INSiGHT - February 2020

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February 2020


West Indiaman Britannia - Joseph Walter - National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, UK West Indiaman was a general name for any merchantman sailing ship making runs from the Old World to the West Indies and the east coast of the Americas. Similarly, at the time (18th & 19th centuries) people also referred to East Indiamen (ships trading with the East Indies), Guineamen (slave ships), or Greenlandmen (whalers in the North Seas whale fishery). Often the same vessel would move between roles and routes over the course of her career as entrepreneurial owners chased profitability with some starting and finishing as West Indiamen, but in between made voyages as a Guineaman or Greenlandman.


February 2020

CONTENTS

FOREWORD 2

DEVOTIONAL

4

God With Us



Lent Bible Study

VIEWPOINTS VIEWPOINTS

20

A Stubborn Servant

24

Lent Thoughts: Don’t Put The Greenery On One Side

26

In Conversation With...

30

Four Horseman Of The Global Capitalism

34

The Constant Spring Market Vendors

38

“Agree To Differ, Resolve In Love” An Interview With Rev Dr Eric So

40

Time’s Call To Open Our Eyes And Ears To Climate Justice An Ecumenical Response

44

Giving Back Control From “What” to “Who”

46

Mother Of Orphans

 SEEN & HEARD

AT A GLANCE

7

Member Church News

16

COVID-19: Prayers and Solidarity

 TAKE A LOOK



YOUR SAY

59

Rejoice, Highly Favoured One, The Lord Is With You; Blessed Are You Among Women!” Luke 2:28

61

My Mission In Myanmar

66

Fake Christians

June 2019 | 8


FOREWORD

God with us A new year breaks with fresh opportunities and possibilities for those who are prepared to imagine a future, transformed by the grace of God, which compels us to acknowledge and repent of our wrong and grants us the courage to act in hope for a lifestyle based on justice and peace. Council for World Mission (CWM), a mission organisation that works with churches across six regions of the world to share in God’s liberating and transformative mission, is committed to be part of that transformed future. Having identified its legacies through its predecessor organisations – London Missionary Society (LMS) and the Colonial Missionary Society – CWM is prepared to come forward and publicly acknowledge its part in the Transatlantic Trade in African people; to make reparation for the profits gained from its participation and complicity; and to commit itself to a lifestyle based on God’s justice and peace for all. At its Board meeting in November 2019, the Directors of CWM agreed to make a public apology for its part in the slave trade when it meets at its Assembly in June 2020 in Johannesburg. At that time, it will also announce its plans to release financial resources of a minimum of GBP10m as reparation for its legacies of slavery; and to work with its partners, primarily to enable investment in black communities and to engage in racial justice initiatives between 2020 and 2029. The LMS began in 1795 when enslavement was still legal in the British Empire, and the slave trade resourced the capitalist expansion of the British Empire and the industrial revolution. The LMS received its resources from the emerging British middle classes, who were at the heart of the Industrial Revolution and capitalism, which funded it. The LMS was deeply complicit in the British colonial project and its enslaving practices. The celebrated LMS missionary, David Livingstone’s famous encapsulation of the missionary endeavour – ‘Christianity, commerce and civilisation’ – can be seen at all levels of the life of LMS. For example, LMS used slave ships to transport missionaries, “to share the knowledge of the blessed God”; paraded black people as spectacles on deputation visits; produced materials for children and adults that served to indoctrinate Black and White people of the superior calling and nature of White people and the inferior and sub-human status and nature of Black people; and remained silent on abolition until the eve of emancipation. CWM examined the legacies of slavery through a series of hearings between 2017-2018, led by Rev Dr Peter Cruchley, Mission Secretary for Mission and Development. These four hearings were vital to inspiring CWM to come to this point of commitment, marked by acts of repentance, apology and reparation. Cruchley comments: “The hearings and the subsequent report revealed our past and the mandate this places on us to affirm Black power and dignity, dismantle White Privilege, and create new forms of mission and evangelism, where doing violence to others is rejected; and restorative justice, led by those exploited by colonialism and capitalism, becomes central to our engagement with God’s mission”. Indeed, CWM must express its shame at this discovery of its past complicities in enslavement, colonisation and racism. It is also a time for us, who make up the CWM community, to acknowledge that we remain complicit in our attitudes and response to behaviours that continue to marginalise, exploit and destroy life. As an organisation, we have spent the last ten years focusing on what it means to do mission in the context of empire. As we have critiqued and challenged the divisive, exploitative powers outside us, we have come face to face with these same vices within us. We are humbled and grateful that we have come to this place in our Christian discipleship journey where discovery, naming, repenting and acting for racial justice and peace define our understanding of participation in God’s mission. Accordingly, as CWM embarks on a new Strategy for 2020-2029, ‘Rising to life: Breaking out from Babylon’, racial justice will become central to our engagement. And our act of repentance and commitment to reparation offer hope-filled opportunities for CWM itself to break out from Babylon and rise to life. This is a Kairos moment, demanding our commitment to racial justice and, particularly, to combat the global sin of Afrophobia. In the midst of the rise of xenophobia and racism in the world today, CWM is making a bold move to break the silence of its past; to tell the truth about its complicities with empire and power, then and now; and to highlight reparation as a vital step to racial and economic consciousness and justice today. We urge all – churches and faith communities, ecumenical bodies and people’s movements, corporations, institutions and governments – all of us who are implicated in the histories and economies of enslavement – to claim this moment and do the right. Let us be courageous in addressing the legacies of slavery – acknowledge our part and commit to reparation – so that we can be purged of the sin of racism, hate crimes and every form of exploitation; and be ready to participate in the transformed future we imagine. CWM General Secretary Rev Dr Collin I. Cowan 1 January 2020

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The Journey Begins...

CWM Assembly 2020 The theme for the 2020 Assembly is “Rising to life with Jesus”. It is meant to inspire God’s people to claim God’s victory over death and destruction in all forms, and to pursue God’s life-flourishing alternative for all. A festive and celebratory event, the Assembly provides the CWM member bodies and partners, through their delegates, the opportunity to worship, reflect, network and fellowship with each other, while receiving an update on the work of CWM. They will also have the responsibility of electing the next governing body of CWM.

Dates

Location

12-19 June 2020

Johannesburg, South Africa

www.cwmassembly.org


DEVOTIONAL

Lent Bible Study Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, ² where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. ³ The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.’ ⁴ Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “One does not live by bread alone.”’ ⁵ Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. ⁶ And the devil said to him, ‘To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. ⁷ If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.’ ⁸ Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.”’ ⁹ Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, ¹⁰ for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you”,¹¹ and “On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.”’ ¹² Jesus answered him, ‘It is said, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”’ ¹³ When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time. (Luke 4: 1 – 13) Traditionally the church approaches Easter through Lent, forty days of preparation for our travelling with Jesus through Holy Week to Table, Temple and Tomb. These forty days are a symbolic way for us to enter the wilderness of Jesus’ temptation and struggle, which begins Jesus’ public ministry. They are also a reminder of the forty years Israel spent in the wilderness, (Ex 34:28ff, Deut 8:2). Luke’s account of the Temptations follows Jesus baptism, (Luke 3:21-23) and precedes his self-announcement in the Nazareth synagogue, (Luke 4: 14 – 30), as the longed-for Messiah. Having been revealed as the Son of God at the baptism, the question is what kind of Son, what kind of God? The temptations help to answer this, as does their echo in Holy Week at the Table, in the Temple and the Tomb.

Temptation 1 A hungry Jesus is invited to turn stone into bread Forty days and nights without food is going beyond the experience of Israel, who at least had manna in the desert. Famished and starving as he is, Jesus still allows Scripture to speak more loudly than the rumbling of his stomach. The Devil invites Jesus to do what human beings do, which is to put their needs before everyone and anything else.

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But Jesus refuses to objectify creation, he seems willing to let stones be stones, rather than process them into something he can use and profit from. Jesus’ curious loyalty to stones will be rehearsed again at the entry into Jerusalem, when Jesus tells the Pharisees that the stones themselves would herald his messiahship if his disciples were silent, (Luke 19:40). Jesus, understands his calling speaks to the identities and dignities of all creation and they are not to be used and exploited for his purpose. As Jesus remarks, one does not live by bread alone, one lives by the relationships we inhabit and loyalties we honour. When we come with Jesus to the table, we realise that far from taking a self-denying approach to bread, in fact Jesus values bread so highly, he is ready to become it himself, (Luke 22:19). Far from crushing stones into bread, he will break his body, not so that he might live, but that ‘whosoever might eat this bread will live’ (John 6:51)

Temptation 2 Taking or overturning the throne of authority? The Devil offers Jesus a vantage point on all the kingdoms of the world in hope of their glory and adulation. Isn’t this God’s normal vantage point, looking down on Creation looking up to God? The witness of the Bible to this point suggests that this has not worked out well for God. Even his own people have been stiff necked and refused to look up in love, (Exod. 32:9). It must be tempting for God to impose God’s authority and power and settle for a ‘quid pro quo’ deal with the powerful and the popular, after all this is what the Church has done and does. Here we have the temptation for God, and God’s Son in particular to come to the earth as Emperor and settle for a worship he knows is unfaithful and the product of fear and envy.


DEVOTIONAL Instead of the Emperor’s throne Jesus chooses the position of the rebel and this becomes apparent several times in the Temple. Jesus’ rebellious spirit in shown in the cleansing of the Temple, (Luke 19: 45-46), the prediction that it will be torn down and three days later rebuilt, (Matt 26: 61, John 2:19). The position God takes is not from above, but from below. When Jesus sees the widow make her gift to the Temple, and predicts the destruction of the Temple, (Luke 21:6) he looks up, (Luke 21:1). Jesus, in this way comes not from above but from below, not from afar but from amongst. His presence and power are not concerned with getting the agreement of the powerful but beginning the liberation of the powerless. Thus he steps out onto the streets of Hong Kong or Delhi because his mother gives him this rebellious Spirit, when she sings her Magnificat over him, (Luke 1:46-55). This is the Spirit Jesus is as full of in the wilderness, (Luke 4: 1) as the Temple is empty of in Holy Week.

And the Devil is right, the stone will not harm him. We come to Easter morning, and there we discover the faithfulness of the stone, for it rolls away for him as he steps into new life. (Luke 24:2)

Temptation 3

Host at our Temple

Fake vulnerability

Stir in us your rebellious Spirit

Prayer Lord Jesus Host at our table And guest at our meal Teach us to stop turning the earth’s bread into stone Through the pollution we cause. So that we may live in new communion With you and your creation. Holy Christ Member of our congregation

The Devil invites Jesus into a show of power, that will fake jeopardy to impress and entertain the crowds: ‘Show them you cannot die’, hints the Devil, ‘show that you are indeed protected and upheld by divine love’. In that tempting drama, the crowds spectate his possible death and this angelic intervention will confirm that Jesus is undoubtedly the Son of God. The Devil knows that the Tomb is the test for God, that most think the argument for faith in God is that it should, God should, offer protection to the faithful, (Ps.16:10). The irony is of course, that Jesus, will take up a place on a pinnacle. Not on the Temple Mount, but on Mount Golgotha, on the cross. And he will throw himself down, even to the place of the dead, but no angels will come to minister to him there, and even precious few of his friends. Indeed, God in Jesus will be put to the test, as Jesus wrestles with accepting the cup of suffering in Gethsemane, (Luke: 22:42) and then at that moment, the angel does come to give him strength, Luke 22:43, not to evade death but to choose it.

That worship may send us Into an uprising of love, So that we may come to your cross standing with those who protest The evil of empire today. Living Lord Host at our tomb Bearer of our bodies Call us forth now into your new day That your resurrection may uproot hell From our world, our wounds, our systems and our streets, And this we ask in the name of Mary’s son Amen.

Ash Wednesday remember all that has been burnt in Delhi. “ This Remember all those who have been killed. Let not the ash on your

forehead be an individual act of piety but a public solidarity with all victims of violence.

- Rev Philip Vinod Peacock

Executive Secretary for Justice and Witness World Communion of Reformed Churches

www.cwmission.org

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AT A GLANCE


AT A GLANCE

MEMBER CHURCH NEWS PACIFIC Acting President of Ekalesia Kelisiano Tuvalu (EKT) Rev Iosefa Mautinoa, The Hon Prime Minister of Tuvalu, Mr Kausea Natano, and the Australian High Commissioner to Tuvalu Ms Karyn Murray were among those who attended a Prayer vigil for the Australian people on 13 January.1 During the Prime Minister’s address, he said that the Tuvalu government was finalising Tuvalu’s financial assistance towards those affected by the bushfires, and mounting a process for volunteers with the relevant skills to be sent to Australia.2

Another vigil service to pray for Australia, its people and wildlife, would be held at the Holy Trinity Anglican Cathedral, Suva, according to a statement by Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC). Pacific churches would also be gathering on Australia Day to contribute funds towards relief efforts, and trained trauma counsellors placed on stand-by to minister to victims and fire-fighters. 3

(Left to Right) Hon. Prime Minister of Tuvalu, Mr. Kausea Natano and Acting President of Ekalesia Kelisiano Tuvalu (EKT) Rev. Iosefa Mautinoa speaking at the Prayer Vigil.

PCC General Secretary Rev James Bhagwan addresses the media and Australian officials in Canberra.

Last December, regional church leaders joined 200 Australian Christians in Parliament to discuss Australia's Pacific Step Up initiative. 4 Facilitated by PCC, with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Micah Australia, Pacific Church leaders addressed the issues of climate change in the Pacific and human rights abuse in West Papua. The Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Tonga councils of churches attended the meeting with Kiribati Uniting Church (KUC), and youth representatives of the Pacific Disability Forum, and the Institute of Mission and Research.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison welcomed the group to Parliament and PCC General Secretary Rev James Bhagwan expressed their gratitude “for the opportunity to meet with Australia's decision makers and to discuss what it means to be a part of the Pacific family”. Addressing the media and Australian officials in Canberra, Rev Bhagwan emphasised how the Pacific people seek true partnerships with Australia, not handouts, as they believe that both groups will flourish if they journey hand-in-hand.

www.cwmission.org

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AT A GLANCE

In mid-December was Freedom Sunday in the Pacific, a day when churches gather to pray for peace and justice, especially in Bougainville, Kanaky, Maohi Nui and West Papua - territories where many people still seek political self-determination. Recently, Freedom Sunday has become a time for churches to reflect on, pray for and take action on the issue of modern-day slavery which has crept into the Pacific diaspora. In the context of Kanaky (new Caledonia), West Papua, and Maohi Nui (French Polynesia) people, their land and identity are enslaved through cultural, social, economic and political oppression and colonisation.

EAST ASIA “At this time of crisis we have to ponder again over our role in this city. Could our beliefs, visions, mission and core values contribute to the present needed restoration of Hong Kong? Through our services and advocacy, are we able to heal the wounded, empower the weak and the poor and establish justice? (Isaiah 42: 1-4)” was the question posed by Hong Kong Council of the Church of Christ in China (HKCCCC) General Secretary Rev Eric So in a year-end reflection last year. He encouraged churches to “become a watchman of this city and to carry out good deeds as in the prayer of St Francis: when there is hatred to sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light”. Reiterating present and future commitment to Hong Kong’s welfare, he also exhorted churches to “pray to God for His mercy upon Hong Kong, for His wisdom and a compassionate heart granted to us so that we can and we in love will fully serve all.” Read more of his thoughts on Page 38 in his interview with Hong Kong Christian Council (HKCC).

Participants at Freedom Sunday (Photo via Pacific Conference of Churches).

In Kanaky (new Caledonia), nickel is extracted and shipped for manufacturing to many Asian countries. As a result, the nickel industry has enriched many Caldoche (European inhabitants), but not the indigenous Kanaks. During the 19th century, Kanaky had been annexed by France and many prisoners were deported to the colony over the next three decades. In West Papua, indigenous customary landowners are denied the opportunity to consent to extraction or development projects. West Papuans continues to suffer structural violence and institutional racism, gross human rights abuses by the Indonesian military, lack of adequate services by the state and suppression of cultural, social and economic rights. This is despite the fact that it has been almost 60years since the Netherlands granted political freedom to West Papua, which was part of the Dutch East Indies back then. The churches of West Papua are remembered to have helped create the Pacific Conference of Churches.

Almost 100 participants from a wide range of church backgrounds, denominations and nationalities attended the Mission Consultation of the Hong Kong Churches 2019 at All Saints’ Cathedral in Mongkok, Kowloon last November.1 Organised once every decade, the theme was “A Foot Washing Community? – The Identity, the Mission and the Opportunities of Hong Kong Churches.” Among the issues discussed were Ecology and Land, Poverty, Reconciliation, Refugees, Civil Society and Churches, Elderly, Youth and Gender Justice, with emphasis given to platforms for women and youth. The closing ceremony included a symbolic ritual using special Hong Kong Christian Council towels as an act of commitment to follow Jesus’ example to wash the feet of others in service and humility.

Mission Consultation of the Hong Kong Churches 2019.

1

https://www.ekttuvalu.com

2

https://129050d0-0e06-f8a9-1b16-19cf9254d600.filesusr.com/ugd/3fab58_ef263471c8594bbbbaf0d7856f240c5a.pdf

3

https://pacificconferenceofchurches.org/f/pacific-reaches-out-to-australia#8422765b-3839-415e-a17e-954ae0e827af

4

https://pacificconferenceofchurches.org/f/lets-work-together-churches-to-aust

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1

https://www.hkcc.org.hk/acms/upload/hkcc/news_views/nv2019-4.pdf


AT A GLANCE The International Christian Maritime Association (ICMA) representative members from many countries gathered for the ICMA World Conference 2019 in Kaohsiung from October 21 to 25, to mark 50 years of maritime ministry around the globe. The ICMA is an ecumenical association of Christian non-profit organisations that works with seafarers all over the world. During the opening ceremony, Pope Francis congratulated ICMA for its humble service and global impact through a pre-recorded video, encouraging those present to persevere in serving seafarers and fishers in the spirit of ecumenism. The Pope also quoted John Paul II’s letter, Stella Maris’ invocation to “provide seafarers abundantly with whatever is required to live holy lives”. In his keynote address, Vice President of Taiwan Dr Chen Chien-jen thanked God for His grace and blessing this gathering of those who cared for seafarers and reaffirmed the Taiwan government’s dedication to supporting fishers and seafarers all over the world. Among the speakers were the Presbyterian Church of Taiwan (PCT) Moderator Rev David Chen, who expressed gratitude that the conference was held in Kaohsiung, an acknowledgement of PCT’s long service to seafarers. In recent decades, the labour force of the Taiwanese fishery has shifted from the Taiwanese to migrant workers.

The PCT’s Seamen’s and Fishers’ Service Centre (PCTSFSC) provides them with care and counselling, as many are left alone facing challenges beyond their control, said PCTSFSC Chairman Rev Daniel Wu. PCT General Secretary Rev Lyim Hong Tiong delivered the sermon, sharing the brave missionary story of Rev Dr William Campbell, early Taiwanese Christian Ko Tiong and others. The conference provided the opportunity for those in seafarers’ and fishers’ ministries to worship and fellowship together, bonding over their common commitment.

