23 December, 2008

on a lighter note...

Please forgive me for this, but I thought I'd share something sure to bring a smile... --->ENJOY<---

~ Rob

20 December, 2008

My crazy 48 hours...

This week has been a great 'hind sight' week. One of those gems God gives you every once in a while to teach you a lesson you would rather learn from a book. Without going into the gory and personal details, the drama involved an illness that required some urgent medical attention. Now those moments, while worrisome and painful are often supported with the best medical treatment the public system can offer. This time however, came within a foreign country. Not a problem in usual circumstances, however given it was a preexisting condition we found that travel insurance would not cover us. Hmmm...so there we were, requiring medical assistance which could not wait, but facing at $5000-$10000 medical bill. What do you do? Do you pay it? Do you hope for the best and not seek the medical help? Do you reach out to wealthier friends and contacts? Do you pray for healing? Do you stop to ponder the plight of the poor in developing nations who face this or worse scenarios every day? Well, I did a lot of the first questions, but the latter was only considered when I reached blog day!

It's an interesting place to be, and one that truly tests your faith, and your values. In regard to faith, you pray for healing, and there is no problem with that course of action. It should always be the first point of call. Having said that, in this case, God had a lesson for us that would not have been learnt by a 'mere' healing. For me, my faith drove me to the realisation that God is good and faithful. His purposes will prevail if we seek Him. That meant forking out some money. Money we had, and could have spent elsewhere without blinking an eye. You see, it wasn't the lack of money, but the value of money that tripped us up. We had the money, but we didn't want to spend it at a hospital! I found myself praying things like "If you heal him, then I could spend the money on mission!" Interesting the bargains you make with God when you are desperate. The point however is this, we value gifts from God, but not always the way He wants us to value them. We value money, and security and safety and health, but we value them because they comfort us, and not always because they help the kingdom. That was a good lesson.

My test of values really came in the form of abandonment. I found myself asking how a country in the developed world could charge 'me' so much for a simple doctors appointment. There must be a way 'I' can scam my way without paying?! And praise God, He found a way for me to do so. However, this is not always the case for all people. Perhaps I value myself, my culture, my nationality, my status too highly, and know that I am allowed certain perks because of it. But do I think that other cultures who don't have access, in their own country, deserve less than I? I guess what I am saying is this. To be without an essential because you can’t, for whatever reason, access what you need, is a terrible experience. I had the resources to cope. Many don’t. It is no less a scary experience for them. I sought help, and it was given. God be with those who seek help and find none. And let us be led by Him so that we can do a better job of making sure there is not a single person who goes without.

Be generous this season...to the people who need your generosity. Merry Christmas!

Gen

17 December, 2008

Revolution Formal

Hi everyone,

I apologise AGAIN for a lack of blogging! I think I need to make more regular bloggin my new year's resolution!

This past Friday night, we held a formal for the kids that attend our Friday Night youth program 'Revolution' at Ingle Farm Salvos, South Australia. A large majority of our kids come from the community through youth accommodation programs tied in with our corps and are therefore often marginalised in society. The idea behind the formal was pretty simple: not many of our kids stay in school through to year 12 and therefore don't get to experience a school formal. But more than this, we wanted a night where our kids would feel like royalty! So we pulled out all the stops: we had the decorations, the food, the hosts to seat them, the lights, the music, everything! Needless to say, it was a great night and our kids had a blast. I will never forget the look on their faces as they walked into the 'formalised' main hall of our corps!

Throughout the course of the night, each of the kids (and leaders) that attended were called up to receive an individial award describing something of their personality or character eg. the "I don't like to sing in public even though everyone knows I have an amazing voice" award! It was so beautiful to see these kids receiving awards for being themselves!

Everyone deserves to feel special. Everyone is important, valuable and unique. Everyone is created in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27)- young and old, rich or poor, educated or not. When justice reigns, the playing field gets levelled - equality rules. So we hope that justice was served as our kids were given the same opportunity as most other teenagers receive... even if it is as simple as putting on a formal! The relationships that we are continuing to build with kids at Revolution are all about life transformation that sees them finding a Father who is full of grace and truth; A Father who is Justice and who doesn't see what they have or don't have but sees who they really are - a child of the King.

Have a blessed Christmas!
Sarah Brinkley

14 December, 2008

Weeds and Flowers

I have come to you a little later than usual, as I thought I would let Liam have his day in the sun!

I have had enough to say about excess and the misappropriation of wealth for a little while I think. Perhaps it is time to go back to the topic of inequality and how we intend to combat it.

I was in an interesting conversation today, which discussed the running of a country in the model of a business. In a classic business model, it is essential to make a profit. This is always the bottom line. We must find the weeds that prevent growth and un-root them in order to allow the effective blooming of flowers. The issue for a country therefore becomes how you un-root the weeds and then to decide what you do with them.

It is simply not ethical to ‘un-root’ the weeds. We cannot continue to throw the residual waste into the torturous vault known as the safety net. We must learn how to tend weeds, and see them as beautiful in their own right. Perhaps it will force us to adjust our image of beauty and begin at last to value the wild flowers that dot our communities.

What can you do with weeds? Well, I think it is important to recognize that all of God’s creations have a purpose. We must start to find God’s purposes, rather than attempting to squeeze weeds into our own man-made structures that suit our man-made needs.

For me though, the foundational question becomes how and why people become a ‘weed’ in the first place? Perhaps they have not been tended. Perhaps they were neglected to the point where they grew and grew unnoticed. That tends to happen when we take our attention and care off a particular section. Is that the weeds fault?

The reality is, we cannot run a country, or an education system, or a heath care system, or an employment system…as a business. And as The Salvation Army, surely some of our responsibility is in correcting the reckless neo-liberal economy that has driven its citizens to demand individual profit from their nation to the neglect of the ‘weeds’. I believe too, that it is important for us to stop engaging in the same system that perpetuates the relegating and neglect of weeds. We must start to be counter cultural, and stop joining the world in their schemes.

Well, a little abstract today, but if you can get something out of it, then good on you!

Till next week,

Genevieve

11 December, 2008

Holidays

I was away on holidays two weeks ago and I had a lovely time. I got to thinking about the need people have for holidays, especially those people in our society who would never have an opportunity for a holiday.
People like a single mum who lives on Centrelink benefits or a person suffering from severe mental health issues who lives in a boarding house.

The more I thought about the situation the clearer the solution became in my mind, so I thought I would share it with you incomplete though it is.

I saw an organisation (or a church, or a wealthy family, etc.) purchasing an accommodation facility at a semi-popular tourist destination. Not too popular as the entertainment and food in the town might be too expensive for the clientele. The venue would be run as a retreat centre for people in need of a low cost holiday. Because the venture needs to be profitable it would also need to cater for business retreats and conventions as a revenue-raising side business. This would also ensure that the accommodation and food is of a quality standard, rather than a slap dash charity deal.

Being a retreat centre it would offer a range of activities for people who might not otherwise know how to organise their own holiday. It would offer free children's activities and a crèche so parents are able to have a day or two to themselves. Of course it would offer opportunities for spiritual reflection and guided retreats.

The retreat would be staffed by local people who were being reskilled and retrained after long term unemployment. It could also offer opportunities to people returning to the workforce from situations that might otherwise make it difficult to get employment, e.g.. mental health issues or prison. If the manager/owner was savvy enough then this could be facilitated by Job Network funding or Work for the Dole programs.

Obviously people would need to be referred to the retreat centre and there would be a rule that the person who refers someone has to accompany them on their holiday. Imagine a social worker relaxing on the beach with a client. A church family joining a family from their local community to wander through the bush and enjoy God’s creation together. By charging people a percentage of their income this would also help to make the venture more economically viable.

Obviously there are a number of issues that would need to be worked out but I am sure there are people reading this blog who are entrepreneurial enough to work through them.

Wouldn’t a place like that be an example of the kingdom of God breaking into our world?

Liam
PS. sorry for the long break in posts.

05 December, 2008

I am obviously still in shock over the Wal Mart incident…

Ok, so last week, I went a little extreme. And from the overwhelming response evidenced by the ‘comments’ section, I can see that I really made an impact, and hit home hard. Well, just for fun, I thought I would stick to the same theme. After all, we are in December and tis the season!

I was reading the Bible in my usual systematic way, and could you believe it, I stumbled upon this passage from 2 Kings.

