Monday, 23 July 2012

Tips for communicating with young people using the web

Following recent discussions in SCM on online communication, just came across this interesting paper by Roman Gerodimus from Bournemouth Uni in the UK:

The paper lists a set of criteria for the “ideal online mobilization campaign” and features case studies of campaigns on livestock transport, animal welfare.

Some of the points here may be useful for 

• campaign work SCM wants to do in the future
• efforts to promote SCM to current students.

Each of the following points is expanded on in the paper

The “ideal online mobilization campaign”

  1. is relevant to people’s everyday life
  2. combines macro-social change with microsocial benefits
  3. creates an ongoing narrative
  4. reinforces a consistent message
  5. sets clear and feasible objectives
  6. puts emphasis on results
  7. provides citizens with the tools to make a difference
  8. maximizes the audience
  9. invests in attractive and accessible design
  10. (still) depends on the ‘old’ mass media

Friday, 13 July 2012

Turning Toward an Economy of Life by John Langmore

            News reports remind us daily of the economic crises in Europe and the United States.  These began in the US in 2007 and spread to most the richer countries, though not as severely to Australia as to most others.  Even so, serious unemployment has become entrenched in Australia and is now rising again. 
            We have been aware for years of the deepening global ecological crises principally related to growing greenhouse gas emissions, but also to the corrosive impact from the tripling of global population since 1945 and the explosive growth of production and consumption on the natural world. 
            The Ninth Assembly of World Council of Churches in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 2006 resolved to upgrade study of globalisation through a process entitled Alternative Globalisation Addressing People and Earth, which conveniently has the initials AGAPE.
The AGAPE program has focussed on analysis of the causes of poverty, excessive wealth accumulation, and ecological destruction and their consequences.  It has also extensively discussed the theological bases for a critique of the interlocking economic and ecological crises and articulation of an alternative Christian economic and ecological vision.  On those firm foundations it is also attempting to identify concrete strategies and policies which would contribute to implementing such a vision.
Major steps in the AGAPE process were the holding of five regional meetings in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in 2007, Guatemala City in Guatemala in 2008, Chiang Mai in Thailand in 2009, Budapest, Hungary, in 2010 and Calgary, Canada in 2011.  Summaries of each of these meetings were published in short books with the titles Poverty, Wealth and Ecology in the continent of focus. 
At the end of June a global conference was held in Bogor, Indonesia the aim of which was to draw together the lessons generated by the analyses and conclusions of the continental meetings and to prepare a paper for discussion at the Tenth Assembly of the World Council of Churches.  The Assembly is being held in Busan, South Korea in November 2013 with theme of ‘God of Life, lead us to justice and peace’.
 The Bogor meeting drew together close to 100 participants from more than 30 countries who had mostly been active in the continental conferences.  Each day the Bogor conference opened with the innovative, spiritually enriching worship, which has become the norm at World Council meetings.  This time they were led by an outstanding Indonesian liturgist who included lyrical, globally inclusive and challenging hymns and thoughtful, reflective prayers. 
The call to worship on the first day is a fine example:
Leader: The voice of the God of Life has been heard in the land.

All:         God has whispered in the wind.
  God has thundered in the storms.
  God has washed over the people.
  God has cried in the streets.
  God has spoken in the heart.

Leader:  To whom has God spoken?

Right:    To the prophets,
              to the priests
              to the leaders,
              to the servants.
Left:      To the teachers,
              to the students,
              to the business people,
              to the workers,
              to the property owners.
All:        To the children,
              To the adults.

Leader:  What does the God of Life say?

Right:    God speaks of Good News
              to the poor,
              to the weary,
  to the broken,
              to the privileged          
Left:      God speaks of unity
              to the disciples
              to the churches
              to all nations
              to all humankind.
All:        God speaks of justice and peace
              for all peoples,
              for the whole of creation.

Everyone:  God of Life calls us all (repeat three times)

Leader:  Come to God’s table of fellowship!
              Come to God’s table of love.

The program alternated between panels analysing the themes, offering theological reflections, and reporting on lessons learned about good practices.  Discussions started in small groups which then reported to the whole conference on sections of the proposed final document. 
            The most effective way of reporting on the conference on Poverty, Wealth and Ecology is to summarise the draft Call to Action, Turning Toward an Economy of Life, on which we were working. It is the result of a first draft circulated to participants before the Bogor conference, sustained small group discussion, plenary reporting, rewriting by a drafting group and preliminary redrafting by a plenary of the attendees.  It is therefore not a finalised document but does show the direction of thinking
            Major themes of Turning Toward an Economy of Life include:
·         Affirming that the abundant life which God offers is ‘embodied in practices of mutuality, shared partnership, reciprocity, justice, and loving kindness’.

