I had a presentation from Open Doors a few days ago which really didn’t resonate with me at all. I heard about the 66 countries where Christians is being persecuted, and some alarms went of. Mexico (94% Christian), Colombia (95% Christian), Peru (90% Christian) is all on the list. Sub-Sahara Africa is on one of the lists, one of the growth points of the church in the world at the moment (figures taken from Operation World book), and he couldn’t really explain why this is so (except for a short comment about Roman Catholics persecuting Christians in Latin America…).

But my discomfort grew as time went on, and I started wondering WWJD (What Would Jesus Do/Deconstruct).

The world is a battlefield of religious, ideological, gender related, class related, race related persecution. A reality which we have to fight with everything in us. But I struggle to imagine a Jesus who would fight against the persecution of only one religious group. I struggle to imagine a Jesus talking about the persecution of Christians without mentioning the persecution by Christians (and since Open Doors doesn’t limit itself to institutionalized persecution, but include what happens on a local or even personal level, persecution by Christians should also make out a long list on their website).

If we stick to fighting for our own, we are misunderstanging Luke 4 completely! God cares about the other, the outsider, those who are different. From a different nationality, and, in Luke 4 and the Jewish world, from a different religious background.

If only my friend from Open Doors would have told me about religious persecution, about human rights violations because of lack of religious freedom, we would have had much to talk about. But now he sound more like the Sanhedrin of olds, working for the protections of their own against Roman religious persecution, than Jesus that was nearly killed in Nazareth because he was preaching about a better world for all.

filmmakers against racism

August 30, 2008

The 3continents film festival is showing a number of films on human rights at Nouveau’s around Gauteng at the moment. Many of these films are shown only once at each location. Sadly I didn’t follow the Nouveau the past few weeks, been in too much of a hurry, so I only found out about it now, and next week I will be at the Northern Synod for a few days, so will miss whole lot more

On Monday at 20:00 Filmmakers Against Racism 1 is showing at Brooklyn Nouveau, a documentary with the Xenophobic attacks as it’s focus. These were produces by filmmakers that committed themselves to make films that speak of the issue, and portray some of the stories of what happened. You can book your ticket at www.sterkinekor.com. Let me know if you are going, maybe we can organize a discussion afterwards. Just send me a mail of SMS, of leave a comment here.

Click more to get more info on what the different short films will be about…

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I’m not a human rights expert, so maybe I got this all wrong. But in our context at least, I think I got it right: Does humanism and human rights have anything to do with each other? Human rights isn’t received very positively in our Afrikaner Calvinist communities. In the common tongue it’s associated with “criminal rights”, protecting criminals who actually took away worse rights from others. And this is not the religious or political right only! Now, South Africa do have the second most liberal official understanding of human rights in the world (second to The Netherlands only), so maybe people anywhere wouldn’t have been that fond of our way of doing, I don’t know, I’m just observing for now.

Humanism is not being thought of very positively either. It’s associated with atheism generally. I remember times when I’ve been talking about social justice, that Christians would say that we must just be wary that we are not “only humanising” society, instead of “Christianizing” (obviously, my own choice of capital letter probably point out that I have my biases as well). Again, this is not only the evangelicals, but steady, mainline reformed Christians who are actively searching for social justice.

So, do the church have anything to say about human rights? About humanism? My first reactions when I heard these kind of sayings was that as Christians we should at least be humanists, at least take human rights very seriously. A few years later, I still think the same things. Maybe this was the reason I found it quite interesting when a lecturer told me the other day that Barth in his theology said that we should work for the humanization of society. I actually read a paper Barth delivered shortly after WW2, but forgot about it until that comment. What I remember is a very strong Christian approach (although this was delivered at a secular converence on humanization), but a very strong voice saying that the church has something to say about humanism, about the humanization of society.

I say this still sitting within a tradition that know the evangelicals very well, and that know christendom very well, and that sometimes forget that the ideals associated with these is gone. Within this new world, what should the church do? In South Africa the government is realizing that churches actually has abilities to help with the humanizing of society which the state do not. We have an infrastructure which the state do not. And should we play this role? Yes and no…

But for today, I’ll stick with yes. Yes, we need to work for the humanization of society, and we need to do this together with humanist organization, with human rights groups, we are fighting for the same thing. We need to do what we can, in South Africa also where the are of government cannot reach. There is a no, which says that we still need to be a critical voice, although a positive critical voice, and that we should not simply become the social work arm of a government, this church-state relations have cost us dearly, but I’ll leave that for another day.

