FROM RELEVANT MAGAZINE
THE MAGAZINE ON SUSTAINABLE CHANGE. SACRIFICIAL LIVING. SPIRITUAL REVOLUTION.
5 CRUCIAL AREAS OF INJUSTICE AND THE NEW MOVEMENT THAT IS CHANGING THEM
4 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT GUN REFORM
THE WORLD’S FORGOTTEN WAR
A SPECIAL SECTION
5 CRUCIAL AREAS OF INJUSTICE AND THE NEW MOVEMENT THAT IS CHANGING THEM.
BY KELLI B. T RUJILLO
don’t willfully turn a blind eye to the world’s injustices. Usually, we have the best of intentions when it comes to compassion and world change—and yet, we become preoccupied. We get caught up in the next deadline, the next work day, the next distraction blinking up on our phone. We get caught up in me-centered living. Even when faced with the world’s profound needs, our self-preoccupation can slip into complacency. The end result is apathy— somehow, we’ve just stopped caring. Apathy is the easy road when the horrors of life-gone-wrong disconcert us. Before we realize it, it becomes our default habit because it requires so little change. Rejecting apathy, on the other hand, is a radical counteraction. It’s the about-face to the gravitational pull of self-centeredness. We reject apathy because God calls us to embrace something far stronger: life. Because the God who made us in His image imprinted that same divine thumbprint on the soul of every human being, including the poor, the weak and powerless (Genesis 1:27). Because, as Christians, we follow the One who said: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good
news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19). From the womb to the cradle to the wheelchair to the grave, human life is created by God and is precious to Him. Therefore, it is worth protecting, championing and celebrating. After all, this is Christ’s self-professed mission: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). And not just spiritual life, but whole life. Resurrection life. The kind of life that will thrive spiritually, physically, emotionally and mentally. Following such a Savior, we answer God’s call for Kingdom justice not because we ought to, feel guilty or simply want to jump on the bandwagon of a trendy “cause.” No, we reject apathy because we believe all human life is sacred. In the following sections, you’ll find the five areas of injustice where life is most often threatened— and where God calls us to champion life once again. RELEVANT MAGAZINE
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Preventable Disease By the Numbers
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POVERTY If you trace most
injustice in the world today to its source, you will find poverty. Globally, 1.3 billion
Preventable disease is a physical threat to life everywhere—particularly for those without financial resources, who are left without access to basic health care. But “preventable” is a word charged with hope. It means we have the ability—the technology, the knowledge, the medicine— to stop these diseases before they take more lives. The solutions are relatively simple: clean water, hand soap, vaccinations, HIV/ AIDS testing and education, insecticide-treated mosquito nets. Because of these simple solutions, the global mortality rate from malaria has dropped 25 percent since 2000. In Africa, the malaria death rate has fallen 33 percent in the same time frame. 1 Vaccination programs have resulted in a 74 percent decrease in measles deaths worldwide. And, due to preventative care, incidents of polio are down by 99 percent—1 percentage point away from total and global eradication. 2 Kay Warren, founder of Saddleback Church’s HIV
& AIDS Initiative, finds her model for combating disease in the healing ministry of Jesus. “In the New Testament, leprosy was a stigmatizing illness. People assumed leprosy was associated with sin; they wanted nothing to do with lepers,” Warren says. “The modern-day equivalent of leprosy is HIV. There’s a toxic mix of stigma and judgment associated with it—and that’s the very reason Christians should care.” Jesus’ compassionate example also drives Stacie Zellmer, the school and faith liaison for charity: water. “Christ Himself tended to physical hunger, thirst, illness and even death on a regular basis as a gateway to minister to people holistically,” Zellmer explains. Ultimately, Zellmer says, preventing disease and caring for the afflicted arises out of Kingdom theology: “When Jesus prayed in Matthew 6:10, ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done,’ it strikes me that in heaven, 4,100 children won’t die daily due to water-related illnesses. We, the Church, have an opportunity to participate in God’s restoration of the world.”
1.5 million kids die
people live on less than
annually from diseases
$1.25 per day. Despite
that are easily preventable
America’s “wealthy” GDP,
22 percent of American
kids live in poverty.
In fact, 1 in 8 people
worldwide has not gotten
1 million people die of
enough to eat today. 3
malaria each year. 2
This year, more than 6
Solution: Supply treated
million kids will die from
mosquito nets to prevent
transmission and basic medicine to treat infection. 30,000 people die weekly from illnesses caused by unclean drinking water. 90 percent of these deaths are children. 3 Solution: Engineer clean-water wells; provide hand soap, sanitation and hygiene education.
effects in bloated, starving children, our instinctive reaction is often to look away or to make a quick donation and assuage any trace of guilt. Though financial giving certainly helps, turning the tide on global
living with HIV. 1.7 million
poverty takes more than
died from AIDS, and 17
just throwing money at
million kids were orphaned
the problem. It takes
because of AIDS in 2011. 4
recognition of the God-
Solution: Provide HIV
given dignity of each
testing, education and
medication; support adoption efforts.
