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Mission in the Context of our blessed but broken and hurting world

I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.  (Jn.10: 10)

Jesus ultimately gave up his life by being crucified on the cross so that all might have life in abundance.  However, we live in a world that is dominated by wars and conflict caused by a greedy minority.  We live in a global village, with systems that create wars, conflicts, poverty and violence, systems that dehumanise the majority of people by denying them the opportunity to live purposeful and peaceful lives. 

The God we proclaim is a God of love and justice.  The world in which we live, however, is characterised by injustice, greed, poverty, terrorism, abuse of power and exclusion.  It is in this broken world that we are called to joyful participation in God’s mission of love and justice for all.

This chapter outlines some of the many contexts in which the church in mission is responding to unjust and inhuman systems.  God is calling Christians, Anglicans among them, to respond to the mission challenges of today’s world.  Thankful for God’s blessings, Anglicans throughout the Communion are responding to God’s call to be bearers of the Good News.  In the following stories, the members of IASCOME describe their own mission contexts.  Other stories can be found in Chapter 8 of this report.

Mission as solidarity with the dispossessed

Marginalised, minority groups are found in all societies.  Many of these are Indigenous Peoples who have been dispossessed of their traditional lands by newcomers or by multinational corporations wanting to exploit natural resources.  IASCOME members told moving stories of how local churches are supporting these groups in their struggles for justice, often with successful outcomes.

In Guatemala, foreign mining companies are being allowed to extract mineral resources in ways that destroy the agricultural base of local communities.  The churches, working ecumenically, are advocating in solidarity with the local people.

In the Amazonia region of Brazil, the Indigenous Peoples have been forced off their land by pressure from foreign multinational corporations who want to exploit the resources of the land.  In 2004 a National Indigenous Forum came into being as a result of co-operation between churches and other non-governmental organisations, working in solidarity with Indigenous Peoples.  These advocacy efforts have been very costly.  For example, the Krao-Kanela people, a group of 85 families, failed in their efforts to re-occupy their traditional lands.  An Anglican priest, Father Bras Rodrigues, encouraged their efforts, and now lives with the families in a home supported by the church.  The members of this small community are living in crowded and undignified conditions.  Father Rodrigues’ name has been added to a list of people targeted to be killed for activism.  The murder of Chico Mendes in 1988 was reported around the world, as was the recent murder, in February 2005, of Sister Dorothy Stang.  Between 1994 and 2003, 1,349 people have been killed in land conflicts in Brazil.

In Botswana, despite the existence of a stable democratic government, the minority rights of the Indigenous San people are not being honoured.  Non-governmental organisations and the churches are advocating in support of the San people, providing encouragement and affirmation to this marginalised group.

“Tribal Filipinos” is the term used to refer to Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines.  They live mainly in the mountainous regions, especially in the cordillera region of Northern Luzon.  At present, multinational mining and logging companies are victimising them.  It is a common occurrence for people to be evicted from their homes and land, these evictions being carried out by company employees backed by the military.  The Tribal Filipinos are branded as people against development, if not as outright “insurgents”.  Many have died in defence of their lands and ancestral domains.  The Episcopal Church of the Philippines is in solidarity with the Tribal Filipinos and is directly involved in two ways.  Firstly, it issues statements opposing illegal logging and mining.  Secondly, it helps to organise the people so that they can express their sentiments effectively to the government which supports the mining and logging activities without consideration of the environmental and social effects.  “Tribal Filipino Sunday”, a yearly event, draws the attention of the nation to these issues, building empathy and support among the wider church membership.

In Canada, the churches have long been strong advocates for the rights of Indigenous Peoples, particularly land rights.  First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples now have strong national political organisations, and are achieving considerable success in securing rights over their traditional lands, and over the development of their natural resources.  The churches continue to support these efforts, working ecumenically.

Mission as peace-building and conflict resolution
There are many places in the Anglican Communion where people are struggling to survive in the midst of war and violence.  In such contexts, God calls us to search for ways to bring an end to violence, and to support efforts at peace-building.

In the Solomon Islands, the religious orders have played a key role in stopping the violence between warring factions.  Melanesian Brothers and Sisters have courageously stood between armed fighters, successfully persuading them to lay down their arms.  The Brothers gained the trust of the fighters to the extent that they were seen as providing a safe place for warriors to surrender their weapons.  At a later stage in the conflict, 6 Melanesian Brothers were martyred during their efforts to secure information about the murder of one of their members.  Peace cannot be achieved without sacrifice – there is a cost to the mission of peace-building.

