our Unity Earth Matters

AT A GLANCE VIEWPOINTS Political Theological Resistance In Hong Kong The Simbo Of Hope Humanity And Spirituality In The Face Of The Fourth Industrial Revolution Cut The Crap: The Brand Of Hope Empire 2.0 Towards Enriching Taiwan: A Personal Statement Decolonising Faith In Conversation With... Crying In The Land Paradise That Awakens Us To Recognise Hypocrisy, Denial and Injustice in Oceania

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TAKE A LOOK

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SEEN & HEARD

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YOUR SAY

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In Response To... A Slippery Slope My ‘Best’ Christian Life Creation, Corruption, Consumption, Condemnation


DEVOTIONAL


DEVOTIONAL

Litany of our Unity by Rev David Coleman, Greenock West URC

We are one with God’s Earth

the Good Earth which we’re made of. Earth which feeds us and houses us; in which Jesus meets us who shares what he is with all flesh. We are one with God’s Earth: A power we can work with: soil for growing, stone, for making and warmth from the depths: by God’s own grace always. Earth: our Mother, mistreated, God’s Garden despoiled. And this Earth, which we are This Earth moves, and cries out And God hears God hears Do we? We are one with God’s Air the Fresh Air which Life breathes. The cool Air which surrounds us: the gift of green trees and the tiniest plants. Air: Breath of Life as God’s Spirit blows where and wherever God will We are one with God’s Air That same Air which now screams out of balance and wild: Gentle breeze and tornado Air: a power we can work with: lighting, transporting, by God’s grace, always. Air: the Breath of Earth, choking; the wind fanned by burning And this Air, which we breathe This Air moves, and cries out

We are one with God’s fire fire: cleansing, renewing - transforms in an instantpower unleashing fuelling, transporting, We depend on God’s Fire: A power we can work with by God’s grace, always. And this fire, we have harnessed, for good and for harm This Fire moves, and cries out. Fire wild beyond wildness fed by the dryness

As the Elements in us and with us indict us We ask for forgiveness, the way Jesus offered: empowering before we can sort it all out. We won’t grovel, or wallow in guilt that disables But... Mindful. Christ, Commit us, today, to a start! Amen

And God hears God hears Do we? We are one with God’s Water We are mostly of water: recycled in rain since the dawn of Earth’s time. Water, now powering refreshing transforming, eroding, dissolving renewing the earth in flood, ice, damp fields. Life depends on this Water whose voice is the waves and the streams, and the stagnancy, Strangled and rationed by greed and by filth And this water, our lifeblood Water moves, and cries out Made undrinkable, banished, diverted: the drought acidified, heated, taken for granted And God hears God hears Do we?

And God hears God hears Do we?

June 2019 | 8 August 3


DEVOTIONAL

Earth Matters

by Rev Tafue Lusama, Ekalesia Kelisiano Tuvalu

Scripture: Genesis 11:1-9 Making a Name The narrative of the tower of Babel is one of the narratives that is frequently used, especially when we talk about the human sin of rebellion against the sovereignty of God. In that perspective we see the building of the tower as a plan to reach heaven and to be like God, to be able to see all things, to make a name for themselves and to be known as being able to accomplish anything. This narrative presents to us the biggest ever project to be attempted on record. The building of the city and the tower at the same time is one huge undertaking. We all know that the sub titles were not part of the original text of the Bible, I would rather prefer to title it the “Failed Project.� This narrative presents to me an effort for a better life, maybe to ensure safety and the security of the people. But at the same time, we can see that such huge undertakings, a lot of preparations, proper planning and budgeting are necessary. A huge workforce is needed made of persons who are either willing to work or are forced to work. There is a clear division of the people, the majority being the labourers, then there are the planners, the overseers and the minority who make the demands and who have the power over the people. Usually those in the minority are the powerful and the rich who are the main beneficiaries of such projects. This narrative reminds us of the main intentions behind the industrial revolution, the main force behind the globalisation project, which works under the guise of eradicating poverty when the reality is for the benefit of a very few. It aims at turning the world into a global village where the products of multi-national corporations are highly promoted and sold at the expense of the lives of the poor and the marginalised. Similarly we find ourselves trying to combat the issue of Climate Change and sea level rise, which is caused mainly by destroying the environment under such greedy attitudes.

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DEVOTIONAL

Scripture: Genesis 9:11 Taking Responsibility I have been advocating in my country from community to community on the issue of climate change for many years now, and when I started visiting the communities and congregations and talking about sea level rise and climate change, I had a sense that the people were not taking the issue seriously. When asked if they believe that the climate is changing and that the level of the sea is rising, they would always respond by referring to the narrative of the flood and especially to the rainbow covenant. It is true that this narrative has been looked at as an assurance of God’s promise not to repeat the incident of a global flood that would take so many lives not only of humans but a total destruction of all living things. I would like us to re-visit this narrative and ask ourselves two important questions: “Who made the promise?” “Did Noah make a promise?” If we read the narrative, after the flood, Noah made a sacrifice to God, which was pleasing to God, and God made a covenant not to repeat this incident even if humans deserve to be punished with such extreme measures because of their actions. God promised to withhold himself from punishing all creation just for the sins and the wrong doings of humans. Humans will have to face the consequences of their own actions. The rainbow is the symbol of God’s faithfulness to that covenant. As long as we see the rainbow, as Christians we are reminded of God’s faithfulness. On the other side, was there a promise not to repeat the sins that caused the flood in the first place? If we hold on to our belief that the rainbow covenant is an assurance that nothing of such magnitude will happen, we will end up blaming God for causing the climate of change and the level of the sea to rise and submerge islands and destroy lives.

Lord we ask your guidance to maintain our concerns for the poor and disadvantaged in any grand scheme we undertake. Help us to be aware of how our actions affect others. Forgive us for displeasing you in our actions. We ask for your wisdom and guidance as we respond to the effects of climate change. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen June 2019 | 8 August 5


AT A GLANCE


AT A GLANCE

MEMBER CHURCH NEWS EAST ASIA The women’s choir of the Women’s Association of the Presbyterian Church of Korea (PCK) partnered with the Reformed Church in Hungary to engage in “mission through music” recently. Established in 1992, the choir served in PCK’s mission through praise to encourage the church community and with musical service at events of the Women’s Association. The 70 women, united by their spiritual foundation, gather under the guidance of the conductor and accompanist, and have performed 23 concerts locally, in Europe and in the United States. This time, the group began its mission tour among Reformed congregations in Slovakia, followed by Hungary, and rounded it up at Croatia. ¹

A lady from the Ao-Naga Tribe in North East India brought to the gathering climate-resilient seeds from Nagaland “that can flourish even in extreme weather conditions.

The World Council of Churches (WCC) Indigenous Peoples Reference Group and the Working Group on Climate Change had their joint meeting in the indigenous seminary of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT), Yu-Shan Theological College and Seminary in late June. PCT has an active indigenous ministry, with a third of its churches being indigenous.

The meeting explored the role of churches and theology and the need to go beyond western notions of ownership and even stewardship. Underlining the importance of strengthening indigenous representation and participation, the meeting discussed joint strategies for advocating for climate justice at the United Nations.

Several studies have confirmed the critical contribution of indigenous peoples in protecting the ecosystem. In particular, a recently released Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services study noted that while biodiversity loss has accelerated alarmingly since the 1970s, this has been curbed and even avoided in areas managed or controlled by indigenous peoples.

Frances Namoumou, from the Pacific Conference of Churches based in Fiji, noted that even as indigenous peoples are in the frontline of climate impact, they “do not only have the stories, but also the practical and technical expertise to combat climate change and defend ecology.” Seed banks established by indigenous women are a concrete example.

(Photo by PCT)

PCT also co-hosted the first ever Taiwan International Religious Freedom Forum (TIRFF), which brought together government officials and human rights activists from 23 countries. Invited guests included Taiwan’s president and vice president, who spoke truth to Beijing power, on the dangers of Chinese repression. Conference participants called out Chinese atrocities, including crimes against humanity such as the forced organ-harvesting of Uyghurs who are of Turkish descent. In addition, the conference heard from a North Korean refugee who upon her forced repatriation from China, was coerced into undergoing a late-term abortion without anaesthesia. Among other actions, the conference called for the inspection of burgeoning Uyghur concentration camps in northwest China by the American Red Cross and reunification of families forcibly separated by mass internment. It concluded with the adoption of the “Taiwan Declaration on the Persecution of the Uyghurs.”

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https://www.reformatus.hu/mutat/16461/ June 2019 | 8 August 7


AT A GLANCE EUROPE Former General Secretary of United Reformed Church (URC) and Churches Together England (CTE) Rev Dr David Cornick was awarded the Lambeth Cross for Ecumenism by the Archbishop of Canterbury earlier this year.

Lambeth Awards 2019 recipients (Photo by URC)

The Rev Dr David Cornick (left) with the Most Rev Justin Welby, Church of England

Faith groups gathered at St Martin in the Fields in Trafalgar Square to share stories of climate action, urging parliamentarians on the vital need for government action. Former Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Rowan Williams, Buddhist, Catholic, Jewish and Muslim representatives and even a young Quaker addressed the crowd, with representatives from faith groups leading an interfaith Walk of Witness towards Parliament. Campaigners pressed the government to use the opportunity of the upcoming Environment Bill to put in place strong systems of UK environmental governance and strong targets for protecting the natural environment when it departs from EU environmental legislation. The mass lobby was organised by the Climate Coalition that represents campaign organisations, faith groups and community groups with a total of 15 million members, along with Greener UK, a coalition of campaigners calling for strong environmental UK laws.

Climate Coalition mass lobby in Westminster (Photo by URC)

URC was born when Congregational and Presbyterian Churches, and Disciples of Christ churches merged, and it is constitutionally committed to further unity. Over his long ministry, Rev Dr Cornick combined pastoral ministry in a local context with ecumenical theological education. He is unique among current church leaders in having held the offices of General Secretary of one of the major denominations and one of the major ecumenical bodies. Rev Dr Cornick said the award “draws attention to the vision of unity which the URC holds at its centre, and that my ministry and perceptions were rooted there. So, I hope all those in the URC who have been quietly working through the years to make local ecumenism work will feel that my recognition is theirs too.” The Church of England’s Lambeth Awards recognises outstanding service to the Church and wider society URC staff and a group from Congregational Federation (CF) joined around 14,000 people for “The Time is Now”, a mass lobby against climate change in Westminster in late June.

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PKN's Church 2025 project (Photo by PKN

Protestantse Kerk in Nederland (PKN)’s current focus is on its future – to be a meaningful, relevant church. “Church 2025 – where there’s a Word, there’s a way”, a policy paper, is a subject on the agenda of every meeting of the General Synod. Earlier, the Church had also held a public survey of church members to ask about their opinion on the future, and around 18,000 people participated in this exercise. The Church 2025 memorandum from the General Synod focuses on going back to basics, and for church councils, this can mean fewer meetings and more time for fellowship and reflection, and to strengthen unity.


AT A GLANCE SOUTH ASIA Bangladesh’s first national bishop and the former moderator of the Church of Bangladesh, bishop Barnabas D. Mondal, passed away on 29 June in Dhaka. Ordained as a priest in the former Anglican Church in East Pakistan in 1964, he was consecrated as the first national bishop of the Church of Bangladesh in February 1975. Bishop B.D Mondal actively participated in the Asian and Bangladesh ecumenical movement, was instrumental in initiating the Bangladesh Ecumenical Foundation and Association for Theological Education (BEEFAT). He also serving in various committees of the East Asia Christian Conference (EACC), the forerunner of the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA). Over the span of almost 30 years as Moderator of COB, he encouraged active participation of lay leaders in COB congregations and was known for his support of theological education in South Asia.²

Foundation Stone St Stephen Church building (Photo by CNI)

Earlier this year, Church of North India (CNI) laid the foundation stone for the new Church building of St. Stephen’s Church, Sonarpur. Previously, the land had been vacant and used as the neighbourhood’s dumping ground for many years. The Rt Rev Paritosh Canning, Bishop, Diocese of Barrackpore had allotted the land held by the Barrackpore Diocesan Trust Association, and further blessed the congregation by making available funds, through collaboration with friends of the Diocese for the construction of a single floor structure with a temporary roof to start with. Over close to 20 years, the Church grew from holding worship services in various locations, to their Church building today. A few days later, The Rt Rev Paritosh Canning laid the foundation stone of the new building of St. Stephen’s School, Sagardighi, Murshidabad. The school opened with 73 students in the Sagardighi, Thermal Power Township by the Diocese of Barrackpore. They were associated with the West Bengal Power Development Corporation Limited (WBPDCL), which provided the infrastructure for it to function as a primary school in their premises. Under the leadership of the Barrackpore Diocesan Education Society, the school grew to enrol 313 students this year. To cater to this growing demand for further education, the school purchased a piece of land in the Monigram area. During the event, the Bishop encouraged the principal, teaching and non-teaching staff to continue giving their best and in partnership with parents, provide superior education that enables students of all cultures and abilities to reach their full potential. He expressed his hope that in this part of Bengal, the school will be known as an educational community based on love, trust, respect and commitment to gospel values rooted in the teachings of Christ.

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Foundation Stone St Stephen Church building (Photo by CNI)

The Delhi Brotherhood (Photo by CNI)

Delhi Brotherhood Society, a Religious Community of CNI, inaugurated three new buildings for a primary school where 300 children from socially and economically disadvantaged families were enrolled. There was no government school in the vicinity when the school started in 1977, and it served the leprosy patients’ children from Anandgram and the people of Seemapuri. Mr Alwan Masih, General Secretary of CNI Synod, who visited the Deenabandhu Schools in Seemapuri and Shahidnagar at the eastern borders of Delhi-Gaziaba, was the Guest of Honour.

https://www.oikoumene.org/en/press-centre/news/wcc-mourns-passing-of-bishop-mondal-advocate-for-theological-education-throughout-south-asia? June 2019 | 8 August 9


AT A GLANCE AFRICA Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa (UPCSA) Earlier this year, UPCSA signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Correctional Services (DCS), creating an official relationship between DCS and the Church to be involved in the work of rehabilitation and re-integration of offenders into society. Together with programs like Kairos Prison ministry, there are opportunities for their congregations to get involved with those who are incarcerated. UPCSA Moderator Rt Rev Langerman dedicated the newly built classrooms, dining hall, library, computer lab and head teacher’s office for the school that is hosted on the premises of the David Livingstone Memorial Church. He also laid the foundation stone for the 500-seat sanctuary to be built on that site. People in KwaZulu Natal and the Eastern Cape were hit by torrential rain, flooding, and landslides earlier this year. Almost 100 people lost their lives, and many others were left destitute, losing their homes and possessions. As a Church, the UPCSA collected items to send to communities devastated by the floods, and uplifted these communities in prayer.

CARIBBEAN United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands (UCJCI) minister, Rev Dr Roderick Hewitt, is the incoming President of the International University of the Caribbean (IUC) beginning September 1st. He comes to IUC having served in academic both locally and internationally and holds a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Systematic Theology from King’s College, London. Dr Hewitt believes that in this Fourth Industrial Revolution, they have to think outside of the box to ensure progress, and IUC and its leaders must rediscover national trust, the trust of every local church including the ecumenical space and the trust of the workers of the institution. Dr Hewitt is also a member of CWM’s Strategic Planning Group. Over twenty years ago, the Meadowbrook United Church saw the need for a burial site outside of the congested Kingston Metropolitan region. This vision was later embraced by the entire UCJCI. In 1994, Meadowrest Memorial Gardens was established and operated as a business enterprise by UCJCI, and lies on 55 acres of rolling, lush countryside in rustic, accessible terrain in St Catherine, Jamaica. Its Annual Funeral Directors’ Brunch was held recently at Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, where 36 Funeral Directors were honoured for their business contributions, as well as grief counsellors, who reach out to bereaved families within 3 months of a thanksgiving service. The Gardens’ facilities are available to all denominations and the general public, recognising that through their operations, they are serving people at a vulnerable juncture in their lives. 10 | INSiGHT

Meadowrest Memorial Gardens (Photo by UCJCI)

UCJCI’s General Secretary Rev Norbert D. Stephens, in his greeting, challenged attendees to envision the future funeral service industry and encouraged them to do better collectively. In response to the situation of crime and violence in Jamaica, UCJCI’s 41st synod gathering resolved that a programme to equip persons with the skills of conflict management and resolution will be developed, through partnership with local and international organisations. The leadership at the local, regional and synodical levels will then engage the trained persons to serve in ministry.

PACIFIC For Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand (PCANZ), Derek Teariki, who attends St Andrews Church in Hastings, was recently awarded a Queen’s Service Medal for his service to the Cook Islands community. This comes after almost two decades of working night shifts as a prison officer to avail himself to serving the people during daytime. Over the years, he had served in various roles in church and in the community. A notable contribution is uniting the people to get a community hall back for the community’s usage, after finding out that it had been monopolised by a small group for the past 30 years to serve their own needs. Even though it took a court case to do so, and the community is still paying the debts incurred, Derek has applied for charitable status for the hall, and does extensive fund raising. The hall was extended in 2011 to host up to 500 people, and recent visitors have included a group raising money to rebuild schools, churches and meeting houses which were damaged during hurricane season in the Cook Islands. The wider community uses the hall for functions such as birthdays, weddings, reunions, workshops and fundraising events. Recently, the New Zealand Defence Force made it a base while doing free dental work and medical checks in the community. The Queen's Service Medal is a medal awarded by the government of New Zealand to recognise and reward volunteer service to the community and also public service in elected or appointed public office.


AT A GLANCE

HUMANITY WINS Singapore holds first international conference on social cohesion and interfaith harmony

Indiana church relieves $4 million medical debt

Break out of “comfortable bubbles and echo chambers” so that “society can grapple with harsh inequalities and injustices around the world, and people can truly learn to empathise and become cohesive.” This was the challenge given to 1,000 thought and religious leaders at Singapore’s first international conference on social cohesion and interfaith harmony. There, British religious thinker Karen Armstrong encouraged them to be comfortable with “a sense of great disquiet”. ¹

Every fiscal quarter, the pastors across Northview’s seven campuses in Indiana asks its congregations to donate a dollar per person. The church typically raises $6,000 and $10,000, and the money has gone to support foster families, help with medical bills, and so on.

During the conference, senior religious leaders in Singapore presented President Halimah Yacob with a copy of the commitment which pledges to continue building strong bonds across members of their different faiths. This commitment by more than 250 religious organisations in Singapore includes an affirmation to uphold the freedom of religion, foster a culture of consideration and mutual understanding, and maintain solidarity in times of crisis.² Church of England appoints first black female bishop The Rev Dr Rose Hudson-Wilkin, chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons has been named as the new Bishop of Dover. Her appointment was hailed as a significant breakthrough for black female clergy in the Church of England. The Jamaica-born minister is also a chaplain to the Queen, and led prayers at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in May 2018. It is not only a significant moment in Dr Hudson-Wilkin’s career, but is also symbolically important for the Church of England due to the lack of diversity especially in senior positions. Even though the number of clergy who identify as of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) has been historically been low, there has been a small increase in recent years. The number of people of BAME heritage who have been recommended for ordination in the Church of England in 2018 was 7.7 percent - up from 6.2 percent in the previous year. ³

Earlier this year, Northview asked their congregations for $3 or $4, instead of the usual $1, as they unveiled their plans to partner with “RIP Medical Debt”, a charity to alleviate medical debt in their community. Founded in 2014, RIP Medical Debt has helped 250,000 people get out of debt by buying back debt for pennies on the dollar. Collection agencies and other companies sell debt for pennies on the dollar if they believe that the chances for collection are remote. RIP bought the debts at a reduced rate from hospitals and doctors, so the $30,000 Northview Church in Indiana raised was used to eradicate $4 million of debt. ⁴ Acts of kindness to heal a community Ruben Martinez, 11, was afraid to go to stores after the Walmart shooting in El Paso, Texas which killed 22 people and injured 24 others. His mother encouraged him to think of something he could do to make El Paso a little better, adding that they could not live in fear. Thus, Ruben Martinez started the #ElPasoChallenge on Facebook in hopes of helping his Texas community heal. In this challenge which is based on the idea to encourage people to "be kind to each other all day, every day”, each person does 22 kind deeds for others – one for each victim of the shooting. With his first act of kindness being “to deliver dinner to responders”, the young boy and his mother have been to multiple places - Walgreens, Barnes & Noble and Sprouts - to spread the message. ⁵ Colourful, encouraging notes appeared in Dayton, Ohio’s popular nightclub district, near the memorial that had sprung up after Ohio mass shooting. They are handwritten on Post-it notes that have been stuck to windows and storefronts and many are signed with the message "we rise by lifting others every day". There are also notes thanking first responders and honouring the nine people who were killed in the attack.⁶

https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/british-religious-thinker-singapore-forum-challenges-people-embrace-discomfort-of-religion https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/singapore-religious-organisations-commitment-harmony-halimah-11642114 3 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/amp/uk-england-kent-48802255 4 https://edition.cnn.com/2019/06/27/health/church-medical-debt-trnd/index.html? 5 https://edition.cnn.com/2019/08/06/us/el-paso-challenge-healing-trnd/index.html? 6 https://edition.cnn.com/2019/08/08/us/dayton-encouraging-notes-trnd/index.html? 1 2

June 2019 | 8 August 11


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VIEW POINTS


VIEWPOINTS

Political Theological Resistance in Hong Kong by Professor Lap Yan Kung

Lap Yan Kung is an associate professor teaching Christian ethics and public theology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and general secretary of the Hong Kong Christian Institute.

