For the peace of Jerusalem

By Lauren R. Stanley

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls.’”

That prayer from Psalm 122 always resonates deeply within me, because I pray for peace in the Middle East on a daily basis. I do love Jerusalem, and I do want peace with her walls. But my prayers don’t stop there; this psalm leads me on a journey that circles the world, touching down in other places, especially those I know and love, where strife threatens the peace and prosperity of their peoples.

On the first Sunday of Advent, my prayers turned specifically to two nations in desperate need: Sudan, with a vote looming in January that will decide the future of that war-torn nation, and Haiti, which held national elections on Sunday that were disputed even before the polls had closed.

Both nations have suffered for seemingly forever. Both are plagued by problems that seem overwhelming. Both are plagued by those who do not care, or care enough, about the people, by those who fear peace because they would lose their power, their riches, their exalted places.

Sudan’s situation is desperate because the referendum in January could lead to renewed warfare. The South will be voting on whether to become an independent nation, which the North does not want. The military on both sides is armed and ready. Already, there has been violence. The people, who want to be left alone to live in peace, who would love to experience even a smidgeon of prosperity, know how precarious their situation. But their difficulties have not stopped them from dreaming of a new, different and better future for their children. They pray – and work – for peace every single day.

In Haiti, the national elections held on Sunday have resulted only in confusion and accusations. The people have been oppressed and maltreated for their entire history on that island. Cholera, which hasn’t been documented there in decades, is ripping through the country; 1,600 already are dead, tens of thousands are affected, and up to 200,000 more may become ill. Fifteen percent of the country – more than 1.5 million people – still lives in the tent cities and camps that sprang up after the devastating earthquake last January. The government has failed to provide leadership, the rubble still remains in the streets, and the country has barely begun to recover. Yet there, too, the people pray – and work – for peace every single day.

Often, when I talk with people here about what is happening in those countries, about how we have to pray for peace within their walls as we pray for peace within Jerusalem’s, I am met with deep sighs, resigned shrugs and defeated attitudes.

Sigh. Shrug. “Will they ever stop fighting?” Sigh. Shrug. “Is it ever going to get better?”

I admit, I get frustrated with those sighs, shrugs and attitudes even as I understand them. I don’t have the answers people want to hear; I don’t have a “plan” that will solve the problems, a “vision” that will miraculously end the strife. I, too, often want to sigh, to shrug, to admit defeat.

But when I think of the people in both lands, people I love and respect, I realize that simply because the situations are difficult beyond compare, I can’t walk away from them. And I certainly can’t stop praying for them.

The people in both lands would not be criticized for giving up. Yet they refuse to do so.

And because they don’t, I won’t. So I lift my prayers for peace daily, and use those prayers to guide me as I do what I can to help turn those prayers into reality.

That’s what prayer does, at least for me. First, it takes me on a journey, from person to person, place to place. Then, it helps clarify for me what I need to do.

With Sudan and Haiti, my prayers lead me to continue to tell the stories of these long-suffering people, to make sure they are not forgotten, to make sure that we, who live so far away in such different and vastly better circumstances, do not let the people of either land disappear from the front pages of our hearts.

Yes, the Sudanese have been fighting for decades; yes, Haiti is a mess, all across the board. But the people of both lands are doing their best; they are being faithful; they are filled with hope. Their prayers are not centered on having too much, but rather, enough. Enough peace so they can live without fear. Enough peace so that they can have a tad of prosperity.

So every day, I pray: For the peace of Jerusalem. For the peace of Sudan. For the peace of Haiti. That those who love them will prosper.

The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley is a priest of the Diocese of Virginia. Her web site is www.gointotheworld.net.

The Church and the state of gay rights in Kenya

By Peter Anaminyi

In a recent address last month to a national symposium on HIV/Aids targeting homosexuals, lesbians and sex workers in Kenya, Hon Esther Murugi, a Minister in the Office of the President in Kenya, told the participants that “We need to learn to live with men who have sex with other men… we are in the 21st century and things have changed.”

She went on to say that homosexuals and sex workers were an independent constituency and should not be stigmatised and called for statistics to enable the government to develop a policy to cut prevalence rates among the group.

The reaction of religious leaders was predictable, virulent, violent and swift.

The Organising Secretary of the Council of Imams and Preachers described her utterances as “satanic and contrary to African culture” and added that “God in his holy books (Quran and Bible) cursed homosexuality and directed us to fight it.’ He went on to urge the President and the Prime Minister to take stern action against the minister. His comments were supported by the Chairman of the Kenya National Muslim Advisory Council.

Not to be left behind more than 74 churches under the aegis of the Federation of Evangelical Indigenous Christian Churches of Kenya petitioned the President to sack the minister over her remarks and threatened to hold public demonstrations if this was not done. They warned that the Ministers statement would invite God’s wrath.

However a week or so after the minister’s statement, the Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs added what must have come as a shocker to some members of the religious community: the Government was not going to discriminate against gays in the provision of services. It’s against the new constitution. What people do in their bedrooms should be a private matter.

Homophobia however is not unique to Africa, as the recent suicide ofTyler Clementi, the 18 year old Rutgers University freshman who felt he would rather commit suicide than have people know that he is gay, has shown.