Representative members at the ICMA World Conference 2019.

4th World Conference of Women’s Shelters held in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. The event was graced by Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung.

The Fourth World Conference of Women's Shelters (4WCWS) kicked off at the Kaohsiung Exhibition Centre in southern Taiwan on November 5, which gathered government and NGO representatives from over 100 countries to share knowledge and exchange ideas on how to strengthen women’s shelters and end gender-based violence. Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung both attended the opening ceremony, where President Tsai spoke about laws enacted for protection against domestic violence and to foster gender equality in schools and workplaces. Through the combined effort of activists and the government, Taiwan has progressed greatly in gender equality and will continue its efforts in this area, she said. Co-organised by the Global Network of Women's Shelters (GNWS), the Conference is reportedly the world's largest international meeting on the protection of women's rights and the prevention of gender-based violence. This was the first time that the conference was held in Asia, and an international helplines project was launched during the event, with the aim of garnering support for a database of accurate helplines and creating a website that could contribute to women’s safety worldwide. GNWS is the largest and most diverse global coalition of women’s protection services and resources. In order to encourage Christians to carry on reading and proclaiming the good news to Taiwan society, The Bible Society in Taiwan held a centennial thanksgiving of the Chinese Union Version (CUV) of the Bible at Grace Baptist Church in Taipei on October 26, 2019. During his sermon, Chairman of The Bible Society in Taiwan Rev Chang Yuang-ron urged the audience to carry on preaching the good news and overcoming discrimination based on gender, race and class. He also called on Christians to better utilise modern cloud technology and smartphone apps to share God’s Word, faith, hope and love, with more people around the globe. June 2019 | 09 8 www.cwmission.org


AT A GLANCE SOUTH ASIA Church of North India (CNI) launched its year-long Golden Jubilee celebrations on November 28, 2019 in All Saints Cathedral Nagpur, where the Church was born in 1970. The inaugural event began with Bible study by Rev Dr M. Mani Chacko of The Bible Society of India, a worship service, as well as workshops for Presbyters, lay leaders, women and youth focused on specific discussions and outcomes. The next day featured a procession where all the dioceses and institutions were represented with flags and bands, and children along the streets. Bishop Sameer Khimla was consecrated during the thanksgiving service, and CNI Moderator The Most Rev Dr P.C. Singh delivered messages of thanksgiving and unity on both days. In his New Year Message, the Moderator stated that the theme he had chosen for Christmas and New Year was based on John 10:10 – Abundant Life, or Life in all its fullness. He believed that “the time has come for them (us) to have a closer look at the value and purpose of life” in a culture of materialism and hedonism. The greed, competitiveness, aggression and selfishness are fruitless, and an abundant life is possible when they share their lives with others and give it away like Jesus did.

The Diocese of Rajasthan was the sixth Diocese visited by CNI Synod Office bearers for the Stewardship Seminar themed “Envisioning the New Vision of CNI: Stewardship of God Given Resources” last year. They were welcomed with garlands and music bands led in procession to St. Andrew’s CNI Church, Jaipur, where the Church’s choir led them in praise and worship and a welcome dance by the Sunday School children and youths. The dignitaries, together with Bishop of Rajasthan Diocese The Rt Rev Darbara Singh, lit a lamp and CNI Deputy Moderator The Rt Rev Bijay K. Nayak shared the devotion. During the session on the new vision of CNI Synod, CNI Moderator The Most Rev Dr P. C. Singh spoke about the new approach on stewardship, reminding them of leaders who have been chosen to work for the Church’s ministry, while CNI General Secretary Mr Alwan Masih shared about Synod level Gospel Conventions and insights on the Synod’s initiatives and work on mission and evangelism.

(Photo by CNI).

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Children in revelry of the celebration. (Photo by CNI)

Setting doves free (Photo by CNI).

(Photo by CNI).

Nearly 600 delegates representing 23 CNI Dioceses participated in “The Festival of Hope 2019”, a programme for rural women from October 28-31, 2019 held at Bishop Westcott Girls School, Namkum, Ranchi. Organised by the Stewardship Committee, the event was aimed at helping participants understand and fulfil the church’s objective by experiencing God’s presence and understanding God’s Word and plan, as well as strengthening the unity of rural women and providing them with an opportunity to attend a programme at the Synod level. The women were encouraged to know and exercise their rights and stand up for justice, since they have equal opportunities to contribute to the life and growth of the church. CNI General Secretary Alwan Masih also emphasised new CNI initiatives such as coaching for students aspiring to enter civil service, training for willing pastors, and international scholarships for doctorate studies in theology.


AT A GLANCE

St. Thomas Church, Meerut, Diocese of Agra, CNI celebrated 150 years of its life, witness and service in October 2019, a joyous celebration attended by The Rt Rev Dr P. P. Habil, Bishop, Diocese of Agra and both active and retired diocesan presbyters. Bishop Habil consecrated and blessed the altar, which had been renovated to mark this occasion and presented to the congregation. The Bishop expounded on God’s Word, focusing on the life of St Thomas and the purpose of a Church, and many presbyters – both serving as well as retired – were honoured for their faithful service in the Church.

(Photo by CNI).

The 36th Session of the Synod Council meeting of the Church of South India (CSI Synod) began a day after a welcome ceremony where presbyters of Valparai District Church Council danced along with the beating of country drums (Thappu). Held at the Bishop Heber College, Tiruchirappalli, Tamil Nadu, hosted by CSI Trichy-Tanjore Diocese on January 11, the theme was “Towards a Koinonia of Love and Equality”. The synod meeting commenced after the procession led by the Moderator and Deputy Moderator, and preaching by Rev Detlev Knoche, Director of Centre for Ecumenism of Protestant Churches in Hessen and Nassau & Kurhessen-Waldeck, who emphasised service to God and to fellowmen. After Rt Rev Dr D. Chandrasekaran, Bishop, Trichy Tanjore Diocese, welcomed the delegates, the Synod session proceeded with official reports, announcements, confirmation of minutes and reading of obituaries to honour the departed. One such report was by the CSI General Secretary, who presented the scope of work, projects, income, international relations and systemic changes in the past triennium.

(Photo by CSI).

(Photo by CSI).

Elections were conducted, with Most Rev. A. Dharmaraj Rasalam elected as the new CSI Moderator, Rt Rev Reuben Mark as Deputy Moderator, Adv C. Fernandas Rathina Raja as General Secretary, and Prof Dr Vimal Sukumar as Hon. Treasurer. The newly-elected officers for the next triennium 2020-2023 assumed office after a worship service and public reception at CSI Synod Centre in Chennai, where they lit the traditional lamp in the middle of a flower arrangement near CSI’s mission statement. (Photo by CSI).

www.cwmission.org

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AT A GLANCE EUROPE Rev Nigel Uden and Mr Derek Estill, Moderators of the United Reformed Church (URC) General Assembly, and Mrs Yvonne Campbell, General Secretary of the Congregational Federation (CF) were among the leaders of British Church denominations and networks who released a joint statement on January 24 about the upcoming official Brexit on January 31. They called for “both resolve and close international cooperation” to effectively address “the continuing challenges of the climate crisis, global inequality and conflict”, and affirmed their churches’ commitment to work and pray for “a just economy that enables the flourishing of all life, a planet where the environment is renewed, and a politics characterised by listening, kindness and truthfulness.” “Our country should be one that offers sanctuary to refugees and is intolerant of those who hate because of a person’s race or nationality. Both Leave and Remain campaigns agreed on this”, the statement also noted.

In her Christmas message, President of the Union of Welsh Independents (UWI), Rev Jill-Hailey Harries, emphasised the importance of spiritual solidarity post-Brexit, as it is key to allaying fears and suspicion during this uncertain period. “As Brexit severs the UK’s political and economic relationship with the EU, it’s crucial that the relationship with churches in Europe is maintained and strengthened. The churches have a duty to challenge intolerance and insularity, while striving to heal deep social and political divisions,” she wrote. She also reminded them that “faith transcends boundaries”, and that “there are no custom posts or tariffs in God’s kingdom.” Given the continuing decline in church attendance and the closure of chapels, UWI General Secretary Revd Dyfrig Rees challenged churches to “take innovative action to halt the potentially terminal decline” in this new decade. In his New Year’s Message, Rev Rees warned of the possibility that without taking risks, “Christianity will continue to die out in their (our) communities, until Wales becomes almost a wholly secular nation”.

Since last September, bushfires have swept over parts of Australia, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. More than 8.4 million hectares have been burnt by the first week of January, and integrated into the emergency response is the largest scale disaster chaplaincy response on record.1 Following a trip to Sydney, the Rev Neil Thorogood, Principal of the URC’s Westminster College in Cambridge penned a reflection and prayer for everyone affected by the tragedy. Even though Australians are “used to bush fires”, this year’s fires are “unprecedented in their scale and ferocity” with at least 25 people and millions of animals dead, and more than 2,000 homes razed to the ground. “There's a big debate across Australia surrounding climate change and its consequences. But no one can doubt the reality of loss being endured by people and by nature,” he wrote.

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Bush fire at Captain Creek central Queensland, Australia. The fire was started on another property from a farm slashing machine which then spread over hundreds of acres. (Photo by 80 trading 24)


AT A GLANCE Earlier last year, Mr Derek Estill also led the URC’s educational visit to Israel and Palestine, where their group could observe and hear first-hand the plight of indigenous Christians living in occupied Palestinian territories. This included seeing the consequences of expanding Israeli settlements which are illegal under international law. Mr Estill offered an Advent reflection, for all to respond to the needs of those suffering from persecution and a lack of justice, and to remember them in prayer and conversations. He also urged the government to “work for justice and equality”, and to work with other governments to remove discriminatory policies and towards “greater equality of opportunities for all.”

1

https://bit.ly/2HYDnIx

AFRICA Zambia is experiencing the worst drought in a century1. According to the Zambia Meteorological Department, the 2018-2019 rainfall season was one of the poorest that the southern half of Zambia has faced, and this has affected crop production, food availability and food access. There has also been a marked decrease in maize production, their main staple food item. 2 After visiting the town of Livingstone at Victoria Falls, United Church of Zambia (UCZ) General Secretary Rev. Peggy Mulambya-Kabonde said that people had ploughed their maize crops which had shrivelled in the heat, “are desperate not to have a repeat of 2018 and 2019 when it did not rain in some area” and “are worried they may not be able to take their children to school”. 3 She added that “young people are working with the ACT Alliance and other organisations giving people food relief and drought-resistant crop seeds, and “in some areas the people are so badly off, we are even having to provide them with soap.” Tourist attraction Victoria Falls, found on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia, has slowed to a trickle after an unprecedented decline in water levels. Both countries have suffered power cuts as they rely heavily on hydropower from plants downstream from the falls.

(Photo by Laurie MacGregor, ACT).

The Valedictory Service of Rev Ian Booth as the Interim General Secretary of United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA) was held on 19 January 2020 at St Lukes congregational church, North of Durban. The service was attended by the UCCSA leadership; Clergy and members of KZN region. The Interim General Secretary handed over the stole to the new General Secretary Rev. Kudzani Ndebele.4

Rev Kudzani Ndebele

Valedictory Service of Rev Ian Booth as Interim GS

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AT A GLANCE

Even though 70 to 80 per cent of South Africa’s population self-identify as Christian, around half of them do not attend worship service, and statistics indicate a possible decline in church membership, wrote Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa (UPCSA) Moderator Rt Rev Dr Langerman in a letter last October. There, he cited a few factors, including secularisation, “consumerism” (going to church to be entertained), and “the de-churched” (who still are on a spiritual quest but have been stumbled by church scandals). There is also the factor of “expressive individualism” which subverts the Christian teaching “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever”, and is encapsulated as “the chief end of religion is to glorify the human person so he can enjoy himself forever”. In the letter, he shared about meaningful expressions of the future church, grounded in development of meaningful relationships, inter-dependence, community building, and ecumenical partnership. He also suggested a radical paradigm shift in the approach to life, faith and discipleship. This includes seeing opportunities in obstacles; embracing the process, being prepared to launch seasonal ministries, commitment to journey alongside people in one-to-one ministry. Sixteen days of activism against violence against women and children is observed between 25 November to 10 December every year, to raise awareness about the rampant scourge of violence in the society. The UPCSA General Secretary Rev Lungile Mpetsheni released a statement encouraging congregations and church members to establish gender desks and youth desks to look into this issue, among others, as well as “help build communities of peace and justice” where all are treated with respect.

19 January was a Sunday that Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar (FJKM) dedicated to pray for the new work year and their President Rev Irako Ammi and his family. The Analamahitsy Coliseum was packed, not only by the FJKM believers from Antananarivo but also by those from the other regions of Madagascar. Combined choirs from different FJKM churches led an early praise and worship session, and the service also received publicity on Radio Fahazavana, the FJKM Radio. Pastor Andriamampianina Zaka Hary Masy spoke about the correct, biblical mindset of acquiring money, and emphasised submission to God. 5 Following this, the President delivered his message on focusing on the work of God; maintaining a mindset centred on the eternal rather than the temporal; standing firm in faith; and working with enthusiasm. He shared about how 407 unreached towns were reached in three and a half years, and they now have either churches or prayer cell groups. Towards the end of his speech, he urged everyone to pray for the preparation of the “Synoda lehibe” that will take place in Sambava from 12 to 19 August. He explained that it will be a week of prayer for every decision taken during the week, since the new President and his new co-workers will be elected from the week’s meetings and voting.

1

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/dec/07/victoria-falls-dries-to-a-trickle-after-worst-drought-in-a-century

2

https://reliefweb.int/report/zambia/zambia-humanitarian-dashboard-17-december-2019

3

https://bit.ly/2STzuKf

4

http://bit.ly/3164dHD

5

https://www.fjkm.mg/index.php/2020/01/27/fjkm-new-year-2020/

CARIBBEAN EVANGELISM #HEARTBEAT OF THE CHURCH United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands (UCJCI) has declared 2020 to be “The Year of Evangelism”, with their focus to fulfil the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). Organisations and congregations have planned activities with an evangelistic thrust. Castleton United Church, St. Mary, is one such, which held their first weekend crusade last year. The gathering of both congregation members and community members unattached to the congregation bore fruit, with 13 people receiving Christ into their lives and some will be baptised this year. The western region of UCJCI undertook evangelism training to prepare members to share the gospel.

CHILDREN’S HOME RECEIVES MATERIAL AND SPIRITUAL SUPPORT “To provide a loving and nurturing atmosphere where hurts are healed and hope is nurtured, so that the children may maximise their potential and fulfil their purpose with the engagement of all partners”. This is the mission of UCJCI’s Pringle Home for Children, where girls currently reside, having come from situations of abuse, neglect, abandonment, and with issues of low self-esteem and psychological, social and moral challenges.

Pringle Home for Children (Photo by UCJCI).

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AT A GLANCE Situated in the hills of Carron Hall, St Mary, the Home is licensed to accommodate 36 children between four to 18 years old, and many have received care since it was established in 1922. Chaplain, Rev Donald Burke, who is the Minister of the Carron Hall United Church, holds regular spiritual sessions with the girls, who have been integrated into the worship experience of the church, through music ministry and Youth Fellowship. The girls are also engaged in group and individual counselling, social skills training, and regular recreational activities, and the UCJCI’s Women’s Fellowship has been a tower of strength to them. A public nod of acknowledgement for their work came through the annual “Grant a Wish” initiative, where well-wishers can nominate and vote for communities in Jamaica to receive aid from the National Commercial Bank (NCB) foundation. With the votes of these well-wishers last December, the Home received J$1 million to support its work.¹ TWO YOUNG MINISTERS ORDAINED The UCJCI ordained two young people to the Ministry of Word and Sacraments last November, supported by its leadership and ministerial fraternity, ecumenical and civic leaders, and members of the community of the United Theological College of the West Indies. In recognition of the value of the ordinands’ decision, Moderator Rt Rev Dr Gordon Cowans delivered the challenge through a sermon encouraging them to be comfortable in themselves and to resist pressure to conform to the likeness and activities of others.

The blessing and ordination of fellow Ministers (Photo by UCJCI).

Rev Alex Hayden co-signs the official register with Rev Norbert Stephens, General Secretary, UCJCI (Photo by UCJCI).

CHURCH, STATE AND CORPORATE JAMAICA IN PARTNERSHIP IN EDUCATION UCJCI has joined forces with the Ministry of Education in offering primary education in the Hannah Town community in Kingston, Jamaica. Chetolah Mel Nathan Education Centre is a merger of the Mel Nathan Preparatory School (established by the UCJCI), and Chetolah Park Infant and Primary School. Grounded in biblical precepts and well-involved with community, the educational institution brims with promise. Chetolah Mel Nathan has made progress since the merger in September 2018. The merged school has a student population of 180, and guides students to improved academic performance in external examinations. The school practises differentiated learning, which assists in developing the children’s individual skills. A Special Education Unit was built by the Digicel Foundation, a corporate partner, for children with disabilities, in its quest to be a needs-meeting institution. Stewardship of the environment is another pillar of the school’s operations, with special environmental wardens to keep this in focus.

Students on their trip to Seville Great House (Photo by UCJCI).

1

A student votes for head boy and head girl (Photo by UCJCI).

A student riding a horse on their trip to Seville Great House (Photo by UCJCI).

https://gratitude.jncb.com/grant-wish

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AT A GLANCE MISSION IS POSSIBLE In line with UCJCI’s commitment to being a children-friendly church, Church School Month was celebrated last November, with the theme “Transformers for Christ – The Mission is Possible”. This theme was chosen to assist school children to engage in evangelistic mission among family and friends, and missional activities such as visiting a children’s home and ill or shut-in church members. TRAINING FOR LAY LEADERS UCJCI launched a newly designed and refreshed training to equip their lay leaders to work alongside clergy leadership in building the kingdom of God. This training suite will prepare these leaders to help church members strengthen their relationships with God, discover their individual talents and serve God through those gifts. Part of this newly designed training is standardisation to ensure materials and methodologies will be consistent across all Regional Mission Councils.

COVID-19: PRAYERS & SOLIDARITY

Council for World Mission (CWM) pauses to express solidarity and to offer the assurance of our prayers on behalf of all those who have been infected with the deadly coronavirus (COVID-19) and with the families that have lost loved ones. We are also deeply concerned about healthcare personnel and other caregivers who are on the front-lines of this struggle, offering essential service and care for those infected, even at the risk of their own lives. COVID-19 is rapidly developing into a global health crisis and its impact on China, in particular, is heartbreaking. We call on the international community to act in solidarity with China to combat this epidemic as a matter of urgency. We pray for quick containment of the outbreak in South Korea and Italy, both of which have seen a spike in new infections over the past few days. We encourage everyone to remain compliant with health and safety procedures, avoid unnecessary exposure and act responsibly to reduce the risk of spreading. We also appeal to everyone to resist xenophobic sentiments against members of the Chinese community or foreigners for this outbreak, as has been reported in some parts of the world. What we need at this time is our collective goodwill and generosity of spirit to care for and support one another. We are grateful to all those who are risking their lives, some of whom have even died, in the course of duty. We offer our condolences the families who have lost their loved ones as a result of this outbreak, and we pray for healing and grace for those who are infected and affected. In times like these, we are reminded that “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear…” (Ps. 46: 1-2).