7:16-17 "Then the people of Samaria rushed out and plundered the Aramean camp. So it was true that five quarts of choice flour were sold that day for one piece of silver, and ten quarts of barley grain were sold for one piece of silver, just as the LORD had promised. The king appointed his officer to control the traffic at the gate, but he was knocked down and trampled to death as the people rushed out."

Wow! The Wal Mart incident happened in Bible times too! So there is precedent for mob madness during a sale!

I was about to take my entire rant and challenge of last week back, but thought I should look more closely. Now, I know it’s totally annoying when a preacher puts ‘context’ in the way of a good wholesome lesson like ‘prosperity’ or ‘holy consumerism’, but let’s have a little look at the chapter before, just for fun, and find out what was going on before the ‘big sale’ stampede.

6:26-30 "One day as the king of Israel was walking along the wall of the city, a woman called to him, “Please help me, my lord the king!” He answered, “If the LORD doesn’t help you, what can I do? I have neither food from the threshing floor nor wine from the press to give you.” But then the king asked, “What is the matter?” She replied, “This woman said to me: ‘Come on, let’s eat your son today, then we will eat my son tomorrow.’ So we cooked my son and ate him. Then the next day I said to her, ‘Kill your son so we can eat him,’ but she has hidden her son.” When the king heard this, he tore his clothes in despair."

It seems that the famine was so dire, mothers were prepared to eat their own children. Think about that for a few seconds.

When the people of Samaria rushed out and plundered the camp, they were desperate. They were more than desperate, they were insane with hunger. Completely irrational.
The people waiting to rush into Wal Mart however, were not desperate for food. They were desperate for blenders, coffee machines and foot spas. Think about that for a few seconds.

My point is simply this. There are people in our world so desperate they are willing to sell their children into slavery. And, there are people in another part of the world so desperate they are prepared to trample another to death in a shopping center.

We insist that we ‘need’ to shop. We ‘need’ to buy others presents for Christmas, we ‘need’ another t-shirt, we ‘need’ a new ipod, we need another digital camera. Well this ‘need’ has driven us insane. And all I am asking, is that you take a breath and make a decision. What do you ‘need’, and what are you prepared to pay for it?

Your first reaction is likely to be ‘yeah, I don’t really spend that much, so this isn’t me. I would never go shopping on a major sale day’. Well, great. Good for you. Maybe you should just halve your spending instead of cutting it altogether.

Surely there is someone out there who agrees, and is prepared to take a stand. Are you prepared to make a pact? No unnecessary spending. Are you prepared to purchase presents from ‘justgifts’ instead of from the stores? Are you prepared to start the chain-reaction to end the madness that has gripped our world? I am praying that you will be prepared, and that you will have the strength and honour to follow through. Or, you can continue to pretend that in some crazy way, you are justified. Pray it though, please.

Have a great week praising the prodiver and not the provision,
Genevieve

04 December, 2008

Flesh Mapping: vancouver markets pacific women

some great information here in the Vancouver fight against trafficking... props to REED and Michelle Miller. Fight on.

03 December, 2008

Obama's Ethic of Responsibility

I need you to understand that I read more than just Jim Wallis, but lately he (and his friends) has been producing such good stuff that I can't help but share with as many people as possible. Today is no exception.

Recently, Barack Obama was interviewed by Barbara Walters. In this interview, he made the following remarks: "When people are pulling down hundred million dollar bonuses on Wall Street, and taking enormous risks with other people’s money, that indicates a sense that you don’t have any perspective on what’s happening to ordinary Americans."

Brian MacLaren is a contributor to Wallis' Blog site, God's Politics. MacLaren gave his perspective on Obama's remarks in this blog - "God's Politics." Granted, not everyone is a fan of Barack Obama, but you can't discount the fact that it is refreshing to hear such words from a high-level politician, let alone the next president of the US.

For your reference, remember Jesus' words in Luke 12:48b: "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."


~ Rob

29 November, 2008

Calling on you to join me...

"Black Friday gets bloody: Long Island Wal-Mart clerk trampled in shopper stampede"
A Wal-Mart worker died after being trampled when hundreds of shoppers smashed through the doors of a Long Island store Friday morning, police and witnesses said.

The 34-year-old worker, employed as an overnight stock clerk, tried to hold back the unruly crowds just after the Valley Stream store opened at 5 a.m.

Witnesses said the surging throngs of shoppers knocked the man down. He fell and was stepped on. As he gasped for air, shoppers ran over and around him.


In other Black Friday-violence news the L.A. Times reports:

A gunman opened fire at a Toys R Us store in Palm Desert, killing two and causing shoppers at the busy store to scramble for cover.

Palm Desert Councilman Bob Spiegel told The Times that based on early reports, two rival groups shopping at the store had some kind of argument and then shots were fired. Two men were killed in the exchange of gunfire, he said.

Glenn Splain, a worker at a nearby World Gym, told the Associated Press "Some people got into a fight. ... One of the guys here thought it was over a toy, but it got louder and louder and then there were gunshots."

------------
Now, I hardly need to comment here. What has the world come to? People are so desperate to spend money on things they don't need, they are prepared to kill. I could understand a stampede if it were scarce food supplies in Africa, or even a riot against injustice. But a for toys? For clothes? Makeup? TVs? It is too much to comprehend.

It has got to stop. I am calling on anyone who will join me. I want to contribute to an anti-commercial movement. What am I going to commit to? No unnecessary spending. Define that in whatever way you can, and then refine it further. Spread the word, get people to join you, get loud, and get committed. And to make it really worthwhile, lets get the money that you will save and put it all towards just gifts. Or child sponsorship so you have a regular accountability.

Think and pray it over. And then act. Do it. In this season, and in every season.

I have had enough! Join me...

Gen

26 November, 2008

Housing Australia

The Federal government as of Nov 21st has announced its new framework for crisis and community housing.

Link:
http://www.housing.nsw.gov.au/Office+of+Community+Housing/Community+Housing+Providers/New+Regulatory+Framework+for+Community+Housing.htm

As housing becomes a greater need and we begin to reassess and look at the way housing is provided by NGO's including The Salvation Army, we again need to look at models of service. For many years crisis services have not been enough as there are no exit points for clients that are supportive, suitable and encompass holistic living.

We may now have the opportunity to respond in a way that is preventative and proactive but will need a lot of consideration about the process of how to get there.

Services currently turn away 100's of people per month who need housing due to homelessness, family breakdowns and crises that people experience. This is not good enough for a society that is enriched with many opportunities. Without housing people can not ensure stability and therefore will remain in chaos or crisis, we need to support and establish people so they can continue to develop and work things out. Stable housing is the first step for many people, its time things changed.

Change is possible, so let’s be the change and make it happen, whatever that is!

Dr. John Perkins & Reconciliation

In America, a constant hot topic is reconciliation. The recent presidential election result has been laced with tones of racial equality and reconciliation. President-elect Obama, as the first African-American has the unique distinction of being the first 21st Century icon towards such an end.

For several decades, another man has quietly marched towards the vision given by Martin Luther King, Jr. That man, John Perkins has been preaching, teaching and living reconciliation tirelessly. John M. Perkins was born into Mississippi poverty, the son of a sharecropper. He fled to California when he was 17 after his older brother was murdered by a town marshal. Although Dr. Perkins vowed never to return, in 1960 after he accepted Christ, he returned to his boyhood home to share the gospel of Christ with those still living in the region. His outspoken support and leadership role in civil rights demonstrations resulted in repeated harassment, imprisonment, and beatings.

Today, at Seattle Pacific University, the John Perkins Center for Reconciliation, Leadership Training & Community Development strives to continue his march throughout the United States and beyond. We would do well to learn from the efforts put forth by this hard-working center. Their vision to see "generations of global urban leaders, organizations, and institutions engaging the culture and changing the world by modeling reconciliation and contributing to community health and wholeness," should be shared by all Christians. In many respects, the Army is poised to share the lead in such efforts. We have the personnel, including adherent, soldier and officer alike. We have the reputation and clout - we are a respected force throughout the world and are privileged to walk through doors that may otherwise remain closed to others.

Such leadership would be risky to be sure. Were we to seriously speak out on issues of reconciliation and equality, our sturdy reputation may diminish. With a diminished reputation comes the potential of lost donors. With lost donors comes the threat of closed programs. Is it worth the risk? Certainly! In Deuteronomy 8:17-18a, Moses reminds the Israelites: "You may say to yourself, 'My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.' But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth." Let us place our reputation and our trust in God who can and will give us the ability to do his will throughout the world.