Through the prophet Isaiah, God challenged His people to live out the
1 * World Health Organization
worship He really wants:
2 * Compassion.com
“Is it not to share your
3 * charity: water
food with the hungry
4 * globalhealthfacts.org
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” (Isaiah 58:7). Rather than keeping poverty at a safe distance, we need to see the real people behind the “issue.” God calls us to empower our global neighbors with sustainable solutions that will break the cycles of
1 * World Health Organization
see pictures of their
34 million people today are
RATHER THAN KEEPING POVERTY AT A SAFE DISTANCE, WE NEED TO SEE THE REAL PEOPLE BEHIND THE “ISSUE.”
When we read statistics like these or
2 * shotatlife.org
3 * Worldvision.org
4 * Compassion.com
SERIOUS SOCIAL JUSTICE
U N D E R G R A D U AT E G R A D U AT E A D U LT ONLINE S E M I N A RY
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poverty and help people live out their God-given potential. Microlending initiatives and fair-trade programs give impoverished people the opportunity to make a living wage, feed their families, learn skills and take pride in their dignified work. Child sponsorship programs provide food and education that equips kids to break free from illiteracy and build a future in which to use their Godgiven abilities. Feeding programs and crisis response teams provide nutrition that saves lives. Beyond just handing out rations, the organizations that make a dent in global poverty are the ones that teach marketable skills, such as farming or sewing, to enable people to feed themselves. “What gives me hope is that here, on the ground, I am witnessing change,” says Rudo Kwaramba, a World Vision regional leader in Johannesburg, South Africa. “A child finishing school and joining the job market—that’s one person out of the poverty bracket. A child vaccinated—that’s one death before the age of 5 that’s been prevented. A woman starting a small business with a $100 loan—in a year’s time, she’s able to pay school fees and feed her family.”
LOSS OF INNOCENTS voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more” (Matthew 2:18). Like the unutterable grief of the parents who lost their children in Herod’s Massacre of the Innocents, we feel left without words when we face horrifying violations of human life. And yet, God calls us to “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves” (Proverbs 31:8) and help reclaim the innocence that is stolen every day.
“The Chinese government recently reported that they have aborted 336 million babies in the last four decades—that is a massacre,” says Brian Lee, executive director of All Girls Allowed. And because these abortions—which are the result of China’s one-child policy—are mostly of females, it is also gendercide: “the systematic elimination of one gender group, often by sex-selective abortion, infanticide, abandonment or trafficking.” To elevate the human dignity of females in China, All Girls Allowed works with local
Christians to host baby showers and provide financial assistance to impoverished families expecting girls. They also equip families to speak out against China’s onechild policy. “The Lord is moving through His Church to restore the value of women,” Lee says. “There are brothers and sisters all around China who are stepping out with great vigor and enthusiasm to end gendercide.”
HIV creates what Kay Warren calls “a terrible synergy” between the disease and the orphan crisis. “HIV creates orphans as parents die, and orphans are more likely to end up becoming HIV-positive because they’re more vulnerable,” Warren says. There are 163 million orphans in the world, Warren says, which may seem staggering, but the 2.2 billion Christians in the world can absorb those orphans. Warren is seeing steps toward this solution in Rwanda, where Christians are taking up the government’s goal of emptying their nation’s orphanages. “The churches in
The effort to change individual lives is also taking effect on a grander scale. Between 2000 and 2010, for example, the number of people living on less than $1.25 a day has been cut in half. 5 “We have a long way to go,” Kwaramba says, “but this is evidence that change is possible and [extreme] poverty can be eradicated.”
“THE MODERN-DAY EQUIVALENT OF LEPROSY IS HIV. THERE’S A TOXIC MIX OF STIGMA AND JUDGMENT ASSOCIATED WITH IT—AND THAT’S THE VERY REASON CHRISTIANS SHOULD CARE.” —KAY WARREN 5 World Vision e-interview
Warmly personal. Immensely helpful. Wonderfully practical. Thoroughly biblical. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to every Christian who longs to know, experience, and spread assurance of salvation in Christ.”
— DAVID PLATT, best-selling author of Radical and Follow Me
J. D. GREEAR, best-selling author of Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary shows that faulty ways of presenting the gospel are a leading source of the confusion. Our presentations may not be heretical, but they are sometimes misleading. The idea of “asking Jesus into your heart” or “giving your life to Jesus” can be misunderstood, which can give false assurance to those who are not saved—and keeps those who genuinely are saved from fully embracing that reality.
@JDGreear #SinnersPrayer JDGreear.com
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• Support a child through a Christian child-sponsorship organization. Learn more at worldvision.org/foreverychild or compassion.com. • Fast and pray for the world’s poor and hungry.
Rwanda have said, ‘We will adopt these children,’” Warren says. Saddleback’s Rwanda Orphan Care Initiative is just one of many organizations worldwide helping Christians welcome children into their families.
