Mission from the margins: USPG

Mission from the margins: USPG

A blog from our Associate USPG

USPG General Secretary Duncan Dormor reflects on the Conference on World Mission and Evangelism, which took place in Arusha, Tanzania, last month, organised by the World Council of Churches.

“I have agency, I am worthy, I have a voice, and I am free!”

The voice in question is that of Adi Mariana Waqa, a young woman from the Aisokula tribe of the northern island of Taveuni in Fiji – who spoke powerfully last month in Arusha, Tanzania, about God’s mission being at, and critically from the margins.

Mission from the margins: Again and again, this theme emerged powerfully in Arusha: that the poor and the marginalised are not mute and invisible; are not simply beneficiaries (and certainly not objects of sympathy, pity or charity), but rather transformative agents of change. Indeed, it is those on the margins, who in articulating stories of hope and transformation in the midst of struggle are often most capable of speaking the language of prophetic discipleship; of bringing the most powerful articulation to the “Nazarene manifesto” (Luke 4 16-20).

The challenge in hearing of a mission from the margins does not lie with the voice, but rather with the hearing. All too often such voices have been talked over. Because those voices can be challenging. This is most obvious when we reflect on the environment: Adi again: “as an indigenous person, I cannot help caring in my being and bringing along with me the pain and cry of mother earth which is God’s precious creation”.

As the economic imperative drives people to the ends of the earth and to the bottom of the oceans to “harvest” or squeeze every last drop of sustenance from mother earth, so the awkward voices of those who hold the land and the sea and the air to be sacred hit a discordant note. Yet as wealth continues to be used to capitalise on the vulnerability of people these are exactly the prophetic voices that need to be raised for the benefit of all, if the earth is to remain our common home.

Voices from the margins are also challenging for they so often carry the scars that remind western Christians of the past, and ongoing, patterns of exploitation that followed “discovery” and colonialism: the scars of genocide, of enslavement, of displacement and of the destruction of peoples and cultures.

Yet, as British Christians, many of us remain deaf to its many destructive legacies and continue, unwittingly, in paternalistic patterns of thinking. Yet the mission of Jesus Christ is from the margins. For, we will only begin the journey of being set free and start the process of transformation, if and when we sit down, break bread, and listen to the voices of others.

Duncan Dormor, General Secretary at USPG