(AP Ph

oto/Kin

Cheung

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On June 12, the police used disproportionate

force to clear protestors from blocking the entrance of roads leading to the Legislative Council Building in Hong Kong. The government condemned the protestors for “organising a riot,” but the reality is that the majority were peaceful protesters. More than 80 people between the ages of 15 and 66 are reported to have suffered injuries. Paradoxically, Carrie Lam, the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong government, used the mother-child metaphor to support the use of force. She said, “A mother cannot budge every time her son demands something,” adding that “If the mother continues to spoil her son and let him have his way, he will in the future blame her for not reminding him what the right thing is to do.” I have argued in my recent published paper in the journal Political Theology that the Chinese and Hong Kong governments have employed a parent-child metaphor to describe their relationship to the people, but they are reluctant to admit that they are the servants of the people, not their parents.

An umbrella left by protesters on a street shrouded by tear gas smoke used by Hong Kong riot police during a massive demonstration outside the Legislative Council in Hong Kong

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The people do not need the government to teach them; rather, the government needs guidance from the people. What is the background of the clash between the police and protestors? How are the Christian communities involved in the protests? What are the theological issues?

Background The government contends that the proposed amendments to the extradition law (hereafter: The Bill) are intended to respond to murder cases in Taiwan (there is no extradition arrangement between Hong Kong and Taiwan), but the scope of the Bill includes China. Since the Chinese government has had a poor record of human rights, the people of Hong Kong are worried that the Bill would threaten human rights in Hong Kong. Furthermore, the government will only allow 20 days for public consultation, an unusually short time for such a controversial Bill.


VIEWPOINTS

Although the government has finally accepted some suggestions and revised the original proposal, (including that no extradition arrangements would be made on political, religious, or ethnic grounds) it does not relieve the worries of the people of Hong Kong. This is because the Chinese government commonly uses false accusations to incriminate people. For instance, a Hong Kong Christian smuggling the Bible into China had been accused of illegal economic activity. Pastors in China mainland protesting against forced removal of crosses from church buildings in 2014 were accused of causing social disorder and illegal money collection from congregants. On June 9, 2019, more than a million people joined the demonstration in Hong Kong demanding the government withdraw the Bill. However, the government has refused this request, and on the evening of the same day, it announced that the second reading of the Bill would go ahead on schedule on June 12. This provoked public anger, as the government shows no sign of listening to the voice of the people.

In order to stop the meeting of the Legislative Council being held, some protestors (mostly young people) blocked the roads heading to the Legislative Council Building. It is true that it is illegal to block public roads, but this was the only option available in order to push the government into dialogue. Disgracefully, the government has chosen to use force against the protesters instead of engaging in dialogue. Under the pressure from the people of Hong Kong, on June 15, the government finally decided to suspend the Bill with no timeline, but the people refused to accept this as a resolution. On June 23, 2 million people took to the streets in another demonstration. They were demanding the withdrawal of the Bill, the withdrawal of the term “riot� in regard to the protesters, the release of those detained and the setting up an independent investigation committee to examine police brutality, as well as the resignation of Carrie Lam. Lam and a few senior officials have made public apologies, but Lam has not responded to the five demands from the people.

(AP Ph

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June 2019 | 8 August 15


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Christians singing “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord” and praying outside the Legislative Council building(Jennifer Creery/HKFP)

Role of the Church The Christian population in Hong Kong is about 10% and most churches are not actively social engaged. Initially only individual Christians, a few churches (Catholic, Methodist and some small independent churches) and Christian organisations were concerned about the impact of the Bill. These individuals had organised seminars and workshops in order to arouse the concern of the churches. Like many petitions released in May 2019, Christians initiated Christian petitions carrying the name of their denominations, such the Lutheran Church and Baptist Church. Such petitions are not church statements, but this is perhaps a way for Christians to push their churches to get involved. According to statistics reported on June 8, 2019, 8324 out of 270,384 of signatures are from Christians identifying with different Protestant denominations. But when the time drew near to the second reading of the Bill, especially after the June 9 demonstration, more denominations and churches made public statements expressing their concerns regarding the Bill, and requested the government to withdraw it. Some churches provided coaches to bring their members to join the demonstration on June 9, while other churches organised prayer meetings. The Methodist Church in Wan Chai (very near to the Legislative Council Building) opened its building 24 hours a day for people to come to rest, meet, and pray.

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On June 10, a few Christian organisations, such as the Christian Institute, and many non-governmental organisations called for a boycott on June 12. The Pastors’ Care Fellowship organised a 72-hour prayer meeting starting on June 10 outside the Government Main Office. One amazing scene was on the night of June 11, when tension between protestors and police escalated. The protestors (both Christians and non-Christians) joined together with Christians singing the hymn, “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord,” for nearly nine hours straight, and this helped to release the tension. The police did not know how to respond to them. This is widely reported in local as well as international news. Since then, “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord” has become one of the songs for protestors to use in the resistance. A young protestor wrote in his Facebook, “I am not a Christian, but I am ‘indoctrinated’ by this hymn after singing for few hours. The Christian hymn is really powerful. It helps to reduce the tension between police and protestors.” On June 17, Rev. Joseph Ha, Auxiliary Bishop of the Catholic Church, said in a public assembly, “Where our sheep are, there the pastors are.” Pastors are engaging in this event. Unlike with the Umbrella Movement of 2014, when Christians were criticised for supposed indifference, Christians in this demonstration are no longer criticised but appreciated for their presence, support and peaceful resistance. Priests and pastors were invited to be the leading persons of the June 16 demonstration.


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After the clash between protestors and police on June 12, more churches and pastors condemned the police’s excessive use of force and showed sympathy to protestors, particularly young people. However, many churches are still hesitant to express their concerns regarding the Bill. There is always tension within the Christian communities on the Bill. For example, 69 Board members of the Baptist Convention of Hong Kong requested that the Convention withdraw its statement requesting the government to withdraw the Bill. Archbishop Paul Kwong, the Hong Kong Sheng Kung (Anglican), requests the people remain peaceful without commenting on the Bill. The statement released by the theological seminaries avoids criticising the excessive use of force by police. Christians actively participating in this event have won the applause from the Hong Kongers, but the Chinese government is more suspicious of the churches. Since many churches are inclined to keep friendly relations with both the Chinese and Hong Kong governments, the churches are at a crossroads, that is having to choose whether to side with the Hong Kongers or with the so-called peace.

Human Dignity – Theological Engagement One of the primary theological issues raised by the Bill is the question of human dignity. On the evening of June 12, after the clash between police and protestors, I preached to an audience of more than one thousand, as well as on Facebook live, proclaiming that the Lord is the Lord of life (Acts 3:12-16), and thus that any person, any law, and any institution violating life is against the Lord of life. Christians are called to obey the Lord of life, and thus to defend and respect life. Defending life is about criminal justice. It is our duty to protect the victims, but the rights of the suspected criminal should not be sacrificed. This is what the Bill fails to protect. Respecting life is about the right of freedom of expression, and more importantly, the right to participate in the decision-making for the future of the society. The government shows no respect for life, as it ignores the requests of the people to withdraw the Bill. There is no future for such a Chief Executive and for the police, for they choose to distance themselves from the Lord of life. We say no to the Bill, not because we are afraid to be judged unfairly, but because we love life, and life should be protected and respected. Christians in Hong Kong have found their public voice in protests against the Bill and their calls for human dignity. Most protestors are peaceful, and they have shown what a dignified life is. One beautiful scene occurred when at least 100 people (mostly young people) returned to the protest sites and clean up the rubbish. One of them said, “We have created chaos, and it is our responsibility to return it clean and tidy.” The Lord of life not only challenges us to protect human dignity, but also comforts us that the dignity of life will not be destroyed, for God has raised the crucified Jesus from the dead.

Epilogue At the time of writing this essay in end June, there is no sign that the government will positively respond to the four demands. We are expecting another huge demonstration on July 1 (Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Establishment Day). This is a kairos time for the churches to reflect on the public voice of the church in Hong Kong.

Pro-democracy lawmaker Roy Kwong (centre) chants slogans as protestors gathered outside Legislative Council in Hong Kong. Large crowds of protestors gathered in central Hong Kong as the city braced for another mass rally in a show of strength against the government over a divisive plan to allow extraditions to China. (AFP/Philip Fong)

June 2019 | 8 August 17


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The Simbo Horizon of Hope by Rev Nikotemo Sopepa, CWM Mission Secretary, Pacific

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n one of his most powerful work, The Cross and the Lynching Tree (2011), African American theologian James Cone bound the crucified Christ and the African American struggle to trees, both fell and living trees. The main objective of the book is to speak the hatred in the white man’s language of annihilation and infliction of the African American throughout the American history, and the song of hope¹ the African American continue to sing in the face of their painful struggle. There is more to the cross and the lynching tree than just a cross and a lynching tree. They are stories, stories of pain and hope as Cone distinctly wrote in his book. They are stories of crying eyes tired of crying that lacrimal glands cannot produce enough tears for every pain felt. There seem to be more pain than tears. But what I am doing in an effort to describe the enormity of the pain of African Americans is still a generalising of a reality that words alone fail to define. To be exact in describing is to fail in description, for the events that brought every pain is too many to count, let alone to know and report. But even in generalising the pain in the way I am doing now, I still fail. But in that failure, the stories are heard. And no amount of hatred or denial from the white privilege American can cover or put a mask on them. The cross is seen, clearly from every angle beneath the foot of the hill, and the trees are too alive to be hidden from the eyes of the world. In the Solomon Islands, West of the Pacific Ocean (Oceania)², people are being crucified every day. But there are no crosses. People are lynched every day. But there is hardly a tree standing in the land. There are no trees, but there are tree-less to crucify and lynch a life. There are no nails, but there are chainsaws. There are no Romans, no white Americans, but there are Malaysians, Japanese, and even Solomon Islanders who make tree-less crosses and tree-less lynching trees to hang and left for death the Solomon Island life. Logging, over logging is a cross and a lynching tree in the Solomon Islands. The customary land owners have no power over their land as the government issues logging licenses to Malaysian, Japanese, and Chinese companies to log the islands whose land masses are smaller than Kuala Lumpur. At the recently concluded CWM ‘Hearing God’s Cry’ seminar held in the United Church of Solomon Islands (UCSI) headquarters in Kokeqolo, Munda, the cry of the people whose islands are being left barren was heard. They took their concern to the Court, but the justice system they trusted would help them ruled against them. Individual landowners one by one made their way to Court to file cases against what they believe is illegal logging in their lands, but the government of the Solomon Islands have longed been dabbed softly by the paper, silver, and gold-plated currency of the trade world.

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I borrowed the word song of hope from Cornel West description of Cone’s work. I intentionally use the term Oceania and from this point forth use it when referring to what is known as the Pacific. The reason is because we, people of Oceania, people of the Moana (Ocean) call ourselves ‘the people of Oceania.’ The term ‘Pacific’ is a designation given to us by someone who is not from the Pacific. We define ourselves, not others. This is a real struggle in Oceania for identity and authenticity in all that we do, say, and think.

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Although the problem of logging cuts through Oceanian nations, the pace in which it’s going in the Solomon Islands is faster than any countries considering the sizes of some of the islands where the trees are felled. The UCSI, I can say, has found the courage to discover its voice in this crisis. However, it is a whispering sound. The only way the people know to deal with this is to walk the corridors of the Court house. Unfortunately, the mop that cleans the floor of the corridors is being paid for with Malaysian money. The same money pays for and softens the cushions of the pews in the Parliament. So soft are the cushions that parliamentarians fall to sleep, not because Solomon Islands is benefiting, but because the politicians are. And they enjoy it.

While visiting the UCSI I was invited to preach at the village of Ha’apai in New Georgia on May 19. The trip to Ha’apai village is almost a two hours’ ride on an outboard boat through the Roviana Lagoon. The lagoon is filled with islets, most no larger than two football fields. There are villages in these islands. The low tide caused a slow ride and made it longer than a usual trip to Ha’apai. The sun was hot. But the heat did not deter my focus on the aggressiveness of the logging in the Roviana Lagoon. Mid-way through the trip, I spotted a ship anchored off the lagoon. Brian Bird, the General Secretary of the UCSI, pointed out that it’s a logging ship, hauling in the trees from the islands in the lagoon and taking them straight to Malaysia, not even through Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands. This is logging in the Solomon Islands. Any tree, any size, is felled. It took over thousands of years for these trees to grow. And to totally log an island in the lagoon will only take about a week. That is how small these islands are. And that is how much the Malaysian and Japanese logging companies are willing to cross the vast ocean for, when their smallest cities are bigger than all the islands in the Roviana Lagoon combine. When we returned from Ha’apai that evening, the Logging on Kolombangara island, Solomons. (Photo by Catherine Wilson) skies were dark and the rain heavy. We were out in the open waters and the islands were invisible due to the heavy rain. Half an hour through the boat ride, in the darkness of the eventide and rain, I spotted a light from afar. When we got closer, it was the log ship I saw earlier that morning from within the lagoon. I kept my eyes on it even after we passed it.

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As it disappeared into the heavy rain, the lightning could not even bring it to sight. We travelled in the dark until we took a turn at a cape, West of New Georgia, heading for Kokeqolo. Then in the far distance in the horizon we saw light in the sky. With all the darkness covering the sky, the setting sun penetrated the darkness with its rays. The light came directly from the direction of Simbo, an island in the far Western Province of the Solomon Islands that I have been to 3 days earlier. Simbo in Solomon Islands myth is the gate to Sondo, the final resting place of the spirits of the Simbo people after they die. As an Oceanian theologian, I see Simbo as the gate to heaven. And the fact that light radiated out from the direction of Simbo, that to me, was a sign of hope. Hope for the people of Solomon Islands. In my mind, I could almost hear the voices of their ancestors saying ‘everything is going to be alright tomorrow.’ There is hope in light in the midst of darkness, even when darkness dominates the sky. Someone in Ha’apai told me that everyday he looks into the eyes of the children in his village and wonder what kind of Ha’apai will his generation leave for them. He said in the eyes of the children he can only see hopelessness and uncertainty. He said he is afraid. And he should be.

A logging operation in the Western Province. (Photo by The Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation/SIBC)

In 2007 an 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the Solomon Islands and wiped out many villages, killing many. The island of Ranogga near Simbo was lifted some 5-6 metres above sea level, and what was once the coral reef surrounding the island is now dry land where coconuts and other vegetation grow due to the lift. Solomon Islands is where 90% of the world’s earthquakes occurs. Christina Nunez in her article Deforestation Explained, wrote that human driven and natural loss of trees – deforestation – affects wildlife, ecosystems, weather patterns, and even the climate, alleging that trees holds the answer to our attempt to slow the pace of climate change. She further stated that according to one estimation, “Tropical trees cover alone can provide 23% of the climate mitigation needed over the next decade to meet goals set in the Paris Agreement in 2015.”³ This is why the crucified and lynching of Solomon Islands life is a crucial matter needing urgent attention. The forest of the whole Solomon Islands is nothing compared to the ones in the Amazon, or the Miombo Woodlands in Africa. But the role it plays in maintaining the balance in a place prone to be hit by an earthquake at any moment of the day is vital. And the excessive logging is not helping at all. The trees of the Solomon Islands, can save lives not only in the Western Oceania, but also the many countries of the Eastern coast of Asia. And it is this concern for life that empowers the prophetic voice of the UCSI to find a whisper, and it is destined through the help of CWM and other ecumenical partners in Oceania to rise into a full sound of hope.

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Hope, whether heard in lyrics of songs, words of activism, or seen in the acts of the church and communities, is hope realised. I believe that, is better to have trees, alive and covering the land, than crosses and lynching trees made of tree-less islnds. The cross is now a symbol of hope for the people of the Solomon Islands. And the trees are a surety of life. The absence of trees is the presence of the death cross and the lynching tree for the Solomon Islanders. If there is anything that I learnt from my two-weeks stay in Kokeqolo, Munda, Solomon Islands, it is the absence of a luxurious life the very trees of the islands are destined to build for somebody else, somewhere. Simplicity, humility, and casualness is the language of the Solomon Islands Western Province. And if all these is converted to hope, the future of the Solomon Islands children is secure, certain, and safe. And this security of life is a million miles far from what we now call ‘sustainable development.’ It is simply a security of life practiced over thousands of years by these great people. One out of respect for creation. My eyes are fixed on the horizon in the direction of Simbo. Although the sun has set completely, I know it will rise tomorrow. And the people of the Solomon Islands will rise with it.

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In the National Geographical Magazine. The article can be accessed through https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/deforestation/

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Humanity and Spirituality

in the face of the Fourth Industrial Revolution by Rev Dr Park Seong-Won

Dr Park Seong-Won is President of Gyeongan Theological Graduate University

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he issue of the Fourth Industrial Revolution was tabled by Klaus Schwab, the founder and chairperson of the World Economic Forum at WEC annual meeting which took place in Davos, Switzerland in 2016. Since then, it has emerged as a buzzword for our time as a revolutionary process that will change the system of our future society completely. The First Industrial Revolution based on the steam engine and railway mechanisation took place in the latter half of the 18th century, the Second Industrial Revolution based on mass production, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and the Third Industrial Revolution, which brought knowledge information based on computers and the internet, in the 20th century. Now, entering into the 21st century, human civilisation is opening the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution which breaks the boundaries of all fields and opens up a new civilization that transforms existing systems into new dimensions. It fuses mobile phones, supercomputing, the Internet of things, AI Technology, and specialty areas such as autonomous vehicles, genetic engineering, neurological technology, and brain science all together. At the threshold of the 21st century, the United States has already engaged in research work along this direction foreseeing that this century will be the age of convergence technology, following upon the information technology of the 20th century.

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The simple concept of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is a system that integrates reality and virtual worlds. Scientists explain that the real world, which is called offline or the world of atomic atom, and the virtual world called online or the world of bit, that now exist separately, are merging into one fourth industrial system. It is a new civilisation in which the things we have only imagined until now are becoming reality.

We already enjoy the partial benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, such as automobile navigation systems, sensor operated devices, rice cookers equipped with artificial intelligence, robot service, computer documents stored in the cloud to be opened anywhere, office environments, and new information sharing such as Google, where information from the world instantly appears on my cell phone, and so on. These technologies have already been introduced and used in our lives. The era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is a time when machines work and humans do not work. According to a recent study, when the Fourth Industrial Revolution is in full swing, 47% of human work will be replaced by machines and more than 7 million jobs will disappear.ยน

1 http://news.mt.co.kr/mtview.php?no=2015072412123251675&outlink=1&ref=%3A%2F%2F Jobs that will disappear in 10 years are simple repetition jobs such as call centres, counsellors, professors, taxi drivers, tax accountants, accountants, simple assemblers, doctors, pharmacists and lawyers.