“Human trafficking is one of the most extreme forms of injustice our world has ever known,” says Bethany Hoang, director of International Justice Mission’s Institute for Biblical Justice. It’s also an injustice that has been growing. There are more slaves today than any other point in history—27 million victims worldwide of sex trafficking, forced labor or child soldiering. 6 Even so, Hoang is seeing progress. “Just a decade ago, most Christians [didn’t] even know the term ‘human trafficking,’” Hoang says. “Today, Christians are taking front-line leadership in what will become known as the generation that saw a final end to the sale of human beings. Where slavery once thrived, lives will flourish instead.”
healing love of Jesus to those suffering from the psychological wounds of choosing abortion.
The violation of childhood innocence is a devastating reminder of the reality of evil in the world. And yet, it happens more than we’d like to think. In America, five kids die daily as a result of abuse or neglect. 9 140 million women and young girls today live as victims of female genital mutilation (FMG), 10 often performed on them by force and without anesthesia. Today, there are 300,000 children who have been forced into armed conflict around the world. 11 Because we affirm the value of human life, we stand firmly against the victimization of children in any and all of its forms. We stand as witnesses to the loving character of Jesus, and we recognize that in these children made in His image, God has prepared a future and a hope.
charitywater.org. • Advocate against unjust war, genocide and gun violence. Learn how you can help abolish nuclear weapons at twofuturesproject.org. • Get your church involved in providing resources for HIV testing and care. Learn how at Saddleback’s hivaidsinitiative.com. • Extend dignity through choosing fair-trade purchases and supporting microlending. • Advocate for the unborn the value of girls as well as boys; learn more at allgirlsallowed.org. • Raise awareness of human trafficking in your community. Find a few creative ways to do this at ijm.org. • Donate pantry items, toiletries, money and time to shelters for the homeless and victims of domestic violence.
The abortion rate in the U.S. may be falling, 7 but globally, a child is aborted every two seconds. 8 As Christ-followers, we lament the loss of vulnerable human life and we equally lament the factors that lead a pregnant woman to such a choice. But we don’t stop at lament. Our commitment to a whole-life ethic requires us to protect the unborn and to provide women with the practical and spiritual support in their choice to give their child life. The same commitment requires us to proclaim the
• Love at-risk kids through tutoring, after-school programs or pursuing foster care or adoption • Support and take part in environmental conservation efforts on both a local and global scale. Learn about ways to get involved at arocha.org.
6 * U.S. State Department
globally by championing
• Donate toward disease
7 * Washington Post
9 * childhelp.com
10 * World Health Organization
11 * UNICEF
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rmed conflicts, terrorist attacks, genocide, school shootings, drone strikes, racist violence, nuclear war—this is the ugly world we live in. And it’s the world in which the peace of Christ shines in bright contrast. While Christians may draw different conclusions on violence, ranging from pacifism to military service, we can unite together against unjust war. We can choose to stand as advocates for the voiceless victims of violence—from the kids huddled together in a school lockdown to the civilian casualties of war. As a result of violence, nearly 42 million worldwide have fled their homes. 12 But fleeing the battlefield doesn’t necessarily secure safety. “Displaced people are among the most vulnerable people in the world,” reports Nathaniel Hurd, World Vision’s policy adviser for conflicts and disasters, “because they have often left behind almost everything.” In the name of Christ, we can render aid to those fleeing the devastation caused by violence—providing medical treatment, nutritious food, clean water, shelter and sanitation to refugees. Hurd says these simple resources give refugees life essentials and hope for the future. “All they want is to be able to make a life for themselves,” he says, “and often all they need
concern that these weapons never be used because it would be a massive failure of love.” A nuclear attack strikes at the heart of the Christian life ethic, he explains, because it would sabotage the preservation of innocent life, environmental stewardship and compassion for the poor. Concerns of violence are not easy to navigate, and Christians may disagree about the answers. But ultimately, peacemaking is our business. It is the business of anyone serving the One whose radical challenge still rings out today: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27). We follow the Christ who proclaimed, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). In our world riddled with violence, we fix our hope upon the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6-7) and pray for His Kingdom to come.
CARE God created—and continually
creates and sustains—a world He called “very good” (Genesis 1:31; Colossians 1:15-17). Through the
beauty of this natural world, God reveals His character to all of humankind (Romans 1:19-20) and provides the natural resources we need for life. And because we are made in the image of our Creator God, we are called to care for His creation in a manner that reflects His character—with love, faithfulness, mercy, service and integrity. So, as God’s people, we decry the violence waged against all of God’s creation. We bemoan the ravages of pollution, environmental disasters, waste, consumerism, climate change, species endangerment and habitat destruction upon the earth and its creatures. And we lament not just the damages to the earth itself, but especially their effect on human life. “It’s very clear that the least among us—the elderly,
“PRO-LIFE MEANS EVERY ASPECT OF LIFE. HAVING A VIABLE PLANET FOR HUMANS AND ALL OF GOD’S CREATURES TO THRIVE ON IS A FIRST ORDER OF BUSINESS.” —NANCY SLEETH is a little help to do it.” Ministering to those affected by violence is of vital importance to a Christian whole-life ethic. But in addition to this, we can work preemptively to stop violence from occurring in the first place. Tyler Wigg-Stevenson, founder of the Two Futures Project and author of The World Is Not Ours to Save, is committed to just this. “Nuclear weapons are categorically the most dangerous technology that humanity has invented,” Wigg-Stevenson says. And while they should be a concern to everyone, WiggStevenson says, “Christians should have a special
children, the poor—are being hurt first by environmental degradation,” says Nancy Sleeth, co-founder of Blessed Earth, a Christian nonprofit committed to environmental care. “One extremely important way we can love our global neighbors is by making sure they have access to clean water, clean air and healthy soil in which to grow food.” Tom Rowley, executive director of A Rocha, agrees. In his conservation work in 19 countries he has observed: “People who are dependent upon subsistence farming, forestry and fishing have much less margin for protection. While a drought might hit us in
12 * UNHCR
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[GO DEEP ER]
Key passages on God’s heart for justice: Matthew 25:31-46 Isaiah 58 Psalm 146:6-10 the pocketbook, for them, it’s a
WHEN WE REJECT APATHY ... WE PAIR OUR UNIQUE PASSIONS WITH THE WORK GOD IS ALREADY DOING THROUGH HIS CHURCH.
