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  • Restorative Readings: The Old Testament, Ethics, and Human Dignity
    Restorative Readings: The Old Testament, Ethics, and Human Dignity
    Pickwick Publications

    Foreword by Walter Brueggemann, my chapter is entitled 'In conversation: The Old Testament, Ethics and Human Dignity'. A superb resource edited by Julie Claassens and Bruce Birch

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    What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
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    Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
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    Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    by Dion A Forster
  • An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    by Dion A Forster
Transform your work life: Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling. by Dion Forster and Graham Power.
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Entries in corruption (17)

Friday
Mar182016

The eschatology of politics, (losing) our civil religion and Žižek's analogy of canned laughter

The media cycle in South Africa, for the second week of March 2016, has been dominated by the supposed influence that a very wealthy foreign family (the Gupta's) have exercised on the South African state through Jacob Zuma. There have been rumours that the President Zuma, his family and cronies, have been on the Gupta 'payroll' in exchange for political favours. This week some senior political figures (deputy ministers among them) came clean, admitting that members of the Gupta family had offered them senior ministerial and state positions (such as minister of finance), while Jacob Zuma was supposedly in the same building.

Some are calling this a capture of the state - only the President can appoint persons to such posts. If a private citizen (a member of the Gupta family) can offer to get someone appointed, then it logically follows that they have power over the President to either coerce or instruct him to make the appointment they have promised.

It does seem that there has been some clear family benefit for the Zuma's since Mr Zuma's son suddenly received a 'gift' of shares in a mine that is owned by the Gupta family - see the Bloomberg report here. Of course the 'personal favor' that the President granted the Gupta family by allowing them and their foreign guests to land without permission or papers at an air force base in order to attend a Gupta wedding was also widely publicised. Many suggest that this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of corrupt activity, special favors, and the erosion of state autonomy.

So that is the background - I would like to reflect, however, on how I have read and understood the misguided media reports and public sentiment around this political issue.

Of course there have been calls from some South African citizens and opposition political parties for the resignation (or recalling) of President Zuma. In South Africa a politcal party is elected to office, the party deploys a president - as with Zuma's predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, if the person does not perform as expected the party has the right to recall them and replace them with another person.

Here is my first observation - I found it interesting that the largest majority of persons calling for the resignation or recall of Jacob Zuma are from the South Africa middle and upper middle classes. Now there are probably many reasons for this - they are the ones whose wealth is under threat as a result of corruption, economic downgrades etc. But another interesting intersection is that these persons are predominantly white. I don't hear the same urgent calls from my middle class black friends. So, I wonder if we (the white middle class) are not in some ways just as bad as the Gupta's? While they hold the President to ransom, white wealth, power (prominence) and privilege holds the nation to ransom in other ways. We see that privilege and power waning and so we, and media we control, are making our voices heard. Of course I could be wrong.

Second, I was struck by the naivite of the expectation that the resignation or removal of Jacob Zuma will solve South Africa's problems. Yes, what he is doing is problematic and harmful to our political system, to public confidence and it has economic consequences. However, I think we are falling into the trap of what Scot McKnight called the 'eschatology of politics' in his book 'The Kingdom Conspiracy':

Many fall for what I call the “eschatology of politics,” the belief that the next candidate or vote can bring in kingdom conditions.

I am of the mind that it is a naive mistake to think that the change of one corrupt politician will resolve the complex intersectional issues that we face in South Africa today. The intersection of our condition is ongoing racism, massive economic inequality, simplistic identity politics and a lack of political imagination for a possible future in which all South Africans enjoy the fruit of our beautiful land. Why is it, as Slavoj Žižek has said, that we have the imaginative capacity as human persons to creatively and vividly imagine our destruction and demise (through killer viri, natural disasters and world wars - to mention but a few narratives in popular film and television), yet we do not have the political imagination to imagine a world in which we can all flourish - a world in which each has according to what they need, and each one gives according to their ability, a world where no one person has too much while another doesn't have enough to survive?

Barack Obama used a very powerful line in his political rhetoric of his first and second campaings 'We are the ones we've been waiting for'.

It is a beautiful sentiment. What few people know is that it comes from a Poem written by June Jordan called 'Poem for South African Women' (presented at the United Nations on August 9, 1978) which commemorated the courage and commitment of the South African women and children who marched on mass to confront the Apartheid government on the 9th of August 1956 - you can read the poem here, and about the use of it in later political rhetoric here.

I think it is important that we heed these words - we are the ones that we have been waiting for! Yes, change corrupt leaders, yes, expect your elected officials, and civil servants, to work for the common good of your nation. However, in South Africa at least, the revolution of change will come when you and I start living the alternative. It will come when I find creative, tangible, and significant ways to share my privilige, to develop wealth for all, and the deal with my prejudice and ignorance. I need to live the alternative and not expect others to change society in spite of me.