~ Rob

24 November, 2008

FAMILY BREAK-UPS CONTRIBUTE TO POVERTY CYCLE

Here's some information about the link between family break down and poverty in Australia with some stats.

"Family breakdown is contributing to child poverty and 13% of children are living in households without a parent in employment, a Federal Government report says. The proportion of children living in jobless households is "relatively high", according to the Australian Institute of Family Studies report. It says there has been only a slow decline in the number of jobless households over the past decade, from 18% in 1983 to 13% in 2007, despite the strength of the economy over that period.

And with the current economic situation uncertain, there are fears the proportion of jobless families may start to grow again. In Australia, about half of all single parents are employed, compared to an OECD average of 70.6%. The report says this highlights the role that family breakdown plays in putting children at risk of poverty. The high rate of jobless families was concerning because it could lead to a continuing cycle of joblessness in a family, said the institute's director, Alan Hayes."

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

Pretty scary stuff. God grant us wisdom and Your heart of love in dealing with this.

Sarah.

21 November, 2008

"Turning pain into power"

I don't usually like to focus on stats alone and instead love to rely on opinionated comment as a major source of enticement for social action. Blogs are so effective because they mobilise the mob! Do we need to know all the ins and outs of an issue, or do we just need a little fire to jerk us away from the icy-cold mundane? Well, I tend to think you need to know both, but for today, you are going to have to live with the numbers.

- At least one out of every three women is likely to be beaten, coerced into sex or other wised abused in her lifetime.

-Worldwide, one in five women will become a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime.

- More than 80% of trafficking victims are women. Of that, 50% are minors. Up to 130 million women have been genitally mutilated. Human trafficking is the third most profitable criminal activity after illicit trade in drugs and arms.

- Nearly 50% of all sexual assaults worldwide target girls aged 15 or younger.

- Sexual violence is increasingly recognised as a deliberate method of warfare. It is a crime, but continues with impunity. Between 20,000 and 50,000 women were raped during the conflict in Bosnia during the early 1990s; ten times that many women were sexually violate during the genocide in Rwanda.

- Abductions, detention, mutilation and other degrading or cruel punishments, including sexual torture, forced pregnancy, and deliberate infection with HIV, are among the human rights abuses inflicted upon women and girls in conflict situations.

- In Turkey alone, there are approximately 4 honour killings every week.

- Domestic violence is by far the most common form of violence against women. Too often, it proves fatal. 40 to 70 percent of female murder victims in Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa, and the USA were killed by their husbands or boyfriends. The health-related costs of intimate partner violence in the US alone are estimated at $5.8 billion.

- In Thailand, intimate partner violence is the leading cause of death for women and girls aged 15-24 years.

A few of points to note:

1. In this day and age, we must unite and decide that violence against women is unacceptable, both in the developed and the developing world, both in peace and in war time.
2. We can also agree with Janet Munn when she points out the obvious, yet ignored; that women are the most persecuted people in the world.
3. We are not going to change this situation without men. We must work to include men in the solution and not eject them as the enemy.
4. Accept that violence against women is a problem of pandemic proportion. If we saw it as a problem, maybe there would be more working for a solution.
5. You MUST do something! Spread the word, find a campaign, contact justsalvos, come up with a PR strategy, dob on a perpetrator, raise money, rescue a victim, support a victim, find a victim! But do something! A victim of abuse speaking at the UN today called us to, "turn pain into power". I plead with you to do it and start a culture of un-acceptance today!

May God inspire and burden each one of you, and may your actions bear fruit for the Kingdom.

peace,
Genevieve

#Statistics are from United Nations, 'Ending violence against Women' material

19 November, 2008

Headlines that caught my attention

Hunger. "Some 691,000 children went hungry in America sometime in 2007, while close to one in eight Americans struggled to feed themselves adequately even before this year's sharp economic downturn, the Agriculture Department reported Monday." Chicago Tribune

Africa. "Aside from training African proxies to fight extremists, [AFRICOM's] mission will focus primarily on undermining the roots of terrorism - that is, thwarting extremist recruitment by building clinics, digging wells, inoculating cattle and offering services primarily to Africa's rural Muslim populations." Chicago Tribune

India. "Britain will spend £825m over the next three years in aid to India, a nuclear-armed power that sent a spacecraft to the moon last month, to lift 'hundreds of millions of people' out of poverty, the international development secretary said today." The Guardian (UK)

~ Rob

15 November, 2008

Inclusion vs exclusion

I am in America at the moment, and there has obviously been a lot of talk about President Elect Obama this whole week. The interesting and frustrating part of it for me has been the celebration of 'inclusion' that was evidenced by the election result. The election victory of Obama is a great example of democracy, and possibly even equality, but in my opinion it is not an example of inclusion. Why? Because inclusion has to do with attacking social structures that unintentionally (and sometimes intentionally) keep individuals and societies impoverished, disadvantaged or discriminated against. Inclusion is not a process of taking an individual out of the regular structure and placing them in better structure, so they have a better chance to succeed. For example, taking a child with a high aptitude out of a poor school and popping them into a high performing school is not a policy of inclusion. That’s actually exclusion, no matter how well intentioned. How? Because, by moving the student, you are determining that the poor school will not provide the same kind of opportunities as the wealthy school. As a consequence, you have just recognized that the children left in the poor school will be excluded from such privileged opportunities, no matter how hard they work. In my opinion, we should not ‘include’ people using methods of ‘exclusion’. And, in my opinion using positive methods of discrimination such as affirmative action only further compound the issues of exclusion. It’s not to say that the policy of positive discrimination cannot have a positive effect on and individual, or even a whole community. I am simply saying, that if we want to have everyone in our nations presented with an equal opportunity, then we can’t continue to do that through exclusive methods, or applaud exclusive methods as the success of a nation.

Why is it damaging for people to assume that the election was an example of inclusion? Why am I concerned enough about this to blog it? Because in some ways, this result actually sets us back! Because when people see a minority ‘making it’ to a highly sought and powerful position, they think ‘one got through so it must be possible for all!’ So why would we need to make any changes to our residual ineffective policies we have always used? When you complain about the restrictive welfare measures, and the ineffective public education system holding back those who are disenfranchised in our community, the response is likely to be met with comments like, ‘if you want to make it in life, you can. It just takes hard work. After all, didn’t that Obama make it?’ Oh dear…

Let me give you this quote;

"Poverty is not just a personal attribute; it arises out of the organization of society. Poverty in Australia is inseparable from inequalities firmly entrenched in our social structure. Inequalities of income and wealth reinforce and are reinforced by inequalities of educational provision, health standards and care, housing conditions and employment conditions and prospects" (Henderson, 1975)

Why is this relevant? It points out that poverty and future success are not completely up to the individual and their hard work. Poverty is a multi-dimensional, joined up disadvantage that can only be resolved by fixing all problems simultaneously. That’s why we talk about using and inclusion framework when we talk about transforming society. And that’s why we don’t (or rather shouldn’t) convict the poor with moral and social incompetence. For The Salvation Army, this understanding of inclusion is incredibly important. Being friendly, offering soup, temporary housing, detoxes etc, these are not examples of inclusion. They are not in and of themselves measures of inclusion. And affirmative action, like plucking women officers and putting them in high profile positions, are also not examples of inclusion. Inclusion requires a complete overhaul, and it will mean that you have to relinquish some of your power and wealth in the process. So let’s stop celebrating ONE person’s victory, and save our cake till a time when a minority succeeding is no longer an infrequent ‘event’ that calls for celebration.

Wow, another incoherent rant…sorry! While away I am blogging in a common lounge room, and listening to Oprah’s teary goodbye to her dead dog is not helping me focus on the task at hand!

Anyway, hope its enough to stir some thoughts. Whether you agree or whether you think I am a naïve academic, I just hope you do something toward justice this week.

Thanks,
Gen
PS Sorry for all the editing mistakes!

13 November, 2008

Prayers for Adelaide's Sudanese community

Yesterday afternoon on a city street in Adelaide, a young Sudanese boy, Daniel Awak aged only 14 years old was stabbed to death when a fight broke out between 2 groups of teenagers. Obviously, this devastating event has rocked Adelaide's Sudanese community; a community that has already suffered so much.

Adelaide is home to about 3000 migrants from war torn South Sudan, and they are a celebrated part of the Adelaide community. However, this event has sparked generalisations and fears of the presence of African gangs on Adelaide streets and could lead to the community being isolated or discriminated agaist.