Kenya Government statistics show that over 30 percent of all new HIV infections are generated by commercial sex workers, homosexuals and drug users. All these groups are engaged in sexual and other behaviors that are currently criminalised. An HIV prevention policy therefore that assumes that 30 percent of the problem to be solved does not or should not exist would be one that is based on wishful thinking.

Almost 30 years after the first incidence of HV was reported, 35 out of 52 African countries or almost 70 percent of them were unable to report any information about gay populations to the United Nations General Assembly Session of HIV/AIDS (UNGASS) this year.

Again whereas the Centre for Disease Control has found that the unadjusted probability per coital act of transmitting HIV is 80 times higher for receptive anal intercourse than for vaginal intercourse, and that the rate of new HIV diagnoses among men who have sex with
men (MSM) is more than 44 times that of other men and more than 40 times that of women, the risk of homosexual behaviour in relation to HIV in Sub Saharan Africa has been measured in only 14 out of 118 studies reported between 1984-2007.

No responsible government can allow this state of wilful ignorancev and inaction to prevail. The Kenya government is therefore pursuing an evidence based policy in addressing the issue of HIV and sexual minorities through it’s National Aids Strategic Plan. This plan is a product of the Kenya National Aids Council whose corporate members include all the main Christian religious denominations in Kenya who are represented on its board by the National Council of Churches in Kenya, as well as the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims, and the national associations representing all employers, NGO’s and women organisations. It is not possible to constitute a membership that is wider, stronger or more reflective of the state, civil society and religious interests.

The Plan fully embraces the gay community and organisations that have expertise in this area and commits the government to addressing the delicate and controversial issues of decriminalization and access to services. Significantly the plan states that Cutting across all
strategies will be a central focus on MARPs (Most at Risk Populations: gays, sex workers and injecting drug users) and vulnerable groups.

In compliance with its international human rights treaty obligations, the Kenya Government presented its second periodic report on compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 2005, to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, and cited the differences and conflicts within the Anglican Church and communion and the strong homophobic stance of the African Anglican Bishops as one of the factors it was considering in framing its policy towards same sex relations.

In response to a question as to whether it considered the criminalisation of homosexuality to be inconsistent with the Covenant’s non-discrimination clauses, Kenya’s Attorney General said that ‘The movement appeared to be towards tolerance, but the Government would watch the issue closely, particularly as the Anglican Church was currently struggling with the matter.’

However in response to calls this year for decriminalization of homosexuality by the US, France, Netherlands and 97 national international development organisations in Kenya, the UN reported that the Kenya government said it was ‘Committed to decriminalize them and combat discrimination, but facing serious social intolerance towards homosexuals’. And in its report to the United Nations General Assembly Session of HIV/AIDS this year, the Government recommended the revision and harmonization of health and criminal laws ‘so that all the issues of HIV and AIDS that are affecting the MARPs (Most at risk populations)… are addressed.’

The Anglican Church of Kenya is represented on the Kenya National Aids Council by the ational Council of Churches in Kenya. In fact the Anglican Church is the largest denominational member of this Council.

The violent attacks on Kenya’s minister are an indication of the fears African governments have about adopting evidence based approaches in dealing with HIV and AIDS due to culture and religion. They are also an indication of the inability of some churches to distinguish between moral values that should guide their members and public policy that guides all. But how will Africa’s cultural values and religion exist if its people are dead from the consequences of taking the same values and beliefs uncritically? Kenya is prepared to work with any individual or organisation, local or international to address to the human rights and health issues of its gay communities and other sexual minorities.

Peter Anaminyi is the National Director/CEO Feba Radio Kenya and formerly a Manager
with the National Bank of Kenya and Assistant Inspector of State Corporations, Office of the
President, Kenya. He holds an MA in Management from the University of Leeds, in England
an M.Sc in International Banking and Financial Studies from Herriot Watt University in
Scotland and an MA in human rights law and diplomacy from the University of
Witwatersrand in South Africa. The views expressed are his own and do not reflect the views
of Feba Radio, Kenya.

Work, pray, give

By George Clifford

Haiti’s recent devastating earthquake prompted me to ruminate some about responding to disasters by giving and praying.

Photos and videos of the aftermath convey some sense of the earthquake’s destructive power. Yet how can most of us comprehend a death toll of 45,000-50,000? My parish has 800 members. My high school had 1600 students. My hometown had roughly 5000 residents. A nearby community has approximately 55,000 citizens. Even after making those comparisons, I struggle to grasp the immensity of the earthquake’s human cost.

History suggests that the immediate outpouring of funds and prayers to aid Haiti will fall well short of the need and quickly taper off. Part of the shortfall assuredly results from our difficulty in understanding the vast sums of aid that Haiti needs. Another factor is distance. For the most part, potential donors know few people (if anyone) who live in Haiti; new concerns will soon cry out for our attention, pushing aside current ones, especially concerns that we do not personally see. Donor fatigue is still another factor.

