Search
  • 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

  • What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    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.
Download a few chapters of the book here.
Pages
Social networking

Entries in justice (68)

Thursday
Oct062011

A reflection on being a Christian in the world economic crisis

This morning I was struck by the news on the riots, unrest, protests and unhappiness at the world economic situation.

In this video I reflect on what I believe a Christian response should be to the economic, social and political inequalities in the world.

I would love to hear your thoughts.  By the way, you can find out about the gini coefficient here. Also, in the video I made mention of the book '44 sermons to serve the present age' - I accidentally said that my friend Lisa Withrow was the editor (while she contributed it was in fact Dr Angela Shier-Jones who edited the book.  Sorry for fumbling that one Angie!  Jetlag brain!)

God bless from Malaysia!

Dion

Sunday
Apr242011

A blessed Easter!

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!

Here is a wonderful easter message from Pete Greig of the 24-7 Prayer and Justice movement

May the miracle of Christ's life transform yours.

Friday
Mar252011

A visual illustration of transformation

I am often asked if it is possible for an individual to truly make a difference in the face of the massive needs and problems that we face in the world? The answer is, yes!  Of course you can make a difference - you may be surprised how just a few small choices, acts of mercy, and choices for ethics, justice and peace could transform the world!

This wonderful little video shows how something small can make a massive change.  I often use this video in my talks to illustrate that when one does good and it reaches a tipping point it can change the world.

Isn't this an awesome visual illustration of how small actions of courage can have massive effects on the world?

Thursday
Jan132011

Prayer, social action and change.

Some years ago I wrote an article entitled 'Prayer, compassion and social change: Towards an understanding of prayer and spiritual activity as a praxis transformative of the individual and society'.

It's a mouthful, I know, but then what would the academy be if it is was not at least a little verbose!  ha ha!  The point of the article was to show how prayer and spiritual discipline are critical elements for individual and social transformation.

The following little quote reminded me that article:

Prayer is not an old woman's idle amusement. Properly understood and applied, it is the most potent instrument of action.  

- Mohandas Gandhi

Here's the abstract for the article:

This paper will argue that prayer and spiritual activity are not only effective means for transformation, but that they form a sound basis for all forms of personal and social transformation.

In order to develop this argument it is essential to start with a brief explanation of an emerging paradigm of reality.  In brief, this paradigm bridges the gap that has been created between creation and redemption.  The new paradigm no longer separates God’s ongoing work of creation from God’s activity of redemption.  Understanding this notion forms an essential basis for investigating how and why prayer, compassion and contemplative activity are effective in bringing about transformation, in both the individual and in society.

This paper will show, that prayer or contemplative activity is an extremely important starting point for embarking on any form of transformation or social change.  It will show that prayer puts one in touch with the source and goal of true transformation.  Along with this, it will be argued that true transformation takes place physically and spiritually (since the two can not be separated).  In the past great emphasis has been placed on mere physical action to bring about social change.  This paper attempts to show that true transformation or social change requires some measure of spiritual activity and awareness in order to bring about meaningful and holistic changes to individuals and societies.

It is in this sense that prayer and spiritual activity act as transformative praxis of self and society.

It was quite an interesting article since I attempted to bring together elements of traditional spirituality (with a focus upon the discipline of prayer and Christian meditation) and tie it in with elements of quantum theory, consciousness studies, some sociology and integrative theory.

I'd love to hear your thoughts (if you do read it!)  I have long since progressed to more subtle and intricate understandings of Wilber's thoughts on holarchy (of course Wilber has published a great deal in the past few years on this subject).

You can download the paper here.

Wednesday
Nov102010

George4Jesus, South African Idol Elvis Blue and prayers for rain

Yesterday we drove from Cape Town to the city of George on the Southern Cape's garden route - it truly is one of the most beautiful cities in our country. We had been here last year on the 6th of October (2009) when the region was in crisis, experiencing the worst drought in more than 100 years.

The leaders of the city had asked us to call a 'day of prayer for rain' - I realize that there are some sensitivities around such events. However, my basic point of departure in such matters is always to err on the side of grace and faith! If the mayor and City leadership invite us to come and pray with them and their people that is a good thing in my books!