Žižek once again helped me to understand how flawed it is to expect a political system to solve all of my problems - he likens it to contemporary religious participation. Let me explain. In his typical 'off the wall' style he says that America's greatest cultural contribution to the world is 'canned laughter', i.e., the kind of laughter that one hears on sitcoms on TV. He says you come home, you are exhausted, you flop onto the couch and turn the TV to your favorite sitcom. At certain moments in the comedy narrative the producers have inserted laughter as a cue - but you are so exhausted that you don't laugh. The television laughs on your behalf. And when the show is finished you say to yourself, 'That was so funny' - but you never even laughed. You have given over your responsibility to choose when, where and how to laugh. He says that religion acts in this way - we give over our beliefs. We expect our pastor or priest to do the right thing. And when we have been to Church, yet not done anything, we believe that we are faithful.

I think the same applies in our politics. In South Africa we have fallen for a false and subtle 'civil religion' - after the 1994 democratic elections we began to believe that God has miraculously brought us into a new social dispensation - the new South Africa. We had faith in it. Our Messiah was the forgiving figure of Nelson Mandela, our high priest was Desmond Tutu (and the content of his sermon was the talk of a 'Rainbow nation'), our text was the constitution, and our liturgy was the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. These are wonderful ideals, but they take work, real people, sacrifices, and commitment to achieve. We cannot just give over the achievement of transformation, healing and renewal in South Africa to politicians - this is the work of citizens.

Sadly, 22 years after the end of political apartheid we still do not live in a post apartheid South Africa. We remain as divided, if not more divided, than ever. When I meet with younger colleauges, students and friends on our University campus, I can see that they have lost their civil religion (perhaps not a bad thing! If your religion is killing you with slow violence, perhaps it is time to seek a truer faith?) These young people are impatient for change. It has been 22 years and very little is different for them. They no longer trust the 'big leaders', or the 'super narratives' - they are not sitting back and letting the television laugh for them. They are taking matters into their own hands, and sometimes the intention and outcomes are positive, and sometimes they are not.

So, yes, please do agitate for political change. Please do speak out against corrupt leaders in politics and business. Make your hard won vote count.

However, please don't fall for a false civil religion - live for something bigger, something more transformative, something more powerful. Please don't give over your right to transform South Africa for the common good of all to the state only - politics can become like canned laughter, it can become a naive form of eschatological politics. As we have seen all over the world, the next political leader, and the next political party, are unlikely to be much better than the one we have.

Please can I invite you to be the person you have been waiting for? Don't wait for a change in political leadership to live with love and grace in the presence of fellow citizens. Give of what you have, cross the boundaries that divide, seek creative and lasting ways to build friendships of trust, and relationships that are deep and honest. Be willing to discover 'the other', and in doing so you may just find yourself becoming a little more human, a little more like who you are, who you are meant to be.

I'd love your feedback, insights and ideas! What am I missing? What don't I understand?

Thursday
Dec172015

#ZumaMustFall - the strength of democracy and the weakness of whiteness

South African social media has been abuzz with another catchy hashtag this week - #ZumaMustFall.

Thousands of South Africans reacted to President Jacob Zuma's shock announcement that he had axed a (relatively) trusted and responsible finance minister, Nhanhla Nene, and replaced him with a completely unknown small town mayor with no suitable experience or qualification for the post, other than patronage and loyalty to the President and his corrupt cronies (David van Rooyen).

It would seem from media reports that Mr Zuma decided to axe Mr Nene since he (Mr Nene) had refused to allow the treasury to approve a shady deal to replace Airbus planes for the beleaguered national airline carrier South African Airways (SAA). There is widespread speculation (including pictures and reports from persons close to the President) saying that Mr Zuma is involved in an inappropriate sexual relationship with the chairwoman of SAA, Dudu Myeni (who has been shown to be inept in her position and suggested to be corrupt - the deal in question seems run through with irregularities in the tender process, shady suppliers and middlemen getting payouts and financial kickbacks). It would seem that Ms Myeni allowed a contract with Airbus to expire by mistake (or through carelessness) with massive economic consequences for the national fiscus. When Nene said the nation would not pay for her mistake and it seems that Mr Zuma lost his cool and fired Mr Nene.

The repercussion of this decision - in a week where South Africa's economic rating was downgraded to just above Junk Status - was severe. Within hours the Rand fell to its lowest rate against the Dollar, Pound and Euro, since the early 1990's (over R22 to the pound, almost R16 to the Dollar and close to R17 to the Euro). The banking sector lost billions of Rands in value (as did other shares) as the currency was rapidly devalued. I read yesterday that Barclays Bank is now looking to sell it shares in ABSA bank in South Africa as a result. It is sure to have further direct and severe economic consequences. As with all such events the rich will loose value, but the poor will suffer most.

The reaction to Mr Zuma's clearly irrational and politically motivated decision was so sudden and strong that within a number of hours it seems he was engaged by political parties, business leaders and the labour movements - by the end of the weekend he had overturned his decision and appointed a previous minister of finance Mr Pravin Gordhan. Three ministers of finance in a single week. That must be a new record?

The Rand is now slowly recovering to its levels before this debacle (which was already a low value as investors have lost confidence in the South African economy, economic governance, labour unrest, and the openly corrupt national and business leadership).

