Social justice

From the Editor (Issue 26)

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How will future generations talk about today’s world? What will we be remembered by? Perhaps at the top of the list will be the fact we could sleep soundly at night while millions were enslaved worldwide… largely because of our own greed! Maybe we’ve forgotten that we’re made in the image of a God who calls us to “let justice roll down like a river” (Amos 5:24), to “do justice and love kindness” (Micah 6:8), to “defend the rights of the afflicted and needy” (Proverbs 31:8).

While much could be said about modern-day slavery, forced-labour and human-trafficking, this issue focuses narrowly on the role we play in this global problem. We’re digging down, seeking to uncover the truth beneath the barcode, looking at where the things we buy actually come from and how our shopping often contributes to the suffering of many worldwide.

Slavery is a complex beast and we’ll only scratch the topic’s surface, but we want to make one thing abundantly clear: we all have the choice to either contribute or to challenge it. Sometimes living missionally involves changing simple aspects of our lives, such as how we shop.

 

Issue 26 of Intermission was released earlier this month. Over the coming weeks the articles will be posted to nzcms.org.nz/intermission. Occasionally we will highlight an article by including it in our weekly Interchange newsletter.

March on Video

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We proudly present to you a 2015 highlight: Wakonye Kenwa’s March to End Sachet Alcohol in Gulu

You might be wondering…

What is sachet alcohol? Watch the video clip above, and Isaac from Wakonye Kenwa will explain all… Who is Wakonye Kenwa? We are a community organising group launched from our wee church in Lacor, Gulu town. We are the ones making lots of noise. Why march? Because we wanted to make Gulu Local Government publicly accountable to their promise to us to ban sachet alcohol Did it work? Yes! The District chairman publicly promised to complete the law before 2016, and the media spread the news far and wide. Our law is almost finished.

How Many Slaves Will Be Working For You This Christmas?

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By Peter Mihaere. Reblogged from StandAgainstSlavery.com

Have you ever wondered how many slaves work for you? Of course you haven’t, why would you? There’s no one living in the cupboard beneath your stairs or chained in your basement. There’s no stranger in your house cooking, cleaning, gardening or doing other unmentionable tasks for you and your family. What a ridiculous question to ask!

You’re a good person and you live a good life. You don’t bother or hurt people, let alone have them as slaves, and you give to the disadvantaged in your neighbourhood or support the poor overseas. Some of you even support anti-slavery organisations in a variety of ways.

But here’s the thing… even though all of the above is true, and as terrible as it is for me to say, I’m willing to stick my neck out and suggest that you have slaves working for you just like I have slaves working for me. Let me offer a brief explanation.

 

Recently I typed in some very basic information into a website and it calculated that 51 slaves work for me. Slaves working for me—no way! But, as I began to think about it, I realised that I don’t have a clue where all the things I have accumulated over the years—in my house and life—come from.

Where do my gadgets, clothes, appliances and food come from? Can I put my hand on my heart and say that no slaves were involved in their making?  I remember talking to someone about small petrol generators and where they come from. I asked if they were slave free and the immediate response was, “the company I deal with is a good company and they wouldn’t have slaves.” Then I asked, “see that bolt, way underneath the head of the generator, do you know where that bolt was made and by whom?” Of course my friend couldn’t answer that question to any level of satisfaction thereby leaving room for some doubt.

Let’s bring this closer to home. The NZ media have published a number of articles in recent weeks about employers who have not been paying their staff correctly or at all in the restaurant industry. The accused businesses have been fined significant amounts of money. Believe it or not this is happening in the horticulture, agriculture, viticulture and construction industries.

In November, the 2014 Global Slavery Index report was published citing New Zealand as having 600 slaves. Walk Free Foundation, the producers of the Global Slavery Index report, announced a dramatic increase in the number of slaves in the world this year. Attributing their number to improving data collection, they estimate the number of slaves in the world at 36 million. That’s a six million increase on numbers in the 2013 report. These numbers continue to stagger me as I try to reconcile them for myself. That’s 1 in 200!

Maybe they are the slaves that produce the components for some of my technology, perhaps some of those slaves make the clothes I wear, or maybe some of those slaves serve in the restaurants I frequent, or pick fruit and veggies I purchase.