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When we talk about the Fourth Industrial Revolution, our concerns are usually focused on what human beings should do when jobs are taken by artificial intelligence machines because the machinery is replacing the work of humans, or on the basic income system, because so many will be unemployed. A new industry of leisure might emerge, in order to use the surplus time when humans do not work. Education also needs to be shifted from education for knowledge accumulation to education for creative maker that neither machine nor ordinary human beings can do. The main focus for responding to the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution has been concentrated on the responses to the damage or ways to adapt. However, from a theological perspective, the challenge is greater than that dimension. As Klaus Schwab, who had thrown away the buzzword of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, has said, “It is not only changing the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of doing things but also ‘who’ we are.” Until now, machines have always been an auxiliary means for human work and existed at a subordinate level to humans. But in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, human beings no longer control machines, but rather, humans coexist with machines or are controlled by machines, and furthermore, human beings and machines are fused, and human beings extend through machines, and human progress is led by machines. This is the direction toward transhumanism, and the goal is to become a post-human beyond human limits.

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The convergence science which fuses nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology, and cognitive neuroscience intends to transform future human life through fusion technology, including artificial intelligence, robotics and synthetic biology. Based on the assumption that nature is a given, modern science has developed technology aimed at expanding the areas that humans can utilise in nature in order to obtain more benefits from nature more efficiently. Fusion science, however, thinks that it is possible to transform, reconstruct, and even create nature without simply seeing it as a given. This technology is applied to the human body as well. The human body can also be transformed, redesigned, and created, and not only the body, but also the human mind and heart are regarded as items that can be edited, manipulated and controlled.² Modern science presupposes species boundaries, but fusion science fuses different species beyond it. It aims to evolve into a science that makes creation possible by free fusion between technologies for the purpose of transforming and re-configuring beyond the boundaries between humans and nature, humans and animals, animals and plants, species of animals and plants, human beings and machines, and even the creation of new nature. For example, synthetic biology, where biotechnology meets nanotechnology and information-communication technology is, literally, aimed at synthesising and creating living organisms themselves.

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ibid. 157. analysts, SW developers, Workers, robotics engineers, artists, security experts, and bioengineers. June 2019 | 8 August 25


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Human Android Asuna. (Source: Newspunch.com, 20/11/2014)

In synthetic biology, the primary meaning of synthesis is the redesign or reconstruction of the components of life that exist in nature. This includes the editing and cloning of the human body and mind, and it is possible to change sexuality by convenience. If my body and the machine are uncomfortable and disturbed, it can be installed outside the body. Brain science thinks that it is possible to extend the life of a human brain when it is dead by planting an artificial chip in the human brain to make a data base of a pattern of the human thinking and behaviour. Fusion science opens the era of eternal life. It does not stop here. People like George Church, molecular geneticist at Harvard University and Steen Rasmussen, the Danish physicist, have gone beyond merely integrating what exists to creating biological components that do not exist in nature and, ultimately, to artificially create a life. The human being itself will be a totally different dimension than before, when Cyborg, a modified cyborg creature that replaces the body except for the brain, or trans-human, which aims to transcend the species as a human being through fusion science, or post-human. So it is called trans human, post human. Post human becomes Human, the Creator.

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Trans humanism and Post Humanism3 The definition of "post-human" and "trans-human" is still ambiguous. Some scholars have pointed out that the trans-human transcends the current level of human being, that is, the process of converging with the forms of human new beings, and the post-human is in the sense of post-human after such a process has been completed.â ´ It is also sometimes concise. Trans-humanism is an intellectual and cultural movement that uses science and technology to improve people's mental and physical qualities and abilities, and an attempt by human beings to transcend the biological fate or limit given by evolution by means of science and technology. Trans-humanists believe that the appearance of the human species is not in the ultimate form of species development but merely the early stages of evolution. The scholars say that trans-humanism is an "intellectual and cultural movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally enhancing human conditions by developing and extending a technology that removes aging and improves human intellectual, physical, and psychological abilities."â ľ It refers to the dimensions borrowed from the power of advanced technologies such as information science, cognitive science, nanotechnology, bioengineering, robotics, etc., or to the level of a mechanical- or artificial body-wearing spirit in place of biological body. So, Post Human refers to the human being combined with the machine through technology. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is an industry that brings this from the debate to reality.

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This section is based on Kang Young-Aan and Lee Sang-Heon's essay, "Philosophical Reflections on Post-Humanism�. Park Il-Joon, Theology in the Post Human Era (1) : The Coming and Challenge of the Post-Human Era <Daegu and Curry - Post Human and Theology> http://www.ecumenian.com/news/articleView.html?idxno=13396 Bostrom, Transhumanist FAQ, " http://www.nickbostrom.com/ The Sogang Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 29, May. 2012, pp.189-217

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Post Humans possess intellectual abilities superior to ours, and is free from diseases, emotionally stable, and even able to remove emotions such as discomfort.â ś They suggest using morphology virtue-engineering, which can overcome human beastliness through emotional control and regulation, using neuropharmacology, genetic engineering, brain stimulation, and nanotechnology, and argue that it is necessary for the future of humanity.â ˇ It also means that ethical standards will be established by technology, and furthermore, that technology must have such a responsibility or a sense of calling. There are some people, like Francis Fukuyama, who criticise transhumanism as the most dangerous idea in the world, and Yubal Harari who has argued that humanity is now divided between a very few superhuman and the useless human classes, and warns that once the majority of people lose their political and economic power, the situation of inequality will rapidly become severe. However, many others take this as the breakthrough progress of humankind. There is much controversy about what has had such a decisive impact on the ecological reality of the earth. The time from 15,000 years ago to today, has been called the Holocene. It is argued that it should be renamed as the Anthropocene, because human activity has had a decisive influence on the geological and ecological fluctuation. The counter argument against this says that the last 3,000 years should be named as Capitalocene, because it is capital which led this era. Ulrich Duchrow sees that the end of this Capitalocene era would eventually lead the world to the destruction of the entire ecosystem, that is, Nekrocene. If technology transforms all living beings into another dimension, I wonder whether the future might be called Technocene. Trans Humans and Post Humans finally force God to retire and is now immersed in the belief that humans can sit on God's chair and become the subject of creation.

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N. Bostrom, "What is transhumanism?", P.5 http://www.transhumanism.org/resources/faq.html, requoted from op. cit., 159, Ibid, 160.

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Theological Reections In this new context, the issue we are facing most seriously would be the question of what human beings are and what human minds are. As Klaus Schwab, who first raised the issue of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, said, "This revolution does not only change what we do and how we do it, but we do not know who we are.", it will challenge the foundation of what it means to be human. Human intelligence, emotions, even spirituality may be a chaotic state that cannot be discerned, and we may face the situation of confusion and chaos in which we do not understand who we are. An unprecedented challenge that has never been raised before will be raised, and that is how to understand and how to relate to human beings who are edited, transformed and recreated beyond the activities of human mind and emotions which are coordinated through the machine, and what kind of world will be this type of human beings become the subject of history? Therefore, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, transhumanism, and post-humanism will push our backs into a situation where the church and theology are challenged to initiate another Reformation. But the response to this challenge will not be so simple. I do not know which direction the development of the Fourth Industrial Revolution will be led precisely, and what kind of the result there may be. All previous industrial revolutions and philosophical and theological responses to them took a very long journey. Creative responses will take time.

The question is what the reference point would be. We must rethink the reference point of judgment as the Reformation did. From the standpoint of the Reformation, the radix we have to turn to as people of faith is the Bible. I consider the Genesis story of good and evil to be one of the most significant biblical reference points. At the threshold of the 21st century, we wondered what the world would look like in the future. There were many predictions, which could be summarised into two different predictions. One was an optimistic view that the 21st century will be a very liveable and convenient century with the development of epoch-making science and technology, and the other perspective was a worrisome view that more disaster, confusion and crisis would come in the 21st century. As the world has entered more fully into the 21st century, we have been experiencing both outcomes simultaneously. The development of science and technology has made human life more convenient. But at the same time, the world is stained by more terror, wars, natural disasters, and all kinds of unprecedented problems. As seen in recent Europe, terrorism has become routine, and as we note in the daily papers, crimes are becoming much crueller. Climate change and ecological disaster are threatening the life of all living beings including humans. Natural disasters of all kinds, tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes, desertification, wild fires and fine dusts, created by human industrial civilisation, are becoming more frequent, larger and stronger. Nowadays it is said that ecological end could be imminent.

Behind the optimistic view of the future and the view of concern, there are different perspectives: One is that human development is ‘infinite' and 'human capability is limitless' and the other, 'human development has limitations’, and should be limited. It seems that two discourses are in conflict. What does the Bible say about this? The guideline implied in Genesis 3 is the following: You "may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden;" but "You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.' The serpent's counter argument was "You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." But the choice human beings made was this: They "saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise," and then they "took of its fruit and ate." The consequence is noteworthy. Bacon interpreted this passage as follows: Human knowledge prior to eating this fruit was pure knowledge, but this has been lost. If this is restored through scientific knowledge, human beings can build a new Atlantis with the restored knowledge. Transhumanists and post-humanists who lead the Fourth Industrial Revolution seem to aiming at the realisation of this by fusion technology.

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Knowledge Proliferation - Adam ate the forbidden fruit. It took many generations for the current knowledge to evolve. As we moved away from “dark ages” the skies brightened and finally, an explosion of knowledge, and a full clarity of all things. The age of Technology has arrived. Oil on panel 16 x 20 in. (40.64 x 50.8 cm.) Inspired by an etching of Albrecht Dürer. (Painting by Daniel Heller)

God told us to eat all the fruits in the garden. The development of science could be included in this category and many more advanced scientific technologies could also be encompassed here. However, the limitation that God granted was development up to the tree in the middle of garden. What would be the borderline between 'before the tree of the garden' and 'after the tree of the garden'? Here we could set up one criterion for the Fourth Industrial Revolution era. Relationship is the criterion. Not merely mechanic relationship, but organic relationship. The convergence technology leading digital civilisation into the future should be evaluated and adjusted based on whether all life networks in the universe would be well maintained organically as a result of the new technology. Will what the Fourth Industrial Revolution makes be 'so good for life, a delight to the eyes, and so desired to make one wise'? Will the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden of the Fourth Industrial Revolution be organically sustaining all life networks in the universe? The criterion for evaluating it is not a vague fusing relationship, a mechanically connected relationship with each other, a big data association, a mechanical relationship between editing and copying, or a technical relationship, but an organic relationship, reciprocity, mutual relationship ensuring peace, justice and good life for all. Many people are of the opinion that the relationship between the phenomena that emerge from the Fourth Industrial Revolution are going to be fragile. For example, Yuval Harari predicted that the Fourth Industrial Revolution may split humankind into a small class of 'superhuman' and a huge underclass of 'useless' people. Once the useless class lose their economic and political power, inequality levels could spiral alarmingly.⁸ We are warned that consolidation of new-classism and economic polarisation might take place.

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https://www.theguardian.com/inequality/2017/may/24/are-we-about-to-witness-the-most-unequal-societies-in-history-yuval-noah-harari

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Economic polarisation is predicted by many scholars. As “peace� in Chinese character is a sign of economic equality, economic inequality breaks not only the economy but also all relations including peace. In view of the fact that human conflicts come from both causes of infringement of human dignity and economic inequality, the Fourth Industrial Revolution can be seen to begin with inequality of economic polarisation and inequality of human dignity. In addition, we are now witnessing that the relationships between the creatures on Earth and the ecosystems are already being twisted and the negative consequences are getting worse and worse.

Those who are promoting the Fourth Industrial Revolution argue that the limits of life could be overcome completely. Self-driving vehicles can reduce the traffic accidents, and biotechnology can control human nature and human behavioural maladies through moral engineering. However, what we are now experiencing is that socioeconomic, global political, and human spiritual situations becoming more and more out of control, even though the history of science and technology may be progressing. The ecological destruction that human developmentalism has been producing is already becoming an ecological catastrophe. Will technology be able to turn all these chaotic situations into order again?

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Ways Forward What should we do? It is a task to be studied for a long time, but at least two overall areas need to be addressed: The first area is developing relational epistemology and its connections with spirituality. To ameliorate the human anthropocene, capitalocene, nekrocene, and technocene eras on earth, we need a relational epistemology, “I am because we are”, which understands that all living and non-living beings in the cosmos are connected for mutual life.

Hand of coexistence is installed at the sea near by Pohang in South Korea. (Photo by Engineer9 via UnSplash)

Dualism, or a dichotomous epistemology, has created hierarchical and mechanical relationships between humans and nature, God and nature, heaven and earth - all of which have led to a controlled structural understanding that one dominates and controls another: the ecological crisis, the ever-worsening geo-political, geo-economic, geo-social and geo-cultural crises. Convergence science is adopting convergence technology, which seems to be an integrated approach at first glance, but everything is still understood as separate, needing to be mechanically combined. This epistemology is leading to destruction on the large scale, although it may fix small things. Concepts like Ubuntu of Africa, Sumac Kawsay and Suma qamaña of South America, and the Sangsaeng of Asia offer us a connectional way of thinking and building common life, and we need to create new research and educational systems built on those epistemological bases. The second is a new perception of the earth and her connections with spirituality. In Asia one thinks that the universe consists of heaven (God, the divine, Spirit), the earth and human beings. According to this framework, until medieval times, God was the only focus. Human beings and nature were invisible. Certainly, they also existed, but they were not regarded as existing in reality. Since the Reformation and the Renaissance, however, human beings have become the focus, to the exclusion of God and the earth. In a sense, heaven (God) was slowly pushed to the back, the earth became the object human beings manipulated freely, and human beings became the centre of the universe. In the future when not only human beings but also the entire creation face an ecological catastrophe, however, human civilisation should focus on the earth from where life is generated. We should not divide heaven, earth and human beings. Rather, we should regard the earth relationally, where heaven, the earth and human beings are organically connected, as in Ubuntu, Sangsaeng, Suma qamaña and Sumak Kawsai. An earth-friendly perspective is not just a vague abstract viewpoint, but rather a revolution that sets the earth and her entire ecosystem back into the centre of life and civilisation. We must pay attention to the soil itself. To overcome the present climate change and ecological crises, we need revolutionary ideas to bring agriculture back to the centre of future civilisation, which needs to be shaped on the axis of agriculture. Diarmuid O’Murchu speaks of spiritual homecoming, and the specific place of this spiritual homecoming may be a civilisational homecoming, returning to the earth.⁹

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http://spiritualpractice.ca/welcome/how-can-my-dying-become-a-spiritual-practice/contemporary-reflections-on-death/a-theology-of-afterlifeaccording-to-diarmuid-omurchu/ Vaclav Havel, Disturbing the Peace, Knopf, New York 1990. p. 10-12. http://www.religiousleftlaw.com/2011/12/v%C3%A1clav-havel-the-existential-revolution.html

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Conclusion Even though we are based on an aposteriori theory that human beings’ evilness is acquired in a post-natal way, the reality is that the evilness of human beings is getting worse and worse, and almost the last device under which human beings could be controlled would be morality, ethics, spirituality, and faith etc. Eventually, spirituality will become the final control tower of human beings. But the spirituality is never easy to function on its own. Vaclav Havel(1936-2011), who had led the labour movement under the socialist system and had become president of the Czech Republic after the dissolution of the Eastern Bloc in 1989, suggested a concept of "Existential Revolution" for a possible way to find humanity again in the time of human identity crisis. “I think that the present crisis of the world... is directly related to the spiritual state of modern civilisation. The spiritual state can be expressed as a loss, which is the loss of metaphysical certainty, the loss of experience of transcendental existence, the loss of supernatural moral authority, and the loss of higher value. This may sound paradoxical, but only when we turn ourselves towards absolute existence, towards the order of nature or universe based on extramundane authority, towards the moral order and its superhuman source, we can truly return to human dimension, and our life could escape from the threat of 'massive suicide' or withstand it. This direction, only this direction, can lead us to the creation of a social structure that can once again be a human being, a truly unique personal human being.”¹⁰ He also said “Above all, any existential revolution should provide hope of a moral reconstitution of society, which means a radical renewal of the relationship of human beings to what I have called the ‘human order,’ which no political order can replace. A new experience of being, a renewed rootedness in the universe, a newly grasped sense of ‘higher responsibility,’ a new-found inner relationship to other people and to the human community—these factors clearly indicate the direction in which we must go.”¹¹ When you purchase electronic devices or machines, you will find a sheet of instructions on how to use it. If the purchased product does not work properly, as a non-manufacturer you are advised to take some self-care measures. And if it does not work, the instruction warns you not to open the product, but contact the place of purchase or manufacturer for advice. When creatures in the crisis of a break down such as the one we face today in relation to ecological catastrophe, we need to turn to God, the Creator, who created the cosmos in God’s eco logos(ecology) to ask for advice for fixing the human-made disorder. Partial repair could be done by human beings, but for the whole restoration we may return to the Creator. Here comes the role of spirituality. Spirituality is an holistic intelligence of human beings to understand the organic connectivity of cosmos.

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Cut the crap: The Brand of Hope by Rev David Coleman, Greenock West URC

...The church is big and influential enough to be a significant part of the solution to the current crisis. T

his was the recent banner headline for the recruitment webpage for a ‘sister’ Christian organisation. I do have a problem with this. The language still conveys a less-than-fully honest confidence in a “fix-it” ‘solution’, rather than a creative approach to an enduring and already ongoing crisis. Relying on this sort of strapline, we won’t be transforming ourselves as the church into what we need to be for the damaged world, because we’ll just be buying into doing things the old imperial way. It’s in our weakness, our differentiation from “might is right” that our strength, and our prophetic ability to speak truth to power, will lie. We don’t defeat empire by being empire, because empire is seductively expert at co-opting. And yes, when we, as churches, do engage with the mighty industries which already plan to continue selling us extinction and climate catastrophe, we need to do so with the spiritual and moral authority we have as churches, rather than as pathetically insignificant shareholders.

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And we need to be honest about our own hypocrisy and imperfection: we fly, drive, drop plastic, and all the rest of it. The distance of repentance we ourselves have to travel should not be allowed to silence us. Because if we waited to put our own house completely in order, there would be no voice to speak that truth. That we, as “people of unclean lips”, can nonetheless engage with people of unclean lips, is hopeful and wonderful. Whilst hope, and its sustaining, is a vital part of our work as churches and as Eco-Congregation Scotland, misleading ourselves and others about the magnitude of what we face, is not. Not, as in distant memory, the ‘Band of Hope’, but the Brand of Hope we’re after is a deep and durable one. We are a passionate, and yes, joyful movement, because realism sets us free to the profoundly defiant power of joy. We are perhaps the first age of humanity which has swallowed, hook, line, and sinker, the assurance of Satan to Jesus that ‘angels will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone’. We have already jumped off the parapet, and wonder what’s keeping those angels. I’m not ruling out the odd branch sticking out of the cliff on the way down, though. We are a culture cherishing a wholesale denial of cause and effect, grounded not even in a twisted, naive faith in God, but in the blinkering tyranny of unlimited greed and growth. For it’s the idolatry of growth, and the enforced lie that business as usual can continue with a bit of ‘green’ tinkering, that continues to break the “laws that never shall be broken”. (cf Psalm 148). If we’re attentive followers of Christ, then we do not pretend Sky and Earth will not pass away.

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The promise to Noah was that if rising waters destroy, it’s not God’s doing. Again, naive and de-contextualised reliance on that sort of promise, is putting God to the test. Our species (and perhaps the asset managers of some Christian organisations) have presumed to disagree with the God who in conversation with Job, cited the invincible strength of Creation in the Leviathan and Behemoth: and something obscene and blasphemously out of balance has resulted, where other species die out, not in God’s good time of ‘seedtime and harvest’, but wholesale. It’s the most perverse reading - if they bothered to read - of Jesus in Matthew 6: 34 ’Do not worry about tomorrow’.... because it disregards the “κακία” (genteel translation) “troubles” or perhaps, given the way language often works, the ‘crap’ (speculative translation) we’re up to our eyes in today. If you don’t deal with today, there won’t be a tomorrow.