Public sentiment - at least among those who control the media and have access to social media (which is still largely white, brown and black elites and the middle classes) was clear: #ZumaMustFall

The question is, whether the removal of Jacob Zuma is really a solution to the current social, political and economic crisis in South Africa?

I am always a little cautious of placing so much hope on dealing with an individual person. What is clear is that Mr Zuma is not solely to blame for the woes of South Africa. He clearly has support within the governing ANC party, so they should share some of the blame (and so should the population who keeps them power by their votes - which includes me). Moreover, the reality is that the challenges that we face in South Africa are not only political problems, they are social and economic in nature. Racial enmity, intolerance, ongoing racism and of course the massive challenges of poverty and economic inequality are huge concerns. In this regard the powerful and the privileged must share the blame for our current problems.

Craig Stewart spoke at the United Against Corruption public march in the Company Gardens in Cape Town yesterday. He made a very valid and important point:

Mr Zuma had used his privilege and power for personal gain and corruption. We have continually called for him to 'pay back the money' (R250 million used to upgrade his private home). 

White South Africans (who hold both power and privilige as a result of Apartheid) continue to use their privilege and economic power to enrich themselves - Stewart said it was time for these elites to find ways of 'paying back the money' for the common good of all South Africans.

I think his analysis is very helpful. Indeed, we will not solve South Africa's current problems only be removing a corrupt political leader. We need to take responsibility for our part in it.

White South Africans will have to be courageous in finding ways to redistribute their privilege, power and wealth among all of South Africa's citizens. I wonder if we will have the courage to support a movement #WhitePriviligeMustFall - or whether those who hold power and privilege can only see it and address it in others?

Indeed, as Tshepo Lephakga, a friend and colleague from UNISA points out - the majority of the South African population are not immediately and directly impacted by fluctuations in currency exchange - the present discontent is a problem for the priviliged (who are predominatnly white). Most of the black South African poor suffer the slow violence of poverty every day - the value of the Rand will only impact their lives further down the line. Those who are most vocal are the ones who currently have wealth and fear loosing it. Here is Tshepo's post:

 

Are people touched by the decisions made by JZ or the reactions of the global capital to the decisions made by JZ?I...

Posted by Tshepo Lephakga on Sunday, 13 December 2015

 

You can listen to Stewart's speech at the bottom of this post.

The further insight that shaped my thinking so far is that from Prof Steven Friedman the prominent political analyst.

Prof Friedman offered a very helpful insight, namely that in a very significant manner these recent events showed that perhaps Mr Zuma and his cronies are not as powerful as they thought they were. When they make irresponsible and bad decisions that have such visible negative effects democracy still functions - Mr Zuma was forced to undo his decision. Friedman further points out that what this shows is that there are (among the many factions in the ANC) clear fault lines between the rural political leaders and the urban political leaders. Friedman feels that it is far more important to have robust systems that can engage corruption and irresponsibility, than simply personalising politics (as is happening in the #ZumaMustFall movement) in the hope that removing one person will solve all of our problems. There still seems to be some power in our democratic system, as this last week's events showed. This is hopeful. We need to work to protect these freedoms.

So, this has been a tumultuous week!

I am thankful that the people of South Africa are finding their voice - the #FeesMustFall and the #ZumaMustFall movements (although very different) have shown that the general populace are finding ways of expressing their discontent with leaders (who should be servants) who are only out to enrich themselves at the expense of the poor.

It has also helped me to understand much more clearly that the vocal minority do not represent the daily concerns of the majority - this does not mean that the concerns of this vocal grouping are not valid, but merely that we need a more nuanced solution to the problem. That solution will involve not only addressing the corrupt other, but also addressing the privileged self.

Here is Craig Stewart's speech - I encourage you to watch it. It is very helpful.

 

Craig Stewart (Director of The Warehouse.org.za) stood in front of hundreds of protesters today and gave the most inspiring, challenging and godly address I have ever personally heard someone share at a public rally. Thank you Craig for being a brave and faithful leader who with Liesl, Zach, Eliza and Vivian Stewart are inspiring and leading us forwards and Miles Giljam (@unitedagainstcorruption) for his leadership in uniting the church and citizens to stand up and call for justice and a new leadership to achieve it #ZumaMustFall #SouthAfricaMustRise #TheChurchMustSpeak

Posted by Annie Kirke on Wednesday, 16 December 2015

 

Here is Steven Friedman's post:

 

Thwarted attack reins in the ANC’s rural baronsby Steven Friedman, 17 December 2015, 05:48 SOMETIMES, failing to...

Posted by Steven Friedman on Wednesday, 16 December 2015

 

 

Tuesday
Oct062015

#ChurchesUnitedAgainstCorruption - #UAC @SAChurchesUnite why it matters

A week ago (30 September 2015) thousands of Christians gathered in cities across South Africa to show their discontent with increasing corruption in government and business in South Africa. It was beautiful to see women and men from a wide variety of denominations and theological traditions uniting to show that they are not afraid to act against persons who use prominence or power in politics or economics for personal and unjust gains. I was pleased to participate in the gathering in Cape Town, and know of friends who participated in Durban and Johannesburg gatherings.