The Episcopal Church of the Sudan, in an effort to address the issues of conflict and the civil war in the Sudan, have set up a Justice and Peace Commission which has been actively involved in peace-building and conflict transformation training in affected communities throughout the country.  In addition to this, the Sudan Council of Churches has played a key role by rallying the ecumenical efforts for peace advocacy and human rights issues through its national peace building and civic education programs, and at the international level through the Sudan Ecumenical Forum.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, priests and pastors struggle to provide basic pastoral care and sacramental ministry to people traumatised by years of war.  They lack the most basic resources to support their ministry, namely sufficient food to feed their own families, and any means of transport to move from place to place in their vast country.  Church properties and belongings have been looted, and houses and schools burned.  Thousands of church members are still in exile having lost property and family members.  We learned of the murder of Revd Basimaki Byabasaija, who was killed while setting out to attend the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Hong Kong in 2003.  Nonetheless, we rejoiced to hear that church leaders continue to work towards peace and reconciliation, providing trauma counselling, comforting the bereaved, and looking for ways to rebuild church properties. 

Mission in interfaith contexts

Building relationships with believers of other faith communities can be challenging.  The challenges vary depending on the specific context, and bearing witness to God’s love and salvation through Jesus Christ often requires great patience, sensitivity and caution.  During its five-year term, IASCOME did not deal in any depth with relations between Christians and those of other faiths.  However, our membership included people who are living and working in contexts where interfaith relations are difficult and highly charged. 

In Nigeria, relations between Christians and Muslims can be hostile and violent, with Christian evangelising efforts being firmly rejected by the Moslem population.  Nonetheless, in some areas, the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) has chosen to provide social services to people regardless of religious affiliation.  These services are appreciated, and have led to improved relations in some religiously mixed neighbourhoods. 

In India, Christians are a small minority and are associated with the former colonial power.  A past history of aggressive evangelism, as well as the resurgence of Hindu nationalism, has resulted in negative attitudes towards Christians at the present time.  The 1999 murder of an Australian missionary, along with his two young sons, illustrates the risk of Christian witness in this hostile environment.  Christians, who find themselves a persecuted minority in parts of India, now witness most effectively by their actions and lifestyles. 

The situation in the Middle East is extremely complex and volatile.  The Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East must adopt a variety of strategies according to each local situation.  In many parts of the Province, the Anglican Church provides chaplaincy ministry to refugees and migrants from neighbouring countries.  An important mission of the church is to provide hospitality to other Christian communities by enabling them to meet and worship in Anglican buildings.  Anglicans provide safe meeting places, but also offer material resources and social and medical assistance.

Mission as humanitarian relief

The humanitarian needs of people the world over are enormous.  Meeting basic human needs is a Christian responsibility.  The first story cited below comes from Sri Lanka where, following the Decemer 2004 South Asian Tsunami disaster, the Diocese of Colombo has been very active in responding to the need for relief and reconstruction, particularly in the north of the island. Additionally, the Sisters of St. Margaret are engaged in the mission of humanitarian relief in their own locale.

“Our task today more than ever before is to rebuild the country which was destroyed by the tsunami.  Shelter is not merely having a roof over one’s head, it is also an expression of an individual’s concept of life, it reflects his ambitions and hope.  Our people have shown their commitment and willingness to forge ahead to build a nation.  After concentrated and thoughtful prayer, we Sisters of St. Margaret came together as a team to help twenty-five families without any religious barriers.  We came together as a team in order to bring love and care for those most affected.  Our aim is to create a new society where justice prevails.” [1]
Sister Chandrani Peiris

The second story is of the courageous efforts of women in the Sudan, who despite their desperate plight, continue to work at providing for the needs of their families.

“Women in Sudan like anywhere in conflict situations have endured untold sufferings as a result of the long and protracted war.  They have had to cope with the unprecedented situation of displacement and uprootedness, being household heads without the necessary resources, living in poverty and deprivation; being discriminated against and marginalised, being victims of violence.  Yet they struggle to uphold their dignity and integrity despite suffering and turbulence.

It is a reality that the Sudanese women in general (women in the church included) have been veryactive particularly at the grassroots level during the war, empowering themselves through various activities such as small income-generating ventures, skills promotion, spiritual fellowship, conflict resolution and peace-building initiatives, literacy campaigns and higher education etc.  This has been very important and crucial for livelihood sustainability, hope and resilience, not only of the women themselves, but also of families and communities throughout the conflict period.”[2]
Mrs Joy Kwaje Eluzai

Mission as ministering to migrants and displaced persons
Movement of peoples is a common feature of our world.  More people are on the move than ever before.  Some of these are voluntary migrants, some have been driven out of their homes, and some are fleeing conflict.  In all cases, people are experiencing dislocation, bewilderment, anxiety and loneliness.  In many Anglican Provinces, mission expressed in offering support, services and ministry to such people. 

