We want you to join the Anglican Peace and Justice Network – here is why you should.
The world is not changed by lone individuals – however impressive – it is changed by communities of ordinary people working together. Together we make a difference, alone we are isolated and we struggle to get the story of justice and peace heard above the slogans of fear that lead to violence.
This is the point we make in the first chapter of Living Reconciliation.
Together our voice will be heard
Recently the British international affairs think tank Chatham House hosted a discussion of the work of the Anglican Church in contemporary Angola. It was very interesting.
Angola is a huge country with a tumultuous history shaped by its extraction from Portuguese colonialism. None of the historic Anglican mission agencies sent people to Angola so the Anglican Church, instead it was founded by a loan missionary from Liverpool. The Anglican Church remains one of the smallest in the country and the Rt Revd André Soares is the only Anglican Bishop in the country.
Still this lone bishop of a tiny church was able to speak his mind in Chatham House. He was able to speak to influential people including those from the Angolan Embassy in London and the British Foreign Office.
His words were significant because he could tell them just what it was like to be poor in a country that is rich in mineral resources, because he is one of the poor. This is true advocacy because he was speaking directly to power on behalf of his people who are the poor.
He was there because of advocacy by MANNA – the mission agency working with the Anglican Churches in Angola and Mozambique – and their wonderful companion link with the Diocese of London. They have a vibrant partnership that means the UK partners will work very hard to ensure Bishop André is heard in places of power
Networking can deliver results
The Bishop told those assembled us that just a few weeks ago he needed a malaria test and because the hospital had run out of syringes he had to buy one from a shop down the road. This was not a story about someone else; it was his story. Then came the challenge: there is great wealth in Angola, he told us, but a few keep it to themselves and the poor have nothing.
One response could be to fund-raise for an increasing network of Anglican health centres and hospitals. We could seek to fill the hole left by a failing government, and that would be great. However, the next speaker was insistent that this would only be a partial solution.
Soren Kirk Jensen, who is an Associate Fellow in the Africa Programme at Chatham House, issued a challenge to the churches: he called on us to remember our prophetic voice. Soren complimented the church for participation in relief and development, but called on the church not to forget the difficult task of holding governments to account.
The economic downturn has hit every nation but strangely Angola is especially vulnerable because of its wealth. Soren said that Angola needed a Joseph because the seven fat cows had been eaten up by the seven famished ones. The boom before the crash had seen a steep rise in GDP in Angola which meant that the big donors of aid – such as the British Government – withdrew and targeted their money elsewhere. Now the boom years have come to an end there is nothing to fall back on, nothing was saved; it has all been spent. He agreed with Bishop Andre that wealth had not been shared with the people, resulting in acute inequality, but he also spoke of the lack of planning and diversification. Now, he told us, there are epidemics of yellow fever and malaria, and the resources to counter them are few or nonexistent.
The Anglican Peace and Justice Network is about raising and supporting the Prophetic Voice
The church is vital because:
• We are present in every community
• We are committed to the long term
• Governments listen to us.
External NGOs do wonderful work, but may not be so deeply embedded in every community. We are the community. This means that when it is no longer safe for aid workers to remain, we are there. Anglicans are in the refugee camps, suffering from drought, and victims of injustice.
By giving the people voice we guard against missing cultural complexity and guard against the imposition of alien values. The local church can conduct a conversation with its government from the perspective of a shared worldview and ensure the hard questions cannot be avoided.
This does not mean they can be reticent in condemning corruption and injustice but, by building relationships, there can be movement away from shouting slogans. In this context we can effectively add our voices to others wherever support is needed.
It is precisely this way of conflict transformation that the Anglican Communion has been exploring through Continuing Indaba. The Continuing Indaba process requires a long term commitment to remaining with one another that allows truth to be told in a non-confrontational way that leads to change. Continuing Indaba has been effective in enabling Christians to walk together in mission and as a tool for reconciliation in divided communities.
The Churches of the Anglican Communion have made huge investment in relief, aid and development. Our health centres, schools and food distribution projects have transformed the world and go on doing so – they are vital. However they are just part of the story.
We need the prophetic voice to build peaceful and just societies. Without this voice, power will not be challenged.
The Anglican Peace and Justice Network seeks to encourage prophetic voices to challenge injustice, build peace and hold a vision for a better future.