Of course there are various forms of corruption - persons who pay bribes, and persons who solicit them, so that deals can be done. These drive up the costs of products and services, meaning that less can be done for the common good.  Fewer schools can be built, fewer hospitals staffed, fewer meals dispensed, fewer persons brought to justice, fewer crimes are solved, fewer communities are safe, and it is the poor and the powerless who suffer first, and who suffer most.

Someone asked me whether marches like this matter. Of course on some level they don't. In truth, nobody will admit to being 'for corruption', even the most corrupt have a public rhetoric against corruption - it is what they need to retain the trust and inactivity of those who allow them to remain in office, or conduct corrupt business.

On the other hand events like this are of critical importance. They matter because we cannot be silent in the midst of injustice.  Events such as these matter because we are showing that more and more sectors of South African society are impatient with the injustices and inequalities that are upheld by corrupt persons and corrupt practices.  Events such as these matter because they show that we have a moral conscience, and that people from different religious groupings, and different traditions, can stand together.  They matter because they show that we are not powerless or voiceless.  They matter because they show that we are citizens who are engaged.

So, I would encourage you to act. Recognise that you have a right, even a responsibility, to speak out when things are wrong. Call those who abuse their office or position in business for unjust means to account. Remind elected officials that they are civil servants of the people, not civil masters. Remind businesses and business people that we, the consumers, are the ones who hold the wealth that allows them to operate, and if they will not do so for the common good we can exercise our right to choose someone or something else.

If you are a follower of Jesus it is important to remember that submission to his Lordship has political, economic and social consequences.  What we believe must change how we live - and it should always be for the common good. This is the way of the servant King. As Stanley Hauerwas reminds us, the church does not have a social ethic, it is a social ethic - we are to become what we believe, our story, our witness, our worship, is to reflect what we believe and what we hope for.

I would like to invite you to visit the Churches United Against Corruption website, or consider joining the campaign Unashamedly Ethical.

Thursday
Jun042015

World Economic Forum 2015 - day 2

Today is the 2nd day of the World Economic Forum regional meeting in Cape Town, South Africa.

I only got into the CTICC just after 9am because I had to do a short radio interview at 8.15. Thankfully the rain has let up! So driving in was a little better on my motorcycle. As an aside, it must be one of the best ways to travel! I managed to park just across the road from the CTICC, whereas the drivers of cars first had to have their cars screened and cleared by a security team before they could enter the parking lot. In large measure this has to do with the number of foreign dignitaries, who are attending the forum, as well as the fact that Mr Jacob Zuma, the President of South Africa, spoke this morning. I attended the Panel discussion at which Mr Zuma spoke. Just a few minutes before that session he and the security entourage passed right past me. I was asked to stand still for a few moments as they passed. Then, as I was about to enter the venue of the presentation I saw my friend Archbishop Thabo Makgoba waiting to enter the venue. We talked for a while and then sat together in the hall. It was wonderful to see him being greeted by so many of the important and significant dignitaries, especially Mrs Graca Machel (see the attached photograph).

I was also grateful to have an opportunity to meet Mrs Machel and tell her about the research that I am doing on her for the American Academy of Religion. She was very kind! I even managed to get a photograph with her when I attended the panel discussion on bridging the gap between male and female economic inequality.

She is doing such amazing work to bring gender equality in society. It is a sad fact that women are most often the primary carers in the home and in society, they earn less than their male counterparts and get less access to the formal economy. On the whole women work harder and get less than men! While many countries and companies work for 'political' equality (representation in policy and decision-making positions). However this is not matched in wages, division of labour and human rights. The issue that should drive this agenda is justice and equality, not tokenism. The ethics of care is a reminder that care is not linked to only one gender. Women often get trapped in unpaid care that locks them to the home. Men work and so get economic independence, status and even the stimulus and recognition for their efforts. So simply put, let's distribute care and the division of labour in the home more equitably, and let's educate, lobby, and work for equal rights, opportunities and economic opportunities for both women and men.

One of the most interesting parts of the day was in the earlier panel discussion on Africa (the plenary session) when Anton du Plessis (from the Institute for Security Studies asked a question about security, good governance and corruption - I managed to record the response of Mr Zuma, it is in Apple voice recorder format (.m4a) and about 2MP.

You can download it from here.

He was clearly in the hot seat! His response was vague and tried to avoid the local context and his own challenges in South Africa. As I listened to conversations after that session it was clear that person's from all over the world were aware of this embarrassement!

In the broader discourse of the day, a great deal of the discussion on the morning has been about the development of Africa's youthful population. A few interesting statistics are that by 2040, 50% of the world's Youth will be African, and that there is a need to create 80 million jobs a year for African school leavers (for all of us to be employed). There was an emphasis on the fact that we need to train young Africans to be much more entrepreneurial, and also that education in Africa, while being widespread (about 90% of Africans get access to some form or level of education), is often not preparing young people for work or work creation.