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Whether we’re also living out the gullibility of Adam and Eve, that ‘you will be like God’ needs more reflection. I looked at the selection of medieval gravestones in St Andrews Cathedral recently: pretty well all of them had some variation on the words “memento mori” - “remember that you will die”. That’s not gloomy, but part of what we need to know to live well. To know that everything we know does have an ending, which would be fine. How would we behave if we were more conscious that this “day” could be our last? Some, perhaps, would react with despair, some with hope and compassion, which itself transforms every situation. We seek a Life appropriate to the Age, and the church, not the empire, that God call us to be, for God’s glory and the good of Christ’s beautiful, crucified, creation. In joyful faith, we seek the Way, because the solution is not yet in sight. Hallelujah anyway. Amen.

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Empire 2.0

Separating Adam from Adamah has kept Empire in place: Land as locus of liberation by Rev Dr Garnett Roper

Introduction

P

articipating in the DARE forum under the panel, People Land and Empire has helped to clarify for me something I had known intuitively, the empire means doing the same thing to people all over the world in different ways. It is ironic that Caribbean adopted by the independent territories in the region to describe themselves as Caribbean economic community (CARICOM) is intentionally post-colonial. It however leaves it as an open question, whether or not the region has moved away from the clutches of empire. This paper contends that in relation to empire, at its most fundamental level when it comes to land ownership and use, there is both a residue and a resurgence of empire in the Caribbean region if not also elsewhere. The forces of empire dispossessed indigenous peoples of their land in the name of conquest. Those forces distorted the uses of the land in the name of economic domination, grew crops that were for the benefit of the tables of the North Atlantic rather than to serve the needs of the nation state and its people. Land was distributed in ways that were for the advantage and benefit of the economically dominant ethnic minority and perpetuated their advantage to the disadvantage of the people of the land. This remains the open question, as to whether or not political priorities and programmes ought to include the repossession of land and the redistribution of land for the purposes of causing the people of the land to flourish and prosper. Is there a narrative that can rescue such policies in the name of the people from the risk of distortion and demonisation? It also raises a question about theology deployed in the interest of human flourishing by seeking to bring grace and power of God in Jesus Christ to bear upon the lived reality of the people in spaces of domination and oppression. Is this a legitimate concern of theology and does theology offer a response to both the residue of empire and the resurgence of empire? The small island states of the Caribbean do not have enough land to ensure a quality of life comparable to European farmers. The problems of the Caribbean that does not have enough land to benefit from economies of scale are made worse because of the legacy of the unequal distribution of land. This paper explores the land question as historical legacy and challenge for public policy. In what ways has the particular history of the Jamaica and the Caribbean bequeathed a land situation to the people of the Caribbean that has perpetuated the agendas of empire rather than facilitated human flourishing in the Region? The land situation is one in which places like Jamaica find itself with between 20 and 30% of its population landless and living in unplanned and unorganised communities called squatter settlements. On the one hand, this landlessness has exacerbated the identity crisis, the situation of inequality and has intensified the lack of economic and social mobility for the majority of the people at the base of the population for whom their lived reality is marked privation, poverty and misery.

1 Most recent estimates given by public officials, including Jamaica’s Leader of Opposition at his debut political conference, indicate that 700,000 Jamaicans live in squatter settlements. This is approximately 25% of the population.

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This situation of landlessness is not unrelated to the high incidents of crime and violence and social dysfunction generally that have come to characterise parts of Jamaica and Caribbean. On the other hand, the forces and powers that colonised the Caribbean and imposed the plantation economy and chattel slavery with its attendant sense of uprootedness and loss of identity for the people of African ancestry are still in positions that allow them to benefit disproportionately from the economic and social circumstances of the Caribbean. These forces and powers remain in positions that allow them to be in control of the narrative and to determine the public transcript as far as priorities of public policy and national development are concerned. Have emancipation, nationalism and political independence gone far enough to secure an advantage in economic, political and social terms in so far as the people of the Caribbean region are concerned? Have they merely tinkered at the edges? Have the powers that were the erstwhile masters and owners of the region merely reconfigured themselves in order to continue benefit to the same or similar extent as they have in the past. Put differently, has empire been materially marginalised in the Caribbean or does the Caribbean remain in the periphery or clutches of empire? Is the Caribbean a basin, playground or stomping ground for the forces of empire, imperialism and hegemony? How much of what constitutes Caribbean reality is self-inflicted, the result of mis-governance or misrule since political independence and how much of is it the result of the technologies of power?

Is this discussion about the entrenched structures that operate within the region and among the Caribbean people as their lived reality? Or is the discussion framed in the manner that it is because of imbibing a concocted narrative that lionises the erstwhile masters of the Caribbean in the eyes of the Caribbean and demonises the progress of the people of the region? It is therefore important that this analysis does not minimise the progress of the people of the Caribbean as modest as that progress may have been as a way of perpetuating self-doubt that bedevils Caribbean thinking. This discussion cannot afford to believe about the Caribbean, that the more things change, the more they remain the same for the people of the region. In this way, one is not seeking to “bad-mouth� the progress of the Caribbean people. Despite remarkable inherited disadvantages, the people of the Caribbean have punched above their weight class as global players and actors and in some respects, the Caribbean has achieved a quality of life (rates of infant mortality, life expectancy, telecommunications infrastructure, rates of literacy and numeracy, extent of press freedom) that rivals places in the metropoles of the North Atlantic. On the other hand, there are matters arising from the legacy of misrule by its own and by the emissaries of the North Atlantic, from chattel slavery, colonialism and by the since hurriedly abandoned (by the North Atlantic anyway) globalisation. Careful analysis without aiming to be exhaustive needs to take account of all of the above.

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VIEWPOINTS Empire 2.0 invites us to consider the residue and resurgence of empire, the ways in which the technology and infrastructure of power have reconfigured themselves to do the people of the Two-Thirds world what they have done before. In this regard we consider the nature of the intersection between people, land and empire. All factors are at play in the Caribbean. In this regard, land is an important flashpoint. Land is the site through which, in many respect, European hegemony has been asserted in the region. It must be borne in mind that the Caribbean has been the arena in which various European powers have sought to assert their hegemony and dominance in relation to each other. Some Caribbean territories changed hands among European Countries (England, France, Spain and Holland) in the period of colonisation and some of the territories in the region were sold from one member of the North Atlantic community, to another. Land that is owned publicly (Government land) is still referred to as Crown Lands, which is a relic of the colonial past. ² When slavery was abolished in Jamaica, there was no attempt to enfranchise the landless African population, who left the hobbles and plantation grounds of the plantation and fled to the marginal lands in the hillsides. Very little has happened since then to systematically enfranchise the African base of the population where land ownership is concerned. The Biblical narratives concerning land The creation account in Genesis 2 indicates the inseparable relationship between human beings and land. There is an inter-dependence and co-relationship between human beings and the land. According to the Genesis account, “Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth[a] and no plant had yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground”(Genesis 2. 4-7). On the other hand, the creation accounts indicate that man was formed from the dust of the ground, Adam from Adamah. When Adam was formed “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” The separation of Adam from Adamah has created all forms of crises for human society: the ecological crisis is one such crisis, but also the separation of Adam from Adamah has precipitated the economic social and political crises that bedevil modern human society. It is the separation of Adam from Adamah that is the greatest impediment to human flourishing. In Paradise past, there was a unity between Adam and Adamah such that resulted in the flourishing of creation and harmony within the human community. When the Fall is depicted in Genesis 3, it is in terms of a recalcitrance of the land in which its yield becomes less assured or predictable and the land requiring more from human beings in order to produce sustainably. ³

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Genesis 3.17-19 “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

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VIEWPOINTS The hostility between Adam and Adamah is the consequence of the Fall and so also is the rivalry and competitiveness rather than complementarity between the partners in the human family. This remains the case and to find remedies for it is the task and project of salvation, redemption and liberation. It is useful to consider how land was regarded and treated in the rest of the Pentateuch or Hexateuch. The provisions made and injunctions given in the books of Deuteronomy and Joshua are instructive in terms the value placed on land. Land was critical to the self-identity of the fledgling people of Israel. How land was handled and how land issues were settled became pivotal to the progress of social justice in Israel. The Promised Land was the gift from Yahweh to Israel in quest of a nationalist agenda. Joshua was a significant figure for the land project in which Israel was made to settle on the allotment of land in the broad spacious and fertile plain given to the tribes of Yahweh. The suggestion is whether or not the historicity of the text is established, it is clear that the perspective of the Deuteronomist is that land was critical to the agency and viability of the nation state. Having left Egypt, Israel entered the land of the Hittites in order to find space to become a people. The drama of the passing out parade of Empires and their relationship to the fledgling Israelite nation state was also about land. The Assyrian absorbed the northern Ten Tribes and over time the identity of Israel as a separate and distinct people vanished. Babylon expatriated the best of Judah, laid waste both their agricultural development and their civic, religious commercial and political infrastructure. Jeremiah who looked beyond the exile for a new beginning bought a parcel of land as a token of hope in the future of the people of the land, the am ha ‘aretz. The Persian Emperor Cyrus returned Israel to their land and in that sense reconstructed and restored the prospect of a viable Israelite nation state. Yahweh was the ultimate landowner and the land was leased to clans and families in perpetuity, it could not be sold. This was structured into the Israelite economy by the so-called jubilee principle in which every 50 years land reverted to the ownership by families to which it was first allotted. The Jubilee principle preserved liberty and equality within Israel among its people and was a critical to social justice legislation. The biblical concept of land as Promised Land, land as divine possession and the indigenous concept of land as sacred are related. The project of social justice and the ecological crisis (Climate Change) will require for their remedy that the issue of land, made worse for the people by the machinations of empire, be addressed. Dr Garnett Roper is the President of the Jamaica Theological Seminary (JTS). He earned his PhD in Theology at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, and his subject of research is the Development of a Caribbean Public Theology. Dr Roper was also one of the presenters at the Council for World Mission (CWM) DARE conference in 2017 and 2018.

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Towards Enriching Taiwan A Personal Statement by Jamir Imlivanger

Introduction

I

am happy and grateful to God for this wonderful opportunity to share something through this channel. I want to thank the entire team of the ‘INSiGHT’ magazine for giving me this platform. Our God is the God of Peace and Justice. He wants human beings to live in peace and harmony, but it is due to human weaknesses and negligence that we are facing unfortunate incidents daily. Our greediness, manipulative, accumulative attitude towards smaller nations has caused a huge destruction to them. In this article I wish to state some out of many major facts in regard to Taiwan Nation. I have tried my best to make it short and simple. This work is just a tip of the iceberg. I will state some basic facts about Taiwan, its people, historical context, then moving on to where Taiwan is today, the rights of Taiwan as a nation, I have stated some imperative challenging statements like, if Taiwan is contributing so much to the people around the globe then why Taiwan is neglected. What about mission organisations, what can we do for it when Taiwan is suffering and yearning for the real freedom, sovereignty and peace. Taiwan is pushed to the margin by the greater powerful nations. What a Christian community role can play to help in bringing Taiwan to be recognised and what messages we can send together to the nations.

The Beautiful Taiwan Taiwan also known as “ilha formosa” meaning “beautiful island”, the name given by Portuguese explorers in the 16th century. It lies between Japan to the north and the Philippines to the south. The east coast faces the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean, while the west faces the Taiwan Strait and the southeast coast of China. Leaf shaped, it is 245miles (394 km) long and 90 miles (144 km) across at its widest point, with an area of 13,900 sq.km)¹ with mountain ranges dominating the eastern two thirds and plains in the western third, where its highly urbanised population is concentrated. 42 | INSiGHT

Taipei is the capital and largest metropolitan area. Taiwan has 23.5 million inhabitants; in it about 2.3% are indigenous people, the island’s original inhabitants,² it is believed to have been settled in the island for more than 6000 years ago,³ they are racially and linguistically related to the Malayo-Polynesian peoples. Today there are 16 officially recognised tribes within the indigenous communities. On the other hand, Taiwan comprises of Han people (including Holo and Hakka) who came from the southern part of China. They were recruited by the Dutch, Koxinga, and Manchus under their policies of land cultivation. Han people constituted 85% of the total population of Taiwan, the majority of the population in Taiwan. Finally, after the Second World War, when the KMT⁴ party was defeated by the Communists and fled from China to Taiwan. These people came with KMT authority and were regarded as political refugees. Though they were the minority among the population, they were the people who hold the political power and control the economic resources of the island.⁵ Taiwan is a high-income country with a skilled and educated workforce. Its export-oriented industrial economy is the 21st-largest in the world, with sectors including steel, machinery, electronics and chemicals manufacturing. The state is ranked highly in terms of civil and political liberties, education, health care and human development.⁶ But still Taiwan is not permitted or accepted to be part of the United Nation nor recognised in any of the international events or activities they are allowed just to be a spectator and they are represented as Chinese Taipei in all the events. 1 2 3

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The Presbyterian Church in Taiwan, p.4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taiwan. Imliyanger Jamir, “A Theological Critique on Huang Poho Theology from Indigenous Perspective” (Th.M. Thesis. Yu-Shan Theological College and Seminary, 2019, p.79. (hereafter cited as Jamir, A Theological Critique) It is also spelled as Guomindang and often alternatively translated as the Nationalist Party of China (NPC) or the Chinese Nationalist Party (CNP) Jamir, A Theological Critique, p.7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taiwan.


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Historical context Taiwan’s history came out of an extreme complex phenomenon where it is impossible to understand their life, culture and people without referring to its historical context and it will be in vain if one talks about history, but does not look into the people’s life in that particular historical period. Taiwan has been colonised by various foreign government, firstly by the Dutch (1624-1661), followed by Ming Chinese (1661-1683), then, Ching Chinese (1683-1895) and then by the Japanese (1895-1945) rules. After the failing of the Japanese in the Second World War they had to leave Taiwan and so people felt that their dream of their own mother country was going to be realised soon, but the incoming of KMT created a more terrifying situation which spurted out the creation of differences between Taiwanese and Chinese by the 2/28 massacre of Taiwanese people.⁷ The struggle for selfdetermination is still on the road. Since 1895, the self-consciousness has been gradually growing. Some scholars opine that except for the brief interlude from 1945 to 1949, Taiwan has been effectively separated from China since 1895. The Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT) being concerned with the would-be betrayal of Taiwan to China issued the ”Public Statement on National Fate” on December 29, 1971. This statement insists that the future of Taiwan should be decided neither by KMT authority or China, nor by any superpower countries. Rather, it should be decided by all the inhabitants of Taiwan. This paved a way for the self-determination in Taiwan as well as overseas which also lead to establishment of its own local political party known as Democratic Progressive party (DPP).⁸ Seeing that the Justice, Peace and Freedom also have a biblical meaning which encourages the people of Taiwan to search and struggle for a new social and political relation with God. This movement further expanded with the PCT propounding “Confession of Faith” in 1985, and also “A Declaration on Human Rights” in 1977.⁹ The history of Taiwan if viewed from the experience of people has been moved toward an eschatological hope under the guidance of God instead of entangled in a serial chain of colonisation by foreign countries. The history of Taiwan has been led by God despite many sad and tragic elements within it. The struggle for Taiwan is still continuing with the hope that one day Taiwan will win and be completely free.

A Chinese Kuo Min Tang political luncheon (Photo by Sam Hood)

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The February 28 incident, February 28 massacre, or 228 incident was an anti-government uprising in Taiwan that was violently suppressed by the Kuomintang (KMT)-led Republic of China government, which killed thousands of civilians beginning on February 28, 1947. The number of Taiwanese deaths from the incident and massacre was estimated to be between 5,000 and 28,000. The massacre marked the beginning of the White Terror in which tens of thousands of other Taiwanese went missing, died or were imprisoned. The incident is one of the most important events in Taiwan's modern history and was a critical impetus for the Taiwan independence movement. It lasted for several weeks wiping out at least 20,000 elite Taiwanese leaders and youth by KMT nationalist troops. Martial Law that included a one language policy was immediately enforced by the KMT, a regime that was not to be lifted until 1987. DPP was founded in 1986, the DPP is one of two major parties in Taiwan, along with the historically dominant Kuomintang (KMT). It has traditionally been associated with strong advocacy of human rights, anti-communism and a distinct Taiwanese identity. Which is the ruling government in Taiwan at present Jamir, A Theological Critique, p.42-43. June 2019 | 8 August 43


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Where is Taiwan standing today? Taiwan is in a critical situation and in a very vulnerable situation. It is not unknown by many, nor known by all regarding Taiwan as a nation. Taiwan is been disregarded by many nations due to the strong hold by China, and China claims so adamantly that Taiwan cannot be separated that they will not forswear use of military force to consummate reunification. They also have this notion that Taiwan belongs to China and they will somehow take back Taiwan even without the consent of the people of Taiwan. Many nations still believe and consider that Taiwan is one of the provinces of China, there are various reasons for that: a) some nations due to good economic ties with China are unable to define Taiwan as a country due to fear of losing partnership. b) debt trap set by China towards countries whose economic situations are not strong, especially like Djibouti (Africa), Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, the Maldives, Mongolia, Montenegro, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Philippines, Nepal etc. They voluntarily give loans with a huge amount of interest so the borrower will not be able to pay back and in lieu of that Some Taiwanese vocally support formal independence but most favour the middle ground (AFP/Getty Images) compromise to lease their land for several decades. This causes a huge flock of Chinese nationals to reside in their land, using their land for political, military purpose or other projects that would eventually boost China’s economy, it finally ends up in China’s colonisation. Apparently, these countries have a very little or no chance of supporting the rivals or opponents of China. c) We could easily assume that because of the stronghold of China, Taiwan is not what it is today. We could see differences between China and Taiwan government. Firstly, Taiwan is a democratic country whereas China is communist. Secondly, Taiwan currency (NTD) and China currency are different; China’s currency (RMB) cannot be used in Taiwan. Thirdly, their passports are different; China is dark red whereas Taiwan is green, which is very obvious. Global mobility index places Taiwan passport on 32nd position and China passport on 75th in regard to most useful in the world. This is just to show the basic difference between Taiwan and China.

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Besides all these hurdles, the present president of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, calling for international support for a "free and democratic Taiwan", further sends a strong message to the world. She stated: "Today, a story of 'change' is exactly the story I am here to tell. It is the story of Taiwan. It is the story of how an island off the Chinese continent redefined the timeline for democratisation, and set the standard for transitioning democracies around the world."¹⁰ Taiwan is home to a thriving democratic society and political system. Despite what many called its "democratic miracle", Taiwan, like all the other democracies in the world, is facing new challenges and seeing its freedom under dire

President Tsai Ing-wen looks on as Taiwan’s fleet of US-made Apache attack helicopters are put in service (Photo by Taiwan Government)

threat.¹¹ Bullying, military invasion threat towards Taiwan has been a regular practice for China. Closing the door for international communities to Taiwan to participate in various events. Over the past few years, China has meddled in several countries’ unofficial relations with Taiwan, with the most blatant example the name change and move of the Taiwanese office in Nigeria from the capital Abuja to the city of Lagos in 2017. This year 2019, the Pacific island nation of Fiji as Chinese pressure had forced it to change the name of the Taiwanese office. The office would have to replace the name “Trade Mission of the Republic of China (Taiwan) to the Republic of Fiji” with Taipei Trade Office in Fiji, the two countries had maintained close if unofficial relations since 1971, with cooperation in fields like healthcare, fisheries and agriculture, yet China had used its growing financial clout to bully Fiji into demanding the name change.¹² These are just few examples.