Photo was shared by Historium Podcast with the caption, “Lyu Jun, a Chinese doctor, saying goodbye to his wife before going to the Wuhan province to treat Coronavirus patients.”

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A New Face 2020 | Agents of Change

Indigenous and Minority Ethnic Ministers in Mission About Following the development of focusing A New Face on particular groups of ministers, ANF 2020 will be a programme for ministers from indigenous, minority ethnic and migrant communities. This will build on the work CWM has begun in the Legacies of Slavery project and alert us to other dimensions of the legacies of slavery and colonisation within our member churches. The programme will also help us to explore the praxis dimensions of mission and racial justice. By inviting ministers who come from such communities we hope to share theologies, experiences and agendas which participants can use in their work and in their own struggles with majority/colonial cultures inside and outside church. Racist and nativist powers and policies continue to threaten communities all around the world. Churches have become at risk from such action, and some churches tacitly support such action. Indigenous people continue to face violence and denial of land and cultural rights. Migration is at the heart of God’s mission but migrants continue to be targeted and demonised, unless they come from dominant colonial communities. Many of our member churches are in contexts where migration has pluralised their communities and some of our churches are in contexts where Indigenous people continue to be present.

Programme Outline ANF is built around seminar input, exposure visit, shared reflection and personal study. The first week is spent in orientation to the Pacific and Aotearoa/New Zealand context and the final week for evaluation. Key elements always include awareness raising about the struggle of MÄ ori and Island people for respect and recognition as well as input on MÄ ori and Island perspectives on Bible and Theology. The college is committed to a liberation model for the church and this is demonstrated in its teaching staff and their research interests, which particularly focus on Bible, Moana theologies and hermeneutics, as well as eco-theology and eco-ethics.

Application Deadline Applications should be supported by respective member churches, and received by the Mission Development Department by April 6th 2020. More information is available from the Mission Development Department peter.cruchley@cwmission.org / lynnette.li@cwmission.org / missiondevelopment@cwmission.org For more information on the Legacies of Slavery work see the CWM website, and in particular https://www.cwmission.org/general-secretarys-new-year-message/ If you would like to discover more about, Trinity Methodist College, our partner in this programme, check their website: www.trinitycollege.ac.nz


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A Stubborn Servant by Tuan Bor, Women’s Secretary of Lairam Synod, Presbyterian Church of Myanmar (PCM)

I was educated till 4th Grade at Leilet Primary School, 5th Grade at Tuibual Middle School, 6th and 7th Grade at Leilet Private School, 8th Grade at Zawngte Middle School, 9th and 10th Grade at No. 1 High School, Falam. Since my childhood, I have been a pious person who enjoys attending Church and admires church ministry. At that time, I was a Methodist member as there was no Presbyterian Church in my village. I had been an invocator for the worship service, and whenever my parents preached the Word of God, I would be the one to sing. I regularly attended children’s Sunday school and I was indeed an outstanding student. At that time, the Women’s Worker Ms. Sapthangi used to visit us. Seeing that she preached in a white gown convinced me to become a woman minister. I told my father that I wanted to be a woman minister and he said to me, “Study hard. When you have passed your matriculation exam, enroll at a Bible College. Then, you would be able to serve God as a minister”. However, my father passed away before I finished my Bachelor of Theology (B.Th), which broke my heart and made me so sad. My longtime desire, which had been to go to Bible College, started to change when I was 8th Grade. I wanted to go to secular college, and my aim to attend Bible College faded away. But when I was in 9th Grade, our cattle, which was the only source of income that could support my college fee, all died. I was so depressed by my situation that was further compounded by failing my matriculation exam in the first year, causing me to not want to live anymore. Moreover, as I had been acquainted with the church since my childhood, I was elected as Children’s Sunday School teacher. I continued to work as secretary of the Presbyterian Women Society (PWS) and the Presbyterian Youth Fellowship (PYF), and was further elected as secretary in the regional level of the Presbyterian Women Joint Fellowship (PWJC). In 1992, I was diagnosed with Malaria and Typhoid for three months causing me to have no further hope to live. I requested prayer from those who visited me and their prayers gave me hope and peace.

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In the same year, I sat for the matriculation exam again, which I passed by the blessing and mercy of God. As soon as I passed the matriculation examination, I, along with one other woman and two men, sat for the

“ Women have been fighting

against church rules and constitutions by the decision makers. They have been pushing for women’s rights in the Church.

am the seventh daughter among nine siblings, five sisters and four brothers, of Mr. Thang Cung and Mrs. Mang Thlia. I was born on 12th March 1968, at Tlanglo village, Thantlang District, Chin Hills. My mother said, “God blessed me as I worked”, and thus I was named Tuan Bor. When I was a child, our family moved to Leilet village, Falam District and I was raised in that village. I am now the Women’s Secretary of Lairam Synod, Presbyterian Church of Myanmar (PCM).

entrance exam at Falam Synod to study theology at Tahan Theological College. Although we, the women, got higher marks than both men, we were rejected and the men were chosen. Being rejected and excluded from my mother church meant that I was forced to choose another college. I was enrolled at Far Eastern Fundamental School of Theology, Insein, Yangon with the help of some friends. As my family was poor, life was very difficult financially while I was studying. I fasted every Saturday as I worried that I would not be able to complete the academic year. I used to pray, “O God, I have enough money only for this semester. If I cannot finish the semester, you will be put to shame. Additionally, if I did not finish because of my wickedness or bad behavior, it would mean that I put shame on you.” There were times when I was so hungry. When I saw my friends eating, I would run into the Chapel immediately. I was afraid that they would give me something to eat because I was so ashamed of receiving food every morning from the hands of my friends. Even with all these troubles and difficulties, I finished my Bachelor in Theology (B.Th) in 1997 with the help and support from God and my family. My initial thought at that time was that as the Presbyterian Church of Myanmar (PCM) did not accept women as pastors, and even if I could not be a Pastor, I would regard my four-year study of theology as a full-time ministry. However, God acknowledged my desire allowing me to be the Women’s Secretary at Falam Synod on 1st April 1997. My post was confirmed at the General Assembly held in February 1999. As Lairam Synod was established in 2000, I moved to Lairam Synod continuing work as the Women’s Secretary. I pursued my further study at Asia Evangelical College and Seminary, Bangalore, India in 2001-2002, after which I completed my Master of Ministry (M.Min) course. In 2004-2005, I finished the Master of Theology (Th.M) at Hanil University and Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Jeonju, South Korea, and I then


VIEWPOINTS continued my work as Women’s Secretary at Lairam Synod. I have been working in the ministry of God till today as a single woman. Throughout my life in ministry, I have faced discrimination, difficulties, poverty and sorrow, which I do not want to write down on the pages of my diary, but still remain in my heart and mind. I knew nothing about office work during the start of my ministry as the Women’s secretary and had to request that my co-workers teach me every step of the office work. But when I sought some advice from my fellow workers on how to manage the business agenda, the reply that I got was, “How dare you as the Women’s Secretary not know how to plan and arrange agendas?” That reply made me so sad and confused. In like manner I was treated so many times in my initial years in front of the delegates, “Being the Women’s Secretary, how can you not know how to do these things?” Although these incidents are hard to forget, those bitter words and stereotyping pushed me to work harder through which I have progressed much and I am now thankful for them.

In another incident, a pastor’s wife told me as soon as I arrived in their house that her husband was away and he did not leave her any money to buy food and curry. That was so uncomfortable for me. The churches paid little attention to the activities of women secretaries and that may have been because it was the initiative of women. More disappointingly, the pastors of some churches did not even want to participate in our activities. They would rather watch some sports channel on TV. The mindset that the words of women should be listened to only by women made me so sad. However, I was not discouraged. I gave as many trainings and lectures to women as I could in every church of our Synod. The fruits of our trainings are ripening now.

During one of the Church’s conferences, I gave lectures on women’s rights. But the pastor preached from the Pulpit against my lectures by saying, “there is no need for rights for women and children; the Church does not need them. What we need is the Holy Spirit.” Those remarks made it difficult for me to shake hands after the worship service, but I still shook his hands! As soon as the training programme in the agenda of When I was the elected as Presbyterian Women’s Women Joint Secretary, I Conference was urged to (PWJC) had pledge that I Whenever PCM women gather, it’s a time of joy and freedom for them to express themselves freely in song and dance. been seen, would visit what I kept the churches by foot without having a porter of my hearing was, “we do not need training [for women] in own. Although it was sometimes hard to carry my every circumstance”. A pastor once said that he bedding by myself, some villages would meet and worried that his wife would become wise and educated! send me off, which was a pleasure for me. Doing ministry in such circumstances was so hard, but Although some churches were hospitable to me, I realise now that these instances of opposition and there were also others who were not. In one village, resistance are the marks of victory of my ministry as a they said to me, “since you are not the Lord of this women’s secretary. world, eat this stale food!” And in some villages, they even offered me fangra beans and arum roots. When my church wanted to elect church Elders back in I had much difficulty eating what they offered me 2015, the church committee made a list of those who because I had never eaten them before. On the could be elected as Elders. In that list, there were no other hand, some villages were so hospitable to me women or youth who were full members, but only male that they offered me what they were not able to adults including some over 70 years of age. The provide even for their own children. chairman of that election, the Pastor, said without consulting the PCM Constitution, “You must vote for I once visited a particular village and their pastor two men among the nominees in this list”. But I stood told me that they could not hold worship service up and boldly questioned his words by citing the because they had another guest speaker from the By-laws (page 58, No. 17 (4)), “Are all the women and Assembly of God (AOG) church. This happening youth who are not included in this list under church caused me to reflect on how low and disregarded I discipline? Have they all committed adultery such that was. As we did not have pastors in every village, I they cannot be elected? Or did PCM just change the usually stayed as a guest in the house of church By-Laws and make up limitations for electing church Elders. But there were times when no one invited Elders?” After that, the Pastor replied angrily, “you can me into the house in certain villages. A woman put up your nominees”. Although he tried to clarify who once received me told me that she would not three times, I refused by explaining that we never got kill any chicken for me, which was funny but also the chance to make nominations in electing church uncomfortable. Elders.

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VIEWPOINTS The assistant in charge of the election who came from another village could do nothing. An Elder from our church said, “she made those statements supported by the Constitution, so we have nothing to say more. Therefore, there must be an election as per the Constitution”. Finally, the election took place. I may be a troublemaker in the eyes of many people. In fact, we have the right to vote or elect whoever we want as church elders, but our rights were suppressed. If I had not spoken up in the right time, it would be pointless to say it later. I knew I needed to proclaim and reveal the truth instead of allowing the church to continue doing the wrong things. And I will stand firm with God’s help in the face of opposition and blaming. Another thing that makes me so sad is the way the church treated me.

I may not get the right to be an ordained minister during my lifetime but I want to make a way for other women who come after me, that they can become ordained women ministers. I sacrificed for my ministry and I worked so hard for women. Now, there are so many privileges for women in our churches resulting in the churches opening up opportunities for women, even though it may still be hard to accept for some Pastors. When we had a training on Women’s Ordination at the General Assembly (GA) Office, we held conversations with some Pastors. A pastor who participated in that training said, “if our main problem is about women ordination, then let the church allow and ordain them”, but another Pastor said, “there are no women in the church committee and this will remain so”.

His words were so bitter to hear. But this is an indication of how PCM systematically oppressed and marginalised women through committees, meetings There are important services in the church, such as and conferences. Once, there was a training mourning programme on services for ‘Promoting the dead, Women’ in thanksgiving every Synod of services, PCM, which birthday was organised celebrations, by the memorial Presbyterian services for Women the General deceased, Conference etc. The (PWGC). A congregation pastor said to expected me me, “why are Rev Ram Thanga, General Secretary of Presbyterian Church of Myanmar presenting the publication. Photo by PCM. to take you, an charge of unmarried those services only when the pastor was not woman, teaching us about Women’s Rights? Is it available. They probably did not think that a because you do not have a husband? It will better if a woman like me should be in the leadership man were to teach us.” However, I did not teach position when the Pastor was available. Even Women’s Rights because I do not have a husband. though I was not a Pastor, I regarded myself as a minister and I always accepted their invitation to I teach women’s rights to women who do not know that lead those services even though there were a they have been oppressed and because I want to number of church Elders that did not want women enlighten them that God allows us to possess a safe, to handle those responsibilities. I realised now that good and equal society and existence, above and what prevented me from doing what the Pastor beyond how they are currently living. I maintain that does is the notion of “not being an ordained this kind of training is spiritual but many church minister”. This makes me wonder, does PCM leaders, members and even some other women regard practise the ordination of Pastors, Ministers and it as “fleshly teaching”. Elders only for men? Why not for women too? Although I am the least in the sight of God and the My sole ambition was to be involved in women’s church, my emphases in ministry are to care for the ministry, which was partially fulfilled. But when I poor and the needy, to protect women’s rights and worked as the women’s secretary, I wanted to promote them by developing their skills in different become an ordained woman minister, not just a ways, to proclaim to all the people that salvation is not “worker”. Throughout these hardships, restrictions only for our soul but for our whole being – heart, soul and opposition, I wanted to show the congregation and body and finally to teach the congregation that that I can be an ordained minister and that I can there is no gender division (male and female) in Christ do what any male ordained minister can do. I and God impartially wants to use us as His servants. I struggled so much in different ways to be an conducted several training programmes, which were ordained woman minister, which resulted in tiring but made me happy. In particular, the poor and hatred and anger towards me. the needy in our church were so friendly to me, and

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VIEWPOINTS whenever they come to me in times of their hardship and happiness, I give thanks to God, proclaiming “God, they do not come to me but to You”.

On the other hand, there were indeed times of happiness, joy and blessing through God’s strong hand. In 2003, I visited the Thantlang area on foot with one of my friends, carrying our baggage by ourselves. On our way back home, we took a motor Jeep from Lungler village since we were tired. The road was in very poor condition, and I asked the driver to get off from the Jeep so that I could walk by foot. Then, we continued ahead by foot. Subsequently, the Jeep nearly slipped off the cliff because of failing brakes not long after we got off. When the Jeep approached us, the driver said to me, “Please, get back into my Jeep. We nearly had an accident because you, the ministers, were no longer in it”. I replied that we did not dare to take the Jeep anymore. But he insisted, “Please, you – God’s servants – must be on my Jeep in order that we can reach home safely”. Then, I prayed, “Thank you God! I, an inadequate servant of yours, will take the Jeep again for the sake of others’ safety”. That evening, we safely arrived back in Thantlang village.

A great division between male and female in the church makes me sad. There is little gender equality when it comes to electing church leaders and appointing responsibilities in church conferences and meetings. If male favouritism and the subjugation and marginalisation of females could come to an end, true happiness would be heard and seen in the church. I want to urge my fellow women to raise their voice out loud in their family, church and society in order to claim their rights. Let’s help, support and elevate our fellow women. There is value in believing that our other fellow women can do it even if we personally cannot do it. Let’s cultivate a practice of helping our daughters, mothers, and sisters. My mother is the person whom I admire most and a source of my inspiration in life. In times of distress and sorrow, I feel relaxed and refreshed whenever I see her face and hear her voice, which gives me new hope. My mother is a godly person and she does everything by believing in God. She is

“ If male favouritism and the

kind and labourious, and never differentiates based on gender. She never disappoints but always strives to be contented in everything. She cannot write but can read very well. Therefore, she regularly reads the Bible. She told us Bible stories every night and taught us how to live in the light of Biblical principles, which has led and guided my life till this day. Although all Bible verses are inspirational, my verse for life is Matthew 2:6, “And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.” This Bible verse is the very first Bible verse that my mother tested me in my childhood to assess my reading abilities. My mother chose this text for my verse of life, and I always remember it. This text always reminds me that ‘I am able’ even when I am disappointed and weary.

subjugation and marginalisation of females could come to an end, true happiness would be heard and seen in the church.

I will tell you a final story for the sake of God’s glory. Indeed, I am just a simple and rural woman, and many of my male counterparts do not want to acknowledge my ministry. On the other hand, many people have witnessed God’s presence through me at the right time. In September 2012, I headed to Rih village from Tahan to conduct a training programme in the Rih Area. At that time, the road was in an indescribably bad shape. We stopped for prayer after Tahan village and someone said, ‘who will say a prayer for us?” After I prayed, we started conversations to get to know each other and our work. They asked me who I was and I replied that I was going to conduct a training programme. One person warned me, “don’t go there for your training programme. The road is so bad and dangerous!” His words kept me thinking for a while. But the other young man said, “Don’t worry! We will be safe in the midst of bad roads because we are with God’s servant”. We safely arrived at our destination that same evening. For some people, the things that I have shared above may not seem to be worth sharing. Although I always had a feeling of inadequacy and I do not dare to profess myself as God’s servant or minister, I wish to testify that God works through people like me - one of the least among people. Over these twenty-two years, I am thankful to God for allowing me to serve Him in the midst of rain, sun, walking through leech-infested waters, and even during times of food and water scarcity. As a song aptly describes, “the perfect happiness is serving God”. I want to continue serving God faithfully as long as God allows me to do. To God be the glory!

I am so humbled that God has allowed me to serve Him for twenty-two years. During these years, I learned many things; there were times of hardship, sorrow, and depression.

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VIEWPOINTS

Lent Thoughts:

Don’t Put The Greenery On One Side by Rev David Coleman

David Coleman is a United Reformed Church (URC) Minister, with particular attention to the climate emergency. He is seconded full-time from the URC for his role as Environmental Chaplain in Eco-Congregation Scotland, a registered charity to provide spiritual and theological support to churches in their work of caring for creation.

If my role were one which involved authority or discipline, then it might be easy, but maybe it is all the better that I can do no more than appeal, and attempt to convince…. ….That the green of our love for the Earth remains in view alongside the penitential purple of Lent. Ultimately, though, it is not the Chaplain, but the Christian Calendar which issues this challenge: The Church in its many forms is about to enter a season, variously observed- and sometimes pointedly ignored, – which leads us towards the defining story of Christianity: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Word Made Flesh, who commissioned the Church to be bearers of Good News to Every Creature. Liturgies, hymns, and ways of worship have been cherished and refined throughout the ages, safeguarded against dilution from trivial and transitory issues. Local custom can be at least as rigid as the conscientiousness of an official denominational committee. The plight of Creation is not such a triviality, to be put on one side whilst we get on with the proper business of being church, but rather, a concern, to take account of which, will deepen and enrich the whole of our faith. Thus, what I feel compelled to raise, is whether the Easter Message has been hedged around in something of a ring of steel (or perhaps an impenetrable crown of thorns ) comparable to that we will encounter in the COP meeting in Glasgow later this year? Close to 500 congregations have made the commitment involved in taking on the identity of an Eco Congregation. How many of these will set that aside as we begin to observe Lent, and move on to Easter? In the coming weeks we will welcome Jesus with branches, and see him nailed to the Tree, received gently by the Earth, and re-establish contact with his community though a meeting in a garden. The greenery of the story is in plain sight, but will we see it? Thus it’s an encouragement that Pope Francis, in his Lenten message lists environmental devastation amongst the ‘satanic’ challenges we face . Sometimes we have let such language become emptied of its meaning. But the denialism which Jesus himself faces up in the temptations, the twisting of truth that all will be well if we trust greed and power and step off the precipice, is insidiously present in our church and national life.

