Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Collective Resistance as Prophetic Witness: Mission from the Margin's Perspective

Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Collective Resistance as Prophetic Witness: Mission from the Margin's Perspective

Article excerpt

Abstract

Authentic Christian witness today, marked by the mission from the margins, must engage communities of the marginalised at the structural level through collective solidarity resistance. This article first examines social structures themselves and their capacity to enhance or denigrate human dignity. Inherited structures of oppression can be identified and addressed. Christian witness has a particular exigence for and role in identifying and resisting oppressive structures for the sake of justice. Prophetic witness to kingdom values--saying no to unjust systems--involves joining with victims in active resistance through local and global mobilisation for social change and celebration of life.

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Looking at today's context of ecological disaster, the hunger of millions, exploitation of labour, violation of human rights, restriction of freedom to life, abuse of power by politicians, and manipulation of wealth by a small minority, we are reminded of the prophet Amos's time. Amos lived at a time when the rich "trample on the heads of the poor as upon the dust of the ground and they deny justice to the oppressed" (Amos 2:7). While the rich people could afford summer and winter houses adorned with ivory, the poor people flee, naked and without food (Amos 3:15). The poor were crushed and exploited by an unjust system on all fronts. Similarly, the dominant value system, social structures/institutions, consumerist market ideology, and one-sided development activities are powerful sources to exploit the poor and marginalized people in today's world. The military, economic, and social powers are so unevenly shared and used that a vast majority of the world's population is left to live in abject poverty and misery, without dignity and freedom. While the world's 10 richest people get US$5,000 in a few seconds or minutes, millions of people get less than one dollar a day. It is said that every day, 30,0000 people die of starvation. Evils embodied in social structures/institutions in a systemic and permanent manner ensure that the right to a decent life is denied to many and destroys the very harmony of social life.

When evil forces oppress and crush the poor, hindering not only the self-development of persons but society as a whole, the only option left for marginalized communities is collective solidarity resistance. Just as Jesus and his followers located their ministry in the context of systemic corruption of religious, economic, and political systems of their times, we need to locate Christian witness in the context of present structural injustices. The strength of future churches and the ecumenical movement lies in its ability to create collective solidarity resistance movements against unjust social relations, market forces, and other life-threatening institutions.

Victim of structural injustice: location of Christian witness

Social structures/institutions are collective creations of humans over centuries. They never exist in and of themselves independently; they are also never neutral. People consciously or unconsciously participate in them personally and as social groups. Social analysis reveals that social structures that value human beings and protect the integrity of God's creation enhance the quality of the human person and society. But social structures created with vested interests violate human dignity in brutal ways, jeopardize the development of the society, and work against the realization of God's plan of human creation. The organizing principle of today's society is that women are inferior, dalit/adivasi is unclean and inferior, white is superior, indigenous people are uncivilized and primitive, and disability is a curse from God and so people with disabilities are sinners. Since our present social structure is organized based on such false presupposition and beliefs, it inflicts injustice and misery on many people. This is called structural sin. …

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