We need to be a critical voice, a voice for the voiceless, for those who cannot speak for themselves. The strangers in our land, the strangers in our neighbouring country. We need to be a voice against governments when they do not recognize peoples human rights, do not recognize the humanization of society. But on the other hand we need to work with everyone else in the common goal of humanizing society.

This post is part of the May 2008 synchroblog on human rights, and below you will also find a list of the other synchroblog contributions from a group of Christian bloggers who post on the same general topic on the same day. We also join thousands of other bloggers around the world in blogging for human rights.

Other Synchrobloggers

And for a list of some of the other “Bloggers unite” posts, click here

It’s been years now since we started talking about Zimbabwe. I remember hearing the stories of farmers being forced from their farms, even of farmers being killed. I still think it was a crime, and I still think it was quite stupid and didn’t help the country at all. But life went on, the farmers lost their farms, they got new farms in Australië, or new jobs somewhere. Somehow, throughout all this, I still thought that much worse problems was going on in the world. But I think that might have changed:

The evening after first hearing about the ship full of weapons on it’s way to Zimbabwe, I told my flatmate that: “now, for the first time, I am really worried about Zimbabwe”. At that point I started thinking about Rwanda, Uganda, and the other worst case stories of Africa. Could it be? Is this really where Zimbabwe is heading?

Yesterday I’ve been hearing some of the stories about the current situation in Zimbabwe. The personal accounts stand out more than the news. One pastor told about people he know very well who actually are still farming in Zimbabwe. ZANU-PF (Robert Mugabe’s party) are doing “voters education” on the farms. So they had to leave and go stay in town, so that ZANU-PF could “educate” the workers. This education involved the chopping of of fingers, of hands, the cutting of of lips…

Arthur sent me a mail yesterday with an article written by a friend of his who was there, the photo’s ain’t nice…

The things which happened over the past years in Zimbabwe was bad. It was really bad. But when we all thought that Zimbabwe has hit rock-bottom. When we thought that now the people would throw out Mugabe and start something new, it got worse! We assumed that Morgan Tsvangirai will win the election. A friend who is onto economy and things like that said a few weeks ago that within 5 years a lot could again be back on track in Zimbabwe… that idea has changed.

What do we do? What should the church do?

Our denomination has started a project to help feed Zimbabwe. We made an arrangement with Makro to pack crates of food which is then sent to Zimbabwe and can be picked up be church leaders there to help the people of Zimbabwe. Currently a crate cost R15000 (approximately $2000). This certainly is needed, and even if political problems stop today, would still be needed for quite some time. Anyone interested in contributing to this could mail Dr Gustav Claasen.

I think the church have a mayor role to play in forming people thoughts on this. We need to talk politics in church! We can no longer turn our heads away. How about using Hotel Rwanda, Last King of Scotland or The Interpreter and discussing the Zimbabwean situation along with them. After first seeing The Interpreter I remember thinking that this is telling the story of Zimbabwe (that was some years ago). Today I fear that Last King of Scotland, or worse still, even Hotel Rwanda might be telling the story of what is approaching in Zimbabwe! For more information on Zimbabwe you could also visit this site posting updates on the Zimbabwe Situation, or this blog from a Civic Action Group keeping you up to date on the situation in Zimbabwe.

But what next? Is it maybe time for the church to start saying out loud that the world powers should play a much stronger role in Zimbabwe? Could it be time that the United Nations step in in Zimbabwe? Should the large church organization, the World Council of Churches and the Roman Catholic Church not say very loud that “enough is enough!“? What about other faith or philosophical traditions, almost all of these would agree that what is going in is deeply unethical. I’m not a politician, and surely don’t understand everything. But I do know a little bit about ethics, and I know that the right to self-government should be respected, and that Zimbabweans should have the opportunity to govern themselves, and do things in their way, which might differ from developed countries. But I also know that the right to life had priority over the right to self-government. And when this right is taken from the people of Zimbabwe, how long can the world take part in active non-participation?

If your not taking part in this months bloggers unite yet, I urge you to join in. On Wednesday bloggers all over the world would be joining hands to blog about human rights. And when blogging about human rights, remember Zimbabwe.

Let us be a voice for the voiceless…