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VIEWPOINTS Does anyone expect the message of ‘Satan’ to be obvious? It would be of no danger if so. If you make something of Lent, you might ponder these questions: Do I, or does my church, evade the implications even of the scientific consensus on the Environmental Emergency which we actually believe we accept? Are we always looking for someone else to make the first move? Do we insist on perfection, and on ‘solutions’ in the responses to the emergency? Even sustainable energy has an impact, though that may not be sufficient reason not to give things a try. If we could make a leap, rather than a step, in our practical response (e.g. from coal/oil to heat-pump, rather than to the temporary and intermediate step of fossil-fuel gas), would we be prepared to do so? Is the fate of the world allowed to remain a merely mystical matter in the prayer and worship of my church, or is a clear connection made? Will our message throughout and beyond Easter be one which celebrates a ‘saved’ world, or one which rejoices in the continuing solidarity of Christ in the struggles ahead? Is there a difference? If I’m ‘doing something for Lent’ will this build up my hope and resilience, and ability to face the truth that climate science works hard to uncover? Is there anything more valuable that it might achieve than this? If I’m doing something good/worthwhile, as an exceptional Lenten discipline, will I also have the courage to shout about it and make it visible, even at the risk of being thought immodest. Is the risk not just as great that folk will miss out on the encouragement? (Matthew 5:16) let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Quoting Pope Francis: Christ’s wounds are also represented in “environmental disasters, the unequal distribution of the earth’s goods, human trafficking in all its forms, and the unbridled thirst for profit, which is a form of idolatry.”

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IN CONVERSATION WITH...

Rev Dr Michael Jagessar He is no stranger to the CWM family, and has journeyed and served in various capacities. And starting this month, Rev Dr Michael Jagessar begins a new chapter with us as the Mission Secretary for Europe. Known for his boundless energy and for being “larger than life”, “passionate” and “prophetic” during his 12-year tenure heading United Reformed Church (URC)’s Global and Intercultural Ministries, Rev Jagessar sat down with INSiGHT to reflect on his new role, and how he plans to serve member churches in the UK and Europe. Hello Rev Jagessar! Tell us a bit more about yourself and what prompted you to journey with the CWM global family?

Yes…this is me: mostly animated, expressive, and sometimes witty with a distinctive laugh. Some students once said to me that my fiery eyes reminded them of John the Baptist minus the rough look and the locust part of his organic diet. I am from Guyana where the indigenous peoples kept Eldorado out of the reach of Walter Raleigh by spinning some excitingly deceptive stories. It is land where the ‘Demerara’ sugar brand tells a bitter-sweet historical story. After ‘pirates in the Caribbean’ plundered most of the wealth and the IMF became a new form of piracy, I decided (in 1987) to follow the trail of the money which led me to Britain. I am still looking for it. As an Indo-Guyanese-Caribbean in the UK, I consider myself part of the Caribbean Diaspora, displaced multiple times, largely misunderstood and often taken for granted. My religious heritages include Islam, Hinduism and Christianity – Caribbean style: meaning I embody poly-doxy and multiple religious impulses! I have lived, studied and worked in Guyana, Jamaica, Grenada, Curacao, Switzerland, and the Netherlands before I accidentally landed in the UK and found a welcoming space in the United Reformed Church (from 1999). The URC took the risk of giving me a whole load of things to do in its life together and the rest is history and some good memories. I get excited over cricket, big screens and good films, authentic Caribbean spirit-filled punch, good Caribbean curry (largely creolised) and the ever elusive Anancy/Anansi (patron saint of the Caribbean). I hold the view that landscape-geography is a significant influence on one’s outlook. Coming from South America and the Caribbean (with its expansive seascape), my outlook has always been global and larger than some small corner. I sense that the global outlook and reach of CWM is where I can find kindred spaces and opportunities to robustly engage with some of the most urgent existential questions before us. While no ‘spring chicken’ (apologies vegetarians) I am looking for a challenge and a space to deploy the very few gifts I have been blessed with. What does it mean for you to serve as the Mission Secretary for Europe? And coming into the role, what do you see are some of the challenges and opportunities for you and the member churches in Europe? I see my role as one of facilitating conversations; coordinating activities; accompanying member churches as they strive to live out their missional calling as disciples of the Jesus Way in their contexts and beyond; sharing/translating/communicating the CWM story and vision to both member churches’ constituencies and our ecumenical partners; and perform the role of being a helpful bridge between CWM and its member constituencies in Europe. The Europe region may be small, but what it means to be witnessing Christian communities continue to challenge, excite and offer opportunities for renewal in the life of what is often perceived as and (mis)represented as ‘depleting’ Christian communities. Some of the urgent existential issues include the environment, a growing far-right movement, a refugee-migration challenge that feeds the closing of minds, hearts and borders; and an ongoing inability of Britain and Europe to grapple with their colonial past and especially people from these colonies who are now living here. My personal view is that the renewal of churches in the UK and Europe lies in our engagement with these challenging opportunities. You have engaged with CWM in your previous work with the URC and as a theological educator. What have been some significant moments in your journey with CWM so far? Many assume I am familiar with CWM. I am largely a newcomer but because my involvement is never half hearted, my engagement feels intense. Significant participatory moments include the NIFEA process (Caribbean-Europe regions); Legacies of Slavery (LoS) Hearings as one of the listeners; participating in the 1st DARE event; planning and delivering URC-CWM Europe subversive end of year conferences; identifying newer voices (talent spotting) from the URC to attend various CWM events; and working out the partner-in-mission process for the URC. If I am to select one of these that will stand re: my commitment and energy it has to be LoS. I would contend that the process and findings is a Kairos moment not only for CWM but for the renewal and transformation of our life together as member churches of CWM. This is it!

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When you were Moderator of URC General Assembly, you led the church in thinking about being "mutually inconvenienced" for the sake of justice and inclusion. How is CWM being “mutually inconvenienced” as we continue to engage with being a "partnership of churches in mission"? I took my cue from a former Guyanese poet Martin Carter who penned these lines: “I drank from the calabash of my ancestors. to free the memories shackled in the mind.” (University of Hunger 2006). Polarised views and positions continue to shackle us, especially mindset. My ancestral calabashes pointed me to what I have termed a habit of mutual inconveniencing. I ask myself: how may all of us around a table (to draw on a symbol that is both central to the Christian meal and at the same time a foreign implant) be inconvenienced for a view/position that is larger than the one we embody/bring/hold for the sake of the economy of the host - Jesus and God’s fullness of life project. As all are in need – how do all move away or aside (be inconvenienced) to re-negotiate belonging, towards a vision that is larger and beyond each view and complex identity. I need to note that ‘mutuality’ is not necessarily an attempt to gloss over the reality that relationships around the table is not one of a ‘level playing’ field. In the complex relationship between the oppressed and oppressor a call for mutuality can serve to cover up the costly and unequal nature of who have to give up what and for what or to what end! For me, the inconveniencing is a first-step towards necessary self-interrogation and hard-talk around power, privilege and equity. In many ways, CWM intentions are great and the programmes point to this direction. However, ‘moving beyond good intentions’, the challenge remains for CWM and member churches: how well are we modelling and living this out as habit? As one example, our commitment and follow-up work on Legacies of Slavery will serve as a litmus test as to where we are on the journey of ‘mutual inconveniencing’. Member churches in Europe and European society as a whole currently face significant challenges. Which particular issue(s) are close to your heart? And why? I sort of hinted to this already in the above responses. There is a thread running through the challenges facing member churches of Europe and European society and it has to do with its colonial past, the presence of what is termed ‘migrant churches/communities in Europe’, and what it means to be made in the image of God. Be it the environment, migrants and refugees, the many incarnations of phobias, depleting churches etc, member Churches in Europe needs to intentionally look at our inherited deposits of faith/ liturgical practices and the ways these have influenced and skewed our living out the Jesus way of full life for all. What went wrong? Why? Where? Is it getting any better? Examples abound and we need to together honestly name them – lament – apologise – exorcise - invest in restorative justice – grapple with what in our theologies caused/still cause us to want to dehumanise and commodify another human being. To be the change we wish to see and liberate ourselves and constituencies from restrictive habits is where I find energy. I believe that Churches in Europe are facing a Kairos moment and that from within the inherited treasures of the faith there is much we can rediscover and redeploy to witness to the Jesus Way of full life for all. The world is still waiting to believe us. In your previous work with the URC you have worked to promote the inclusion and participation of BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) people so that the church is truly multi-cultural. What have been some highlights of this, and what can CWM learn as we engage with issues of inclusion and our commitment to be anti-racist? The United Reformed Church’s (my current ecclesial home) declared being a multicultural church in 2005. While important, the journey became stuck in the stifling dynamics of parallel communities/lives within the United Reformed Church, and in danger of re-inscribing exclusion by becoming locked into an unhelpful ‘marginality syndrome’ or ‘multiculturalism at arm’s length’. The problem has been and is with our understanding of ‘culture’ narrowly viewed as relating to ethnicity, which meant that ‘culture’ only had to do with people that looked like me (or not White). My contribution has been in making a case for an intercultural habit/method to enable necessary critical engagement intra-culturally and between/among cultural perspectives. Hence, our 2012 URC declaration and commitment: ‘multicultural church, intercultural habit’. I quickly realised that if there is going to be any constructive movement in engendering spaces, opportunities and actions that will bring about change and transformation, there was an urgent need to move beyond discourses about a multicultural and inclusive church, and diversity that have been guilty of over-racialising – genderising - minoritising human relations in unhelpful ways. While space(s) to affirm diversity and minority groups are very critical and important, there is evidence to suggest that too much emphasis on separate rather than common needs or vision, in practice have contributed to the further marginalization of minorities. Power and power dynamics remain in place. Empire remains undefeated as we play the game by its rules! And in the process what remains largely un-interrogated are the privileges and power base of the dominant group and their positions.

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The status quo is afraid when we try to focus on intersections: how there is a connecting chain across the complicated narratives of life-denying practices and how any pursuit of justice for all must be a collective effort demanding multiple/collaborative projects. For the Status Quo, when all you’ve ever know is privilege, equality-equity-inclusion feels like oppression and fantasising about their persecution! Hence their mantra for giving it time and that the peace and unity of the organisation or body is paramount. There is much we all need to un-learn and re-learn in moving beyond our good intentions of being anti-racist. It will include: a commitment to work together across all forms of injustices to enable transformation – ushering in a different reality, a life affirming one; exposing the underpinnings of power which must be recognised, disclosed, analysed and re-deployed – as our belonging is renegotiated in context of our diversity; investing in a moral imagination of becoming intercultural that seeks to move beyond dialogue and talks of inclusion to justice in the making.

(Photo by URC).

In what ways can European member churches play a role in helping CWM fulfil its vision and mission? In your opinion, what would be a game changer for the above and how do you see CWM’s role (and your role) in helping to facilitate this process? Through ownership, presence, and engagement. CWM and member churches are in a symbiotic relation and by this I am here referring to a mutuality type. That’s the challenge: giving and receiving and being open and honest to be challenged by each other for something larger than each of our perspective/tradition. This is what it means to be mutually inconvenienced. I think this is fundamental to a partnership of equals.

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(Photo by URC).

The URC asked itself the question "What is the Spirit saying to the churches?" What do you think the Spirit is saying to CWM at this moment? The Christian community ought to share the conviction that the life of our churches should be shaped and guided at every point by the question, “what is God saying to us in this historical moment?” We may wish to suggest this or something similar to head-up the agenda of every CWM meeting or gathering. Mindful that collective discerning (together) may best serve to protect us from individual narcissistic imaginings of the Divine only speaking to me as an individual or certain people, allow me to pose my feeble discernment (as questions) of what the Spirit may be asking us at this moment: Are we able to decrease so that Christ and the Jesus way of full life for all may increase? If we are deeply committed to being inclusive and we take justice seriously: who are the ones missing from our conversations? – what new spaces do we need to make room for? – who would be giving up what? What are the difficult debates we need to have? Are we modelling just practices? As a believing community are we actually operating as functional atheists – afraid to be bold – to take risks - to step out in faith – to be open to be surprised by the Spirit? Tell us two things about yourself that many people don’t know about…! I write poetry and short stories – currently I have a good collection and waiting for an opportunity to publish these while looking around for a good budding illustrator. We (our family) also collect rare books. Among our collection are children story books (with few words and more illustrations) from all over the world. With my maverick imagination, I find more theology in these storybooks than the volumes by big names collecting dust on seminary shelves. I wish more of our theological statements can draw insights from stories. People will certainly read and grasp that! A transgression has been and continues to be whenever we turn narrative into fossilised doctrines that even Jesus would run away from!

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Four Horsemen of

The Global Capitalism by Hadje C. Sadje, Belgium

oday, people face a grave political-economic crisis. And yet, many people remain indifferent in the face of global problems. They avoid political conversation. For them, it is so stressful to talk about politics, specifically for millennials (2016). This is too much and somewhat no fun talking. Everything is so depoliticised. Of course, the politicisation of everything is not good. However, engaging in political-economic responsibility is part of corporate citizenship. Unfortunately, these people preferred to discuss their philosophy of narcissism, individual identity, fashion trends, food trends, travel trends, new movies, new video games, new gadgets, new cars, sport news, drugs, and pornography. Often, these people focusing more on personal achievements at the expense of social, environmental, and moral considerations. There is nothing better for them than to eat, drink, and enjoy their work. Others becoming more and more cynical. There are the ones who cannot seem to find hope everywhere and accept their devastating fate. For example, according to the Pew Research Centre (2016), “...American millennials become less confident about the nation’s future”. It seems that these American millennials have whinged about their manifest destiny. Perhaps, after Soleimani killing and the tension escalates between America and Iran, it becomes more apparent. Ironically, however, the only thing that matters they enjoyed immensely is the present moment. And unfortunately, these people have romanticised their tragic and desperate life. This resonates with an American sociologist C. Wright Mills’ view (1959). Mills argued, “...people felt that their private lives are a series of traps”. People are forced to accept their unacceptable life situations and then eventually they enjoy it. For Mills, these people unable to see the bigger picture. They have failed to see that global issues are connected to local issues---biography and history. Failed to realise that, according to Mills, “They cannot cope with their personal troubles in such ways as to control the structural transformations that usually lie behind them”. So, people have to simply accept every injustice as an avoidable part of life. One of the best examples, for instance, is the mass protest around the world. In November 11. 2019, an interesting article entitled, “Do today’s global protests have anything in common?” published in BBC News website that listed the common themes that connect (intersections) the global protests around the world. Accordingly, there are four themes that bind these protesters, namely, inequality, corruption, political freedoms, climate change.

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In this article, however, I preferred to use the biblical term “four horsemen” to describe these four themes. Although it has diverse interpretations, in the Christian Scripture, the “four horsemen” of the Apocalypse/Revelation represents symbolically the four catastrophic events that will take place before the second coming of Jesus Christ (see Revelation 6: 1-8). Using this biblical term, I intended to give emphasis on the devastating effects of these four themes or horsemen. Aside from this, I believe that every generation has had its own challenges----four horsemen. Presently, this generation faces four interconnected global challenges.

Let’s take a look at four horsemen of our time: first horseman, inequality; second horseman, corruption; third horseman, suppression of political freedoms; and fourth horseman, climate change. First horseman, inequality. In the statistical (including how these technocrats measure it) debates about trends of global inequality, many social scientists argue that globalisation has tended to create a more equal world (UN Sustainable Development Goals 2019; World Economic Forum 2015; Hicks 2007). Contrary, some researches contested it (Hickel 2017). with the growing concentration of global wealth among a privileged few, it is not surprising to see the widening gap between rich and poor (Partington 2019; Global Inequality Report 2018; Milanovic 2016). Actually, according to Jason Hickel (2017), it is a misleading representation of data. He argues that “...it fails to acknowledge rising absolute inequality, and it ignores divergence between geopolitical regions...From this perspective, global inequality has tripled since 1960”. Likewise, the BBC article (2019) supported it by citing the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report.

This photo is an example of the social divide and inequality. Pictured is a servant trying to get out of poverty, by providing the service of cleaning and polishing shoes, with a smile.. Photo by epSos.de.

The second horseman is corruption. Despite countries established independent and dedicated institutions in the fight against it, corruption is still rife around the world (Economist 2018). In fact, the BCC article shows that “...government corruption are at the heart of several of the protests, and are closely linked to the issue of inequality”. Pratiba Patil famously stated that “Corruption is the enemy of development, and of good governance”. It destroys people, justice, and legitimacy of the state. It is like cancer growing inside out. No one can deny that people are protesting around the globe against corruption. Although it is a first-world problem too, however, corruption remains a major challenge among non-Western nations (Corruption Perceptions Index 2017).

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Another closely linked to the issue of inequality and corruption, the third horseman is the suppression of political freedoms. Despite the International Human Rights Law being one of the greatest moral achievements of modern humans, the world witnessed a shocking rollback of human rights violations over the past several decades (Amnesty International 2017). For example, Yemen war crimes committed by Saudi-led coalition, Israel war crimes in Gaza and West Bank, the catastrophic war in Syria, the slow-burning genocide of Myanmar’s Rohingya, China's mass detention of Uighurs, to name a few. Aside from these, the terrifying rise of authoritarian populism and suppression of political freedoms precede the erosion of the most basic human rights, including civil, political, social, and economic rights. Accordingly, this is one of the root causes in many mass protests worldwide, especially in Hong Kongers, Catalan, and Bolivia protesters. Lastly, the fourth horseman is climate change. In January 8, 2020, Emily Holden wrote an article entitled, “How the oil industry has spent billions to control the climate change conversation”. Despite what research shows, unfortunately, many oil companies show doubt in global warming and climate change. As a matter of fact, these oil companies spent billions to manipulate the debates about global warming and climate change. According to Holden, “...America’s oil companies are trying to rebrand themselves as part of the solution to the climate crisis, launching a campaign to counter top Democrats’ proposals to rapidly cut pollution from the power plants and cars that run on the industry’s petroleum and natural gas”. With the fact that global warming and climate change create multidimensional problems, it is frustrating to see these oil companies can spend billions at the expense of human lives. If these oil companies continue, their greed for ever-greater profit leads humanity into mass destruction. As the world has entered more fully into 21st century global challenges, I believe that we have been experiencing both outcomes simultaneously. The evidence that we live in a very perilous time. The global protest coupled with the four horsemen--- inequality, corruption, suppression of political freedoms, and climate change ---- reveal an interrelated global problems that no one could have imagined. At the same time, it alerts us to an unprecedented scale of shared vulnerability and responsibility. Though, this is not an easy task. According to C. Wright Mills (2000): “The more we understand what is happening in the world, the more frustrated we often become, for our knowledge leads to feelings of powerlessness. We feel that we are living in a world in which the citizen has become a mere spectator or a forced actor, and that our personal experience is politically useless and our political will a minor illusion.