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http://focustaiwan.tw/news/aipl/201907130005.aspx Ibid. https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/3744304

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VIEWPOINTS As stated earlier, Taiwan’s economy is a fast growing economy, besides the fact that Taiwan is denied from being part of UN and WHA due to pressure from China. It is learnt that even the journalists from Taiwan have been barred from covering UN-related events, including the World Health Assembly, apparently due to pressure from China. Taiwanese nationals were also denied entry to the UN headquarters in New York.¹³ There have been voices from various countries to allow Taiwan to be part of the UN and WHA but all in vain and unheard. There are various thinkable questions that arise, why Taiwan’s rights cannot be accepted whereas Taiwan produces medical help that has appreciated by many and is still the best¹⁴ Taiwan is willing to donate, volunteer and take a step forward in building a better world. Taiwan can help. Taiwan’s rights have been deprived by several big countries, taking for granted their sovereignty by several nations. Rev Dr Huang Po-Ho says, “Any freedom will be void and empty unless a person is able to affirm his/her own dignity, integrity and identity”.¹⁵ People of Taiwan have already decided their fate to be free from China. Taiwan has already been affirming its freedom and to say already into a new Taiwan. Taiwan’s rights need to be heard from international organisations like United Nations, World health Organisation, International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), International Olympic Committee, etc. Taiwan has already declared and is speaking out to the world for their rights to self-determination. Therefore, it is the task of the other countries to acknowledge and action plan must be applied and come together in fulfilling the purpose of what the people of Taiwan wants for their future in their own land. From the perspective of Christian faith, the subject is the people that inhabit the land, not the government. The government will come and go but the people will not. Therefore, a radical process of change will emerge if we look at it from the perspective of people as the subject. The voices of the people of Taiwan need to be heard by all nations.

Mission from Taiwan We could elaborate by stating that Taiwan is pushed to the margin¹⁶ or in the margin. The struggle’s stories of Taiwan may be re-read from the eyes of the people at the bottom of society and also may be read as another version of Exodus story of liberation.

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Thousands of pro-independence demonstrators gathered in Taipei, 2018 (Chiang Ying-ying/AP)

Further, God is already there among the margin and we cannot define God from the centre and import it to the margin, rather we need to discern how God is at work among the margins. God’s revelation took place in the context of margin e.g: the birth of Jesus Christ in a manger. God chose the margin-the people on the underside of history to inaugurate his kingdom, bringing justice and peace. God was and is encountered among the powerless and in unexpected locations like the manger, but not among the privileged and powerful people. This is the biblical witness. It is from the site of God’s visitation -the margins that a new world has to take shape. Jesus walked closely with the marginalised not because they are humble, innocent and pitiable but primarily they are created in God’s own image to celebrate fullness of life. And yet they are denied justice and peace through the imposition of unjust structures, suppressed and discriminated. God is in and with Taiwan at this juncture. Mission from Taiwan depicts the quest to locate the Promised Land. The land that ensures peace and freedom. God is at work in Taiwan for they have chosen an able leader to take Taiwan to the higher level to lead the people to the Promised Land.

https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/3743738 https://tendashsix.com/taiwan-medical-service-ranked-first/ Huang Poho, From Galilee to Tainan: Towards a Theology of Chhut-Thau-Thi (Manila: ATESEA, 2005), p.50. (Here after cited as Huang Poho, From Galilee to Tainan) The concept margin is perceived as a theological principle that critiques all the dominant value systems that dehumanise, exclude and push some people to marginality.

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VIEWPOINTS Therefore, we as a Christian community need to knock the door of the several powerful nations to join hands in saving Taiwan from the roaring dragon. We also need to send a strong message to the different organisations that are deliberately denying Taiwan from being part of it due to huge pressure from China. Thirdly, Christian community is answerable to the suffering people. It is not only through prayers or providing needs but standing with them, sharing their sorrows, sufferings etc., it will leave a huge impact upon their lives and we will be able to witness the love of Christ to them. We need to encourage the inflicted people to be bold and strong and not have fear for God is with them always.¹⁷ Our mission mandate is clear, to include all the people into the fullness of life in and through Jesus Christ. Christian communities in Taiwan and around the globe should be answerable to the suffering of the Taiwan that they are going through. Taiwan is bleeding, hurting caused by the dominant nations; therefore, I call upon all individuals to step up to stop this discrimination against Taiwan and let justice and peace rule over this island by giving them their own rights and to practice their self-determination.

Christian community role

Conclusion

We as a Christian community also have a responsibility within ourselves and with others. Firstly, let us look at the term ‘oikoumene’. It describes the Christian Church as a unified whole, it challenges that ecumenical movement should search for a new understanding of ‘oikoumene’ and that it should not be limited only to unity of churches, but the whole inhabited earth. To further narrow this down, I would like to state that if one church/denomination is uncounted or not included then it ruins or becomes incomplete for the term ‘oikoumene’. Therefore, we as Christian bodies, we need to include all the Christian denominations and work together in acquiring peace, justice and tranquillity in Taiwan. Working together is what God’s expectation is as a Christian. It is to come together as one irrespective of denominations. I wish all the denominations could invite, share the same amount of struggles, unite and work together for God’s mission to be accomplished.

Peace and security in the region will be guaranteed only when Taiwan truly exercises its autonomy without fear from China or other countries.¹⁸ Taiwan is considered as one of the fastest growing economies and the safest countries in the world to live, though it’s a small island with a mixture of radical historical stories; today it is still suffering under the hands of the big wealthy nations. Therefore, Taiwan is still yearning for the real freedom and peace. Though separated from China since 1895, China is still the biggest hurdle for the Taiwanese people, daily harassment, bullying etc. is happening. Taiwan has every right to be free and the right to self-determination. I believe Taiwanese people are doing whatever they can to release themselves from the grip of China; along with them, it is our greater responsibility as a Christian fellow brothers and sisters to stand with Taiwan and send a strong voice or message to the nations that Taiwan be accepted as one nation and to be fear free from other dominating nations. My prayer to the nations is: ‘the truth need to be told and heard, hearing the truth, the truth will work amongst the people and ultimately be free from all captives, bondages spiritually, mentally and physically’.¹⁹ May our Lord Jesus Christ give us the strength and wisdom to know the truth and implement on it to release the captive free from all bondage and manifest God’s kingdom on this earth. Amen.

Secondly, as stated earlier, God is with the powerless. Jesus came to this world as a powerless, poor person to show to the world that God is with them who are suffering, marginalised, like Taiwan is facing numerous countless bullying from China. Taiwan’s struggle is obvious yet unheard and continues to be suppressed by it.

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Deut. 31:6. Huang Poho, From Galilee to Tainan, p.185. John 8:32. June 2019 | 8 August 47


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Decolonising Faith Recovering Earth Spirituality in a Settler Colonial Context by Associate Professor S. Lily Mendoza

Framed inextricably within the author’s own life history, this study grapples with the thorny issue of what it means to recover a sense of indigeneity—an issue rife among decolonising diasporic Filipinos in North America who find themselves living on other peoples’ native lands, disconnected from homeland ancestral traditions (through prejudice from their mostly Christian socialisation and modern subject formation), enveloped in technological urban infrastructure, and bereft of intact place-based communities where initiation and elder mentorship remain as living practice.

Bicentennial Park & Recreation Area 1976 Clark Air Base completed November, 2003 - Clark Freeport Zone, Angeles City, Pampanga and Mabalacat, Pampanga in commemoration fo the July 4, 1946 Bicentenary Celebration of U.S. Independence (Photo by Judge Florentino Floro)

Hailed by (Another Kind of ) Spirit The subject of this study has provenance in a moment of personal epiphany—one that served as catalyst for my deep cultural and spiritual transformation. I had been raised a pastor’s kid, my father being one of the early converts to Methodist Protestantism in the Philippines at the turn of the 20th century (when the US, in its first imperialist venture, took over the Philippines and claimed it for its own colonial possession). Our family lived in a town in the Philippines called San Fernando in the province of Pampanga, located not too far from the former Clark Air Base, then the largest US military installation outside the continental US. I, along with my five siblings, grew up under the long cast of the shadow of the US colonial regime, albeit not thinking of it as anything anomalous then; it was just our normal everyday reality. School meant learning English, the mandated medium of instruction. Without knowing the word for it, my body understood keenly the meaning of “linguistic terrorism” when we were fined five centavos-a-piece for getting caught speaking in our native tongue and I felt my tongue cut off unceremoniously by the punishment.

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VIEWPOINTS When two of my older sisters began teaching Philippine Music and Culture at the Wurtsmith Elementary School inside the base where children of US military personnel went to study, our family got an even greater dose of white American culture. We learned Army and Navy songs and acquired all manner of civility and etiquette that made us feel like we were “a cut above the rest,” notwithstanding our family’s modest means. That whole other world of the US base, with its manicured lawns, fancy vending machines (that you had to learn to operate), and the fabulously-supplied commissary that served all kinds of foods you would normally not find outside captured our imagination. Once a year, on the fourth of July was the time when it opened its gates and we locals were then allowed to come in and take a peek at that magical other world. A perk I’ll never forget is the give-away bag of apple, imported chocolate bar, and hamburger sandwich wrapped in stars and stripes that we got to take home. Being Protestants in a predominantly Catholic country, our family was further marked off as “different” in that church, not the immediate neighbourhood, served as our community. I remember us being the only ones without our doors open with a huge spread to share with neighbours during the barrio fiesta or feast of the town’s patron saint.

Good Friday celebration outside the airbase where Filipino men were inflicted with cuts and lashes to their backs and then flogged with bamboo cords to make them bleed more. (Photo by Sam Ballard)

Wurtsmith Elementary School (Photo by Sam Ballard)

Sadly, the feeling of being excluded from all the festivities was barely assuaged by the smug conviction that, at least, we were no idolaters, unlike our ignorant Catholic neighbours who worshipped saints, devoutly parading them in the streets in gaudy robes and gilded carriages. One thing we did share with the Roman Catholics was the sense of sin, guilt, and shame, first drilled into us by Spain (US’s colonial predecessor), then doubled down on by the American Protestant missionaries. The only caveat was the consolation that Jesus had already paid for our transgressions and all we needed was to believe in him to be delivered from hell and our inherited depravity. In time, I graduated from Sunday school to become part of a born-again, intellectually more sophisticated, student Christian movement once I got to the university. Thus, began a new phase in my ideological formation. Trained by brilliant mentors in Christian apologetics and “contextualised” incarnational theology, I ended up becoming an undercover missionary to the intelligentsia while finishing my college and master’s degrees and, later on, joining the faculty in the country’s premier state university.

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Kaamulan festival in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon. A gathering of the 7 indigenous people groups of Northern Mindanao in the Philippines (Photo by Theglennpalacio)

But unbeknownst to many, underneath the avid (and outwardly successful) missionising, I harboured a secret shadow, a “thorn in the flesh” I called it—a mysterious soul affliction marked by the constant feeling of being “weighed and found wanting” that no amount of preaching of God’s unconditional love could assuage. Although the university I went to offered anti-colonial nationalist politics as an alternative grounding for identity and self-valuing (something I gave mental assent to as a “progressive” Christian activist), a part of me remained ambivalent, suspecting the anti-colonial stance in my case as perhaps, at some level, merely compensatory—a form of sour graping for those who, like myself, were unable to make it (i.e., unable make it in the superior, more civilised, white world of the West).

In that class, I learned and encountered for the first time the world of our indigenous peoples—their dances, songs, weaving designs, epic chants, basketry, sculptures, etc. and what they expressed in terms of a different way of being. As I wrote in my journal:

Lacking the conceptual tools with which to understand the psychic dimensions of the colonised condition, I took the malaise as simply my own failing, one that showed up in obsessive self-recrimination and morbid self-introspection, the outward success (both academically and in the missionising endeavour) merely deepening the contradiction. Many times driven close to despair, I nonetheless kept my hand to the plow in a courageous effort to “surrender to the mystery.” It was not until a graduate seminar in the Humanities titled, “The Image of the Filipino in the Arts,” taught by an ethnomusicology professor who conducted first-hand research on the arts of our various indigenous communities least penetrated by the forces of modernisation and Christianisation that I finally found a clue to my mysterious affliction. This is the moment of epiphany that I spoke of in the opening of this essay—one that came as a bodily jolt, to borrow the words of the esteemed Christian writer, C.S. Lewis, an experience of being “surprised by joy,” although for quite different reasons than his.

I would walk out of every class session bawling my heart out on my way back to my dorm room, overcome with emotion and a deep sense of awe, longing, and newly awakened desire, not knowing what it was that hit me from all the innocent, “matter-of-fact,” descriptions of the ways of being of that other world. To speak of it as falling in love or being swept off one’s feet is perhaps no exaggeration. Although my mind at that time could not (yet) make sense of the significance of what was happening, my body apparently knew and registered immediate recognition. Only much later would I come to understand the meaning of those tears—that, indeed, they were tears of recognition.

It is a story that has now unfolded (and continues to unfold) in my life and that has required thoroughgoing theorisation (among others, in the dynamics of colonial subject-formation, the politics of representation, and the historical contingency of what I now understand as the “civilising process”).

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For the first time, I was introduced to the supple world of non-individualistic interconnectedness, the delicate sensitivity of kapwa (shared being), the generosity of community, the lack of divide between the material and the spirit world, the openness of loob (interiority of being), the gracious receiving of gifts of beauty and creativity from the other world through dreams, visions, and the power of ritual.

Here at last is a people I could belong to and identify with—our indigenous peoples who, in their radical alterity, embodied a way of being that I knew I had always shared but had been disallowed to assume or embrace, much less embody. The Brazilian educator Paolo Freire once remarked in an interview that when all the authoritative representations around you have nothing to do with your reality, it is like looking into a mirror and finding no one. And in that class, in the beautiful works of art and the way of being of the people who authored them—the exuberance and respect with which they related to land, ancestors, and to all living beings—I saw myself. It was a self that, under the civilising discipline of the white missionisers, was always being constituted to be other than itself and therefore disallowed from assuming its necessary role as self.


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I would spend the rest of my life unpacking and diving ever deeper into the significance of that paradigm-shifting healing encounter. Trained heavily in left-brain Western modes of cognition, the task required, among others, recovering those parts of myself that I have had to repress, if not reject outright, in both my academic training and Christian socialisation. These included the sense of kapwa or shared being (vs. individualism), pakikiramdam or tacit or intuitive knowing (vs. rationalism), kagandahang loob, literally, “beautiful heart” or generosity (vs. acquisitiveness or the drive to accumulation), paggalang or respect (vs. entitlement), pakikiisa or cooperation (vs. unbridled competition/getting ahead) and dangal or honour (vs. duplicity).

An Intellectual Turn(ing) Interestingly, up until my moment of epiphany in the classroom, my Christian journey had been my life’s one big adventure. That it accorded me less than the wholeness and well-being (ginhawa) it had promised was puzzling, but the unrelieved pain and dis-ease did allow for space for the irruption in my life of an alternative, far more redeeming, story that proved in every way compelling and irresistible. Ironically, it was a story that in my Christian formation could only be seen as, at best, a faint precursor to a much larger, universal divine revelation meant to find its fulness and eventual supersession in Christ, or, at worst, nothing but a pagan rendering of life’s meaning by an ignorant, backward, and superstition-ridden people needing deliverance from the influence of demons and evil spirits, if not of Satan himself; in other words, hardly was rapprochement possible in what appeared to be a zero-sum game where the totalizing Christian claim to being the “only way, the truth, and the life” trumped every other story in the end. But, in the end, joy would have its way with me.

S. Lily Mendoza (Ph.D., Arizona State University) is an Associate Professor of Culture and Communication at Oakland University. Dr Mendoza has received numerous top paper and distinguished scholarship awards for her work in critical intercultural communication studies. She has served as the Chair of the International and Intercultural Communication Division, and was a presenter at the Council for World Mission (CWM) DARE Conference in 2017, 2018 and 2019. June 2019 | 8 August 51


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IN CONVERSATION WITH... Dr Rogate R. Mshana

The last of CWM’s NIFEA Colloquium on Economy of Life was recently held alongside its Annual Member’s Meeting in Apia, Samoa this past June. And at every NIFEA conference, you will hear the voice of Dr Rogate Mshana. A Tanzanian development economist, Dr Rogate has been a key driving force behind NIFEA since its inception, bringing to the table over 21 years of his experience in the fields of sustainable development and environment, Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) and local knowledge systems to name a few. He took time out from his busy schedule to share with INSiGHT about NIFEA, and explained why ecological concerns should be at the top of our agenda – where the body of Christ cannot remain silent when it comes to economic and climate justice.

You have been an advocate, activist and unflinching voice for economic justice. Please share with us why you embarked on this journey and what drives you? As soon as I completed my first degree at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, I joined the Christian Council of Tanzania as a researcher on Rural Vocation Education in Tanzania. This was from 1977 to 1982. The problem at that time was the influx of young people from the rural areas to the urban centres to look for employment only to discover that jobs were not available in towns. This was a phenomenon in the whole of Africa. We questioned why there were no jobs in the rural areas and found out that the skills offered to young people were irrelevant to their livelihoods on the one hand but on the other there were great disparities between the rural areas and the urban centres in terms of national wealth distribution. The rural areas had a pushing power effect while urban areas had a pulling power effect in terms of wealth creation. We concluded that economic inequality was, therefore, the root cause of rural-urban youth migration. Young people were running away from poverty to follow capital. It is like capital generated in the rural areas moved to urban areas and onwards to rich industrial countries in form of unequal terms of trade. Young people continued to follow this capital in Europe through stowaways and human trafficking. From there on I became an advocate for economic justice both locally, nationally, regionally and globally. Economic justice became an area to be focused wherever I worked as an economist. When I joined the World Council of Churches ( 2000-2014), I studied the role that was played by the World Bank and IMF in poverty eradication and justice but found out that these institutions that worked for “a poverty free world” as their motto did just the reverse to their motto due to their unsuitable policies of Structural Adjustment, liberalisation, privatisation and deregulation imposed to poor countries as a panacea for poverty eradication. Such policies led to the rich being richer while the poor continued to be poorer. These institutions gave loans to poor countries with conditionalities that drove them to further poverty and indebtedness. Policies of Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) were enforced leading to further impoverishment of these countries especially in Africa. We concluded that over 87% of poverty anywhere is caused by economic injustice instead of people being lazy. I, therefore, vowed to deal with the structural and ideological root-causes of poverty, caused by greed and unequal accumulation of wealth and not with symptoms. Consequently, I rejected the then “Poverty Reduction Programmes by the IMF and the World Bank until they stopped imposing SAPs and collecting interests and repayments of debts for the benefit of the wealthy at the expense of the poor. In the context of ecumenical advocacy, I located such a task in prophetic ministry. Prophesy requires more than just the general critique of injustice. It goes into the analysis of the root-causes showing that poverty arises out of mechanisms of enrichment causing impoverishment, exclusion and today’s ecological destruction. So, the basic ideological model and assumptions on which the IMF and the World Bank are operating had to be prophetically criticised in the light of biblical teaching. Their paradigm of “economic growth without limits eradicates poverty” is not supported by empirical evidence. Oxfam has demonstrated that there has been economic growth without poverty reduction. Economics like Herman E. Dally came up with a book on Beyond Growth critiquing economic orthodoxy and proposing the economics of sustainable development. ¹

1

Herman E. Dally Beyond Growth: The Economics of Sustainable Development, Beacon Press, Boston, 1996.

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The paradigm of unqualified economic growth, in fact means that the first and overriding goal of the economy is capital accumulation in the framework of competition in the deregulated global market for those who own and manage capital. The necessary effect of this approach is impoverishment and exclusion of those who do not own capital and the destruction of the Earth. As long as this basic model is in force, poverty reduction schemes are bound to fail, the split between enrichment and impoverishment will continue. I am looking for an economy of life where human beings are not for the economy but the economy is for humans and the entire community of life. This means: The satisfaction of real needs of communities becomes the starting point and goal of any economy; The natural goods of creation given by God are treated in such a way as to preserve the full freedom of future generations to meet their own needs; The people become the primary agents of their economies; The economic paradigm must be compatible with God’s will. No economy may be regarded as successful which is not socially, ecologically and democratically successful at the same time. It is this vision of Economy of life that drives me to be an activist of economic justice.

