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A heart for mission…

Recently I have been learning a lot about the value of life mission, purpose, values, direction and all that jazz. It’s a tricky area to navigate and something which you’re often constantly going to and fro on. Terms like ‘calling’, vocation, experience, paths, career, life, work, church – all seem very relevant and extremely important.

I recently moved in to a new area of work and can honestly say that it was truly purposed by God, it was definitely not me. He led me to where I am, guiding my decision making process, answering my prayers, and clearly opening doors for me. I just had to follow on in faith.ocean

Essentially the area was a slight divergent – like being pulled back in the reins when I had been drifting sideways onto the grass instead of remaining straight on the path. I was moving into the mission space – the kind of place where God has commissioned his people and called them to devote their whole life to Him in utter dependence. I had perhaps been too focused on what the world valued – “How young idealists can fix the world”, rather than the unique pattern in which Jesus walked and the personal mandate he left to his followers. Instead, God had begun to reignite my passion for a deeper justice than what is just social – it is a completely transformative justice – one that is aligned with God’s mission to draw people into a relationship with himself. And he was now inviting me to be a more formal part of that, which was always a sneaking suspicion of mine.

Why does this excite me? Because God’s mission, although scary and completely out of my depth, is absolutely essential and because I am God’s agent for his purposes. Rather than just settling to think about mission, and pray for ‘other people’s mission’, I was now to join in His mission.

Let me outline some experiences of which have shown me the appealing intricacies of which I have seen God’s mission in action around the world.

  • Operation World – For years I have been familiar with the ministry of Operation World. I have loved learning about different countries of the world and how people live there. What are the dominant religions? What major social issues do they have? What do they need? This experience really strengthened my prayer life – and sure began to teach me the importance of Kingdom Prayers.
  • I heard the testimony of a man from Nigeria who is working through a local church, and he learnt about the needs of his local community. He couldn’t just set up a church and a Sunday School program, so he set up a school, and a health clinic, and a counselling centre, and a vocational training workshop to equip people in his area to be empowered.
  • I met a young man in a remote part of Kenya who was determined to provide his local church with bibles, which then turned into a school. His passion and determination was infectious and sincere.
  • New Testament Paul is also an extreme example of resistance to the world’s way and dependence on God’s way. Which similarly is seen when Daniel’s friends are thrown into the fiery furnace for refusing to worship the erected golden statue. These people were doing God’s mission and making Yahweh’s holy name known.
  • I learnt how important it is the global church to rise up and stand with their suffering brothers and sisters around the world who struggle to survive but still find the passion and motivation to share the gospel and be witnesses of God’s love.

I was reminded that mission is not just about praying for mission, and for things to get better for people in terms of poverty, hunger, and oppression, but essentially praying and desiring for God’s mercy and grace to strengthen his people to spread the gospel and for more people to come to know Christ! And that is what God has led me to be a part of: amazing!

And that is my (ever-growing) heart for mission. Not my mission, but The Lord’s.

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re:thinking life, faith, and our world

Thinking through one’s day seems a mediocre but essential task. It involves organisation, forward planning, and task-oriented activities. You have to be intentional, prioritising what’s important, and realistic about what you can achieve and how.  Thinking through one’s life seems downright overwhelming  – there are so many unknowns, so many competing constraints and goals, and you seem to be living up to others expectations as well as you’re own. You are somehow influential to other people, and you are trying to make an impact for the good of the world. But that all seems pretty daunting and difficult to follow through on.

A few weeks ago I was privileged to attend the Re:Thinking conference, a joint initiative hosted by The Centre for Public Christianity, World Vision, and Arrow Leadership. The premise of the conference was to challenge and equip Australian Christians from a range of backgrounds and denominations to be thinking through what it means to be a Christian in the public sphere. Where should we place ourselves to best influence, serve and witness to the communities we are in? With what attitude and goal should we engage in our society? How do we balance living a life of Christian integrity and challenging the status quo when it is harmful?