matter of life and death.” Likewise, the poor in urban slums are poisoned by pollution run-off in their water. Indigenous coastal communities are threatened by rising ocean waters. Those breathing polluted air are suffering from preventable, lifethreatening diseases like asthma, cardiovascular disease, cancer and more. “I firmly believe that all Christians need to be pro-life,” Sleeth says, “but pro-life means every aspect of life. Having a viable planet for humans and all of God’s creatures to thrive on is a first order of business.” “The Earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1). As Christians, we believe this is true—from the soil under our feet to towering redwoods to every single human life on this planet. And so, as stewards, we strive to protect God’s created world through daily choices like recycling, reducing energy consumption and resisting consumerism. We aim to treasure God’s creation—not only for its God-infused beauty, but for its provision for human life. Creation care, at its core, is far more than “going green.” It’s learning to “live as agents of shalom to the place that God has put us,” Rowley says. “We do that by living the abundant life right where we are,” he says, “by
CHAMPIONING LIFE overty, preventable disease, loss of innocents, violence, environmental decay—these are no small problems. So as we answer God’s call to defend human life, let’s remember this: God isn’t calling us to hoist all the world’s needs upon our shoulders. Rather, “We need to recognize that we’re part of a story,” Wigg-Stevenson says. “Our actions are significant, but we’re part of a story which ends aren’t ours to bring about. As we orient ourselves toward God’s Kingdom, we will do our part—but it will be activism out of a spirit of service.” We can’t do it all on our own. But we can, with God’s leading, zero in on one area where we feel called to champion the sanctity of human life. As pastor and author Frederick Buechner famously wrote, “The place where God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” 13 We’re each uniquely gifted and impassioned. We can each discern God’s calling as we respond to global injustice. When we reject apathy, we make room for something else. We align ourselves with the life-giving mission of Christ. We pair our unique passions with the work God is already doing through His Church. “Proverbs 14:31 says it so clearly: ‘Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God,’” says IJM’s Hoang, “Justice is at the very heart of God. Some of the deepest heartaches and highest joys we will know in this world will come from simply joining in the work of our God who loves justice.” “Ultimately, we’re not going to save the world. That’s Jesus’ job, and he’s already done that,” says A Rocha’s Rowley. “We’re living in the already-but-not-yet Kingdom. And so our hope isn’t in what our efforts will bring about, but in being faithful, relying on God and looking to His Kingdom. He is in charge of the results—and our hope is in Him.”
reaching out to our neighbors, ... by getting involved in conservation efforts, by becoming
KELLI B. TRUJILLO is a writer and editor in Indianapolis. Kelli
proactive in bringing Christ’s
explores justice, compassion, and evangelism in her latest book, Shine
Your Light. Find Kelli at www.kellitrujillo.com or on Twitter @kbtrujillo.
13 * Wishful Thinking
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THE WORLD’S FORGOTTEN WAR B Y LY N N E H Y B E L S
he deadliest war since World War II is raging right now—though most Americans have never heard of it. According to CNN, this war has claimed “the same number of lives as having a 9/11 every single day for 360 days, the genocide that struck Rwanda in 1994, the ethnic cleansing that overwhelmed Bosnia in the mid1990s, the genocide that took place in Darfur, the number of people killed in the great tsunami that struck Asia in 2004, and the number of people who died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki—all
combined and then doubled.” The world’s forgotten war has claimed nearly 6 million lives, and it continues to be fought today in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). I first heard about the
conf lict in an NPR news report in 2008. I learned from the report that the DRC is the second largest country in Africa—equal to the size of the entire U.S. east of the Mississippi— with a population of 71 million. Formerly called Belgian Congo and then Zaire, the country has a tragic history of colonialism, greed and exploitation. The ongoing conf lict is highly complex, involving, at times, the armies of up to nine countries, and fueled by ethnic hostilities, regional politics and greed. It’s often called “Africa’s World War.” But that’s not all. As if the death count wasn’t startling enough, I also learned this: A major weapon of war in the DRC is rape. Rebel fighters say it’s cheaper to rape a woman than waste a bullet. Women in Eastern Congo don’t talk about if they’ll be raped, but when. About 1,100 women are raped every day in the DRC, according to the American Journal of Public Health. They are gang-raped, raped with tree branches or gun barrels. The sexual violence in the DRC is widely considered the worst in the world and the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time. Before that radio program, I had never heard of the war in the DRC. But once I knew, I couldn’t sit back and do nothing. Twice since hearing that story I’ve traveled with World Relief to Eastern Congo—the epicenter of fighting. I discovered there a tragedy worse than I’d imagined. But I also discovered the most powerful positive force in the world: hope. In a concrete church building in the town of Rutshuru, my friends and I listened while 11 women told their stories. All had been raped and brutalized. Some had watched their husbands murdered and their daughters raped. They ranged from 8 years old to almost 60. They had been empowered to speak through the loving care provided for them by Congolese counselors trained by World Relief. One by one, the women stood and spoke. We wept with them. We knelt and prayed for them. We ate with them. Then my friend Christine photographed them. While she took dozens of photos of each woman, she told them how beautiful they were, that we would not forget them and that we would tell their stories as they had asked us. Something incredible happened that day. We discovered the healing power that is
THE DEPTH OF PAIN IN CONGO NEEDS NOT ONLY HUMAN ACTIVISM, BUT ALSO SUPERNATURAL HEALING.
