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What is Jubilee? How could it transform our understanding of the world today — and of how God calls us to live in it? At the heart of Old Testament law is a revolutionary concept that, if applied today, could transform our economy and world. Jesus himself claimed that his ministry would bring its fulfilment, transforming the world. Uniting social justice, creation care, equality and worship, jubilee remains a radical challenge, thousands of years later. This exciting collection engages with this challenge and offers ideas and inspiration for disciples today. It brings together rigorous theological thought and practical experience from voices from around the world. Its chapters reflect on issues of poverty in its different dimensions and discuss some of the challenges that face churches, Christian organisations and individual Christians in responding to them. The authors each bring their unique context and perspectives which challenge us to go beyond viewing the jubilee ordinances as simple rules and help us to begin to understand the redemptive and restorative power of the jubilee principles for us today.

It is a particular joy to welcome a book that takes the jubilee seriously, not just as a slogan, but as a thoroughly biblical foundation for followers of Jesus to understand and practise integral mission. Christopher J.H. Wright

Hannah J. Swithinbank leads Tearfund’s Theology and Network Engagement Team. In this role, she is responsible for the development of Tearfund’s theological foundations and their expression in the organisation’s work. Emmanuel Murangira is Tearfund Country Director for Rwanda and is responsible for developing the Tearfund in country engagement strategy and leading all of Tearfund's work in Rwanda. He is also an ordained minister.

www.ocms.ac.uk/regnum

Switihinbank, Murangira and Collins (Eds)

Each chapter [of this book] proposes answers to poverty, using solid biblical and theological arguments, as well as inspiring pastoral proposals. It is an invitation to live out our faith with commitment. Rev. Harold Segura, Faith & Development Director, Latin America and Caribbean, World Vision International

Jubilee: God’s Answer to Poverty?

Jubilee: God’s Answer to Poverty

JUBILEE God’s answer to poverty?

Hannah J. Swithinbank & Emmanuel Murangira with Caitlin Collins (Eds)

Foreword by Christopher J.H. Wright



“Jubilee – God’s Answer to Poverty provides rich perspectives on poverty, sin, broken relationships, jubilee, the response of the church, discipleship, and so on. It demonstrates a consistent engagement with the Bible, with integrity. One hears voices from the passionate margins of our society with an interesting mix of macro level analysis as well as indigenous group perspectives. The book calls on the people of God to provide a credible alternate, based on the Bible to a rapidly secularising humanitarian conversations.” Jayakumar Christian, Former National Director, World Vision India “This is a timely and challenging book for our times. The different voices in these chapters remind us that ‘jubilee’ doesn’t always look the same. It is a duty of the church to discern what poverty looks like in different contexts and to participate in God’s work for the restoration of all of creation. This volume can help us in that process.” Dr Rosalee Velloso Ewell, Principal of Redcliffe College and Director of Church Relations for the United Bible Societies “This is the kind of book that I’ve been wanting to see for years. Poverty has global causes and requires global solutions, and so the huge strength of this book is its multiplicity of voices and perspectives. I’m not convinced jubilee is the ‘answer’ to poverty, but as the authors demonstrate it certainly shows us the path we need to travel.” Justin Thacker, author of Global Poverty: A Theological Guide “Spanning geographic breadth and theological depth of both Old and New Testaments, the authors clearly and boldly explore the expression of jubilee in their contexts. They brightly illuminate the place of God’s land and people in justice, restoration, and liberation.” Laura Yoder, John Stott Chair and Director of Program in Human Needs and Global Resources, Professor of Environmental Sciences Wheaton College Illinois “In the face of genocide and in the face of so much contemporary injustice the biblical principle of jubilee refreshes our outlooks and commands us to start again to put things right… this collection asks us to begin that journey once again. I commend its urgency.” Professor the Lord Alton of Liverpool “For so long, evangelicals have been merely feeding the poor and not asking why they are poor. This book is a good start in re-imagining how societies may look like if the jubilee is taken seriously as a structural answer to systemic injustice and generational poverty, restoring the land as central to economic security and also as locus of meaning and identity.” Melba Padilla Maggay, Ph.D. President Institute for Studies in Asian Church and Culture (ISACC)


“There are some biblical motifs that play a particular role in the life of Christians and the church, and the jubilee is one of those – calling us to a life of restoration and reconciliation, justice and liberation. Picked up of course by Jesus in Luke 4, the theme of jubilee is one to be delved into deeply, and this book helps us do just that, exploring the theme from many angles and crucially helping us think through how we live out our own jubilee lives.” Dr Ruth Valerio, Tearfund’s Global Advocacy and Influencing Director and theologian, author and environmental activist “Uniquely, this book combines the powerful critical and academic reflections of those with lived experience of the journeys of reconciliation, justice building, and relationship renewal through which so many nations, agencies, and activists have had to live in the last quarter century. [Among them are women and men, Africans and Asians, those in churches, policy, academia and civil society.] It is a must read for those in similar vocations but also students, churchgoers and others open to learning fresh insights for our times.” Francis Davis, Professor of Religion, Communities and Public Policy at the University of Birmingham, Visiting Professorial Fellow at the University of Oxford and co-author of Ageing and Development in Rwanda: Challenges to Church, State and Nation (Tearfund 2020). “An apt book published by Tearfund to reflect on jubilee practice on God’s strategy in removing poverty. The church should apply the principle of bringing economic equality among the people and also influence others to follow the same.” Kennedy Dhanabalan, Executive Director, EFICOR “The title of this book contains a stimulating question. Each chapter proposes answers, using solid biblical and theological arguments, as well as inspiring pastoral proposals. It is an invitation to live out our faith with commitment. I celebrate this publication with enthusiasm and strongly recommend its reading.” Rev. Harold Segura, Faith and Development Director, Latin America and Caribbean, World Vision International “Tearfund takes global poverty seriously, and seeks to eradicate it with relentless passion. In doing so, Tearfund engages with reflective practitioners to analyze poverty through the lens of the biblical concept of jubilee. The result is a treasure trove of excellent articles from all perspectives paying close attention to the poor and to the God of the Poor.” Casely B. Essamuah Secretary of the Global Christian Forum


“An incredible collection of reflections representing a diversity of voices that speak right to the heart of poverty and injustice and call out for a restoration of relationships not just among people but with the earth itself. Each chapter brings out so much insight challenging the solutions that we have so far provided. I hope that this book will become part of mainstream theology and not just an ‘alternative’ perspective.” Kuki Rokhum, EFICOR Director, Training and Mobilisation “A compelling reflection on the biblical ideals of jubilee, this book will surely challenge God’s people to address poverty and to fulfil their role as God’s agents in bringing wholeness to individuals and communities. A must read in equipping transformational leaders for church and society!” Dr. Theresa Roco-Lua, General Secretary, Asia Theological Association “Despite significant gains in addressing extreme poverty in the world we are a world struggling with deepening inequality, poverty and the legacies of colonialism and enslavement. For those of us who are followers of Jesus we must bear the uncomfortable truth that these projects were deeply associated with our faith and based in scripture. Therefore part of the work we must do in addressing these issues is wrestling with scripture more deeply in the light of this reality. Jubilee – God’s Answer to Poverty? is an imagination provoking book that should be read and engaged with by anyone wanted to wrestle in this way. Leviticus 25 provides for the cyclical “liberty and return of land and people” for the people of Israel, a pattern which was apparently never implemented. Encountering this text through the writing of thinkers and activists from diverse social locations offers an important lens for understanding the fullness of redemption in this world. We should all read, study and discuss this book and then act in response to what God provokes in us.” Craig Stewart, CEO, The Warehouse



REGNUM STUDIES IN MISSION

Jubilee God’s Answer to Poverty?


Series Preface Regnum Studies in Mission are born from the lived experience of Christians and Christian communities in mission, especially but not solely in the fast growing churches among the poor of the world. These churches have more to tell than stories of growth. They are making significant impacts on their cultures in the cause of Christ. They are producing ‘cultural products’ which express the reality of Christian faith, hope and love in their societies. Regnum Studies in Mission are the fruit often of rigorous research to the highest international standards and always of authentic Christian engagement in the transformation of people and societies. And these are for the world. The formation of Christian theology, missiology and practice in the twenty-first century will depend to a great extent on the active participation of growing churches contributing biblical and culturally appropriate expressions of Christian practice to inform World Christianity.

Series Editors Paul Woods Paul Bendor-Samuel Tony Gray

Oxford Centre for Mission Studies, Oxford, UK Oxford Centre for Mission Studies, Oxford, UK Words by Design, UK


REGNUM STUDIES IN MISSION

Jubilee God’s Answer to Poverty?

Edited by Hannah J. Swithinbank and Emmanuel Murangira with Caitlin Collins


Copyright Š Hannah J. Swithinbank, Emmanuel Murangira and Caitlin Collins 2020 First edition published 2020 by Regnum Books International Regnum is an imprint of the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies St. Philip and St. James Church, Woodstock Road Oxford, OX2 6HR, UK www.ocms.ac.uk/regnum 09 08 07 06 05 04 03 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 The rights of Hannah J. Swithinbank, Emmanuel Murangira and Caitlin Collins to be identified as the editors of this work has been asserted by them in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher or a license permitting restricted copying. In the UK such licenses are issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency, 90 Tottenham Court Road, London W1P 9HE.

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library ISBN: 978-1-913363-28-4 Typeset by Words by Design Cover illustration by Jon White Printed and bound in Great Britain


Contents

Acknowledgements Preface Nigel Harris, Chief Executive, Tearfund Foreword Christopher J.H. Wright, Langham Partnership

xi xiii xv

Introduction: Seeing Poverty through the Lens of Jubilee Hannah J. Swithinbank and Emmanuel Murangira

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God’s Heart for the Poor Antoine Rutayisire

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The Initial and Ongoing Causes of Poverty Aiah Foday-Khabenje

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Why Does Poverty Exist? Lucie Woolley and Anna Ling

33

Lessons from Leviticus 25: The Jubilee Year and God’s Answer to Poverty James E. Read

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An mar Nega (Our Home) Jocabed Reina Solano Miselis

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Jubilee Realised: The Integral Mission of Asian House Church Networks in Contexts of Religious Pluralism David S. Lim

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Kwame Nkrumah’s Dream, the Sustainable Development Goals and the Jubilee Mandate Sas Conradie

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Confronting Violence against the Poor: A Case Study from Paz y Esperanza in Peru Alfonso Wieland

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From Gleaning to Jubilee: The Church’s Mandate to Her Children Carol Ng’ang’a 123 Reclaiming our Prophetic Voice to Call for Justice Yenny Delgado

135


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Responding to Scripture: An Awakening to Mission and Jubilee Sheryl Haw

147

Get Exposed with Sabbath and Jubilee – and See Who You Really Are J. Mark Bowers

157

Participation in Christ: Being Shaped for Jubilee Lives Hannah J. Swithinbank

167

Conclusion: Kairos Moment for the Church Emmanuel Murangira

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Select Bibiliography

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Index

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Scripture Index

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Editors and Contributors

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Front Cover Image supplied by Jon White “Oil of Gladness” Jon White is an abstract artist based in Cornwall, UK. He took part in the Global Forum on Church and Poverty as part of Tearfund’s “Young Theologians” programme, an initiative identifying young people around the world and investing in their theological development, specifically in reflecting upon church, poverty and development. In response to the Forum, Jon painted “Oil of Gladness” (cover image). His painting is a prayerful response to a challenging and inspiring time he spent in Rwanda with Tearfund. In his canvas, he uses the gold paint to represent oil flowing downwards over the many layers of redemptive story. He originally used a lot of greys and blacks for the first layers. These underlayers are subtly visible beneath the final layers of greens, blues and pinks. These remind him that jubilee – found in the life, death and ascension of Jesus – is not dismissive of loss, pain or mourning but enters into it and embraces it, redeeming it from the inside out. You can find more of Jon’s art at: https://www.jonwhiteart.com on Instagram @jonwhiteart or you can contact him by email at: jonwhiteart@gmail.com


Acknowledgements Thanks to the following people who made possible the publication of this book. Editors: Hannah J. Swithinbank and Emmanuel Murangira Editorial Assistant: Caitlin Collins Editorial Comments: Chantelle Sawatzky and Lindsey Besley Front cover image: Jon White Tearfund staff for their support and contribution to the Global Forum on Church and Poverty: Iyisha Rocke Maria Andrade Jo Herbert-James Sas Conradie Denise Niyonizigiye Nigel Harris All the participants of the Global Forum on Church and Poverty, who shared their thoughts and perspectives with generosity and encouragement.