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Very often, the fear of total permanent war paralyses the kind of morally oriented politics, which might engage our interests and our passions. We sense the cultural mediocrity around us-and in us-and we know that ours is a time when, within and between all the nations of the world, the levels of public sensibilities have sunk below sight; atrocity on a mass scale has become impersonal and official; moral indignation as a public fact has become extinct or made trivial” (184-185). In the age of hopelessness, however, Walter Brueggemann (2001) insisted that Christian churches must reimagine its prophetic vocation. First of all, the primary task of the Christian prophetic ministry, as Brueggemann describes, “...is to nurture, nourish, and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture around us”. For him, the Christian prophetic ministry provides an antidote to an increasingly cynical age. Like Mills’ sociological imagination, prophetic imagination provided the “...individual to understand one’s own experience and gauge one’s own fate only by locating oneself with his or her own period in time”. In short, prophetic imagination invites us to think about social phenomena in a certain way. Silence is not an option. It helps us to see the intersection between local and global issues. Most importantly, it enables us to unmask privilege, social convention, power-relations, inequality, injustices, and structural evil. However if there is an inability to grasp these intersections, humanity will witness its own immediate destruction. Another important task is the call for Christian unity and protest to combat injustices worldwide. The global Christian communities must choose to be on the side of less privileged, poor, and exploited communities. As we have seen that worldwide mass protest is the symptom of global inequality and the unjust economic and political system, the Christian communities must join the global mass protest. As political and economic issues are inseparable from ethical or moral issues, neutrality is no longer an option, the Christians must join in collective action. We must express our solidarity with the protesters that causes serious disruption, especially the escalation between the United States and Iran. We must influence policymaking. Take part in a series of mass protests and political events. We must learn how to organise and mobilise our own faith community. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Those who love peace must learn to organise as effectively as those who love war”. We cannot be silent on the devastating consequences of war before it’s too late. A political activist and Holocaust survival, Elie Wiesel reminded us: “The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.”

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The Constant Spring Market Vendors by Rev Dr Garnett Roper

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.

bit of real estate is too expensive to park cars, it “ This is too expensive for a hairdressing parlour to afford.

An external view of the entrance to the Constant Spring Market in St Andrew. Photo by Marlon Reid via loopjamaica.

regard the fight for the vendors of the Constant Spring Market (CSM) who were eventually dispossessed and evicted as one of the most consequential struggles in a long ministry. There was no natural affinity between my work and the vendors of the CSM, when the saga first began. One might say, I rather stumbled upon it. The Government had signed a USD21M contract with the Chinese Engineering Company (CHEC) to re-construct three major corridors in the City of Kingston. Those corridors included the Mandela Highway, which was being widened to become a six-lane highway, the Portia Simpson Miller Square to Half Way Tree (via Hagley Park Road) corridor and the Old Stony Hill Road to Dunrobin Avenue (via Constant Spring Road) corridor. The project was designed by the previous political administration (PNP), the financing was also secured by them, from the China Exim bank. The modernising the road infrastructure as well as running sewer main, renewing the public utilities infrastructure (including water, electricity and fibre optic cables) was an idea whose time had come. There was no gainsaying the fact that this was a badly needed project, for the sake of the modernisation and the increase of economic efficiency of the Kingston Metropolitan Region (KMR). And one might say the project therefore enjoyed bi-partisan support. The issues that arose therefore had to do with the implementation of the project and the choices made that left in its wake as casualties and collateral damage, and left behind many of the people at the base of the population. In the first place, the Government sought to implement the reconstruction of the three corridors, simultaneously and with that caused overwhelming dislocation and traffic nightmares. As the Government calculated it, this was a minor inconvenience that will be soon forgotten once the reconstruction was completed and the benefits are enjoyed. The second issue had to do with the perceived lack of consultation and the lack of the provision of timely and needed information. The approach was a “take it or leave it” one. It has been suggested that this approach allowed the Government the freedom to bargain tough with landowners from whom easements needed to be purchased, without being distracted by public glare or collective action. The most egregious outcomes from the reconstruction projects were the economic and social re-engineering of the City and its resultant demographic shifts in the hue of those that owned businesses along the corridors. Almost without exception by the time the project was completed, marginal and small businesses and vendors had suffered irreparable financial damage. The corridors were widened to become four-lane dual carriageways with massive concrete medians between the traffic in either direction. Businesses without adequate parking on site (which are invariable small businesses) were forced to close or to relocate. Perhaps, the most consistent casualties were vendors who ply their wares along these corridors. This is the context in which the treatment meted out to the vendors in the Constant Spring Market is to be assessed.

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The Constant Spring Market (CSM) was built in 1965 in an upscale area of St Andrew. It was built on a site where peddlers of ground provision and vegetables did their vending. It was unorganised and by 1965 the local government authorities saw the need to erect a market on the site. Ground provision markets in Jamaica are enormously significant to the Jamaican story. It must be borne in mind that during chattel slavery, the owners of plantations in Jamaica largely remained in England and elsewhere in the North Atlantic. The estates or plantations that were owned by them were managed by solicitors, in the absence of the owners. These solicitors did not always afford to feed the enslaved with imported food. However, they developed the clever practice of allotting to the enslaved, provision grounds that were the marginal lands on the periphery of the plantation. The enslaved were allowed to farm these marginal lands for their subsistence before sunrise in the morning when work began and after sunset at evening time when work on the plantation had ended. The enslaved were so prodigious that the yield from these marginal plots of land was more than they could consume. The surplus from their plots began to be traded on Sundays in what were called ground provision market. Incidentally, these Sunday markets gave the enslaved, for the first time, access to cash during the period of chattel slavery. (This is why the Parish of Trelawny became the first Parish with a Black member of the Legislature.) In the 19th Century voters were from the Property tax roll. Because of the Sunday Markets, enslaved people were able to acquire property. As soon as slavery ended, a former enslaved was elected, to become a member of the legislature representing the Parish of Trelawny. He was elected by, mostly, other formerly enslaved persons that had also acquired property.

Neville Salmon removes a nail from a piece of board that made up his tyre shop. Photo via jamaica-gleaner.com.

Constant Spring Market on Friday. Photo by Marlon Reid via loopjamaica.

This fact has made ground provision market significant vehicles for economic participation for members of the underclass, and for social and economic mobility for the people of African descent. To this day in Jamaica, these markets are the primary outlets provided by the states for black entrepreneurship to thrive. Every municipality developed in 20th century Jamaica was developed around the ground provision market. The exception to this was the city of Portmore, a municipality that has a mall, but does not have a market. After it was built in 1965, the Constant Spring Market steadily integrated into the life and community of Upper St Andrew. It provided a farmer’s market access to Jamaican staples and vegetables. But more than that, a ring of small business and artisans also became service providers in precincts of the CSM. These included a variety of cook shops and bars, barbers, seamstresses and tailors, tyre repairs, lawn mower repairs, and cell phone repair shops and the like. It was also a place where children sheltered from the rain. Importantly, this is where the helpers and gardeners who worked in households in Upper St Andrew got their breakfast. (The restaurants and shops in the Manor Park strip mall and in Manor Centre are not opened early enough to catch their early morning commute to their jobs and the times when they need to be refreshed). Also, they cannot afford the shopping for anything in this part of St Andrew, so the CSM was their outlet. It was also the place to refresh the Caddies at the nearby Constant Spring Golf Course.

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There were 78 vendors and service providers that earned their livelihoods through their businesses located at the CSM. At least two families that I know of had vending or service operations that were not only inter-generational but the one had given birth to the other. A market vendor had sold there from before the market was built in 1965 and her daughter had developed a similar business along with her in the last ten years, when her attempts at employment elsewhere had failed. There was a shoemaker, his wife had a different business, a small haberdashery, I believe and his daughter, a high school graduate had developed a liquor business with a significant turnover. Before the road-widening project commenced in 2018, during the 1990s, then Eagle Merchant Bank had built a multi-story Crown Plaza hotel a top the hill overlooking Manor Park directly above the CSM. From the view afforded by the hotel that was later acquired by the US Embassy in Kingston for residence of Americans working in Jamaica, the CSM was unsightly. The proper remedy ought to have been a refurbished market by the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Authority (KSAMC) that owned the CSM. The issue that was to be decided, however, was whether or not this was the best location for a ground provision market. How one answers this question depends and on one’s philosophy of development: Is the goal of development to cater to one set of citizens at the expense or to the exclusion of others? Or should development aim at social cohesion and social inclusion? Is the outcome of development to be towards a society in which every person has their own vine (orange tree) and fig (bread fruit) tree and a little child shall lead them and no one will make them afraid on God’s holy Mountain? (Micah 4.4) Or is development for the few but not for the many? Clearly, I believe that development is for the many not just for the few and the desired outcome of development ought to be human flourishing.

Gwendolyn Bailey, a vendor in the Constant Spring Market, making her appeal for a proper relocation plan on Monday. Photo by Ricardo Makyn.

Kameka Livingston urging the authorities to allow the vendors to occupy the space at the

Everyone in the Kingston Metropolitan Region back of the Constant Spring Market. Photo by Ricardo Makyn. (KMR) was affected and inconvenienced by the US21M project to fix the corridors referenced above and to modernise the public utilities and telecoms infrastructure along those corridors. The plight of the market vendors first came to my attention when a student of Jamaica Theological Seminary (JTS) where I am the President told me about them. She herself had been a former candidate for the political Opposition, the PNP, in a previous election for Member of Parliament for the political constituency in which the CSM was located. She had been unsuccessful in those elections and the vendors in the CSM were not among her political supporters. She however was appalled at the fact that they had been given less than three months to vacate the CSM despite having plied their wares there for decades. I invited a delegation of vendors to my office to explore the issue of a proper notice period for them according to law. Some 40 of the 78 vendors turned up. I met with them. My executive assistant at the time was a young attorney, Daynia Allen. She had been previously employed in the chambers of Knight Junior and Samuels and still had a few matters at those offices. She concurred with me that proper written notice was a minimum requirement of the law. All of the vendors were duly paid up and properly licensed by the KSAMC that owned the markets and were entitled and enfranchised by law to conduct business in that space. I invited senior counsel and well-known litigator with an interest in constitutional law but a practicing criminal lawyer, the erudite jurist Bert Samuels. Bert tells the story himself; he was from a poor neighbourhood in that part of St Andrew, the son of a preacher man, his grandmother had been a market vendor. He took the case pro-bono.

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All that was required from each vendor was for them to pay USD45 as some form of retainer to ensure that the attorney could act on their behalf. Then Daynia Allen from my office instructed by Bert Samuels from the distinguished firm of Knight Junior Samuels set about securing an injunction barring the National Works Agency (NWA) from demolishing the CSM before written notice and a proper notice period were given to the vendors. The injunction was successful and lasted for a period of about nine months before Mr. Justice Leighton Pusey lifted the injunction after the notice period given was lifted on a balance of interests. However, this was not before the public media had come on board with sympathetic articles in the interest of the CSM vendors. The CSM vendors and our cause on their behalf got expressions of public goodwill from a wide cross section of the society, we got the assurances of the PM, we got support but not the expenditure of much political capital from the political Opposition. However, Dr. Angela Brown Burke, former Mayor of Kingston, then Opposition spokesperson on Local Government made repeated visits to the CSM and joined us in meeting with the vendors. Ironically, we did not get any support from any of the church, neither from those congregations located nearby to the CSM nor from any church lobby groups. We demanded the following three things through our lobby efforts: first we sought permission for the vendors to remain on the land. The road widening required only 62 of the 262 feet wide parcel of land. We argued that if the market vendors were allowed to remain a modern market could be accommodated and include the vendors and service providers along with the widened thoroughfare. Both the KSAMC and the NWA

rejected this request, though the land still remains vacant for the time being. We suspect it will in time be given to those with nature’s passport. The second thing we asked was for the vendors to be relocated to parcel of lands in that area of Constant Spring, since this is where their customer base existed that they had built over decades. This also was rejected. Perhaps because “this bit of real estate is too expensive for parking;” and I might add, for vending. These are the words of the CEO of the NWA, a personal friend of mine, E G Hunter. He celebrates the fact in a conversation with me, and perhaps deservedly so, that this was one of the largest public expenditure without any public scandals associated with it. I disagree with him because of the scandalous mistreatment of the market vendors and other small businesses along all the corridors. The third option was that the vendors should be paid compensation, sufficient to allow them to continue their businesses elsewhere. We proposed a minimum sum be paid to each vendor of USD4,500. We also proposed that vendors who had been there for more than ten years be paid a further USD450 per year for each year above their tenth year. This also was rejected. The KSAMC however, offered relocation grants of between USD900 and USD2,200. Most vendors gratefully accepted the one-year extension for which we fought and the measly sum they received as better than nothing. One vendor, Mr. Livingston, whose wife and daughter were also vendors in the CSM, has rejected the settlement offer. He was the shoemaker and had been there for 47 years. By his own account, he had spent USD7,300 building his shop with the permission of the KSAMC. It would be self-betrayal if he accepted USD1,800 as compensation. He has retained the services of Bert Samuels of Knight Junior Samuels to continue his legal battle. The other vendors have been scattered like ashes, with the dust of the demolished CSM, alutha continua!

Demolition work being carried out at the Constant Spring market. Photo via jamaica-gleaner.com.

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“Agree to Differ, Resolve in Love” An Interview with Rev Dr Eric So

Rev Dr Eric So was ordained as a pastor in 1988, and served as General Secretary of Hong Kong Christian Council from 1999 to 2005. He has since been General Secretary of Hong Kong Council of the Church of Christ in China(HKCCCC), overseeing the operation of more than 50 branch churches, about 40 primary and secondary schools, and at least five kindergartens. Article from "News and Views, Hong Kong Christian Council, 3rd Quarter 2019 Issue"

What has been the most profound scene for you in these past four months of protests? There have been several profound scenes in my mind, mostly from TV. Of course, there were the two mass demonstrations on 9 June and 16 June. In fact, I was trying to get to a prayer meeting held in Causeway Bay before one of those marches, but I was stuck at Admiralty. I called the organisers and apologised that I didn’t think I could make it. Then on 1st of July, the radical protesters entered the Legislative Council building by force. I watched the scenes on live broadcast for hours from the time they entered and destroyed many facilities of the building. As the conflicts and violence have continued, even escalated all over the city, my deepest feeling is sadness. I don’t understand why this has happened. Of course, there are different reasons people feel so angry, but in Hong Kong, we are a modern civilised city. I could not imagine that people express their anger in this way. I have never seen this before. This was a shock to me.

What is the situation in the churches in Hong Kong? It is another big challenge to the unity of the Hong Kong Church. The views and positions on either side– whether on the Bill or the measures or the attitude expressed by the government - are really divided among Christians. Depending on the church leadership and the minister, there are different degrees of conflict. For example, there may be a church where the minister is sympathetic to the protesters, but the members are not. They ask the pastor not to talk too much on these controversial issues but stick to teaching the Bible as the core ministry. Another church may have one-third to one-half of the members who are young people. The minister, however, is not in support of the violent protests. During one sermon, a group of young people walked out from the service to express their feelings. The division and brokenness have already occurred. One side thinks that this is the time to voice out for democracy and stand with the young people. The other side thinks the Extradition Bill by its nature was not so bad as those protesters thought. Of course, the government process on the bill should have taken a better way, not rush, take a slow process to listen to more views from the public and different groups. Unfortunately, however, when one side regards the other as wrong, then their position becomes either you stand with me or we won’t spend any more time to try to understand your view or to dialogue. As a church, we should be more rational and take a more peaceful way of settling our disagreements. We need to experience our oneness in Christ. And we should not use any violence. Makeshift prayer alter set up by protestors. Photo by Thomas Au.

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Are there any Bible verses that come to mind that give you spiritual insight on the matter? Micah 6:8 is often quoted, but we need to look at the verse as a whole. The beginning asks “What is good?” “What does the Lord require?” The answer – to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God. A good person, a good society requires justice, mercy and humility. The Old Testament teaches that justice is fighting for the rights of the underprivileged, to protect the poor and help those who are powerless. As God’s children, our behaviour must exhibit all these characteristics. We definitely cannot agree with any kind of violence. The church should be humble and carry out God’s will by a servanthood model. What Hong Kong needs now is not only justice but to know how to show love and mercy to all people. At the same time, no matter who we are, we serve others, not act out for personal interest. The passage from Philippians 2 also comes to mind. I heard a sermon when I was in Vancouver that introduced the context. There were two distinct groups in the Philippian church evangelised by Paul. The first group was led by Euodia, a Jew, a merchant, her business is serving more high-class people. She and her family are quite rich. They were converted and baptised by Paul. The second group was the family and the official who worked in the jail. He wasn’t a Jew but a local Philippian, and he is a civil servant. Maybe he had persecuted Paul and Silas in the past. But his family was converted and baptised too. So the church had two different groups with different backgrounds, social status and culture. And when you look at Philippians, you find Paul was grateful to the church where he found unity, love, caring and kindness. In Chapter 2, he said they should have the same mind, have the same love, be humble and look after others’ interests, not just their own. They should have the mind that was also in Christ Jesus. The teaching in Philippians also helps me to address the conflicts in Hong Kong. Everyone will have his or her mind, thoughts, views, values. But when we become a member of the body of Christ, we should regard those who don’t have the same understanding as mine are still my brother and sister in Christ. I would like to quote a famous Chinese Christian in ecumenical history. Rev Dr T.T. Lew (盧廷芳) was the Dean of the School of Religion of Yenching University. In 1922, he said to a national church conference that was in the midst of many conflicts: “Let us agree to differ but resolve in love.” Diversity is a reality. We recognise it, accept it and respect others who are different. But we don’t say you go your way; I go my way. We must do something to come together as Christians to find a way out together.

one side regards the other as “ ...when wrong, then their position becomes either

you stand with me or we won’t spend any more time to try to understand your view or to dialogue. As a church, we should be more rational and take a more peaceful way of settling our disagreements.

What outcome for Hong Kong would you like to see in the end? I really don’t know. There are so many deadlocks and hurdles. Christians in Hong Kong have been praying very hard to find a way out and resolve the problems. We believe the prayers have been heard. But we ask why do the protests continue? It seems that God has not intervened. The situation is stuck. In a sermon I preached recently, I found an answer in the text from Hebrews 11:1-16. In verse 1, the author says that faith is the substance of the things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Examples follow in the lives of Abel, Enoch, Noah and Abraham. And every story begins with the same phrase– “by faith”. The passage is talking about more than faith. It’s also about hope. That means if you have faith, even if the hope is far away, even not realised, then faith is the assurance of hope, the conviction of things not seen. My conclusion is for Christians in Hong Kong, even if there is no turning to a better situation, we know our hope is in God who will lead Hong Kong to His way. So, we continue to pray and to be the salt and light of this city. A part of the 2019 Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protests, the Tsuen Wan March took place on August 25, 2019. Photo by Studio Incendo

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Time’s call to open our eyes and ears to Climate Justice

An Ecumenical Response by Rev Rufus Kamran, Society for Peace and Sustainable Development (SPSD)

Rev Rufus Kamran is a key theologian and thinker on Climate Justice in Pakistan. He is a bold Climate Justice activist and works for Society for Peace and Sustainable Development (SPSD)-Pakistan as Executive Director. SPSD-Pakistan is a Christian faith based Ecumenical organisation, having a deep concern over the issues of Climate Justice and Economy of life. SPSD-Pakistan’s other focus areas are Rights of Women With Disabilities (WWDs); Gender Based Violence (Early Girl Child Marriages); Sustainable Agriculture and Family Farming; Peace Building and Interfaith harmony Rule of law and Human Rights; Food Security and Poverty alleviation Rev Kamran has done his Masters in Cultural Anthropology and as well as bachelors in Theology. Recently, he has participated in World Council of Churches (WCC) ECO School Asia on water, Food Security and Climate Justice held in Thailand from November 4-17, 2019 as a resource person.