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You have been involved with NIFEA since its inception. For those not familiar with NIFEA, tell us more about it and what makes it so significant and important. NIFEA stands for a New International Financial and Economic Architecture. It is a process that emerged from the Global Ecumenical Conference on a New International Financial and Economic Architecture organised by the World Council of Churches (WCC), The World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC), The Council for World Mission (CWM) and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) from 29th September-5th October 2012 in Guarulhos, State of Sao Paulo, Brazil. From this conference came the Sao Paulo Statement on International Financial Transformation for an Economy of Life. This conference was triggered by the financial crisis of 2008 that affected negatively all countries including rich economies and threw millions of people across the globe into poverty. These ecumenical organisations have critically engaged with issues of economic and social justice for many years issuing statements for churches and the wider civil society, the UN and governments. They called for a financial and economic architecture which is based on the principles of economic, social and climate justice; serves the real economy; accounts for social and environmental tasks and sets clear limits to greed. They stated thus, “We are called to find a new and just international architecture oriented towards satisfying the needs of the people and the realisation of all economic, social cultural rights and human dignity. Such architecture must be focussed on reducing intolerable chasm between the rich and the poor and on preventing ecological destruction. This requires a system which does not serve greed but which embraces alternative economies that foster a spirituality of enough and a lifestyle of simplicity, solidarity, social inclusion and justice.” In the Sao Paulo Statement, the participants rejected the explosion of monetisation and the commodification of all life and affirmed a theology of grace which resists the neo-liberal urge to reduce all of life to an exchange value (Rom 3:24). It is essential to read the Sao Paulo statement² to know the proposals given for NIFEA. Some of the proposals are to be jointly implemented by the WCC, WCRC, CWM and LWF at the global level while others are to be implemented by each organisation in their constituencies. In order to give legs to the Sao Paulo statement, a Global Ecumenical Panel was formed to prepare an action plan³ based on the statement. The plan calls on the WCC, WCRC, CWM and LWF to live out the Sao Paulo statement for transformative engagement of churches and other like-minded civil society and public and civil partners. It focuses on three areas, namely: financial sector, Public Finance and Debt, and Global Economic Governance. It states in each of these areas, principles for an Economy of Life, required changes in policies and structures and proposals for joint ecumenical action. The content of this action plan was reiterated by the four Ecumenical Organisations again at the United Nations Financing for Development Forum in New York on 24th April 2018 in form of a Message, “On the occasion of the 10thanniversary of the global financial crisis, we reiterate our vision of an international financial architecture that “is based on the principles of economic, social and climate justice; links finance to the real economy; accounts for social and environmental tasks; and sets clear limits to greed”. This entails deep-seated and long-term policy and institutional changes in the areas of banking and the financial sector, public finance and debt, and global economic governance.” ⁴ Based on the Sao Paulo statement and the Ecumenical Action plan, the WCC started the Governance, Economic and Management School (GEM school) to train young theologians in looking critically and working on alternatives to the current system. Issues of dealing with Tax avoidance were also picked up but major proposals on global governance to be jointly worked by the four organisations were not done up to now. It is significant that the four organisations seriously begin to jointly implement the Action plan. The Council for World Mission took upon itself to educate and sensitise its constituency on the Sao Paulo Statement and the Ecumenical Action Plan on NIFEA. 12 colloquia were planned, 3 per region. This work started in 2015 and was completed in 2019.

2 https://www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/wcc-programmes/public-witness-addressing-power-affirming-peace/poverty-wealth-and -ecology/finance-speculation-debt/sao-paulo-statement-international-financial-transformation-for-the-economy-of-life 3 “Economy of Life for All Now: An Ecumenical Action Plan for a New International Financial and Economic Architecture” (https://www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/wcc-programmes/public-witness-addressing-power-affirming-peace/poverty-wealth-and-ecology /economy-of-life-for-all-now-an-ecumenical-action-plan-for-a-new-international-financial-and-economic-architecture) 4 Message on the occasion of the 3rd United Nations Financing for Development Forum, by WCC, WCRC, CWM and LWF, New York, 23-April 2018

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This past June was the third NIFEA. How has the journey been and what are some significant moments that stand out the most for you (or personal reflections)? Each region had three NIFEA colloquia. The first Colloquium was to enable the CWM member churches to learn about the Sao Paulo statement and the Ecumenical Action Plan. Churches were required to send to the colloquia, leaders who could make decisions. The same group of leaders were to attend all the three colloquia in order to maintain consistence. After learning the Sao Paulo statement, they shared with each other their work at home and finally came up with their own statements regarding what they will do when back home ready for the Second Colloquium. At the second colloquium they shared their church reports but it was also an opportunity to learn through lectures about the global issues of Finance, Economy of life, Ecology, Sustainable Development Goals, Gender, Theological and biblical reflections on these issues. They then came up with action plans on how to work for alternatives. At the final colloquium, they worked on the way forward. So, the last colloquium for the Pacific Region was accomplished in June 2019. All others had finished their colloquia already and were given their NIFEA certificate for active participation. The main question is what are the churches planning or are doing as a result of the NIFEA process?

Dr Rogate with INSiGHT team member, Simeon Cheok, in Samoa.

How has NIFEA evolved over the years? A framework like NIFEA surely must have undergone changes in reaction to different conditions? I have mentioned how NIFEA evolved over the years and the framework of engaging churches to take up issues raised in the Sao Paulo statement and the Ecumenical Action Plan. The framework has not changed but each region addressed the issues as per their specific areas: First, it is essential to know how each region understood the Sao Paulo Statement: Quotes from Regional NIFEA Statements: The Sao Paulo Statement: “We are called to find a new and just international financial architecture oriented towards satisfying the needs of people and the realisation of all economic, social and cultural rights and human dignity. Such architecture must be focused on reducing the intolerable chasm between the rich and the poor and on preventing ecological destruction. This requires a system which does not serve greed but which embraces alternative economies that foster a spirituality of enough and a lifestyle of simplicity, solidarity, social inclusion and justice.� December, 2012

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Asia Making the church aware of: The present financial and economic systems that perpetuate inequality that breeds poverty and leads to ecological destruction. The new thinking on alternate financial and economic architecture emerging out of Sao Paulo Statement (First Colloquium-12 October 2015) Contextualising the Sao Paulo Statement within a period of four to five months taking into consideration the local challenges and possibilities including but not limited to producing a simplified statement for congregations. According to reports from churches, process of identification and appreciation of existing and successful projects and programs have been initiated in the region, at congregational, regional, synod and denominational levels. (2nd Asia Colloquium 25-30 Nov. 2016). In response to the call for the Economy of Life for All, CWM Asia regional member churches declare a holistic engagement on social, economic, political and ecological challenges towards eradication of poverty. We deeply reflected, contemplated and affirmed the role of churches and the significance of ecumenical advocacy that aim at economy of life, which ultimately eradicates poverty, inequality and cares for creation. In order to bring about structural information to address these problems we are determined to work out a Fulness of Life Movement (FLM). “We believe that the existing economic and financial system needs to be radically transformed into an economy that serves people and creation: An Economy of Life”. (2015 CWM first Asia NIFEA Colloquium on Economy of Life)

Africa “This gathering, being the first in a series of three colloquia on the economy of life within the Africa region, deliberated on and affirmed the challenges highlighted in the Sao Paulo Statement, engaged with various presentations on the subject concerned, and undertook exposure visits to local community projects”. The colloquium reflected critically on the overall message of the Sao Paulo Statement, welcoming the theological, socio-political and economic affirmations contained therein. The colloquium further recognized that within the African context, particular attention needs to be paid to issues such as the wanton exploitation of natural resources; unjust tax and trade arrangements; land-grabbing; inequitable land distribution; capital flight; bad governance; lack of transparency in decision-making processes; brain-drain and systems of indebtedness – all of which perpetuate grinding poverty, economic hardship and ecological destruction (First Africa NIFEA 11-16 January 2015) The Sao Paulo Statement was circulated to CWM Africa regional member churches at different levels of all denominations. All CWM Africa regional member churches accorded positive feedback and responses to the NIFEA Windhoek Colloquium I. The reports given at this colloquium demonstrated efforts, commitment and actions of CWM Africa regional member churches in addressing poverty eradication and ecological justice. There is an awareness and appreciation of challenges of poverty, inequality and environmental destruction, raised in the Sao Paulo Statement, in all CWM Africa regional member churches.

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Consultation with relevant stakeholders, government agencies, and NGOs has begun to inform processes of social and economic transformation agenda in more specific ways in this context. Processes of identification and appreciation of existing and successful projects and programs have been initiated in the region, at congregational, regional, synod and denominational levels. (Madagascar 27-31July 2015). Caribbean and Europe “Having received and reflected critically upon the overall message of the Sao Paulo statement, we welcome the theological, socio-political and economic affirmations contained therein. The colloquium further recognised that within our contexts particular attention must be paid to the exploitation of natural resources; unjust tax and trade arrangements; land-grabbing; systems of indebtedness and the ongoing consequences of slavery. All of these perpetuate grinding poverty, economic hardship and ecological destruction.” (Kingston Declaration 25-29 January 2017.) Pacific We have read and reflected deeply upon the statement in its entirety, and embrace the theological, socio-political and economic reframing of the assertions that are presented. We recognise that the focus of our contexts must take into account investment in our people and island environments, awareness about climate change, and awareness and advocacy about social injustice and inequality. We affirmed that the challenges highlighted in the Sao Paolo Statement are true and relevant to our island nations. (The Pacific Commitment to NIFEA-Suva, 15-17 March 2017). As churches began to take up the implementation of the Sao Paulo statement, they envisaged challenges but vowed to deal with them in the spirit of hope.

In the current global economy and landscape, is the quest for models of sustainability and ‘life-giving communities/civilisations’ achievable? Especially dealing with different economic and social structures? Yes, the quest for models of sustainability and life-giving communities is achievable. The signs of such models are available in the world particularly with Indigenous communities. At the global level the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which were also addressed in NIFEA, are signs that if there is political will, it is possible to do the right thing. At the moment the planet Earth is in danger, poverty and inequality are increasing, if models of sustainability in the world are not implemented. We have been informed by the United Nations that more than 821 million people suffered from hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition last year, the third year in a row that the number has risen. On another hand we experience climate change and global warming and warnings have been given by scientists that by 2030, the world will reach a deciding point on global warming. If the world will go on with business as usual, we should prepare for our own Armageddon. So, humanity has no choice but to work for sustainability by addressing production, consumption styles and distribution. We have to address economic and ecological justice by limiting infinite growth to a finite Earth.

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In your view, what should be the role of the Church when it comes to seeking economic justice and ‘fullness of life’. And how does mission tie in with NIFEA? The role of the church is to be prophetic by speaking truth to powers that design policies and structures which create poverty, inequality and ecological destruction on the one hand and advocate for sustainable alternatives on the other. The church is supposed not to be complicit to systems that work against God’s Creation. The Accra confession, The AGAPE process, the CWM Theological statement on the empire and the Sao Paulo statements were clear about the role of churches. NIFEA is part of mission because it deals with addressing economic systems of sin. CWM’s General Secretary General Rev Dr Collin Cowan demonstrated the role of CWM when he addressed the African Region during the first NIFEA colloquia in 2015 as follows: “In the conversations we are having about a New International Financial and Economic Architecture (NIFEA), we dare to claim that there is need to address the economic globalisation, marked by unregulated free market enterprise, systems designed to maintain the social pyramid requiring the majority to serve the minority. We acknowledge that there is need to confront the power houses where decisions are made, affecting the bread and butter concerns of those not privileged to participate in the discourse. And we agreed that there is need to uphold, celebrate and enable grassroots economies to receive prominence and provide models of alternative for wide scale consideration. CWM is committed to play its part in this ambitious endeavour and we have actually begun the process. In our attempt at enabling member bodies to develop missional congregations we are keen to encourage member bodies to think of ways to facilitate the development of life-affirming communities where life-giving economies are encouraged and supported”.⁵ Implicit in Rev Dr Cowan’s statement is the fact that the role of churches of working for fullness of life by promoting economy of life is part of Mission. Churches have already embarked on initiating programs. See an example of Zambia: “The United Church of Zambia has established Self Help Groups in Luapula Province. It gives support to farmers in Mwandi of Western Province and is running a Village Bank (Micro Finance) in Matero Consistory of Lusaka Presbytery, in the Lusaka Province. The programme to support farmers in Mwandi with agricultural skills and farming inputs is progressing well. Missional Congregations through empowerment of women groups to appreciate village banking especially in Matero and Luapula is also proving to be a success story. These groups are not limited to UCZ members but cut across denominations, since poverty eradication campaign is about the community as a whole. The Community and Social Justice Department of the Synod coordinates these activities. There is a real sense of ownership of the Economy of life campaign by our Church leaders at Synod level in that they affirm and consent to the establishment of the Board of Directors for the Economy of Life -CWM Initiative, particularly to the use of personnel with similar passion and zeal to better people’s lives through this initiative especially the participants of CWM Colloquia on NIFEA… We remain committed to the process of actualising the economy of life among our members and the general citizenry of the country. There is no better time than now to move from round table conversations to the field where Christ's people await an abundant life. John 10:10.” .6 The Congregational Federation Church in UK produced a Congregational Resource book⁷ on NIFEA called Abundant Life indicating how to live well with others; How to live well on the Earth; How to live well with money and ethical choices. Some churches are already working on establishing green congregations in Europe. Others in Asia are working on forming an Economy of Life Movement, setting up alternative social financing schemes and advocating for land rights for the marginalised groups. It is recommended to read all the NIFEA statements from the CWM Regions for deep knowledge regarding the inherent activities for follow-up.

5

6 7

Rev Dr Collin Cowan, A Theological Perspective on Poverty Eradication, keynote address at the CWM Colloquium- Economy of Life, Namibia, January 2015, found in the Africa NIFEA report 2015. See the United Church of Zambia NIFEA report, on NIFEA. Abundant Life: For copies of this booklet please contact: Congregational Federation. 8 Castle Gate, Nottingham, NG1 7AS, T:0115 911 1460, www.congregational.org.uk

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What do you think can be done to elicit greater call to action – among Churches, communities and governments? Is there a specific call to action? The call to action has already been made by the Global Ecumenical Panel in their Action plan mentioned earlier. The Sao Paulo Statement itself and the 2018 Message to the United Nations and governments on Financing for Development. The CWM NIFEA church plans themselves are designed in such a way that there is advocacy work for governments and a wider civil society. Looking ahead: what next for NIFEA and what are your plans for engagement? Any specific goals and milestones you hope to achieve? After the 12 NIFEA colloquia were accomplished, churches called for the need to have a continuous education on economy of life. The CWM took this call seriously and is now designing a Theological Education on Economy of Life (TEEL). The TEEL was conceived as a result of CWM’s commitment to the Ecumenical Action Plan for a New International Financial and Economic Architecture (NIFEA). Through CWM’s NIFEA Colloquia held from 2015-2019, the need for increased understanding and theological education on finance and the global economic system surfaced as a common response from all regions, coupled with the conviction of the necessity of an alternative economic architecture. After a period of preparatory meetings and developing tactical plans, the Theological Education Team on Economy of Life (TETEL) was brought together. Consisting of a panel of experts from a variety of fields including curriculum development, economics, theology, ecology, sociology and micro finance, the TETEL has the function of preparing a curriculum and teaching materials for the Theological Education on Economy of Life (TEEL) course. The aim of the TEEL is to equip students to understand and critique the current economic system and to offer an alternative rooted in the economics of abundance and life. Through the course, students will be enabled to articulate the concept of alternative economic, financial and ecological model and participate in movements that will create such alternatives. The modules will include Reading the Signs of the Times, Analysing the Current System, Alternatives to the ‘Economy of Scarcity’ and Counter-creating a New Economic and Financial Model. The TETEL recently concluded their first writer’s workshop on 5-6 May 2019 in Bangkok, Thailand. The first of a series of two workshops, this meeting brought together a diverse group of thirteen (13) writers from around the world with the aim of identifying areas of work and subjects, along with critiquing and finalizing the draft framework on TEEL and to determine a methodology for writing the material. A time frame was set for the accomplishment of this work. From May to August 2019, the modules will be drafted and shared through an online platform, with the final draft of the curriculum expected to be completed by September 2019. The second TETEL writer’s workshop in October 2019 will produce the final draft of the TEEL. In the next step of the strategic and tactical planning process, CWM will meet with the deans of universities and theological institutions interested in the pilot phase of the TEEL. Subsequent to this will be the admission of students and the beginning of teaching, which is projected to take place in 2020. Meanwhile churches will continue implementing their NIFEA follow-up plans. At the global level, the four global ecumenical organisations that initiated the Sao Paulo Conference are expected to implement the plans proposed by the Global Ecumenical Panel.

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Crying in the Land by Rev Omi Wilang, The Presbyterian Church of Taiwan (PCT)

Soil and ground, we call it land. But what exactly is in the name of land?” In a

highly competitive and profit-oriented era, land has become an important tool for the business development. The Han Chinese people believe: “No land, no fortune. On land, one builds his fortune!” Under this mindset, Han people has been good in land management. But what does land mean to the indigenous people of Taiwan? The Apache believe: “Man is but part of the ecosystem centred by land.” The indigenous tribes in Australia look at the land as an intimate member of the family like brothers or sisters.

As to Tao people, one of the indigenous tribes of Taiwan, they pray and pay tributes to the trees before cutting them down to make boats with lumbers. “Natural forests are our close relatives,” asserted Pusin Tali, Dean of Yu-shan Theological College and Seminary, in his book “The Existential Theology of the Indigenous Peoples of Taiwan.” Indigenous peoples worldwide see land as the origin of “life”, because a great majority of them make their living on the land. Furthermore, land gives the meaning of life to indigenous peoples. Land is indeed the source of the tribal culture formed by history, folktale, religion between people and their land is so intimate; it’s just like water to the fish and the soil to the vegetations. In recent years, we have seen the land of Taiwan being exploited extensively by interest groups with approvals from the government administrations. From the high mountains to the coastal areas, no matter where the land is located at hilly sites, sprinkle-lake areas or open country, the interest groups could always package the land in the name of economic development to advance their own profits. The government and interest groups ignored the outcries of the soil. They barely care about the natural and necessary conditions to nurture and restore the soil.

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Let’s talk about the true story of “The struggling against ACC (Asia Cement Corporation)” as a vivid example. Right before 1969, on the land of the Indigenous Taiwanese, the government made a censorship which would facilitate people to register the ownership of the land. The law requires the land solely for agricultural use at the time. Indigenous people could claim their land ownership when they have cultivated the land for 10 years. Therefore, before the ownership is available for ten years of working, the indigenous Taiwanese only has the right to cultivate the land. In 1973, the ACC arrived and made application to the Township Office of Shoulin Village in Hualien District in order to lease the reserved land for the indigenous in Shoulin and Fushi village. In Fushi village, there were several tribes, namely, Huhus, Skadang, Lowcing, Ayu, Kulu etc. They lived together as a community. And the site of mining of ACC fell in the area of tribe of Ayu. At that time, the nice and simple-minded people of the Taroko tribe knew very little about the edicts prescribed by the Han people. And Township Office of Shoulin Village helped ACC persuade people to accept the deal by telling them that they would receive sizable stipends from ACC as a compensation for the land leasing. And once the lease expires, the land would be returned to tribal people. Facing the generous offering, the Taroko people laid their trust on the government and agreed to accept the offer suggested by the Township Office. It was absolutely incredible the Township officials would dare make forgery paper in the name of land owners as “Statement of Discarding the Right of Land Use” and related documents. More than 100 land users’ statement were forged in the same day coincidentally that involving 270 pieces of land in total. To no one’s knowledge, someone made the applications to renounce the users’ right for them at the land office for the indigenous people. The right of land users was therefore forever betrayed by such cheating acts.

