28 December, 2007
23 December, 2007
Have you heard about FebFast?
It is a community initiative that challenges Australians to give up drinking for one month (February) in order to raise funds for organisations that work to prevent alcohol problems among young people.
FebFast emerged as the brainchild of a couple of people who saw they could benefit from slowing down after a feverish time between spring and New Year. It’s also a great way of providing funds for people in the alcohol and other drugs (AOD) field.
I think it is a terrific initiative that can do a lot to reduce drinking problems if it catches on. So I hope you will consider joining in. To sign up to participate in FebFast (for the fee of $25) visit http://www.febfast.com.au/
Alternatively, you can sponsor the CAAN / GrogWatch Team. CAAN and Grogwatch are operated by the Australian Drug Foundation, and work side by side with the Salvos at the forefront of advocating for an end to the mis-use of alcohol in Australia. To support the CAAN / GrogWatch team with a donation visit http://www.everydayhero.com.au/grogwatch.
Of course for us Salvos February is going to just another alcohol-free month, but what an opportunity to draw attention to the harms of alcohol mis-use, and how they might be addressed! Maybe we could draw in some non-abstinent family, friends and colleagues.
If there’s anyone who would be happy to coordinate a Salvo team let me know, and I will give you as much support as I can. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
21 December, 2007
It is time to let God take control, because I’m not sure the least, last and lost of this world can take much more. As passionate and lively and motivated and clever as we are at social justice, we must stop and sit at the feet of our people and we must watch God move. Just as Jesus begged his disciples to watch and pray in the garden, so too he asks us to watch and pray. If we fail to do this, and act with good intention rather than Godly instruction, we will continue to aggressively cut ears off everywhere! That kind of aggression and passion sounds cool and bloggable, but it is fruitless. May we instead watch and pray as we have been instructed because God is moving.
Merry Christmas everyone,
19 December, 2007
I had a meeting with a company who is a big sponsor of a ministry we are involved in. In the area that they support us, there is no ethical issue - no injustice associated with that product.
However, in other parts of their company, there are some massive injustices being carried out - and I have been making a lot of noise about their involvement in it.
I walked away wondering what I need to do! Why did God put me in such a situation? What's my role in this situation? Do I accept their support because we are so linked with them and have been branded with them from the public - something which is a really positive thing, but then on the other hand I so disagree with their practices and what they are doing.
It's interesting when you fight for justice - ethical dilemas all around!
My prayer is that this relationship will open up opportunities to speak into the injustice that I see and that there could be some really helpful and honest conversations and that maybe we can work together to see Justice prevail.
18 December, 2007
Vulture funds are private companies that buy up cheap poor country debts, and then sue for huge profits. Earlier this year Donegal International sued Zambia for $55 million from a debt it bought for $3 million. It was awarded over $15 million - money which Zambia needed to invest in teachers, doctors and clean water supplies.
16 December, 2007
He was born to an unmarried mother – one of the most stigmatised positions to be in all through history, in almost all cultures. It’s a bit of a clue!
His birth was heralded by shepherds, one of the lowest-paid, lowest-status jobs of the time, something like a toilet cleaner might be regarded today. It’s a bit of clue!
He was born in a building used for animal storage, amidst the characteristic mixed smells of animal faeces and feedstock. It’s a bit of a clue!
His first cot was a disused feeding trough. It’s a bit of a clue!
His family came from Nazareth, one of the most out-of-the-way and uncool places in the country. It’s a bit of a clue!
The political powerhouse of the time (Herod) was so concerned about the perceived threat of his birth he arranged for all boys under four to be slaughtered. It’s a bit of a clue!
He and his family ended up as refugees in Egypt for the first four years of his life. It’s a bit of a clue!
The events surrounding his birth happened entirely outside of the established religious system. It’s a bit of a clue!
And that’s before we begin to look at the rest of his life!