Preface Nigel Harris, Chief Executive, Tearfund

In 2018, Tearfund celebrated 50 years of working alongside local churches to transform communities around the world. The Biblical concept of jubilee was a key foundation for our celebrations, as we wished to highlight and explore the great themes of freedom, transformation and restoration in our work. This theological work was a declaration of our ongoing passion to follow Jesus where the need is greatest and a recommitting for us that the story of the Bible informs the present and has the power to transform the future. Tearfund’s vision is to see all people freed from poverty, living transformed lives and reaching their God-given potential, and theological reflection exploring what this might look like underpins all our work. As part of Tearfund’s jubilee year, we hosted the “Global Forum on Church and Poverty” in Kigali. It was an opportunity to pause, remember and reflect on the successes and failures of the church in the past, and wrestle with how the theology of jubilee might help the church be more effective in overcoming poverty in the years to come. We invited sixty thought leaders including theologians, church leaders and development practitioners, from around the world to join us to reflect upon this important topic. Among our group were ten emerging theologians from around the world, bringing the perspectives of the younger generations. We wanted to see the further development of theological thinking about poverty that unites the church and sparks the understanding that God's mission is holistic and requires the church to respond to poverty. The gathering was focused on reflection and discussion, but with an aim to collectively come up with strategies, approaches and thinking on Christian development with a strong jubilee theme, and to inspire delegates to use these in their future work. The Global Forum on Church and Poverty created space to look into how jubilee principles can provide a framework in the alleviation of poverty and how we are called as Christians to respond to these principles. These papers are not just a collection of thoughts and ideas, but, we hope, can be a divine inspiration and a message for the church in the twenty first century. They can be seen as an illustration of God’s heart and sensitivity to the plight of those in need, as they trace the origin of poverty and highlight practices and social norms that allow poverty to thrive in our world. There are fundamental questions posed by those who labour everyday in the service to those in need and continue to seek answers. This collection, though not providing all the


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answers, gives us great insights that enable us to respond to questions like, “why poverty exists, what are the causes, why should we be concerned – and how should we respond?” This book began as conference papers presented by the authors at the Global Forum on Church and Poverty, which have since been expanded and edited to form this collection. The decision to publish them into a book was motivated in part by the need to share the rich and profound discussions emanating from the conference. We sincerely hope that this publication will reach a wide audience and engage many more than we were able to bring together in Kigali in July 2018. It is our hope that church leaders and believers alike, both those who were able and those unable to participate in the forum, will be inspired to reflect on the role of jubilee in their own lives and of those they lead. It is my personal prayer that this collection will be of significant value to the church as it responds to poverty and challenges the systems and contexts that allow poverty to persist in the world today.


Foreword Christopher J.H. Wright, Langham Partnership

The Old Testament has bequeathed a number of words and phrases to the English language by way of metaphors that people easily use without any awareness of their origin. A person or a whole community can be made a ‘scapegoat’ – victimized for the wrongdoing of others. Or as an alternative, someone may be put forward as a ‘sacrificial lamb’, taking the heat on behalf of their colleagues. Unequal contests are labelled as ‘David and Goliath’, while severe trials might call for ‘the patience of Job’. The word ‘jubilee’ has likewise been diluted into a significant anniversary. Queen Elizabeth II has so far had a Silver Jubilee, a Golden Jubilee, and a Diamond Jubilee, after 25, 50 and 60 years of her reign in the United Kingdom. Many of us supported the Jubilee 2000 Coalition that campaigned, with considerable success, for the cancellation of international debt in the poorest countries of the world. Since it was widely supported by the public and politicians in 40 countries, it is likely that many who joined its ranks were quite unaware of the biblical origin of their slogan in the book of Leviticus (‘Where?’). So it is a particular joy to welcome a book that takes the jubilee seriously, not just as a slogan, but as a thoroughly biblical foundation for followers of Jesus to understand and practise integral mission.1 But in order for any application of a biblical text or institution to serve that purpose, two things are necessary. First comes the task of careful exegesis. It is vital to study the biblical text in careful detail within its own literary, historical and social context. And this book does that task well. Alongside that comes the task of controlled but imaginative hermeneutics, born of the firm doctrinal conviction that 2 Timothy 3:16-17 applies to Leviticus 25 as much as to any other passage of scripture. The jubilee text is ‘breathed out by God’ (and therefore carries God’s authority), and ‘is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness’ (or education in justice). And this book does that second task well also, with a rich variety of creative and contextual applications of jubilee principles across many cultures.

1

I welcome this book as a fine companion to the equally biblical and practical manifesto by Michael Rhodes and Robby Holt, Practicing the King’s Economy: Honoring Jesus in How We Work, Earn, Spend, Save, and Give (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2018).


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The combination of both these exegetical and hermeneutical tasks removes the facile objection to any Christian application of the biblical jubilee to contemporary economic and social realities – for example that ‘Israel never practised it’ (therefore, smugly, we can dismiss it as utopian). First of all, we don’t know that they never did, just because no record of it appears in the narrative texts. Neither is there any historical record of the observance of the Day of Atonement. But secondly, and more importantly, Israel’s failures do not neutralise the ethical authority of Israel’s scriptures, any more than the manifest moral laxity among some believers in the church at Corinth neutralises the ethical teaching of Paul in 1 and 2 Corinthians. We ground our ethical constructs on the text of God’s word, not on the flawed and partial obedience of God’s people. There are a number of transferable principles inherent in the jubilee text and institution, which the chapters of this book explore with admirable depth and fruitfulness. These include, for example: • That the land belongs to God – as does the whole earth. Humans and soil go together, as the creation texts teach. So issues like respectful agricultural practice, economic justice, and the importance of roots and place, benefit from the jubilee lens. • That family and community are essential components of human flourishing – not just individual ambition. • That the causes and processes of impoverishment need to be addressed and redressed, with appropriate interventions as early as possible, but with humaneness and dignity built in. • That the goal is not perpetual dependence, but the restoration of capacity to work, provide for one’s family, and participate in the life of the community • That debt and bondage – even if entered voluntarily or in extremis – should not be given eternal life but systemically limited and terminated. And doubtless more could be added. This book explores such principles and their application across different ethnic and cultural contexts with a stimulating breadth of examples and stories. And underneath these social and economic principles lies a deeper but quite explicit theological foundation – a foundation that must be very emphatically articulated if ‘integral mission’ is to lay claim to being truly biblical, Christian, and gospel-centred. The text of Leviticus 25 required Israelites, if they were to practise jubilee: • To submit to the sovereignty of Yahweh God over the whole of life, including the sabbatical rhythm of time itself, in the weeks and years. • To trust in the providence of God in his ability to provide sufficient abundance of food to answer the question ‘What shall we eat?’ (Lev. 25:20).


Foreword

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• To know the story of historical redemption – the exodus, referred to repeatedly as motivation for imitative redemptive action towards the poor. • To respond to the experience of the Day of Atonement by reflecting God’s forgiveness in corresponding social and economic action (Lev. 25:9-10). • To have an eschatological hope – the jubilee was something to look forward to when life’s circumstances were oppressive. And those fundamentals of Israel’s faith were at the heart of Israel’s gospel – and ours. For what else does it mean when we call people to repentance and faith in Christ, than inviting them to submit to the reign of God in the Lordship of Christ, to trust in his faithful providence, to know the historical redemption accomplished in Christ’s cross and resurrection, to experience forgiveness and atonement, and to be filled with the hope of the new creation? And then, in the obedience of faith, to live out the transforming ethical vision that includes, within the vast scriptural richness of the whole counsel of God, the amazing counter-cultural values of Israel’s jubilee.



Introduction Seeing Poverty through the Lens of Jubilee Hannah J. Swithinbank and Emmanuel Murangira

In a meeting a while ago I (Hannah) commented that – after a few years in my current job – my Bible automatically fell open at Leviticus 25. ‘What, really?’ ‘Yes, really.’ ‘Not Micah 6, or Luke 4?’ ‘No, Leviticus 25.’ ‘Wow. I would not have expected that.’ Perhaps I wouldn’t have either, when I first started in a job carrying out theological research on issues of poverty and justice for a Christian relief and development agency – but it is no longer a surprise (and never was, to many of my international colleagues). After all, in Leviticus 25 and the description of the year of jubilee, you can find almost everything you need to understand what God is doing in his world. God’s Jubilee ‘Count seven sabbath years – seven times seven years – so that the seven sabbath years amount to a period of forty-nine years. Then sound the trumpet everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family property and to your own clan. The fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; do not sow and do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the untended vines. For it is a jubilee and is to be holy for you; eat only what is taken directly from the fields.’ (Lev. 25:8 -12) This is the opening of the jubilee ordinances, and it defines Israel’s postdeliverance relationship with God. This newly liberated, restored nation was to be rooted in a relationship with God, declared annually on the Day of Atonement. And this was a relationship with consequences: it demanded that the Israelites, understanding themselves as God’s people, should pay attention to the nature and quality of their relationships with each other and with the land in which God had placed them. The jubilee gave them the opportunity to do this in a radical way every 50 years, essentially hitting a reset button on their society; recognising the realities of sin and poverty, God provided a means for everyone to be given – again and again – restoration and the opportunity to flourish.


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Jubilee: God’s Answer to Poverty?

The assumptions that the jubilee laws make about what is good within the society are rooted in an understanding of Yahweh’s character and desires for his people and creation. The key principles that jubilee gives to Israel here can be summarised as follows:1 • The land on which Israel lived was God’s land (Lev. 25:23) and they were his tenants and the stewards of his creation. This ‘stewardship’ is a part of humanity’s original mandate for creation (Gen. 1:26-28; 2:15). Israel’s residence in this promised land demonstrated their identity as God’s chosen people, living in a place to which he had led them (Lev. 25:38). • Life was to be lived within communities. Israel’s socio-economic structure was built on kinship principles: everyone belonged to a tribe, a clan and a household. Each household unit was to have its own piece of the land on which to live (Lev. 25:15) with roughly equitable access to the resources and security that land provided and thus have equal opportunity to flourish. • The Israelites had equality and personal dignity in their shared identity as God’s people and as people made in God’s image (Gen. 1:27) – and each was equally worthy of redemption. Life has a rhythm of worship, work and rest. While work is good and an essential part of God’s mandate for humans in his creation, rest is also essential – and worship pre-eminent. • Sabbath days and years, as well as the jubilee, provided time for both people and the land they lived on to rest and to be restored. The laws emphasised that the relationship with God was the heart of their lives in order for all other relationships to be healthy and restored within a Godly society. And life was to be lived like this, because Yahweh was God and Israel was his people. By mandating the return of people to their households and land, the jubilee provided a counter to natural successes and failures, to greed and exploitation and other sin, that led to growing inequality and poverty. Jubilee demanded more than generosity of the Israelites; it was the way their society was repaired, as God reminded his people that, ultimately, all things belonged to him. Jubilee enabled liberation from poverty and injustice and the restoration of Israel as a just society in which all creation could flourish, under God. Thus, Leviticus 25 reminds us that God has not abandoned his creation to its brokenness after the fall, and that God did not simply establish Israel in the Promised Land and leave them to get on with life: God is interested and involved in the life of his people, and provides what they need to live in a way that shows the wider world what it means to be God’s people. Leviticus 25 shows us that this involves worship, and care for the wellbeing of individuals, families and wider 1

Wright, C. J. H. (2006). The mission of God: unlocking the Bible’s grand narrative. Nottingham, Inter-Varsity Press, 289-323.


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society that encompasses the equality, economics and ecology of the community. Of course, Leviticus 25 is not the only passage of the Bible we should attend to in learning about the nature and mission of God, or about God’s concern with poverty and injustice. As the opening chapters of this collection describe, the whole Bible tells us this story. And, of course, it is vitally important that our consideration of jubilee, as a part of God’s mission of redemption and restoration, is centred in the person of Jesus Christ. As a number of our authors point out, Luke describes Jesus as opening his ministry with reference to jubilee, describing himself as fulfilling the promise of Isaiah to ‘proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’ (Luke 4:19; Isa. 61:2).2 Just as the Old Testament jubilee essentially linked atonement with a way of life and society that pursued justice, Jesus’ life, death and resurrection show that salvation and the good news are for all areas of life and the whole of creation. Chris Wright explains this: ‘A full biblical understanding of the atoning work of Christ on the cross goes far beyond (though of course it includes) the matter of personal guilt and individual forgiveness. God’s mission has wider redemptive dimensions and the gospel is good news for all creation. The cross is important across the whole of mission, because the whole of mission confronts the powers of evil and kingdom of Satan. If Christ is king, he is king of everything.’3 We are liberated by Jesus’ death and resurrection, an event that becomes the foundation of our hope for the future: the new creation that we are promised (Rom. 8:18-25; Rev. 21). This salvation and hope place an ethical demand on Jesus’ followers in their present time: both in the first century and in the twenty-first. In Romans 8, Paul explores what it means for humans to be saved and set free by Christ. He reminds his readers that living in the spirit has an effect that is seen in people who pursue life (zoe – the full life inspired and sustained by God) and peace (Eirene – the New Testament Greek equivalent of the Old Testament’s Hebrew shalom), rather than continuing in sin towards death. Life and peace exemplify the liberation, restoration and flourishing made possible in jubilee. And Paul is clear in Romans 8 that this liberation and restoration of life and peace are not just for humans, but for all of creation. However, this life is not easy: Jesus’ life – and death – show us the lengths to which the son of God went in order to secure our liberation. We are called to take up our cross (Matt. 16:24) and follow him in obedience. This sacrifice, 2

Luke’s gospel is particularly concerned to show how Jesus’ service of the poor is linked to the themes of repentance and salvation (Bosch, D. J. (1991). Transforming mission: paradigm shifts in theology of mission. Maryknoll, N.Y., Orbis Books, 107108). 3 Wright, C. J. H. (2006). The mission of God: unlocking the Bible’s grand narrative. Nottingham, Inter-Varsity Press. 314. Cf. Bosch, D. J. (1991). Transforming mission: paradigm shifts in theology of mission. Maryknoll, N.Y., Orbis Books, 143-147.