The Philippines is the largest exporter of labour to almost all parts of the world, and the Episcopal Church of the Philippines extends assistance to overseas migrant workers, providing legal assistance to victims of fake job recruiters, and seeking the co-operation of Anglican churches in the recipient countries to deal with maltreatment and abuse of workers.

The Anglican Church in Central America is working to assist the many thousands of Central Americans in the United States, many of whom have migrated illegally and are thus subject to exploitation and abuse.  The same story is told from Brazil, and also from Zimbabwe where huge numbers have left in search of a better life, only to be disappointed by unemployment and dislocation.

The migration of Sudanese people is massive, both from Southern Sudan, and more recently from Darfur.  In addition to the huge numbers of people living in refugee camps outside of the country, there are also about 4.5 million internally displaced persons in camps within the Sudan.  The conditions in many of these camps are deplorable.  The Sudan Council of Churches has a plan to help the internally displaced persons return to their homes, and to receive back refugees from outside the country, but can help only a portion of those needing assistance

Mission as the alleviation of poverty and debt

Most Anglicans live in countries that are struggling with the burden of poverty.  Christ’s ministry was directed largely to the poor and dispossessed.  In the same way, many faithful Christians, Anglicans among them, are devoted to serving the poor and advocating for and with them.  We heard stories of local level mission and ministry in service to God’s mission, from all parts of the world, with churches being planted in urban shantytowns, and income-generating projects being supported in both rural and urban areas.

In late September 2001, within days of the terrorist attacks on the United States, the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church (USA) met to consider the effects of globalisation.  This meeting resulted in the Bishops’ statement and commitment to ‘Waging Reconciliation.’  In January 2003, a core group of bishops and presenters from the 2001 bishops’ meeting re-convened with lay and ordained economists, business people, students, social organisers, theologians, attorneys, labour activists, and advocates to imagine the next steps in the Episcopal Church’s efforts to wage global reconciliation.  Soon a growing community of mobilisation developed around a core vision for God’s mission of reconciliation.  After considerable reflection they organised themselves as a network of prayer, reflection and action known as Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation (www.e4gr.org). 

Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation chose the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as a focus for their action, and committed 0.7% of their personal budgets towards these goals as a central organising action.  With the leadership of Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation, close to thirty dioceses in the Episcopal Church have committed 0.7% of their budgets to alleviate suffering and poverty globally.  Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation is a dynamic broad-based movement that unites American Episcopalians and congregations to understand and address global issues while engaging and deploying human and financial resources to effect structural changes. 

At the global level the churches were at the forefront of the Jubilee 2000 Campaign calling for debt relief for the highly indebted countries of the world, and for economic justice so that all might share in the richness of God’s creation.  Networks of churches worldwide are currently campaigning for the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals and have called on the G8 countries to release the promised resources so that these goals can be met.  It is also appropriate to remember that at the 1998 Lambeth Conference all the dioceses of the Anglican Communion were asked to allocate 0.7% of their resources to address poverty.  The Anglican Communion’s Task Force on Trade and Poverty is surveying all Provinces to learn to what extent this goal has been achieved.  The results of this survey will be presented to the Anglican Consultative Council’s 13th meeting in Nottingham in June 2005.

Mission as truth telling and the search for healing and wholeness

The work of reconciliation is at the heart of Christian mission.  Where there have been serious conflicts and betrayals, this is long and difficult work.  The Anglican Communion is largely a result of British colonialism, so there is much work to be done in the mission of truth telling and healing.  But there are also other examples of colonial domination that Anglicans are trying to redress, and other contexts of brokenness in which Anglicans are engaged in truth telling and the search for wholeness.

In South Africa the churches, played a key role in the Truth and Reconciliation process following the peaceful change from the apartheid regime to a democratically elected government.  Archbishop Desmond Tutu chaired this Commission.  The work of reconciliation and reparation continues, with the churches still fully engaged in this process, even as they take up the mission work associated with the HIV and AIDS pandemic.

In Canada, white Anglicans are working to acknowledge and repent for the church’s past complicity in the assimilationist policies of the Canadian government towards Indigenous First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples.  This involves reparation and apology.  The long-term goal is reconciliation.[3] The Anglican Churches in Australia and New Zealand are engaged in a similar mission.

In the Solomon Islands the Anglican Church is working with long-term reconciliation programs between the warring factions, by encouraging people to meet together in peaceful dialogue.