These are big questions, and complex all-encompassing topics, which of course came to no resolve even after 3 days of intense lectures, workshops, and various sessions. However, just because it wasn’t conclusive, does not mean that it didn’t challenge us, or provide various platforms on which to be equipped to engage in public faith. Indeed, we came away from each session with heart-wrenching issues to seriously dwell on, wrestle with, and invite other Christians to join in on discussing. To do just that, I am going to outline some of the issues that stood out to me as particularly pertinent. My aim is to invoke thought to draw others into the conversation, for only with a united and strong voice and attitude can Christians be influential and possessing a public faith – not just witnesses of God’s love, but instruments of His coming Kingdom.

“The followers of Jesus Christ are sent into the world as He was sent, to love friends and enemies, co-religionists and infidels, and to rejoice in everything that is true, good, and beautiful wherever they encounter it.”
– Miroslav Volf, ‘A Public Faith’

Re:Thinking

Religious decline and engaging in our culture

The first topic I wanted to discuss is the underlying issue for the entire Re:Thinking Conference – the current context in which we live, and what place our faith has within that public sphere. It is an essential topic to comprehend accurately and wisely, without a tone of arrogance or agenda but with grace and humility. From a range of presenters, we learned a myriad of lessons and truths about the reality of the world in which we live, including an incline, rather than decline, in religion globally; plus a gross over-representation of the rise of secularism, even in the Western world. In fact, over 60% of Australian still identify themselves as Christians (including nominal) as opposed to identifying as ‘non-religious’. So how do we make the most of this current social and religious climate? How can we remain strong in our faith while aligning ourselves with a ever-growing hostility towards Christianity [or is it just towards Christian people]? Well, there are many ways which are explained far better by others other than me.

  • Mark Scott, Managing Director of the ABC outlines a severe warning for Christians to break out of the tempting Christian bubble which feels safe, convenient and non-threatening, but in fact will cause us to become more cynical, judgmental, and out of touch with what our society is actually thinking. Instead, he challenges us to engage deeply in our communities without having to compromise our beliefs and values, but instead situate ourselves on the margins and gently push against those things that are harmful to people and restrict the well-being of communities. Read a transcript of his presentation here.
  • Secondly, our keynote speaker Miroslav Volf presented to us a similar notion of being in the world, but not of the world. He spoke of the fine art of learning to become religious exclusivists while at the same time being political pluralists (it is possible!) and where our influence can positively impact the world in which we live. Watch an interview here that outlines his main argument.
  • Also, National Coordinator of Micah Challenge John Beckett reflected in this blog post on the conference and encouraged us to think about the following questions in light of the above discussion. 1. What is the purpose of our public engagement? 2. What is the tone of what we say and how are we perceived? These questions are central to portraying a public faith that is respectful, truthful, challenging, and compelling; which is exactly we should be trying to be when modelling our lives on Jesus’ engagement with the world.

Persecuted Christians

My eyes were opened to the plight of the persecuted church around the world through an elective session. The global church was likened to a situation of blindly standing at the bottom of a valley with an impending avalanche racing down the hill towards us. Crucially learning about the world context of rising militarism, religious extremism, and secular rule, it is easy to be petrified for the future of the church, while overlooking the sovereignty of God who has had his hand over his people, literally since the beginning of time.

It is however, important to acknowledge the growing life of the universal church, and the increasing danger it is for many believers in certain hostile regions around the world. It is equally important for us in safe Western contexts to realise our responsibility to advocate for our suffering brothers and sisters and not being ashamed of our faith, as 2 Timothy emphasises.

The world is changing: now the church is now 80% coloured, non-Western and poor, the inverse of what it was 50 years ago. But that church majority is now also the majority in an environment that is dangerously wrapped up in a complex mix of religious, social, and economic tensions. There are countless instances of pressure, marginalisation, oppression, and persecution of believers in these places, and it is extremely dangerous to be identified as a Christian, let alone pray, have a bible, meet with other believers, or hold a church service. It is another thing entirely to lead a church, lead people to Christ, or stand up publically for your faith.

