Justice

The Church in Congo

By James Misner and Marcel Serubungo In the Democratic Republic of Congo, some say that you can find all of Africa’s problems: weak national leadership, eroding rule of law, HIV/AIDS and protracted tribal conflict. Warring militias use rape as a weapon of war and perpetrate other human rights violations. Children are stolen, forced to become soldiers and used as proxies between fighting groups.

Congolese civilians are caught in the vicious cycles of conflict and disease. Millions have died as a result. Refugees and internally displaced people number into the millions.

But even in the world’s most war-torn regions, the power of Jesus can overcome the horrors of conflict. After years of warfare, the Church in DR Congo is the only social structure standing. It is the only hope of true peace for survivors of violence.

This is the reality of the Church in DR Congo:

  1. The Church is traumatized. Many people in the Church have been displaced from their homes. They’ve fled as refugees, survived grave atrocities, lost entire crops and ran through the night in search of safety. Our Christian brothers and sisters in DR Congo face the same situations that their greater communities face — they’re not immune from struggle.
  2. The Church is resilient. Even in the midst of adversity and unspeakable hardship, the church in DR Congo stands strong! Despite ethnic divisions within the nation, the church builds unity and reconciliation. They’ve refused to give up the pursuit of peace. They continue meeting together, praying together and worshiping God together. In some of the worst poverty and injustice on the planet the church gathers to proclaim the greatness of God! We have much to learn from them as they restore their communities.
  3. The Church is redeeming suffering. None of us can explain precisely why God allows suffering. But we do know that God redeems it — through his hands and feet, the Church. When a woman survives sexual violence, the Church will take her in, provide food and shelter and help her to care for her children. When cultural norms say that husbands should abandon their wives after rape — the Church works to debunk this lie and to reconcile marriages. The Church stands in the gap and speaks out against this injustice — teaching boys and men that women are created in God’s image and are to be respected and treasured.

Wherever there is suffering in DR Congo – the Church is right there, too. And World Relief is there to empower the Church to fulfill its mission: to bring hope to the hopeless and restore justice to the oppressed. As the people of the Church endure suffering, they faithfully follow in the steps of Jesus – bringing healing to their communities as they themselves are healed.

Would you consider making a gift to empower local churches to prevent further gender-based violence and care for women survivors? All donations will be matched by One Day’s Wages. Your gift will be used to provide medical care and trauma counseling for the victims of sexual violence and to raise community awareness about violence against women. Give today at onedayswages.org/worldrelief.

James and Marcel are both members of the church team at World Relief. James serves as the Global Director of Church Partnership. Marcel serves as the Director of Church Mobilization and Peace Building in DR Congo.

Celebrating World Day of Social Justice – The Justice Conference

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As stories of injustice continue to grow in the news and in conversation, it’s easy to feel defeated, turn our heads and block our minds to these difficult topics. But as Martin Luther King Jr. explained, “There is such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.” Whether advocating for immigration reform, waging peace on violence, or working to eradicate extreme global poverty, we have an obligation to respond to the ever-present issues of social justice.

Since 2007, February 20th has served as a day when the international community works together towards justice for all. Organizations, academic institutions and churches unite to promote development and human dignity.

Moving beyond a one-day event, a movement of justice is forming as The Justice Conference, an international conference that serves the discovery of ideas, celebrates the beauty of justice, and fosters a community of people who live justice together, continues to take shape. This premier gathering of Christian leaders, justice practitioners and students from all over the world leverages the power of community and catalyzes the work of justice globally, nationally, locally and personally.

This year, The Justice Conference will be in Chicago with simulcast partner sites all across North America. Now, more than ever, we are positioned to come together to address the injustices in our world, create a movement of justice and spark hope that produces change. Will you join us?

To register or learn more about The Justice Conference, visit www.thejusticeconference.com.

70 Years of Good

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Auschwitz. A name that stands on its own. A place synonymous with death, terror and genocide. This death camp in southern Poland is a symbol of some of the worst crimes against humanity of the 20th Century. More than 1.1 million men, women and children were murdered here. And only a few hundred thousand people who had the misfortune of being interned here actually survived. How could anything good possibly come from this evil?

This week, as millions of people around the globe commemorate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of this most infamous death camp, we gain hope from the good that is found time and time again in the midst of such extreme tragedy. The Nazis murdered millions, but the Corrie ten Booms, Martin Niemöllers and Dietrich Bonhoeffers looked evil in the face and responded to God’s command to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22), no matter the consequence.

World Relief’s own history began at the same time concentration camps around Europe were being liberated and Europeans were emerging from the rubble of a devastating war. Christians around the world took notice and came alongside strangers across the ocean to show the tangible and spiritual hope of Jesus Christ. Churches in the US sacrificed their own comfort to send food and clothing to churches recovering from devastation in Europe. And here began the work of World Relief.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that good can be a reality during extreme instances of evil. We see this in our work now – mass rape and conflict in Congo, war and hunger in South Sudan or modern-day slavery in our own neighborhoods. But survivors, volunteers and churches are standing up in the midst of oppression to serve and empower the most vulnerable. By walking alongside survivors of these injustices and making sure they have enough, we are implementing good and realizing that God uses us, normal human beings, to be the peacemakers.