It could also trigger increased fears and anxieties for Sudanese families living in Adelaide, which promised to be a safer place for their families than their homeland.

Please pray for the Sudanese community of Adelaide, especially for community leaders as they work with the community, police, and government officials to get to the bottom of yesterday's events and restore peace. Please also pray for Daniel's family and friends, including his classmates at Sacred Heart College, as they struggle to come to terms with this tragedy.

Blessings.
Sarah.

08 November, 2008

A Prayer & Pledge for Real Change

Jim Wallis, of Sojourners Magazine here in the US has released a video message to President-elect Obama. In this video, he introduces a citizen movement that will both pray for Barack Obama and hold him accountable to the things he promised during his campaign.



~ Rob

07 November, 2008

Christmas Island...


"FIVE WEEKS AGO, Christmas Island made headlines when two groups of boat people were taken to this remote Australian island, 300 kilometres south of Java. These were the first boat arrivals since the Rudd government announced its changes to detention policy in late July, so their treatment gives an insight into how Labor’s new approach will work in practice." Read the full article.
it's time to think about how we can actively embrace asylum seekers...
posted by Danielle

Yes we can!

This week I had the privilege of being in New York for the Presidential election. I stood with thousands of others at Rockefeller Center and watched as Senator Obama became President Elect Obama. It was a surreal moment in many ways, and one that became more special as the night edged closer to becoming a significant historic event. As an Australian, truly unimpressed by the charismatic ways of American political culture (well, except in The West Wing!), I thought that the hype would more likely nauseate than inspire. I was wrong. The people surrounding me were not in some euphoric bubble of superficial glee. They were not being pushed by an emotional current into a Hollywood happy ending. The people around me were intense and braced for change. The crowd was well aware of the importance of this moment in their history and they were ready to celebrate not just the moment, but the reality of the change that is coming.

What a massive achievement, not just for Obama, or his campaign staff, but for the American people as a whole who chose to embrace him. Why is it so impressive? Because when I walk around New York, everywhere I go I see minorities in low-skilled work or on the street. They seem to dominate the low-paid workforce, and that’s one thing you don’t want to win. Why is this relevant? First, because there is clearly an acceptance of this as a reality. So while we may think it is totally normal for a minority to be President, and that discrimination is just something of the 60s, I assume this country still has a way to go in accepting minorities as equals on an everyday level. Second, any minority that can break through the (glass ceiling is too nice a term) electrified cages that they have been structurally placed in by society and essentially government, deserves the utmost respect. So for a minority to take office in America, it has taken not just the determination of Obama, but the acceptance of a new direction and a new reality for the American people. Now don’t get me wrong, I still heard some dreadfully racist comments bandied about the crowd. There will be many obstacles and much soul searching I am sure. But this is the start of something amazing in this country. Something (and it has been said often this week) I didn’t think I would see in my lifetime.

It is easy for us to sit in Australia and point the finger at America as being a land of many contradictions. However, are we close to having a minority as our Prime Minister? Are we concerned that much of our population is still largely discriminatory? And what are you doing to change it? Are you championing the cause of the Indigenous? Helping them break through the obstacles stacked up upon them? We might not be as loud or as visual as America in our racism, but don’t forget about the wide acceptance of Pauline Hansen, or the fact that our social statistics may not reflect what we think we are as a nation. (See previous blogs on Indigenous incarceration for more on that) Or how about within The Salvation Army? How many minorities do we have in serious leadership in Australia? My intension is not to beat up Australia or to champion America. My point is simply this. Change is going to keep coming and we are going to have to continually reflect on and challenge our current values and beliefs about how society should function. You, individually or collectively, may not be able to hold onto your dominance and may start to lose some of your privilege as this world changes. But that’s ok! Because what we are trying to achieve is actual equality and not patriarchal good will.

In this current economic climate it seems that everyone is going to lose something. But the question is, will you hold onto what you have for dear life, or will you acknowledge that the time to share our wealth and our opportunities with all segments of the population has come? Can we accept the changes that are coming, and start to reform society? Yes we can!

A more level headed and less passionate blog next week, I promise! And as Danielle said in the previous blog, please take the time to consider the other massive stuff that is going on in our world today. And remember, what people didn’t think was attainable 30 years ago just happened. That should give us some hope for peace and security in Africa, something that seems so unattainable today.

Gen

06 November, 2008

Democratic Republic of Congo


With all the hype about the US Elections it is easy to skip over the realities facing the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Please take some time to read over and pray for them with this dispatch from Commissioners Mungates on the front lines:
posted by Danielle

Dear Friends:
Thank you for the double assurance of prayerful support. The DRC needs
that every minute.

Please, pray for:

1. Laurent Nkunda to respect human life and stop waging war against
innocence women and children
2. Pray that Rwanda should stop sponsoring and supporting an unjust war
3. Pray that the voice of the Church leaders be heard and listened to by
the rebels, Rwandese, Ugandans and Congolese armies
4. Pray for the Salvationists in the villages and corps that are caught
up between cross fires
5. Pray for our Corps Officers that are counselling and comforting
people
6. Pray for the many women and children starving for food since they
left their homes and long disturbed from subsistence farming

We are in the rainy season and people just sleep in the open with their few
belongings and children as you might have seen on the news.

Thank you for your love and support. We are over 2,000kms away from Goma
but in touch with our officers everyday. 80% of the stone the world needs
for the mobile phone is found in Goma including other precious minerals
hunted for by many powerful countries of the world. That is why the DRC is
in trouble. A blessing has become a curse for the country.

The Lord bless you.

Yours truly in Christ

Stuart & Hope

04 November, 2008

The poverty cycle



I have to apologise for my lack of blogging lately. Thanks to the other bloggers for their excellent contributions. I saw this video today (thanks to some direction from Steve Court's blog) and it explains the situation that many of the young people I hang out with are facing. So many come from backgrounds where their family has lived in poverty for generations, leaving them trapped in a repetative cycle. For many, its all they have known and many are not encouraged or have the means to look beyond their circumstances. I was recently at the T3 conference in Melbourne with youth and children's workers from Australian Southern, Australian Eastern and New Zealand, Fiji And Tongan territories. We were blessed to have Commissioner Joe Noland speak to us and he summed this issue up brilliantly. He talked about how as Salvationists, we need to be people that peovide intervention for those trapped in the poverty cycle, even using his own testimony to show the changes that can occur. He also illustrated what happens when we don't intervene, which was a heart breaking discussion. He's got some great books that discuss it further - check out www.joenoland.com for more info. There is also an excellent video resource available called Altars in the Streets - a must see.

Crucial in this intervention has to be the message of the Gospel. I study social work at a secular institution and the seperation that exists there between intervention and the life changing power of God is something that I deeply struggle with. As Christians motivated by love, it is impossible to seperate the two. God's love is evident in everything that we do. In the kids that I work with and hang out with, this can look like a cell group where kids read the bible which helps to improve their literacy, thereby advancing their outlook on employment, as well as getting them into the word. Or it could be going into a school in a disadvantaged area and bringing hope, self dermination building games and exercises and maybe a christian band or two! I'm not suggesting that breaking generational poverty cycles is easy - far from it - but it is achievable, I've seen it! And I pray that I - and you - will continue to see it again and again.

Blessings,
Sarah.

01 November, 2008

"That and better will do..."

William Booth once uttered the statement to his granddaughter who was simply looking for her grandfather's approval for hard work done well. I've often wondered what resulted from that statement - did she go out and do better? Or did she curl up in a corner and give up? Because she had the blood of Booth, I doubt very much that she gave up - the fact that there are Salvationists around the world striving to make the world a better place tells me that the challenge was accepted.

In our home, we play a small part in helping the cause of justice in the world. Aside from our lives as officers, we encourage our children to live out Micah 6:8, "...to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with [their] God." One of the specific ways that we encourage this is by utilizing a tsedaqah box. This box is meant to collect alms for the poor according to Rabbinical doctrine. In our home, we take a slightly different angle. We decide upon what purchases are necessary for life - basic groceries, clothing needs and school supplies. Anything extra gets "taxed" as it were. Five percent of the total cost of the extra purchase goes into the tsedaqah box. We've been doing this for a couple of years now and our meager efforts have provided Christmas toys for children in Belize and a few items at Just Gifts.