9 10 WOMEN OUT OF
IN EASTERN CONGO HAVE BEEN RAPED
6,000,000 IN 2012, CONGO RANKED LOWEST ON THE UNITED NATIONS HUMAN DEVELOPMENT INDEX.
[GO DEEP ER]
The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo (2008) Available free online, this feature-length documentary is hard to watch, but it tells the truth about how Congolese women are suffering. thegreatestsilence.org
This is Congo Leave it to World Relief to create this helpful primer of the current climate in Congo, its tragedy and its hope—all in 11 minutes. WATCH This Is Congo www.relm.ag/ 154F7FE
Enoughproject.org Keep up-to-date on Congo’s war with the Enough Project’s news reports, and learn about the role of conflict minerals in fueling and funding the violence— and what we can do to stop it.
1 Insight on Conflict
2 Ten for Congo
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MILLION CONFLICT REFUGEES IN CONGO 1
NUMBER OF LIVES THE CONGO CONFLICT HAS CLAIMED TO DATE 1
51% FEMALE LIFE EXPECTANCY AT BIRTH 48% MALE LIFE EXPECTANCY AT BIRTH
unleashed when stories are told and heard. We experienced the beautiful transformation that occurs when people connect soul to soul across culture and language and differing life experiences. The day was profound, shattering and uplifting all at once. On another day in Rutshuru, we met with local church leaders who have created what they call “Village Peace Committees” to help resolve local conf licts. In a country where there is no rule of law, these church leaders have become the only trusted system of justice that vulnerable people can turn to. Never have I seen a community of believers “being the church” the way I saw it in the DRC. The DRC is a land of contrasts—there is extreme human violation, but there is also a God who is making the way for hope. I do not tell you this story just to inform you. I tell you this story to call you to action. Here’s how you can help: The DRC needs the U.S. government to lead the international community in working for peace in Congo. Find out how you can challenge Congress to do that at worldrelief.org/advocate.
The vulnerable Congolese also need emergency food, shelter and medical care. You can donate $10 right now to World Relief Congo by texting CONGO to 505-55. Or choose to forgo a simple pleasure, and download the “Forgo” app which will send the money you saved to Congo relief. And finally, please pray for peace in the DRC. The depth of pain in Congo needs not only human activism, but also supernatural healing. To learn how you can pray for the DRC, visit tenforcongo.com, a Lynne Hybels grassroots movement Since 1975, Lynne devoted to peace in has been an Congo. active volunteer Your loving action in the compassion can help more ministries of Willow Congolese to say, as Creek Community the women in Rutshuru Church. In 2010 told us, “Thank you she started Ten for coming. You have For Congo. She reminded us that we has also traveled are still human. You extensively in have shown us that God the Middle East is still thinking of us.” and actively And in the midst advocates for of the darkness in the peace in the Holy DRC today, we need Land. She blogs at that kind of hope. lynnehybels.com.
3 World Health Organization
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a lifelong gun owner from Northern Wisconsin, my guns hold a lot of personal value to me. I see them as part of my family tradition of hunting and marksmanship. Iâ€™m proud of the legacy of responsible gun ownership that has been passed down to me. For the past five years, I have lived in downtown Chicago, working alongside 84
others who are combating the epidemic of gun violence in this cityâ€”men and women with stray bullet holes in their homes and car doors who regularly lose children in their ministry care to violence. I have stood in candlelight vigils with mothers who have lost children and listened to their pain. Something has to be done. Despite gun-related violence and deaths being down overall, in a city with some of the toughest gun laws in the country, gun violence is up 25 percent, with over 450 school-aged children having been shot (63 fatally) last year.
