Gospel in the Setting of Globalization: A Response to the Salvador Conference

By Ho, Huang Po | International Review of Mission, January-April 1997 | Go to article overview

Gospel in the Setting of Globalization: A Response to the Salvador Conference


Ho, Huang Po, International Review of Mission


The World Council of Churches held its eleventh Conference on World Mission and Evangelism in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, at the end of 1996 under the theme of "Called to One Hope -- The Gospel in Diverse Cultures."

One of the issues that was raised in the final report of the conference regarding the contemporary understanding of culture is the problem of "globalization." The report read:

All people are living under an increasing process of globalization,

and the churches need to discern those elements which are liberative

as opposed to destructive. On an economic level globalization is

likened to an invasion and colonization which is controlled mostly

by International Monetary Fund policies. At the basis of the

present globalization process is the liberalization of the

economy -- at both the international and national levels.(1)

It continues by saying that

Globalization is not only an economic matter but it continues to

further the racial divide, creating global "apartheid" ... resulting

in increasing violence and political instability, increasing

migration and displacement, xenophobic backlash represented in

new and tougher immigration policies, and the sanctioned oppression

of all who can be placed in the role of "the other" by virtue of

gender, race/ethnicity/indigenous status, age and/or sexual

orientation.(2)

The conference showed also its concern about the impact of globalization on ecological problems, and its effects on the identity of the world community as a whole, and the identity of local communities and cultures in particular, under the influence of the globalization of information and media, through high technology such as television, advertising, film and computer technology, including the Internet, World Wide Web and electronic mail.

The above demonstrates that a new setting has confronted the church and its mission. The theme of gospel in diverse cultures, which is seen as a key in exploring contemporary situations and problems in mission and evangelism of the worldwide churches, has been challenged to include a new aspect of culture, that of global exploitation. In other words, Christian mission in the present world situation faces not only the matter of gospel and diverse cultures, but also gospel and an oppressive monopolizing culture of economic exploitation and the destructive effects on all dimensions of human life extended by this culture.

Globalization as an immanence of the logic of capitalism

Globalization is viewed by some scholars as a neutral phenomenon; arguments on the positive contributions to human society that socio-cultural globalization can give have been raised from time to time. The enormous developments in technology allow the information control of dictators to be broken, the power of governments to be weakened, and they shorten the distance between people, creating a new form of solidarity among the oppressed. In the last analysis, however, we should admit that socio-cultural globalization does not exist independently from economic globalization. The impact of economic power upon socio-cultural globalization happens not only in the process of social dynamics and cultural exchanges; it is economic globalization that motivates the globalization of societies and cultures.

Economic globalization, if understood in third world contexts, is no more than an economic "capitalization," or, in a more critical way, a phenomenon of "westernization" of every dimension of the society of the third world countries.(3) Economic globalization by nature is a process of liberalization of economy; put in a more precise way, it is an attempt to integrate the world markets, including both markets of capital and markets of product.(4) This attempt to integrate world markets has been exercised through dominant organizations such as the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation), and other worldwide or regional economic and monetary organizations.

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