I also attended a session on water security - it was shocking to be reminded that the World Economic Forum lists water security as the single largest challenge we face in the world today! Statistically the WEF shows that demand will be 40% higher than what the earth is able to supply by 2050! We are heading for a serious water crisis. What is needed is for us to change the way in which we use water, demand and supply are a huge problem. Wastage is another problem - it was reported that just 8 municipalities in South Africa account for 90% of wasted water, costing us 7 Billion Rand per annum! That is shocking! Lastly, we need technology and partnerships to manage water use policy and water supply and delivery.

As a Christian I am thinking how can we use this precious resource more justly? The reality is that people like myself can afford clean and reliable water, but the poor cannot! They suffer most when water is scarce. I will be attending a few more sessions during the day and will upload more reflections and thoughts as the day progresses.

Thursday
Jun042015

World Economic Forum - day 2

 

Please follow this link for an updated post with reflection on further sessions on gender equality, water security and the development challenges.

Today is the 2nd day of the World Economic Forum regional meeting in Cape Town, South Africa. I only got into the CTICC just after 9am because I had to do a short radio interview at 8.15. Thankfully the rain has let up! So driving in was a little better on my motorcycle. As an aside, it must be one of the best ways to travel! I managed to park just across the road from the CTICC, whereas the drivers of cars first had to have their cars screened and cleared by a security team before they could enter the parking lot. In large measure this has to do with the number of foreign dignitaries, who are attending the forum, as well as the fact that Mr Jacob Zuma, the President of South Africa, spoke this morning. I attended the Panel discussion at which Mr Zuma spoke. Just a few minutes before that session he and the security entourage passed right past me. I was asked to stand still for a few moments as they passed. Then, as I was about to enter the venue of the presentation I saw my friend Archbishop Thabo Makgoba waiting to enter the venue. We talked for a while and then sat together in the hall. It was wonderful to see him being greeted by so many of the important and significant dignitaries, especially Mrs Graca Machel.

 

I was also grateful to have an opportunity to meet Mrs Machel and tell her about the research that I am doing on her for the American Academy of Religion. She was very kind! One of the most interesting parts of the panel discussion was when Anton du Plessis (from the Institute for Security Studies asked a question about security, good governance and corruption - I managed to record the response of Mr Zuma, it is in Apple voice recorder format (.m4a) and about 2MP.

You can download it from here.

A great deal of the discussion on the morning has been about the development of Africa's youthful population. A few interesting statistics are that by 2040, 50% of the world's Youth will be African, and that there is a need to create 80 million jobs a year for African school leavers (for all of us to be employed). There was an emphasis on the fact that we need to train young Africans to be much more entrepreneurial, and also that education in Africa, while being widespread (about 90% of Africans get access to some form or level of education), is often not preparing young people for work or work creation.

 

I will be attending a few more sessions during the day and will upload more reflections and thoughts as the day progresses.  Please follow this link for an updated post with reflection on further sessions on gender equality, water security and the development challenges.

Wednesday
Mar052014

30 pieces of silver - a great resource for Lent on taking a stand against corruption!

The Bible Society has prepared this great resource to support Christians in taking a stand against corruption. It forms a part the 'EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption'. It comes at the start of Lent and will be a great resource to guide you through Easter. Please use it, share it, print it, email it, and support the EXPOSED campaign at http://www.exposedcampaign.com Download the PDF from here. It is a small PDF file of less than 1 MB.
Tuesday
Oct082013

It is time to #ShineAlight on Corruption - #EXPOSED2013 is a week away!

It's time to let your light shine!
Have you arranged your Vigil, Church service, business gathering, or prayer meeting for some time during 14-20 October yet?  Simply go here:  http://www.exposed2013.com/act/10-action-tools/33-organise-a-vigil
Or, follow these simple instructions!
1.  Please watch this short video (2 minutes) about the EXPOSED Vigils http://t.co/i9EK7QqqjK
2.  Simply invite a few friends, set a venue, and download sample prayers, scripture readings and the video from here http://www.exposed2013.com/act/10-action-tools/33-organise-a-vigil
3.  Please register your Global Vigil on the global map here, so that others can see it (shine a light!) or join you if it is an open meeting or service!http://www.exposed2013.com/act/10-action-tools/78-register-your-vigil
4.  Post some pictures, video, or a short report on your website, facebook and twitter.  Please use the hashtag #ShineALight 
5.  At your Vigil, and during the week, please get as many people as you can to sign the Global Call to end corruption. Simply go here on your computer, cellphone or tablet http://bit.ly/signGC or visit the website and sign up there, or download and print a sign up sheet to gather signatures automaticallyhttp://www.exposed2013.com
In a week's time we shall be joining millions of people from 138 countries around the world in Christian witness!  God cares about the poor and about corruption - it is time to shine your light!
Here is a simple, and powerful, way in which you can show your solidarity with this great cause.  The Bible tells us 'Learn to do good, seek justice, stand for the rights of the poor and oppressed' (Isaiah 1.17).
1.  Please print the attached 'Sing up Sheet' and carry it with you for the week.  Do your best to fill a few sheets with signatures for the Global Call to end corruption! We need One Million signatures to take to the G20 in 2014!  
2.  Please print the 'One in a million' sign and keep it with you.  Please get as many people who have signed the global call to take a picture of themselves holding the sign 'I'm one in a million'.  Ask them to post their picture on twitter, facebook, to send it to friends or family.  
Graham Power is One in a Million - founder of Unashamedly Ethical and the Global Day of Prayer
Please use the hashtags #shinealight and #EXPOSED2013 so that we can get some real traction! (See the example photograph of Graham Power, founder of the Global Day of Prayer and Unashamedly Ethical movements, attached to this message).
Completed forms can either be scanned and emailed back to me, or you can enter the details on http://www.exposed2013.com or directly at http://bit.ly/signGC (note the capital GC for Global Call).
Thanks so much for your partnership in this important work!
Together with you in Christ,
Dion

