Friday, March 09, 2007

tears, joys and relationship

Today began with worship led by the delegation from Asia. Following breakfast, the entire conference engaged in Bible Study on Luke 4:18-19. Jenny Te Paa prepared some incredible questions, asking us to consider how our churches were doing in relation to this message of hope for humanities oppressed. Surrounded by Anglican Christians from the Sudan, Mozambique, New Guinea, and elsewhere it became clear at least among those in my group, that the oppression of women and children was a shared concern and challenge.

We heard from the Director of the U.N. Millennium Campaign Salil Shetty who gave us an update on the global movement to end poverty and meet the Millennium Development Goals. Then we heard from the new Anglican Observer at the United Nation Hellen Wangusa of Uganda who implored us to connect the Millennium Development Goals with our biblical and theological roots. Reminding us that when Jesus fed the crowds --- he fed everyone not just half. The Goals themselves are just a start at living into the demands of the gospel. Afterward the Pilgrimage for Peace had the opportunity to have a conversation with Archbishop Ndungane. Our group was eager to engage him with questions about his participation in the movement to end apartheid and his efforts to overcome poverty and HIV/AIDS in South Africa. I asked him what Saints of God were particularly important and inspirational to him, among them were Bishop Alpheus Zulu, the first black south African bishop and Steve Biko. Following our group discussion, Bishop Marc presented the Archbishop with a photo of the Archbishop participating in the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery March.

The Pilgrimage for Peace participants then gathered together on the lawn of the conference center to reflect about the days events. The group encouraged one another to speak up if the Spirit moved them in the wider forums and in group discussions. Just an hour or two later one of our participants, Erik Banks of Bayview Mission did just that by asking an excellent question after a dynamic theological presentation on poverty and sustainable development by Professor Steve de Gruchy of the School of Religion and Theology, University of KwaZulu-Natal. De Gruchy’s message in response called upon all of us to “live simply so that others might simply live”.

This evening at dinner I sat with the Right Reverend John W. Nduwayo of the Diocese of Gitega of the Anglican Church of Burundi. WREho shared with me the tremendous challenges facing the people of Burundi from the horrors of civil war, genocide, HIV/AIDS, displaced persons, and hunger a result of Climate Change. My eyes filled with tears as he humbly shared the struggles facing his people. I was overwhelmed when he asked me about the challenges facing young people in the United States. All of the struggles and concerns expressed in the many presentations and discussions about the Millennium Development Goals were physically embodied over the course of this conversation with this man who together with his people are facing enormous suffering. I left that conversation heartbroken yet even more committed to finding ways to encourage our church to respond to these enormous challenges compassionately, creatively, and over the long haul.

Tonight the Pilgrimage for Peace heard from Michael Kidman, Executive Director of Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation and Liz White, a participant in the Episcopal Church’s Young Adult Service Corp --- both who helped our group imagine ways we might dedicate our lives more fully and holistically to ending global human suffering. Odwa, who has done so much to help organize our pilgrimage shared with us the vision and work of Anglican Student Federation --- he also shared with us a wonderful and hilarious South African song and dance. Our group were universally inspired by the incredible joy, community, and compassionate actions being fostered by the Anglican Student Federation and many expressed hope of finding ways of continuing to learn from this organizations witness.

It has been a long day and tomorrow we will be heading to Pretoria, where we will visit an AIDS hospice, AIDS orphanage, and a youth center.

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