Participants at the SPSD Tree Planting Campaign in District Mianwali.

he Bible is clear that God wants us to work for climate justice. God longs for harmony in the whole of Creation, not just in the human family. The Society for Peace and Sustainable Development (SPSD)-Pakistan believes that we are called to preserve God’s Creation. In the Gospel of Mark 1:14-15, Jesus is coming into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God and saying: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the gospel." The Greek word Mark uses for” time” is carefully chosen. It is “Kairos”. It means not clock time but a critical time of special significance, a time of danger or when an opportunity has to be grasped, a time to be awake and alert and prepared to act. This sense of urgency and the need to open our eyes and ears to the significance of what is happening runs through the gospel, for instance Luke records Jesus approaching Jerusalem and, as he “saw the city he wept over it, saying, “Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hiding from your eyes. For the days shall come upon you, when your enemies will cast up a bank about you and surround you… and they will not leave one stone upon another… because you did not know the time of your visitation." (Luke 19:41–44). The word for “time" is again, the same word “Kairos". That sense of urgency is also evident in the Old Testament lesson where Moses faces the people of Israel with a challenge. “I call heaven and earth to 40

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witness against you this day, that I have set before your life and death, blessing and curse: therefore, choose life, which you and your descendants may live." (Deuteronomy 30:19) Through Moses, through the prophets, through Christ Himself there is this constant theme – the call to open our eyes and ears. To see and hear what God is telling us. Wake up and act. We are at a Kairos time for this precious planet. We, humankind, have been given a clear responsibility to care for God's earth. At the end of the story of the creation in Genesis chapter 1, it says: “and God saw everything he had made, and behold, it was very good.” In the following chapter we read: “the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it." We have a duty to care for God’s earth. SPSD-Pakistan is embarking on a journey for change, responding to God’s call for us to love our neighbours as we love ourselves and to take great care of creation. It is working to foster theological, advocacy-oriented and lifestyle-changing reflection and action in collaboration with different churches at grassroot level. In working for climate justice, SPSD-Pakistan is applying both mitigation and adoptive strategies in flood-affected and disaster-prone areas through rural communities and especially with the support of rural women in Pakistan. In addition, it does its best to model ecological awareness and its contributing insights from spirituality and values informed by sacred texts, holistic and integral world views.


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The lives and livelihoods of Pakistani rural women are threatened by climate change events, environmental degradation, militarisation, ethnic and religious discrimination and economic policies that make small scale subsistence farming unsustainable. They are often excluded from decision-making and have limited access to and control over resources, which impedes their rights. They are also affected more severely and are more at risk from natural disasters and extreme weather events, including during post-disaster response efforts.

Both adaptation and mitigation strategies are essential to curtail the negative impacts of the continuously rising threats of climate change. Where mitigation is concerned with limiting and reducing the quantity of greenhouse gas emission, adaptation intends to reduce the vulnerability of human and natural systems to climate threats. SPSD-Pakistan held meetings and discussions with local communities, to develop and test options and strategies to address the different climate change issues. During the process nearly 1,300 households in all five districts of three clusters were consulted. Transect walks and surveys were conducted with the help of villagers to identify common solutions. Following this, the local people launched a tree planting campaign, where they were fully involved in the planting activity. The common land was cleared by uprooting bushes and unwanted thorny plants. Pits were dug and farmyard manure was mixed in every pit before planting to make it conducive for plant growth. The men participated in land preparation and pit digging whereas the women were involved in weeding, irrigation and plantation work. The community took responsibility of watch and ward (keeping vigil over) the newly tree planting activity on rotation basis. The Village Committees were mobilised to have more and more trees on their barren and communal land. This

SPSD works with about 5,000 very small-scale women farmers who primarily belong to the socially excluded groups. These women suffer multiple forms of marginalisation. In the urban-rural divide, they are marginalised. Being poor, in the economic divide they are marginalised. Owing to their belonging to minority sects in the social divide, they are marginalised. And as women they face severe marginalisation in the gender divide. The absence of female voices from decisions about environmental management, climate change adaptation and mitigation come with long-term consequences for the wellbeing of women, their families and the sustainability of their communities. It is therefore important to articulate rural and indigenous women’s critical role and capacity in the nurturing of a sustainable ecological system. In Pakistan, where the majority’s livelihoods of rural people are intertwined with farming pursuits, the challenges in agriculture seriously threaten livelihoods and push them to face more unpredictable situations. The effect of rising temperatures and more unpredictable rainfall patterns are going to be serious tests. The poor and subsistence farmers are struggling hard in order to survive in farming and sustain their living.

process has made them able to get the benefit of many ecosystem services. Due to this activity of the village community, the grass seeds have begun to germinate, birds began to return and new trees began to establish themselves. Beside this, the soil has improved and many more varieties of grasses have come back. The habit of planting trees is going successfully. Thousands of people are living below the poverty line in disaster prone areas of South Punjab, Pakistan. These include indigenous communities, asset-less, poor women heading their homes, minorities and disabled persons.

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SPSD-Pakistan mobilised vulnerable rural communities to come out of poverty by organising themselves and regenerating the ecosystems they live in. SPSD believes that for boosting sustainable development, the first step is to have an institutional development at grass root level such as to establish farmer’s organisations are necessary. Enabling poor people to overcome poverty, means strengthening their capacity to access resources, services and as well as markets. SPSD also believes that development cannot be sustainable without involvement of the local community in all phases, including planning and execution. As a result, SPSD has formed 140 village committees and Self-Help Groups in 5 districts of South Punjab. In addition, SPSD-Pakistan has established 40 Village Libraries in five districts of South Punjab, Pakistan. It believes that information is a least expensive input for rural development. Knowledge and information are basic ingredients of advocacy to protect Green Climate and are essential for facilitating rural development and bringing about social and economic change. SPSD also believes that Information is an important tool used in the realisation of any objective or goal set by individuals. It remains the lifeblood of any individual or organisation. SPSD-Pakistan introduced fuel-efficient stove technology to the rural people, which means that a stove does not emit smoke in an indoor environment due to chimney mechanism and it consumes fire wood efficiently. The fuel-efficient campaign aims to protect families from smoke and fire injury, especially since many women are cooks. The efficient use of firewood means less wood consumed as compared to traditional stoves for cooking and heating. Traditionally, wood was used abundantly for fuel purpose, but now most of the target women are using less wood through fuel efficient stoves.

This alleviates a shortage of fuel for cooking - one of the many problems faced by people in the rural areas. Gathering fuel is generally women’s work but is fraught with dangers; they gamble with the risk of rape and life-threatening attacks during their search for much needed firewood, in order to feed their families. In certain areas, local sources of firewood have been completely depleted, leading women to travel further and further or to dig up tree roots, eliminating any chance of the trees growing again. Another area of SPSD’s work is helping rural communities to become more self-sufficient through ecological farming and increased on farm diversity for both their immediate food needs as well as for increased income generation. Sheep and goat rearing play an important role as supplementary source of income for the landless and resource poor farmers. Considering this, rearing a female goat was promoted as an enterprise. Landless marginal farmers and poor women-headed families were selected. The capital required for procuring the goat was produced by the small loan revolving scheme initiated by SPSD-Pakistan. Besides this, SPSD encourages rural farmers to grow guava and Jumbos in their kitchen gardens and as well as in the empty and useless land. After two years, the trees start producing fruit for the farmers. It increases their income and as well provides a cheap source of energy, proteins, essential amino, fatty acids and substantial amounts of potassium, phosphorus, calcium and magnesium. It also generates the revenues to meet the daily expenditures of the household. SPSD integrates and manages these two high value trees in the farming system of the rural community. As a result, income, nutrition and health have all improved for families involved with the project. At the same time, local biodiversity is being preserved.

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Moreover, roots from the trees are helping to stabilise the soil, reducing the risk of floods, while the leaves and fruit provide a natural fertiliser. SPSD-Pakistan encourages the farmers to adopt soil conservation and agro forestry practices. Changing the behaviour of farmers has resulted in a massive change in the ecology of the area. Similarly, SPSD has started Farmer Field Schools (FFS) in 2 districts of South Punjab to boost sustainable agriculture development and resilience. This approach does not require complex advisory structures but focuses on the knowledge of each farmer. An FFS uses a demonstration field that is farmed collectively by up to 20 farmers. The farmers share their knowledge and skills, testing innovative cultivation methods and organic pest control. FFS approach emphasises environmental sustainability. Regional seed and natural fertilisers are used. Safeguarding the biodiversity that makes traditional cultivars relatively resilient to bad weather and pests. Furthermore, indigenous and local food funfair and get together is held annually under the SPSD Green School Project, to pique the interest of children in indigenous food and its preparation at local level. The group of children gets together and prepares some indigenous food of their own choice and eats together. Each group discusses and announces their selected food item so that no other group cooks the same food. The activity is a tool for reinforcing the strong and vibrant traditional knowledge systems which reverse nature and its relationship with the farming communities. Educational games are the most important part of Green School project, where children make toys and pots from Mud. The basic objective of this game is to let the children be familiar with, and interested in nature and its origin. The drawing activity is also included in this project. The children are asked to make a drawing on objects such as birds, water, sky, trees, animals, human body, vehicles and occupations. They become interested in drawing competitions and learn about nature. In planting season, each student is given two saplings of their choice from SPSD-Pakistan free of charge to plant in their homes. The children like this activity very much and they look after these saplings carefully and regularly. With the passage of time, they develop the sense of ownership of these plants and started lobbying for planting of more trees. Cultivating the interest of the school children in tree planting indirectly contributes in conservation of Green Climate. Participatory approaches and teamwork are fundamental in implementing sustainable changes at any place. Community organisations and strong linkages among individuals and institutions working together as equal partners can help to bring out innovation and progress. Local knowledge needs to be integrated with modern science. SPSD believes that strengthening of networking and convergence of the eco-justice movements with the involvement and leadership of churches, faith-based organisations and theological institutions can bring positive change for Climate Justice. SPSD also believes that churches can be impactful models for living together in harmony with creation, as a strong and radiant sign of living the teachings of Christ on the fullness of life, in solidarity with people of other faiths and all people of good will. SPSD-Pakistan strongly realises that now it is the time to open our eyes and ears that churches and faith-based organisations should unite around the challenges of the ecological crisis and lift up their prophetic voices on care for creation and eco-justice.

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Control From “What” to “Who” By Rev David Coleman

’ve been involved with puppetry for a very long time: way back in the 80s, I was part of a European youth film movement, where my perhaps somewhat scary animated puppet films got me around to festivals in Belgium, Germany and Italy. I managed to get a small commission from the BBC for an item in the ‘Golden Oldies picture show, to accompany the Dubliners’ ‘Seven Drunken Nights’, and you can find bootleg versions still on YouTube, where the comments speculate as to who made it and how. I know it happened by being shut in a room with hot lights and a lot of plasticine for seven weeks. Like many ministers. I’ve found it useful in what folk think of as the ‘children’s’ address slot, to bring in puppets. Not at all just for the children: they’re excellent icebreakers, and like Rod Hull’s emu, people readily accept the phenomenon of them developing a character of their own. What’s even more intriguing is that the characters a puppet exhibits are not always at all the same as their handlers. Live action/glove puppets mean you can get a video clip together very much faster than with traditional stop-motion animation, though digital techniques also cut corners in what seems an indecent way, thinking back to when I really did have to make 25 adjustments per second. In my work with congregations, they’re even faster than that. As environmental chaplain, my stable of puppets (- concentrating on those which are functional enough to admit an adult hand and permit some real characterisation, rather than just waving around -) has been growing. Orang-utans are there, reminding us of their plight as their habitat is eradicated for palm oil. The polar bear and the endangered, but vital bee, whales, British seabirds whose migration is vulnerable to climate. I have sheep who can be both lost and found. I have a panda on order! And the human race is represented too – by Punch and Judy! My ostrich introduces the futility of climate denial. But then I have to apologise for the groundless myth about heads in sand!

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Let them run wild in a congregation for a few minutes, and you’re getting across the message about the Communion of Creation; that we share God’s beautiful planet with ‘all flesh’, in the covenant renewed in Christ’s self-giving. And it belongs, with complete appropriateness, with wonder at and love for biodiversity, gently re-defining the narrowness of our vision of the Kingdom of God. Wherever possible, I like people to keep the animals with them for the duration of the service: in sight, in mind. There’s another, deeper and more subtle lesson, which is evident in the extreme dedication of professional puppeteers: there are skills to learn, and significant physical fitness is involved if you are providing an evening’s live show. It’s a different sort of self-giving from up-front acting. What moved me most on a short course with a professional puppet company last year was the point at which, whilst supporting and sustaining the puppet, the handler lets go control to what has been until then a few bits of wood and/or fabric. That’s when wonders happen. Using blue-screen in films, the puppeteer is not seen, but they’re still there, giving life. In a framework of respect and acknowledgement of personality as well as interdependence. Yes, it’s reminiscent even of when we celebrate eucharist/holy communion: we gather and provide and facilitate and enable, but the central celebration of Christianity, I would suggest, in all traditions, involves a surrender of control and determination to life beyond our own life; power beyond our power, in the wonder of relationship. Communion is impossible without our participation, but equally impossible if we only “take back control”, which attitude is killing the Earth. The crises we’re experiencing give terrifying meaning to the concept of being ‘out of communion’. Absolutely the greatest spiritual contribution of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si, and much other inspirational writing on faith and the environment is the recovery of the imperative of acknowledging the sentience of creatures, the personhood of the earth. Moving in our dealings with Creation from object to subject. From ‘what’ to ‘who’.

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Mother of Orphans by Denghluni

The Children Development Department, previously known as PCM Baby Home, was born out of carrying the Gospel Box (Chanchin Tha bawm) around the Dai mission field by Mrs. Denghluni and her friends. Denghluni remains in Dai to be the mother of orphans. God’s calling through this mission changed her life and ministry in a way she didn’t expect.

was born on 19 April, 1958 at Hualtu village (Mizoram State, India). I am the eldest of 5 children in the family. My father married another woman in order to become parents for all of my siblings throughout our lives. Now, I am married and live in Kanan village (Myanmar) with my family. In 1982, I was spiritually born again through the ministry of Elder Lalmuana. From that moment on, I dedicated myself to God’s mission. However, since I had no educational background, there wasn’t much I could contribute in the church ministry. Finally, I asked God to send me into the mission field. My prayer was followed by the news that the church was calling for members who wanted to follow the carrying of the Gospel box.

Carrying Gospel Box Mrs. Liankimi had a belief that the Gospel Box would arrive in Dai land (Southern Chin Hills). With her leading the way, we started to move out from Tahan town on March 7, 1984 toward Dai land carrying the Gospel Box. We were 11 in number: 5 men and 6 women. We set our feet on the Southern Chin Hills following this timeline: Mindat town (10th March, 1984), Matupi (12th March, 1984), Amsui (15th March, 1984) and Madu (16th March, 1984). We waited and were welcomed at the graveyard of Elder Bukchhuaka, the first missionary in Dai land. From there we visited the villages in the area. Thanks to the missionaries working in the land, there were already some Christians there. They welcomed us very warmly.

Participants at the “Promoting Women in the Church and Society Training” dressed in solidarity for Thursday in Black.

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The Culture of Dai People

The Destiny of Illegitimate Children

People used to call Dai Land the “Mystical City”. They still believed in their ancestors’ religion and still upheld strict traditional practices. They took the matter of “debt” seriously. Debt had to be repaid. If one didn’t pay his debt, revenge had to be taken. If one couldn’t pay off the debt, it would be passed on to his children. There was no concept of forgiveness in their lives. Most of their debts were borne out of their failure to accomplish their traditional practices. The biggest traditional practice we had to resolve was related to the illegitimate children born out of wedlock between two people who were prohibited to marry each other.

If a woman conceived, she would confess about it. Normally, she would then get married with the man she was with. However, if the man didn't want to marry her, he had to give in to any demand (as a form of penalty) from the woman. In the event that the man did not want to marry the pregnant lady or if they were from the tribes who were prohibited to marry, the lady had to go and give birth at the house of the man and then hand the child over to the child's father. The mother would not be allowed to breastfeed her child. If she neglected this customary law and breastfed the child, they believed evil spirits would descend upon the child's mother.

Dai people are scattered around the three main areas - Mindat, Matupi and Madu. Madu is the biggest town among them. According to their traditional tribe law, there were certain groups of tribes among them who were prohibited to marry each other. However, a lot of children were born out of the prohibited sub-tribes. The reason for this sad circumstance was this: single women tended to sleep together in a house.

Since no milk was available in the area, the child was fed pure rice soup. Normally, the child died out of starvation or the father would just end the child’s life. One method that was used to end a child’s life was, as soon as the child was born, to dip the child to death into a mud vase full of lye (lye is a metal hydroxide/potash solution traditionally obtained by leaching ashes). Others would make a basket (out of bamboo), put the child in it and take it far into the woods. Then they hung the basket on a tree branch. The basket would fall down as the wind blew it or insects would fly in and kill the baby.

Starting Orphan Care

Image of two Dai women taken at the front of their house. Photo by ExxaZhan.

Single men would often visit and just sleep among those single women. The rule, however, was that the man could sleep and have intimate interaction with a woman only if the woman liked and allowed it. This made rape cases extremely rare in the community. Some parents didn't allow their daughters, who became of age, to sleep at those sleep-over houses. Such parents were mocked, “your daughter would have wanted a man too”. After engaging in sexual intercourse, if the woman found any dissatisfaction or problem in the relationship or met another man she was interested in, she had to confess about her situation. The man who had been with her would then be fined for their previous encounter; he would have to give a pig, money or whatever the woman asked for. For a woman to be in that kind of relationship was not regarded as a disgrace, and men wouldn’t hesitate to marry a woman who had been in such a situation before either.