There are many challenges and lessons in this reality, but a couple I learnt in particular include:

  1. All Christians ought not be ashamed of their faith, and can completely trust God with their future, so long as they trust in Jesus.
  2. Western Christians have a responsibility to be vocal about the issues of the persecuted church, even if no viable solution is clear. What we see today is that the body of Christ is bleeding and the church needs to respond more.

Asylum Seekers

Asylum seekers and the political issues in Australia were a big topic on the conference. Rather than trying to be eloquent in my understanding and perception of asylum seeker policy, the real plight of desperate people, and the best way forward in Australian society and politics, I will point you to a couple of other people who have expressed their concerns on it. Greg Lake, and Josh Dowton. If you would like to know more about my opinion, feel free to open a dialogue with me about it.

This is taking into consideration the complete complexities and heart-wrenching emotions brought into play in this political debate. The problem is however, thousands of people’s lives are at stake, and not just their lives, but their humanity and wellbeing. This is why it is worth our time and thought to ensure that if the current situation continues, we know exactly what we are choosing to put up with as a country. I am not ok with the current situation, and I am genuinely surprised that so many people appear to be, so it is my only hope and plea that it is due to ignorance. Only through education, storytelling, and collective voice will the treatment of asylum seekers improve and return to humane standards. Maybe one day it will even transition into compassionate and generous, but I won’t hold my breath just yet…

St Francis of Assisi - an example of public faith

St Francis of Assisi – an example of public faith

Biblical reflections

Leaving the conference, and over the past week since, I have been wrestling with the overwhelming nature of many of these globally relevant issues. The whole world is huge, complex, and what is happening is scary. It seemed appropriate that the best way for me personally to begin processing all of this, was to seek God’s peace and clarity through scripture and worship.

Of particular relevance and power to me were:

  • The last couple of lines in the classic worship song ‘In Christ Alone’, which acts as a poignant reminder that Jesus is our ultimate defense against anything the world and its prince may throw at us. What comfort and peace we can have in that knowledge!

No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.

  • Isaiah 53 provides a breathtaking description of all that Jesus has endured on behalf of his people. Reading through that passage reminds us that not only has our Lord persevered through more suffering than we ever will, but that he has also overcome death and reigns as King and welcomes us into his care.
  • Another song caused me to weep in response to all the themes and challenges of the conference: Cornerstone. The words encapsulate the heart of an individual Christian like me struggling to navigate through the dangers and hopes of living a public faith. I may be weak, but Christ is strong. I may be going through something harsh and dark, but Christ is the cornerstone and the foundation of my entire life!

Christ alone; cornerstone
Weak made strong; in the Saviour’s love
Through the storm, He is Lord, Lord of all

In summary, I will use an illustration that Miroslav Volf presented to us when talking about the value of ensuring our lives are engaging with the world in a way that honours Yahweh – the Creator of the heavens and earth. The world is given to us as a precious gift; it is not just there for us to use however we want. It is just like Eden with the forbidden tree in the middle, which ultimately served as a reminder to Adam and Eve that the garden is a gift from God to enjoy within the confines of how we designed it. It is a sobering rule to demonstrate that we are not the creators, nor are we in control; we are tenants and are asked to make the most of the garden, and indeed the world, for the benefit of not just the world but for us too at the same time.

So, how are you re:thinking?

 

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slavery vs freedom

Slavery, many people still think hi-ho African slaves in America, or slaves in Egypt painfully towing huge sandstone bricks towards the half-assembled pyramids. And then we hear of the heroic William Wilberforce who eradicated slavery in 1833 after decades of fighting the US government. And we think, oh isn’t it great to be living in the 21st Century without any of that backward history of old-time slaves and oppression and exploitation condoned by society. We’re civilised and sophisticated now and treat every race and class with tolerance.

I’m sorry, but that’s a bunch of baloney. Right now, around the world today, there are an estimated 27 million people trapped in what we tend to call ‘modern-day slavery’. It is not an official slave trade like in the 18th Century, but it’s much more underground, much more hidden, and much more sinister.