Underneath those and perhaps other factors lies a basic aspect of human nature. Human beings, according to scientific research, seem genetically predisposed toward reciprocal altruism. Humans help others expecting that the giver, in a time of need, will receive aid. The aid may come from those the person has directly helped or from people within a broader community of mutual interdependence. Mutual aid within a nuclear family, an extended family, a parish, and even a nation exemplify the expanding circles to which and from which the reciprocal altruistic can reasonably expect to give and receive aid. In the case of Haiti, aid goes to the geographic area that constitutes numerically largest diocese in the Episcopal Church, i.e., many Episcopalians will aid fellow Episcopalians.

Three hundred years ago, a natural disaster prompted little international outpouring of aid. Since then, the level of those efforts has gradually increased, perhaps in no small measure because of religious influences, especially Christian ones. In other words, perhaps the world is on a trajectory toward a global community characterized by reciprocal altruism. Certainly, one can point to many contrary signs. However, the prospects for a peaceful world apart from reciprocal altruism seem dim. Reliance on arms, necessary to some extent in the short run, arguably represent a greater prospect for mutual destruction than peace.

Prayer is no panacea. If prayer fixed everything, then the world would be a much better place and donor fatigue would never occur. Disasters might happen but praying people would telescope rescue, relief, and recovery into the rapid and complete restoration to wholeness of all effected. Contrary to the popular ranting of prosperity gospel preachers, prayer simply and obviously does not work that way.

Yet aid alone – even apart from corruption, misuse, and well-intended but ineffectual endeavors – is insufficient. Effectual disaster response also requires prayer. Psychologically, praying focuses the attention of those praying on the need or persons for whom prayer is offered. Continuing to intercede or give thanks for that person or group, sustains that focus to a greater or lesser degree, depending upon the intensity and frequency of prayer and competing claims. Ongoing prayer, if nothing else, ensures that we do not forget the needs of disaster victims.

Prayer, however, is not merely about the psychological dynamics of the person praying. Prayer connects people with God and one another across the spatio-temporal matrix. In some way that I do not pretend to understand, prayer establishes or enhances a relationship between the one praying and the one for whom prayer is offered. Process theologians may conceptualize this happening in God's mind; Christian theologians more rooted in historic formulations may conceptualize this relationship happening through divine intervention in the world. Proving the connection occurs let alone explaining the mechanisms by which it happens lies well beyond the frontiers of human knowledge. Nevertheless, praying for others makes a difference in the wake of disaster. Our prayers, coupled with gifts of labor, money, and other resources, lovingly expedite restoration.

Prayer is also vital to the work of restoring to wholeness communities hit by disaster because prayer is the only real antidote to donor fatigue. Jesus faced incredible odds in his ministry of declaring, incarnating, God's unconditional and enduring love for all. He persevered in that mission at the cost of his life. His grave could not contain that love. A significant number of people who encountered him experienced God's life giving love so powerfully that they were permanently changed. The Church was born and the world set on a different course. The gospels, with all of their differences and rich ambiguities, consistently depict Jesus as a person of prayer, spending substantial amounts of time in solitary meditation and prayer.

To sustain my commitment to loving others for the long-term and in spite of numerous obstacles, I emulate Jesus’ spiritual praxis. Praying for disaster victims in Haiti and elsewhere focuses my attention on them and their needs for the long-term, establishes/enhances a spiritual connection with them, and helps me to have wisdom, courage, and strength equal to the task of restoration. That alone is the cure for donor fatigue. The God who created us with a genetic predisposition for reciprocal altruism also created all people, endowing each with a spiritual nature through which we can connect to God and to one another. This was the way of Jesus.

The Rev. Dr. George Clifford, Diocese of North Carolina, served as a Navy chaplain for twenty-four years He taught philosophy at the U. S. Naval Academy and ethics at the Postgraduate School. He serves as priest in charge at the Church of the Nativity in Raleigh and blogs at Ethical Musings.

Haiti: Sustaining hope amidst squalor

By Matt Gobush

Mention Haiti and images of overcrowded shantytowns, fleeing boatpeople or voodoo dolls come to mind. To borrow from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, it is a land that has been seen by Americans “through a glass, darkly” ever since rebellious slaves established the world’s first black republic there more than two hundred years ago.

Many would be surprised to learn, however, that Haiti is home to the largest and, by some measures, the strongest diocese within the Episcopal Church. This certainly came as a surprise to me when I accompanied Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on her pastoral visit to the Diocese of Haiti last November. Our five-day pilgrimage, in fact, was filled with the unexpected.

Not unexpected were the impoverished conditions we saw during our trip. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with 80 percent of its seven million citizens struggling to survive on less than two dollars a day. Over half of Haitians are illiterate and 80 percent unemployed. About 42 percent of Haitian children under age five are malnourished, and nearly all are medically underserved, with only one doctor available for every 10,000 citizens.

These grim figures are reflected in the sad images that greeted us when we arrived: ravines honeycombed with cinder block slums; gnarled streets choked with traffic and littered with debris; roadside landfills crawling with scavenging children and farm animals; hillsides shorn of vegetation and carved by primitive farm tools; and dilapidated bridges are puddled with floodwaters from raging rivers that recently submerged them.

One would expect a dispirited people and dysfunctional church to inhabit a country in such desperate straits. Our traveling party discovered, however, that despite history’s hardships, hope springs eternal among the Haitian people, and the Spirit dwells within the Episcopal diocese there. Throughout our trip, we bore unexpected witness to Haiti’s proud heritage, intrepid spirit and deep faith.