14 December, 2007
We are an Army, but sometimes I feel like we are an Army on Parade day. All polished, looking spectacular and definitely grabbing attention from the general public. But their conclusions are one of beauty! They don’t see fierce and single-minded. They see quaint and different and ‘good’. A little like when Jesus is painted in soft colours in a lush field with a little lamb. Its meek not might.
But is seems, when our Army starts to get a little more fierce, a little more edgy, a little more impractical, we somehow find a way to stop it. Some say it is not appropriate, some pull rank, some write letters, some threaten to give up, some become frightened, some become selfish. And inevitably the stable, prevailing structures of our organization calm the waters of discontent. But we are an army people! I’m pretty certain that when Lenin made his move in Russia, his fellow Bolshevics didn’t sit around saying ‘well I don’t know, the Provisional government is doing ok, and at least we dethroned the King. Isn’t it ok that he is allowed to hang around? Can’t we just enjoy life for a while?’ No! Lenin gathered together the entire Romanov family and any unfortunate soul who happened to be working for them and had them all killed! Lenin understood that if real transformation is to occur, evil cannot coincide with good, no matter the cost. We of course know who the real evil King is and know he has appointed himself as the royal family of this world. And it is our job to dethrone and destroy him.
There will be casualties. Our uniforms will get dirty. We will be uncomfortable. No more peace time…this is war, and war is not neat. Do we not understand the consequences if our Army fails in its mission?
There may be many reasons why The Salvation Army has not yet been unleashed upon the city of Melbourne. But I can assure you, the problem is not with God, or the unsaved…it is with us.
This city is ripe for the picking. We have the momentum from Connections, we have the leaders in place (a good mix of competent, stable, deeply spiritual and radical), we have the clear mission of God in our hearts and we have a whole army of people ready to go.
So let’s do it! There is no time for hesitation or concern for our own welfare. It is time for a revolution! And the victory will be the complete transformation of our city as souls are won for Christ.
13 December, 2007
Such a case seems straightforward enough for the legal and court system. A vulnerable young girl has been abused by both juveniles and adults. Justice would deem that severe punishment is fitting for the perpetrators of this horrendous crime. It should not matter that the perpetrators were Aboriginal. Justice, applies - or should apply - regardless of race. Justice should be blind - totally unaware of gender, race, wealth, and position.
As a reult there has been enormous public outcry about the minimal sentences and punishment handed down to the perpetrators. Suspensions of officials, public enquiries, intervention by the executive arm of government, and media reaction have all followed.
Yet the questions posed by Aboriginal activist Michael Mansell when commenting on this case, is summarised by the statement - who's justice. "It is no more wrong for the court to consider the attitude of the victim's Aboriginal community to which she will eventually return than it is for Premier Bligh to insist her white community attitudes must prevail. Imposing white rule over Aboriginal society creates the problem."
Mansell suggests that a harsh penalty would not help the girl rebuild her life with family and community. He argues that the judge and prosecutor in the case, did their best to consider all the circumstances and opted for resolutions that would be of most benefit to the girl, to the Aurukun community and the perpetrators. The focus was on restorative justice.
While I am considerate of aspects of Mansell's argument, the horrendous nature of the crime, was not only against the girl, but Aboriginal values, culture and traditions. It leads me ultimately to disagree with him. But I want to be sure that I am not doing so from a white perspective only. I think what happened is unjust - the crime against the girls, the court process and the minimal sentence.
Yet, the issue is extremely complex. Is justice done when considered from only one cultural perspective? Is there a universal justice the pervades and subsumes all cultural interpretations of justice?
As a Christian, the foundation of my justice is in the teaching of Jesus Christ. The difficulty is that Christ taught principles through illustrative stories of his day. A situation such as this requires interpretation.
What is justice in this situations? What do you think?