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again, is more than generosity: it is a willingness to honour God’s sovereignty and to make reparations for sin in order to end injustice and enable restoration and flourishing. International development is not always easy to define and incorporates a broad range of disciplines as it endeavours to improve the quality of life of people around the world. At the same time, there is – inevitably – discussion about what it means for a society to develop or become developed: in all communities and cultures people have different ideas about what a developed society would look like, and what it would take to create and sustain one. For Tearfund, the goal is whole-life transformation – or the life in all its fullness that Jesus offers (John 10:10) – and this is held with a recognition that the transformation is needed and that results will be different across the different communities and countries in which Tearfund and its partners work. Jubilee provides a critical, biblical lens for this work, as it enables Tearfund and other Christian organisations and churches to look at poverty alleviation and development work and ask how it is contributing to the restoration of relationships and to the ability of people to flourish with and in the world that God has made. Exploring Jubilee in Rwanda This collection is a result of deliberation by scholars and church leaders in the Global Forum on Church and Poverty held in Rwanda in July 2018. It is a country that has been working towards a very particular restoration for the past 25 years, since the devastation of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. In Rwanda, 39.1% of the population live below the poverty line, and 16.3% are classified as living in extreme poverty. Among the common issues facing the country are high numbers of vulnerable people, including women, orphans and the elderly, who have lost the children who would have cared for them in old age; there are high numbers of genocide survivors, most of whom have physical disabilities or permanent injuries, as well as experiencing trauma. Transformation in this context needs to consider personal restoration (spiritual, mental and emotional, and physical), the restoration of relationships with families, between neighbours and communities, and with the land, in which all these people live and sustain life together – and which is itself at risk from climate change and extreme weather. Jubilee is very pertinent here. Having the opportunity to reflect on jubilee and God’s heart for restoration in this country – where the church has been a massive part of the ongoing work of healing and restoration – provided a rich grounding for our conversations at the Global Forum on Church and Poverty. On the second day of our gathering, Rwanda’s Liberation Day, those of us visiting the country were privileged to spend the afternoon at the Genocide Museum and Memorial. It was a profound experience that shaped our conversations about how God might use the ideas of jubilee as a response to poverty and injustice today, and provoked us to


Introduction

5

experience and reflect upon that tension between the brokenness of the world and our need to lament and repent, and the hope that we have in Christ. About this Collection In worship, prayer and discussions during the Global Forum on Church and Poverty, we explored the themes of lament and repentance for the role that the church and Christians have played in the causes of poverty and injustice in the course of history. As Antoine Rutayisire points out in his opening chapter, while God always has a compassionate heart for the poor, God’s people often do not emulate this. At the forum, we acknowledged that this needs to be recognised as a part of the liberation and restoration – the healing of a world – that is the essence of jubilee in order to help us step into the hope and future that Christ offers in the kingdom of God. If we are to respond positively to the call jubilee places upon churches and Christians, and their organisations, it is important to honestly reflect on where and why we have failed so far, in order that we can seek restoration of relationships in these areas as a part of our wider pursuit of restoration and transformation. In chapters two and three of this collection, Aiah Foday-Khabenje, and Lucie Woolley and Anna Ling discuss the ways that brokenness and sin affect us as individuals and our societies’ systems and structures: this is always at the root of our failures to live in God’s ways and pursue jubilee – and as such, at the root of poverty. However, they also remind us that this was not God’s original intention for creation and point the way forward, encouraging us to look to the church as the Body of Christ, as a community and institution with the role of continuing to pursue the jubilee that Christ proclaimed. In chapter four, James E. Read examines jubilee to ask if it is God’s answer to poverty for Israel and for the contemporary world. He focuses on the themes of liberty and return and argues that the church needs to ensure that freedom from oppression and freedom to act in the world, to reflect on the importance of place as an aspect of identity and flourishing, may need to be returned in some way as a part of the restoration made in jubilee. At the same time, Read – along with Foday-Khabenje, Woolley and Ling, and Sas Conradie in later chapters – acknowledges that while the jubilee is a God-given answer to poverty, it is not one that lasts forever: indeed, the original jubilee acknowledged the need to repeat the process, generationally, in the understanding that poverty will not be fully ended until Christ returns and the new creation is established, and that our work towards jubilee should recognise this. In chapter five, Jocabed Reina Solano Miselis provides an indigenous perspective on the idea that jubilee can be a solution to poverty. She presents the Guna concept of the nega (house or home) and the story of the Balu Wala to see flourishing and poverty in the light of humanity’s relationship with


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Jubilee: God’s Answer to Poverty?

creation, offering this as a way to explore jubilee as an invitation to restore our home. Following on from these wider perspectives, chapters six to ten focus on a number of different topics through the lens of jubilee in order to explore how this might help the church respond both to particular areas of life and to poverty broadly. In chapter six, David Lim describes the way that the structure and theology of Asian House Church Networks enables them to pursue a theology of integral mission and jubilee, challenging the reader to think about how our organisations and structures may impede our ability to pursue jubilee as the church. Conradie (chapter seven) looks at the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through the lens of jubilee, suggesting that jubilee – in its understanding of transformation as holistic – can enrich the SDGs’ understanding that engaging culture and values are important to poverty alleviation by helping development actors, including churches, shift behaviours and practices by engaging with people’s religious beliefs. In chapters eight and nine, Alfonso Wieland and Carol Ng’ang’a look at the challenges of violence and exclusion and their relationship to poverty, drawing ideas from jubilee to help churches respond. Wieland finds jubilee particularly important in helping the church to engage on both micro- and macro-levels: dealing with individual cases and immediate needs and engaging with corruptions present in systems and structures. N’gang’a looks particularly at the ideas of gleaning and communion in the light of jubilee to explore how the church can respond to poverty in ways that are inclusive and uphold the dignity of those in need. Finally in this section, Yenny Delgado looks at the relationship between jubilee and the prophetic voice, calling the church today to prophetic advocacy on behalf of those living in poverty. In our final section, three chapters explore how we, as churches and Christians, can become the kind of disciples who pursue jubilee in the world today. Sheryl Haw draws on her experiences of engaging churches around the world in integral mission and community transformation to explain the vital importance of biblical literacy: if we don’t know what the Bible is telling us about jubilee, how can we pursue it? In chapter 12, John Mark Bowers talks about the importance of learning to practise sabbath. He argues that this is a matter of learning to walk before we can run, allowing the practice of sabbath to rewire the way we see life and flourishing and readying us to pursue jubilee. In chapter 13, Hannah Swithinbank explores the importance of being rooted in Christ and formed as disciples in order to become people who pursue jubilee in our individual lives as well as through our churches. Jubilee is about justice: redemption and restoration; liberation and renewal. It is radical and countercultural – both in the ancient world and today – and prophetic. It provides a model for an ancient community living well according to God’s will for his creation so that they can flourish and thrive as individuals and as a community, and so that they can be an example, or light, to the rest of the world, and it is a model we can explore in relation to our contexts and challenges today.


Introduction

7

In the final chapter, Emmanuel Murangira examines the key ideas and thoughts in this collection to discern what the spirit is saying to the church on poverty. He delves through the ideas and thoughts presented and finds that the spirit of God is sending a specific message to his people in this season. He concludes that jubilee ordinances are very relevant to today’s church as a contemporary expression of God’s covenantal community. He avers that jubilee ordinances are timeless and transverse generations and contexts, thus relevant in every season and space. Their applicability is as relevant to the New Testament church as was with the Old Testament covenantal community. Because of their timelessness and cross-cultural applicability, they are perhaps the best principles available to the church in the fight against poverty, which makes them relevant to the church today. The final chapter concludes that jubilee ordinances resonate with the mission of Jesus Christ, as illustrated in Luke 4:18: His command to his Disciples in the Gospel of Matthew to feed the hungry, feed the sick and cast out demons. Jubilee is not only about celebration of God’s goodness and respite but also a kairos moment for the church as a contemporary expression of God’s covenantal community.



God’s Heart for the Poor Antoine Rutayisire

Introduction I once told a wealthy businessperson in our church that we have families in our congregation who feed their children only one meal a day, in turns: those who eat lunch do not eat dinner. It took him time to believe the story and he eventually concluded: ‘You know, you may be right! I wake up in the morning, eat my breakfast and drive to my work. I do not meet those people. You know, I have never stepped inside their houses here in the city.’ The poor, the destitute, the underprivileged, the marginalised – categories of people who are voiceless, invisible and forgotten, by us, but not by God. God tells us, the poor will always be there, with us, near us, among us. ‘You will always have the poor among you’ (John 12:7), but this does not mean we should ignore them. Some people say the poor are closer to the heart of God than the wealthy, but they are mistaken. All, rich or poor, are equally close to the heart of the Father: he loves them without distinction. If God speaks so much of and on behalf of the poor, it is because we forget to speak for them. We push them to the periphery and then, when God speaks for them, we assume he loves them more than he loves those endowed with material wealth. It is, however, not so much about them as it is about us! Our marginalisation of the poor comes not because we hate them: we simply ignore them or reject them, because it is easy to do so. Like the story of Lazarus and the wealthy man (Luke 16:19-31), we simply do not see them; they are out of our sphere of focus, on the periphery of our field of vision. In the story of Lazarus and the wealthy man, there is no evidence to suggest that the man has been actively unkind or mistreated Lazarus, and it is unclear if Lazarus asked for anything from the man and it was denied. Lazarus came, hoping to eat the crumbs from the table when the man and his company had left; most likely, the man never saw him and did not know his plight. There was simply no interaction between them, perhaps because Lazarus did not even imagine that he could go into the presence of the rich man, perhaps because he thought himself unwelcome and unworthy. Poverty dehumanises people and deprives them of their sense of self-worth; they are made invisible and excluded, and unfortunately they become unwilling participants in their own exclusion.


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Jubilee: God’s Answer to Poverty?

The Bible is full of similar stories of blind disciples walking among invisible people, with Jesus quickening their hearts and opening their eyes to do something about the plight of the poor! This chapter uses one story, a real event found in the gospel of Matthew 14:13-21. It is the story of Jesus pushing his disciples out of their comfort zone to feed a crowd of more than 10,0001 people with only two fish and loaves of bread! The Bible mentions 5,000 men – and I hasten to point out they had not counted the women and children! The women and the children were invisible: they were not counted because they did not count! From this text, I will draw and expand on three major lessons about God’s heart for the poor. First, there is strong evidence in the scripture that God is immeasurably compassionate for the poor. Second, in contrast to God’s heart and compassionate character, those who say they are God’s people are less compassionate and generally do not have a heart for the poor and those on the margins of society. Third, I argue that a holistic theology for poverty eradication is needed now, more than at any other time in history God and His Compassionate Heart for the Poor ‘When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed those who were ill.’ (Matt. 14:14)

Throughout the four gospels, we notice a recurring pattern in Jesus’ behaviour and ministry: he always had compassion for people and acted decisively to remedy their situation or resolve their problems. He healed the sick, opened the eyes of the blind, raised the dead, fed the hungry, comforted the grieving, restored the rejected and the marginalised, and all was done out of compassion. His compassionate heart directed the programme he presented as the main agenda of his ministry on earth: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim the 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 and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’ (Luke 4:18-19)

Jesus was always touched by the plight of people; he saw what others did not seem to see. On many occasions, he reminded and encouraged his disciples to ‘lift up their eyes and see’, and his expectation was always that they would do something about the situation (Matt. 9:36-38). Jesus spoke for the marginalised. He praised a woman considered of low moral standards in the community, who was washing his feet with her tears and drying them with her hair, while all those with him were shocked and contemptuous (Luke 7:36-50). 1

Assuming the number of women present was half the men and children who will have shared the bread and fish, despite not being counted.


