Wednesday 6 November 2013

Blogging From Busan - Reflections on Peace and Justice

In the Assembly's statement on just peace, the following words struck a chord with me: “Social justice confronts privilege, economic justice confronts wealth, ecological justice confronts consumption and political justice confronts power itself.”

Today' s plenary on justice did exactly that: it painted vividly some of the injustices that continue in the world; the inequality, the discrimination based on gender and HIV status. The session made most of us quietly uncomfortable and privately visit the bathroom to wipe away the tears.

Two speakers brought to the plenary real-life issues which particularly touched me.

The first was a 19-year-old girl from Malawi born with HIV. She was courageous and said she is a churchgoer but she has many questions that she wants answered by the church and people outside. She wants her church to guide her in life as she wrestles with sex and sexuality, and with reproductive rights, because she longs one day to have children who are not infected by her. She knows she can't be cured of the disease but she wants healing from her church – very deep, pointed and theological questions from Ms Mvula. In sum, she raised questions on human nature and the nature of God, asking the ecumenical family to wrestle with the themes not in the abstract but in the face of real life challenges.

The second was the Revd Phumzile Mabizela, the head of Inerela. She is a priest who is living with HIV and AIDS. She highlighted some of the discrepancies in our messaging as the church to those living with the virus, and cautioned against us speaking for “them” when they are present. She also challenged the global injustices perpetrated by pharmaceutical companies and the politics of medication for the poorest of the poor. She longed for this to be highlighted, especially by assembly members coming from the West and the North where these companies come from.

A difficult session indeed, for we were reminded in a forceful manner that we are complicit in these injustices if we don't go deeper to understand their root causes and then help prevent them. We are complicit if we carry on only with charity, without asking what causes poverty and inequality.

I left the business session at 18:00 to attend the launch of Fr Michael Lapsley's book, Redeeming the Past. I said a few words to introduce him and left for a rehearsal which was happening shortly after the introduction. If you have not bought and read this personal account of a transformative journey by Fr Michael, I suggest you acquire it and learn more about the cost of forgiveness and reconciliation.

The rehearsal for the peace plenary was long but useful. It is the last plenary and I have been asked to moderate the session. I ask for your prayers and for you to think of areas in your home, church, country and the world which need you to advocate for peace, and then do something about at least one of these.

Peace be with you!

PHOTO: Archbishop Thabo introducing Fr Michael Lapsley at the launch of his book during the WCC assembly.