Knowing that lots of illegitimate children lost their life in that unimaginable way hurt us deeply. Since we were on the mission of carrying the Gospel Box, we had nothing else with us apart from our own clothes. It was not easy to make communication with people outside the area like we do today. If we had any clue what we were going to face in Dai land, we would have brought clothes, garments and milk powder for those children! That was how I unexpectedly devoted myself to become the mother of orphans and how the PCM started the Baby Home (now the Children Development Department). While we were in Dai land, we managed to adopt 16 orphans (6 of them did not survive). For now, I will write about the life stories of three of our children. The initial plan was to return to our town, Tahan as soon as the Gospel Box carrying mission was completed. However, two women among those Gospel Box carriers, who moved out on 7th March 1984, returned only on 25th March 1988. Orphaned child with aide worker. Orphanage outskirts of Yangoon, Myanmar. Photo by Kate Fitzgerald.

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Gospel Vanlalmuanpuia

Lalramzauva

He was born on 19th December, 1983 of parents who were from tribes prohibited from marrying each other. The mother left him at the father’s house as soon as she gave birth to him. By that time, the father had already become a Christian. He wouldn’t obey his parents’ order when they told him to kill the child. The father tried his best to keep the child alive; feeding the rice soup. But it was clear that the child won’t survive by such poor care. After taking care of his child for nine days, he handed over the child to one of the missionaries. After keeping the child for 10 years, the missionary named the child ‘Vanlalmuanpuia’. The father missed the child so much, so he came and took the child back to his own village. Just as before, the father gave up on the child caring and gave his child to a woman in the village. The woman tried hard to keep the child, but she also gave up after some time and gave the child back to his father. The father brought the child back to the missionary. At that time, the missionary gave the father an advice, saying, “Some Christians will come with the Gospel Box. They might wish to take care of your child. Don’t kill your child yet but wait for those people.” The father took the advice and put the child into the hand of his niece who was only 10 years old to look after until the missionaries came with the Gospel Box. When we arrived, a girl approached and put a 5 month old baby into my hands. Since we were in the middle of a service, I asked another mother to hold the baby while we were having a choir singing. But she didn’t even want to touch the baby.

Lalramzauva was born of a father who was a married man and a mother who was single. Since the father didn’t want to marry the child’s mother, he was fined with a gayal/mithun. Since the child was illegitimate, the mother left him at the house of his father. His father did not want to take care of him, so he consulted with a missionary, Vanthangpuia, on what to do with the child. The missionary suggested him to send the child to an orphanage. So the father made two other children bring his child to us at Madu which was seven miles away from their village.

As much as I wanted to take the baby Lalmuanpuia, since we still had to carry the Gospel Box around the land, I gave the baby back to the babysitter with a promise to take the baby after the mission trip. However, the girl kept following us and met us again six miles away from their village. I had to finally take the baby as my own child on April 5th 1984. The orphanage mission in Dai land started on that day. We added ‘Gospel’ to the baby name, so he was called ‘Gospel Lalmuanpuia’. Even though my son Gospel Lalmuanpuia was already five months old, he couldn’t smile yet. We immediately changed his clothes which he had been wearing since our missionary took care of him. We fed him food and water, and took him all the way with us under the hot sun. When we arrived in Madu town we could finally find milk powder to buy. We tried our best to take care of him. Through the hard work of Elder Bukchhuaka, there was already a proper church in Madu. Missionary Rev Lalhulha and his family lived in the mission quarters. We stayed there too and continued our orphan care from there. We would adopt another six orphans within six months. We had to work tirelessly day and night for our childcare work.

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Vanlalrinchhana (RIP) He was born on 13 May, 1984 in Madu town. Even though his parents were from the tribes which were not allowed to marry, they seemed to have thought that their respective families would have allowed them to marry for both of them were already Christians. After the man’s girlfriend conceived, the man tried to find a way to marry her by approaching the village head and the families. However, the community couldn’t allow them to marry each other. So, the child had to be born as an illegitimate one. Being afraid of traditional beliefs of evil spirits, the mother didn’t dare to breastfeed the child. We, the orphanage workers, asked for permission to see the child, and fortunately we were allowed. When we arrived at the house, we saw that the child was lying down along with their house dog. We cleaned up and gave water to the baby because he was crying out from thirst. When we did that, the father’s family shouted at us, “Why are you people doing such a thing?” We were worried and asked if we could pray for the child. After getting permission, we prayed to the Lord to keep the baby alive and make the family believe in the Lord. When we asked to take care of the baby, the father didn’t allow. However, after just ten days, the father brought the child to us and said, “I will continue to try to marry his mother. When I can do that I will come back for the child.” As soon as the father of child’s mother heard about our adoption of the child, he got rid of his daughter and told her to come home only after she killed the child because she had disgraced the family. The angry grandfather continued to threaten to set the church building and mission quarters on fire, and to kill the child. We were worried and couldn’t even sleep peacefully at night. After three months, the mother of Lalrinchhana got pregnant again, and both of them ran away. After their families cooled down, the couple came back to the village. Since they were forbidden to marry, they got fined 5000 kyats. They lived happily after. Finally, after their successful marriage, the father came and took Lalrinchhana back.


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The sad thing was that his mother was not willing to accept Rinchhana because of his birth identity (illegitimate). His mother did not want him, so sometimes he was not allowed to eat. She sometimes torched him with live embers. He got scars all over his body because of that. By that time, we already moved into Matupi town with other children. Even before a month passed, the villagers who visited the town told us to take Rinchhana back because of his suffering. One day we finally made a visit to Madu to see our son Rinchhana. Our reunion was full of tears. As I saw his face, my heart was broken and we both cried out to each other. He sat on my lap and never wanted to leave. We asked to bring him back with us but his father didn’t allow us. For me, this was the saddest and hardest experience of leaving a loved one. Vanlalrinchhana passed away on 3rd October 1987 from his own mother’s heartless and hostile treatment.

Mindat Baby Home The Presbyterian Church was well-known as a “mission church” with its main mission to convert non-believers into Christians. After the church realised that there were so many non-believers and the terrible extent of the fate of illegitimate children, the church members became deeply concerned with Dai land. Lots of orphan songs were composed. The church decided to establish a “Baby Home” in Mindat and then built a proper building there. On 29th November 1986, our family, including me, two other women (who were the Gospel Box carriers) and our children started to live in the new Baby Home building. Pi Liankimi (leader of the Gospel Box carrying mission) made a big financial contribution in building the Mindat Baby Home by going from town to town for the sake of our orphanage, collecting financial aid and clothes. At first, we didn’t receive any salary for doing our orphanage ministry. However, starting from 1985 the church gave us 200 kyats per month as our monthly salary.

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Some difficulties we faced during our Orphanage Ministry On the very first day we received our first child, a member among us suggested for us to return home immediately. He said, “In this poor land, how will you raise a child? Furthermore, now you are sick!” If we went home then, a lot of children would have lost their lives. We thought hard before taking on this ministry. Even if we took the baby and went home along with other friends, the child would have died on the long journey. We decided that if we had to die, we would die in the name of our Lord. We stayed and waved our friends goodbye. We troubled the Madu pastor’s family a great deal. We just moved in and stayed at their home, which already had lots of children to take care of. The pastor had to go out every day for pastoral visits and the pastor’s wife taught at a school. Despite their busy and tiring life, they never showed us a long face. Since I was so sick, the pastor wife, Pi Biaksiami, took care of me and my son for a long time. I have never met any pastor’s family as committed in their ministry as they were.One of my friends who stayed back with me received medical treatment at Matupi town for her lung problem. As soon as she came back, she moved in with us in the same house. Every day we had to clean rice and wash baby garments because we had little of those. To wash those baby clothes, we had to go to a well that was the only water source in the area. No one would come to the water place till we finished because they were disgusted at us for taking care of illegitimate children. No one would make baby cradles for us, so one of our friends who lived in another village five miles away had to come and make some for us. Since the children we received were the ones abandoned by their families, they were mostly in a near-death condition by the time we received them. For that reason, between 1984-1986, six of them died after they were handed over to us. We buried all the dead children in the best way we could. We had to find tomb stones by ourselves along the streams. The villagers never wanted to offer a hand. When our children met their real families again, they would be so afraid; they used to cry a lot out of fear especially when they met elderly people. After we settled in Mindat, we used to go out in search for children whom the families threw away. I still remember one incident - we had information that a family would kill the baby as soon as he was born. So, we moved out to save the baby. The journey was one day’s travel long. We asked two men from the church to accompany us. We lost our way and had to sleep along the way. By the time we arrived, the family already ended the baby’s life. It was very hurtful and difficult to bear; my heart was crying and suffering a lot for the baby.

In retrospective... I left my orphanage ministry on 25th March, 1988 and went back to my home. On that day, I thought back and cried out to myself, “If I had gone back with my friends and taken my first son Lalmuanpuia, I wouldn’t have to cry now for missing all of my children… I miss them so much!” Managing the Mindat Baby Home from the church’s headquarters in Tahan town was not easy. The Baby Home was moved to Tahan town on 9th May 1990. I often visited my children after they moved to Tahan. They missed me and I missed them so very much too. The Baby Home department made new rules for the management year after year. After some years, because of financial challenges, a new rule was made: a child who reached 18 years of age has to leave the home and find their own way in life. As soon as I heard that news, I went to Tahan from my village (Kanan). I talked to some of the church leaders I personally knew, saying, “How could you do something like this? They have been rejected since their birth. We say now the church is taking care of them with love. The parents gave them to us for the rest of their lives. The church took them and vowed to be their parents for the rest of their lives. I cannot allow my children to be released with nowhere to go.” However, I knew very well that the voice of a woman like myself would never make a sound in the ears of the church leaders. I met my children and told them to come with me. But they didn’t want to move to my village. They wanted to stay on in Tahan where they had grown up. Some of them were just starting their college study. So finally, I went back home alone. I love these children so much. I worry about them even more than my own children at home. I cried for months thinking that they would be without parents and a home once again in their lives. Two of my children have now settled in USA as refugees. They still keep in contact with me. They send me money for my medicine. Some of them went to Mizoram state in India to look for jobs. Others couldn’t continue their college study, so they just learnt some handiwork to sustain their lives as best as they could. They would never ever say out again the name of the land they were born in, Dai land.

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TAKE A LOOK


TAKE A LOOK Here are what reviewers have to say: “If the first part is a confronting, visceral, poetic, embodied and liberating vulnerability (with some humour thrown in for good measure), the second is a challenging, theoretically, pastorally and theologically embedded program for transformation. Together the two parts of this book provide a glorious, erotic powerhouse for the metamorphosis of contemporary Christian theology and praxis.”

— Anita Monro, Grace College, University of Queensland

“Highly commendable. A moving, challenging, and liberating collection of essays that explore the subversive nature of resilience. In this book the meaning of vulnerability as powerlessness is challenged to demonstrate that the vulnerable have agency with the power to speak. Resilience comes with the courage to talk back to the powers that bind.” — Seforosa Carroll, World Council of Churches

Vulnerability and Resilience: Body and Liberating Theologies

“This volume of collected essays is a “daring” project that disturbs and unsettles the biblical text and traditional theological understandings. Almost all of the essays deal with subject matter— “body” and “liberation”— that is seldom interrogated in a sustained way in theological seminaries and churches around the globe. Of note is the diverse range of authors that bring together the experiences of marginalised groups across continents, ensuring that notions of vulnerability and resilience are interrogated as they intersect with transnational locations.” — Beverley Haddad, University of KwaZulu-Natal

The fourth Book in the Series "Theology in the age of Empire" is now available. In Vulnerability and Resilience, vulnerability is not the final word. Rather, resilience provides the cutting edge and living breath in the stories of subjects who are vulnerable. And they have many stories: stories of being trapped in bodies, teachings, and/or situations that make them (and others like them) vulnerable to discrimination, hatred, and rejection; stories of being trapped because of their bodies, theologies, and/or cultures; and stories of being trapped for no-good reason. For subjects who are vulnerable, life is like a maze of traps, and stories of resilience keep them going. The contributors to Vulnerability and Resilience refuse to be trapped. At the intersection of body and liberation theologies, they tell their stories in the hope that they will expose cultures that make individuals and communities vulnerable, and that those stories will encourage vulnerable subjects to be resilient and bring change to theological institutions that conserve vulnerability. Because of the location of the contributors—the Americas, Africa, Asia, Europe, Caribbean, and Oceania—this book is a testimony that vulnerability is present all over the world, and that resilience is a liberating alternative. For more information, email empowerment@cwmission.org

“Through a transnational lens, Vulnerability and Resilience brilliantly interweaves the stories from those whose bodies have been categorised as vulnerable and, thus, not fully human. However, these stories create a courageous space to challenge the traditional understandings of vulnerability, oppression, and liberation by unfolding the theological meanings of the embodiment of resilience. This book plainly shows how the vulnerable and despised bodies, in fact, produce the critically transnational and deeply theological knowledge of resilience, resistance, and liberation. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to meditate on the deeper meaning of the vulnerable body of Jesus in various transnational contexts. Readers will appreciate the critical voices filled with love, hope, resilience, and resistance from the vulnerable who have never lost the power of agency.” — Keun-Joo Christine Pae, Denison University

“How long, one rightly asks, how long can we remain vulnerable? How long can we wait and hope? How long can the subaltern hope to be listened to? How long will our voices just echo in the wilderness and not penetrate the smugness of the powerful? The contributors to this extraordinarily evocative volume refuse to take refuge in pious platitudes or shallow sentimentalism but offer a disturbingly direct and robustly resilient reading of issues and themes that is a bellwether leading us in our complex and messy present. No one who reads this book will come away comfortable; but they may come away determined to be part of a movement that challenges persistent injustice and rapacious power with the tools refined in the forge of vulnerability and the anvil of resilience.” — J. Jayakiran Sebastian, United Lutheran Seminary

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TAKE A LOOK

This film by 350.org is about the courageous tackling on climate change issues resulted by the pollution caused by the fossil fuel industry by everyday people like you and I, from all walks of life, and from all over the globe - who are stripped of the very patience from the inactions towards reform, while facing this powerful entity head on by inspiring families and communities on a better way of life that is more sustainable for the planet.

After six months of protests—punctuated by clashes between police and demonstrators—nobody knows what the future holds for Hong Kong as a place to live and a financial hub. The clock is ticking: China’s grip will tighten as 2047 nears and the city's unique freedoms expire.

Coronavirus has spread infection and panic, but it’s also spreading racism and xenophobia. https://bit.ly/2SWPlc2

https://bit.ly/2tUZLPy

https://bit.ly/36Drcez

The 2015 British documentary Hard Stop looks at the stark reality in which the Black community faces in the UK. When Mark Duggan was pulled over by the police in Tottenham, the officers were already prepared for confrontation the moment the cab he was in went to a complete stop. Mark Duggan was unlawfully dispatched and had his life taken by the police and that resulted in several days of peaceful rioting that went beyond London itself, as this issue is faced everywhere in areas with a concentrated Black community. https://bit.ly/2YS6bKC

Citizen journalist Fang Bin who was reporting from the epidemic epicentre in Wuhan has disappeared, according to his friends and activists. He is the second citizen journalist to vanish within days from the area as authorities tighten control of information about the outbreak. The clothing seller turned journalist stopped posting videos or responding to calls and messages on February 9, 2020, according to activists Gao Fei and Hua Yong, citing Fang’s friends.

In Living on One Dollar, four young Americans set out to discover what it is like for the 1.1 billion population of poor people around the world by trying to survive on just $1 a day for two entire months in rural Guatemala. The fish-out-of-water experience is an eye-opening reality check for them as they struggled immensely with issues like extreme hunger, financial stress and simply trying to survive from one day to the other. https://bit.ly/2ElIote

https://bit.ly/2PnyMUo

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Ecumenical School on Governance Economics and Management (GEM) 2020 Current and future church leaders will be attending the Ecumenical School on Governance, Economics and Management (GEM School) for an Economy of Life from 17 – 28 August 2020, tentatively to be held in Taipei. Jointly initiated by Council for World Mission (CWM), World Council of Churches (WCC), World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) and Lutheran World Federation (LWF), the GEM School responds to recommendations formulated for them in the Sao Paulo Statement: International Financial transformation for an Economy of Life and in the document Economy of Life for All Now: An Ecumenical Action Plan for a New International Financial and Economic Architecture (NIFEA). GEM School seeks to develop churches’ competencies in economics, and strengthen their voice on global economics, so as to address the issue of the Church’s ethical and theological perspectives on the global economy having little impact on financial and economic policies, business practices and perspectives. To do so, GEM School is aimed at building economic literacy in churches by equipping participants with the tools and languages to effectively advocate for urgent transformations in the global financial and economic sector. “God’s vision of life-in-fullness for all creation, not just human beings, has never been more threatened than today,” said Rev Dr Park Seong-Won of the Gyeongan Theological Seminary in the opening panel last year, emphasizing how the 4th industrial revolution and climate change are now converging with the ongoing global economic crisis and aggravating socio-economic inequalities and insecurity. As part of the contextualising and re-learning about the economy, an immersion visit last year saw the GEM participants distributing food packages to a community of scavengers living along busy railway lines in Jakarta, Indonesia, a rapidly growing metropolis with many skyscrapers under construction. For further inquiries, please write to athena.peralta@wcc-coe.org; philip.peacock@wcrc.eu; peter.cruchley@cwmission.org; or sivin.kit@lutheranworld.org.


SEEN & HEARD


Greta Thunberg captured for the first time in the historic wet plate collodion process of silver on glass. The plate is called "Standing For Us All". Image by Shane Balkowitsch

I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel everyday. I want you to act. I want you to act like you would in a crisis. I want you to act like your house is on fire, because it is.

- Greta Thunberg


THEOLOGY IN THE AGE OF EMPIRE In these five volumes, an international collective of theologians interrogate Christianity's involvement with empires past and present, trouble its normative teachings and practices whenever they sustain and profit from empire, and rekindle the insights and energies within the Christian movement that militate against empire’s rapacity. Four volumes are out. The last one Mission and Context will be available in April 2020. You can order through https://rowman.com


YOUR SAY


YOUR SAY

REJOICE, HIGHLY FAVOURED ONE, THE LORD IS WITH YOU; BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” LUKE 1:28 by Samoelijaona Rasolonjanahary

One Friday evening, during our group devotion, a woman was complaining about the places of women in general in the Bible. She said: “How come that women are always given bad roles in the Bible?” And I responded her that it is not always that way, in some occasions God caught men in worst situations too. Her assumption said that God is biased in dealing with people, especially in considering gender. In this article, I do not pretend to preach but to take every one of us to think about that question of gender in the Bible. I will not cite all the cases but a few of them. At the end I will bring up to our attention nowadays factual situations about gender in our community and especially in our Christian society. This is to say that the blessing of the angel to Mary is for every individual, man or woman as long as we accept God’s gift to us; “the Lord is with you, blessed are you among” God’s people. Concerning men especially, in the Bible, I give you here some men caught in awkward if not bad situations: Cain, led by jealousy, killed his brother. He is the first murderer in human history. (Gen. 4. 8) King David committed assassination and adultery. 2 Samuel 11. But he repented. He was forgiven by God though after heartfelt repentance. Judas betrayed Jesus. Mark 14.43, 44 Elymas, a sorcerer who tried to turn a proconsul from the faith. Acts 13. 8 – 11 In the following, comes a list of some women with their evil deeds: Eve allowed herself to be misguided by the devil. Gen. 3. 6 Jezebel, a foreign wife of king Ahab fought God through his prophet Elijah. 1 King 19 A zealous servant girl wanted to get Peter into trouble in John 18. 17 Sapphira in Acts 5. 9, 10, tested the Spirit with her husband. Now, let us look at some good women of God as related in the Bible: In Judges 4 we read the story of Deborah, the judge. In the same chapter we may read the facts of Jael, another woman of God. In 1 Samuel 2, we may read the story of the prayerful Hannah, the mother of Samuel. We cannot forget faithful Mary, the wife of Joseph, she accepted humbly to be instrument of our salvation in giving birth to Jesus. Luke 1. In Acts 9. 36 – 42, we may read about Dorcas. Some good men in the Bible: Sometimes, some people mistake the prophet Elijah as the Messiah, but he just carried out what God wanted him to do, he is not Jesus. Read about him from 1 Kings 17 onwards. Have you heard of the prophet Zechariah who lost his life for the sake of God? This fact is not mentioned in the Scriptures, but read his book. We all know about the Apostle Paul, especially about his conversion, know him more in the New Testament from Acts 9 onwards. When you talk about Paul, you will not miss Timothy, a good servant who preached the Gospel zealously. Read for example his book. Above I have given you sixteen examples from the Bible, they are examples but not the only ones. They just show us that the Bible is not biased in the question of gender.