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The Pharisees and the scribes of his time were scandalised to see him in fellowship with tax collectors, eating in the homes of two tax collectors: Matthew (Luke 5:27-32) and Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-9). His disciples rebuked Bartimaeus the blind man, trying to silence him, until Jesus personally heard his pleading, called him and restored his sight (Mark 10:46-52). Scripture is awash with examples to prove that Jesus tended to live with those on the margins of society and was always drawn by compassion to respond to their plight. Throughout the texts of the Bible we see the heart of God for the poor manifested in five distinctive ways: (a) Deliverance from oppression and exploitation When Jesus presented himself as the messiah to the nation of Israel, at a time of Roman hegemony and oppression, the Jewish people expected the kind of deliverance akin to that of the exodus from Egypt. They expected the Messiah to be a fighting king, reminiscent of deliverers of the past, such as Gedeon, Deborah, Samson and David. They expected Jesus to fight the Romans to bring about political and social deliverance. However, to do this would have been a cure for the symptoms of Israel’s pain, whereas Jesus’ intention was to eradicate the root cause of all forms of poverty – sin. On many occasions in the past, Israel had been rescued from foreign oppression, but the people and their kings would take themselves back into deeper slavery because of their sinful behaviours. Deliverance from Roman oppression without deliverance from sin would not have led to real freedom.2 (b) Advocacy for justice and equitable distribution of resources As we see through the loud voices of the prophets, through the testimony of Job (Job 31), the wisdom of the book of Proverbs – for example verses Proverbs 31:9: ‘open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and the needy’ – the teachings of John the Baptist (Luke 3:10-14) and the practice of the early church in the book of Acts, God encourages advocacy for justice and equity. Jesus affirmatively links his followers’ personal engagement with the plight of those who are thirsty and hungry to the ultimate righteousness and the prospects of eternity, the kingdom prepared for believers before creation (Matt. 25:34-40).

2

See the debate about this issue in John 8:31-41. Although they wanted the Messiah to free them from the Romans, they pretend they ‘have never been slaves to anyone’. Jesus’ answer was: ‘I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin…. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.’


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Jubilee: God’s Answer to Poverty?

(c) Miraculous provision for different needs The Old Testament includes several examples of this, such as the manna provided during the 40 years in the desert on the journey to the promised land; the provision for Elijah, when God sends him to lodge with a widow, Zarephath (1 Kings 17:7-16); or the purifying and healing of a source of water and the land (2 Kings 2:19-22). It can also be seen in the different miracles performed by Jesus, including feeding 4,000 and 5,000 people on two separate occasions. Where ingenuity and human abilities would be terribly inadequate, God often provided by miraculous intervention. (d) Jubilee ordinances When God establishes Israel as a nation, he enacts intricate land tenure laws that protect productive assets in a way that would be bitterly contested in today’s time and age. The jubilee ordinances definitely redefine land ownership for the people of Israel; they are – in essence – a clear statement that there is no such thing as purchase of land, rather a leasehold that accrues for 49 years with the land reverting to the owner in the fiftieth year. The ordinances also abolish perpetual servitude; in other words, slavery is outlawed notwithstanding the slave owner’s claim. (e) Development of working skills God not only recognises skills but also imparts skills for his people to become creative and productive, as manifested in the building of the tabernacle, the ark of the covenant, as well as the building of God’s temple by Solomon. God’s encouragement of skills can be seen in the story of Elisha and the widow selling oil (2 Kings 4:1-7) and in Paul’s writings to Titus and their other colleagues encouraging them to teach their people to work and live by the fruit of their labour (Titus 3:14). We can see that on different occasions; God imparts specific skills to individuals and groups for the realisation of a specific ‘community’ project. My reference story of Jesus multiplying five loaves of bread and two fish reflects these principles. It highlights the divine heart of compassion towards the poor, the sick and the hungry, but also the intended empowerment of the disciples. Jesus challenges them to feed the people, although he is very much aware that they do not have the amount of food that would be required to feed such a large crowd. This was his pragmatic way of stretching their faith in order to experience God’s serendipity. There was no better way to teach the disciples to trust in God for greater things, to expand their horizons when faced with scarcity and life needs. Faith connects our human limitations and scarcities into the infinite resources of God. God is always telling his people to have the right heart for the people, have faith and bring the little you have. In the words of Isaiah 59:1, ‘surely the arm of God is not too short to save.’ It is lack of faith that keeps people in bondage and poverty.


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This challenge to his people is a noticeable pattern throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. It is well articulated in Exodus 3:7-8, when God is seized by the bondage of children of Israel, sees and hears the groaning of his people in Egypt and sends Moses to do something about it: ‘I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. Therefore, I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey… Now the cry of the children of Israel has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I’m sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt’ (Ex. 3:7-10).

This pattern is also evident in the Pentateuch, throughout the historical books and the prophetic books, and seen even more in the New Testament, in the ministry of Jesus and the practices of the early church as seen in the book of Acts and the writings of the Apostles. Although God does not promise us to end poverty, he calls us to keep fighting it, to keep helping the poor, to keep being the eyes, hands and feet of Jesus as his body on earth. God does not make the promise to end poverty by might as he does when intervening against injustice.3 He instead calls upon those who are his own,4 his chosen agents in the redemption scheme, to deal with poverty constantly. For unlike the bondage in Egypt, in the new dispensation in the new covenant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, God’s people are endowed with what is inherently sovereign resources and wealth in the kingdom of God.5 The wealth and resources at the disposal of individuals who hold them in trust for the kingdom (Deut. 15:4, 11). The have-nots were to be the responsibility of those who have, for even those who were able to accumulate value, it is simply a blessing from and by God (Ps. 24:1). God’s People and their Compassionless Hearts for the Poor ‘This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so that they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food’ (Matt. 14:15)

3

Gen. 3:17 God says I have seen, I have heard and I am coming down. Notice he intervenes himself to end the injustice to counter the power of all that is evil. In injustice where people are deprived of the ability to execute, God intervenes directly and delegates, where people have the resources and the power to respond. 4 Believers are the chosen agents of God in his grand redemption plan. 5 The kingdom of God in the new covenant is equivalent to the promised land that God promised to the Nation of Israel.


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Jubilee: God’s Answer to Poverty?

In this story, Jesus and his disciples are in one situation together: on top of a mountain with a vast crowd and no food; but there is a fundamental difference in how they respond. Out of pure expediency, the disciples ask Jesus to send the people away to buy food for themselves; they do not want to take the heavy responsibility, and they will not even dare to think about confronting such a huge problem. The crowd is too big, the resources are extremely limited, time is against any effort and the place is not conducive to dare dream of a solution. However, Jesus’ response to their suggestion challenges them, and also stretches their faith to its breaking point. He is asking them to feed a multitude, yet they only have two fish and five loaves of bread. They see no other solution other than dismissing the crowd so that everyone can fend for themselves. Jesus, however, seems to be communicating an entirely different message: that a solution can be found not by might nor by human ingenuity and strategies (Zech. 4:6; Ezek. 37) but by the spirit of God. And so Jesus blesses the loaves and fishes, and hands them over to be distributed, feeding the crowd. I believe the same mistake is being made by believers today and that they are entrapped in the same mindset as the disciples, looking for practical solutions without the help of the spirit. First, like the attitude of the disciples to the crowd, there is a general insensitivity to the plight of those in need and the afflicted. In many contexts, the poor are often considered a nuisance, with the church believing there are more important issues to deal with and that the little precious time available cannot be wasted on them. Even when help is offered, there comes a time when people feel there is no light at the end of the tunnel and the new disease called ‘compassion fatigue’ catches up. The result is the default cry, like the disciples: ‘send them away so that they can do something for themselves.’ Second, out of the ‘send them away’ mentality develop methods of poverty eradication that seem to work, but do not really eradicate poverty. Jesus knew well that the people did not have enough money to buy what they would need, and – even if they had – in the context of a town in the countryside of Galilee, it would have been impossible to find resources. Even in modern cities, it would be a challenge to feed a crowd of 5,000 men.6 If they arrived without a planned warning of some weeks or even months before their arrival, the logistics would have been even more complicated. What the disciples were suggesting was expedient but not efficient or effective! Third, the disciples were looking at the situation without including God, his power and his principles in the picture! This is a common mistake that people often make when engaging with poverty and the poor, even those who are Christians. They deploy their own methods to the exclusion of God – approaches devoid of his compassion and not reliant on his power.

6

As mentioned, this figure does not account for women and children, who were most likely greater in number than the men.


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At the risk of metaphorically throwing stones at sacred cows, in order to illustrate the error in approaches alluded to in the preceding paragraph, it is instructive to closely look at two related approaches, which currently seem to enjoy the status of ‘magic bullets’ in the practitioner community, and challenging them borders on intellectual sacrilege. Both Self Help and Micro Finance are highly acclaimed approaches based on financial access theories and the premise that what the poor need is money to invest in business. I do not want to slaughter the cows in this critique, but to give food for thought and encouragement to improve. The self-help group (SHG) approach has been acclaimed as the best answer to empower the poor to help themselves out of poverty. There is a strong element of truth in that claim. They have indeed helped many people in alleviating their poverty. Below is an illustration of how SHGs work: ‘You go into a poor neighbourhood; you map the community and identify the poorest among them. You help them create small homogeneous groups of no more than 15 people; you teach them some basic rudiments of leading and reporting a meeting, writing record books and saving money, then they do things for themselves! They meet once a week to discuss their savings and lend to each other according to their capacities and their felt needs of the moment.’7 This approach has been embraced by many organisations including Christian relief and development organisations.8 However, from a Christian perspective, this approach to poverty alleviation comes with three inherent weaknesses that need to be remedied to turn it into a better, more sustainable life-changing tool. First, the SHG approach tends to be secular by nature and approach. Its main assumption is that if the poor came together and put their financial and material resources in the same pool, they could easily pull themselves up by their bootstraps; members of the groups could just self-help! However, just like the disciples of Jesus, this approach has a fundamental flaw: it leaves God out of the poverty equation. This has a clear impact on holistic transformation: people might become materially well off, while remaining poor in other relationships and areas of their life. The long-term consequences of an approach that discounts other areas of human existence come to the fore through fraud, cheating, mishandling and misuse of group finances that sometimes take place by members who are more knowledgeable or by outsiders who gain access to group finances. This has not only undermined progress in eradicating poverty but also it undermines the effectiveness of the approach as it diminishes user uptake. Trust is obviously 7

This description comes from the author’s experience implementing a large-scale SHG project in Rwanda as head of the African enterprise that piloted SHGs in Rwanda in partnership with Kindernothilfe. 8 In Rwanda, the approach started with African Evangelistic Enterprise and has become like a backbone to all their interventions. It has been embraced by Hope International, World Relief, Tearfund and all the churches working with them.


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Jubilee: God’s Answer to Poverty?

key to the existence and effectiveness of the groups in alleviating poverty. The assumption is, however, based on an illusion that, because people share the problem of poverty, there exists therefore mutual trust, which is not necessarily true or feasible. Some Christian organisations have tried to remedy the situation by including prayer and bible studies in the approach. This is a laudable improvement, but gaps remain, and greater fixes that go beyond prayer and a motley collection of bible studies are required. It is important to remodel the approach, so that it does not only include bible studies but also so that it becomes a more holistically transformational approach that draws its inspiration from biblical principles. Second, this approach ignores some of the real issues behind poverty. Poverty is not just a matter of lack of economic and material resources. Poverty has deep roots in the mentality of the poor and the approach will not produce a lasting impact unless it finds a way to tackle those deeprooted causes. Helping the poor to save a few coins of their meagre resources once a week will not by itself exorcise the demons of poverty that are well entrenched in the minds, attitudes and practices of the poor. The SHG approach would benefit more, if it were enriched with teachings that not only equip the poor for saving but also with tools for restoring broken relationships. This could contribute to transformation of the mindsets of the poor and the behaviours that this can nurture, such as poor work ethics and habits, self-diminishing that leads to eroded personal integrity, and other selfdehumanising attitudes that make the poor vulnerable to external and selfmarginalisation. The third weakness is not easy to see until the groups mature and become more entrepreneurial. That is when their limited9 resources become an issue as their savings cannot propel them to what Jeffrey Sachs calls ‘The first rung of the ladder of economic development.’10 This book discusses in detail issues related to poverty and savings. It concludes that some people are not able to save for an investment that would make a significant difference to their lives beyond their daily needs. Those that are destitute will use all their resources for daily survival and will not have much left for the future. Most of the stories of success from SHGs often talk 9

A good discussion of this issue is found in a report on “The Self-Help Group Approach in Afghanistan” that was published by Annika Schemeding for the organisation PIN (People in Need). The report is exhaustive in its presentation of the philosophy and practice of the SHG, their advantages and limitations, etc. https://www.clovekvtisni.cz/media/publications/960/file/afg-self-help-group-study.pdf. Accessed for the last time on 28 February 2019. 10 ‘If economic development is a ladder with higher rungs representing steps up the path to economic well-being, there are roughly one billion people around the world, one sixth of humanity, who live as the Malawians do: too ill, hungry, or destitute even to get a foot on the first rung of the development ladder. These people are the poorest of the poor, or the extreme poor of the planet. They all live in developing countries…’ (Jeffrey Sachs, The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time (2005), 18).