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Whenever the indigenous people raised their petitions to reclaim their users’ right, the government officials were always sided with ACC, by claiming that: “ACC has legally obtained its mining right. In addition, ACC is the largest cement company in the country, it would adversely affect the cement industry of Taiwan if their mining right is banned.” Helplessly, the tribal people were not able to fight against this injustice effectively. The problem was carried on until 1995, when Mrs Chung-Chau Tein, a Taiwanese woman who married in Japan, returned to her hometown, Shoulin Village, with her Japanese husband. This is also the critical time when “ACC was holding negotiation for a renewal of lease extension.” The inside story of this land exploitation finally broke out.

Xincheng, Hualien, Taiwan: Asia Cement Corporation, Hualien Plant (Photo by CEphoto, Uwe Aranas)

In the 22 years period, the Township Office of Shoulin Village has secretly “changed the users’ right” of those lands, located at the mining site of ACC in the reserved area of tribal people, by administrational tricks. When the tribal people tried again to reclaim their right of land use by legal proceedings, they were told the case had exceeded the period of the Statue of Limitation since it was 22 years old. To fight for the unjust treatment, Mrs Tein organised a Self-Help Association Against the ACC by the name of “Return Our Land!” Ms Tein devoted all the time and resources of her later life to engage in the social movement of defending the right of the tribal people against the unjust treatment of ACC. Certainly, the local tribal people and related NGO had been working really hard in the struggle against ACC for more than 30 years. Even though Taroko Self-Help Association, working hard with NGOs from across the country in order to make their voices heard, is determined to make the petitions to the government by holding protests, press conferences, seminars, and public hearings and etc., the Magistrate of Hualien County kept avoiding to respond directly to this issue by taking political advantages amid legal tactics and administrative expediency. Only recently, a turning point was emerged in an amendment draft bill of “Mining Act” submitted by the Executive Yuan on December 5, 2017 under the instruction of Premier Lai Ching-te. Once the amendment of Mining Act is enacted in the future, ACC will be required to re-submit the EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) for her 66 mine sites.

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Protestors comprised mostly of indigenous peoples in Taiwan gathered at the entry to Asia Cement Corp., located along the Central Cross-Island Highway leading into eastern Taiwan’s Taroko National Park. (Photo by Jeffrey Warner)

In a press conference, the Executive Yuan outlined 6 key points of this Mining Act amendments. The fourth point is to add time limit on extension of existing mining sites in order to safeguard the rights and benefits of indigenous peoples. The future extension of mining sites have to be in line with article 21st of the “The Indigenous Peoples Basic law”, meet the requirement of “all extensions must consult with the indigenous people for their permission and willingness of participation, and has to allow tribal peoples to share a reasonable amount of profits in using their land.

After 44 years-long of strugglings, the Taroko people strongly believe the Rutux, their God, is the reigning creator of all beings. He enabled the Taroko people to live in harmony with the Nature according to the law of Gaya. However, the greediness of interest groups and the collusion of the government has spoiled the beautiful forest in the mountain of tribal Ayu and the vicinity area. The excessively exploitative scenes of the site make the Taroko feel their faith and teachings of Gaya system is severely breached. As it’s impossible to recover land to its original state, it makes the Tatoko people feel they were renounced and cursed by the Rutux. It’s evident in the past 44 years, the groaning of the land of tribe Ayu and the struggles of the Taroko people have accumulated to a great outcry and accusation. In less than a week, more than 200,000 people nationwide signed the petition against ACC from extending its inappropriate mining development early in June last year. The feeble weeping of the land of Ayu had inspired waves of uproars, sending a gigantic message of the people’s determination to fight against the unduly exploitation of the land.

A Tao indigenous tribe

This story by Omi Wilang, PCT Programme Secretary for Indigenous Ministries (Society) ) is from the book “Taiwan Indigenous Mission Stories”, a project by CWM’s Hearing God’s Cry Programme. More details are on Page 69.

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Paradise that awakens us to recognise hypocrisy, denial and injustice in Oceania by Rene Maiava

Rene Maiava holds a Bachelor in Social Practice - counselling major, Graduate Diploma in Applied Theology and is currently studying towards her Masters in Theology. She has a background in counselling and social work having served for over fifteen years professionally and in the charismatic Church voluntarily. More recently, she has been caring for her elderly parents while completing her theological studies. Currently, Rene is participating in CWM’s Face to Face Programme in Palestine: Faith in the Face of Empire. Her theological aspirations are to support Oceania women’s voices in decolonising Christianity intellectually at home and abroad.

Presenting at DARE19 (Discernment and Radical Engagement) global forum this year, was

an incredible experience. The first ‘incredibleness’ happened when I was given the opportunity to contribute. Living a long way down in Oceania (the South Pacific) in a country where most people know us because of our Rugby team, the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies or that we have more sheep than people (although, that might have changed now) having the opportunity to speak about ‘our’ reality is uncommon and therefore, special. The ‘our’ I refer to is that of the Samoan diaspora or the New Zealand-born Samoan population, of which my older sister, younger brother, and I identify with. Our parents immigrated from the island nation of Samoa to the cooler temperatures of Aotearoa-New Zealand, a nation of two larger islands further south of Samoa. Aotearoa is the Maori (Indigenous peoples) name for New Zealand. When our parents first arrived in the late 1960s, the name Aotearoa was not popular, as a settler colony of the British Empire with the Europeans being the majority population, New Zealand was the common name in use at the time. Over more than fifty-five years, a shift has occurred for the inclusivity of Maori and cultural diversity overall. The European-New Zealanders continue to hold majority population and power, however, the move towards cultural inclusivity is a welcome one. The dynamics of power in society is what struck me in the poem Paradise during its reading by author Adi Mariana Waqa as part of the DARE19 closing ceremony. As I listened to the words and felt the tone of Waqa’s voice, memories of personal oppression appeared in my mind and the feelings of being in that pressed down place came flooding back. The images that came to mind were leaders I have encountered who benefited from the power they had and go along with oppressive systems or even worse, are active in it. They were not in positions of government, police or even in the armed forces, they held roles of leadership in my church and Christian community. They were women who I naively assumed would be supportive of any other Samoan women’s achievements, but their words and actions over time proved me wrong. My recollection of them and the experiences I had, was ignited by the lines, The hope of the people is lassoed by false promises, … One where candied hope for a better life is sweetened by words of the oppressors, oppressors who look like you and me, talk like you and me, but don’t [care] …about you and me, unless you’re a puppet.

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Three Samoan women preparing to make kava (Photo courtesy of National Library of New Zealand)

This has been my unfortunate truth, where my oppressors looked and talked ‘like me’ but did not genuinely care. The faces I saw and voices I heard as these words came forth, were a mix of New Zealand-born and raised Samoan women like me, and those born in Samoa. They all professed a Christian faith, while manipulating people and situations to gain popularity, power, position and profit. This is not an easy remembrance to write of here, in fact, I struggled to include it at all. Especially, during this time where feminist and womanist movements are making gains in theology, Christian ministry and literature, with their hard work that exposes and confronts patriarchy. It might be seen that my remembrance and retelling here attacks or challenges gender and race equality yet, this is not at all my intention. My aim is towards liberation and justice for all. This is exactly the reason I am pursuing theology to try and find answers, from the Bible and Christian tradition, to social and behavioural issues, such as hypocrisy, denial and injustice. Because of this conviction, to leave out my honest remembrance of my ‘oppressors’ would probably make me guilty of hypocrisy and denial also. Something, I am prayerful to keep from thinking, being and doing. The themes of hypocrisy and denial I noticed near the beginning and was made clear again at the end of the poem. I heard it in the form of authoritarian instructions, where the oppressors were telling the people to keep up false appearances, Put on a happy face you simpletons, be grateful for what has been done for you. Wave the flags, be distracted by the convoluted parade of distractions and smoke screens ushered in by a pedigree of leaders who don’t [care] … about you. Meet the new line of colonisers, they’d sell their mothers to save their own interests. This same type of instruction is in the last lines, Come tomorrow you better be singing with that… smile. Strum those strings and wave those flags high. Put on a show for the world to see, …this is the way the world should be.

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Throughout the poem, I felt this oppressive theme was evident, a forcing of the people to deny what they really think and feel, instead to just obey and ignore the hypocrisy. I had the sense that the people were to suppress the feeling that there is something very wrong, to not investigate any further, instead they should keep quiet, wear the smile and just follow orders. This was my interpretation through my ‘wounds’ of oppression by the Samoan women that came to mind. They required the same ‘obedience’, to go against their wishes would mean punishment, such as receiving their anger, ridicule, rebuke and rejection. The most hurtful were the best ‘actresses’ who would speak in soft tones of ‘false promises’, and would often use denial to explain away their hypocritical actions. My experience of them was articulated well in Paradise, that of hypocrisy, denial and injustice. This became very clear as I would start to question and challenge decisions and actions. I eventually awoke to what was required of me and made the move from puppet to person, not an easy choice at all. There are many reasons for the difficulty, but the two I believe most important are rooted in the Samoan culture. One being, Samoan society is hierarchical, which means Samoan children are traditionally raised to respect their elders which is shown through not questioning an elder at all, and especially not, in any way, challenging an elder’s authority. This is often seen when elders in a family are ‘allowed’ to judge and scorn any of the members their junior, this is an example I have seen and experienced first-hand from members of my family. My stage in life, career accomplishments and care for my family have no standing, the only aspect that is seen, as it apparently gives the elder permission to scorn freely, is that I am younger than her. The other reason is that for Samoans, harmonious relationships are very important within one’s family, Church, relatives and community.

A Samoan grandmother with her grandchildren

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The extent of this harmony is proven in the silence that is kept when there is injustice. An example is given by Samoan public theologian Mercy Ah Siu-Maliko who has researched domestic violence in Samoa highlighting the ‘silence’ that is kept through cultural standards and expectations.¹ These distortions in cultural understanding are what I believe allows for oppression to continue in leadership roles within the Samoan Church and Christian community. In an ‘undistorted’ understanding, these aspects of Samoan culture have their positive benefits and strengths also. Where, respect for elders allows for wisdom to be passed down and peaceful relationships allows for reciprocity. The critical work of a new generation of Samoan theologians and clergy are making changes as they teach, write and publish works supporting justice. The arts, such as the poem Paradise, also work towards justice in exposing and confronting hypocrisy, denial and injustice.

In experiencing the poem, I reacted emotionally in recollecting my personal encounters with oppression. I believe this meant that I could understand how some words, as offensive as they are and are meant to be, are the most accurate in expressing the depths of pain the human being absorbs through continual and erosive acts of injustice. I liken it to waking up from what you thought was a bad dream where you were watching yourself being manipulated and mistreated, to then realising you were not asleep and in fact, the years you thought were all a bad dream are actually spent. You cannot regain the time, but what makes it worse is that you must also recover and relearn. Having been apathetic to your own value and voice, means one must recover the strength to act and relearn how to live in a healthy and active way. While the recovery and relearning after waking up from the bad dream of oppression requires an enormous amount of effort, with all confidence I can say, my life is so much better for it. Waking up others and raising awareness of these ‘new colonisers’ with their skills in distraction, must continue. As Oceania looks at a future with rising sea water levels claiming lands and displacing island nations, there is a need for the Church and Christian leadership to lead the people towards goals that serve the greater good. A goal better gained by people awake and understanding of God’s love and freedom for them individually and collectively, in Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit.

1

Mercy Ah Siu-Maliko, ‘A Public Theology Response to Domestic Violence in Samoa’, International Journal of Public Theology 10, no. 1 (29 February 2016): 57, https://doi.org/10.1163/15697320-12341428

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TAKE A LOOK


TAKE A LOOK

Holy Habits is an initiative by United Reformed Church (URC) to nurture Christian discipleship. It explores Luke's model of church found in Acts 2:42 - 47, and identifies ten habits and encourages the development of a way of life formed by them. The habits are: biblical teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, sharing of resources, service, eating together, gladness and generosity, worship, prayer and making more disciples. The resources have been developed to help churches explore the habits in worship and other group activities (all-age or age-specific) and live out the habits in whole life, missional discipleship. They can be purchased from the URC online store: https://bit.ly/2TOwij7

Even though the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT) has a third of its congregations being indigenous people, their cultures and languages are disappearing and little is known about these real and original inhabitants of Taiwan. Through CWM’s Hearing God’s Cry Programme, PCT has published the Taiwan Indigenous Mission Stories to give voice to these lesser known stories and traditions of the indigenous people and enhance their profile and leadership.

Theologian and church leader Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, in his book “Future Faith”, has given the world lucid insights on how changes blowing through global Christian faith that are reshaping the practice of Christianity today. He goes from the global to the local focusing on how U.S. congregations are challenged to change in this "watershed moment in Christian history”. He draws on the stories, examples, and personalities of pastors and congregations from throughout the U.S., as well as those from Africa, Asia, and Latin America -- the faces of Christianity's future. The book can be purchased from Amazon.

Email missiondevelopment@cwmission.o rg for details.

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TAKE A LOOK

Thy Kingdom Come is a global prayer movement, which began from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to the Church of England as an invitation to prayer between Ascension and Pentecost. It has since grown into an international and ecumenical call to prayer, and its website contains prayer and worship liturgies, videos, and resources for churches, individuals and families. https://www.thykingdomcome.global

Side by Side Faith Movement for Gender Justice is a global movement of people of faith who want to see gender justice become a reality across the world. It draws together faith communities in many different countries, and in each country, aims to work together wherever possible to meet local challenges in bringing about justice and equality for all people, irrespective of gender. http://sidebysidegender.org

Plastic Ocean, an adaptation from the original documentary “A Plastic Ocean” by the Plastic Oceans Foundation, addresses on the critical issues that are caused by plastic pollution and the detrimental effects it has on our marine life as well as on us. This video by the United Nations will have us look at our paradoxical need of plastics that would irreversibly be damaging to our lives and environments as it is “durable yet terrible”. https://bit.ly/2rWF4jV

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SEEN & HEARD


SEEN & HEARD

by Rev David Coleman, Greenock West URC

We shall plant trees And they shall take care of us We shall plough furrows And not look back We shall be gentle And we shall be crafty We’ll do our part That the world may change course

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Trouble the waters when they are tame: Send out the angels: hot-foot the lame! Turn all the tables, wake up the Church: Ears to the ground, and minds to research.

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Of all the many tasks that fall to the Moderator, the joy of seeing the work of local congregations up close is the most rewarding. In every congregation, whether large or small, whether urban, peri-urban, suburban, township or rural there are distinct ministry opportunities and missional challenges. In every congregation there is the grappling with what it means to be missional while balancing the need to properly steward the finances of the congregation; support existing ministries of the congregation while finding new ones; support the work of the broader church through assessments and support mission opportunities both local and “to the ends of the earth”. No congregation has all the answers and no congregation seems to have just given up, waiting for the last member to join the church triumphant before shutting the doors and turning off the lights. Hard as ministry continues to be in this changing time, let us remember that it was those 120 on whom the Spirit fell on Pentecost who changed the world. -Rt Rev Dr PD Langerman, Moderator of Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa (UPCSA)

To our indigenous ancestors, Taiwan’s mountains and f orests acted as the natural prototype of our planet. This is because Taiwan’s mountains and forests sustain natural lives by their own accord: i.e. by their adaptation, perseverance and courage. The way of their lives has formed a “self-government of natural communities”, a phenomenon continuously maintained by the “substances” of biospheres, such as, sky and forest, rain and sunshine, river and soil, high-rise mountains and hills, the routine of season, wild flora and animals, water cycle, photosynthesis, the productivity of lands, food chain, genetic code, evolutionary process, reproduction, biological succession and resuccession, the end of lives, and the renewal of lives. This ecological way of life has been implemented and functioned for quite a long period of time even before human beings were created. That’s why Taiwan indigenous people call such phenomenon as “self-government of Taiwan’s ancestor – the mountain and forest.” -Pusin Tali, A Kinship Between Us and Nature, (Taiwan Indigenous Mission Stories)

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“Keep in mind some individual faces; the individual faces of those in parts of the world who face the most immediate threat from climate change. People who have seen their habitat and livelihood wrecked by global warming. Those who are driven off their land in the Amazon by extractive industries and other companies, those who find it harder to see hope. We stand with them and keep their faces and their lives in mind. Because our faith is nothing if it’s not about particular people and particular faces, our brothers and sisters, our children and grandchildren.” -the Most Revd Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, addressing the crowd at “The Time is Now” mass climate action lobby

“History has witnessed the tragic results that when power violently suppresses a people’s movement for justice and human rights, it leads more suffering for everyone involved. As a Christian community, we believe that freedom, democracy and human dignity are inalienable and are all God-given values which must not be violated or degraded under any circumstances. We also affirm that a true democracy, including universal suffrage for the Chief Executive and the Legislative Council in Hong Kong, is the way forward to resolve the ongoing crisis. We will stay in solidarity with the people of Hong Kong until Hong Kong and China respect people’s self-determining way of life for a peaceful coexistence, upholding the value of peace, freedom and dignity.” Rev. Lee Hong Jung, General Secretary, National Council of Churches in Korea Rev. Kim Sung Jae, General Secretary, National Christian Council in Japan Rev. Lyim Hong-Tiong, General Secretary, Presbyterian Church in Taiwan Churches’ Forum for Peace and Security in North East Asia


Your Say


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

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


YOUR SAY

IN RESPONSE TO... By Vincent Carrington, Congregational Federation UK, with help from Richard Bradbury, Churches Together in England (CTE)

Dear INSiGHT, I have not responded to any article previously written in the INSiGHT newsletter before, but I feel compelled to respond to the Devotional “Subverting Empire’s claims to say what love looks like” that was published in the June issue of INSiGHT. (https://issuu.com/cwmission/docs/insight_issue5_final) My initial thought is, “Isn’t it about time we stopped blaming the past for the situations we are facing in the present?”. The British Empire started to crumble when the Government after the First World War decided to renege on the Balfour Declaration and turned against Israel. In Philippians 3:13-14, Paul writes, Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Isn’t it time we stopped focussing on the past and looked to how we can bring the love of Christ to a lost world?! Isn’t CWM about enabling local church in the local mission to reach their communities with the Gospel of Salvation and Transformation? If that is not the case, would someone please explain to me what we are about? I did not feel totally qualified to address some of the issues raised, so I asked a friend for advice. He is Richard Bradbury and he recently wrote a paper on Human Sexuality for the Churches Together in England, and I have sought to respond to the article and Dr Cowan’s challenge as follows:

“The claims of empire”, (pg 6) I would dispute this initial claim. The church is not part of ‘Empire’. It has always operated as a critical friend of Empire but as an outsider nonetheless. Callum Brown writes: With the secularisation of society the church now operates more at the margins and as an outsider than it has for more than 1,000 years. “The strict Victorian-era laws brought in by British colonists often clashed with decades, or even centuries of complex local cultural attitudes to sexuality.”, (pg 7) The Victorian laws were not just a product of colonialism or of being prude but of Biblical principle which they believed to be the correct way to live. Yes, I agree that they did impose some of these customs on subject nations but only because they believed these were the right way to live according to God’s intention for humanity as a whole. “In South Asia: Bangladesh. Religious powers are organising against LGBTQ people and their human rights.”, (pg 7) Bangladesh is Muslim and not Christian and it is that that causes this ‘organising against LGBTQ people’.

