Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Australia endorsed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

On 3rd April 2009 the Australia Government formally endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Australia was one of four countries (along with the United States, Canada and New Zealand) that didn't sign the Declaration in 2007.

Click here for more info.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Coming a child's mouth

I am "studying" 1 Corinthians with my son, who is in Grade 3. Tonight we looked at the Lord's supper in chapter 11. We talked about the fact that the death and resurrection of Jesus was the most important event in history, and that it's not just for "me" as if "I" am the centre of the universe ... and, in a real sense Christ's work has finished but at the same time the full realisation of God's kingdom is still to happen. (I didn't use those exact words.) Here is the analogy my son came up with (my paraphrase):

"It's like baking something in the oven. You have done everything you have to do, and then you put it in the oven. When the time is right, you take the food out and the job is now fully done."

I think it's not a bad analogy.

(Well, one can argue that much more has to be said - e.g. God does want us to live out the values of God's kingdom now through the empowerment of the Spirit. But let's not expect more in a bedtime conversation with a child.)

Performance enhancing drug and band-aid

I am listening to a lecture at Regent College given by Miroslav Volf. One thing that stays with me is his description of a kind of malfunction faith in which people turn faith into a kind of "spiritual performance enhancing drug". I don't have a transcript of the lecture, but I have found something similar on the Internet.

"Most of us would rather think of ourselves as objects of God’s blessing and deliverance than as God’s servants constrained (as we wrongly think) by God’s commands and God’s ways with humanity. So we split up what belongs together: we embrace God’s blessing and deliverance and reject God’s guidance and purposes. The result is kind of a magical religion: we function as fully independent masters of our own lives, living as we please and pursuing goals we deem worthy of our efforts, while availing ourselves of God’s power to help our efforts to succeed and to deliver us when we are endangered or have in some way failed. In the process, we turn faith into a spiritual “performance enhancing drug” and divine “band‐aid.”... This approach, which effectively makes God our servant and we God’s masters, is a fundamental misuse of religion with pernicious effects, especially in conflict situations...."

Source:, accessed on 18th May 2009. I have not read the whole article myself.

Feberal Budget: Fairer refugee determination process

What we don't hear much about the recent federal budget (12th May 2009) is that it allows for a fairer determination process. According to my own reading of the Bible, this is a very important issue from a Christian perspective. Here are two reports from the Refugee Council of Australia:

Common Sense Changes Build Fairer Refugee Determination Process

THE 2009-10 BUDGET IN BRIEF: What it means for refugees and those requiring humanitarian protection

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Federal Budget: Funding for the poor

Micah Challenge comments on the Australian Federal Budget yesterday (12th May 2009). This is what they say on their website:

"The federal budget was announced yesterday with mixed results. Micah Challenge welcomes the increase in funding towards Child and Maternal health, but would like to see a greater commitment in spending towards the aid budget, in order to see Australia meet 0.7% of GNI by 2015. We believe that as Christians in a nation with plenty, we have a responsibility to be 'Good Samaritans', and care for our poor neighbours."

This is what their email says today (13th May 2009):

"This budget has seen an increase in aid to $3.82 billion (up from $3.66 billion last year), taking the aid percentage from 3.2% to 3.4% of GNI (lower than the expected 0.35% projected last year)."

On this policy I think we should be thankful for the good results and positively encourage the Governemnt and the Opposition to take further action for more and better aid.

Click here for the Micah Challenge website to see what you can do in response. Click here for an ACFID (Australian Council For International Development) analysis of the budget.

Looking for a good book to read?

Here are two books I read last year.

(1) The Kite Runner by Khald Hosseini

The Kite Runner is a tale of friendship, betrayal and redemption. It is about human’s struggles with sin and family traditions. It is about personal and cultural honour and shame. It will also help us understand the lives of Afghan migrants in the West. Read my book review for more info about this book.

