During the city track of Hope for Europe in Budapest, we reflected on pain in our cities. We shared deeply, on a personal, ministry and city level. Pain has to do with sin and injustices. So what can we do to challenge unjust systems? As a networker and communicator in a Western European city, the Hope for Europe 2011 conference challenge me in my ministry in the following ways:
Where are the injustices?
First of all I am challenged to be able to see injustices. Human trafficking is one such example of hidden injustice and pain in our cities. In what way, where and how is this hidden in our cities? Victims can be found in brothels, and probably more so in the backrooms of anonymous flats. My city, Rotterdam is known as the ‘Gateway to Europe’. Are their networks of trafficking? Who in Rotterdam cares for the victims, and the victimizers? (in Rotterdam see 2bfree) What are local and national politicians, and the police doing? Where can partnerships be formed?
The Hope for Europe conference was from Monday until Friday (May 9-13) Before meeting up in tracks, people like Philip Jenkins, Michael Schluter and many more inspired and challenged the 500+ attendants; key people from all over Europe. My attention was especially caught by Os Guinness’ speech. He addressed the question of transformation: ‘How do ideas change culture?’ Guinness referred to Randal Collins’ thorough historical study. This study showed that over history three things were key in changing culture: leadership, the center rather than the margin, and networks. Guinness rightly pointed out that evangelicals are good at networking, but are less present (as leaders) in the center of power.
“We have a wrong idea of humbleness,” Joshua Lupemda remarked while talking about power over breakfast with other city-track participants. “I don’t see it back in the Bible that we should hide. On the contrary, I teach my people that they are called to be excellent and shine; to influence and be out there in public places.” Joshua himself lives it out, the 24 year old pastor speaks at public schools in Berlin and gains rewards from the government for the social activities his church of 200+ are involved in. Joshua challenges me to inspire, encourage and facilitate young people like him in my city to pursue influence – not only in the margin – but in the center of power. In order that we can transform not only individual lives, but also address ‘sinful culture’ structurally; within the organizations, institutions and systems of our cities.
Which ideas need to be challenged?
Vishal Mangalwadi spoke Wednesdaynight at the city-track. This Indian philosopher argued that Western secular thinking is a thread to freedom. In a creative and articulate way he challenged secular thinking in a number of areas. This made me aware that we need to train ourselves to be out there in public places of our cites, like the apostle Paul, to challenge thought patterns and ways of thinking in our cities.
Business as Mission
Hearing afresh through personal stories about the few perspectives many people have (especially in Eastern European countries) which make people vulnerable for injustices like human-trafficking, encouraged me to find stories of Business as Mission in the European setting. Entrepreneurs see and create opportunities, how can they us this gift to create opportunities for the marginalized?
Joy and beauty
Thursday night I went downtown Budapest. After reflecting and blogging in a café with a good cappuccino, I strolled along the Danube and took in the beauty of this city. I reflected that we need to be aware of the pain and injustices in our cities, we can battle it by pursuing power, influencing the ideas and thinking of practical solutions. But, I also want to keep my eyes open to see and enjoy the beauty around me. It was refreshing to stroll along the promenade, while watching people, and stopping to hear a violin playing. It made me aware of this rich and blessed time in Budapest.