These qualities have helped make the Diocese of Haiti one of the crown jewels of our communion. Although the Episcopal Church is mostly comprised of congregations within the United States, it is truly an international church, with dioceses found from Honduras to Europe, Hong Kong to Haiti. Haiti is the largest diocese overall, ministering to more souls and administering more institutions than any other.

Education has been the diocese’s primary ministry since it was founded in 1861 by Bishop James Theodore Holly, a native of Washington, D.C., who said, “To use the Bible and Prayer Book, one at least must know how to read.” In a country where public schools serve only 15 percent of the youth, the Episcopal Church plays a crucial role in providing young Haitians with knowledge, skills, and Christian education to find gainful employment and reinvest in their native country. The diocese currently manages 254 schools educating more than 80,000 young people. There are nearly two educational institutions for every congregation – a ratio second to none throughout the entire Church.

The diocese performs the Church’s healing ministry in Haiti through numerous health clinics and medical facilities, including the nation’s only hospital and school devoted to handicapped children, and its first nursing school, which will graduate its inaugural class next year. God’s glory is also reflected in the ministry of the Holy Trinity Philharmonic Orchestra, the pride of Haiti’s music community.

The Episcopal Church’s success in Haiti is due to its strong leadership, vital partnerships with dioceses in the United States, and unique standing in Haitian society. Its clear leadership structure enables it to be a responsive and responsible partner with the government and non-governmental organizations; its autonomy gives it the local latitude to effectively address Haiti’s unique challenges. As a result, as President Rene Preval noted in his meeting with our group, the “church often has greater credibility than the state.”

Haiti’s bishop, the Right Rev. Jean Zache Duracin, makes clear that the diocese’s success is not possible without the prayers, partnerships and financial support of numerous congregations within the wider church. Support from the U.S. government is also crucial to enabling the people of Haiti to regain their footing after a year in which food riots forced the prime minister to resign and four tropical storms wreaked havoc on the economy. Cancellation of Haiti’s $1.3 billion in debt to international lenders and to wealthy countries (including about $20 million in bilateral loans to the U.S. Government) is a moral and economic imperative. Extension of the H.O.P.E. Act providing trade preferences for Haitian exports would also help.

The “glass” Paul refers to in his epistle is not a window, but a mirror. As I traveled through Haiti and the darkness lifted, I realized Episcopalians throughout our church could learn from Haiti – about the blessing of faith and the power of communion to achieve good works during even the most challenges times. It is a lesson we should all reflect upon.

Matt Gobush is a parishioner of Christ Church Georgetown and serves on the Episcopal Church’s Standing Commission for Anglican and International Peace with Justice Concerns. This essay appears in the January/February issue of Washington Window.

Christmas and the ethics of celebration

By Lauren R. Stanley

New York City is a lovely place to be this time of year. Decorations everywhere, lights, lights and more lights, big, colorful signs, special displays in store windows (and special areas set aside on the sidewalks so you can move slowly from window to window) …

It’s fascinating and delightful and designed to bring a smile to your face.

And, like so much else about America, it’s overwhelming and comes with completely unintended consequences.

I love the decorations, truly. I love driving down streets in Virginia and seeing them; coming to New York City at the height of the season is a special treat.

But every time I see the lights, the decorations and the special window displays, that one part of me that is grounded in dirt-poor, dirty Sudan rebels. I wonder at all the money that is spent, all the electricity that is being used (do stores have to put special money in their budgets to cover the added electricity for all those beautiful lights?).

Every time I have this feeling, I realize how much I don’t want to feel this way. I don’t want to be one of those people who live overseas in poor lands who rant and rage at all the excess that is America. After all, I am an American. I’ve lived the majority of my life in this country. I’ve put up the lights and decorations myself; granted, never to the extreme I am seeing on this little trip to New York, but still … this is part of my heritage, my culture, my history.

I remember stringing the lights myself. I recall wonderful nights spent trimming Christmas trees. I’ve decorated my own home and the homes of others. This is part of who I am.

But now my circumstances are different and I live in a small town in South Sudan, where we only have electricity a few hours a day at most, and would never dream of using it for tiny colored lights flashing on and off, changing colors …

Never mind the fact that I am an Episcopal priest, with a current theological focus on Advent, not Christmas. I’m not ready for Christmas yet, because I need this time to move through this season of waiting and watching faithfully.

So in the middle of the wonderful, bright, flashy displays that I see while walking the streets of New York, I struggle. I want to find a place within myself to enjoy that which I see, the gifts that are being offered to me, without forgetting the other part of my life, the one grounded in serving Christ in a faraway place where we don’t have enough of anything, much less the extra needed to decorate lavishly.

Alas, I haven’t yet figured out how to find the balance I seek. I still don’t know how to feel the joy of the season, accelerated as it is by this society, without feeling the angst at the wasted money that, to be honest, we all know could be put to better use.

It’s not that I don’t want to figure this out. I really do want to go Christmas shopping for the children in my family and in my friends’ families, wee ones who expect to get something and for whom a “donation has been made in your name” card isn’t going to cut it. I want to search out the toys, the books, the gift cards for music, and wrap up those gifts nicely and see the joy on the kids’ faces when they find that something special under the tree.