12 December, 2007
“Trade is one of the most powerful forces linking our lives, and a source of unprecedented wealth. Yet millions of the world's poorest people are being left behind. Increased prosperity has gone hand in hand with mass poverty.” (oxfam)
The current trade rules are biased and all power at the negotiation tables with the developed countries, namely the US and EU. This week was an important week for Africa and their relationship with the EU. The EU-Africa summit brought together representatives from the African Union (AU) and European union (EU) in an attempt to build a ‘partnership between equals’…I read a great article on BBC the other day that explained the agenda of the meeting well…all worthy of reading and reflecting on the impact that changes will have on the poorest ... http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7130402.stm (I have also cut and paste article below)
The outcome was the “Lisbon Declaration”… A snippit….
“…We will develop this partnership of equals, based on the effective engagement of our societies, in order to achieve significant results in our fundamental commitments, namely: the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals; the establishment of a robust peace and security architecture in Africa; the strengthening of investment, growth and prosperity through regional integration and closer economic ties; the promotion of good governance and human rights; and the creation of opportunities for shaping global governance in an open and multilateral framework…”
For Full report: http://allafrica.com/stories/200712110998.html?page=1
Now that's something to pray hard for!
"let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." Amos 5:24
Til next time,
The EU is expected to agree to work towards full integration of migrants in their new countries of residence and to provide help in developing their countries of origin.
A main aim of the summit is to stem the flow of illegal migrants and instead encourage legitimate migration.
Several thousand illegal migrants die every year trying to travel to Europe by sea, although the numbers making the perilous journey have fallen this year because of joint air and sea patrols, carried out by EU member states.
The European Commission has said it wants to attract 20 million workers from outside the EU over the next 20 years, and it is promoting the idea of a "blue card" work permit to attract highly skilled workers.
In March 2008, the EU hopes to open an office in Mali whose job initially will be to warn of the dangers and disappointments involved in illegal migration but aims eventually to recruit workers.
The EU is Africa's biggest trading partner but Chinese investment and influence in Africa are growing fast.
The EU is keen to use this summit to inject new momentum in its trade with Africa, with the promise of a more equal partnership.
China has imported a third of its oil needs from Africa, but in return has poured money into infrastructure projects, from railways in Gabon to roads in Democratic Republic of Congo and schools and hospitals in Angola.
European funds are linked to adherence to human rights and good governance. African states are attracted to Chinese money because it tends to come without strings.
In a draft agreement prepared for the summit, the EU offers to share its experience in helping to improve regional integration in Africa, as a means of contributing to development, economic growth and eradicating poverty.
In the words of the EU's development commissioner, Louis Michel, Europeans must now clearly understand that Africa is no longer Europe's private hunting ground.
Gone are the old colonial ties to Europe and with them the preferential trade deals enjoyed by African states. In their place, under WTO rules, the EU and Africa are having to agree Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) by the end of the year.
Only 13 African nations have so far done so, and many others fear the free-market nature of the EPAs will lead to domestic markets being flooded with lower-cost European goods.
Ghana and Ivory Coast complain their revenues will be hit by the loss of duties imposed on imports from the EU.
Another source of anger for African states is that the EU has chosen to sign the deals country by country, raising suggestions of a divide and rule policy.
The EPAs may not be on the agenda, but Senegal (which is refusing to sign one) has promised to bring them up if no one else does.
The build-up to the summit has been overshadowed by Robert Mugabe's attendance, and there have been claims that the organisers have had to water down a commitment to human rights.
A similar summit planned in 2003 was scrapped because of the prospect of Mr Mugabe's presence and most EU leaders decided that far too much was at stake for that to happen again.
Nevertheless, Mr Mugabe and all the other African leaders are being asked to endorse a commitment to the values of democracy, the rule of law and human rights.
The partnership accord covers the fight against corruption and fraud, global governance and reform of the security sector.
President Bashir of Sudan is also attending the summit and he may baulk at the idea of agreeing that the establishment of the International Criminal Court is important for peace and justice.
The agenda has not impressed a group of African and European writers, ranging from the South African, Nadine Gordimer, and the Nigerian Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, to the Czech president, Vaclav Havel.