Although this practice has given our children a new understanding of justice and equality in the world, I can't help but think of Booth's words every time I look at the tsedaqah box on our kitchen counter. What else should we be doing? How could we engage our family in the justice issues facing the world on a more personal level? There are so many opportunities to do something, but care has to be taken to avoid the cosmetic, surface level activity. I truly believe that we need to be raising up future generations to have justice at the forefront of their thinking rather than a consumer-driven mentality.

~ Rob

31 October, 2008

Living the dream...

Those who have had the unfortunate experience of hearing me rant on about social policy will know that I love Sweden. It is my dream land of the model welfare state where everything is free and equal and democratic. It is a land of free education and healthcare and childcare, of 13 months parental leave, of generous pensions and of Ikea! Well, I am actually here! I have spent the last two, very full days touring social programs within Stockholm. So, do I still believe it to be a dream land? Yes and no. It is all that you read about, though the locals tell me some changes are on the way which makes me quite sad. But the reality has some unexpected side effects that I had not considered until now. Three things stand out.

1. No matter how good the system is, people still have problems! I have visited drug and alcohol facilities, homeless programs, domestic violence shelters, education facilities and family centers and I realise that no matter where you are or what you do, people still seem to find a way to need help from Frälsnings Armen (The Salvation Army). I like to think there are ways we can prevent people from breaking their lives. I know that there are, and I know it is our duty to try. But there may be some that still get trapped in the evil of this world and will need literal and spiritual salvation. So while I admire the social democratic welfare state, I am reminded that salvation lies not in a political regime, but in Jesus.

2. It seems that when the government is generous with its provisions, people inevitably rely on the government as their major source of support. For many salvationists, this leads to a feeling of complacency about our social mission on earth. There is a general feeling and expectation that everything should be free. Because of this, people tend to be a little slack in raising money for additional needs, or in volunteering to help fill the gaps of provision. When the government is generous, we become stingy. There are many things the government should provide for its citizens through the taxes of those who are privileged to hold a job. However, in addition to this, it is all our responsibility to tithe, to give in self-denial, to offer care and love and support within our social services and corps. The government, no matter how wonderfully socialist in endeavour, does not take the place of our Christian mission.

3. It seems an odd phenomena, but when people have it so good, they sometimes get depressed! Did you know that Sweden has one of the highest suicide rates in the world? They have arguably the best political and social system, and yet their people are still fatally unhappy! Why? Not sure. One theory is the lack of sunlight. But a more realistic theory is that people lose the value of their life when it is so easily attained and supported. Essentially the argument is that satisfaction comes when you have earned your security as opposed to being looked after by others without a challenge in sight. When hard times do come, people are lost and are unable to cope with the unexpected pressure and they give up. I´m not sure I agree with either theory, but I do know that everywhere I go I meet people that are searching for fullness. That fullness doesn't come from money, or food, or health or education.

So in your thoughts for justice this week, please consider the ultimate meaning of life and look to find a way to offer that to others. We need a social revolution, of course. But additionally, we need to remember to offer the broken world all that they need, and not just all that they think they want.

Have a great week. More blogging thoughts next week...from New York!

Good times,
Genevieve

24 October, 2008

Enough! Make youth violence history.

I am currently in London and went to the launch of a new campaign; 'Enough! Make Youth Violence History'. I attended with a fantastic and clearly much loved youth worker from the Oasis organisation and was blown away by a few things.

Firt, the concept. You know I am not certain we in Australia have really and truthfully grasped the concept of 'ending' things. There seems to be a feeling of acceptance rather than a real desire to change. Let's take for example the violence that occurs on our streets around nightclubs. The government solution? Curfews and bans in an attempt to distract or subdue, but not really to end violence. The Christian response??? I don't recall hearing one in the news reports so I assume that we are satisfied with the government response. There was little public social justice outrage that these young people were tearing each other apart, just an outrage that they were making our streets unsafe and unclean. The response I have observed around the fair trade issue is another example of our lack of desire to end things. End slavery! 'well, fair trade chocolate doesn't taste as nice and its very expensive'. I have had this response more than I can mentally compute. It's not good enough. To not passionatly desire the end of injustice and act on it is to condone the violence and sadness of the world. Why are we accepting the presence of evil?!?! But last night, I saw youth workers, kids, politicians, funding providers, all saying 'ENOUGH!' They passionately desire the end of violence...and more, they believe it is possible and are working to do so. Let's start believing that injustice CAN end.

Second, the issue. Youth violence is one I had just accepted as a reality. Adolescence are hot-headed, strong, immature and usually frustrated and angry which can lead to violent times when they clash. However I heard testimonies last night from people falling into this category who would just rather be safe. And what did they want? Some safe places to go. Wow, that sounds like something the church can offer. Except they don't just want to go and play your games at youth group. They want to dance, and sing, and play basketball and do all the safe and healthy things they would normally do on the street, but can't. And what do they find? A caring group of people they called their family waiting to look after them and get them off the street. The lesson for me is to listen and serve rather than prescribe and exclude. Youth violence will end when young people have enough support within the community and that means having safe places to go run by safe people. I know we can provide that! We have the solution!

Third, the agencies. Last night had umpteen agencies and politicians and kids from the one community that came to the event run by young people with about five weeks notice. The event was packed! And the clear message coming through was that they all had the same goal and wanted to work together to achieve it. The level of cooperation was amazing, and something I have never witnessed in Australia. We have got to reach out to the agencies and centers who are striving for the same goals. A divided kingdom will never succeed. We must get into the community and learn to support one another! We must learn to say 'enough!' and then work together to fill the gaps so many people are falling through. Cooperation is vital!

Well, that's probably enough ranting for one day. Have a great weekend everybody. I will because I am going to see a castle!

Genevieve

23 October, 2008

Heart Life VOICE

worship and justice from Micah Challenge featuring 3 salvo artists... Phil Leager, Nathan Rowe and Michelle Kay.
God's Kingdom come!
posted by Danielle

Corporate Reform = Community Renewal

In light of the great financial meltdown the world has been witnessing these last few weeks, wouldn’t it be fantastic if instead of financial reform for the purposes of attaining a greater profit margin, we saw financial reform for the purposes of abolishing slave-labor and/or sweatshops? For the last 6-8 months, an idea has been rattling around in my brain that I haven’t shared with too many people. I’m not sure why I haven’t shared this idea with more people, frankly. But today, I’m ready to share it with the world…

First, let me start by saying that perhaps the Christian community shouldn’t be on the front lines of those who are battering the major American corporations who employ (a term used rather loosely) cheap labor in small, developing countries. We know that it’s not ethical; we know that it is most definitely a form of slave-labor, but perhaps we can alter our tactics. In an article posted in June 2008 on the Christian Vision Project website, author Fleming Rutledge suggests that “the bosses of workers in unjust situations are not evil in themselves. They are in bondage to the desire for profit, so that they think of their workers as means to an end, if they think of them at all. Who can loosen such bonds? God alone. Therefore, social action undertaken in the sight of God has the potential to liberate not only the workers but also the bosses, not to mention the activists themselves!”

So, here’s my idea: If The Salvation Army is “America’s Favorite Charity,” and if we are included in the top ten of “The World’s Most Enduring Institutions,” and if we’re “Doing the Most Good,” and “Giving Hope Today,” then we ought to be able to wield some clout in corporate America when it comes to corporate ethics and social justice. We could leverage the influence of our Advisory Boards to gain access to the corporate boardrooms so that they’ll listen to what we have to say.

And what would we tell them?

Let’s not begin by beating them up over their capitalistic strategies. Let’s suggest that we could help improve their bottom line. We would ask for access to their workforce for the purposes of health and education. We would ask them to build us a health clinic and an education center on their property, and we would provide education and health professionals, in addition to our ministry personnel to ensure those employees and their families were getting better than adequate health care and education. Again, with the assistance of our Advisory Boards, we could get equipment and supplies sent to furnish such places. With healthy and educated workers, productivity would increase. By providing basic health and education, morale would increase. By providing basic human needs in his name without discrimination, God’s Kingdom would increase!

This theory would help such corporations see the value of all human life to the extent that when profits increase, then wages could rise to match. With wages increasing, quality of life would improve in the surrounding communities. With morale being lifted, dignity would be restored – or in many cases, arrive for the very first time – and people who were once on the fringes of society would begin to feel like they belonged to the human race as full-fledged members and participants.

I’m sure there are flaws in what I’ve suggested as written. But, I’m also sure that with some modifications, this could actually work and succeed. Care to offer you opinions and/or suggestions?


~ Rob

22 October, 2008

Let me introduce myself...