 

Friday
Jun072013

The Church and the Millennium Development Goals (MDG's)

Yesterday I had a chance to do a presentation at the Stellenbosch University Winter school on the role of the Church in reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDG's).  Here are the slides from that presentation.

The good news is that there has been some great progress towards achieving the 8 MDG's and addressing extreme poverty across the world.  However, it is critical that we finish well! It would seem that some early strides were made, and that now many governments have slowed their progress on more difficult issues.

The role of the Church is crucial in this process.  My reasoning was quite simple:

1.  The Christian faith is the largest faith on earth.

2.  Our scriptures are clear that we should work for justice for all people.  The earth is the Lords, we have stewardship of it and we need to do a better job of caring for one another and the plant.

3.  There are simple and practical things that we can do.  They begin with prayer but must move to action.

4.  I encouraged the listeners to move through the 4 stages of engagement (as mentioned by David Korten in his research), namely from A) Charity B) Projects C) Advocacy and Policy engagement to D) Social movements for change (e.g., like the suffigen movement in the last century).

I gave three examples:

- Micah Challenge Australia and the 'Finish the race' campaign at http://www.micahchallenge.org.au

- Unashamedly Ethical which is a global ethics advocacy community with support and encouragement http://www.unashamedlyethical.com

- Promising life, a South African project to work for the maternal health care and the reduction of infant mortality in South Africa (we have one of the best policy frameworks for basic health care, and great allocation of resources, yet delivery and implementation by the Department of Health in South Africa is dismal!) join them here http://www.micahchallenge.org.za

Of course I would encourage you please to sign up to EXPOSED and send a strong message to the leaders of the G20 that global corruption is not acceptable!  Go to the website or sing up below http://www.exposed2013.com

Tuesday
Mar122013

EXPOSED - Toolkits to mobilize Christians and the Church against corruption.

Last night we had a wonderful event to mark the second phase of the EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption campaign in Cape Town.  150 guests from every continent were present to participate in the launch of:

- A toolkit to equip and mobilize individual Christians and Churches to take a positive stand against corruption.

- A toolkit to equip and mobilize individual Christians in business to take a positive stand against corruption.

- The Global Call sign up tool to gather signatures with which to petition the leaders of the G20 nations.

Here are a few photographs and the official press release for the event.

Corruption is not just greed, the abuse of public influence, bribery, or secret and dishonest deals and money lost through tax evasion. Corruption kills!

Graham Power, the founder of the Global Day of Prayer and Unashamedly Ethical, reminded a gathering in Cape Town on Monday March 11 2013 that ‘We will never rid the world of systemic poverty until we rid it of systemic corruption’.

‘Over US$1 TRILLION goes missing every year from the global economy as a result of corruption (1) and it’s predicted that illegal tax evasion alone will be responsible for 5.6 million children dying in developing countries between 2000 and 2015 (2). That’s 1,000 children every day. We think it is time for us to take action,’ said Rev Joel Edwards, International Coordinator of EXPOSED, the global Christian campaign aimed at exposing corruption, one of the major causes of poverty.

Speaking at the event in Cape Town, South Africa, to mark the beginning of public action as part of the EXPOSED 2013 campaign, Joel Edwards and Mr Power were among leading international figures from the world of church, business and government who challenged millions of Christians worldwide to make a stand against practices which ultimately keeps the poor in dire poverty.

The event, attended by 150 members of the press, church, business and government also saw the launch of some vital resources and tools to help people across the globe take a stand against corruption. This includes online resources to help churches and businesses to sign the EXPOSED campaign’s Global Call for Integrity, and toolkits to help people challenge corruption wherever they find it – in their communities, in their business and financial dealings and in the government.

‘We want a million people to sign our Global Call for Integrity, a call for financial transparency and honesty, which will be presented to leaders of the most powerful economies across the world. But that’s just the start of it,’ said Rev Dr Dion Forster, Chairman of EXPOSED. He went on to say: ‘Each one of us must realise that we have a critical part to play in tackling corruption in our own lives and communities.’

South African businesswoman Michelle Harding spoke to the Cape Town audience, saying:   ‘My stand against corruption was worthwhile because I was being obedient to God.  I believe that leaders have to accept responsibility for change.’ She spoke of how, as the Managing Director of a plastic pipe company in South Africa which was part of a crooked cartel that had been fixing prices and rigging bids for decades, she woke up to corruption and has since helped to clean up her industry. 

