Poverty, Corruption and Injustice Study Group: Seeking wisdom and a model

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Last Sunday, we kicked off our study group on Poverty, Corruption and Injustice.

Background

Every Sunday we stand together and say the Lord’s Prayer. When we do so, we approach God as Father and we declare he is King over everything and everyone.

Disciples are called to live in the world, to be salt and light in the environments in which they live out their lives. Disciples need a common understanding of what their environment looks like, and of the factors which caused it to be the way it is.

The Study Guide used by the Poverty, Corruption and Injustice Study Group is designed to help disciples obtain Biblical insights about poverty, corruption and injustice. Insights are obtained by asking questions of the Bible. Insights are relevant if tested against the situations we live in. Since Africa is the region of the world with the largest number of poor people, the guide uses examples from Africa.

The Guide helps readers think about cause and effect by offering a short (1,600 words) article titled “A Macro Illustration: The Continent of Africa.” In the article (which I will call “Illustration”), John Ridgway lists 7 factors which he thinks helpfully describe the situation in Africa today with respect to poverty, corruption and injustice:

  • The colonial powers.
  • The wealthy nations of today.
  • Major world aid agencies.
  • African rulers of today.
  • Intensified tribalism.
  • Famine, hunger and AIDS.
  • Poverty.

Illustration is shaped by books written both by individual authors (including a journalist-turned-historian and an army General) and by reports and studies published by global organizations. To help readers understand the size and complexity of the problems, Illustration offers numerical data. Here’s a brief selection:

  • 190 cultural groups were divided by national boundaries imposed by colonial powers.
  • The USD 4 billion paid as subsidies to US cotton farmers exceeds the value of the cotton.
  • Over 50 % of 189 World Bank projects audited in 1989 either had ‘serious shortcomings’ or were ‘complete failures.’
  • 40 % of Africa’s private wealth is held offshore.
  • Over 300,000 children died in the Rwandan genocide aside from thousands of adults. Over 37 % of Botswana is HIV positive and life expectancy is 27 years.
  • 62 % of the people of Ethiopia are illiterate.

Illustration is (1) a short article offered as an example of (2) a common outlook on (3) the complexity which lies behind and runs through poverty, corruption and injustice.

Illustration is designed to be illustrative, not to be accurate at a given moment in time. Illustration spurs us to try and produce something similar for our own situation.

PovertyCorruptionInjusticeStudyGroup

The first meeting (Sunday, 10 November 2013)

At the first meeting, after personal introductions, the group listened as the facilitator presented some of Illustration’s content and suggested similarities with and differences from Malaysia.

The facilitator asked the group to propose factors which should be included in something similar written about Malaysia. The group was catalysed through these questions:

  • What 7 factors would you have chosen for Malaysia?
  • Which authors/reports would you have got data from?
  • What makes you angry?
  • Whom do you blame?
  • How can rage be managed?

Through discussion, members increased their understanding of the value of referencing a common framework while seeking wisdom about poverty, corruption and injustice: a practical wisdom sufficient to explain to anyone why disciples think these 3 evils exist in Malaysia, and why disciples work confidently to (1) overcome the effects of these 3 evils and (2) dismantle the structures which create, sustain and encourage these 3 evils.

The Malaysian context

The group generated a first list of factors to include in a useful (sufficient to guide thought and action) and practical (small!) model: sin, identity, pluralism, race, structural, religion, truth, globalization, lack of accountability. This list is just a start.

Malaysia is highly polarized. It’s hard to know what is true of history, current events and data. We have mainstream media, alternative media, local media, foreign media. All have agendas and rarely agree. What can we believe? The facilitator said that in subsequent meetings he would share insights from the following respected sources:

  • T N Harper, The End of Empire and the Making of Malaya (Cambridge: CUP, 1999)
  • Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Wee Chong Hui, Malaysia @ 50 (Petaling Jaya: SIRD, 2013)
  • Edmund Terence Gomez and Johan Saravanamuttu, ed. The New Economic Policy in Malaysia: Affirmative Action, Ethnic Inequalities and Social Justice (Petaling Jaya: SIRD, 2013)

One concern expressed in the group was that approaches such as “7 factors” are linear and limited. A good model should be visual and should include the individual, families, a vision of the future, paths of action, etc.

The facilitator explained that this is just a start in thinking about the problem using factors others have identified in their situations, factors we hear in public discourse in Malaysia and other factors which we think must be added to the discourse.

‘Christian’ aspects of the model will be covered in future studies, which move from the first to the last book of the Bible in 5 sessions. That’s a lot to cover in a short time.

Therefore, in order to achieve the goal of obtaining practical wisdom about the 3 evils, group members must do personal study before coming to the group meetings. The Lion Handbook to the Bible is recommended as a resource.

Next session. The next session is rescheduled to 24 November (5 – 7 pm, The Father’s House). The group will discuss Study 1: Poverty, corruption and injustice in the Pentateuch (Genesis to Deuteronomy). Click here and look at pages 7 to 9 for Study 1.

Note: The “Illustration” article discussed above can be found on pages 4 to 6.

Additional thoughts. The group hoped for a more graphical and comprehensive model. Any suggestions? Also, what factors would you include to explain (1) what we see in our environment and (2) what motivates and empowers us to act against evil in our world?

More info on the Study Group here.

Study Group: Poverty, Corruption & Injustice

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In keeping silent about evil,
in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface,
we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousand fold in the future.
When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age,
we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations.”
– Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

THE NEED FOR THIS STUDY
Lately in Malaysia we often hear the word ‘activist.’