Greetings!

As Danielle mentioned, I'll be joining in on the conversation here. I'm excited to share what I can with you from a North American perspective. I am currently living and serving in the Washington, DC area, but I was born in Toronto and have lived in a few places within the United States. Along with my wife, I am an officer currently serving at the USA National Headquarters. I love Jesus with all my being and desperately want to see his kingdom reign here on planet earth.

Having said all that, I want to assure you that I am no expert in the field of justice - social or otherwise. I simply know that there's not enough of it going around these days. More ought to be done for the least and the lost. To sit back and watch the world spin out of control is out of the question for believers. I don't believe that we should be waiting for the government to lead the charge, the church needs to be out front rallying the troops to action.

Throughout my posts here, my prayer is that you'll hear my heart's cry for those that need us. That cry can be summed up in Lamentations 2:19:

Arise, cry out in the night,
as the watches of the night begin;
pour out your heart like water
in the presence of the Lord.
Lift up your hands to him
for the lives of your children,
who faint from hunger
at every street corner.


~ Rob

21 October, 2008

New Bloggers...




Stay tuned for some new and fresh bloggers...adding to the cyber agitators for justice will be some friends from around the Salvation Army world who are able/willing to feature justice issues from their geographical and cultural perspectives.
Because social justice is really a global issue I believe hearing from different voices around the world will be helpful to our discussion. So, I'm introducing Captain Robert Reardon (Washington, DC, USA) who from America's capital will help us navigate through the American perspectives on social justice issues... welcome Rob to our Blog.

Can we be the fence?

Thanks Gen for your challenging blogs on simple living. With the financial crisis constantly in our faces and still the need to consume being an ongoing drive in western culture I fear we will only get into more debt.

Recently we have seen the government increase money that is available to groups deemed disadvantage, including those looking at buying their first homes. But with that will we see banks willing to lend more, recently one bank (who I won’t name) are offering mortgages to people who can use the first home owners grant as their whole deposit. I am not against what seems to be a generous idea, but people continue to be driven to have the goods and by institutions offering this type of finance, will we create an even bigger credit debt? Will people being given money but not given the skills to know how to budget and live accordingly to their income only generate more chaos and disadvantage them further?

I do recognise that there are those whose income is not enough to live on and this we want to call the government, the church and people into action to do something about. Do we need to be speaking out more against credit debt and financial lending, offering people the knowledge, education and skills to understand and deal with these big institutions?

If we remain quiet and continue to be at the bottom of the cliff, we will only be overrun with the people needing assistance to live, we need to be the fence at the top, stopping people before they fall. Most of all as Christians we need to be a good example of stewardship and love so that those who are falling, hurting and getting into debt are received with grace and provided a hope.

18 October, 2008

House

We talk a lot about doing justice and mission on this site, and here is an opportunity for you to consider doing more than just reading. The Reservoir Salvation Army in Melbourne is reintroducing the HOUSE Programme in 2009. It involves a year-long commitment of intense Christian living.

The house is an opportunity to experience:
• Significant Mission – hands on experience in a community where you will learn to care for people, make disciples and transform a neighbourhood.
• Incarnational life – You don’t just “do ministry” and then go home at the end of the day. Incarnational living involves making Reservoir your home, caring about your neighbours and sharing your life with them. Living incarnationally isn’t just about living in a certain location it’s about being a part of that neighbourhood and living the life that others around you live. The house is not a free ride, it’s an experience of knowing what it’s like to have to pay the rent and bills, to experience some of the pressures people in our neighbourhood experience and sharing the journey with them.
• Community living – sharing a home with other Christians and supporting one another in life and ministry living with and learning how to work as a team
• Simplicity -Learning to live more simply is a little-practiced biblical principle. Sharing what you have, taking only what you need, being a good steward of what you have received - all are important keys to living a simpler lifestyle.
• Authentic Discipleship – A year of continual challenge to grow in their relationship with God and learn what it means to really follow Jesus.
• Teaching – Salvation Army mission, holiness, justice, leadership and personal development.
• Mentoring – each team member will have a mentor

If you are interested in this difficult but fun and life-changing programme you should pray and then contact Adam Peterson (adam.peterson@ aus.salvationarmy.org).

“More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, enter their homes, sit on their doorsteps, play ball, throw water, and be known as someone who wants to live with them. It is a privilege to have the time to practice this simple ministry of presence. Still, it is not as simple as it seems. My own desire to be useful, to do something significant, or to be part of some impressive project is so strong that soon my time is taken up by meetings, conferences, study groups, and workshops that prevent me from walking the streets. It is difficult not to have plans, not to organize people around an urgent cause, and not to feel that you are working directly for social progress.
But I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn’t be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not simply like them, but truly love them.”
-Henri Nouwen

Genevieve Peterson

11 October, 2008

The bubble popped...

What else can be written about this week but the financial crisis? Panic has spread throughout the world, and everybody watches for the images which inevitably follow at such times...the picture of a distressed man in a suit intensely watching a screen of coloured figures. Few of us publicans understand what the screen says, we do however know what it means. It means tough times ahead for most. Yes, the giant bubble of debt finally burst and spewed out a hideous mess of anxiety and uncertainty.

So what are we to make of it all, and what are we to do?

Well, I am no economist, so I cannot answer that question with any authority. I can however agree that it is partly a result of our excess. The debt throughout the western world has been built largely on a combination of excess and childish ambition. We want the world because we think it is all so pretty and we gamble our future on it. We take what we think we need. I think in the coming years many will start to re-evaluate the definition of need.

I think it is also partly a result of living for ourselves. It amazes me that so many Christians will be affected. We have stored up so much wealth here on Earth and we will most definitely cry when it is taken away from us. Let's learn the lesson, repent, and never make the same mistakes again. Sure, you will lose something tomorrow, but you will lose something that you possibly never needed at the expense of someone else who has been waiting patiently for your wealth to trickle down.

Which brings us to the third point. The real losers in all of this are still the poorest among us. Tough financial times could prove disastrous for its effect upon donations. So while we feel the pinch, we must recognise that it is that much worse for those below us. We must continue to give a portion of what we have, whether we feel we can or not. This is essential, and the antidote for the culture that brought us to the economic downturn in the first place.

Perhaps it won't be so bad, or at least not in Australia. I am assured our surplus will carry us through the worst of it. My concern is not that we won't survive. My concern is that we will, having missed the lesson inherent in every trying time.

In the meantime, please pray for those affected, that hope will remain in their hearts and that God's glory will be revealed.

Have a great week,
Genevieve

04 October, 2008

Beneficial or just brutal?

Those of you who know me know that on occasion I don’t hold back from speaking my opinions. Some times it’s beneficial, and sometimes it’s just brutal. The latter came just a few days ago while speaking to a group of young leaders. I had suggested that the poor were bound by oppression and that often that bondage came about via, not simply the very rich and the very greedy, but in fact those of us who hold even just a little wealth. I was suggesting that it was our obsession with making sure our lives were neat, tidy and comfortable that prevented the kind of revolutionary transformation Jesus talks about…and instructs. I think we often feel that this world will be transformed politically and economically when we oust the fat and wealthy oppressive land owners. The proletariat will rise in triumph over injustice when they break through the privileged few. The problem as I see it is that it’s not a privileged few, it is about 80% of the western world who refuse to believe that they are not entitled to everything they reap, just because they happen to reap these rewards legally. The system is skewed and it is our responsibility as a middle class to stop the cycles of injustice that continue our current cycles of poverty.

The question was then posed, are we supposed to make ourselves poor? It’s a good question, perhaps a little elementary in its ‘cause and effect’ conclusion, but none the less I feel it is a common conception and in fact, was the second time I had heard it that week. And of course the answer is no. I am not calling us to live in poverty. (If this were the case, there would just be more of you to liberate, and I don’t have the time, sorry!) No, I am not calling us to be poor, rather I am calling us to live simply. Evaluate what is an essential, and then throw the rest of the fat to the hungry. And it’s not all about possessions and money. Freedom is going to be far more costly than that. I am calling good teachers into poorly performing schools. I am calling good doctors into Bulk Billing clinics. I am calling nurses out of the private system. I am calling students into welfare degrees instead of commerce degrees, and those that have commerce degrees into jobs that will alter our poorly weighted economy. I am calling employers to take a chance on an unemployed youth, even though you know you will lose a little capital. I am calling good parents to volunteer in small, disadvantaged schools instead of to a school that runs like clock-work with the 50 intelligent parents that force it to be so for the sake of their child’s future. Of course, it is about wealth too. I am calling all of us to spend our money at justgifts instead of buying more junk we don’t need that will only serve as a reminder of your greed and excess instead of the love and care that was intended from the gift. I am calling us to give away our tax rebate, given you probably didn’t miss it during the year…or have you already spent it on that new DVD player you didn’t need or the credit card you filled in anticipation?