In Rwanda ten years after the genocide, the work of repentance and the rebuilding of society is just beginning, with healing and wholeness still a distant goal.  The same can be said for Burundi.  The cycle of violence continues in both countries and also in the refugee camps in neighbouring countries such as Tanzania, largely due to external factors.  There is, however, some basic ministry going on in the camps in Tanzania, where hope is beginning to take root. 

Mission as bearing witness to injustice and suffering

The stories of human suffering and injustice are overwhelming.  Efforts at peace-building and conflict resolution often fail.  Nonetheless, the church needs to continue to be present to bear witness, even when no other action is possible.  Peoples’ experiences need to be witnessed, recorded and honoured.  Then, those who have borne witness need to name the injustices and speak the truth to those in power.  Often this means speaking to international bodies, national bodies, and even to the powers in our own churches.  Those who take up this mission often put their own jobs, and sometimes their lives, at risk.

Mission as addressing the HIV and AIDS pandemic.
As we shared our stories we were often reduced to silence as we heard of the suffering and pain of God’s people affected by and infected with HIV and AIDS.  We shared how we as Anglicans, often in partnership with our ecumenical sisters and brothers, were participating in God’s mission to bring some form of Good News in the midst of this disaster.  The HIV and AIDS pandemic is decimating Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Oceania. 

The current inter-Anglican effort to combat the pandemic of HIV and AIDS in Africa south of the Sahara is an inspiring mission story.  In August of 2001, a first-ever All Africa Anglican Conference on HIV and AIDS was held in Johannesburg, South Africa to address how the Church could be more effective in combating the pandemic.  Over 130 delegates from 34 countries attended the conference, including church, business and government leaders.  By the end of the four day meeting, church and secular leaders alike had dedicated themselves to a multipoint ‘planning framework’ for: ‘securing the human rights of those infected by HIV and AIDS, and giving unconditional support; improving the health and prolonging the lives of infected people; accompanying the dying, those who mourn and those who live on; celebrating life; nurturing community; and advocating for justice.[4]  The co-operation of many agencies and churches to address AIDS in Africa resulted in new relationships in service to God’s healing mission.  Included at the Conference were representatives from every Anglican province in Africa as well as a variety of other Anglican churches and non-governmental agencies including: Christian Aid from Britain, Episcopal Relief and Development from the United States, the Mothers’ Union, the Compass Rose Society, The United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, The Anglican Church of Canada, The United Nations Agency for International Development, Tear Fund, Africa Alive, and the World Bank. 

The ambitious plans and early hopes of the All Africa Anglican Conference on HIV and AIDS have been owned and implemented in varying degrees across the Anglican churches in Africa, and new relationships in mission continue to be forged to fight the pandemic.  Co-operation between many African Anglican churches and the Episcopal Church in the United States continues in life-affirming relationships in mission.  Dr. Douglas Huber, a specialist in women’s health and HIV and AIDS prevention who is Principal Medical officer for the international NGO Management Sciences for Health, has been a special Volunteer for Mission from the Episcopal Church helping the CAPA AIDS Board to plan and implement its programs.  He is supported in his work, for CAPA and other individual Anglican churches such as the Anglican churches in Uganda and Nigeria, by the Diocese of Massachusetts Jubilee Ministry.  The Jubilee Ministry is an organisation of the Diocese of Massachusetts in the Episcopal Church that receives and disburses funds for development and relief related to HIV and AIDS, particularly in Africa, and also provides technical support to Church groups engaged in HIV and AIDS related activities.
 
On September 26, 2003, a major conference was held by CAPA in Nairobi, in conjunction with the 13th International Conference for AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA) to evaluate and plan CAPA’s next steps in addressing the HIV and AIDS pandemic.  In addition to CAPA’s leaders, present at the consultation were representatives of the Diocese of Massachusetts Jubilee Ministry, Episcopal Relief and Development, the United Thank Offering, Trinity Church Grants Program in New York, The Episcopal Church Centre in New York, the Diocese of Washington DC, the Anglican Communion Office, and a host of individuals from Communities Responding to the HIV and AIDS Epidemic Initiative, known by its acronym the CORE Initiative (a non-governmental organisation working with CAPA that is funded by the United States Agency for International Development, and working in partnership with CARE International, the World Council of Churches, the International Centre on Research on Women and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.)  All of these individuals and agencies met to consider how, drawing on their own particular strengths, they could work together more effectively to advance African Anglican efforts to overcome HIV and AIDS.  The Conference Proceedings with Recommendations emphasised that: “Working together, CAPA and the Provinces of the Anglican Churches are demonstrating how the Church in partnership with donors, local and national authorities, and other faith groups, can presents new opportunities for communion in mission relationships.”[5]

We listened to stories that told of the campaigns in South Africa to raise awareness and break the stigma of silence around the disease.  The Mothers’ Union is building up a network of home-based care, and ministering to those infected and affected by HIV and AIDS, as well as organising funerals for bereaved families.  Faithful people minister to the sick, the dying and to those left behind.  The enormity of the disaster came home to IASCOME when a priest in the Diocese of the Highveld took us to a cemetery to witness 20 funerals taking place at 20 gravesights, this being a “normal” part of the church’s daily ministry. 