There are many forms of modern day slavery – human trafficking, exploitative labour, sexual slavery, child labour, domestic labour and bonded labour in slave-like conditions. One of the most challenging circumstances to address is how to effectively and sustainably find alternative options for people that have been victims of slavery. They often require rehabilitation, counselling, care, and sustainable alternatives for income, security and safety. Some victims find themselves in very helpless situations even after they manage to escape the horrific conditions of their slave-master or employer. They face being stuck in a vicious cycle of poverty with no viable options for income or a hopeful future.

One particular area of slavery that is worth raising awareness about, is a culturally traditional practice in Nepal of keeping bonded labourers, known as ‘kamaiyas’. This practice, although now outlawed, is still quite an intrinsic part of society where a particular lower caste ethnic group is stuck in the damaging hollow of poverty and are often left with no option but to borrow money off a wealthier family. In order to pay back the debt, the indebted family is taken on as bonded labourers. They often start by sending one child into the family to work as a domestic labourer – often a girl, because the parents prefer to send the boys to school. That child grows up in that household, completing an insane and totally unreasonable amount of chores, is often subject to abuse, mistreatment, lack of food and supplies, and is treated like a slave. They do not receive payment, but are ‘paying off the debt’ and with increasing interest they can never keep track of or pay back their debt.

women in Nepal

There are countless stories and experiences of bonded labourers, and in other countries similar situations take place, although they are known as a different name, or alas not known at all. I remember on one of my first overseas trips to Hong Kong, I was able to be educated on the issue of debt-payment labour. In particular, how families living in poverty are faced with the difficult situation of what to do when money runs out or something unexpected comes up. Families are often bonded under a loan ‘shark’ who seems to never let them off the hook. In fact, families often go on for generation after generation being raised in a situation of slavery with no alternative and no hope of being freed. The concept and practice of bonded labour is surprisingly and scarily common and it troubles me deeply that individuals and families are in this situation for decades.

Find out more about bonded labour by watching a promotional excerpt of this recent documentary ‘Girl Rising‘ which follows the story of nine girls from different parts of the developing world who are persevering through difficult circumstances. This particular chapter looks at the story of Suma, who worked as a kamaiya from the age of six.

My friend, Matt Darvas also wrote a blog about a story that he learnt from a man he met in Nepal who is now a ‘mukta kamaiya’ (freed bonded labourer) which provides great insight into the story

Thankfully there are also many organisations working to address these issues and deal with the causes and find solutions. One of these groups is ‘The Freedom Project‘ who works to educate and raise funds to support projects around the world that address trafficking and slavery. Additionally, there are other groups working to eliminate bonded labour and empower those individuals and families who are freed to be able to find suitable employment and sustainable living options. For example, Girl Rising, as mentioned before, follows Suma’s story until after she becomes freed, and she herself becomes a motivated advocate for freeing and educating other kumaiyas in her region. It is an amazing and inspiring story of hope and redemption, seeing lives transformed from hopeless darkness to a future of opportunity and peace.

I hope this blog post has achieved its intent of just planting some seeds of interest into this massive issue of modern day slavery. There are countless situations which I could cover, and which we could address but this is hopefully at least a start. I would encourage each of you to keep reading and exploring and find out more if you don’t already.

 

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A shameless plug for local farmers markets

As I happily walked in the bright sunshine up the street hand in hand with my new hubby, we were excited to be on this new weekend adventure. It was early one Saturday morning, we had cut short our beloved sleep in after getting up at 6.25 every weekday morning for work, and we had even left the house without our morning coffee! But that’s ok because it was market day! The local community was buzzing with various keen-beans with their enviro bags swung over their shoulder and we were totally psyched to see what the stalls had to offer this week.

