Welcome to the July issue of Lausanne Global Analysis (our 40th issue!), which is also available in Portuguese and Spanish. We look forward to your feedback on it.
In this issue, Africa features strongly. We ask how the church can respond adequately to the current wave of terror attacks in Nigeria and elsewhere; and we seek to learn lessons from Uganda on how Christians can help with reintegration of girl child soldiers. We also ask how we can develop new approaches to immigrant-majority world church relations in the West; and we consider how virtual meetings are changing the dynamics of global collaboration among Christians.
‘Fifteen-year old Leah Sharibu’s refusal to deny Christ and convert to Islam, which cost her freedom, exemplifies what Christians are going through in Nigeria’, writes Gideon Para-Mallam (IFES Ambassador for World Assembly 2019). The persecution occurs in systemic, institutionalized, and direct forms. The church in Nigeria has one of the most dynamic evangelical and missionary movements in Africa and indeed the world, but these attacks pose an existential threat to it, with wider implications for world evangelization. Many young Christians are discouraged by systemic injustice and the lack of government redress. Northern Christians who have endured decades of persecution and who have been willing to die for their faith, are beginning to experience discouragement. At the same time, the attacks have not succeeded in deterring many Christians from going to church. Many people choose rather to die than to deny their faith in Christ. Global Christians need to demonstrate the ministry of presence: prayer support and physical visits to the persecuted church. The author proposes concrete steps, inspired by the Nehemiac Model, to guide the church to respond these terror attacks and to thrive. Terrorism in West Africa thrives on religion, ignorance, and social disaffection. The youth across the religious and ethnic divide need to be united in working to address this existential challenge. We cannot wait for governments to end the cycle of violence in our communities and nations. We each have a role to play. ‘Thankfully, the church’s hope in Nigeria remains firmly rooted in the God who promised “I will not leave nor forsake you” ’, he concludes.
‘Between 1985 and 2005 in Uganda, tens of thousands of girls were abducted, raped, and forcibly conscripted into the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)’, writes Bonnie Hatcher (advocate for children). During their captivity, these girls suffered unimaginable sexual and physical violence as ‘forced wives’ to commanders and ‘forced mothers’ to their children. These and other harmful practices were a re-enactment of prevalent social norms and gendered biases deeply rooted in the patriarchal structure of Uganda’s culture. Post-conflict Uganda presents girl child-soldiers with a social dilemma whereby societal norms reject them, and they are excluded based on the effects of their wartime traumatization. Both are challenges to their successful reintegration into a normal life. Therefore, reintegration must incorporate a gendered approach that is sensitive to the implications of societal gender biases and stigmas. Without a gendered approach, successful reintegration will remain a difficult task for many girls and continue to perpetuate their traumatization in the aftermath of war. Uganda is now ripe for gospel seeds to be planted and watered. It may be that God is presenting the church with an opportunity to empower future generations of girls and women to overcome the gendered oppression of a patriarchal society. Christian NGOs must ensure that the human rights of all girl child-soldiers are restored with dignity. ‘Investments in the reintegration of girl child-soldiers into society will empower future generations of girls and women to contribute to the rebuilding of communities in which all people can live in peace with dignity and prosperity’, she concludes.
‘The emergence of migrant churches in neighborhoods of Western cities is not an uncommon phenomenon’ writes Stian Eriksen (assistant professor at VID Specialized University in Stavanger, Norway). Although migrant churches often go ‘under the radar’ in church statistics and public discourses, these churches represent a majority of new churches planted in recent decades. Beyond diversity, in what ways do they challenge Western churches and established church landscapes? Discussing migrant churches means more than considering ‘another church’ but engaging with the complexities of global religion and migration in our time. It is not difficult to identify tangible hurdles to be addressed. The intercultural challenge relates to how we get to know each other and overcome cultural differences to live lives enriched by each other. The theological challenge relates to how faith can become a resource in crossing these boundaries. What then can be done to avoid immigrant and Western churches remaining in their ethnic and cultural enclaves? The author suggests some brief points that may provide opportunities for social innovation as well as discipleship. Perhaps the Thy Kingdom Come prayer movement in the United Kingdom can provide one living example of friend-building efforts across cultural and theological differences. Started as a small initiative in 2016 by the Church of England, the movement has grown to involve churches of many denominations and in several nations. Also, through joint prayer, majority churches and immigrant churches have found a common vision for joining hands and hearts for ‘the renewal of the nations and the transformation of communities.’ ‘Are we up for the challenge?’, Eriksen asks.
‘In recent years, Christians around the world collaborating on ministry and mission have decided, in vast numbers, to skip conferences and face-to-face gatherings, and, instead meet virtually’, write David Hackett (Director of the Middle East and North Africa Region, visionSynergy) and Michael Kaspar (Director of Global Initiatives, visionSynergy). This has been a boon for global interaction between East and West, North and South, at levels never before envisioned. It is likely that the next time ministry leaders become part of a task group, they will be invited to join its virtual version and be expected to continue the conversational work online. These virtual meetings are held on a web page link or in an app. Virtual ministry teams are moving projects forward and making decisions together, expressly due to their routine use of virtual connections. An increasing number of in-person meetings are welcoming virtual participants as more than just observers. Christian ministries around the globe have seized on the advantages of virtual classrooms through online, interactive learning. Struggling churches among people groups where there is persecution of Christians have been forerunners of those turning to virtual connections for fellowship, discipleship, and faith-building times together. Finally, a new crop of ministry tools is focused on bringing together Christian ministry leaders so that they can connect and communicate virtually even though they may be separated by great distances. This new fact of frequent virtual meetings to facilitate global collaboration among Christians is the result of several drivers that explain, in part, what is happening to this communication space. ‘Even advocates for face-to-face meetings allow that virtual meetings have their place’, 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 Lausanne Global Analysis will be released in September.