Some Christians participate in BERSIH, which works to expose weaknesses in the electoral process and acts to compel the government to correct them.
Some Christians participate in groups which keep ‘police sins’ in the public eye, e.g. deaths in custody (e.g. Teoh Beng Hock, Ahmad Sarbani, Darmendran), death-by-police-shooting (e.g. Aminulrasyid), victimization of good policemen (e.g. Dato’ Ramli Yusuff).

Some Christians participate in groups which expose and challenge ‘systemic injustice,’ e.g. tolerance of PERKASA while clamping down on Namewee; propagation of falsehoods through Umno’s Utusan newspaper while clamping down on PAS’ Harakah newspaper; eviction of Sarawak natives from their ancestral lands in favour of timber and plantation companies.

Here are some questions many have asked their pastors recently:
What drives Christians, especially the young, to be activists? Are they foolishly mixing Politics into the Church, like mixing poison in water? What does the Bible, Christian history and current day Christian practice in other parts of the world have to say about this?

This study is for you if you’d like to discuss these questions with others:
Is Christian activism ‘new’? Should you participate in activism? How can you explain why you participate? How will your explanation be different from that of a non-Christian?

“It is our duty to be involved in socio-political action; that is, both in social action (caring for society’s casualties) and in political action (concern for the structures of society itself).” – John Stott

The eternal destiny of human beings will be measured by how much or how little solidarity we have displayed with the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, and the oppressed.  In the end we will be judged in terms of love.” – Leonardo Boff

STUDY MATERIAL
We will use a 46 page guide developed by Navigators from Australia, Brazil, Ethiopia, India, the Philippines, and the U.S. The guide says:

“Our suggestion is that this study be completed on a personal level to allow God to impress on you his heart and direction. You might also discuss these questions in your family. And it is very important that you discuss these issues in a believing community so that your responsibilities and application can be implemented on a political, judicial, economic, social and national level in your context.”

The study guide can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/kkwkca6

COURSE DETAILS & YOUR COMMITMENT

  1. First session. No commitment, just come and see if this is for you. There will be an overview of the course and a chance to interact with others who may choose to participate.
  2. Subsequent 5 sessions. You must read and respond to the materials before you come to each session. Each session will be 2 hours in duration, comprising presentations and facilitated discussions. The sessions will cover
    1. Guidelines in the Pentateuch about poverty, corruption and injustice.
    2. Israel’s response during the period from Joshua to Esther.
    3. The poet’s heartache, covering Job to Song of Solomon.
    4. God’s response to failures, covering Isaiah to Malachi.
    5. The response of Jesus and the early church.
  3. Final session. We will recap, commit and celebrate!
  4. General. Door closes at 5 pm. Dinner at 7 pm is optional.

Dates:

  • Session 1:  Sunday 10 November 2013
  • Sessions 2-6: 17 & 24 November; 1, 8 & 15 December.
  • Final session: To be decided by the group

Time:   5 – 7 pm, dinner optional. Door open from 4.30 – 5.00 pm.

VenueThe Father’s House (Bangsar Lutheran Church), 23 Jalan Abdullah, Bangsar.

Facilitator:
RamaPreaching
Ramanathan M, lay member of Bangsar Lutheran Church. Over the past decade and more, Director of Quality (Asia Pacific) for Colgate Palmolive and for Becton Dickinson. Contributor to Bible and the Ballot (Graceworks, 2012)
Maintains the blog Rest Stop Thoughts at write2rest.blogspot.com.

Contact Us
Ramanathan M
The Father’s House 23 Jalan Abdullah, Bangsar
Tel: +6012 288 7147
Email: Ramanathan[dot]blc[at]gmail[dot]com

EXPOSED: Corruption And Poverty In Malaysia

Via CANOPI Malaysia:

Biblical Foundation For Advocacy on Poverty & Corruption – Rev. Dr. Dion Forster

Rev. Dr. Dion Forster‘s presentation in Consultation on Christian Advocacy, Poverty & Corruption, organized by CANOPI – a network of Christians across denominations as a voice for the poor. (For more info, please email CANOPI Malaysia at canopi[dot]msia[at]gmail[dot]com or visit their Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/Canopi.Msia.

Also, don’t forget that CANOPI will be launching EXPOSED – Shining a Light on Corruption today!

Launch of EXPOSED – Shining A Light On Corruption

Last Sunday, Soo Choo shared with us about the launch of EXPOSED – Shining A Light On Corruption. Organized by CANOPI, an organization championing Christian advocacy addressing poverty and corruption, EXPOSED will be launched in Malaysia on 6 October 2012 at the Malaysia RunNat Day Celebration.

EXPOSED – Shining a Light on Corruption is part of a global campaign which calls for ethical living:

  • a response of the Christian Church inspired from the Bible and is
  • committed to promote practical steps for ethical behaviour in business, government and the Church
  • position Christians as advocates of justice and transformation in the nations we are called to serve

Details of event as follows:

  • Date : Oct 6, 2012
  • Time : 11.30am – 1.30pm
  • Venue : Luther Centre, PJ 4 Jalan Utara, 46200 Petaling Jaya, Selangor

For the EXPOSED launch, there will be a video presentation (poverty, snippets of the poor sharing their stories of corruption, call for advocacy, link between impact of corruption on the poor, EXPOSED’s call), brief sharing challenge (personal commitment to ethical living, to shine on corruption & influence friends to join the cause).

We are expecting about 1,000 people to be present.

Corruption has a name, poverty has a face, we have a voice!! “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves” Proverb 31:8.

For further info, please contact Keith at 03-90582102 or visit http://www.exposed2013.com/