Let’s test this idea a little. Do you like bananas? Yes, of course you do. So which bananas do you buy? Can you confirm that no exploited worker or slave picked or processed or shipped the bananas you are now eating in your banana and chocolate muffins? Chocolate—now there’s an ingredient more familiar to us—is the chocolate in the muffins slave free? Some chocolate, like bananas, is in fact slave free or fair trade, but most are not. Just because a chocolate company can legitimately put the Fair Trade label on one product does not automatically confirm that all chocolate from that company is Fair Trade or slave free. It’s a good step in the right direction, but it’s a long way off being acceptable.

Let me ask you the question again, how many slaves work for you? As we enter into the Christmas season can I encourage you to think about that question? Purchasing of products skyrockets this time of the year. Perhaps slaves, not elves, have been working all year so that you and I can enjoy the presents beneath the Christmas tree and the food we will mount up on our tables. How many slaves will help you this Christmas?

 

#NZCMS is all about exploring what it means to be God’s missional people in today’s world. Sign up for the emailer by filling in your email at the top of the page or join the discussion at the #NZCMS Facebook Group (and turn on ‘all notifications’ to stay in the loop!) 

 

Thanks to Peter for letting us share this blog. For more from Stand Against Slavery click here.

 

Note on the Featured Image:

This image was snapped from a 2-minute video produced by film students at Hothouse Productions, Boston University College of Communication. Now You Know was devised in close collaboration with the client, The NO Project, a global anti-slavery public awareness initiative. See it here.

Whose Kingdom?

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By Katie Wivell

What is it that stops me?

What is it that keeps my eyes fixed on my feet when you walk past?

What is it that makes it so hard for me to stretch out my arms and welcome you?

Maybe it’s the ugly truth that I profess to be part of a Kingdom of grace, and unconditional love, and authentic community – and yet, I’ve still managed to carve out my own space.

My own space where I’m building a different kind of kingdom… Katie’s Kingdom.

In my kingdom, things roll smoothly for me. And I work hard to keep it that way, I please the right people and I make sure I belong. I make sure I have enough; love, respect, clothes, money, social hangs, Facebook likes, success stories… Security, comfort, and belonging. These are my treasured possessions.

And you, with your differences and difficulties, you embody the insecurity that I flee from daily.

Why should I be the one to give up my seat and make a scene, and walk over to the one who is different! I worked hard to get here! And I work hard daily, to keep everything in the right place.

So I’m sorry. This kingdom can’t accommodate for your complicated need set today. If I reach out to you, I’m afraid I’ll lose my balance. And I’ll fall. And this kingdom of comfort will slip from my hands. And I’ll be the one on the outside. Without a seat to sit in.

And that, that is the thing I fear the most.

 

For me, these are the worries that have stopped me from helping people far too many times in the past. And they are the same kind of worries I see popping up everywhere at the moment. We look at refugees, and their insecurity and need and state of loss, and are reluctant to offer them substantial support. At the root of our reasons to not help those in need is FEAR.

Fear of what the cost might be to us.

I think for many of us, we are reluctant to take a stand on this refugee issue because we are too busy asking the question: “If I do this, what will happen to me?”

If I welcome refugees into my country, my city, my community, what will happen to me?

Not enough of us are asking the question, “If I don’t to this, if we don’t do this, what will happen for them?”

And maybe we brush this question off by saying, well, someone else will help them, someone else will pick up the pieces. The countries closer to Syria will take them, and will be better equipped. We are just little New Zealand after all. But we weren’t just little New Zealand when we hosted the Rugby world cup, or signed the TPPA agreement…

As Christians, I think at a time like this we have an opportunity to be the voice of hope. And I would go as far as to call it a responsibility. Comfortable Christians have been saying, “somebody else will do it” about too many issues for too long. As followers of Jesus, who spent his entire life teaching us how to love sacrificially and restore what is broken, we are called to be those ‘somebody elses’ who do something about it.

This is a hard pill to swallow, especially because we live our day to day lives in an environment where nobody expects this kind of extravagant love and care from us. In our society, and sadly even in some of our churches, we are taught to pursue success. If we have a good career, stability, and still manage to be kind to others and turn up at church, then we are doing pretty well.

For a long time I was largely blind to the problem with this attitude in my own life.

But then I started to fall in love with Jesus. And study him more. And soak up his ways and his purposes more. And I realised if I was really a follower of Jesus, I needed to change my priorities, my goals, and broaden my social circles, to not just people like me, but to everyone, especially those who are strangers, or in need. And that is hard!