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about members being able to purchase some basic things such as salt, soap, and notebooks for their children. The rare cases of people who are active11 and achieve better economic outcomes are often given as an example of SHG success, but this obscures the more numerous cases of those who fall by the wayside and fail to derive meaningful economic benefits.12 This is why Sachs concludes that ‘the poorest of the poor are most prone to becoming trapped with low or negative economic growth rates. They are too poor to save for the future and thereby accumulate the capital per person that would pull them out of their current misery.’13 The second approach for economic development or ending poverty is the microfinance institution (MFI) model. This is hailed as ‘the best alternative’ for the poor, the ultimate solution and antidote to poor access to affordable financial services. When they become entrepreneurial and they need more funding, and their savings are inadequate, then microfinance is offered as the best solution.14 The assumption behind this approach is that, if you provide financial resources for the poor, then they will be entrepreneurial and move themselves out of poverty. This again ignores the social, psychological and spiritual roots of poverty, and proves reductionist as it sees poverty only in its material dimension. A more inclusive approach would connect the MFI with a social institution15 that would remedy the gap in access to information and knowledge (social, economic, spiritual and environmental awareness), and the skill needed to optimise the financial access.16 Access to affordable financial services is only useful to those who know what to do with it, otherwise it fizzles into competing needs. 11

The active poor are those who seize opportunities for self-improvement or those who generally have an active profit motive despite scarcity or poor access to resources within their context. One could argue that their climb out of poverty would ultimately happen even without support. 12 I used to work with a Christian organisation with many groups for the poor. We had some groups that had created success stories and they received more visits from our donor groups. We had one lady who had really made it from selling small cakes on the street to having a nice house, a sewing workshop and a small shop in the market. This lady was the most visited beneficiary, not the hundred others who were struggling and had not made a good story. This is a common practice for organisations that need success stories to raise funds. 13 Sachs, The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time (2005), 56-57. 14 A detailed discussion and presentation of the saving and credit associations (SCAs) and of microfinance as a tool for helping the poor out of their poverty will be found in Brian Fikkert and Russell Mask, From Dependence to Dignity: How to Alleviate Poverty Through Church-Centered Microfinance. 15 In many contexts, the church is the foremost social institution, community based, member driven, voluntary, a reservoir of skills and human capital. 16 See the discussion on how this could be done in Fikkert and Mask Russell, From Dependence to Dignity: How to Alleviate Poverty Through Church-Centered Microfinance.


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Jubilee: God’s Answer to Poverty?

There is generally no room for God’s compassion in the banking system and, worse still, there is no room for the poor who lack entrepreneurial skills. Those who fall in this latter category are far too many to be ignored; they are the poorest of the poor, those Christ calls the ‘least of these’. The MFI is not an institution for the financially illiterate, not for the elderly and the not so dynamic people among the poor. The worst sin in this approach is its exorbitant interest rates. While the wealthy get capital with a 15% interest from commercial banks, the poor tend to get capital with double that in interest. In their book The Poor Will be Glad: Joining the Revolution to Lift the World out of Poverty, Peter Greer and Phil Smith affirm that the interest rates in microfinance vary between 30% and 50%, and they go on to explain the reasons behind this overcharge. They cite administrative charges, the inflation and the security for non-performing loans. This usury is explained away and goes unnoticed because the repayments are done weekly.17 It would be interesting to compare defaulting rates between those who access the banking system and the poor who rely on microfinance. For instance, a loan of 50,000 Rwandan francs repaid in 10 instalments of 5,000 francs with an interest rate of 3% will be fully returned in 2 months with an interest of 15,000 francs. Would it be wrong to call this kind of interest rate extortion and exploitation, and perhaps sacrilegious? Why should the poor pay higher interests than the wealthy, if our intention is to help them? Don’t both groups go to the same markets? One of the jubilee ordinances concerns interest rates on loans given to the poor and the profit on food sales: ‘You must not lend them money at interest or sell them food at a profit’ (Lev. 25:37). It could be possible to apply the jubilee ordinances, to give a certain category of the poor zero interest loans, just as it is possible to have markets where people can buy affordable food. A Holistic Theology for Poverty Eradication ‘Taking the five loaves and two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up 12 basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.’ (Matt. 14:19-20)

These verses give us a good picture of what Jesus Christ came for: to establish the kingdom of God that makes possible the satisfaction for all people’s needs. Scarcity is not a scare for God. Our God is a God of miracles and a God of generosity. The two fish and five loaves of bread fed a crowd that must have included at least 10,000 people, when women and children were counted, and there were 12 basketfuls of leftovers. God is not limited in his interventions,

17

See Greer, Peter and Smith, Phil. 2009. The Poor Will Be Glad: Joining the Revolution to Lift the World Out of Poverty. Michigan, Grand Rapids: Zondervan.


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despite our tendency to limit him due to lack of faith and myopic vision that limit him to the status quo and restrict movement. Jesus, through his preaching, his miracles and his personal lifestyle, demonstrated the kingdom of God ruled by God as the Provider, Protector, as sovereign. This is where humanity lived before sin came into the world with its consequent alienation, as is explored in more depth in chapter two of this collection. First, sin destroyed man’s relationship with God. It also alienated man from himself and from each other. It created enmity between man and his environment and sparked a plethora of miseries that included diseases, death and scarcity of resources. It is only when we share the full Gospel of the kingdom of God in its wholeness, only when God is brought back into the equations of our interventions, that lasting results can be achieved. Integral Mission does not happen through collating of bible verses and adding them onto secular interventions. It happens when interventions aim at tackling the four levels of alienation that came with sin (Gen. 3:1-19). • Alienation from God: spiritual disconnect and emptiness. • Alienation from self: psychological breakdown, self-rejection, selfcondemnation and self-hatred. • Alienation from others: includes social conflicts, wars and family breakdowns. • Alienation from nature that leads to environmental degradation, pollution and destruction. The missio dei, the initiative God took to save humanity, always aims at restoring man from those four alienations. The mission of Jesus and the mission of the church, as it was and will always be, is to restore humanity into communion and harmony with God, with self, with others and with nature. However, churches have often truncated the gospel and preached a “gospel of salvation” that focuses on humans getting to heaven, without much concern for daily realities. Christian NGOs have tried to respond and transform the daily economic and social realities, sadly often without much concern for the spiritual. It is only when the two come together and work hand in hand with a clear objective of transforming lives that we will see real transformations. The church has the Bible and the Christian organisations have the skills and the financial resources; the challenge that remains is to work together as God’s people. The jubilee ordinances in Leviticus 25 are God’s expression of his nature, his desire for a world restored to its purpose. The jubilee ordinances show God’s all-encompassing antidote to poverty, which is as relevant today as it was in the Levitical times.


An mar Nega (Our Home)1 Jocabed Reina Solano Miselis My little one, do you hear Baba and Nana2 singing? Where, Granny? Where? A moment of silence followed, interrupted by the grandmother’s singing: Baba and Nana (the Great Father and the Great Mother) were playing with the earth, creating beautiful colours. They made the flowers, plants and animals in unique shades. Feeling their presence in the wind, the trees sway; hearing their footsteps, the animals sing. When you listen to the birds, you are hearing the singing of Baba and Nana. When you go to the sea and see the fish swimming and dolphins jumping, they are dancing because they are rejoicing in Baba and Nana’s singing. And when a Guna mother sings to her little child, there, my little girl, is where you hear Baba and Nana’s singing. The Gunadule nation are an indigenous people who have lived in Abya Yala3 for thousands of years. Today, they are located in the countries of Panama and Colombia. Throughout the centuries the Guna people have lived a life of resistance, keeping the flame of their identity and memory alight through story, metaphor, symbol, revolution and song. For the Guna people, song signifies resistance. It was through song that our ancestors were formed to live as a community (Nangan namaggedba, anmar dadgan durdagdegude na bulagwa damlad, na bulagwa negsemalad). A woman named Inanadili taught the Guna people to sing, and it was this song that ignited the spirit of the Guna sons and daughters living on this earth, enabling them to withstand the threats that the conquista hurled at them. This article will be centred around the

1

Chapter originally written in Spanish. With thanks to Alexia Haywood for translation. Baba and Nana are words used to refer to the Big Father, Big Mother, supreme beings, creators of the world. The whole ‘pluriverse’, according to the Guna, was co-created. In the creation, two powers (male-female). worked together. Wagua, A. (2011). En defensa de la vida y su armonía. Panama, Proyecto EBI Guna / Fondo Mixto Hispano Panameño, 276. 3 Abya Yala is the name given by the Gunadule to the continent most people know as America. The Gunadule culture maintains that there have been four epochs in the evolution of Mother Earth. Each epoch has a different name: Gwalagunyala, Dagargunyala, Yaladinguayala and Abya Yala. The latter name refers to a ‘land redeemed, favoured, and loved by Baba and Nana (yala a bonodadi)’, and according to its fuller meaning is a ‘mature land, land of blood’. Ibid. 2


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metaphor of the house or home: starting with the nega (home/house),4 then the destruction of the house, followed by the building of the house. The final part takes Gunadule history, resistance and insurgency as its starting point to put forward a view of jubilee from a Gunadule understanding, interwoven with biblical passages, and presents one of many proposals for the future of life in Abya Yala. ‘I saw a great multitude that no-one could count, from every race, language and nation. I saw their faces, faces of different colours, images of beauty reflecting the image of the Son of God. And when I looked for my face in the image of the other people, I saw that I looked like a tree and asked, where am I? I heard a voice from within the wind telling me that I was in sabbibenega5 and then others like me emerged; I heard the patter of people dancing, I heard war cries and I saw faces painted with achiote6 and jaguas.7 It was the indigenous face of God, who together with all creation was singing the notes of a new song, the song of those living in freedom with God and in harmony with the plants and animals.’8 1. The Nega (House or Home) For the Guna people, life and everything related to it is sacred. It was Nana and Baba who taught us, through the Guna leaders, how to build our house. The house refers not only to where we live, but also to the Guna’s political organisation. In order to remember and commemorate the importance this organisation has for us, we use metaphors and symbols that help us pass on to the next generation the importance of life in community. The house where we live is full of this kind of meaning. As such, when we reflect on the house or home, it is with the recognition that it is a sacred place, because living life together with all of the other people in the home and in the Guna nation is connected to one of the highest ethical principles: life in community. The house in which the Guna people live is a sacred place and every branch that makes up the hut plays a role in supporting its structure; each one has a 4

The Gunadule word nega and Spanish word casa can be translated as both home and house in English. In this article, either home or house is used where appropriate to translate nega. Nega is also used frequently throughout the article. 5 Sabbibenega is a Guna concept referring to a place or era of new beings that populate the earth at the appointed time. 6 Achiote is an arborescent plant from which seeds by the same name are obtained. Also known as Bixa Orellana, Achiotl, Urucú, Bija, Bijol, Rocú, Rocón or Onoto. 7 Genipa americana is grown for its edible fruit and for drinks, jams, ice-creams and sugar powders. When South American indigenous people prepare for battle, they paint each other with the juice of the Genipa and annatto dye, a bright red colour extracted from the Urucú, Roucouor Annatto, from the small Bixa Orellana tree. 8 A new account inspired by the book of Revelation 7:9, rewritten from the perspective of the author (Jocabed R. Solano M), influenced by my Guna brothers and sisters.