At the same time, I want to make sure I raise enough money to help those in need in Sudan, to take care of my “family” there, to be able to buy medicine for the sick and food for the hungry and clean water for as many people as possible.

But the balance that allows me to enjoy as well as serve – to serve as well as enjoy – still eludes me.

This feeling of being out of balance isn’t limited to New York or Christmas lights, either. It pervades all portions of my life, and is among the biggest struggles I have.

Recently, I watched a TV show in which a doctor/humanitarian in Africa returned to the United States and fell ill. He was ranting and raging about how we actually have all the money we need to care for the sick overseas, how we have the medicines stockpiled in this country, but won’t share them at a cost that poor Africans can afford. When this character took ill, he used his illness to call attention to the poor and needy overseas. He was grandstanding, and knew he was grandstanding, and he was willing to do whatever it took for this cause in which he believed so passionately. Even I was at least a little bit offended by his tactics. He was, I thought, going too far, turning himself into too much of a celebrity.

But part of me worried as well: Am I like that? Do I push too hard (this character truly engaged in ethical emotivisim to make people do what he wanted them to do)? Am I perceived as too “one-track,” unable to see the need elsewhere in this country and around the world?

By the end of the show, I decided that I wasn’t quite like this character, that I have a bit more balance, that I talk more about hope than despair – that I am not “just like him.” That was a comforting thought, but I realize I may have come to that conclusion simply to salve my conscience. Perhaps I am avoiding truths I don’t want to look at too closely.

All these thoughts swirl through my head as I wander the streets of New York these days. I see the displays and smile in wonderment, both at their beauty and at the complete waste of resources that could be much better used for those in tremendous need. And I wonder, too, at how to balance my need for beauty and joy in my life with my need to help those in greater need. I have no answer for this dilemma, not yet.

If nothing else, I do know this: My emotional struggle isn’t going away any time soon.

Which might not be a bad thing after all.

The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley is an Appointed Missionary of the Episcopal Church serving in the Diocese of Renk, Sudan. She is a lecturer at the Renk Theological College, teaching Theology, Greek, Old Testament and English, and serves as chaplain for the students.

Bringing the ONE campaign to life

By Lauren R. Stanley

RENK, Sudan – On my left wrist, I wear two bracelets that I never take off. One is a black-and-white beaded affair that is quite popular in Sudan right now, called ajok, a symbol of the beauty of contrasting colors. The other is the white ONE campaign bracelet, which I have been wearing for over a year.

Recently, one of Sudan’s Episcopal bishops asked about my bracelets. He knew about the ajok bracelet, for it is part of the Dinka tradition and he is from the Dinka tribe. But this other one, he said, pointing to the ONE campaign, what is that?

So I explained that if everyone in the world actually donated1 percent of his or her income, we could end poverty, feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, provide medicine and education, build up local businesses, reduce child mortality, combat deadly diseases and become real stewards of the environment.

In other words, I said, for mere pennies per person per day, we could change the world and help bring about God’s kingdom.

Where would the money go, the bishop immediately asked.

To programs that are proven to work well and that deliver on their promises.

This is a good idea, he said. How can we teach our people this?

So I pointed him to our newest project, the building of water cisterns to catch rainwater from the roof of St. Michael’s Chapel at the Renk Theological College. I pointed to the seemingly huge hole in the ground, dug by an older man named John Tho who showed up every morning and every evening for five days to dig 2 meters down, 1.5 meters around, with perfectly straight sides. John dug that hole, and is digging three others, all by hand, slowly, surely, with great professionalism.

Stanley.jpg

Then I pointed to our contractor, Mohammed, and his two assistants, Solomon and Idriss, young men who are learning the craft of brick-laying and concrete-pouring. Normally, the three of them dig and build pit latrines. These water cisterns are new to them, but the idea of storing water in underground cisterns, where it will stay cool and clean, instead of in 55-gallon plastic barrels or rusted metal tanks, appeals to them. Already, they are thinking of how all this clean water will change the lives of all the people who have access to it.

And I pointed to those who gave life to this project: ECWs in two parishes in Winston Salem, N.C.; two congregations in the Diocese of Virginia; one men’s group in Southwestern Virginia; one family in Northern Virginia; and one individual, who combined their resources to finance underground water cisterns that will catch rainwater off the chapel’s zinc roof.

It’s not a huge project; the funding for the initial work was $5,400. And the cisterns, while good ideas, certainly won’t change the world.

But they will make all the difference to the students and staff at the Renk Theological College, to their families, and to the surrounding neighbors who come to take water from the College. During the rainy season, the White Nile River becomes the “Big Muddy;” the water on which all of us depend often is a dirty brown, and that is after it has been “filtered” at the water plant. It can take up to six months for the river to cleanse itself, during which time anyone drinking from the water, or bathing in it, is exposed to at least a dozen different diseases, many of which are deadly.

Catching the water off the zinc roof of the chapel will mean clean water, possibly for up to six months. During the long dry season, water from the taps (which comes intermittently at best) can be stored in the cisterns, where the silt will settle to the bottom, the water will be clean, and those who depend on it will not have to go without.