There was your normal market wares including jams, yoghurt, sweets and quality fresh roasted coffee – so thankfully we didn’t have to wait long to get our morning caffeine hit! Then we were also faced with a sea of fresh fruit and veggies, meats, sauces, herbs, spices, dairy products, juices, and more coffee! We were in produce heaven! We had roughly chosen our meals for the week and so all we had to do was track down the best ingredients, with maybe a few extras thrown in for fun.

We have fallen in love with shopping at farmers markets. Not only does it give us the opportunity to buy direct from the producers (and all the ethical factors that entails), but it also helps us to buy fresh, buy local, and surprisingly buy relatively cheap! We are finding that the quality is great and because you know things aren’t grown with all the normal pesticides it’s probably considerably better for you. And bonus – you are supporting local farming families whose only source of income is usually from markets. We love that we don’t have to shop at the big chain supermarkets and we love that we get to enjoy a fun morning out together amidst the cruisy and relaxed market atmosphere, a bonus when compared to the hustle and bustle found in the big shopping centres.

We have been thrilled with the array of fresh food options – we have almost always got we wanted to find! In fact, it allows you to buy exactly what you need and the amount that you want – which means: no waste. I find it extremely satisfying at the end of each week having nothing in the fridge, cupboard or fruit bowl because we have bought all the food we need and have eaten all the food we purchased.

Also, farmers markets give you lots of extra menu options and opens your eyes to things you might not have tried before. In fact, if you go to the same regular market and take note of what is there, you can plan for next time and factor in buying food from those markets for the week ahead. Have you ever tried alpaca meat? I have now. Ever tried fresh unpasteurised creamy jersey milk? I have (and it’s deliciously fatty!).

The only disappointment is the fact that the markets are only on once a month, and we have found ourselves going further afield on the other weeks just because we can.

So I encourage you to go and shop at your local farmers markets – it’s fresh, fun and fantastic! You won’t regret it.

capsicums

 
 

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Learning from one woman to another

I think it may be due to my experiences in seeing the vulnerability of women that I feel so deeply about addressing issues that women and girls face around the world. Both firsthand experiences as well as learning experiences have enabled me to understand what it was like to be a woman in places other than Australia. I’m not claiming that in order to stand in solidarity you need to see it for yourself, indeed I am extremely thankful that one’s compassion is not dependant on firsthand experiences. I am thrilled that we have the ability and the privilege of learning from others and reading books and articles and journals and blogs about others’ experiences and from women themselves that are a shining example of the versatility and resilience of women and girls in the face of adversity.

That being said, I am also overwhelmingly appreciative that I have been able to travel places and meet amazing women who demonstrate that change is possible even when living in the toughest poverty-stricken corners of the world. These experiences are hopefully not just for me. I hope and pray that my experiences can be used to impact others and empower them in advocating for and partnering with women and girls around the world that are oppressed and neglected.

It is for this reason that I share the following thoughts.

The first time I went overseas, I was working in Hong Kong to help set up a fair trade shop that would sell the wares of partners around the world who had various welfare and aid projects. Many of the clients or partners had predominantly women working with them. I was astounded to learn that women in China who had a disability normally had little or no options for receiving welfare, nor could they find a dignified job that would enable them to support themselves, let alone a family if they had one. I was even more shocked to discover that this type of treatment was not reserved only for women with disabilities in China, but in fact it was common for women all around the world. In many countries simply being a woman puts you at the bottom of the job prospects pile. That is if women even have the ability to go looking for a job. Perhaps she’s too busy trying to keep her household running, feeding the kids and cleaning. Perhaps she’s too sick to go out of the house because she can’t afford medicine and the tuberculosis has drained her of all the energy she has. Or perhaps she has never learnt to read or write and so she is a few steps further back than your average university student resume on the job hunt.

That is where the beauty and necessity of aid and development projects come in handy. Especially the ones that exist to identify and target the most vulnerable women in societies, the ones that one else is looking out for, the ones that are desperate for another option for their daily struggle for survival. Income generation or loan schemes have proved well in many areas. Education and skills training projects have also proven worthy of investment. These avenues simply serve the purpose of empowering and equipping individual women to gain the confidence they need to take steps towards ownership of their own circumstances. Fair trade models are fantastic, when they work alongside their producers/workers and consult with them in the business making process. Fair trade enables them to have a sustainable and secure income, regular work, and fair conditions. It fosters community support and long-term investment, and it changes lives and communities.