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name and function. Ibeorgun9 traced a clear principle when he said: ‘In the same way that the branches that make up a house communicate between themselves, in the same way that they support each other, so should the community – it should be like a big house, a warm home for everyone.’10 Every part of the house represents an aspect of life, and the house’s central pillar is the pillar that supports our cosmic universe. The elders always say ‘Take note: how our house is, so our community is’. As Guna we say, let us look at our own hands, at our own fingers, and learn from them. We will only be good community leaders if we follow their example. There can be no community without unity between members, because when we live life with one another, our humanity and the interdependence of all living creatures becomes evident. Then we are able to focus on the common good for all men and women. We can see how the social categories that permeate the West contrast with the Guna way of thinking. For example, when Western society talks about development, it thinks of urbanisation, of capitalist economic systems, of new technologies and globalisation.11 However, we can see that these categorisations are social constructs that flow from the concepts of development and underdevelopment. The idea of development emerged in the post-Second World War context as an ideological, political and discursive construct that sought to set out reference points for the reconstruction of Europe. It arose through the need to create administrative licence to respond to the social ills provoked by global circumstances and manage the impact of the Cold War (in particular the advance of communism), as well as a demand to expand the goods market. Development and underdevelopment came to represent two distinct poles, an idea first uttered by President Truman in 1948.12 They are two manifestations of the same process, the global expansion of capitalism, which over time is defined by accumulation and affects every area in a different way. Observing it at a country level, we can see that the global expansion of capitalism gave rise to unequal development: growth generated in one region reaches a certain level and dynamism; the increase in profit and competitive advantages promote progressive concentration at the expense of the periphery, whatever scale we look at.13 As such, development involves reproducing the 9

Ibeorgun/Orgun: a key figure in the Babigala (a complex and extensive system of Guna treatises expressed in a language and form characteristic of the Guna community) who reorganises the community and establishes the onmaggednega (meeting house). 10 Martínez, A. (2012). El legado de los abuelos. Panama, Guna Yala. 11 Panotto, N. (2016). Post-development, difference and socio-cultural identities: the divine in-between as a contribution to the epistemology of ecotheology. Oikotree Movement, Life-Enhancing Learning Together, Less Press & Life in Beauty Press. 12 Ibid. 13 Ramírez, H. (2008). “Desarrollo, subdesarrollo y teoría del desarrollo y teorías del desarrollo en la perspectiva de la geografía críticas”. Revista Escuela de Historia 7(7).


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conditions of the nations at the centre vis-a-vis the ‘Third World’; from this perspective the idea of development becomes a socio-cultural one, creating a distinction between one and the other, but also a dynamic of submission of one to the other.14 This is not just a modern phenomenon, however; it has historical roots. As the Latin American people struggled against and became independent from Spain, around the beginning of the twentieth century, they organised themselves into national entities and attempted to secure a place in the modern world of progress, technology and education.15 Indigenous nations, with their own forms of political and social organisation, were oppressed both by the conquista and later by the independent nation states. In this way all indigenous communities were oppressed and repressed by other political systems modelled on a particular concept of development, far removed from a vision of environmental and economic sustainability that benefits all. This vision cannot emerge without the existence of a political and social structure that acknowledges the plurality of Abya Yala worldviews. In the words of my ancestor Igwasalibler, who was referring to both the conquistadores and the system itself at the time of the conquista: ‘These thugs who call themselves Christians don’t even know the word of God (Bad igar wichurmala), because they exploit and violate the land and our daughters.’16 ‘Development’ cannot be called development when it does not take into account the wellbeing of the other, when life itself is threatened, systems cease to be sustainable, and exploitation of humanity and of our nega (home) is guided by colonialisms such as those of knowledge and power, as described by Aníbal Quijano.17 Such colonialisms instrumentalise humanity and the world. However, how is this evident in practice? How does this exploitation affect each one of us, and the world? 2. The Destruction of the Nega Our world faces huge challenges, including serious environmental ones. In 2019, in Nairobi, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) presented a detailed report, which looks at how society’s current development model has become unsustainable in a number of ways. The analysis, nearly 800 pages long, warns that we will not be able to support the health, needs and productivity of the 10 billion people who are expected to make up the earth’s 14

Panotto, N. (2016). Post-development, difference and socio-cultural identities: the divine in-between as a contribution to the epistemology of ecotheology. Oikotree Movement, Life-Enhancing Learning Together, Less Press & Life in Beauty Press, 2-3. 15 DeBorst, R. P. (2018). Church, power, and transformation in Latin America. The church from every tribe and tongue: ecclesiology in the majority world. G. L. e. Green, S. T. e. Pardue and K.-K. e. Yeo. 39. 16 Oral accounts of Igwasalibler told in the Guna House of Congress. 17 Quijano, A. (2007). Des/colonialidad del Poder: El Horizonte Al Alternativo’. Lima, Peru, Observatorio Latinoamericano de Geopolítica.


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population in 2050 ‘unless profound and urgent changes are made to patterns of consumption and production’.18 Other alarming facts include: • Each year around 1.4 million people die from preventable diseases like diarrhoea and others caused by intestinal parasites resulting from air and water contamination. • Two million displaced people, losses amounting to $49 million, 1,600 people dead as a result of forest fires and increased hunger as a result of drought are included among the effects of global warming in 2018. In total, almost 62 million people experienced natural disasters as a result. UN Secretary General António Guterres has called for concrete measures instead of words, including speeding up the transition to renewable energy sources.19 • In recent years, hundreds of plant and animal species have died out. • While climate change affects all of us, the poorest are experiencing and will continue to experience its effects the worst. • Over-exploitation of the earth through an increase in monocultures has provoked modern plagues, and this in turn has resulted in the use of chemical products containing lead, mercury and cadmium aimed at their control. These compounds are highly toxic for both human beings and animals. • Agro-chemicals are causing different types of cancer, miscarriages and the birth of children with deformities. • Globalised consumption, sustained by ongoing militarisation and conflict.20 Indigenous people are among those more severely affected by ‘development’, consumerism, and neoliberal capitalist systems. The extinction of hundreds of languages and cultures, the genocide suffered by hundreds of indigenous communities and the epistemicide affecting indigenous people across the world are terrible consequences of this.

18

“Estos son los desafíos ambientales que enfrenta la humanidad”. Retrieved 9 August 2019 from www.eltiempo.com/vida/medio-ambiente/los-principales-desafiosambientales-que-enfrenta-la-humanidad-337538s. 19 Retrieved 9 August 2019 from https://elpais.com/internacional/2014/10/10/actualidad/1412956768\_763724.html. 20 Carral, G. T. (2013). “Armamentismo y sobreconsumo en el capitalismo contemporáneo. La economía política de la Guerra”. Economía: teoría y práctica 38(1), 149-181. In the article, Carral highlights the following: it can be asserted that the wars allowed the foundations to be laid for the establishment of capitalism globally, because they drove the formation of the global market, subjugating all nations to the rule of the cycle of industrial capital. However, the wars of civilisation still continue today (‘permanent primitive accumulation’, as defined by Luxemburg, R. (1966). La acumulación del capital. Mexican, meaning that armament is an essential factor in reproducing this mode of production (or rather, destruction).


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2.1. Communities affected by climate displacement Guna Yala – one of the regions of the Gunadule nation, which is located on the Caribbean coast of present-day Panama and includes 365 islands facing the north coast of the isthmus – is being affected by climate change. Every year the sea level rises by 2-3 millimetres. Communities living on the small, beautiful coral islands that border mainland Guna Yala are impacted by the rising sea level. It is estimated that over the coming years, almost 28,000 people will have to move from the islands to the mainland as a result of rising sea levels and extreme weather events.21 In fact, UNHCR predicts that over the next 50 years, between 250 million and 1 billion people across the globe will lose their homes or be forced to leave their region or country.22 In Abya Yala, the difficult decision about whether to stay or migrate is a dilemma faced by more and more people. The global climate is changing and the effects are evident. Still, there are also communities in the most affected areas that have not sat idly by, but have fought back and resisted, motivated by their spiritual beliefs and worldview. In some cases, whole villages have mobilised; in others, indigenous leaders have galvanised collective movements from within and outside their communities in order to protect their land. 3. Motivation for Resistance What motivates them to defend the land? The worldview expressed through the spirituality of indigenous people. In the case of the Guna, all of life is seen as interconnected, and harmony is created through a relationship of respect between human beings and the world. If this harmonious circle is broken, an imbalance results, affecting us all. As well as this, there is a recognition that we are one with the earth, we belong to it; therefore it is not a relationship of power of human over earth, but of interdependence. This is expressed in Guna memory, stories, ceremonies, dance and symbols, among other things. This traditional way of life reminds indigenous communities that we must not surrender, but instead draw strength from our memories and stories, and from the warnings spoken and sung by our ancestors, who foretold difficult times when humanity would cause the earth to suffer. At the same time, they remind us that we are the sons and daughters of the earth, called to defend and care for it, and that because life is considered sacred, so is the earth, in which the creator breathes. One of the names given by the Guna to Mother Earth is Nabgwana, which means ‘The mother who 21

Mission report: Climate change and displacement in the autonomous region of Guna Yala, P. (2014). Mission report: Climate change and displacement in the autonomous region of Guna Yala, Panama. 22 Retrieved 9 August 2019 from https://elpais.com/internacional/2014/10/10/actualidad/1412956768\_763724.html.


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provides abundant fruit and expresses intimate sadness and joy in the beings created within her.’23 The earth is mother, because from her come human beings, her fruit. According to Leonardo Boff in his book Cry of the earth, cry of the poor, ‘Instrumental reasoning is not the only way to use our intellectual capacity. There is also symbolic reasoning and emotional reasoning, and the use of all our bodily and spiritual senses. Together with logos (reason), there is eros (life and passion), pathos (affectivity and sensitivity) and the daimon (nature’s inner voice). Reason is neither the primary nor the final moment of existence. We are also affectivity (pathos), desire (eros), passion, tenderness, communication, and alert to nature’s voice speaking within us (daimon)…Knowing is not just a way of taming reality. Knowing involves entering into communion with things.’24 When we see the earth through this lens, we have a new understanding of it as a vast community of which we are members; responsible members. The book En defensa de la vida y su armonía (In defence of life and its harmony)25 brings together some of the accounts of the Guna people related to their theology. It illustrates how every Guna son and daughter is required to love, care for and respect the earth. We – including human beings – are all dules (living beings), fruit of the earth, called to defend her lovingly. We join in the cry of the fruits of the earth, who celebrate the coming of their defenders and guardians. The cry says: ‘I am the fruit of Mother Earth’; and with this and many other things in mind, hundreds of defenders fight each day to care for the trees, plants, animals, lakes, rivers and seas – all things that exist in our common home. One example we find is the ceremony of the first little tree (primer árbolito). When a baby girl or boy is born in a Guna community, the midwife gives the umbilical cord and placenta to the father or accompanier. They go out into the fields and sow a seed with the umbilical cord and placenta, which serves as compost. Each time a villager passes by the tree, they care for it through kind words and gestures, and by watering it. When the fruit grows, whether banana, cacao, or another kind of fruit, and harvest time comes, the fruit is taken to the community, and madun (banana and cacao juice) is prepared. All the children are invited to drink this first juice (a special ceremony for the new inhabitant). Through this ceremony, the Guna give thanks to the earth, celebrate woman’s fertility, connect as a community and recognise that we are all interconnected and interdependent, because our blood, and the blood of our ancestors, is united with the land, and we are one. This connection motivates the Guna to resist those forces that endanger this connection. 23

Wagua, A. (2011). En defensa de la vida y su armonía. Panama, Proyecto EBI Guna / Fondo Mixto Hispano Panameño, 282. 24 Boff, L. (1997). Cry of the earth, cry of the poor. Maryknoll, N.Y., Orbis Books, 9. 25 Wagua, A. (2011). En defensa de la vida y su armonía. Panama, Proyecto EBI Guna / Fondo Mixto Hispano Panameño.


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The reality today is that many of those who defend and care for the land in Abya Yala are being assassinated. According to Global Witness, 206 defenders were killed across the world in 2016, and at least 207 more in 2017, a large number of them indigenous community leaders.26 Among the indigenous leaders killed as a result of their work defending land are: Berta Cáceres, a Honduran human rights and environmental activist who fought to prevent the construction of a hydroelectric dam on the Gualcarque river and was murdered in March 2016; Isidro Baldenegro, a defender of indigenous communities and native forests in Mexico; Colombian Yaneth Alejandra Calvache Viveros; and many more.27 What is the cause of this violence? Conflict over land rights and use, including those related to mining, the oil industry, agribusiness, hydroelectric dams, and the cultivation of cash crops such as rubber, palm oil and soya, have been at the root of most of the known deaths. Businesses are often thought to make secret deals with governments to acquire large areas of land and forest, which indigenous communities also lay claim to. This leads to protest in various forms, and many murders have taken place in the depths of mountain ranges, in tropical forests and in indigenous communities. Some examples include the Guarani-Kaiowá people, who continue to be forced off their ancestral land. Large multinational companies are seeking to control the land, and the Brazilian government seems to put these economic interests ahead of the wellbeing of its indigenous citizens.28 One of the most well-known cases is that of Berta Cáceres, who was assassinated for her environmental activism. An ecologist, feminist and defender of indigenous people’s rights, Berta was fighting the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project in the Gualcarque river basin, in Honduras. The dam restricted the access to water of the local Lenca communities, threatened their traditional way of life and posed an environmental risk. Thanks to Berta’s work the world’s largest dam construction company and several international banks pulled out of the project. It cost Berta her life. On the morning of 3 March 2016, she was assassinated by hitmen.29 4. What is the Role of Followers of Jesus in the Face of these Situations? Are we called to rebuild the nega (house or home)? The question may seem absurd, but the truth is that many of our Christian communities are not aware of the issues discussed, or we are taken in by ideas that lead us to evade 26

Witness, G. (2017). Defenders of the earth: global killings of land and environmental defenders in 2016. 27 Ibid. 28 Retrieved 9 August 2019 from https://elpais.com/internacional/2014/10/10/actualidad/1412956768\_763724.html. 29 Ibid.


