Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Globalization as Challenge and Opportunity TN Urban Mission

Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Globalization as Challenge and Opportunity TN Urban Mission

Article excerpt



You only have to walk down the street of any inner London area to encounter the world. Whether it is Peckham, Hackney or East Ham, you will quickly come upon the retailing and trading of different ethnic communities, many established for a number of generations, others recently set up. You will see displayed goods often made in the factories and sweatshops of the South; financial institutions carrying the names of distant states and meeting places labelled in numerous languages. The experience is no longer of the exotic because the people encountered form part of the larger community - sending their children to its schools, participating in local politics, paying local and national taxes, and calling on local medical and social services - just as numerous groups of immigrants have done before them.

The forward to a recent history of London begins:

It is no accident that the story of London begins with 'foreigners'. There was no settlement at all on the banks of the Thames before the arrival of the Romans. Londoners owe their city, so to speak, to the Italians and its whole development [...] is a tale of successive migration wave upon wave of outsiders who have made their mark upon London, given it their own distinctive flavour, while at the same time becoming assimilated into the metropolitan meltingpot. [1]

Roy Porter goes on to name the groups and individuals that have made London 'one of the world's most cosmopolitan cities, a great experiment in a polyglot, multi-[ethnic] society'. [2] Just as the skyline of the city is changing, so too are the communities which live in its shadow. London's claim to be a World City is not based solely on its power and economic base. The population of London reflects a diversity which many of the so-called world cities lack. The city is a microcosm of the world, holding not just an ethnic diversity but an economic diversity where issues of justice and human rights must be tackled, where the mission of the church must be at the cutting edge.

Globalization as local process

But this world is very different to even a quarter of a century ago. The process of globalization [3] has changed the way in which people live in these communities. In the past migration often meant the severing of ties with the home country or the creation of separate cultural ghettos. Walk down the average inner London street today and new businesses, new ways of living, come into view. Travel agents advertise cheaper and cheaper fares making long-haul journeys a more regular possibility. Telecommunication offices offer phone, fax and e-mail rates that undercut those of mainstream service providers. Today there are instant connections - no longer the waiting weeks for that letter from home; no longer the planning over months for that visit. These new businesses allow an immediacy of communication at prices and speeds that few thought possible in past decades. Some of these offices are fronted by religious bookshops offering publications on life style, healing and deliverance. Others offer training in IT (in formation technology), legal or business skills. Some even offer combinations such as 'Christian business schools'. Many new Christian groups are at home in this new world of business and communication in a way that leaves their traditional peers light years behind.

Changes in technology and economics are altering the way we live and relate. A global culture made possible through the ease of communications and travel leads to greater interaction between people and places. Global economic systems now transcend national boundaries and trading blocs - we expect ready access to use our credit cards and banking facilities wherever we are.

The impact of globalization in the world city goes beyond the towers of concrete and glass to the lives of those who live in its shadow. The global dimension of the contemporary city sets new challenges as new technologies and communications create new patterns of social life. …

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