Unfortunately, this is not some distant wickedness or rare catastrophe. Senseless gun violence is a present reality in my city and others. Earlier this year, in the wake of the Newtown, Conn. shootings, President Obama unveiled a comprehensive gun-safety plan aimed at reducing gun violence. As of this writing, these measures have been defeated in the Senate. The rhetoric over gun reform, in the meantime, is as heated as ever. On one hand, it doesn’t appear that more legislation reduces gun violence. On the other hand, children are being violently shot to death. On one hand, restricting liberties while existing laws go unenforced or root causes go ignored seems misdirected. On the other, children are being violently shot to death. I am also a professor of persuasion and debate who has thin-sliced the arguments over gun ownership, violence and control time and again with my students. I understand the debate. I do not want to debate. I want to stop the murder of innocents from ever happening in the first place. Regardless of your view on guns, I know you do, too. So where do we begin?
Clearly, God in His holiness abhors killing. As Christians, then, we are called to engage the issue with an extreme bias toward the preservation of all life and the reduction of violence by any means. This fact remains whether we are in favor of gun law reform or not. Do we love God more than our legal rights? More than our possessions? More than our patriotism? More than our own safety? Are we being “careful that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak (1 Corinthians 8:9)?” Now, I have made no mention of the implications of those questions to the issue of guns, but if you feel a twinge of defensiveness or pride already, I would challenge you to pray about that.
SEEK FIRST THE KINGDOM
Christians are to be about the work of announcing, building and representing an entirely new kind of reality here and now, on Earth as it is in heaven. Our view is to be extraordinarily invested in the immediate concerns of this present reality.
DO WE LOVE OUR “RIGHTS” MORE THAN WE LOVE OUR NEIGHBOR?
Matthew 6:33-34 says it best: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” This means engaging the issue of gun violence and control must be directed toward stopping violence today—not primarily toward defending against a potential future where certain freedoms might be more restricted. Concern about the future of America must not prevent us from addressing the brokenness of today.
Now may be the time to talk about guns and debate rights and solutions, but it is always the time to lead with love and compassion toward others. Christians should be the first to show up to make themselves endlessly available to those most affected—standing in the breach caused by violence. Our policy views should be rooted in relationships before history. The Church should be so invested in the lives of others, especially the “least of these” in society, that when someone exhibits unstable behavior or is threatened by violence, they are surrounded with biblical love and community and given the help they need. Do we love our “rights” more than we love our neighbor? Are we willing to become neighbors to those surrounded by violence? I do not doubt for a second that if more of us abandoned our culture wars, locked up our guns safe behind our legal right to own them and brought the physical presence of Christ into the communities stricken by violence, we would see dramatically less devastation—by guns or otherwise. Not a single new law would need to be
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THE ESTIMATED NUMBER OF REGISTERED FIREARMS IN THE U.S. AS OF MARCH 2012 1
[TA K E AC T ION]
Be an advocate for nonviolence Get Informed by studying the factors that contribute to gun violence. Start here: www.relm.ag/12siwR2 Get proactive by learning how violence can be prevented in your community. Find out how at preventioninstitute.org/ unity. Pray for peace for those who are at risk of becoming perpetrators or victims, and for violent plans to be discovered and intercepted before tragedies can take place.
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VICTIMS OF CRIMES I N VO LV I N G FIREARMS IN 2011
passed and the second amendment would be safer than ever.
LOVE YOUR ENEMY
MILLION FIREARMS MADE IN THE U.S. IN 2010
46,313 MURDERED BY FIREARMS IN THE U.S. BETWEEN 2007 & 2011
1 Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
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THE BOTTOM LINE, WHETHER YOU ARE FOR GREATER GUN CONTROL MEASURES OR GREATER SECOND AMENDMENT PROTECTION, IS LIFE.
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Loving others also means seeing your neighbor the way Jesus instructs. Your neighbor, according to His definition, includes those you might vehemently disagree with or even despise. It also means having patience with that friend in your social media feed who has strong opinions but seemingly little understanding, or hearing out organizational leaders calling for dramatic solutions that ignite your ire. This even means praying for the enemies we perceive in perpetrators of gun violence— the lost adolescent who goes on a shooting spree, the gang member seeking revenge, the lonely youth who buys a gun illegally. So, where does all this leave us? As a gun owner who has also seen the horrific effect of gun violence, I can get behind extensive background checks, waiting periods and controlling a certain level of lethal technology. I am for all federal efforts to remove as many illegal weapons from circulation as possible. I will not oppose laws to restrict the sale of firearms or ammunition to criminals or the mentally ill. I’ll advocate to reduce the glorification of gun violence in
video games and movies if those images are inspiring violence. I welcome the day when media outlets stop turning turn killers into “celebrities” for the deranged through sensational coverage. The laws may change and they may not, but my bottom line remains the same. Would I be willing to give up my guns in Wisconsin if it would save a life in downtown Chicago? Yes, if it came to it, a thousand times over. May I never put my rights above the lives of others. Likewise, if I knew it would reduce violence and I were legally allowed to, I’d probably carry a side arm. The bottom line, whether you are for greater gun control measures or greater second amendment protection, is life. It would be a shame to give up rights for measures that don’t ultimately make a difference. It would be an even greater shame if we allowed legal ends to satisfy our regained consciousness that something must be done. We mustn’t allow legal debates to defer our personal responsibility to combat the issue of violence. Having a position on gun laws or the right to bear arms accomplishes little if we are not willing to act. Laws will not heal the pain of tragedies like those our nation has recently seen. Deciding these things does not complete my responsibility as a Christ follower. So let’s do our part as the local and physical Church to reduce violence. The debate may get murky at times, but this much is clear: We are called to action that will reduce gun violence. We need presence, mentoring, education, and the willful choice to become a father to the fatherless. I’m not kept up at night by whether I’ll be able to own any rifle I want. “Love God, seek first the Kingdom, love your neighbor”—That’s what keeps me up at night. That’s where we need to reform.