Dr. Michael Cassidy, founder of African Enterprise and honorary lifetime President of Lausanne, added; ‘If a country decays it is the failure of the Church to be salt. If is the country is dark, it is the failure of the Church to be light. EXPOSED allows Christians to shine a light on corruption.’

The Cape Town meeting heard from Joyce Thong from Malaysia how, over the first six months of the campaign since the official launch of EXPOSED in October 2012, advocates across the world have been creating interest in the campaign and have started to challenge business, church and individuals on the issue of corruption. Ms. Thong challenged Church members to commit themselves and to take responsibility in their nations by making a personal commitment, and then extending that commitment into their community.

Activity now steps up, with people being encouraged to sign the Global Call for Integrity and get involved in the culmination of the campaign - a week of action and prayer including 2000 Vigils across the world from 14-20 October 2013 when it is expected many hundreds of thousands of Christian will gather for special church services, public gatherings and initiatives and activities designed to ‘shine a light on corruption.’

The Global Call for Integrity is an appeal from Christians around the world, who represent ordinary citizens, to encourage and challenge the leaders of the most economically powerful nations in the world (the G20) to press for more open tax regimes and greater transparency in payments to combat bribery and tax avoidance, urging them to ensure that financial dealings in business and government are open and honest.  The 1 million signatures will be handed to the G20 leaders before their meeting in 2014.

Amanda Jackson, from the EXPOSED team in London said, ‘The resources launched at the Cape Town event aim to highlight the issue of corruption in the next six months and help individuals, churches and organisations across the globe break the barriers of corruption in their own communities and sign the Call for Integrity.’

The Global Call Action Tool allows people to sign the Call for Integrity petition online and also gives access to online resources and widgets which may be embedded in other websites as the message spreads. The Toolkits for Church and Business provide clear, succinct and helpful information to mobilise individuals and Christian communities to take a strong, concrete and constructive stand against corruption.

EXPOSED aims to engage 100 million people across the globe – including Christians and people of other faiths or no faith - to consider practical and positive ways to resist corruption:

  • Light in my heart
  • Light in my community
  • Light in my world

The speakers at the Cape Town EXPOSED event were leading figures from the global church and business community who have direct experience of tackling or exposing corruption:

  • Dr Michael Cassidy – Founder of African Enterprise, Lifetime honorary president of the Lausanne Movement, South African theologian.
  • Rev Moss Ntlha – head of TEASA (The Evangelical Alliance of South Africa), respected Church leader, anti-apartheid activist and theologian.
  • Rev Joel Edwards – Director Micah Challenge International, International Coordinator EXPOSED.
  • Mr Graham Power – Chairman and Founder of the Global Day of Prayer and Unashamedly Ethical movements, leading South African businessman.
  • Mrs Michelle Harding – Leading South African businesswoman and champion for ethics.   

ENDS

NOTES TO EDITORS

 

(1) Interview with Daniel Kaufman, Global Governance Director, The World Bank Institute, “Six Questions about the cost of corruption” April 8 2004

(2) www.christianaid.org.uk/images/deathandtaxes.pdf

EXPOSED is a coalition of Christian Organisations that aims to challenge the global Church, business and governments to highlight the impact of corruption on the poorest of the poor. The EXPOSED coalition partners include Micah Challenge International, British and Foreign Bible Society, American Bible Society, World Evangelical Alliance, The Salvation Army, Unashamedly Ethical, Tearfund,

Tearfund Nigeria, Global Day of Prayer, Global Prayer Resource Network, Asian Access, 24/7 Prayer, Jericho Walls Prayer International, Business Action Group, Network of Christian Forums,

Langham Partnership/Langham Preachers, Advocates International, Empower21, Malaysian Care/CANOPI, International Federation of Transformation Partners(IFTP), AJS (Associates for a more Just Society Asociación parauna Sociedad más Justa), Tax Justice Network, UNDP or UN Millennium Campaign, Global Poverty Project, Mosaiek Church, CONECAR, Europartners, 

Friday
Jan252013

FNB #littlehelps - you can help! South Africa needs you

This morning I heard that the African National Congress was having an urgent meeting with First National Bank because of their advert 'You can help'.  

Their press statement expressed dismay that the Bank would put together an advert of this nature, and in true political heavy-handedness they are seeking to 'engage' the bank.  I wish it was to engage the bank to hear how they can improve governance, how they clean up their public image, and how they can better serve the nation.  But, sadly it is not.  The press points out that they are meeting with FNB to chastize them for expressing their concern about what is happening in our nation and asking the citizens of the nation to stand up and make a difference, in spite of the governing party and the government.

I think it is great that citizens and big business are taking a stand! This is our nation, as well as theirs, together we can make a difference!

Here's the advert - you can help!