·         Yet the severity of poverty, inequity and ‘the groaning of Creation’ illuminate how far the global economy and ecology fail to reflect such a vision.

·         Underlying the current economic and ecological crises has been the dominant neo-liberal economic ideology. Powerful causes of these intertwining moral and existential crises include greed and injustice.

·         Radical changes in economic systems are required towards ‘a just, sustainable and post-fossil fuel-based economy’.

·         There are already numerous examples within the churches of transformative movements committed to building an economy of life.

·         At the Busan Assembly the churches must commit themselves to stronger prophetic and transformative action on poverty eradication, wealth redistribution, ecological protection and climate justice.

·         This must include building resistance to structures which deny dignity and human rights to the marginalised; creating space for the marginalised to be heard, and for dialogue between North and South; and the organisation of a broad platform for common witness and advocacy. 

·         This will involve taking concrete action to:
o   Develop indicators of wellbeing
o   Advocate policies aiming at poverty eradication
o   Prepare proposals for a new financial architecture reconnecting finance to the real economy
o   Promote wealth sharing and redistribution
o   Develop ecologically-respectful production, consumption and distribution policies
o   Develop equitable principles for the use of energy, water and air and promote green technology
o   Establish binding principles for reparation for those whose lives have been destroyed by plunder
o   End use of nuclear energy and nuclear weapons
o   Identify accountability for unjust banking practices
o   Encourage churches to divest from destructive investments
o   Reduce military spending.
Worship ended one day with a prayer for God’s blessing to:
Let us go into the world and do whatever is true,
whatever is honourable,
whatever is pure,
whatever is pleasing,
whatever is peaceful, and
whatever is just
and the God of life will lead us to justice and peace,
now and forever.  Amen

Professor John Langmore attended this conference on behalf of the Uniting Church of Australia, and is a Senior Friend of the Australian Student Christian Movement

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Thoughts on East Timor

‘I feel that, to the local traders, I may as well be wearing an enormous sign saying 'rich foreign sap'. Indeed, given my skin color and height (spectacular even by Western standards, I feel rather like Gulliver happening upon the land of Lilliput), I seem to be an object of almost zoological significance. The common reaction of the locals is to either stare and point openly, if uninterested bystander, or grin expectantly, if they have anything to sell. As if the depth of my pockets should be proportional to the height of my frame. Although, given the standards of the country, it probably is.

My pleasant room in Hotel Audian is comparable to a fairly modest country motel room in Australia, which, by east Timorese standards, is spectacularly luxurious. From my hotel room I can see the corrugated iron roofs of the shacks behind the hotel, thickly dotted with palm trees, rising to a skyline of the mountains which enfold the coastal city. I try to avoid standing outside the hotel, as the drivers of the interminable passing taxis eye me like a hungry fox spotting a fat, lame chicken in the open.

Or perhaps it is not avarice, but poverty that lends hunger to their eyes. For, surely the poverty is inescapable. Everywhere you look there are people trying to scrape enough to survive. The dwellings are hovels, and those with the luxury of painted walls have peeled in the sun. Street traders wander the streets selling water from small carts, or mangos from wooden staves they carry on their shoulders, which I presume to be their richest possessions. Everything is eclectic and improvised. Here and there are works of pitiful construction as shirtless workers toil in the heat. The roads are thick with taxis and motorcycles who beep each other incessantly as they weave in and out of lanes (not necessarily on their side of the road) and traffic. Every so often there is a large, impressive Government building, but vigorously fenced from their surroundings, as if their architects were adamant that the splendor of the state not be interrupted by the suffering of the people. Dogs and children play in the streets, as the adults persist with the business of survival.’

‘The rhythm of life is different here. In Australia everything is regimented, streamlined, ordered. Acts of contemplation and community are in perpetual, irredeemable retreat; our souls groaning beneath the demands of efficiency and accomplishment. Here, the rhythm of life is played at a lazy legato. Despite the poverty and the need, there is a sense of community that is palpable. Children laugh and greet you, and adults wave in the streets.