They are upset that Zimbabwe and the Sudanese region of Darfur are not high up on the agenda and accuse the organisers of "political cowardice"।
While China has helped finance major infrastructure projects in a number of African states, it has not linked its investment to any push for social development.
The Lisbon declaration will, in contrast, focus on the Millennium Development Goals. Set out by the UN, these include commitments to halve extreme poverty, halt the spread of HIV/Aids and provide primary education for all children by 2015.
The UN has already made it clear that sub-Saharan Africa is not on track to meet any of the goals and aid organisations are concerned that the EU has become pre-occupied with trade rather than development.
The president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, has repeated the commitment of member states to increase the proportion of gross domestic product (GDP) they contribute to development aid to 0।56% in 2010 and then 0.7% in 2015.
Climate change is widely considered to be among the most serious threats to African stability in the next few years, in the form of floods and droughts and their effects on food security and water management.
One ambitious project under discussion at the summit is said to involve establishing a "green wall" around the Sahara desert. That would take the form of large dams, water collection areas and tree-planting.
The declaration is likely to include EU support for early weather warning systems and tackling illegal logging.
There are also plans for an Africa-EU energy partnership to promote access to efficient energy services and renewable sources.
Peace & Security
The declaration that completes the Lisbon summit is likely to include a package to help the African Union intervene or prevent future conflicts. But the record of both the EU and the African Union (AU) so far in resolving African conflicts is poor.
One region, Darfur, sums up by the inability of both the African Union (AU) and the international community to respond swiftly to four years of conflict.
An international peacekeeping force of 26,000 led by the AU and the United Nations is well behind schedule and has not yet replaced the existing contingent of 7,000 poorly-equipped AU troops. The EU too has struggled to follow through on a commitment to send a 3,500-strong force to Chad's border with Darfur to protect 500,000 civilians displaced by the fighting.
The French-led force was due to be deployed in November but has so far failed to get off the ground. It lacks basic resources such as helicopters, planes and a field hospital and rebel forces in Chad have threatened to attack.
11 December, 2007
"Model Number Five is along these lines. It says that the Gospel is equally a spiritual Gospel and a social Gospel, and if it is a social Gospel, then equally it is a political Gospel. In other words, it is as much about the decisions I make about my own personal life, as it is about how I act in society and how in turn I should act and react in relation to the exercise of the co-ordinated power of society through the State.
This view derives from the simple principle that the Gospel which tells humankind that you must be born again, is the same Gospel that says to the same humankind at the time of the Great Judgment that Christians will be asked not how pious they have been, but instead whether they've helped feed the hungry, clothe the naked, or visit the lonely. In this respect, the Gospel is an exhortation to social action.
Does this mean that the 'fundamental ethical principles' that I've sought to outline earlier in my address concerning the protection of the powerless, the accumulation of wealth, and the great questions of war and peace provide us with an automatic mathematical formula for determining every item of social, economic, environmental, national security, or international relations policy? Well of course not.
But what it does mean is that these policy debates could and should be debated by Christians within an informed Christian ethical framework, rather than arguing the proposition as some do, that these policy debates are somehow simply the practical matters of the State, which should be left to practical men, rather than impractical pastors, preachers and theologians.
09 December, 2007
Arbias and TSA are calling for warning labels on alcohol products, and big funding packages for ongoing awareness campaigns.
Many observers of health policy believe that the incidence of FASD is under-reported in Australia, and it is not easily recognised by Australian medical practitioners, due to gaps in training and awareness.
Currently the new draft Australian Alcohol Guidelines are available for public comment, and they call for no drinking during pregnancy. This is a change from the previous version of the guidelines, which allowed pregnant Mums to drink two standard drinks per day, even though there is no evidence that this is safe.
There is a strong and powerful lobby that want to keep the guidelines as they are so, for the sake of unborn Australians, we need to be vocal in affirming the new guidelines.
Go to this link to read a copy of the draft guidelines and how to comment on them. A simple one-liner email will help to get the message over, but be quick. The opportunity closes on this Tuesday 11th December 2007.