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responsibility for them. I will make reference to two theological perspectives in the following discussion. First, an eschatology of ‘end times’ apocalypticism, which implies the destruction of this world and discourages concerns about global warming or other environmental issues. The second objection relates to what is perceived to be pantheism (treating the earth as a being, not an object) in the discourse of caring for the earth and the fear, among many, that the idea that the earth is alive is a pagan one. These assertions separate us from God’s invitation to care for the nega (home). However, this apocalyptic eschatology does not take into account the many references to the redemption and reconciliation of our creation, or the metaphorical language of the few references to its destruction. Neither is a pagan standpoint necessary to affirm the repeated biblical position on the animation of creation and therefore of the intimate relationship between creation and the Creator, including as a manifestation of his glory and presence (Ps. 19).30 For this reason, in the next section I will look at biblical texts referring to the concepts of Sabbath, sabbatical and jubilee, interwoven with the practice of indigenous communities that calls us to care for the nega. 5. Rebuilding the Nega: The Sabbath: Day of Rest, Freedom and the Renewal of Life31 All the trees, down to the most watery and smallest seaweed, hold hands. The strongest tree cannot grow without the soft earth, without water.32 The tradition of the day of rest, and the years of Sabbath and jubilee, is an ancient tradition, which seeks to protect the clan’s life from over-exploitation, concentration of land and the accumulation of wealth, and which puts a precise limit on all slavery for debt. The tradition of jubilee is opposed to the mode of tax production dominant in antiquity. In that system, land and people were the property of the king. The tribes had to pay to the king’s house a triple tribute: in food, in serfs and in soldiers. But in the jubilee theology the earth and the people are of God and no one can appropriate them in an unlimited or unjust way.33 ‘Six days you shall labour, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the ploughing season and harvest you must rest’ (Ex. 34:21). This is the oldest biblical rule (from the beginning of the monarchy, around the ninth or 30

Carriker, T. (2019). Perspectivas bíblicas y teológicas de la justicia climática. Consultation on Integral Mission and Climate Justice. Lima, Peru 31 Richard, P. (1999). “Ya es tiempo de proclamar un jubileo: Sentido general del Jubileo en la Biblia y en el contexto”. Revista de Interpretación Bíblica 33, 8. 32 Wagua, A. (2011). En defensa de la vida y su armonía. Panama, Proyecto EBI Guna / Fondo Mixto Hispano Panameño, 112. 33 Richard, P. (1999). “Ya es tiempo de proclamar un jubileo: Sentido general del Jubileo en la Biblia y en el contexto”. Revista de Interpretación Bíblica 33, 13.


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tenth century B.C.). The people are ordered to rest on the Sabbath even in the very middle of the busiest agricultural seasons of sowing and harvesting. Sabbath represents a real interruption to work and rest for the land, and reflects God’s own practice in creation (Genesis 1). God can command this rest because human life and the earth belong to him.34 What is work? The ways we understand work and the social categories relating to work are deeply rooted in our worldview and life experience. For some of us, work can be a time of celebration and freedom, but for others it represents the most enslaved hours of our lives. This is not because the definition of work given by God is ambiguous, but because of the way we ourselves have distorted work into something that often brutalises and causes a loss of awareness about our identity as human beings. The Israelites in Egypt suffered this tragedy, of endless hours of exploitation, where the ‘work’ that was being done was not rooted in what human beings have been called to be and do: that is, to enjoy life in profound relationship with their Creator, the world and each other. Thus, in the eyes of the oppressed, rest is an illusion, because in order to survive it is necessary to produce without ceasing. The capitalist system is insatiable when it comes to production. God’s invitation to Israel to rest during times of sowing and harvesting goes against this system of production. Rest humanises, brings a new paradigm into existence and opens up new life possibilities, through a profound relationship between God, human beings and the whole of the earth. Whoever has not experienced this before enters into the mystery of the shalom of renewal, crossing the borders into the unknown to enjoy the freedom of living as a child of God. For the Guna people, work is an invitation to all to labour together for the common good. More specifically, the term Bulagua Imaleged refers to everyone working together as a community. The building of the nega represents an invitation to join together in a project ‘in which all of the branches communicate between themselves, recognising that even the strongest branch needs the support of the weakest branch’.35 In the creation narrative in the book of Genesis, the poetic language expresses a deep reciprocity of love between the creator and the created. It is a harmonious relationship between God and human beings, God and the Earth, the community of creator and created. They also work in a continuous reciprocal relationship with the earth, one of giving and receiving. When the old Guna man goes out to the fields in the morning he offers a prayer to the Creator acknowledging that his hours of labour are a time of relationship, a time to interact with Baba and Nana while he works, and that work is a continuous quest for encounter. Only those who recreate themselves in work find themselves with God in work. They also recognise that cultivating the land is an invitation to wait on the Creator and to 34

Ibid., 8. Ancestral story telling of the building of the home, narrated from the point of view of Ibeorgun and Giggardiryai (a woman), of the Gunadule nation. 35


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appreciate that the earth’s produce comes from him: as we wait for the earth’s provision, we put our trust in him. In allowing the land to rest, we acknowledge that the earth belongs to God. Exodus 23:12 says: ‘Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and so that the slave born in your household and the foreigner living among you may be refreshed.’ Who owns oxen and donkeys? Do slaves? The rich people of the time owned them. The Sabbath commandment was also given in order to defend the lives of the poor and vulnerable, human and not, to halt the unfettered exploitation of the means of production. It was a command that reminded the Israelites that they had been slaves in Egypt – and that remembering this should prompt compassion for those who were now their slaves. In the ten commandments, God instructs the people regarding the Sabbath and its liberating social significance, emphasising that it belongs to him. The priestly narrative of creation (Gen. 1:1-2:3), written during Israel’s exile, points to Yahweh’s resting in order to legitimise the resting of the Hebrew slaves in exile. In Egypt the slaves were subject to the law of Pharaoh; the law was more important than life, production more important than human beings, the empire more important than the people, corrupt power more important than love. These repressing forces do not sustain the life of a nation. The Cree (First Nation people of Canada) have a regular greeting – ‘All my relations’ – which they use during events or ceremonies, and which reflects the importance given to relationships and life in the community, reminding them that we are all interconnected and that our actions have consequences for the earth and those living in it. As Aldred affirms, ‘This proper relatedness includes the relations between all things and so the communal identity of all.’36 However, if a law was needed it is because this was not happening naturally. Those who fight for the fulfilment of these types of laws are likely to belong to the part of the population who do not agree with or benefit from the behaviour of the rich. Who is fighting for more humane laws in our countries today? In Abya Yala most people who are now fighting for a better quality of life are also those who are suffering as a result of dehumanising systems characterised by wealth inequality, gender inequality and discrimination against indigenous people. Many of those at the frontline demanding rights are from indigenous communities. Their voices rise up to the Creator. In political organisations like that of the Gunadule, our actions are underpinned by the saying Ammar Burba Emarbi Niggad, which literally translated means we of the same Spirit, because the world and the human beings in it have their origins in God. Therefore, for the Guna there should be no organisation that treats other people or the earth as 36

Aldred, R. (2015). A Shared Narrative. Strangers in this world: multi-religious reflections on immigration. H. S. Timani, A. G. Jorgenson and A. Y. Hwang, Fortress Press.


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inferior, because we all come from God, and therefore from the same Spirit, united with God’s Spirit. The sabbath worldview, like the Cree greeting and Guna concept of work, gives importance to relational harmony and helps create freedom. Our current, capitalist, systems are upheld by our lifestyles. Whoever has been captured by the capitalist system of production must be freed from the bodily slavery that affects all the senses and from the symbolic view of themselves as alienated, which leads them to reproduce forms of slavery resulting from corrupt structures and distorting the meaning of relationships by imposing the rule of ‘the survival of the fittest’. As such, it is imperative that we ask ourselves questions that are difficult, but vital if we are to stay faithful to God. Questions such as: where do our possessions come from? Currently what we eat and wear, and the property we own are all products often produced by means of others’ slavery. How can we stop feeding the vicious circle of oppression? Well, what we have in excess should belong to someone else who lacks. How can we, as followers of Jesus, renounce consumerism, denounce the injustice it creates and adopt a sustainable way of life? Why should the sustainability of life not be based on human dignity rather than on who has the most? Sabbath challenges us and invites us to live in this harmony, in free relationship with all. ‘For six years you are to sow your fields and harvest the crops, but during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what is left. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove’ (Ex 23:10-11). This is the oldest text about the Sabbath year. The land is the first to enjoy the divine privilege of rest (in the same way as on the Sabbath day in Exodus 34:21). The verb ‘to let lie’ (or ‘let rest’) used here literally means ‘to release’. Human beings have the right to work the land and reap its produce, but God also defends the right of the land to rest and freedom.37 God’s relationship with the land is not instrumental, but based on love. An object is used, but a subject is loved. The land is sentient – it is alive and expresses itself in different ways – so releasing it has profound significance; only a sentient, feeling, being can experience freedom. Francis of Assisi understood that the land could feel – he called Mother Earth and the flowers and plants his sisters.38 The stories of the Guna people tell us that the animals and plants are our brothers, in the sense that we have the same origins, we all come from God. We defend and value what we love, and the land also bears God’s image (Ps. 19). It is a glorious image that reveals part of the nature of God and communicates his majesty.

37

Richard, P. (1999). “Ya es tiempo de proclamar un jubileo: Sentido general del Jubileo en la Biblia y en el contexto”. Revista de Interpretación Bíblica 33, 9. 38 Delio, I., K. D. Warner and P. Wood (2008). Creation care: A Franciscan spirituality of the earth. St. Anthony Messenger Press, 150.


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Indigenous people have different ways of allowing the land to rest. It is not just done so that the land produces more. It is done because there is a recognition of a relationship between one being and another: human beings and the earth have life because God has breathed it into them. Therefore, letting the land rest has a profoundly sacred and spiritual connotation. The Aymara, for example, use the land to plant potato crops, followed by other species of potato or barley, quinoa, or onions for three consecutive years, after which they let the land rest. The Ngabe people also employ the rotation system. The eldest community member, who is the most knowledgeable about agriculture, will say: “Let’s move to the other side and let the land rest.” The Ngabe communities practise this system because since ancient times they have had a profound relationship with the land based on a deep understanding and recognition of its value, and have learned all these practices by listening to the land’s voice. Since ancient times the Gunadule have practised agriculture according to the concept of nainu: growing maize, rice or plantain on an area of land that is left to rest after the harvest so that it can replenish. Ten or more years later it is cultivated once again. It is a system used for the management of natural forests in the district of Guna Yala. A key element of the system is the planting of useful trees alongside a wide variety of vegetable species, which preserves biodiversity and enables the sustainable management of hillside soils vulnerable to erosion. Nainu agriculture is practised in the coastal and flood plains, and is characterised by the use of natural methods to renew soil fertility, in particular the method of crop rotation in secondary forests. God told Israel that it should allow the land to be free. Whoever is free can be in free relationship with God, and God has a close relationship with the land: his presence is revealed and the memories of Israel are retold through it; the land’s voice is also the voice of God (Ps. 29). Through this, God reminds us of his heart for freedom. When he says ‘For six years you are to sow your fields and harvest the crops, but during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what is left. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove’ (Ex. 23:10-11). The first to benefit from the land’s release are ‘the poor people among you’. They are the most vulnerable. The greed of selfserving rich people leads them to appropriate the land: they do not remember that ‘the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it’ (Ps. 24), that if fruit grow it is because God has ordained it, because he has prepared the land to bear fruit. The verse in Exodus also specifically mentions those with vineyards and olive groves, with prophetic intent, because only the rich had these kinds of plants. All are invited to enjoy the produce to which only the elite have access, to share produce fairly and put an end to the unequal distribution of resources. In the Guna community all members are equal. The sagla (Guna community leader) does not have exclusive access to land, a house


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or food. All members of the community share common ownership of the land, they work together to build their houses, and share the labour during harvest. 5.1. Shalom designs out of indigenous fabric The purpose of the Sabbath, the Sabbath year, and the jubilee is for human beings to live life to the full in God’s shalom. Through the Exodus and the covenant established between Yahweh and the group of freed slaves, it is clear that the nation held together by the words in Deuteronomy could only live in shalom if they maintained a way of life based on justice (tsedeq). The best way of describing or explaining the idea of shalom in the Bible is the kingdom of God.39 The concept of shalom is embedded in the way indigenous communities understand life. Below are some examples: • In the Aymara culture the Suma Qamaña (buen vivir or ‘a good living’, and living well together), in other words, abundant life, or the social, economic and political wellbeing of the community, is the ideal pursued by the Andean man and woman.40 In short, suma qamaña, qamiri, qapha, jakaña refer to the sweetness of ‘being’ in opposition to the hardship of ‘to be being’.41 • Sumaj kawsay in Quechua can be translated literally as buen vivir in Spanish (or a good living), as can the Guaraní term Ñande Reko (life in harmony).42 • According to the Ashuar people of Ecuador, Shiir Waras (a good living) is understood as living at peace and in harmony, as well as in balance with nature.43 • According to the Gunadule, Balu Wala is the expression of a harmonious relationship between the being and the community that liberates us from individualism and focuses on the common good. It refers to harmony between the being-community and Mother Earth. From that I would like to bring together the narrative threads of the jubilee and Balu Wala, as a proposal for a way of life that restores the nega and shalom.