Of course we prayed that God would meet their needs for the water that they need in order to care adequately for their community. However, we also had a wonderful opportunity to talk about the care of creation (one of the results of that effort is that the George community was able to save enough water to fill an entire dam). But we were also able to address other important issues in the city such as the need to engage in the establishment of God's Kingdom values in their society. Thus we addressed things such as poverty alleviation, economic empowerment, racial reconciliation, care for the most vulnerable in society, and practical and tangible expressions of the Gospel - my challenge last year, and again this year, was for Christians and churches in the area to take personal responsibility for being God's good news in society, primarily as good news agents in action.

Yesterday was a special day - I would guess that there were about 4500 or so people at the George stadium who came to offer thanks for their answered prayers. The city's water supply is sitting at 70.2% compared to less than 23% in at the same time on 2009. We were also able to meet with the Mayor, Mr Petrus, and his City Councillors. They have taken the 'good news challenge' to heart and are working really hard to see that the needs of their community are cared for. There is a very effective primary health care clinic right at the municipal offices, we heard of some great projects that are helping people to gain skills and start businesses, housing is being formalized for those who live in squatter communities... The list of Gospel work goes on and on....

So, I was nervous as I stood up to speak to the crowd, but I did my best to encourage them to take responsibility for their sphere of influence. I am convicted that so often we don't do as much as we could because we're waiting for a better situation in which to serve God and His will... Perhaps we long for a better working environment, or maybe we're longing for more time or resources to do ministry. I used Micah 6.8 as my text 'What does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with God'.

I am struck that the most pervasive and established institution that works for good in the world, the local Church, was built on the courage of 11 teenage men and 3 young teenage women... Yup, 11 young men in their late teens and twenties and some very courageous young women. We make a mistake when we think that Jesus disciples were established, older, men. No, like Jesus they were young people. Their commitment, courage, and love started a revolution that has persisted throughout history. Because of their courage to do community in the manner of God's loving Kingdom, many millions have been fed, clothed, educated, found hope, and been re-connected with God over the last 2000 years.

God's revolution begins with the obedient courage of the faithful few... If you and I can take responsibility for what we already have it will be powerful. The metaphor I used was that of driving at night - you know that you're heading to a destination, yet your car's headlights only light up enough of the road for you to see a short distance. Yet as you move they drive out the darkness and bring you closer to where you need to be. You don't need to see everything, or have complete vision, to make it. You must just keep moving forward in the small space of light before you - that is enough.

Manie, a friend in George, have me this quote

"While any fool can tell how many seeds are in an apple, only God knows how many apples are in each seed".

So, let's live with courage, faithfulness and love today. It may just start a revolution!

One of the highlights of the day for me was meeting the South African Idols winner, Elvis Blue (Jan Hoogendyk). He is a deeply committed disciple of Jesus with a heart for the Gospel and a commitment to justice and transformation. He sang beautiful songs of worship and praise. We spent some time talking before luck and at the stadium. I shall be praying for him and his family. I am certain that God has a great plan for his talents and gifts!

Here's part of a video I took during his worship session - it clips a bit since I recorded it on my iPhone.

http://www.Twitter.com/digitaldion (@digitaldion)
2010/11/09 3:53 PM
Elvis Blue singing 'How great thou art'! At George4Jesus http://twitvid.com/RAIOA

Let me ask you - what do you do when people ask you pray form them? How do you feel about asking God for rain? Is it all that different from asking God for food, health, or peace?

Friday
Aug272010

If you desire peace...

Indeed, this is true.
If you desire peace, cultivate justice, but at the same time cultivate the field to produce more bread; otherwise there will be no peace. - Norman Borlaug from his Nobel Lecture
Peace, justice and empowerment go hand in hand.
Friday
Aug202010

A long journey in the same direction

For me the journey began late one Thursday evening, on the 16th of November 2006 to be exact.

Megan had been in and out of hospital for about two weeks, at about 25 weeks of pregnancy with our second child, Liam. That evening, just as Courtney and I arrived home after visiting her in Hospital, the phone rang to say that she was giving birth... Liam was on his way, a full 13 weeks early.

I hurriedly took Courtney to our friend Madika Sibeko who lived down the road from us and rushed to the Pretoria East Hospital. By the time I got there Megan was already in the delivery ward, and with less than an hour little Liam was born - 1.16kg's at birth.

From there Megan went into theatre for surgery and Liam and I went into the neonatal ICU. He was very frail.