That’s the idea behind the ONE campaign: To take a little bit of money and make it go a long way to change the lives of as many people as possible. Nothing big needs to be done; grand plans do not need to be made. Instead, the focus is on little actions that change lives quickly and for the better.

Four contractors, working in brutal heat under a searing sun, are combining their professionalism with the funds and prayers and support from approximately 200 Americans who heard the story of the water shortages here in Renk and decided to do something about it.

That, I told the bishop, is how we make the ONE campaign work: We see the need, tell the story, create partnerships, pray constantly, work together.

Are we changing the world?

Not yet.

But we are changing one small piece of the world, and we are helping a whole lot of people here in Renk.

We think this is a good start.

And we hope – we pray – that once people see how well these cisterns work, they will want to do the same thing, which means we can start a small company here that will specialize in this work, thus providing jobs and training for one group of people, and clean water for another group.

Will we need more partners in this?

Yes. But that’s part of the ONE campaign: Bringing people together in the community in which they have been created, crossing all boundaries because there are no boundaries in God’s very good creation.

Our little informal portion of the ONE campaign is based on our hopes and dreams: We began this project in the hope that it will join people together across 8,000 miles. We are continuing it to help the people in most need right here in Renk. And we dream it continues to grow, with future partners who will fund the purchase of pumps to replace the ropes and buckets we will use at first. Perhaps we will even find the start-up money for a new company.

Whatever happens, we know that with these cisterns, we’ve begun something new among the people of God in the name of God.

The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley is an Appointed Missionary of the Episcopal Church serving in the Diocese of Renk, Sudan. She is a lecturer at the Renk Theological College, teaching Theology, Liturgy and English, and serves as chaplain for the students.

"To Win the New Asia for Christ”

By Frederick Quinn

“To win the New Asia for Christ” was a widely employed missionary concept in the immediate World War II years. But half a century later less than two to five per cent of Asia is Christian. The number is still lower if the predominantly Roman Catholic Philippines is excluded from the count. Having spent time recently in Myanmar, Indonesia, Singapore (as a tourist), and the Philippines (as a lecturer), and after talking with laity and clergy of different denominations, several observations come to mind:

1.) Asia has become a world-class exporter of theology. With the plateauing of major German and English language theological writers, names like the Sri Lankan Catholic Aloysius Pieris, the Taiwanese Protestant C. S. Song, and the New Zealand Anglican, Jenny Te Paa, have gained global recognition for their different contributions.

Pieris for linking the social-economic emphasis of Latin American Liberation theologians with Asia’s poor, whom he contends must be the center of any missionary effort.

Song as a leader in the widespread contextual theology movement that allows individuals and communities to tell their deeply meaningful stories with religious implications, relate them to the life and teachings of Jesus, and from the ground up build theologies derived from them.

Te Paa as a respected voice in the global Anglican Communion. Her bridging of Maori and white New Zealand cultures and their complex race relations serves as a model for similar efforts elsewhere.

2.) Hunger for contact with Western churches is widespread. Priests and laity often shared details of their lives in long and heartfelt detail. An Episcopal Church “Fulbright Program” would have real benefits. While many American parishes, dioceses, and seminaries already have such exchange programs with overseas partners, they could be greatly increased as a way of promoting wider understanding.

3.) On the one occasion when the subject came up, there was real interest in and support for ordaining women and persons of single sex orientation to ministry and episcopacy. Ex: before discussing these issues with a group Asian church leaders, I spent the previous evening rereading To Set Our Hope on Christ, the Episcopal Church’s much-neglected but comprehensive response to the Windsor Report. I expected questions about the biblical justification for such ordinations, but none were forthcoming. Instead, participants (about half women and half men) wanted to hear details of the Episcopal Church’s half-century struggle toward fuller acceptance of women and gays and lesbians as children of God and ministers of the church.

4.) Asians note that Asia’s major religions were long established centuries before Christianity and Islam arrived. As for the latter, one class in the Philippines described numerous cooperative efforts at the local level, such as jointly sponsored primary schools, credit unions, medical clinics, agricultural cooperatives, etc. Following a period of warfare in the southern Philippines, local Roman Catholic bishops and Muslim leaders created a Bishops-Ulama council that meets four times a year.

5.) After witnessing the vitality and diversity of religious expressions in Asia, the Global South Anglican advocacy group’s claims to be representative voices of this vast segment of the developing world appear increasingly thin.

6.) Nor does the oft-invoked North/South divide hold up under scrutiny. Instead, a careful look at different countries reveals multiple social, ethnic, and religious groups defying easy generalization. The observation of Pakistan-born Nobel Prize laureate Amartya Sen in Identity and Violence is apt here that such simplistic generalizations reflect “extraordinary descriptive crudeness and historical innocence. Many of the significant diversities within each civilization are effectively ignored, and interactions between them are substantially overlooked.”

7.) Many deeply devout Asian Christians accept the idea that other valid paths to salvation are represented in the different religions around them. Ex: a leading Indian Christian, Rammon Panikkar, wrote metaphorically of his own religious experience, “I ‘left’ as a Christian, I ‘found’ myself a Hindu, and I ‘return’ a Buddhist, without ever having ceased to be a Christian.” Panikkar is a deeply devout Roman Catholic who over a half century has come to appreciate and use elements of the prayer life and wisdom of other religious traditions. Asian religious pluralism is grounded less in doctrine and more in experience. This includes sustained encounters with other religions, building trust among faith communities, and accepting the different histories and contexts from which they emerge. “We are right side of the brain people,” I was often reminded.