39

Sanchez Cetina, E. (2016). “Paz en la Tierra”. Revista de Interpretación Bíblica Latino-Americana, 59. 40 Choque Quispe, M. (2011). “Buen Vivir: Germinando alternativas al desarrollo”. América Latina en Movimiento 462, 1-20. 41 Mamani Ramírez, P. (2011). Qamir qamaña: dureza de ‘estar estando’ y dulzura de ’ser siendo. Vivir bien: ¿Paradigma no capitalista? I. F. H and L. Vesapollo. La Paz, CIDES-UMSA, 73. 42 Mamani Ramírez, P. ‘Qamir qamaña’, 66. 43 Gudynas, E. (2011). ‘Buen Vivir: Germinando alternativas al desarrollo’, América Latina en Movimiento (462). Quito, Ecuador, 1-20.


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5.2. The Balu Wala as an analogy of the jubilee Since ancient times, all indigenous communities have been seeking God’s shalom. The Guna people call this search the Bab Igala (way to God), and narratives describing the ethics of the Guna people have evolved from this story of meeting with God. One of the stories of the Guna people that helps us better understand this life ethic is the Balu Wala. What follows is a summary of an extract from the story: At the beginning Abyayala was perfect and very beautiful. At that time, Abyayala had not yet felt the footsteps of those who would cause her to suffer. Mother Earth was being lashed by storms; clouds formed over the steppes and the hills; violent hurricanes, and white, blue, red and black tornadoes were unleashed. The sacred places (galu saglagan) were being desecrated. Amidst all the despair, Ibeler began to investigate the causes of the disaster. He withdrew to Surbanega for eight days to explore the different layers and parts of the earth, and thus uncover the root causes of the evil: from where are the storms coming? Who is stirring them up? And, little by little, a gigantic tree appeared in Ibeler’s vision. The tree was igubwala. It is also called ubsanwala or baluwala. Ibeler discovered that the cyclones were originating in the treetop of igubwala; from the top of the tree, Biler’s allies cast down blue, red, yellow, and black cyclones. So Ibeler looked for a way to find out what was going on in the giant tree. He sent a louse on the head of amma (aunt) Guggurdili, who was the only one who came and went from the tree, without her noticing. Then Ibeler picked up the louse attached to amma Ologuggurdili, and the louse told him: ‘Along the way great cyclones were roaring, fierce hurricanes blowing; until we reached the highest treetop. There I saw huge banana, yucca and cacao plantations, and great bounty. There people do not seem to suffer, they have everything in abundance.’ The louse continued: ‘In the highest part of the tree there is a huge branch pointing towards the sunrise, and where it points to there is a group of very powerful people. They are unleashing the storms that destroy everything. Stirring up powerful cyclones and hurling them into the ocean. Releasing the blue, red, and yellow cyclones; and causing the best trees to fall on the great Mother Earth. They terrorise us with typhoons and deprive us of Balu Wala’s resources. Filled with fear we cannot see, from here, their vast riches. We are hit by typhoons and frosts, and our fear and our dying entertains them.

After having learned all about the great salt tree, Ibeler decided to cut it down. Ibeler was convinced that the pains of Nabgwana (the land) would only be eased by cutting down the great tree. He knew that calm would only come once the tree was felled. He also saw the need to gather all the resources that would come from the same igubwala, from baluwala…’ This story is one of the chapters of the Bab Igala (a collection of memories that the Gunadule have passed from generation to generation). This collection of songs is known by heart by the sagla – an expert in oral tradition who sings


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day and night in the great community house called the Onmagged Nega, with the purpose of transmitting wisdom to the Gunadule people for their life in community. The Balu Wala was a very large and leafy tree, and in its crown was a forest with animals and plantations of corn, sugarcane, succulent bananas, and other crops. All the earth’s inhabitants could be fed from this tree. But there were people who appropriated the resources of all and wanted to keep them for themselves, upsetting the harmony of life with their greed. Ibeler is a figure within the Gunadule community who fought against the oppressive system of power, because he knew that everything that ‘BabaNana had created was not for one group, but for all the children of Olobibbir-gunyai (Mother Earth)’. The Balu Wala is the Guna people’s ethical treatise for the world – and its main focus is on the community, while many other treatises, like those of Aristotle’s for instance, focus on the self. What follows is my great-grandfather Inakelinginya’s analysis, based on the story and concept of Balu Wala:44 “Now let us turn to Balu Wala, in order to analyse a little and interpret the symbol that has occupied our thoughts this morning. In Balu Wala there were schisms, there were enemies, and Ibeler45 searched for Uggurwar sagla (the Uggurwar leader)46. Why? Because he (Uggurwar sagla) had been sent as a messenger to guide him. Uggurwar sagla was the first to see the dangers and the enemies in Balu Wala and he came to warn Ibeler. It is said that muu Ologuggurdili would also go up and down the tree, drunk and singing and dancing. She would lie to Ibeler. It is said that Ologuggurdili lied a lot, and fought and shouted and tore out her hair, and Olowagli47 would see her. The muu was an ally of Biler, who was the enemy of Mother Earth. Ibeler sent a louse with her to discover the secrets of Balu Wala’s branches, and found out that she brought back salt hidden between the folds of her waist. Ibeler then sent an army ant as well as the louse, and it came back with a green banana leaf, a symbol of Mother Earth. Listen to me dear young people: that is the spirit of Mother Earth. The eight brothers realised that hanging from the branches of the salt tree were bananas in abundance, and that these represented 44

Inakelinginya was born in Dadnaggwe Dubbir on 10 February 1913 and died 7 August 2000. He was a renowned speaker regarding the history of the Guna, and published the account of the 1925 revolution according to the Guna version of events. He had a profound knowledge of the history of the revolution and the liberation of his people, led by Sagla Dummagan Colman and Igwaibiliginya. He was a Guna general congressman and a recognised Babigala interpreter. 45 Ibeler is a key figure in Guna history and symbolises the liberation of Mother Earth, the good. 46 These leaders could be compared to the lawyers of this world, but they are like spiritual warriors who fight and advocate for us. 47 Oluwagli was Ibeler’s sister, the only female of the eight siblings. Some of the elders lived with her, including muu Ologuggurdili and muu Gewasdili, who helped her with housework.


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riches. Why do colonists come to our land, if not for its riches? Ibeler heard voices and interpreted them. Those voices were trying to tell us that someone wanted to take ownership of our land. And so, what strategies are the wagas48 using to take ownership of our land and appropriate our riches? I say this in all honesty, and we witness this daily.”49 5.3. The relationship between Balu Wala and the jubilee Each story tells us that everything created comes from the same source. Both Balu Wala and the Bible tell us that God is the source and therefore the earth and its fruits are for everyone, without distinction. The narratives also remind us that the earth is alive and that the fruits of the earth are for everyone, and that the earth belongs to God. They also seek to protect the land, animals and people from over-exploitation. The Balu Wala tells of the suffering of the earth and its consequences. The jubilee tells of the joy of the earth, of the slaves and of those who are exploited in general when the horn sounds to announce the sabbatical year or the time of jubilee. Both remind us of the power of God and his will to set humanity and all created things free in the middle of oppressive systems, degrading work, exploitation of the earth and the epistemicide of thousands of different life forms, in pursuit of empire and hegemony. Both the Balu Wala and the jubilee invite us to rethink how we are building our house or home. From these narratives and proposed ways of living we come to understand that the house we build must be designed based on a relationship of interdependence with God, the earth and other human beings. Indigenous communities, with their proposal of ‘living well’, prompt us to recognise that cosmic harmony is necessary to build a strong house where each of the branches communicate with each other, and that we cannot do it alone, we all need each other. In the same way, as Christian faith communities, we need each and every person to build the house. Balu Wala is also an invitation to jubilee and to remember the importance of the common wellbeing of all the earth’s brothers and sisters, who are connected to the earth by the same umbilical cord and who share the same vocation of caring for, loving and valuing the earth. Living in harmony with others, or the ‘sweetness of being’ (qamaña, qamiri, qapha, jakaña) described by our Aymara brothers and sisters, finds expression in our actions towards others but is informed by our spirituality, which denounces and resists all forms of oppression and slavery at the root. The jubilee laid out three key actions: rest for the land, the restoration of land and property expropriated due to debt, and freedom for slaves. These same elements are present in Suma Qamaña, Shiir 48

Waga refers to a foreigner or outsider; someone who is not a member of Guna or any other indigenous group. 49 Extract from a commentary on the story sung by the saila, Horacio Méndez and Inakelingynya, Sugdub, 10-13 April 1986.


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Waras, Sumac Causai, Ñande Reko, Qamir Qamaña Qapha, and Balu Wala. Each of these communities yearns for the total renewal of the cosmos, and longs for God’s justice and shalom. ‘One day I dreamt that I could dance and worship God in profound harmony with Mother Earth. I heard his voice in the wind, I saw his brightness in the fire, I saw myself reflected in the water, I smelled my scent in the earth, and when I awoke everything was luminous.’50

50

Solano, J. (2016). “In defense of life and harmony”. Journal of Latin American Theology: Christian Reflections from the Latino South 11(2), 169-184.


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What is Jubilee? How could it transform our understanding of the world today — and of how God calls us to live in it? At the heart of Old Testament law is a revolutionary concept that, if applied today, could transform our economy and world. Jesus himself claimed that his ministry would bring its fulfilment, transforming the world. Uniting social justice, creation care, equality and worship, jubilee remains a radical challenge, thousands of years later. This exciting collection engages with this challenge and offers ideas and inspiration for disciples today. It brings together rigorous theological thought and practical experience from voices from around the world. Its chapters reflect on issues of poverty in its different dimensions and discuss some of the challenges that face churches, Christian organisations and individual Christians in responding to them. The authors each bring their unique context and perspectives which challenge us to go beyond viewing the jubilee ordinances as simple rules and help us to begin to understand the redemptive and restorative power of the jubilee principles for us today.

It is a particular joy to welcome a book that takes the jubilee seriously, not just as a slogan, but as a thoroughly biblical foundation for followers of Jesus to understand and practise integral mission. Christopher J.H. Wright

Hannah J. Swithinbank leads Tearfund’s Theology and Network Engagement Team. In this role, she is responsible for the development of Tearfund’s theological foundations and their expression in the organisation’s work. Emmanuel Murangira is Tearfund Country Director for Rwanda and is responsible for developing the Tearfund in country engagement strategy and leading all of Tearfund's work in Rwanda. He is also an ordained minister.

www.ocms.ac.uk/regnum

Switihinbank, Murangira and Collins (Eds)

Each chapter [of this book] proposes answers to poverty, using solid biblical and theological arguments, as well as inspiring pastoral proposals. It is an invitation to live out our faith with commitment. Rev. Harold Segura, Faith & Development Director, Latin America and Caribbean, World Vision International

Jubilee: God’s Answer to Poverty?

Jubilee: God’s Answer to Poverty

JUBILEE God’s answer to poverty?

Hannah J. Swithinbank & Emmanuel Murangira with Caitlin Collins (Eds)

Foreword by Christopher J.H. Wright