And this situation is HARD! And scary! And risky! I’m not saying that it isn’t. But that doesn’t mean we can step over the issue and walk away.

Sometimes I catch myself trying to side step the possible things I could do to show God’s love to these people who desperately need it. And when I do, or when I see other Christians in our nation doing a similar thing, I remember when Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan. If we’ve spent any time reading our Bibles or sitting in church, it’s a story we’ll be well familiar with. I remember this man who has been robbed and beaten lying in a desert road, close to death. And I see the priest approach him. Jesus sets up this scene so that we expect the priest to intervene and help, as any follower of a God of love would… But the priest looks at the man lying in the dust, weighs up his own desires and schedules, then steps over him and carries on his way.

When I deny any responsibility to help the refugees that want to start lives of freedom and safety in my community, I am like that priest. When we, as the body of Christ in New Zealand, deny or fail to rise to any responsibility to help the refugees that want to start lives of freedom and safety in our communities, we are like that priest.

I’m not an expert on the refugee crisis. I don’t claim to be. I don’t work with them every day. There are questions I have about risks of taking on large numbers of refugees, and there are worries I’d have about trying to support a family when I know nothing about the reality of the suffering they’ve faced. But I can’t look at Jesus, and claim to follow him, and do nothing.

So my hope is that we would look at this issue with new eyes.

That we would start to be brave, and remember the kind of God that we follow.

That we would stop only asking the question, “but what will happen to me?”

That we would see refugees not as a threat to our comfort but as men and women and boys and girls who are just as loved and treasured by God as we are.

And we would start asking, “God, we are scared, and at time overwhelmed, but help us, what can we do for these your children?”

 

Katie is a youth worker in Campbell Bay, and also studying for her Social Work Degree in Auckland.

 

THE MUSE

What are the fears that keep you from action? How have you responded to the refugee crisis?

 

THE MOVE

What can you do this week to counter your fears?

#NZCMS is all about exploring what it means to be God’s missional people in today’s world. Sign up for the emailer by filling in your email at the top of the page or join the discussion at the #NZCMS Facebook Group (and turn on ‘all notifications’ to stay in the loop!) 

Responding to the Refugee Crisis

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We’re currently in Turkey, witnessing what some are calling the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time and the largest mass movement of people since WWII. There are four million refugees from Syria outside their country and two million of them are here in Turkey, a country that doesn’t want them. We’ve been active in feeding them at the borders and helping to manage relocations into homes of compassion and missional centres in European cities. It’s been good getting to re-establish relationships with ministry leaders again, joining forces to respond to such a serious crisis and huge opportunity for the Gospel.

Half of the four million Syrian refugees outside of their country are under 18 years of age and half don’t have passports. The two million refugees in Turkey are not given ‘refugee’ status but are rather treated as ‘guests’ – without permission to stay or work. Thousands have died this year in boats during their desperate journey to Europe. Some have suffocated in trucks during the land journey. It’s a horrible crisis but there is hope. Thousands upon thousands of homes have opened up for them around the world and we are witnessing one of the greatest acts of compassion in our lifetime. Many of these homes are Christian and already stories are emerging of transformation by the power of Jesus.

Through connecting country leaders with houses of compassion and hubs of holistic service in many countries, we hope to create a network that will enable refugees to find a new home, even if only temporarily. And we feel the best way to help at the moment is to be present in the areas where the refugees are. Please pray for us that we will have everything we need to fulfil God’s purposes.

 

The Thornberrys are NZCMS Mission Partners in Europe who are now focusing on the Syrian refugee crisis. They urgently need more support to enable them to effectively serve many in need. Please consider donating towards their increased expenses that this ministry is incurring for them. Your donation, whether one-off or on-going, will support real ground-work with the refugees.

Information about giving can be found by clicking here. (The above image is from European Commission DG Echo on Flicker.)

Spring Reading on Social Justice

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Relevant Magazine just put out a list of 9 Social Justice Books to Read This Fall (or Spring for us). They point out that When we think of social justice, we typically think of action, and action is certainly vital, but we also need study and reflection to help us understand the complexity that surrounds any given issue. If you’re interested you can check out their whole list, but here are the ones that stood out to me.