(2) The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical by Shane Claiborne

In this book we see what an authentic Christian community looks like. We read stories of Christians living among the ghettos in America. We find followers of Jesus dressing the wounds of lepers in Asia. We see Christian communities in impoverished neighbourhoods. We find Christ’s love shine in the “abandoned places of the empire” (as Claiborne puts it), where there are oppression and economic hardships. Have a look at my book review to find out more about this book.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Coles and Mars getting into ethical chocolate

I heard recently that Coles and Mars are getting into ethical chocolate! Click here for more details.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mission in the pluralistic West

A friend of mine has posted a great piece in his blog. Here is an excerpt.

"This new world is a world of post-Christendom, post-denominationalism and post-institutionalism. In this new pluralistic world Christianity is no longer the main player on the block. The old denominational and organisational structures are crumbling because brand loyalty is a thing of the past in our consumer-orientated society. Institutions, particularly those of the church, are seen to belong to a style vacuum, since almost everyone is looking for freedom and autonomy in this increasingly anti-authoritarian world."

Click here to read more.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Crucified and the cross, that "eminently counter-cultural symbol"

Here are two quotes from Miroslav Volf's Exclusion and Embrace. I find them very insightful, and they serve as counter-cultural - even scandalous - statements for the 21st-century world. Something for us to meditate on.

“All sufferers can find comfort in the solidarity of the Crucified; but only those who struggle against evil by following the example of the Crucified will discover him at their side. To claim the comfort of the Crucified while rejecting his way is to advocate not only cheap grace but a deceitful ideology.”

“In a world of violence, the Cross, that eminently counter-cultural symbol that lives at the heart of the Christian faith, is a scandal.”

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Book notice: Another Way to Love

Here are what people say about the book (Another Way to Love: Christian Social Reform and Global Poverty) I mentioned earlier. It should be available at the book stores soon. Click here for more information.

"Jesus once told a moving story of a wealthy person who ended up in hell, not because he was wealthy, but because he ignored a poor man named Lazarus who lived right at his gate. In our global village, there are many people just like Lazarus living at our gate. The authors of this excellent book seek to stir us afresh with God’s heart for the poor and needy. With theological insight, historical perspective, and contemporary case studies, they seek to move us to action in addressing the critical social issues of our time."
MARK CONNER, Senior Minister Melbourne City Life Church

“The real question is not whether religious faith should influence a society and its politics, but how? Another Way to Love helps to answer this question. It provides the biblical foundation for social engagement as well as practical examples grounded in World Vision’s long experience opposing poverty and injustice around the world. This is a valuable book that brings together Christian thought and action.”

JIM WALLIS, Author, speaker and founder of Sojourners USA

"Can any theme be more important today than finding a new way to love people in a world that suffers and hurts because of poverty and injustice? This remarkable compilation enables some of the most thoughtful and committed Christians to share their insights and experiences with us in ways that not only inspire and inform, but also encourage us to find our own ways not to miss out in joining what is on God’s heart today. This is a must read for any follower of Jesus who wants to be both relevant to the needs facing our planet and be faithful to our Lord."
ASH BARKER, Director of Urban Neighbours Of Hope and author of Make Poverty Personal.

Here are the chapters in the book:

Don't Trade Lives - Child Slavery by Tim Costello (CEO of World Vision Australia)
A Passion for Hope and Justice by Tim Costello (World Vision)
Climate Change by Dr Brett Parris (World Vision)
A Theological Approach to Social Reform, Advocacy and Engagement by Dr Andrew Cameron (Moore College)
The Nature of Poverty and Development by Dr Jayakumar Christian (National Director of World Vision Inida)
Fair Trade by Rod Yule and Peter Weston (World Vision)
Make Poverty History - Trade, Aide and Debt Relief by Rev Angus McLeay (Anglican minister) and Fiona McLeay (World Vision)
Micah Challenge - Voices for Justice by Amanda Jackson (Micah Challenge)
Voice to the Voiceless by Bill Walker (World Vision)
Christianity and Social Reform by Dr Mark Hutchinson (Southern Cross College)
The Old Testament and Christian Social Engagement by Dr Andrew Sloan (Morling College)
Good News to the Poor by Siu Fung Wu (World Vision)