The Province of Papua New Guinea and the Diocese of Manicaland in Zimbabwe have embarked on a project of raising awareness about HIV and AIDS among high school students.  A Zimbabwean priest has run workshops in Papua New Guinea.  Education and prevention are critically important to stop the pandemic. 

In Tanzania, there is a partnership between the Anglican Church of Tanzania and the Provincial Department of Health to raise awareness in all the dioceses, as well as to minister to those living positively with the virus.  The work being done also includes caring for the increasing number of orphans, encouraging young people to participate in sporting activities to encourage a healthy lifestyle, and delivering programs to supplement incomes.

In all the areas affected by HIV and AIDS there are important ministries to the sick, the dying and those left behind, including children heading households, and grieving aged grandparents who have buried their children and taken on the economic burden of raising their grandchildren.

The HIV and AIDS stories of pain and suffering are threaded through with love, hope, compassion and caring.

Communications failures

The importance of communication dominated many of our discussions and we recognise how, within our own church community, we have excluded some by failing to translate key documents from English into the other languages of the Communion.  While acknowledging that translation costs money, nonetheless innovative solutions are possible.  For example, the Brazilian church uses a network of volunteer translators to help them in this task.  They succeeded in translating the Windsor Report into Portuguese within one month of its release, thus enabling the entire Province to participate in the debate.  Another suggestion was to read news releases and documents onto tapes and CDs, in local languages.

The Commission recognises that information and communication technology has made communication easier.  However many have no access to these this technology, and are thus excluded from the “information highway”.  Full participation is thus compromised.

Conflict and abuse of power within our churches

Stories were shared of the way power is abused in our own Anglican structures.  Sometimes the model of servant leadership is abandoned by bishops in favour of authoritarian models.  Sometimes lay leaders in local congregations bully the clergy to achieve their own ends.  Stories about the misuse of church resources were also mentioned.  Although the abuses were not violent or spectacular there was a cost; the mission of God was compromised, people were hurt and distrust was sown. 

On a positive note, we also heard from a new bishop who succeeded in gently persuading the laity of his diocese to come into his house, as they had never been allowed in during the time of his predecessor. 

Recommendation

IASCOME appreciates that others connected to various networks of the Anglican Communion, both formal and informal, are engaged in focused ways with particular contexts of injustice and brokenness, and with particular constituencies and interest groups.  While we have done some consulting with some members of some of these networks, we recognise the need for more intentional connections to support the missiological commitment of their work.

We recommend, therefore, that IASCOME, during the next five-year term of office, sponsor a Mission Consultation for Network Representatives, to better understand and co-ordinate pan-Anglican information and action in service to God’s mission.

Questions for Discussion

  • Discuss the ways in which your church is participating in God’s mission in some of the contexts identified in this chapter.  What other contexts of injustice, pain and brokenness are significant for the mission work of your church?
  • In what ways is your church addressing the worldwide HIV and AIDS pandemic? What is your church’s ministry to individuals infected with and affected by HIV and AIDS?
  • Do the two challenges mentioned at the end of this chapter restrict your church’s full participation in God’s mission in the Anglican Communion? What other limitations do you face?

1. See Chapter 8 for the full story, Helping Them Live Again.

2. Eluzai, Joy Kwaje.  “Religious Structures and the Role of Women in Peace Making: Hope For the Oppressed and Marginalised”.  Paper delivered at the International Conference on Tools For Peace: The role of Religion in Conflicts.  Sweden, November 2004, p. 5.  Used with permission.

3. See Chapter 8 for the full story, The Anglican Church of Canada’s Continuing Struggle with its Colonial History.

4.Our Vision, Our Hope: The First Step: All Africa Anglican AIDS Planning Framework,’ Anglican Communion News Service #2601, 22 August 2001,
http://www.anglicannews.org/news/2001/08/our-vision,-our-hope-the-first-step.aspx

5. CAPA Report Nairobi.