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...


26 November, 2008

Housing Australia

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


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


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.


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.


#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.

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.


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.


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
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.


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