June 2019 | 59 8 www.cwmission.org


YOUR SAY

We might have noticed that the general trend in the Christian church is that there are more women than men in church activities. This photo shows a choir in the FJKM parish of Avaratr’Andohalo, a Presbyterian Church. Photo by Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar.

Nowadays, we witness some good servants of God at work, women and men of faith, working in the ministry of Jesus with courage and boldness. Look around you to see men and women preachers. You may hear of women and men missionaries, leaving their countries to spread the Gospel of Jesus. You hear from the news, martyrs from both genders who died for the sake of Christ. If you look at your hymnbook, you may see there the names of male and female song-writers. In your community, you may see people of goodwill who feed the hungry, witnessing Christ in his compassion, there are more women in there than men. In the area of healthcare, you know some Christian male and female doctors, nurses and other paramedics working tirelessly and voluntarily for the wellbeing of the people of God. You might have read the stories of male and female scientists standing in their faith at their works. Do not forget the teachers who dispense the knowledge of Christ through their works. All of these examples are given to you to show that God does not look at gender when He has work to do. He looks at your talents, your availability, at your willingness to do his work and especially He looks at your faith. Nowadays women from almost the whole Christian world celebrate and pray together on the first Friday of March in what is known as the WORLD DAY of PRAYER. So “Rejoice, highly favoured one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women”; this tiding is for all of us, good servants of God. Do not get lost in finding out what God is doing, do not judge Him. Just do your work. And before you think of the bad things, look at the good ones. What is important, do your part in preaching the Good News at your side. We praise the Lord for those who are doing well, men, women, or children. HALLELUJAH!!!

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MY MISSION IN MYANMAR by Wayne Harray

The by-line on my LinkedIn profile says: “Boldly Going Where Few Kiwis Have Flown Before”. This raises a number of questions - namely: What is a Kiwi? Do they actually fly? Where are you going? Why are you going? A kiwi, with a small ‘k’, is a flightless, furry, brown bird about the size of a chicken which is native to New Zealand. On the other hand, a Kiwi, with a large ‘K’, is a New Zealander. A Kiwi gets his (or her) nickname from the kiwi, and New Zealanders have been called Kiwi’s for over 100 years when New Zealand soldiers in the First World War wore badges with pictures of kiwis stamped on them. Neither kiwis or Kiwis are able to naturally fly, so how was I able to fly to where I was going? By aeroplane, or course! And where was I going? To Myanmar, or to be more specific, to the Tahan Theological College (TTC) based in the Kalay township. And why? Well - that’s a long story, so here is the short version. In 2014, Helen and I decided to take a trip to visit friends and family in various parts of the world in the second half of 2015. Our good friend Anna Sui Hluan and her husband Henry van Thio attended our church in New Zealand and they, knowing that they were going to be returning to Myanmar, invited us to visit them at the end of our trip. So... ...in November 2015, we did. Most of our time was spent in either Yangon and Hakha (capital of the Chin State), but we did have a day to spare in Kalay, so visited TTC. We only spent an hour there, and the principal, as we were leaving, made the comment that the college had 15 acres of land that they didn’t know what to do with. By trade, I’m a dairy farmer, so that was a silly thing to say to a farmer. In 2016, we made enquiries with the PCANZ mission secretary about possibilities of working in Myanmar. He conferred with the PCM who said they would still like someone to develop the farm. CWM was consulted and they indicated they would be interested in funding the project. In 2017, we returned to Myanmar to get a better understanding of what the project would involve, and to see if we felt we could actually live here. Obviously we did feel we had something to contribute, and could cope with the climate, the mosquitoes, the food and everything else that comes with living in a foreign country. So.... ...in July 2018, we returned once more, this time for an initial three-year period with the option, if everyone is happy, for extending that for up to a further 6 years. My mission is straight forward. The college requires me to: Make a profit off the farm Create a farming environment that can be used as a model and demonstration farm for both the students and others in the local community Grow food for the students. I have to confess that when I first saw the property in 2015, I arrogantly thought to myself that I would show these people how to farm using New Zealand farming methods. I apologise for those attitudes. In 2015, I only knew about contemporary farming methods, using chemical fertilisers, weedicides and pesticides.

June 2019 | 61 8 www.cwmission.org


YOUR SAY

In 2017, I had an interview with the Minister of Agriculture for the Chin State, who said that he wanted to see more organic farming methods utilised in his state. Because many of the TTC students were from the Chin State, and were likely to return there after their studies, how could I, who only knew about farming with chemicals, honour the wishes of the Chin government who wanted nothing to do with chemicals? After a quick chat to Jesus, I decided I would have to change my thinking. So...my journey to learn about alternative farming methods started. On our trip in 2015, we had gone to a training course in Zimbabwe that focussed on farming without cultivation and using lots of mulch as ground cover. Unfortunately, they still used chemical fertilisers. That became my starting point. I then discovered the permaculture approach to agriculture, then restorative agriculture, then regenerative agriculture and am currently looking at syntropic farming. All of these farming systems focus on returning the land to what ‘nature’ originally started with. You and I both know that ‘nature’ is actually God’s creation. In Genesis 1:11-13 (MSG) we read: God spoke: “Earth, green up! Grow all varieties of seed-bearing plants, Every sort of fruit-bearing tree.” And there it was. Earth produced green seed-bearing plants, all varieties, And fruit-bearing trees of all sorts. God saw that it was good. And then in Genesis 1: 29-31 (MSG), we read: ²⁹-³⁰ Then God said, “I’ve given you every sort of seed-bearing plant on Earth And every kind of fruit-bearing tree, given them to you for food. To all animals and all birds, everything that moves and breathes, I give whatever grows out of the ground for food.” And there it was. ³¹ God looked over everything he had made; it was so good, so very good! It was evening, it was morning— Day Six. Up until about 200 years ago, humans were actually pretty good at looking after God’s creation. Indeed, even today there are indigenous farmers in many countries who, untainted by western systems, are doing a very good job of caring for God’s creation. But, as farming has become more industrialised, and greed become more prevalent with land owners wanting more and more from their land, more and more of God’s trees have been cut down, and not replaced. With the manufacture of chemical fertilisers in the early 1900’s - especially nitrogen and phosphate based fertilisers and their ability to artificially boost the growth of crops and grasses, along with the use of chemical pesticides and weedicides, production increased significantly, and with it the amount of money going into the farmers pockets. However, we are now seeing it is actually more and more difficult to sustain production. Anecdotally, we hear more and more stories of farmers leaving their land as it requires more and more artificial inputs, at a greater cost, to produce the same amount of produce. Indeed, this is true of our farm here in Tahan where the farmers who leased the land no longer believe that it is profitable to farm. I ask you, the reader, to tell me why it takes more and more artificial inputs to maintain production. Or put another way, why does production fall when a farmer is putting on the exactly the same amount of fertiliser each year? I believe the answer is that the earth itself has been contributing to fertility, but is doing so less and less each year. If one was to examine, under a microscope, the soil in the untouched forest - God’s creation, one would see millions and millions of microscopic living creatures, which all contribute to building up the soil fertility by consuming the dead leaf matter on the ground and then excreting it as natural fertiliser. Indeed, God’s creation needs no artificial inputs, yet produces an abundance of food. Everything is in perfect balance the soil is fertile, plants grow, animals and birds feed on what grows, and humans, too, can feast on the plants and animals growing there.

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YOUR SAY

However, if one was to examine, under a microscope, the soil that had been exposed to chemicals, one would see far, far less of those microscopic living creatures. Which really is not so surprising, because all the chemicals we have applied to kill weeds and other pests have killed the micro-organisms as well. So I have added one more item to the list of my mission: restore the soil and make it healthy again. The system of farming that I have chosen to implement is ‘syntropic farming’, which is an extension of ‘permaculture’ and comes under the broad category of ‘agroforestry’. I’ll explain more soon, but first, some background. Agroforestry has been around for centuries. It is the form of farming your grandfather’s grandfather probably used. Below is a quote taken from “An Introduction to Agroforestry” (1993) by P.K. Ramachandran Nair. In tropical America many societies have simulated forest conditions to obtain the beneficial effects of the forest ecosystem. For example, in Central America, it has been a traditional practice for a long time for farmers to plant an average of two dozen species of plants on plots no larger than one-tenth of a hectare. A farmer would plant coconut or papaya with a lower layer of bananas or citrus, a shrub layer of coffee or cacao, annuals of different stature such as maize, and finally a spreading ground cover such as squash. Such an intimate mixture of various plants, each with a different struc-ture, imitated the layered configuration of mixed tropical forests (Wilken, 1977) http://old.worldagroforestry.org/Units/Library/Books/PDFs/32_An_introduction_to_agroforestry.pdf?n=161

Nature does not like it when we disturb the ground. She does not like seeing the ground naked. You will have noticed that when we do disturb the ground, whether it be making a garden or making a road, weeds grow. These weeds are annual weeds and will generally die back after a year. If you do nothing to that ground for 10 years, you will see different perennial plants and trees start to grow over time, and the original weeds will get shaded out. This is called succession. If you do nothing for 100 years, the types of trees growing will have changed again and after 1000 years, you will have a forest the way God originally planned it. At any time, if you examine the forest floor, you will notice that there is more and more leaf litter on the ground, and the soil is getting richer and richer with compost and living organisms. At the same time, if you examine the forest, you will notice that there are four different layers of plant life.

Syntropic farming and permaculture instead identify seven layers, with slightly different names.

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YOUR SAY

At the top we have the canopy, or overstory, layer. These are the really tall trees (which can be 100 feet plus) that reach for the sky and are not growing very close together. They let in light for the... sub-canopy, or understory, layer. This layer grows to between twenty to thirty feet high. Below this is the shrub layer which grow to about 10 feet. Then comes the... ...herbaceous layer, which is about 3 feet in height and often dies back in the winter. The fifth layer is the ground cover layer which grows horizontally over the ground, rather than up and is happy to live in permanent shade. The sixth layer is the underground layer, which comprises all the roots of the first five layers, and then finally, we have.. ...the vertical layer, which comprises all the climbing vines that grow on the first five layers. Syntropic farming was developed by a Swiss farmer (Ernst GÜtsch) working in Brazil and is a method of farming that aims to recreate God’s way of natural succession using plants and trees that naturally grow in the various layers but are also useful for food for humans. It is a method whereby every plant and tree and animal is beneficial to all the other plants, trees and animals around it. It also aims to build up the natural fertility of the soil by regular pruning and cutting of the plants and allowing the leaves and small branches to form a compost mat on the ground that gives all the essential micro-organisms something to feed on. But it is a method that aims to do in 10 years what nature would take a 100 years to do. Syntropic farming always uses multiple types of trees (and animals) in the ecosystem, rather than conventional farming which tends to be a monoculture system. Think of rice paddies, or wheat fields, or apple orchards. Do you see any other form of plant or tree present? A truly syntropic system will have many, many forms of plant life, will always be green and always producing, even in the driest times. I am discovering more and more about this type of farming the longer I am here. When we first arrived, our goal was to get some crops in the ground that would produce quickly. We planted sacha inchi (star bean, inca nut,) at first, and admittedly that was done as a monoculture. Our next task will be to find other trees and plants that would work with the sacha inchi so we get more variety off the same piece of land. When we planted the sacha inchi, we knew that the ground we were planting into was wet, but assumed that it was so due to the lack of drainage over the previous 12 months, and putting in a new drain would solve that issue. We have since discovered that the ground is wet because the soil itself is poorly draining and it holds the moisture from the monsoon. Unfortunately, sacha inchi don’t like having their roots in water and we have lost many plants due to this.

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INSiGHT | February 2020


YOUR SAY

We also planted elephant foot yam. I discovered that elephant foot yam actually likes to grow in the shade (it is a level four plant from the chart above) so we planted pigeon pea at the same time (a level three, short term plant), which not only provides shade but will help break up the hard clay soils, add nitrogen to the ground, provide some cash from the sale of seeds and can be cut back to provide a thick layer of mulch which will also help enrich the soil. On the same piece of land, we have grown papaya - also a short term crop that will provide cash for two or three years and lychee trees, which are a long term level two plant that will start bearing fruit in three years. They will ulti-mately be the succession trees to the papaya. My vision is to have two distinct farm areas. One area will be a multi layered system of various trees and plants that creates a true food forest. It will be full of birds and insects, and produce multiple, high value crops that we can sell for a good profit. The other area will be a silvipastoral system which is combination of lines of trees (in different layers) and strips of highly productive, drought tolerant tropical grasses that will be used for feeding a goat herd. The goats will be primarily for milk production, with meat a secondary by-product. Their food will come from the grass and the trees, along with other natural ‘weeds’ that they enjoy, with surplus vegetation, along with the manure they create, being put back around the base of the trees to build up the soil fertility. Our team has two years to put all this in place, so there is much work to be done. As you read this, we hope to have a new deep well and irrigation system in place or started. We can’t survive with no water, but others using this form of agriculture testify that they only need a quarter of the water that a conventional farmer needs. Once the planting has been completed, it will take about five years for the plan to become obvious and really start producing a good income for the college from all areas of the farm. I recently saw a video showing a syntropic system growing in midst of the worst drought in Australia’s history. At a time when the country was experiencing temperatures in the mid 40’s to 50 de-grees Celsius, with hot, drying winds and bush fires having totally destroyed an area approximately the size of the Chin State, this farm was GREEN and very healthy. I’m looking forward to seeing our farm looking the same every time the hot summer dry season rolls around in March, April and May. Will you help me get there?

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YOUR SAY

FAKE CHRISTIANS By The Elephant in the Room, South East Asia

Christ calls His followers to turn from sin and the pursuit of the things of this world. He said, “No one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions” Luke 14:33

What does it take to be a Christian? Why are there people who thinks that it is okay to behave as part-time Christians who lives by the Word of God at the whims and fancies, or a holier-than-thou Christian who thinks that everyone else is going to hell other than themselves? As the supposed follower of Christ, can a Christian be deemed less or more pious than the other when the one shared belief is that Jesus has died on the cross for our sins, and it is due to this sacrifice that we are saved. How then do we measure the faith we carry in our heart and lips by leading out our daily lives? Are we as dedicated to the word of God as we should be? Do we really have full trust in his words or are we simply fulfilling a routine that was partly “destined” of us? Are you proud of who you are as a Christian? Are you aspiring to live a life inspired by Christ or are you perpetually enslaved by your worldly demons? Do you genuinely care about your neighbours, or are you just keeping up appearances for the world to see? Realistically, will we be able to give up on all our material comforts in order to properly do God’s work? Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins, and yet today, we hold on to the very sins which tempts us into distancing ourselves from the Kingdom of God. The promise of eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven perhaps come across as a lofty idealistic notion from the complexities of a profoundly fabricated fairy tale that doesn’t carry any tangible weight. Maybe some of us have never experienced miracles first hand but we can never doubt that God has never been a part of lives, leading us and inspiring us when situations get testy. Where does this rebelliousness stem from? The wretchedness which was lost when we were found never did go away, it only seemed to have persisted and flourished each time we behaved unchristian-like. How awful is this relationship we have with our Heavenly Father, to declare that we are strong at our faith but yet stumble at the next temptation? “How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” John 5:44 We glorify the human flesh, and succumb to the temptations of sin so very willingly, displaying next to no effort of having God’s word in our heart and mind while we go about our daily lives, putting on the Christian label but manifesting nothing but the devil’s behavior in our actions. Every want to drive us to perform better than the other person by trampling them to the ground for the next promotion, the blood thirsty desire to achieve excellence in the measurements of man and the economy is an influence of pure greed and narcissism. Are we even God fearing to begin with?

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Probably not because we worship riches, fame and glory, where cash is the real King. Otherwise, how does one explain the penchant towards the self-governance in faith or rather more accurately, the lack thereof, picking out things that work for us to live by and being indifferent to those that doesn’t? Did God provide us with a questionnaire on our preferences on how we should worship and live by his Word? Free will although given is not to be used as an excuse for the convenience of “accidental” sins. Since free will exists because of a sovereign God, it would only mean that free will is a choice to act in and often in accordance to God’s Word. The will to behave in the Christian ways, inspired by the life of how Christ has led his - till his crucifixion. And to understand that as the premise of Christianity, how could one be less religious in the religion? Why is it so easy to commit sin without feeling guilty of the act? Are we that oblivious to our despicable actions or have we conditioned ourselves to make light of it? Where is the Holy Spirit suppose to reside if not within us, and how could it if we are such sinful hosts and spiritually unsound and tainted by all our evil thought and wrong doings? Would the act of baptism mean anything if the person baptised simply doesn’t strive the least at practising the faith? Is the gate to Heaven found at the front of a 24-hour convenience store? We are too casual with God and flippant in our beliefs, there is hardly any real conviction in our voices, or strides carried confidently in our paces. We have delved deep into the secular and sinful, persistently making excuses for our short-comings, yet in view of His coming, unflinching, unperturbed, willful and wretched.

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ John 8:12 With this, we are we turning our backs on our savior? Are we not convinced of all the miracles for he had done in our lives? God decree the ten commandments, but how are we adhering to it? Doesn’t one feel terrible at brushing off such sacredness to do whatever we want and then thinking it will all be forgiven through confession? What is confession when the person has complete disregard at not committing the same mistakes again? Is human nature such an unreliable one? Must we feel the smite of God in order to learn, and then again, did we even learn through what had already happened in the past? Mankind is a complete and utter contradiction. Hypocrites. The world is filled of hypocrites. You, me, he, she, everyone is one. Redeemable from sin? Perhaps. Only one would know. You know what truly lies within your heart and God peruses it as an open book.

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“ The fact is that no species has ever had such wholesale control over everything on earth, living or dead, as we now have. That lays upon us, whether we like it or not, an awesome responsibility. In our hands now lies not only our own future, but that of all other living creatures with whom we share the earth. “

- Sir David Attenborough



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