My father-in-law, Brian, started the journey for me the next day. On Friday the 17th of November 2006 he phoned me to say that he would fast each Friday until Liam came out of hospital. I joined him. Liam came out of hospital 3 months later and I continued the simple spiritual discipline of fasting each Friday.

At first I fasted to be constantly reminded to pray for my son, but over a period of 3 months spending most nights at the hospital I got to know the pain and struggle of many other parents whose babies faced some health challenge. Some survived. Others did not. So, I started using the hunger pangs of that one day - not a huge sacrifice - to remind me to pray for others.

Last year I extended my fast - as I was working on a series of articles on suffering and HIV/AIDS for books and scholarly journals I came to realise that that the majority of South Africans subsist on only one meal a day. So, in order to identify with the struggle of those who cannot choose what to eat, and when to eat, I decided to live on only 1 meal a day from Pentecost for the next 9 months. I used the time and money that I would have spent on my own food to pray for, and practically bless, others. It was a remarkable spiritual journey that has given me a completely new insight into what it means to have to go through the tasks of the day with an empty stomach.

I deliberately chose only to eat in the evening - this meant that I would awake hungry and go into the day, going to work, going into meetings, sitting among people who were eating, and I would do it with an empty stomach. I cannot adequately explain how my prayer life and practical outreach was enriched through this simple discipline. The insights gained prompted me to generosity on numerous occasions - giving away money, food and possessions (in my case mostly 'gadgets' of which I have far too many!).

And so, today I am fasting once again as I have done for the past 4 years. I'm sorry to say that my son Liam is not well at the moment - so please do join me in praying for him. However, I am also aware that today there are many parents who sit next to incubators and hospital beds worried to death about their children. There are even more people who awoke this morning having gone to bed without food.

There is work to be done! It is our work to do! Let's transform the world and start by making a difference where we are.

6 "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? 8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness [a] will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. 9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. "If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, 10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. Is 58.6-10

Please consider joining me in this 'long journey in the same direction'. Let's walk together to loose the chains of injustice in the world. This is part of the core of the Gospel of Christ.

Wednesday
Aug182010

Let's Re-Abolish Slavery!

The sad reality is that slavery exists throughout the world today!

Simply stated there are millions of people across the world who are enslaved to work for others without being paid, or are being forced to work against their will. This is slavery.

Women and men are enslaved throughout the world by unscrupulous people trap them into a form of 'debt bondage' - the most common form of slavery in the world. For example a young woman is approached for a great job in a new country. When she arrives she has to hand over her passport to her 'employer'. The employer then tells her that for her to have food and shelter will cost her much more than she will earn by working as a waitress... For example her housing and food will cost her R1000.00 a day, while she may only earn R100.00 a day. Within a matter of days the ammount she owes her emoployer becomes so high that there is no way she can repay it. The 'employer' refuses to release her passport, or her, until she pays her debt. The only way to pay the debt is to sell her body for sex (at a higher rate of payment). In truth, the debt is seldom paid and the person is enslaved for the rest of their lives!

If you are wondering if there is slavery in your area please visit http://www.slaverymap.org and check your area. You may be shocked to discover how common slavery is across the world! David Batstone Not For Sale Campaign.jpgOne of the other amazing, and necessary, areas that the Not For Sale Campaign is working, is to ensure that there is no forced labour within the supply chain.

For example who made the shoes that you're wearing? Are you and I inadvertently wearing people's suffering? The way of Christ is a way of freedom for all - as a Christian in the marketplace you can stand with us to transform the structures of society within which God has placed you. Please join the Not For Sale Campaign to help people to have the dignity to be free to live and work without suffering. Please check out http://www.free2work.org to get your company or business rated.

Buying products is not only about cost - it is also about price - we need to ask ourselves Who paid the price for this product? Not only what is the cost?

Yesterday I was truly blessed to meet David Batstone at the Power Group, and today I attended his workshop at the Louis Group. David is an amazing guy who is rallying people for the sake of the Kingdom of God and freedom of all people.

David is an incredible example of Colossians 3:23-24 'Whatever your task do it as for the Lord'. He is truly using his work, influence, network of relationships, and passion for ministry! Please pray for him and the campaign, and together with this join him in re-abolishing slavery!