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“Queer readings interpret it is as it appears, an homoerotic same-sex relationship. Heterosexist interpreters will not countenance this and insist it is a platonic brotherly relationship. But, surely none of us can deny how deeply loving it is and is perhaps, the one time when David’s love is honourable and not exploitative, as it is with Bathsheba, Michal and Abishag.”, (pg 7) It is anachronistic to read a homoerotic element into the love of David and Jonathan. This comes out of the over-sexualisation of our own culture which sees love as only being truly valid if it can be expressed sexually. The notion of a non-erotic, same sex relationship cannot be countenanced in a post-modern world. However, to take this view is to deny the consistency of scripture. Same sex eroticism is explicitly outlawed in the law and was not accepted culturally in ancient Israel. Thus, to assume such between Jonathan and David is to impose our own culture onto that of the Bible. “Queer readings are inconvenient to Imperial readings of the text, which is precisely why the church should be open to such readings. The love of David and Jonathan is Queer not because it is surely homoerotic but certainly because it is subversive. Queer is to describe ways of being, loving, relating and doing which are subversive and counter-imperial.”, ((pg 8) Queer readings, like Feminist readings of the text, begin with a hermeneutic of suspicion. Feminists would say that the text is written by men, interpreted by men and has been taught by men over centuries and therefore it is irredeemable misogynistic and patriarchal. Similarly, Queer theologians would say the same, substituting ‘men’ for ‘heterosexuals’. Thus, they would say that the reading of the text needs to be revised from a homosexual perspective, including ditching any parts that do not affirm same-sex relationships (or else reinterpreting them). Thus, the Bible ceases to be the standard by which our faith and practice are informed and become a reference point subservient to the requirements of culture. What is at stake here is whether the Bible is the basis for our theology or a source amongst many of our theology. Areas for discussion and reflection: “If you were a contemporary of David and Jonathan, what would you advise them to do about their relationship? On the reading of the text do you think it was just platonic?”, (pg 8) I would not need to advise them, I am sure it was a platonic relationship as I see no grounds to assume anything else! “Why would it matter if David and Jonathan were gay? Can’t we let people find themselves in the biblical text as they are and see we are all included in the redemptive work of God?”, (pg 8) My interpretation of the issue is sex between two individuals of the same gender is wrong so, if they were gay (which I do not believe was the case) provided they remain celibate, it would not be an issue. When we come to Christ, it is on His terms, Redemption is for all who repent of their sin and recognise the saving power of the Cross. Our role is to help people walk the pathway Christ lays out for them in His Word. “What are the issues around LGBTQ in your place?”, (pg 8) The LGBTQ+ community have legitimately fought for the right to be accepted, however, now they are seeking to impose their position on the whole of society and are seeking to make any view that opposes their position, illegitimate.

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“What is at stake in your opinion?”, (pg 8) The traditional Biblically accepted value on sex and gender and the right as a Christian to express those traditional Biblical views without being attacked as homophobic. “‘I invite CWM member churches to recognise in the LGBTQ members of its churches, families, communities and nations equal persons God loves fully and calls to follow freely as they are and bring an end to the culture of homophobia in churches’, (Rev Dr Collin Cowan). How do you respond to this?”, (pg 8) I believe that every person should be treated with grace and love. I also believe that the church needs to uphold the Word of God thus expressing grace and truth. To be gay may or may not be by choice, however, how we respond to that situation is a matter of choice and we need to support people as they choose to follow God’s Word. “The ‘fallenenss’ of Babylon is not sexual diversity but sexual violence. The church is just as fallen. With whom can we begin to rebuild the loving communities Christ calls us to be?”, (pg 8) We recognise LGBTQ members of our communities as equal before God and we are not homophobic. Instead we affirm a Biblical view of gender and sexuality. The reasons for same-sex attraction are many and varied but God’s purpose for everyone is that they live life as he intended it to be lived as only that will result in true human flourishing.

I do not believe there is a culture of homophobia in the vast majority of churches, there is a genuine desire to understand people and help those who wish to follow Jesus to find a way that will honour him and His Word.

June 2019 | 8 August 79


YOUR SAY

A SLIPPERY SLOPE By Angri-boi, Samoa

Together with my gay friends, I stood and applauded when I heard news about Taiwan legalised same-sex marriage this past May. It was truly a landmark first for the country, as well as for Asia where lawmakers comfortably passed a Bill allowing same-sex couples to form "exclusive permanent unions" and another clause that would let them apply for a "marriage registration" with government agencies. I was happy as the vote is a major victory for the island's LGBT community, which has campaigned for years for equal marriage rights as it now places Taiwan at the forefront of Asia's gay rights movement. However, that got me thinking – and to be honest, troubled. I started to wonder what the body of Christ is reacting and dealing with the growing LGBTQ movement – not just in Asia, but across the world. Once kept behind closed doors and whispered in dark corners, it has now taken center stage on mainstream media and the silver screen – with Hollywood A-listers becoming vocal advocates and champions for LGBTQ acceptance and equality. Even more common are industry movers and shakers jumping at every opportunity to endorse their company’s name and logo at LGBTQ rallies and events, in a bid to endorse and show their alignment to the cause. So, what is the Church and the body of Christ doing? Where do we stand? To be clear, my worry and fear is not homophobic, not about being prejudiced or paranoid. Far from it. What I am concerned about is that as believers, we have taken the message of acceptance and tolerance to a whole new level – where we hug everyone and say, ‘it’s alright.’ What I mean by this is that in the context of today’s changing mindsets and attitudes towards the LGBTQ community, we have somehow let our basic fundamental Christian principles slide – to take on the easy path, more ‘socially accepted’ path of telling an LGBTQ person that, ‘it’s alright’. All this, in the name of acceptance, grace and equality. However, I personally feel that the body of Christ has abused these terms and we have used this as a convenient excuse to shy away from the issue to make us flow with mainstream thinking. Call me conservative, call me old fashioned – but I hold on to my belief that as disciples of Christ, we have a moral obligation and God given duty to boldly say that homosexuality isn’t normal and is a sin – and calling a spade a spade. We have become lax in our personal ministry and have adopted a nonchalant attitude towards the issue instead of stepping forward to offer the right support, direction and guidance when addressing members of the LGBTQ community. Instead of making a clear biblical moral stand from the pulpit based on the Word of God and careful theological research, I realise that many church leaders have either chosen to remain silent, or make a large show of denouncing prejudice and mistreatment directed at LGBTQ people. Please don’t get me wrong: I’m dead against the ill-treatment, hate and biasness levelled against the LGBTQ community.

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I will stand with them and offer whatever support they need. But what I cannot accept is a non-committal on-the-fence attitude of Churches and believers who refuse or are afraid to adopt firm moral high ground. And there is a big difference between loving people, including homosexuals, and allowing the homosexual lifestyle to become normalised in society. So right or wrong? The way I personally see it as a Christian is that the question of the whether the homosexual or queer lifestyle is right or wrong boils down to what God has to say about it. My stand is that the canon of Scripture is unequivocal in its presentation of homosexual behaviour as a part of human depravity. There can be no honest biblical interpretation that affirms this behaviour in any form, and there is not one syllable of Scripture that condones or supports homosexual behaviour. Which is why I still hold on to the belief that homosexuality is an orientation and lifestyle that is not regarded as natural or normal in the eyes of God. Many proponents will say that homosexual behaviour is indeed ‘natural’ for some, i.e. where some people are born with this predisposition. This logic produces a morality based on predisposition or what is ‘natural.’ If I am ‘naturally’ attracted to the same sex it must therefore be good. Christian teaching is not at variance with humankind being ‘naturally’ predisposed toward attitudes and behaviours which are inherently wrong. So what if I am naturally selfish, violent or predisposed to addiction or adultery or paedophilia? Does that ‘natural inclination’ therefore make it a ‘good’ thing? Because God has permitted man to follow his “debased” inclinations, homosexual behaviour may appear “natural” in our fallen world. This is precisely why the current conventional wisdom to follow one’s own prescription for happiness is a recipe for destruction. Oftentimes our “natural” inclinations for happiness are in fact inclinations for corruption. Scripture teaches that we are not free to sin, but are in fact “slaves to sin.” (Romans 6:17) At the end of the day, I conclude that homosexual practice and homosexuality is to me like any other deviant behaviour. It is something that is not irreversible. Which is why I feel we cannot simply let this issue slide and simply end our engagement with the LGBTQ community with warm hugs and smiles. It has to go beyond that – to address the real issue in a loving Christ-like manner where we seek out and love homosexuals - listening carefully to their pain, struggles and same sex attractions, and lead them to freedom that comes through faith and repentance in Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. To continue down the path of ‘blind’ inclusiveness and acceptance is to walk a dangerous slippery slope where the foundations and tenet of our faith will eventually erode, and may one day lead Churches to a position where they may never regain their footing.

August 2019 | 81


YOUR SAY

MY ‘BEST’ CHRISTIAN LIFE By Charissa King, Reform Magazine, UK

Charissa King is Production and Marketing Officer for Reform magazine, which is published in the UK by the United Reformed Church

Maybe it’s because I’m a millennial, but I regularly hear or see some variant of the theoretically encouraging phrase: Live your best life. The idea behind this affirmation is: You only get one life, so live it your way – the best way. Do you. (This phrase essentially means ‘Be yourself.’) #YOLO (translation: You only live once.) Live your BEST life. The pressure to live ‘right’ can often be overwhelming though. I call myself a Christian. But am I the ‘right’ kind of Christian? What does living your best life look like in the countercultural context of being a person of faith in the UK today? And what does the UK’s religious landscape look like anyway? The UK is regularly described as being a Christian country, perhaps because of the Queen’s notoriously ardent faith. But I am part of a country that’s home to people of many different religions and beliefs to mine. (For the most part, I’m thankful for that fact.) An ever-increasing number of UK citizens identify as having no religion (52% of us, according to research from the 2018 British Social Attitudes survey, released in July 2019), and, though our current Prime Minister reportedly ‘thinks about religion a lot’, he says he’s not ‘a serious, practicing Christian’. The proportion of people identifying as Christian has fallen from 66% in 1983 to 38% in 2018 – just 35 years later.¹ From what UK citizens seem to say about themselves, the UK isn’t as Christian a country as many presume. Boris Johnson’s biographer suggests that, despite being baptised as a Catholic, the current Prime Minister’s personal spirituality draws inspiration from the polytheism of ancient Greek and Roman cultures. This fits in with what I’ve seen of as today’s pick- and- mix culture, where many choose elements from religions and spirituality that they like – elements that fit in with their views and lifestyle. (I am not exempting myself from negative judgement over this type of curation; my hunch is that my faith has become far too comfortable. More on that later.)

1

See https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jul/11/uk-secularism-on-rise-as-more-than-half-say-they-have-no-religion.

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This pick-and-mix style also seems to match Mr Johnson’s style of governing. On Brexit, he plans to discard elements of our withdrawal agreement from the EU that he doesn’t like (the much-debated Irish backstop being one) and add elements that exist only in the minds of the hardline rightwingers that have hijacked his party. Brexit is a multifaceted, ever-changing issue, I know. But as I type, Mr Johnson’s government is behaving in a way that suggests our Prime Minister can remix what’s already been negotiated, with no regard for the red lines that have already been drawn by EU leaders, and no regard for what the current mood of the UK people may be. In his typical I’m-joking-but-not-quite-a-joking style, Mr Johnson’s own victory speech made clear that he’s willing to steal policy ideas – another signal of the type of curation that’s perhaps necessary for government but potentially problematic for personal faith. Does picking the best (or most convenient) faith traditions promote the best in oneself? For honest and openminded people who are open to learning from others, I believe it can. Time will tell for Mr Johnson. For now, his faith, it seems to me, is only in himself. By contrast, Mr Johnson’s predecessor emphasised her Christian faith as a positive moral foundation for her political ambitions. Theresa May largely pleased the UK Christian media with her ‘Trust me; I’m a vicar’s daughter/Christian, and will therefore do what’s morally right for the country,’ argument. But as home secretary (from 2010 to 2016), she was responsible for the ‘hostile environment’ policy that vilified and excluded thousands of people, and led to last year’s outrageous, and still ongoing Windrush scandal, where people of Caribbean decent who legally immigrated to the UK were wrongfully detained, deported and denied legal rights.

June 2019 | 8 August 83


YOUR SAY

The ‘hostile environment’ laws introduced by Mrs May – set up to discourage immigrants – have not been repealed, so remain in place today.² Furthermore, under Mrs May’s Prime Ministership, inequality has become ‘deeply entrenched’³ and the gap between the richest and poorest in society has widened.⁴ Policies that drive inequality, exclusion and division – popular though they might be – don’t seem very Christian to me. Didn’t Jesus ask us to welcome those different from us (like the Good Samaritan did), and to love others as ourselves? Under Mr Johnson’s government, ripple effects from his predecessor’s UK hostile environment policy seem to extend to EU citizens that have the legal right to settle here in the UK. These citizens are being denied state benefits that they’re entitled to,⁵ resulting in homelessness for some, and we don’t yet know how many people are suffering. This can’t be how God wants us to treat one another. Similarly in the US, migrants are facing all kinds of injustices. I recently watched a moving documentary episode on Netflix about an undocumented migrant doing incredible work in Philadelphia, US. Her words have stayed with me: ‘In the eyes of men, we must have a paper to say who we are. But in the eyes of God, we’re all equal.’ I identify as black, as a woman, as British, as Jamaican. Being a Christian does not rank as highly on that list for me as perhaps it should. Yet, I am loved. And I love, as abundantly as I can. I love, because God first loved me, and because God continues to love me, despite knowing me entirely. God loves me despite knowing the worst of my thoughts, deeds and inactions, and despite the inequalities I turn away from protesting, and therefore allow to persist. Christians, I believe, are called to fight and call out injustice, so that all may live the abundant life that God wants for us. That, to me, is part of living the best Christian life we can. But it can feel like a tall order. It’s not at all easy to go against a culture that makes it so attractive to conform. However, we can petition our government, and we do have the right to protest in the UK, which I for one should take more advantage of.

2

3

4

5

Amelia Gentleman’s reporting highlighted this fact; see https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/apr/15/windrush-scandal-one-year-on-victims-little-has-changed. See the social mobility paper ‘State of the Nation 2018-2019’ https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/798687/SMC_State_of_Nation_2018-19 _Summary.pdf Income for the UK’s 1% richest households has nearly tripled since the late 1970s, while average household earnings have stagnated. (See https://www.ifs.org.uk/inequality/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/The-IFS-Deaton-Review-launch_final.pdf) See https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/aug/05/surge-in-eu-citizens-unfairly-refused-access-to-universal-credit

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Part of fighting the injustice that thwarts God’s intentions for us also involves being a good citizen by actively voting for people whose priority it is to bring greater equality, not fuel division and hate. And we can pray for justice – which is part of what we hope for when we ask that God’s will be done, and that’s God’s kingdom will come, here on earth. (Thank you Nigel Uden, Moderator of the United Reformed Church General Assembly, for reminding me of that fact.)⁶ Politicians – even Christian ones – don’t get it right. And within Christian communities, there are many, many different opinions as to the best way to live out one’s faith in today’s world. So many Christians understand God’s love differently to me, and that sometimes makes me worry that I’m doing it all wrong. I believe in a God that truly loves us all, and wants us to do the same. I believe we’re called to love abundantly. On my best days, I do a good enough job of showing that love. I show love to my family and friends. I try and smile at the beggars on our streets who so rarely get an acknowledgement of their humanity let alone existence. But more often than not, I fall short of offering the love to which I am called. I feel a powerful connection to God, but don’t often tell others of God’s love. I welcome those I know, but away turn from countless people who make me uncomfortable. Going to church each Sunday is comfortable for me – I sing familiar hymns, I hug familiar people. But doesn’t God call us to go beyond our comfort? Yes, God does. Am I the ‘right’ kind of Christian? And what’s the best way of being a person of faith in the UK today? If there is a ‘right’ answer to these questions, I’m not sure I have them. What I do have is the desire to be the most authentic and loving person I can be in this life. When judgement comes – from within me and without, from God and from society – I hope that will be enough.

6

See https://assemblymoderators.urc.org.uk/leading-and-following/#more-4248

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CREATION, CORRUPTION, CONSUMPTION, CONDEMNATION By Retrospective from South East Asia

God is the Divine artist who orchestrated the design and creation of the Heavens and the Earth; Sun, Moon and Stars; Land and Seas; Creatures big and small; and Humankind in all intended Glory. In a span of merely seven days, the world was set in motion, and function to thrive as an example of God's power and wisdom. And as humankind were purposefully and lovingly moulded from the likeness of God, God had bestowed significant responsibilities to Adam and Eve as the custodians of all of God's creations. Even so, humankind is fallible and imperfect. They succumb easily in the face of temptation and sin. And by going against God's wishes, they've committed the original sin of humanity, and the demonstration of disobedience had resulted in them in being evicted from a nurturing and perfect paradise. From taking a bite of the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve now hold new knowledge from things that were not meant for their comprehension. Such knowledge has now instilled reasons to feel fear, shame, anger, jealousy, envy, greed and hate, which are natural emotional driving forces to commit and indulge in sin. Humankind does not have the capacity of being responsible with the free will handed to them. Time and time again, people have sinned regardless if they have a religious relationship with God or not. Free will was dispensed in hoping that man would behave responsibly towards themselves, to others and most importantly, towards God and all of God's creations through God's Word. Man is not impervious to sin, but rather inclined and compelled to sin. Since the original sin and being cast out of Eden, humankind has allowed themselves to delve deep into a downward spiral of irreversibly sinful ways of life. They lived as the corrupted beings they are, partaking in sin as though judgement day was of no concern to them. The acts of idolatry, illicit sexual relations, increased violence, wickedness and maliciousness in societies, while sin was being committed without shame or lawful repercussions were increasingly testing the tipping point. These resulted in the need for a clean slate for humankind and God made the decision of thorough annihilation to come in the form of a flood, to punish and cleanse the world of its sinful occupants, by devouring their evil and cruel ways under the depths of the ocean, burying the corruption of man entirely. However, God had promised that it would be the first and the last that a flood would be called forth to destroy humanity. God loves humankind so much that he sent his only son down to earth to die for the sins of humanity. In Jesus's lifetime, he administered to all. His radical love was for everyone, and he was a stellar example of a life without sin. He was placed onto earth as an advocate of God to show humanity the possibility of a sinless life, and as a vessel of sacrifice so that all of us could be saved. Jesus is proof of God's immense love for us.

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However, as the world progressed and nations developed into modern new cities, religion is gradually made to take the back seat due to the shifts in human priorities. Humanity has moved from thirsting over achieving archaic forms of power and domination as they've discovered modern ways of effectively controlling scores of populations to do their bidding and abiding by the laws of currency, the root of all evil. Mass communication became an indispensable tool in the modern world where messages and imageries are constantly bombarded at those in the receiving end. Governments and huge corporations utilise mass communication to influence the mindsets of the common folk, many times inculcating a strong, driven sense of desire and the false sense of need, through propaganda and advertising. And with this, people are made to want things they do not need. They are enticed to consume at rates which would require the plundering of the earth's resources. The insatiable greed of humankind thoroughly exploits the commons. And as the world partakes in mass production and consumption, depleting the resources provided to us by God – we are also creating mass pollution in varied forms that are detrimental to the conditions of our planet. The sun is blazing a lot hotter now, sea levels have increased due to the melting of Arctic ice caps, the air is filled with contaminants and viruses, a plethora of species of animals have gone extinct, and we are slowly killing our world, a world created by God. We've poisoned the air we breathe through the fumes generated from industrial plants, vehicles, burning of forests, and so forth. We've poisoned the water we drink by dumping wastes and toxic materials into our water sources. We've poisoned the food we eat by genetically modifying our live stocks with hormones or by feeding them with tainted feed. We've poisoned the land we rest on by filling them with plastics and explosives. We've committed so many atrocities to the world created for us without considering on the repercussions that would result from it. Time and time again, man has indulged in the sinful ways that required some radical and drastic resolution. From a flood to wipe out all life from the earth, to have Jesus - the only Son of God to die on the cross so that we can be delivered from our sins. It appears humanity has yet to learn the lesson and we are already two lessons from receiving our third strike. Is humankind so deeply cursed by the original sin that disobedience is so innate that we are unable to part ourselves from it? Are we truly condemned that no matter how hard we try; we will never be able not to commit sin? Human sin appears to prevail from the old testament to new and onto the modern age. Will it ever end, and when it does, how will it end?

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Where there is sorrow and shadow Where there is injustice and oppression Where there is darkness in need of dawn We seek you O Christ, calling: Lift up your light! Where darkness descends in Sorrow and shadow, injustice and oppression

We hear you O Christ, appealing: Lift up your light! Light of the world amongst us We will not make our light: darkness So kindle us and empower us That we might rise up as light and shine.



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