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When I went to Africa I met a women’s group that served as a rehabilitation project, as well as an education and income generation project. These women had been living in the rubbish dump of society – prostitutes, drug addicts, widows, and victims of abuse or abandonment. These women were broken, lost and without hope. But when I met them they were smiling and laughing, singing and dancing, and busily working away at their sewing machine stations – happily producing beautiful pieces of clothing, bags, pouches, other useful household items which they sold to the public. Their stitching was immaculate, the hemming was perfectly straight, and the fabrics were rich and vibrant. I loved meeting these women and hearing from them about how their lives had been totally turned upside down by this rehabilitation project. They were receiving six months of general education and training together in a small and close knit group for 6 months. Following that, they were given the start-up funds, equipment and skills to start their own business in their home community. I was privileged to hear the most amazing stories of transformation and empowerment. These women were given a fresh start, a new hope, and a promising future. It was a magical moment that has stuck dearly to my heart for a long time. I couldn’t help but buy from them as much as I feasibly could in that instance.

Seeing fair trade and development projects like this had me totally sold on an excellent approach to women’s empowerment and transformation. How could I not be committed to seeing this happen in other women’s lives around the world? How can so many beautiful amazing women be left in their vulnerable circumstances in slums and villages and streets all around the world if all they need is a helping hand? The project I saw only had the capacity to train ten women at a time. Only ten – in a slum of thousands, with hundreds of women still facing harsh and damaging lifestyles and conditions, many of which they do not have any control over. So I was determined to somehow continue to support this kind of work, and somehow remain involved with similar initiatives as it was a need just too important to ignore.

Of course, fair trade and skills-training income generation projects is just one area and one direction of women’s empowerment and addressing the tangled web of related issues, but it is something I have learnt a lot about. I have seen the needs, the opportunities, the projects, and the impact, and it works. So that is why I wanted to share my thoughts, and I hope it helps others learn something along the way. I have also written in this blog about other experiences working with and learning from similar women’s groups. I am no expert, I am just a passionate advocate that there is lots to be fighting for and I believe that we can make a difference.

May I also encourage you to read a relevant and amazing blog post on women’s issues written recently in light of International Women’s Day last week.

 

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Facing politicians with clear eyes and full hearts

I still remember stepping wide-eyed and heart a-pounding into my first public meeting that I was required to speak at. There was a huge audience in front of me and I could just imagine how I would feel if I said the wrong thing or if I tripped up the stairs on the way to the microphone. I had been told by family and friends not to fear and just do my best, be confident and that I would do a great job. Somehow I made it through, even managing to crack a smile and a joke as I communicated my passion.  “Wow,” I thought to myself, “they were really hooked!”

I was eight and I was doing my public speaking project on wok cooking – one of my favourite jobs to help out with as a kid.  I had successfully impressed the crowd with a sampling of my cooking and convinced everyone of the benefits of creating a scrumptious stir-fry.

Fast-forward 12 or so years and I felt the same knot in my stomach as I stepped across the threshold onto the green carpet, escorted by a well-dressed young staffer as I headed into my first ever meeting with a politician. I could sense the solemn nature of Federal Parliament as we were silently and swiftly guided down the bare hallway. We reached the office and were briskly herded in. I could just imagine the attitudes and the tut-tutting that we would receive in response to a group of vocal activist Christians flooding the corridors of power.

I also sensed the air of nervousness among my lobby group and we took our seats on the dark brown leather lounges and were offered glasses of water. Our Member of Parliament came to join us, we introduced ourselves, and then proceeded with a half hour conversation about global poverty and justice issues that we wanted to put on his agenda.

