As 2019 unfolds we shall see whether the global ascendency of “big men” – so-called “strong” leaders, emperors and would-be emperors, determined to secure their own power and prestige through recourse to populist national and xenophobic sentiment – continues to flow or begins to ebb. But a return to the dominance of a rules-based liberal global order is by no means assured.
Geopolitics never sleeps. Power is a restless prowling tiger. And its brutal exercise makes injustice and oppression both inevitable and endemic. It is part of the broken nature of our world, part of the structure of human society; a disrupting thread that snakes its way across time and space cutting through our international order, haunting our nations and cultures and distorting and corrupting our personal lives.
It threatens. It generates fear. It prevents and constrains the flourishing of good and of freedom. Very often, it erupts into violence and persecution. It lays waste. It kills.
Churches and Christian leaders must be utterly realistic and face such hard truths about our world, unflinchingly. And simply waiting, passively, to see how things unfold is not, cannot be, an option for God’s people.
Rather we are called to become communities of resistance and hope. Places of courage and solidarity, speaking out for a vision in which humble service of the disenfranchised and marginal replaces concerns of hierarchy and status; where competitive ambition and arrogance are rooted out, overturned and rejected in favour of a community of genuine sisters and brothers bound to one another by relationships of equality and mutuality, equal before the cross rather than subject to the world’s judgement.
That vision requires people to speak up and speak out, to challenge the powerful and the violent. In short: to embrace the call to be prophetic.
We must recall, treasure and seek inspiration from our recent past, from events in living memory. The Anglican Communion has seen many examples down the years of courageous witness and creative response to power and violence. A small handful of examples:
- In Seoul in 1987, protests radiating from the Anglican Cathedral saw the demise of the military regime and ushered in the transition to a civilian government.
- In the courage of Archbishop Desmond Tutu during the 1970s and 1980s in opposing the abomination of apartheid, but also those who would “necklace” state informers.
- In the energy and creativity of Bishop Dinis Sengulane of Lemombo, who played a key role in ending the Mozambican civil war in 1992 and promoted an arms amnesty which saw the surrender of 600,000 weapons.
As we seek to stand in solidarity with those of our Anglican brothers and sisters across the Communion today boldly and courageously witnessing to their faith in challenging circumstances, so inspired by those who have gone before, we too are called by Christ to speak out for the kingdom: to speak with a prophetic voice that denounces injustice and inhumanity in all its forms and to articulate an enriched vision for our future together, in this, God’s world.
First published in Anglican Communion News Service on 29 January 2019.Jump to next article