At one point, people began shouting around us. Apparently, a driver had hit another car in a nearby parking lot. When this occurs in Australia, it is little noticed, and those who do strictly ignore it, to avoid becoming entangled in an affair which doesn't concern them, and have their precious time stolen away. Such is the nature of our individualist lifestyle. But here, all around us, a crowd began streaming toward the incident, to remark upon the driver or render assistance. Ann said that it could be because they were bored and the smallest of things were a source of ‘entertainment’, but I am convinced that it is the natural expression of a community in which curiosity is not an intrusive vice, but the emotional product of caring for those around you.’

‘Driving in Dili is a spectacular and terrifying experience, especially at night. The only road law appears to be that you must not hit anyone, and drivers and pedestrians consistently defy the laws of probability and physics in abiding by it. Drivers routinely weave in and out of gaps in the traffic which seem impossibly inadequate, coaxing their groaning engines onto the search for the next customer. How many of these engines continue to run is a mystery surely known only to God.

Of the cars themselves, only the steering wheel is consistently used, with the horn being the favored element. Brakes are only employed as a last resort, when the driver cannot avoid the approaching obstacle simply by swerving into the wrong lane, or off roading. There are never any traffic jams. Cars simply flow through the streets at a lazy 50km/h like the rippling current of a stream, constantly beeping other drivers and pedestrians as they negotiate for more space, or to swerve into another lane.

Whatever the living conditions of Dili, the local environment is surely a miracle of creation. Dili is enfolded within an arc of spectacular forested hills, and occupies a stunning bay of crystal blue water. When driving along the waterfront roads, I could only pray that the driver was not as entranced by our surroundings as I. Although, admittedly he could hardly have driven any more hazardously if he were.’

‘Despite the beauty and brilliance of such landmarks (the statue of Christo Rei), it is always with mixed feelings that I approach them. I cannot help but feel that they are in some sense the brutal symbol of an imperialist church. Surely, I thought, the statue is stained with the sweat and blood of the East Timorese people, just as the Catholic cities of South America and Africa had been by that of their own people. In my view, such monuments are little less than a blasphemy to the Christian gospel of equality and human dignity. It was then with some amazement that I was told that the statue had been built, not by the Catholic empire of Portugal, but by the Muslim occupation of Indonesia. It had been built, not as an act of religious colonialism, but as a monument to the faith of the Timorese people. The statue was, in fact, a remarkable act of kindness and religious pluralism. My heart was greatly lightened by this revelation.’

‘Our first visit was to a place called the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This organization had been created to investigate and report upon the human rights abuses which occurred during the colonial era and the Indonesian occupation. The place is both poignant and uplifting. It is located within an old prison, which had been used by both Portuguese and Indonesian governments to imprison and torture East Timorese political prisoners and dissidents. We visited what were called the 'dark cells', which are a collection of dark concrete cells, each roughly the size of an average Western bathroom, in which 20-30 east Timorese prisoners could be held indefinitely. The walls are scrawled with the graffiti of the prisoners, emblazoned with expressions of faith and hope, images of Christ and assertions of resistance and defiance, and affirmations of their fight for peace and justice.

It is truly an extraordinary place. The suffering of the East Timorese people, so long shunned and ignored by the powers of the world, were hidden no longer. There was not a trace of the complacency which now marks Western society. What had been a hellish symbol of oppression and injustice had been reclaimed as a most beautiful affirmation of human triumph. The East Timorese people have finally reclaimed their dignity, and independence is worn upon their shoulders like a golden cloak of glory, which not even the poverty of their present circumstances can disguise.’

‘Today, I saw a young Timorese man wearing a t-shirt that said 'Hope is the dream of a soul awake.' Oh, how these people hope. Here in this crystal jewel of the Pacific, hope is the only abundant resource. Their children may die of malnutrition, their only earthly wealth may be strapped to their backs, their survival may depend on the engine of a taxi that by every law physics should have failed years ago, and yet somehow their hope endures.

They have suffered every injury, indignity and injustice known to humankind. For 500 years their reality was death, rape, forced migration, the separation of families, the destruction of culture and the suppression of identity, and yet their spirit could not be extinguished. Somehow they defied all the powers of the world and won their freedom by the very strength of their moral courage.

The extraordinary courage and solidarity of these people endured to the end, as will the shame of the world, who permitted the oppression of these people for so long. Such is the distinct suffering of the people of East Timor that the complicity of the world's politicians transcended political boundaries. Gough Whitlam endorsed the Indonesian invasion in 1975, and Bob Hawke permitted the deal with Indonesia which divided East Timor's oil and gas reserves, and which Australia continues to steal to this day.’