BRIAN KAMMERZELT is an assistant professor and chair of the communications department at the Moody Bible Institute and director of The Just Life (thejustlife.org). Read more at critiquebycreating.com or follow him on Twitter @ProfKammerzelt.
2 Bureau of Justice Statistics National Crime Victimization Survey
3 FBI Uniform Crime Report
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DOES IT MATTER WHERE YOUR CLOTHES COME FROM? BY MICHELLE BROCK
few years ago, I bought a Joe Fresh shirt that was, in my eyes, perfect: comfortable, the right color, the right fit and also the right price. I walked to the checkout with a sense of accomplishment. By saving money, I felt I was practicing Christian stewardship. Each good deal would give me margin, I thought, to meet other needs and give more generously elsewhere. What I didn’t realize at the time, however, is that low prices often have a high cost. On April 24, 2013, the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh collapsed with about 3,500 workers inside. Large cracks had been discovered in the walls the day before, but the workers were told if they did not enter the building, their month’s wages would be withheld. Some were even threatened with beatings. So the workers filed back to their work stations. Hours later, the building crumbled, killing more than 1,100 people. Joe Fresh, The Children’s Place and Benetton were some of the labels manufacturing their products in the factory that collapsed. Many other companies, including Wal-mart as the largest, also manufacture their clothing in Bangladesh. The average monthly wage of a garment worker in the region is $37, and this low cost of labor is what gives companies higher profit margins. What’s more, Rana Plaza is one of many factories where safety violations have caused such disasters. This is the backstory on the other side of the price tag many consumers never see. Here is where the finger pointing begins. The race to the bottom, a byproduct of unchecked capitalism, ensures that no one is “really responsible” for what happened. It becomes a classic case of plausible deniability, the condition in which a party can believably deny knowledge of a reality because the system has deliberately shielded them from the full picture. The owner of the plaza that housed the garment factories won’t claim responsibility because the factory owner chose to operate in the building without demanding structural upgrades first. The owners of the the garment factories won’t claim responsibility because they are only trying to meet the demands of the their multinational corporation clients. The corporations who sell clothing in their stores won’t claim responsibility because they assume the 88
Bangladesh government is enforcing labor laws that align with their company codes of conduct. The government of Bangladesh won’t claim responsibility because if they start to reinforce labor codes, international corporations will pull out of Bangladesh, with significant economic ramifications. The customers buying clothing won’t claim responsibility, because they assume companies are monitoring their factories. And in the end, a stylish outfit for a low price trumps further questioning. In essence, the landlord blames the factories, the factories blame the multinational corporations, the multinational corporations blame the government, the government blames the economic climate and the customers claim their ignorance. No one is left to take responsibility for the hundreds of people crushed under the weight of concrete.
Of course, the reality is every player in this sequence is responsible. Evangelist Charles Finney once said he never witnessed a revival that didn’t include public confession and restitution. This means if we want change to happen, we must be willing to look in the mirror. Bangladesh is the second largest exporter of clothing in the world, and the U.S. is its biggest buyer. If you have purchased an item made in Bangladesh or the product of any unjust labor anywhere, you are responsible. Yet here is the paradox of justice: We are individually responsible, but to enact real change, we must change more than our individual actions. We must work together to create systemic solutions, because the problem is systemic. The impact of the Rana Plaza factory collapse has affected thousands of families who have sustained the loss of a loved one, the loss of income, the fear of going back to work at any factory and more. Sex traffickers even prey upon such tragedies. Dr. Abrar Chowdhury, coordinator of Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit in Bangladesh, told the Dhaka Tribune that in times of chaos, “traffickers can easily lure [the unemployed] with promises of jobs abroad.” And because 80 percent of the
LOW PRICES OFTEN HAVE A HIGH COST. country’s garment workers are women, the Border Guard Bangladesh has been on high alert since the factory collapse. But if families are made vulnerable to human trafficking and extreme poverty when a factory shuts down, then wouldn’t the absence of a Western market leave these families in a vulnerable place? The system is so broken, it makes workers dependent on their own exploitation. Yet to reverse this will require action at a systemic level. Restoration must begin with fostering sustainable opportunities for people in developing countries so workers are no longer dependent on their exploiters for a quasi-livelihood. This isn’t an abstract hope, either. The Worker Rights Consortium estimates that it would only cost 10 cents more per clothing item to uphold factory safety standards in Bangladesh. In the wake of the Rana Plaza factory collapse, many global retailers have signed the Accord on Fire and Building Safety, backed by the International Labour Organization, in an effort to prevent future disasters. Participating companies are signing up for a five-year commitment to factory safety inspections and paying up to $500,000 a year toward safety improvements.