A leading voice in the Asian-American religious encounter, Peter Phan, is a Vietnamese priest who teaches world religions at Georgetown University. Recently he wrote in Being Religious Interreligiously, Asian Perspectives on Interfaith Dialogue, “It is useful to recall that Jesus did not and could not reveal everything to his disciples and that it is the Holy Spirit who will lead them to ‘the complete truth’. It is quite possible that the Holy Spirit will lead the church to the complete truth by means of a dialogue with other religions in which the Spirit is actively present.”

Asia has moved to a new place religiously during the last half-century. New theological voices are emerging, as compelling as their European and American predecessors. It is not a fading West/ Rising East scenario, but one of Westerners broadening their study of and respect for the riches of Asian religions. Rooted deeply in tradition, yet adapted to local settings, Asian Christians seek a wider understanding of the life and ministry of Jesus and a broader exploration of the central concept of the Reign of God.

Focusing on current controversies in the Anglican Communion distorts the wider possibilities of such a potentially rich religious encounter, one that can benefit all participants.

The Rev. Dr. Frederick Quinn is a former chaplain at Washington National Cathedral, a retired Foreign Service Officer, and the author of numerous books on law, history, and religion. His most recent work is The Sum of All Heresies, the Image of Islam in Western Thought (Oxford University Press).

The curious incident of
the mosquito in Africa

By John Chilton

Gregory (Scotland Yard detective): "Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"

Sherlock Holmes: "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."

Gregory: "The dog did nothing in the night-time."

Holmes: "That was the curious incident."

Holmes has already deduced that Gregory arrested the wrong man for murder: that dog would have barked if a stranger had been present at the murder scene. As it turns out, the real murderer knew the dog wouldn’t bark in his presence.

Economists Daron Acemoglu, Simon Johnson and James Robinson examine African poverty and identify the mosquito as the culprit, of sorts. Their analysis is explained for a wider audience in Tim Harford’s new book, The Logic of Life. It is a rather reductive theory and there is no doubt much more complexity to the problem of poverty in Africa. But it is a powerful story none the less.

Malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases kill many children born in Africa. But that is not the explanation these economists give for depravation in Africa. Instead, it is the curious incident of the mosquito that did not bite. For European colonialists malaria was extremely deadly. To avoid being bitten they made a choice: they avoided settling in Africa and settled in safer places, places we now know as the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Lest the reader draw any false conclusions about where this logic is taking us, a detour into the history of economic thought is in order.

We all know that economics is known as the dismal science because it deals with the reality that we live in a world of limited resources. Even so, I have never found economics dismal. The reason is that I understand it to be about how to make the most of our limits. What brightens my outlook even more is that "the how" is most likely to be achieved in a classically liberal context of individual freedom of choice – the pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

However, contrary to what we "know," economics was not labeled the dismal science because it deals with the world of limited resources. It was given that label because economists during the period of classic liberalism assumed that all men (at least) were created equal. Economic science rejected the assumption that some races were superior to others; it rejected drawing the easy but false inference that those who fell behind were either stupid, lazy or lacked virtue. The economists of the classically liberal tradition – Smith, Mill – said, no, the explanation for differences in the wealth of nations (aside, of course, for differences in natural resource endowments) has to do the development of institutions that facilitate mutually beneficial exchange and teamwork. This news was dismal to those who preferred to assume that the economic advancement of their society was explained by their racial superiority – and justified slavery. Economists joined Christian evangelicals of the day in the fight against slavery; they agreed all humans share the same nature and have the same rights.

The institutions that foster mutually beneficial exchange include government-facilitated institutions like property rights, the rule of law, and enforcement of contracts. But government can also hinder beneficial economic exchange. In the extreme, think of a kleptocracy designed to extract wealth any time it is created – it destroys economic incentives to trade or invest. Limiting the power of government to take is part of the formula of the wealth of nations.

The story that the economists Acemoglu, Johnson and Robinson tell lines up with the views of the classical liberal economists about the source of the wealth of nations. In countries where Europeans settled they demanded creation of institutions that fostered mutually beneficial exchange so that all (Europeans, n.b.) had a shot at benefiting. The consequences for indigenous people in these region was clearly adverse. (Aside: the Pilgrims did try a system of communal sharing for a few years; the abandonment of that system is another story, perhaps.)

In countries subject to European colonization, but little European settlement, Europeans set up very different institutions. There, as Harford puts it, they "made the … selfishly rational decision to establish the slave trade … and set up abusive economic systems to exploit the land and people or scrape up as much gold and ivory in the shortest time…. The plantation economies became independent with a political system designed to suck out every cent of short-term gain and funnel it to the guys in charge." (p. 205)

Such systems are corrupt and corrupting – just imagine what it is like to grow up in such a society and how, for example, it influences your attitude towards trusting others and deflates your aspirations for fulfillment. Or consider what it does to the incentive to build a professional reputation. Or consider how the financial disintermediation we are experiencing in the U.S. is influencing our economy at this moment, and imagine how a wariness to invest or make loans is an everyday fact of life in many African countries.