The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence

by Gary A. Haugen and Victor Boutros (Oxford University Press)

Although we have made great strides in the battle against global poverty over the last three decades, Western generosity alone will not eliminate poverty. This important book looks at various forms of violence—for instance, rape, slavery, land theft—and how they contribute to the cycle of poverty. The authors make a convincing case that efforts to work for a world beyond poverty must include the messy work of resisting violence.

Overrated: Are We More in Love with the Idea of Changing the World Than Actually Changing the World?

by Eugene Cho (David C. Cook)

Never afraid to ask a pointed question, Eugene Cho calls us not just to love and talk about justice, but to be actively engaged in seeking justice. It is not just others who need to be healed and transformed, but we ourselves as well, and Cho maintains that we start to find our own transformation in working for change among others.

The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food

by Dan Barber (The Penguin Press)


This new work by Dan Barber is likely the most important book on food to be published this year. Barber argues that the food produced by neither conventional agriculture (the first plate) nor local and organic agriculture (the second plate), is a sustainable way to farm and eat. Rather, he argues for the third plate, “an integrated system of vegetable, grain and livestock production that is … dictated by what we choose to cook for dinner.”

Red, Brown, Yellow, Black, White—Who’s More Precious In God’s Sight?: A call for Diversity in Christian Missions

by Leroy Barber (Jericho Books)

Rooted in over 20 years of urban ministry, Leroy Barber’s newest book makes the pointed observation that people of color almost never serve in the mission field. Red, Brown, Yellow, Black, White explores the implications of this observation, and argues persuasively that a diversification of both church and mission field is sorely needed.

To read the whole list visit 9 Social Justice Books to Read This Fall

Tessa the Farmer?

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We fling open the metal shutters of our church to let the light stream in and arrange the wooden pews in an makeshift-square. A cook with a roadside foodstall, a highschool office assistant, a young song recorder, a nursing school teacher, a tailor, a brick maker, a laboratory researcher, several housewives, and multiple farmers arrive, one by one. Just twelve of us. First things first. It’s time to sing. While this could make for an awkward meeting NZ, you are guaranteed to set the right tone here. Next, our bible study. Today, its the parable of the 10 bridesmaids. For the meantime, stories and parables are easier on my Acoli, and easier for the members in our group that can’t read. To my surprise I discover that traditional Acoli and Jewish wedding customs have a lot in common. Bridesmaids take lighted torches to guide the groom to the bride? Same, check. When then groom arrives, a big feast ensues? Boom! Understanding the parable’s cultural context is suddenly easy – onto discussing the deeper meaning.

Now the meeting. I’m suddenly a bit more nervous – its been a big build up to this meeting since we started this group over 2 months ago. Our name is “Wakonye kenwa.” Its hard to translate, but broadly means – we find our help/strength amongst us, or we share our burdens. Today we will decide our projects- what change do we want to bring in Lacor?

We’ve spent the last few months talking with different groups in the community to identify what issues they would work on with us. Communication with these groups hasn’t always easy. Our first communication with the local football club was a classic example. Opiyo from our group presented them with the vision of uniting Lacor community groups to solve a common community problem. Two days later, they presented us with a letter entitled “request for assistance” which listed their priorities: new football boots, a new ball, and uniforms- not the community wide focus we imagined. Challenges aside, it happened. We made contact with all the groups, and had lots of conversations, found out about issues and priorities we never thought of by ourselves.

What issue is the group really about to choose? We’ve done the analysis, weighed up the pros and cons of tackling each issue, and now its time to hear from our core group members – what do they have the energy, the motivation to go ahead with? They have identified two.

First, there is a population right beside our church with a very stretched water situation. There is a pipe water source half a km away, but it is extremely congested.  Our mission? Create a committee representing multiple Lacor community groups to work together to campaign the town council to give the community a new water source.

Second, we (predictably) found that many hard working people in Lacor still struggle to pay their children’s school fees. While there are many different ways to try and tackle the roots of this problem, as a group we identified that one of our strengths is farming. So our plan: the farmers amongst us will initiate a production group for Lacor farmers. We will start small with 15 farmers from our church, and invite 15 more farmers from the community. We can buy seeds in bulk at discounted prices, plan crop planting together, share expertise, and then pool the produce, selling it in bulk to a good market thereby earning more for each farmer than they could achieve by themselves. If it goes well, we will consider developing the group into a proper cooperative, and invite more to join.

To hear more from Nick and Tessa visit ugandapanda.com