However, some major retailers have resisted the act. As representative George Miller, the senior Democratic member of the House Education and Workforce Committee, said in an official statement after the factory collapse, “If they fail to sign an enforceable agreement, they are declaring that they accept blood on their labels.” The clothing production system is complex, but wherever one plays a role in the process, we all have an opportunity to move in the direction of redemption.
10 THINGS YOU CAN DO
1. Go through your closet. For
every piece of clothing made in Bangladesh, donate the amount that you paid for it to the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights, which has set up the Bangladesh Worker Relief Fund at globallabourrights.org 2. Sponsor a child. Organizations like World Vision (worldvision.org) and
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Compassion (compassion.com) offer communitybased child sponsorship programs that equip children for life, thereby reducing the likelihood that they will end up in sweatshops or other vulnerable situations. 3. Inform yourself of the connection between your personal purchases and unjust labor practices. Discover your own slavery footprint at slaveryfootprint.org. 4. Run an ethical business, motivated by people over profit. Go to madeinafreeworld.com for ideas. 5. Buy used clothing, and therefore avoid contributing to the demand for new clothes that are factory-made. 6. Buy fair-trade certified products whenever you can. See your dollar as a vote, and put it toward good and just causes. 7. Research where your clothing comes from by Googling the company name with the word “labor practices” or searching the database at free2work.org. Then write a letter to the company and advocate for them to source their products ethically. Go to change.org to start your own petition. 8. As a church, start a clothing co-op or become a distributor for fair-trade products in your region. 9. Write a letter to your political representatives. Let them know that corporate accountability is important to you, and ask them what they are doing to promote this on a government level. 10. Pray that God would break the chains of greed and injustice, and ask Him to show you how to be part of that process. Because wherever you buy your clothes from, injustice doesn’t look good on anyone.
MICHELLE BROCK is the co-founder of Hope for the Sold, a charity that fights sex trafficking one word at a time. Learn more at hopeforthesold.com.
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WHY YOU CAN’T SAVE THE WORLD B Y T Y L ER W IGG-S T E V ENSON
ollowing His story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus offered up a simple command: “Go, and do likewise”— that is, be a neighbor by showing mercy to those you find in need. I want to do likewise. I bet you do, too. But that often seems like a tall order in an age of real-time global knowledge about human suffering. Every time I browse the news, I feel like I’m walking down a fiber-optic Jericho road, and the ditches on each side are filled with billions of people in distress, all crying out. How can I be a neighbor in the face of such pain? This question has contributed to the development of a Christian “cause culture” over the past decade. Though laudable in many ways, cause-driven Christianity has also perpetuated two dangerous illusions. The first illusion is that individual action helps solve systemic problems. For example, the very clothing I’m wearing now may be the product of unjust labor. But while my individual action is part of the problem, a change in my behavior wouldn’t in itself be a part of its solution. Of course we should act justly, but we shouldn’t pretend that such works
WE FACE THE CHOICE TO LIVE IN A TENSION THAT CANNOT BE RESOLVED ...
Tyler WiggStevenson (@TylerWS) is the author of The World Is Not Ours To Save (InterVarsity Press), from which this article is adapted with permission. Copyright© 2013.
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constitute small steps toward an answer. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not denying the capacity of collective action to help make changes in corrupt systems, such as the boycott of apartheid-era South Africa that helped undermine that regime. The key word here, though, is “collective.” To transform the problem of unjust manufacture, we need to figure out how to implement strong practices of justice in global trade. If we’re serious about it, it means figuring out how to channel personal commitment into genuine political activism—not just the cultural engagement our generation seems to prefer. The second illusion happens when we falsely believe we can fix the world. When I tell people I work on nuclear disarmament, they often remark about saving the world. Such f lippant comments betray the conviction that we really could save this thing if we just got our act together. But every social ill combines both individual and social factors. Even if every social condition were perfected, the human heart would remain catastrophically broken. And yet this inability to fix the heart doesn’t give us license to run from even massive problems. The abolition of chattel slavery in the 18th and 19th century was an unadulterated good—even though it didn’t excise humanity’s desire to be lord over our fellow beings, as evidenced by the persistence of slavery today. Similarly, abolishing nuclear weapons is not about curing people of our willingness to kill each other en masse, but about regulating a technology to close off certain disastrous avenues. These concerns have consequences. A generation of Christians that thinks it is called to save the world is firing on the fuel of false hopes. It is signing up for disillusioned burnout. So how do we walk our global Jericho road? What’s the secret? The secret is there is no secret. No solution—until the Kingdom of God comes—to the dilemma of living in a fallen world. We face the choice to live in a tension that cannot be resolved, refusing to be paralyzed by the absence of a solution. This is the decision to labor against vast injustices, the resolutions of which we will likely never see. This is the decision to love as Jesus loves. This is the decision, that is, to hurt. Beware of the cause that promises you anything else.
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