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Archive for the ‘poverty and justice’ Category

This morning on my way out, I rode past a vacant plot of land that has just been cleared of trees. An apple tree had been cut down, and green apples were strewn around and lay in the morning sun – to rot or be eaten by birds and insects. No one had claimed the apples, and no one was cheeky or daring enough to scoop them up. Perhaps also, no one had the inclination?

We live in such a rich society here in Australia. Even with the devastation of recent floods, fires and cyclones, there is an abundance of food around us so that none should be going hungry in the next few months (despite the price hikes in some fruit and veg).

The reality around us plays into our understanding of the wider world, and can influence how we consider this question:

“How do Christians choose between caring for the poor and caring for creation?

This is a frequently asked question directed to Scott Sabin, the Executive Director of Plant with a Purpose, by curious Christians.

In Caring for the Earth Is Caring for the Poor, Flourish authors argue that we don’t have to choose one at the expense of the other.

In Caring for the Earth, Sabin is quoted as saying that his care for the earth grew out of concern for the poor.

While we in the West have more than enough food waiting for us in our supermarkets, the quality of life of the poor is acutely tied to the quality of life on the land around them.

Sabin explains:

…serving the poor – helps to serve the environment and helping to restore the environment serves the poor. Both activities serve the Creator.”

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Do you donate money to charity? To an aid organisation?

Do you sponsor a kid or get moved to give during times of natural disasters?

Guess what,

climate change will undo sixty years of development if we don’t act now.”

So says Tim Costello from World Vision Australia.

Do you want to know why? Check out this article by World Vision’s Jarrod McKenna.

Jarrod reflects on what Martin Luther King Jr would say today about Christians and climate change.

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Check our this Christmas reflection from Mehrin.

Mehrin is part of the Seeds mob of Victoria – a network of Christians seeking to explore together what it means to know the Word, live in community and engage in the wider world (mission).

She writes:

“…it takes faith to believe in something when others choose to doubt it.

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There is a lot to celebrate at Christmas.

The Incarnation signals a renewed relationship between God and humankind, between heaven and earth, and between the peoples of the earth.”

So says Simon Holt in an Evangelical Alliance article, “Christmas Feast.”

Drawing on his own Christmas culinary cravings, and the work of L. Shannon Jung (Food for Life), Holt challenges us to reposition our understanding of Christmas roasts and all the trimmings into a Christ-centered perspective.

Holt writes:

The real joy of Christmas is found in connection, connection to God and each other.”

Food is a gift. From God. Making it sacred. (So says me reading Holt who read Jung). The problem is that we’ve become distanced from the gift-Giver, and we’ve become disconnected from other people and the earth – with whom, I’d argue, we can share this gift, and better appreciate it.

What am I going to do this Christmas to reconnect food and faith? Do you agree with Holt’s article…if so – how are you going to respond?

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So says Viraphone Viravong, director general of the Laos energy and mines department.

Jonathan Watts reports in a Guardian article that Laos has sought regional approval for it’s first major hydropower development on its stretch of the mighty Mekong River.

Yet, this energy won’t provide local (Laos) industry with cheap energy, on the contrary, 90 percent of it will be sold to the neighbouring countries of Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.

Watts explains that this move is part of a broader plan by the Laos Government to use more of its natural resources to generate finance. He continues:

According to Viravong, 20% of Laos’ GDP will come from hydropower and mining by 2020, up from about 4% today.”

Fair enough?

Yet, the complexities of growth, development and sustainability begin to reveal themselves with more information about the Mekong and the countries on its banks. For example, this dam is one of eleven proposed for the lower part of the Mekong. And, these aren’t the first dams for the river either: China has already heavily dammed the upsteam section.

It isn’t just conservation groups who are concerned with this mass damming program. Organisations like Oxfam Manna Gum, and coalition group Save the Mekong are united with a shared concern for the impact that these dams will have on local residents, such as the numerous fishing communities whose livelihoods depend on the fish that traverse the waters.

But there is without a doubt an environmental aspect to this issue as well. Fish are going to be affected. Sedimentation is a concern.

Watts explains,

Four of the world’s 10 biggest freshwater fish migrate up the Mekong to spawn. Among them is the Mekong giant catfish, which is the size of a bull shark, and the Mekong stingray, which can weigh up to 600kg.”

When asked about the environmental impact, Viravong responded: “If we do it ourselves, only cheap energy from hydropower will do.”

What does it mean for Australians to help our neighbours? What if our Government contributed to subsidising sustainable energy for developing countries like Laos? Do we have a responsibility for the fishing communities, and for the fish of the Mekong?

For more information check out “Preserving Plenty” a report by Oxfam/Manna Gum.

For a photo of the biggest river fish I’ve ever seen, go here.

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I can’t resist asking “What would Jesus eat?” after reading this article on gluttony and our personal sense of wholeness. (See US based campaign “What Would Jesus Drive”? initiated by the Evangelical Environment Network, and also here for a history of the WWJD movement.)

Ryan Andrews challenges us to critically think about our eating habbits in relation to our Christian beliefs. He asks, in “…a society that rejoices in over-consumption…” what does our over-eating say about how we’re seeking fulfillment and what consequences does our eating have on others and the world?

Do we treat our bodies like a temple?

Do we use food or drink to fill that hole created by busy lives – with deficiencies in rest and relaxation…and I would add, relationships?

He specifically points out that his questions aren’t about getting us on a diet. Although he highlights that 67 percent of Americans are either overweight or obese (Australians are in the same league: the National Health Survey 2007-08 found 61 percent of the Australian population were overweight or obese), his concern lies with our behaviour and our relationship to food.

I confess, as I sat here reading this article I felt quietly smug. I’m pretty good at avoiding chips and the junk food section of the supermarket (although I do have a weakness for sweet foods). Yet Andrews argues that even someone who eats mostly healthy foods can be gluttonous. He’s got me there.

This is a thought-provoking article. He draws us to the global implications of what we put in our mouths – for the poor and the environment. One question I’d ask him is where he got his statistics on meat consumption in America: they’re pretty wild stats and, assuming they’re correct, are very challenging.

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