‘Sierra Leone illustrates the often-forgotten role foundations play in determining the fortunes of a nation’, writes Bowenson Phillips (former Chief Administrator for Freetown) with Jenny Taylor (British journalist and author). Sierra Leone pioneered Christianity, commerce, and civilization in colonial Africa. The freed slaves—later known as Creoles—who made their way across the Atlantic from Nova Scotia were Christians who saw themselves as Israelites delivered from slavery in Egypt. They founded Free Town and dedicated it by covenant to God. Sierra Leone flourished as a beacon of light for over 150 years, known as the ‘Athens of Africa’.
However, its fortunes collapsed very quickly, after laying ungodly or idolatrous foundations at independence on 27 April 1961. It slid from prosperity to dirt-poverty, in the midst of abundant resources, coupled with multiple catastrophes, including war and pestilence. Mercifully, in 2014, the church began to come to an understanding of Sierra Leone’s bloody April 27th foundations and commenced the process of redeeming the land, with encouraging results. Like Sierra Leone, many nations are tottering on ungodly foundations. Experts struggle to contain the physical effects—crime, corruption, violence, vice, and poverty—of spiritual causes. The good news is that there are clear biblical principles, precepts, and precedents underpinning the Sierra Leone experience, from which the church in other nations can learn. ‘This will enable them to address hidden roots of foundational problems that frustrate their national efforts at sustainable advancement’, he concludes.
‘Harassment, assault and abuse are part of the same package whereby women are vulnerable and preyed upon by men in societies around the world’, writes Tamie Davis (partner with Church Missionary Society of Australia, living in Tanzania). #metoo is a Twitter hashtag that has gone viral, giving a sense of the magnitude of the problem of sexual harassment and abuse. This is an issue for the church as well. A prevailing strategy for addressing this has been to argue for the equality of women as key to raising them up. However, the meaning of ‘equality’ may not be consistent across cultures. With equality a vexed concept in a global world, a more fruitful way to shape our response to abuse of women is with the Imago Dei, or the image of God. Together male and female image God; they are like him and bring glory to him. The doctrine of Imago Dei locates women’s dignity not so much in their status in relation to men (their ‘equality’, or lack thereof), but in their imaging of the Creator. While equality cannot appeal to both hierarchical and less hierarchical cultures, the Imago Dei provides the currency for both to honour women. In the Imago Dei, Christians have the theological resources to pursue the flourishing of women. ‘When unbelievers look at the church, if they are to see Christ with any clarity, they must see women flourishing’, she concludes.
‘More that 40 million people were victims of modern slavery in 2016’, writes Kit Ripley (program advisor at the New Life Center Foundation in northern Thailand). Some 71 percent of them were women and girls. Drawing from over 30 years of grass-roots experience , the New Life Center Foundation has gained a unique perspective on providing aftercare services for survivors of trafficking and other kinds of trauma. The following principles may be adapted to fit other ministry contexts. If you serve in a cross-cultural setting, it is important to work collaboratively with locals from the people group you are serving. Organizational programming should never become rigid and policy-driven: each survivor has distinctive needs. One of the key tasks for survivors of trauma is building resilience: social competence is developed within the context of community systems. If reintegration with family is possible, every effort should be made to achieve it. It is not helpful to create a program simply because a particular donor wishes to fund it. Working with survivors of trauma is not easy, but it is purposeful and rewarding. Evangelical Christians should be at the forefront of providing quality aftercare for survivors of trafficking and trauma. ‘As we invest in the healing and restoration of survivors, we reflect the compassionate nature of God and offer a glimpse into that coming kingdom in which all will be made well’, she concludes.
‘Many Christians in the West think that they are in a position to know what Islam is, and that the jihadi Islam of Islamic State is nearer to “true Islam” or “real Islam” than so-called “moderate Islam”’, write Colin Chapman (author and lecturer in Islamic studies) and John Azumah (Professor of World Christianity and Islam at Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, Georgia). When there have been so many recent examples of jihadi violence in different countries, it is easy to conclude that it tells us something about the essential nature of Islam. Many Muslims have sympathy—either openly or secretly—with some of the objectives of political Islam. However, the vast majority dissociate themselves from jihadism and regard it as a complete distortion of Islam. Moreover, while texts are important, they cannot be taken in isolation from all the other factors which contribute to jihadism. Some of them are historical, political, social, economic, religious, and psychological. Some jihadis who have come from Europe to join IS may have known little about Islamic ideology or the Qur’an. Trying to understand the many different motives does not mean justifying murderous actions. Many Christians are very ignorant about Islam. We need to own up to our stereotypes of Muslims and our prejudices. While not excusing violence, we may need to acknowledge that in some cases Muslims have good reason to be angry. ‘The grace approach is sufficient to reach Muslims’, they conclude.
We hope that you find this issue stimulating and useful. Our aim is to deliver strategic and credible analysis, information and insight so that as a leader you will be better equipped for the task of world evangelization. It’s our desire that the analysis of current and future trends and developments will help you and your team make better decisions about the stewardship of all that God has entrusted to your care.
Please send any questions and comments about this issue to [email protected]. The next issue of The Lausanne Global Analysis will be released in September.