07 December, 2007
‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness. So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.’
I guess we remembered that when we are less, God is more and that we are generally less when we are suffering. The conclusion therefore was a rather simple one. Suffering equals more God!
It got me thinking about justice which is good since I have to write about it once a week. People always comment about spirituality in third-world nations and how they are ‘easy fodder’ for evangelists. It makes sense. They are so desperate and helpless that they understand that God is all they have to hold onto for hope. We in the first-world look to them almost enviously thinking “if only we had that kind of desperation”! Hence the Bible Study prayer.
Is that what it takes to have more of God? Must our lives be stripped bare so that we can know the joy that comes from being fully reliant on God? Must we give up life as we know it in order to experience an abundance of God?
Surely not! That is crazy talk. Surely I can have my cake and eat it too? Surely I can be an incredibly prosperous Christian and still experience the closeness of God. Possibly, but I am pretty certain there is something in the Gospel about a guy who was asked to give up all his belongings. And I think there was a bit about a couple who gave up ‘almost’ everything and were then struck down. And I’m pretty sure there is something about a guy who was really special and important to God, but who ended up losing his dignity, friends, and his life.
I know I am being sarcastic and facetious and simplistic and I know that turns most people off reading my stuff…but I am simply illustrating a very obvious point that we try so hard to ignore or argue away. Being a Christian means taking up our cross, laying down our life and giving it for the sake of the Kingdom. We cannot be precious about our possessions, our time or our very lives! If we remain attached to this world and all it has to offer, we will be left with less of God. A very simple truth, but an incredibly frightening reality.
Feel free to disagree,
Feel free to let me know if there is anything you want me to write about,
05 December, 2007
What do these children want for Christmas?
They want to go home.
In the UK we will spend over a billion pounds this Christmas on chocolate.
We like to eat chocolate.
These children are slaves.
Something is terribly wrong.
STOP THE TRAFFIK Chocolate Christmas Campaign is about ACTION and CHANGE.
The customer needs to know who picked the cocoa beans that make chocolate.
The retailer needs to know that their customers will change what they buy to force the chocolate industry to change their practices.
The chocolate manufacturers need to realise that this is the time to:
- SIGN THE CHOCOLATE PLEDGE.
- KEEP THEIR ORIGINAL PROMISES
- And GIVE US TRAFFIK FREE CHOCOLATE NOW
For more information and ideas on how to campaign for Traffik Free Chocolate, go to http://www.stopthetraffik.org/enews/choc1107.html
04 December, 2007
02 December, 2007
Early in his officership, David and his wife Doreen, and their two young children shared their home with twelve young addicts as they established The Haven, the first youth AOD service of its kind in Queensland.
All through his working life he has remained close to the frontline and now counts many former homeless people and addicts as his friends. At the same time he has maintained effective relationships with the power-brokers and senior bureaucrats in government. He has done much to advance the cause of those caught up in addiction across the nation.
He really lived his life’s motto: “Keep them alive, keep them out of prison”, and was successful coordinating TSAAST’s transition to compassionate and evidence-based principles, and away from restrictive and exclusive judgemental approaches that characterised some alcohol and other drugs (AOD) treatment services prior to that.
Since 2004 David has been in his current role as state coordinator of Prison Chaplains in Victoria. Previous to that he was the Territorial Programme Director for The Salvation Army Alcohol and Drug Services.
In the 1980’s he and his wife, Doreen, began street work in the notorious King’s Cross of Sydney. In this role he was asked to testify against drug gang bosses and corrupt police in a royal commission. He and his family faced the threat of physical violence as a result.
David continues as Chairperson of Oxford Houses, a self-help service for addicts, and will no doubt continue to work for the lost, the last the least despite being “in retirement”
As successor to David’s role, I am particularly grateful for David’s legacy, and his support to me personally. His simple credo is one that can really reform society at a time when so few people understand the vicious cycle of addiction and incarcerations.