I guess I am saying that we need to be aware and active if we are going to make a difference. I sometimes get the feeling those who have wealth are tired of feeling guilty for being wealthy. I get the feeling that they are being asked to do and give a huge amount just because they happen to be comfortable. And it is this aspersion that offends and upsets many of the wealthy Christians I know. Well, get used to it! Or do you think you ‘deserve’ your wealth and privileged position?

Feel free to be offended,

Gen

03 October, 2008

The NIMBY Syndrome

I have been thinking over the last couple of weeks about the NIMBY syndrome. I suppose the thing that got me thinking about this was the image of a woman being arrested and then escorted off her own property. Her crime? Preventing surveyors from a water company entering her property to survey a controversial water pipeline the state government wants to run through her property.

NIMBY stands for Not In My Backyard. Here was a woman who was literally being arrested for saying ‘Not in my backyard’. Now I am not thinking specifically about the issue of that water pipeline, although that was the catalyst.

NIMBY can be a powerful influence in social justice.
The phrase ‘tree huggers’ comes from a group of women in India. They did not like the idea that logging companies were going to move in and cut down the trees in their neighbourhood. These poor women were going to be the most affected by the logging and so they decided to take action. They surrounded the trees earmarked for being felled, literally hugging them, to prevent the bulldozers from pushing them over.
I think too of other social reforms like Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jnr, Mother Theresa and many others who stood up and said that injustice would not happen in their back yards.

But there is another side to the coin.
The NIMBY syndrome can be one of the greatest barriers to real justice in our society.
One example immediately springs to mind.
Most people I know think that the state should provide public housing to those who are extremely disadvantaged in our country.
However most of the people I know would not like to live next door to a public housing estate.
I don’t want public housing and all the issues that come along with it in my back yard.
This form of NIMBY syndrome prevents positive change from happening. It occurs because we seek short term personal comfort over long term effective change.

I want to contend that this NIMBY syndrome is a disease of the middle and upper classes in our country. Those that have the power to choose what goes on in their backyard. It is a disease of the comfortable.

We all suffer from NIMBY syndrome. Either we stand up to injustice and say that this will not happen in my back yard. Or we are silent, or worse still we speak out against positive change and say “Not in my back yard”.

So how is your back yard looking? Are you in need of a handyman?

26 September, 2008

Yet another example of hating the poor...

In the land where being ‘number one’ is a national birthright, the USA have succeeded in coming first in the number of incarcerated persons, both by per capita and in real terms. More than 47 million Americans (or a quarter of the adult population) have criminal records on file with federal or state criminal justice agencies. An estimated 13 million Americans are either currently serving a sentence for a felony conviction or have been convicted of a felony in the past. This translates into over 6 percent of the adult population having been convicted of a felony crime.

The U.S. now locks up its citizens at a rate 5-8 times that of the industrialized nations. Explaining the massive influx of incarceration is more complex than a simple correlation with increased criminal activity. In fact, it is generally understood that the increase was not caused by changes in criminal activity and instead by a shift in policy, specifically in the area of drug crimes and habitual offenders. The results suggest that the almost tripling of the prison population during the period 1980-96 was less likely to do with crime, with criminal activity accounting for just 12% of the prison rise. Rather it is believed that changes in sentencing policy accounted for 88% of the increase

One example of policy influencing incarceration rates is the ‘Three Strikes’ laws which calls for a long-term sentencing of repeat offenders. One extreme example is a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court where it upheld the California statute in a case in which a man convicted of stealing $153 worth of videotapes from a department store received a sentence of 50 years to life at a cost of 1 million dollars!

Perhaps the most alarming evidence to emerge from prison population data is the unequal distribution of race. African American males are being incarcerated at an unacceptable rate with one of every eight black males in the age group 25-29 currently in some form of lock up. Data from the Department of Justice reveals that a black male born in 1997 has a 29% chance of spending time in state or federal prison in his lifetime. The ethnic composition of the inmate population of the United States has been virtually inverted in the last half century, going from about 70% (Anglo) white at the mid-century point to less that 30% today

Another significant influence on incarceration levels has been the ‘war on drugs’. Between 1985 and 1995, drug incarcerations were responsible for 75% of the growth in the federal prison population and 33% of the state prison population growth.

The attitude of ‘lock em up and throw away the key’ is an extreme position and is negatively impacting a specific segment of the population; a segment already debilitated by poverty and injustice. So why do we stand for it? It’s all in the name of feeling ‘safe’. Surely there are better ways of bringing safety to our streets? Or do we believe 30% of African Americans are rotten through, incapable of contributing to a healthy society? Do we believe that drug addicts are beyond rehabilitation and must not be released until they are 70 years old?

I know this is Australia and I am referring to America (though you will remember our stats for incarcerated Indigenous are not too dissimilar), but lets consider our position now so we don’t walk into the same trap ten years from now!

Where do you stand? What shall be done to prevent mass incarceration???

Think it over and have a great weekend!

Genevieve

PS…where are all the bloggers? I am challenging you all to a blog duel!!!

19 September, 2008

The pathetic poor

“Men at ease have contempt for misfortune as the fate of those whose feet are slipping” Job 12:5

I am currently reviewing a century of Australian Social Policy and have noticed somewhat of a trend that runs consistently throughout the decades. It’s a trend of punishment and austerity. It seems in our history there has always been an ethic of making the poor pay for their ineptitude, a payment that would be paid in humility since they clearly had no cash. And those that chose to dispense relief were (and to an extent still are) not seen as particularly helpful as they were ‘discountenancing neither mendacity nor vagrancy’, nor was their help encouraging industrious habits or a proper spirit of independence among the recipients.’ (Dickey).

Let’s think about that for a minute. Would The Salvation Army win a government contract if it merely dispensed relief and care? Or does it need to be engaged in some form of reformation? Why, of course we would be expected to engage in reformation! We want to free people from their poverty not just keep them alive a little longer. The problem is, I’m not sure we are producing transformation. It may be our intention, but I am not sure of our success rate. I am not cutting up the Army, I’m cutting up the wider system and moral code of the population.

You see we are dealing with structured poverty ad inequality. I can teach a child to read, I can teach them to be polite, I can teach them to desire wealth and independence, I can teach them how to look for work. But unless someone with power employs them, they will stay poor. Unless they are able to accrue enough capital to secure a loan, they will be unable to buy property. Without employment and land, you are unlikely to make it or be seen to make it out of the unfortunate position of a pauper.

We are also dealing with a public that shows contempt for the misfortune of others and, just like the friends of Job, are convinced that hardship is the fault of the sufferer. Sometimes it is, but often it is not. Why else would we so readily accept initiatives like parent fines for student truancy, breaching for Centrelink non-compliance, or even ‘work for the dole’, which at times could be very helpful for building skills but which left most assuming that regardless of tangible assistance, it just made good moral sense to make them earn their crust. Of course other money we get from the government…tax rebates, baby bonuses, aged care pensions, family benefits, Medicare rebates…well that’s free crust, and they are all justified! No, no – it’s only those who produce nothing for society that must be taught a lesson. Agree? Most do. The thing is, there are many that don’t work and take money and resources from the government, and we don’t have any problem with them at all. Mothers are a perfect example. It is totally justified, and indeed encouraged for a mother to stay home and raise her children…unless she’s a single mother, in which case she MUST work! But I am suggesting that a whole lot of public money goes into stay at home mums that we would never question.

What is our obsession with hating the poor? We can’t deny it. History will show that every public service to the poor…including hospitals…was a momentous battle against the mindset that poor people just don’t deserve free help.

Take some time out to examine your position. Do you help the poor because you feel sorry for them? That’s a little condescending. Do you help the poor out of moral duty? That mostly leads to contempt. Or do you recognize that we have created a system that runs more smoothly when only the flexible and capable are involved. Those with issues only slow things down and reduce profit so we exclude them for our own good, all the while chastising them for their lack of involvement. Oh, it has got to stop!