It was my first lobbying experience, my first real political engagement, and my first exposure to the reality that politicians were generally happy to have a chat to their constituents about the issues they cared about.

 Micah Challenge Interns Marissa and Zoe at Voices for Justice 2011

Micah Challenge Interns Marissa and Zoe at Voices for Justice 2011

Now, that’s not to say that they immediately went into parliament the next week and implemented all of the policy asks that we had presented to them.  Nor in fact were they 100% supportive of all that we had to say. Yet, I was thankful that they listened, were respectful and were willing to engage in discussion about global issues and what they thought the best approach to addressing those issues might be.

True, sometimes you don’t get that lucky. Some politicians can be much more dismissive, and don’t agree to meet with you in the first place. But when you’re right there, in the corridors of power, you know you have the power to influence our leaders. And when you’re advocating for those around the world who have no voice, you can be confident that your time and words mean something and that they can make a difference.

Thankfully, I felt equipped from the moment I entered into the big marble foyer. We had been to workshops, policy seminars, and lobby group planning time, and we had engaged in lots of deep conversations about what we were in Canberra to do. I felt completely confident (and almost competent!) that I was where God wanted me to be. I felt convicted that I was right in the centre of his will as he commands us to “Speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves, for the rights of all who need an advocate” Proverbs 31:8.

Although I would have liked, perhaps, to be like Moses and declare to God that I couldn’t be the right person for the job, I knew that He had given me the skills and ability to do just that.

Let me encourage each of you reading this blog to seriously consider coming to Voices for Justice this year. It’s a great excuse to take time out of your normal busy life to enrich your understanding of God’s heart for a just world free from oppression and poverty. But more than that, it’s a great opportunity to put your faith into action and stand up for those in our world who need an advocate.

Together, we can use our collective voice to challenge our national and global leaders to be using their power not for themselves but for the poor. We want them to be able to see what we see – the realistic potential that we can make the world a more equal and just place.

And as we face politicians with clear eyes to that goal; and with full hearts, that we are there with God by our side, on behalf of the poor; no matter what the outcome of the meeting or the whole gathering, we know we can’t lose*.

*Some savvy readers will pick up the reference to Friday Night Lights’ football team slogan.

This blog originally appeared on the Micah Challenge Australia website, see here.

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2014 in Advocacy, Justice, Travel

 

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How a supermarket can explain the problems of tax corruption

MNCs, base erosion, profit shifting, subsidiaries, tax havens, transfer mispricing… lots of complicated economics terms that zoom over many of our heads, mine included.

While determined to undertake further research and grasp the implications of what was being referred to as a complex and broken system, I came across a simple yet accurate analogy.

Going to the supermarket, you are left with the choice of lining up for a cashier, or jumping to the self-serve machine. I was shocked to learn recently that it is not uncommon for people to cut corners and avoid accurately paying for things. For example, you can manually enter an item to pay 39c a kilo when it is actually worth AU$20 a kilo.

STL blog

It’s wrong: it’s unethical, it’s stealing, and it’s illegal…

But because you’re operating the transaction yourself and there’s no one over your shoulder watching exactly what you’re doing, you can get away with it. Amazingly, the supermarket company knows this is happening but from a business and profits perspective, it is actually cheaper for them to not pay the extra staff and risk the individual losses on items that people don’t pay for!

It’s no surprise then that the same thing happens on a big multinational scale. It actually perfectly suits MNCs and OECD countries to ‘allow’ tax corruption because it’s more profitable. Tax corruption is complex, but understanding it in its simplest form is that it’s wrong: it’s unethical, and it’s stealing the right to government services for the world’s poorest people.

So while I leave the economics to the experts, I am determined to advocate for the poor and the responsibility all corporations have to pay their due.

Please note: This blog originally appeared here as part of the blog series for Micah Challenge International Exposed campaign on global tax corruption. To find out more, please visit: http://www.exposed2013.com/
The blog also appeared here on Micah Challenge Australia blog during Exposed week.

 
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Posted by on October 14, 2013 in Advocacy, Justice

 

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