Social systems, particularly abusive ones, are hard to change. The gulf between North and South created by the mosquito has persisted due to the plantation system inherited in Africa from when it was under Northern rule. The next time you find yourself wondering why Africans – be they journalists or farmers or politicians or civil servants or religious leaders – are different, remind yourself they are not different. People are just people. Rather ask yourself how institutions are different, and remind yourself different institutions create different attitudes and incentives. How righteous are you, really?

Dr. John B. Chilton is an economist on a busman's holiday. He has taught at the University of Western Ontario, the University of South Carolina and the American University of Sharjah. He is keeper of The Emirates Economist, a weblog on economic events in the United Arab Emirates and the Gulf.

The stigma of AIDS in
the Global South

By Donald Schell

Traveling in Africa with my wife, Ellen Schell, the International Programs Director of the Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance (GAIA www.thegaia.org) last fall, I had the privilege of meeting the Rev. Fletcher Kaiya, General Secretary of the Baptist Convention of Malawi, enjoying tea in his home, and watching a performance by the chorus of AIDS orphans that he and his wife are raising as their own children. It's through the GAIA connection that I saw this note from Fletcher Kaiya to Bill Rankin, Ellen's boss and President of Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance.

Fletcher writes:

I was recently on the radio with an Assemblies of God pastor, an official from National AIDS Commission and also from Ministry of Health. Our on-the-spot-audience included those that were HIV positive. They had no kind words for the church because they said there is rampant stigma and discrimination, made in secret innuendos, yet preaching the opposite. Some of the audience thought as far as stigma is concerned, the church has done nothing. I could also understand their anger and frustration having been targets of these bad habits by so-called “God's people.” We did not try to defend the church but we cleared the name of Jesus as having been compassionate and kind. If His followers are doing this to those living positively [with HIV], then it is a gross misrepresentation of the Master they claim to represent.

Thank God that others called in and saved our faces by reporting that the majority of the pastors who do that are not trained theologically, or if they are then they are not committed to helping those who are suffering.

They gave me an opportunity to be the last to speak and I took the opportunity to apologize for those that have suffered hurt from churches and I also strongly warned my fellow church leaders that if they do that, they have missed the path Jesus is walking now. For He sympathized and had compassion with the outcasts of His day, be they lepers, tax collectors, prostitutes etc. He was setting an example for His true church to follow. "If we are not following Jesus then it is a misnomer for us to be called the ‘Church’”

Later, I met one person who said he thought the Spirit of God led me to say those words, for they struck deep. I now think that we need to be speaking against this vice on the radio for I did not know that other churches are doing this to their own people.

God bless,
Fletcher

Both as a Christian believer and as a U.S. Episcopal priest, I want the church in the global North to hear voices like Fletcher's. Secular media's simplistic reporting of the great church divide - North vs. South, liberal vs. orthodox, culture Christians vs. Biblically faithful Christians - misses the real anguish and struggle of Christian leaders like Fletcher Kaiya coming to terms with AIDS.

In Africa today, just as in our own church and culture twenty years ago, many people are dealing with AIDS by blaming, judging and scapegoating. Fletcher Kaiya, an open-hearted, generous man has suffered personal losses from AIDS (as nearly everyone in Malawi has). He has spoken repeatedly about AIDS education, encouraging people to get voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) and asking that all of us treat those who suffering from the disease with compassion. In his email, the man who has taken 15 AIDS orphans into his own home, and who has spoken more openly than most about family members dying of AIDS, writes of becoming a lightning rod as AIDS patients (in the anonymous safety of their radio voices) tell the painful story of abuse and scorn they have received in Jesus' name, and of rigidity and judgmentalism preached against them in Jesus' name. Fletcher finds words to acknowledge the church's failure and yet insist that what these sufferers have experienced is also the cruelest possible misrepresentation of the compassionate, welcoming Jesus Fletcher knows and calls the whole church to follow.

Sometimes I hear Episcopal Church liberals say, “we should just forget about Africa - they've written us off and we have our own work to do.” Knowing the courage and outspoken compassion of African church leaders like Fletcher Kaiya, I imagine his hearing our words from the North. In our genuinely holy and called concern for justice and the full inclusion of LGBT people in our church's life, can we faithfully say we don't care about Fletcher and the anguishingly slow change that the African churches are making as their people are dying in the worst epidemic in human history? Rather than writing off a continent, stripping people like Fletcher of their humanity, can we listen and claim his voice as a gift to us too?

As North and South both struggle to remember Jesus’ open-armed, forgiving welcome to all, Fletcher’s voice resonates as prophetically in the North as in the South. He preaches Gospel compassion so simply and courageously that we hear he’s ready to listen and learn from any Christian, or for that matter any stigmatized, marginalized, and excluded person. Here is one of the many witnesses from the Global South of the continuing work for a Baptist and a wider Christian witness to real, day-to-day inclusion of all in God's embrace.

The Rev. Donald Schell is founder St. Gregory's Episcopal Church, San Francisco and consultant and creative director of All Saints Company, San Francisco.

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