Gen

18 September, 2008

Media Release from SA

8 September 2008

The Salvation Army Opposes Proposed Abortion Legislation
The Salvation Army, as part of the overall Christian Church in Australia, strongly opposes the Abortion Law Reform Bill 2008 legislation which was tabled in the Victorian Parliament on 19 August and is due to be debated from 9 September, 2008.

While recognising the serious ethical and moral concerns that this issue prompts within those on both sides of the debate, The Salvation Army believes that, by far, the greater good is served within the community by protecting the rights of the unborn child.

In particular, we are very concerned that, under the proposed legislation, abortions will be able to be performed up to 24 weeks gestation without any reference to expert medical or psychological advice or counsel.

The Salvation Army believes in the sanctity of all human life from the moment of fertilisation. It considers each person to be of infinite value, and each life a gift from God to be cherished, nurtured and preserved.

We support efforts to protect and promote the welfare of the weak and defenceless person, including the unborn. We take seriously the rights and needs of both the foetus and the mother.

It is The Salvation Army’s experience that, where unwanted pregnancies occur, in most instances it is best to counsel acceptance of the situation by all involved, for the foetus to be carried to term, and for all possible supportive help to be given. It is not appropriate to argue that no child should be “born unwanted”, as some are proposing in the current debate.

We also recognise that in claiming a right to participate in the abortion debate, this claim must be supported by continuing to address, in practical ways, the personal and social impact of unwanted pregnancies, unwanted children and a fractured society. As such, we need to provide compassionate, informed and professional care and provision to those women and their families who choose to continue with a pregnancy (even if unwanted). Appropriate pastoral and practical support must be available.

Further, for those women who have had an abortion, either recently or in the more distant past, and now need care and counsel to deal with loss, grief, anger, guilt and regret, we need to provide every available assistance and support.

The Salvation Army continues to accept its responsibility to address those social issues such as family breakdown, poverty and sexual ignorance or irresponsibility that contribute to the high incidence of unwanted pregnancies in Australia.

Serve Suffering Humanity Conference

Bundaberg Corps (QLD) is holding their first social justice conference this weekend.

Take a look

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLcAQPDLzp4

blessings

Robyn

Miniature Earth

This short video is a good reminder of how fortunate many of us are and how unfair things are for so many others. It helps us to put things in perspective and to keeping working towards a global society based on justice. so take a look.(You may need to copy and paste the address into your browser)

http://www.miniature-earth.com/me_english.htm

Robyn

15 September, 2008

lessons from Romero...


After a long struggle for social justice in Columbia, while performing a funeral mass in the Chapel of Divine Providence Hospital, Archbishop Oscar Romero was shot to death by a paid assassin.

Only moments before his death, he had reminded the mourners of the parable of wheat. His prophetic words:
“Those who surrender to the service of the poor through love of Christ
will live like the grain of wheat that dies…The harvest comes because of
the grain that dies…We know that every effort to improve society, above
all when society is so full of injustice and sin, is an effort that God
blesses, that God wants, that God demands of us.”

During his two years as Bishop of Santiago de Maria Romero crisscrossed
his diocese on horseback, talking with laboring families to learn how he could
best serve them. The reality of their lives horrified the bishop. Every day he
discovered children dying because their parents could not pay for simple
penicillin; people who were paid less than half of the legal minimum wage; people
who had been savagely beaten for “insolence” after they asked for long overdue
pay. Romero began using the resources of the diocese—and his own personal
resources—to help the poor, but he knew that simple charity was not enough. He
wrote in his diary:
“The world of the poor teaches us that liberation will arrive only when the
poor are not simply on the receiving end of handouts from government or
from churches, but when they themselves are the masters and
protagonists of their own struggle for liberation.”

09 September, 2008

Education Revolution



An article in the Australian caught my attention today. Below are a few excerpts but click here for the full article.

"AUSTRALIA'S government spending on public education is the second lowest among developed nations, a new report has found. Russia, Slovakia, Mexico and Iceland all spend more money on public education institutions than Australia. Only Belgium spends less.

The report also shows experienced teachers in Australia are paid significantly less than the OECD average, but teach longer hours and more weeks than most OECD nations, Mr Gavrielatos said. In 2005, just 0.1 per cent of GDP was spent on pre-primary institutions, compared to the OECD average of 0.4 per cent, ranking Australia equal 24th out of 26 countries. Tertiary education expenditure was only 1.1 per cent of GDP, also less than the OECD average.

But Ms Gillard pointed out there was some good news, such as that eighty per cent of 25 to 34-year-old Australians have attained at least upper secondary level education, above the OECD average."

In working with the youth at my corps, I am confronted with the reality that if our kids are not receiving a quality education, their chances of breaking out of the poverty cycle are limited. An underfunded education system puts our young people at a disadvantage to reach their potentials.

As Gen discussed recently, the issue of truancy has been hot in the media lately with suggestions of suspending welfare payments in the event of repeated truancy. I think instead of cutting funding for families and placing already stretched NGO's under more strain to provide for these families, it might be worth flipping the coin and examining the other side: what are the causes of truancy and how can we develop a culture where kids want to come to school? There are so many good movies such as 'Coach Carter' and 'Freedom Writers' where passionate teachers brought out the best in their students, developing and teaching them a love of learning. The above article shows how underfunded our education system is and shows the lack of financial and material support that our teachers have, perhaps one reason that 'burn out' of teachers is so common in Australia (see here for more info) In the face of an education system that still sees only 73% of students finish high school (and more alarmingly only 32% of Indigenous students) what can we do about it?

At my corps on a Friday night, we run 'God and Pizza', a bible study based small group program where we read God's word and... eat pizza! Some of our kids who struggle with literacy get an opportunity to practice their reading skills, are encouraged, can make mistakes knowing that it is a safe place for them to do so, and are reading about a God who loves them. Just one example but we have found it effective. The challenge: be creative! To steal the government's catchcry, start an education revolution: that is, start something that restores the power of having an education back to it's rightful owner - our kids! Even better if while learning to read, they can learn about God.

Have a blessed week.
Sarah Brinkley.

Pro-life Anti-Abortion Video: Development of the Unborn Baby

Consider this video and write to your MP if you live in Victoria, Australia - don't miss out on being a voice for persons who are not yet born!
posted by Danielle

08 September, 2008


posted by Danielle

zambia

Look for opportunities to connect with teams using the MISSION IMMERSION EXPERIENCE to introduce you to our partner territories... details soon arriving on justsalvos.com

05 September, 2008

Our Australian shame...

In 1991, a Royal Commission was established to investigate the high number of aboriginal deaths in custody. It was expected that police brutality and dilapidated prison conditions would be the finding and that these situations would be corrected. After a detailed investigation, no such finding emerged, and instead a more frightening and devastating reality dawned on the Australian public.

The Royal Commission found that of the ninety-nine Aboriginals who had died in custody;
- the median age was just twenty-nine years
- eighty-three were unemployed at the date of last detention
- they were uneducated, only two had completed secondary level
- forty-three of them experienced childhood separation from their natural families through intervention by the State authorities, mission or other institutions
- forty-three had been charged with an offence at or before aged fifteen and seventy-four at or before aged nineteen
- forty-three had been taken into last custody directly for reasons related to alcohol
- the standard of health varied from poor to very bad (the average age of those who died from natural causes was a little over thirty years)
- their economic position was disastrous and their social position at the margin of society
- they misused alcohol to a grave extent (of the twenty-two deaths by hanging in police cells, nineteen at death had a blood alcohol level of 0. 174 per cent or over, mostly much over)
(Information taken from the Royal Commission report: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/special/rsjproject/rsjlibrary/rciadic/rciadic_summary/rcsumk01.html)

It depicts a dire situation of injustice and despair. Suicide became a viable option, and that is a rebuke to us.

That was 1991. They situation has not improved.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons comprise 2.4% of the Australian population, but makes up 22% of the Australian prisoner population. This is a rate of 1,561 per 100,000 of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adult population imprisoned at any time, compared with the overall Australian incarceration rate of 163 per 100,000 adult population.. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are twelve times more likely to be incarcerated than a non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander citizen. (Australian Bureau of Statistics, December 2005. Prisoners in Australia, Census June 2005.)

This is unacceptable. Who are we as a nation to talk about human rights? Or...said in a way that has more authority...how dare we look at the speck in our neighbours eye when there is a giant plank in our own. Let's find a way to take the plank out!!! Investigate the solutions, raise money for a project, create awareness, do something! I don't want to write this blog in another 17 years!!!

Think and pray it over,

Genevieve