If you want to be a part of this modern movement of justice, visit worldrelief.org for more information about our work and how you can get involved.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

So Much Happening in Twenty-Thirteen...

by Larissa Peters, World Relief Communications Liaison I don’t know about you, but I have an especially good feeling about 2013. I admit, I keep a journal, and on the first of every year, I wonder what will fill its pages. The same is true in managing this blog – what will be the stories, reflections, and prayers that fill this year?

So many things are happening at World Relief, and so many great things we get to be a part of this year as more and more stand for the vulnerable! So I thought I would share 13 of the ones that I’m personally excited about and that others could even join:

In no particular order, here they are:

  1. Immigration Reform: From publishing the book Welcoming the Stranger in 2009 to speaking at Willow Creek Church and the G92 Summit, Jenny Yang – Vice President of Advocacy & Policy  and Matt Soerens – US Church Training Specialist are truly affecting change for the immigration system. We believe this is the year for reform. Want to keep up to date on the issue? Follow Jenny and Matt on twitter at:  @JennyYangWR and @MatthewSoerens.
  2. Peace building in the Congo: Village Peace Committees are changing their communities in the DR Congo. Conflict still abounds, but the grassroots movement of the Church is transforming lives. This is something to be a part of!  Follow updates and watch our video.
  3. Our partnership with Pure Charity: if you haven’t checked this organization out and you shop online or use a credit card (which should cover most of you), click here now. Here is a creative way to raise funds: shop and the stores you shop at will give to your charity of choice. World Relief has a few projects of their own there, and you’ll find Pure Charity at the Justice Conference. I already wish I knew about them earlier – I have to admit I’ve become slightly addicted to online shopping.
  4.  Fighting the battle of slavery: more and more people are taking on the cause of anti-trafficking. Currently, there are 14,500 people trafficked into the US each year (this is a low estimate). But our offices in Spokane, Tampa, High Point (and even internationally in Cambodia) are fighting to prevent that number from going up. Follow World Relief’s efforts on twitter and find out how you can promote awareness through races, workshops, or advocacy.
  5.  Church Partnership: Churches around the US have partnered with World Relief with a commitment of investing in a country or program for 3 to 5 years. Building relationships with the field and giving opportunity for long-term sustainable development, partnership is about wholistic mission. More and more churches are signing on, and we are excited about the changes it is bringing! Want your church to be part of this?
  6. Catalog of Hope: This year, our Catalog of Hope has a new section: fair trade items that benefit refugees in the US, empower women in Burundi, Rwanda, and Indonesia, and provide a monster for children in the US. A monster? Yes! See what this is all about.
  7. Stand Together Project: The premise is simple: Empowering women who are heroes in their own communities around the world. Check it out here: www.standtogetherproject.org.
  8. Savings for Life: A woman in Rwanda had never held a 5000 Franc note (worth $8 USD).  For the first time in her life this year, she saved up SIX of them because of her Savings group! How much more exciting can that get? Savings for Life is making credit available to those even the microfinance institutions can’t consider.  Watch a video on what Savings group is here: www.savings-revolution.org .
  9. Reviving and strengthening marriages in India: There is a quiet and unique program in India. One that is saving marriages, helping couples to be faithful to each other, and actually preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS.  Check out the story on India.
  10. Volunteering with refugees in the US: more and more people are asking, “What can I do?” Our US program with refugees provides tangible volunteering. I can promise you that your 2013 will be incredibly enriched by befriending a refugee and welcoming them into your home and life.
  11. Volunteering with refugees in Indonesia: you have to check this unique opportunity out:  living in Indonesia and ministering to refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and Sri Lanka. You can read about some of the volunteers’ experiences here: www.worldreliefindonesia.com .

12   AND 13

Tis the season for conferences! So I’ll have to just wrap them all up into the last two: Churches and organizations are stepping out and bringing awareness to issues of injustice, educating their communities on how to respond. World Relief is privileged to be a part of these conferences with other Justice advocate hall-of-famers:

My hope is that these 13 (and then some) inspire and encourage you.  And may this year be full of all that is more than we can ask or imagine!*

*Ephesians 3:20

Quotes from The Justice Conference 2012

By Isaac Barnes, Marketing and Communications Manager at World Relief It’s been two weeks since the Justice Conference, and I am still processing the many moments of clarity and insight that I experience along with 4,000 other people.

The breadth and depth of the speakers and facilitators brought a profound life and expression to the word “justice” that I have never experienced before. In addition to my own individual experience, it encouraged me to share those two days of learning with so many other Christians also captured by Christ’s heart for justice in our broken world.