Wednesday
Mar312010

Work as worship - confronting the powerful, caring for the poor

A regular commentor on my blog (thanks Thomas!) left a comment on my post from yesterday.  Here's Thomas' comment:

Hello Dion, On the one hand, I like the holism of your theology. On the other hand, I feel that it does not do justice to the oppressed, from an existential point of view. It offers hope for the future. Yet (to advance just one aspect of this) statistically, hope across the globe fades in so many ways. That is one of the major stumbling-blocks for me. You ain't where the oppressed is, in this moment. Perhaps you could address this in a post sometime.

If I have understood Thomas' concern it is that an approach to 'work as worship' such as the one I espoused in my previous post tends towards addressing the powerful and rich at the expsense of caring for the poor.  If that was the case I would share Thomas' concern!

However, I contend that my theology does not advocate that at all.  Here are a few thoughts that underly my understanding of using our work life as worship in relation to the wealthy, powerful, and the poor.

1.  I agree wholeheartedly that ministry cannot be responsible unless it addresses the plight of the poor.  However, it is a mistake to think that such an orientation, i.e., and orientation towards the poor, must be at the exclusion of addressing the causes of poverty (most often greed among the powerful and rich).

2.  I would say that it is not realistic that every person should be expected to do ministry in all spheres of society all the time.  Thomas, what you may not know is that I served as a minister in South Africa's townships at various stages of my ministry as a Methodist minister (some of these periods were before 1994).  Moreover, I still continue to seek to address and overcome systemic poverty in the role that I currently hold.  I administer two large charitable trusts that do work, and fund work, in economic empowerment, food security, caring for HIV infected persons, caring for AIDS orphans etc.  This probably takes up about a third of my ministry time each week.

3.  If you agree with point 2 above, i.e., that we can't all be expected to minister in all places with equal intention and intensity; or at all levels of society at all times, then the following point needs to be accepted - namely, those who have significant access to the poor (and the systems that abuse and enslave the poor) must effectively and responsibly operate in that area.  But, that would also assume that those who have access to persons in power and access to systems that are powerful in society must engage those systems powerfully and effectively to work for the establishment of Christ's gracious Kingdom of Justice and love from that perspective.

So, if my daily work puts me in place with the poor directly it is likely that my primary ministry activity will be in that space.  However, if my daily work puts me in touch with society and power at another level then I must engage creatively and intentionally for Christ at that level (of course not exclusively!  We must all seek to address various levels of society at various times and in various ways).

I currently have that privilege (and responsibility) because of the ministry position I hold and possibly because of previous publications, research etc.  So, I think that it would irresponsible for me NOT to address the powerful, and systems of power, when I have a chance to do so!

I address this and a few other issues related to wealth, poverty, and ministry through work (and at work) in my new book 'Transform your work life:  Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling'.

That being said, I hear that persons such as myself must always remember why we engage powerful persons and systems - it is for the sake of establishing God's Kingdom that includes all persons.

I have found the following quote from Henri Nouwen quite encouraging (please see the bit in bold if you don't feel like reading the whole quote):

 

Honest direct confrontation is a true expressionof compassion.  As Christians, we are in the world without being of it.  It is precisely this position that renders confrontation possible and necessary.  The illusion of power must be unmasked, idolatry must be undone, oppression and exploitation must be fought, and all who participate in these evils must be confronted.  This is compassion.  

We cannot suffer with the poor when we are unwilling to confront those persons and systems that cause poverty.  We cannot set the captives free when we do not want to confront those who carry the keys.  We cannot profess our solidarity with those who are opressed when we are unwilling to confront the opressor. Compassion without confrontation fades quickly into fruitless sentimental commiseration.

But if confrontation is to be an expression of patient action, it must be humble. Our constant temptation is to fall into self-righteous revenge or self-serving condemnation.  The danger hers is that our own witness can blind us.  When confrontation is tainted by desire for attention, need for revenge, or greed for power, it can easily become self-serving and cease to be compassionate.  - From Compassion: A reflection on the Christian life by Donald McNeill, Douglas Morrison and Henri Nouwen.

I'd love to hear any feedback, and always appreciate constructive input, words of caution and insights that can help to see the Kingdom of Jesus established at every level of society!

Well, to change tack, I am back in South Africa.  We landed this morning after a great flight from Hong Kong.  I am waiting to board my connecting flight to Cape Town.  I have to do a little work this afternoon, but I'm on leave for the following 5 days with my wonderful family!!  Praise be to God!

Tuesday
Mar302010

Using your worklife for God's purposes

I have only a few hours left in Hong Kong. Had an incredible meeting about energy technologies to help to heal the earth at Hong Kong City University!