#littlehelps What a powerful video! I also believe that we can make this nation great again, in spite of greed, corruption and power hungry politicians and citizens. I want to help! If you do to, then see youcanhelp.co.za

As for me, I am not going to sit back.  I want to help.  I hope you'll join me! Below are two more movements that I am part of that I believe can make a difference:

 

 

Monday
Jan212013

It is time to wake up to the cost of corruption!

Corruption has a name, poverty has a face, and we have a voice! This is the slogan for our anti-corruption campaign, EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption.

Transparency International has just release this very powerful video that illustrates the cost of corruption for both the perpetrator and the victim.  It is very powerful, and only 1 minute long!

I want to urge you not to be silent about corruption! The Prophet Isaiah reminds us to:

Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows. (Isaiah 1.17 NLT)

Please join us by signing up for EXPOSED - add your voice, don't be silent!

Monday
Dec102012

EXPOSED2013: Mass March of Christians in Zimbabwean Cities Mobilising Against Corruption

Today (9 December 2012) is Internation Anti-Corruption Day.  I am currently in New York for a series of meetings with various Christian leadears and Civic organisations.  Among them are Geoff Tunnicliffe and Christine MacMillan from the World Evangelical Alliance (the WEA ran the story on Zimbabwe today - they are an incredible supporter of EXPOSED!).

I am also blessed to be able to meet friends at the United Nations, friends at Redeemer Presbyterian Church, friends who head up the Social Justice commission of the Salvation Army, and some of the leaders of the American Bible Society.  I have a few speaking engagements as well.

The purpose of all of these meetings and visits is to mobilize support within the Church and wider society to take a stand for the poor and to witness and work against corruption.

You can find out more about our year long campaign to fight corruption and stand for the rights of the poor by visiting the EXPOSED2013 website at http://www.exposed2013.com - please get your friends, members of your congregation, your family and colleagues to add their names to the 100 million that we are gathering to show the world that God cares about corruption, and that we can make a difference!

Yesterday a group of Christians in Zimbabwe took an amazingly bold stand against corruption in their nation. I am amazed to think that they would take so courageous a stand amidst great personal threat, and so many of us do far less under much less threatening circumstances!

Corruption has a name! Poverty has a face! We have a voice!

Here is the press release from the World Evangelical Alliance website:

Thousands of Christians are marching on cities in Zimbabwe next week in protest against the corruption that is keeping millions in poverty. Leaders of the country's three largest Christian bodies have signed a letter urging churches to rise up against corruption during a day of action coinciding with the global Anti-Corruption Day (December 9th). The mass mobilisation is part of EXPOSED 2013, a year-long world campaign against corruption.

Dr Shana Goodwill, who as Chair of the Heads of Christian Denominations representing 75 per cent of the nation's Christians, said: "Here in Zimbabwe we will march on our cities to show our anger at corruption. And three of the major bodies have signed a letter urging the church to rise up against corruption. It has to stop. The poor are dying.

"The world church also has a vital role to play. Here in Zimbabwe we are seeing a big campaign between all the three major denominations to stamp out corruption. If Zimbabwe can do it, any country can. We want to send a message to the world. We have a dream. Ending corruption can help the poorest people in the world. The church needs to shine its light in the world and put the spotlight on corruption."

Dr Shana is chair of Heads of Christian Denominations in Zimbabwe (HOCD) comprising the three main Church mother bodies - Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference, Zimbabwe Council of Churches, and the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe - representing millions of Christians. He is also a member of the national Anti-Corruption Commission and sits on the Steering Group for EXPOSED 2013 coalition campaign around corruption.

EXPOSED aims to mobilise 100 million Christians by next October and hold a Global Vigil against Corruption on 14-20 October 2013.
EXPOSED 2013 also wants to secure 10 million online signatures to deliver to the G20 in November 2014.

Dr Dion Forster, International Co-ordinator of EXPOSED, said: "These anti-corruption campaigners in Zimbabwe are inspirational their actions will send a message to the rest of the world that enough is enough. We are no longer content to put up with corruption. The world’s poor are eager for us to act."

See www.exposed 2013.com or follow Twitter @exposed2013 Facebook at xposed2013


EXPOSED is a coalition of Christian Organisations that aims to challenge the global Church, business and governments to highlight the impact of corruption on the poorest of the poor.

The EXPOSED coalition partners include the Bible Society of the United Kingdom, the Bible Society of North America, The Salvation Army, Unashamedly Ethical, the World Evangelical Alliance and Micah Challenge International, Association for a Just Society (AJS) in Honduras, CANOPI in Malaysia, Global Day of Prayer, Advocates International, Empower21 and Asian Access.

Prayer points:

Our friends at the Global Prayer Resource Network put together the following prayer points to guide us in response to the above.

PRAY:

  • God would open our hearts and minds that we may see the corruption that is keeping millions in poverty and that we may act upon it.
  • We have the wisdom and strength to respond to the actions of Zimbabwe's Christians are taking and call upon our community to rise up against corruption.
  • Live according to his word by shining a light for the oppressed during Anti-Corruption Day.
  • Ask God to reveal to you the atrocities that are happening because of corruption and how the church can rise up against it.
  • Ask God to shine his light on corruption so that many will see the truth!