I was encouraged and challenged by what was said, but also convicted that justice – like love – is to be lived out in my relationship with God and those around me. As we have all returned to our neighborhoods and ministries, I hope to hear your great stories of live-out justice next year in Philadelphia at the Justice Conference 2013!

Here are some quotes and pictures* from this past Justice Conference in Portland, Ore:

Spoken at the Justice Conference 2012:

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“Jesus' natural companionship is with those folks [the poor].” – Walter Brueggemann

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“I went to Africa. And suddenly, it wasn't poor people anymore. It was Kenneth, and Rose, and Rachel.” – Francis Chan

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“Women are the greatest untapped resource in the world.” – Lynne Hybels

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“Don't be afraid to lament.” – Stephan Bauman

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“It doesn't matter who you are. Everyone has something to offer the movement of justice” – Shane Claiborne

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“If we're going to address trafficking in our country we have to address poverty, racism & gender based violence.” – Rachel Lloyd

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“Justice goes across racial and economic barriers - like the good Samaritan.” – John M. Perkins

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“That you would no longer see us as the mission field, but as co-equal participants in life.” – Richard Twiss

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“When you're no longer asking 'What's mine?' you start asking 'What's true, what's right, what's ours?’” – Rick McKinley

Shared on Social Media at the Justice Conference 2012:

  • Bread for the World: “@worldrelief Thanks 4 your work, @kenwytsma, @antiochbend & all. Our hearts full of hope. Reg4 2013 @thejusticeconf ow.ly/9k0cn”
  • Katie Høiland: “Appreciating @stephanjbauman : theologian, development practitioner, poet & @WorldRelief pres. Thx for charge to hold long line of justice.”
  • Kyle Anderson: “#love is an irreplaceable thread in Justice @kjwytsma inspiring & powerful start to @thejusticeconf thank you! #justice2012 @WorldRelief”
  • Restored: “Wish we were @thejusticeconf #justice2012 but so glad…@WorldRelief are there :) Looking forward to the online action later”
  • Urbana Missions: “Our team is so excited for @thejusticeconf tomorrow. Thanks to friends @worldrelief for hosting the event!”
  • Fred Smith: “I think the relationship between Shane Claiborne and John Perkins is a good example of two generations with great respect for each other. You are doing such good work.”
  • Merrilee Parsons Lewis: “Amazing experience!”
  • Shandra Johnson: “Hope to go again next year.”
  • Debi Luna Marshall: “I won't let anything keep me from going next year! Can't wait!”
  • Sandra Boedecker: “Bravo Stephan Bauman, Walter Brueggemann, Don Golden, Matthew Soerens and Jenny Hwang!”

*Pictures by The Justice Conference and Isaac Barnes.

International Women's Day

By Larissa Peters, Asia Church Engagement Specialist at World Relief We don’t celebrate International Women’s Day in the United States, but my World Relief co-workers in Cambodia have a day off as the government has declared it a national holiday – a well-deserved one in my opinion.

A little over a week ago, I attended the Justice Conference in Portland – two days of intense conversation with over four thousand people passionate about responding to poverty, slavery, and oppression.  When Walter Brueggemann spoke, he talked about the “walkers” and the “talkers” – both necessary for a response to injustice.  And just a little over a year ago, I had the privilege to meet some of the “walkers” – amazing Cambodian women who, against all odds (and reason), are making a significant difference in their communities.

In honor of Women’s Day, I want to honor two of the many “walking women” I met in Cambodia:

As Nari shared her story, she stood with her arm protectively around a young woman, who seven years earlier had been rescued from a brothel.  This young woman’s own family had sold her in order to pay for their own survival.  The woman’s story broke my heart – she was very close to my age, and I just couldn’t imagine spending my formative years in sexual slavery.

No girl should be dispensable like that, and Nari’s words could only give me hope for those still in bondage: “I do what I do because God has given me compassion and love.  It’s hard to explain.  I know that this work is encouraging other women, so I want to be instrumental in reaching other women.  Often there’s a lack of education and knowledge … and I love them very much.”

These communities need preventative education and awareness when it comes to human trafficking.  Sara is one who ministers to the youth in the villages.  I got to be part of the crowd of children who attended one of the puppet shows in Kandal province.  Through these Sesame-street type shows and skits each week, hundreds of children and teenagers not only become educated on prevention messages but learn that they are loved and have a hope for the future.

Sara’s love for the youth she works with is evident, and she is affecting change exponentially – “It’s very important for them to have a good future, but also so that they reach out to the community.  Teenagers, especially the poor ones, are at risk – and also in the area of trafficking, so I want to tell them and protect them from that.”

Between Nari, Sara, and the puppets, I saw first hand the full circle response to these issues. These women are not only addressing the immediate needs of their neighbors, but they are responding to systemic issues of injustice, transforming the community both in the present and for the future.

And as a “talker”, I’m humbled.