Christians have a responsibility to use their gifts, talents and ability to see that God's will for the earth is done! The Professor of Electrical Engineering we met today is such a great example of someone who takes Col 3.23 seriously! He uses his position and talents to 'redeem' the earth, making life better for people and stewarding the resources of the earth more carefully.

This is the kind of person that I meet from time to time who truly inspires me. He is so creative about using what he is already doing in order to honour God! I think too many of us are waiting for a different place or time, or environment to serve God. Perhaps we miss many opportunities when we stop asking God to show us what we can do to encounter both people and structures with God's transforming love during our working hours.

Monday
Mar292010

The purpose of my life in one single sentence...

This trip to Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong has been fantastic!  It has been incredible to see what Christians i these countries are doing in order to see God's Kingdom of grace, mercy, justice and love established!  

I have not been sleeping all that well - this too has been a great blessing.  I have had a lot more time to pray, read the scriptures, and just be silent on my own.  

Today I visited the investment firm of a friend - they are one of the more prominent investment firms in Hong Kong with a massive portfolio!  I have heard of their commitment to the redistribution of wealth and the effective transformation of society through recapturing economic systems so that they can more adequately reflect God's desire that no person should have to much while any person has too little.

They employ a host of very bright and hard working people for their firm (not all of them are Christians, but they do have to understand the principles on which the firm operates).  It was a joy to spend some time with them discussing how Christians can use their ability, influence, and resources under God's guidance to bring about transformation.  In one particular project that I heard of this week a Christian person raised funding to build a 10km retaining wall in one of the Asian nations that would save numerous villages from mud slides caused by poor management of forestry resources (so deforestation that leads to soil erosion).  Not only did they create jobs for the community, but they exercised stewardship of the earth.

This is an encouraging way of honouring God through your worklife!  This is Kingdom Living, it is a Gospel lifestyle!

As I walked into their office building on Kowloon Island in Hong Kong this picture was the first sight a saw - the verse is:

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8).

This is my 'life verse'.  In short, if you were to ask me to sum up the intention of my life in one sentence I would have to say that God has created me to act justly, to love mercy and to walk in humility under God's loving grace.

I am quite encouraged!

Well, tomorrow is our last day of meetings in Hong Kong before we depart back to South Africa.  I am looking forwards to a fruitful day of interaction.  However, I am ready to get home to my wonderful wife and children.  I am truly blessed and thankful!

Sunday
Mar282010

May God bless us!

I have been spending a lot of time praying about a deep and sincere relationship with God in Jesus Christ. I realise that a true relationship with Jesus is something that is intimate, experienced deeply within one's being, and it makes one vulnerable to God and to the world.

I posted the post below some weeks ago.  I want to repost it here since it means a great deal to me as I pray about my love for Christ and the ways of Christ in the world.


I came across this wonderful Franciscan blessing earlier today. It reminded me that I so quickly become comfortable in my life. I very quickly forget that I am saved by Christ to serve others, and in order to do that I need to be able to experience the pain and struggle of those amongst whom God is sending me.


There is a great Church in Pretoria that has the slogan (in Afrikaans) 'Leef iemand raak' The best translation I can give is something along the lines of 'live your life into the lives of others', or 'in your living, make sure you encounter others'.

I too easily get busy, distracted, selfish and when this happens I forget what it means to truly live - to live one's life for others. Here's the blessing - I would love to hear how you remain mindful of the needs, cares, and struggles of others. Please do share some insights that help you to remain connected and intentional about living your life as a gift from God, intended to be given generously for others.

May God bless you with a restless discomfort about easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships, so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.
May God bless you with holy anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for justice, freedom, and peace among all people.
May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.
May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you really CAN make a difference in this world, so that you are able, with God's grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.

And the blessing of God the Supreme Majesty and our Creator,
Jesus Christ the Incarnate Word who is our brother and Saviour,
and the Holy Spirit, our Advocate and Guide,
be with you and remain with you, this day and forevermore.
AMEN

Thanks for stopping by the blog! My trip through Malaysia has ended, it was magnificent! Today we were at Bethel Church in Singapore and go on to Hong Kong tomorrow. I am missing my family and can't wait to be home with them! This trip has been remarkable in so many ways. The body of Christ is indeed diverse and full of great difference, splendor and blessing! I am thankful to be a small part of it!