Sadiri Joy Tira | 09 Mar 2015
According to the United Nations Development Programme, there are over 214 million international migrants1—people living outside their country of birth.2 On International Migrants Day 2013, UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon in his message said that ‘there are 232 million people living outside their country of birth’. Undoubtedly, this figure has risen since then. Caused by multiple factors, both voluntary3 and involuntary,4 diaspora is a complex issue that is changing world demography, economies, policies, cultures, and societies.5
Grant McClung, President of Missions Resource Group, believes that ‘the current global phenomenon of diaspora is a God-initiated and God-orchestrated missional moment in contemporary history’. In an email to me, he said:
‘The sovereign God of history is sending and superintending one of the most massive evangelistic opportunities in world mission history. Through intentional global scattering, the Holy Spirit is not only creating an unprecedented receptivity among peoples living beyond their borders, but also dispersing evangelistic workers through creative, unexpected means.’
The mass redistribution of people has profound implications for missions strategy.6 Recently, global diaspora movements have caught the attention not only of government policy makers and social scientists, but also of missiologists. Global diasporas, particularly diasporas and missions, were a highlighted topic at the Third Lausanne Congress in Cape Town in 2010.
One of the many issues discussed in multiplexes and plenary sessions at Cape Town 2010 was how to minister to, minister through, and minister beyond diasporas or scattered peoples. The 90 minutes in multiplexes and 5 minutes in a plenary session proved to be brief given the magnitude of the diaspora issue. Nevertheless, the goal was to catalyze the global church and encourage participants to embrace global diaspora missions. This, I believe, was achieved.
The allotted time brought attention to the issue, and the diaspora multiplex presentation was the only multiplex session that was repeated based on public demand. The plenary session on 20 October 2010 was a galvanizing moment for Lausanne and diasporas. Global diaspora missions were embraced and integrated into The Cape Town Commitment.7
Lausanne III highlighted ministering to and mobilising the diaspora people. However, this push came primarily from practitioners. Therefore, there arose a need for a collaboration of academics and practitioners in the study of diaspora and missions. Furthermore, informed and ongoing discussion of diaspora and missions was also needed through a growing body of literature. In anticipation of the challenges and opportunities presented by this need, the Lausanne Movement leadership tasked the Senior Associate for Diasporas to form a wider organization.
The Global Diaspora Network (GDN) was organized during the conclusion of Lausanne III in order to broaden the diaspora network and project the diaspora agenda beyond the event. It officially replaced the former Lausanne Diasporas Leadership Team (LDLT) which was a date-specific initiative devoted to preparation for Lausanne III. An International Board of Advisors composed of respected diaspora scholars and practitioners was formed.
The GDN headquarters/secretariat office was established in Manila and was officially registered under the Securities & Exchange Commission of the Philippines, providing the GDN with a legal identity. Its Advisory Board inaugural session took place in France in February 2011. In June 2011, the Lausanne leadership officially announced that a Global Diaspora Forum would take place in March 2015 in Manila.
Under the umbrella of the Lausanne Movement, the GDN is committed to ‘bear[ing] witness to Jesus Christ and all his teachings’, in ‘every sphere of society’ and ‘in the realm of ideas’.8
The GDN has been instrumental in the formation of Diaspora Institutes at theological training institutions.
In 2011, the Jaffray Centre for Global Initiatives at Ambrose University College (Calgary, Canada) introduced its own diaspora missiology specialist and a series of diaspora courses offered at the college and seminary level.
Later in 2011, Alliance Graduate School (AGS) in Manila unveiled its Institute of Diaspora Missiology (IDM).
This was followed by the 2012 launch of the Eurasian Diaspora Study Centre at the Ukrainian Evangelical Theological Seminary in Kiev, Ukraine.9
In 2014, IDM transferred to Asian Theological Seminary (ATS, Manila, Philippines) from AGS.
Finally, there are increasing numbers of evangelical students in doctoral programs of various seminaries who are writing diaspora-related dissertations. Their research and writing will be major contributions to the growing body of diaspora missiology literature.
As previously mentioned, the GDN will convene the Global Diaspora Forum (GDF) from 24-28 March 2015 in Manila. The purpose of this global gathering of diaspora missiology scholars and practitioners is to assess and advance diaspora missiology five years after Cape Town 2010. Greenhills Christian Fellowship in Ortigas Centre, Metro Manila, will be hosting this historic event. At the time of writing, academics, field practitioners, denominational leaders, and governmental and NGO representatives who are registered represent over 40 Christian denominations.
The vision of the GDF 2015 is: to gather the key evangelical leaders to engage, discuss, and mobilize the whole church to take the whole gospel to the whole world, specifically to the people on the move. The Lausanne Movement and GDN are hoping that more than half of the key evangelical seminaries around the world will offer a course on diaspora missiology as a result of the GDF 2015, thus catalyzing the global church to embrace diaspora missions. More information about the forum may be found on the Global Diaspora Network website, www.globaldiaspora.net.
In particular, after GDF 2015, the GDN will be publishing a comprehensive compendium on diaspora missiology. The compendium will have these parts: Phenomenological; Biblical Theological; Strategy; Ecclesiastical; Regional Case Studies; Issue Case Studies; and Definition of Terms, Bibliographies, and Appendices (eg diaspora course syllabi).
Tereso Casiño, Professor of Missiology and Intercultural Studies at Gardner-Webb University School of Divinity, and Chair of the GDF compendium section Definition of Terms, Bibliographies, and Appendices, believes that the ‘GDN compendium [will] promote Diaspora Missiology as a respectable field, alongside other existing [academic] disciplines.’10 Further, he is enthusiastic about the GDN compendium’s impact ‘on the overall curriculum of theological institutions around the world’.
‘The compendium could’, he says, ‘situate Diaspora Missiology at the cutting-edge of missions instruction and practice—a viable nexus of integrating various disciplines in theological education.’ At a practical level, ‘the way Kingdom workers are trained could change as the compendium introduces new realities, challenges, and opportunities in evangelizing and discipling people on the move. The depth and breadth of the GDN compendium could accelerate and upgrade the quality of training that Kingdom workers receive in various settings.’
In ‘Finishing the Task: The Unreached Peoples Challenge’, the late Ralph D Winter and Bruce A Koch write: ‘As history unfolds and global migration increases, more and more people groups are being dispersed throughout the entire globe . . . Not many agencies take note of the strategic value of reaching the more accessible fragments of these “global peoples”.’
Dr John Baxter, Director of Diaspora Ministries for Converge Worldwide states:
‘Diaspora missions uniquely maps on to the most important shift in global missions in the twenty-first century—the rise of the Majority World missions force. Mobilizing mission personnel and resources from the Global South and East is the great challenge of our day, and diaspora missions strategy provides an essential tool for mobilizing, training and caring for the vast majority of this potential missions force—the millions of Majority World Christians working secular jobs in the 10/40 Window countries, as well as in Europe and North America where they are in close contact with other diasporic unreached people groups. If we ignore missions to and from people on the move, we leave untapped this great well of missions resource that God has put in place.’11
While many agencies are responding slowly to the realities of diaspora, there is a gradual realization of the strategic value of diaspora missiology for reaching the ‘global peoples’. The diaspora mission initiative at Cape Town is evidence of this growing awareness.
Diaspora mission is likely to accelerate as academics and practitioners implement diaspora missiology following Cape Town and the Manila Global Diaspora Forum in 2015. Diaspora mission is a kairos opportunity. I am thankful that the Lausanne Movement’s embrace of diaspora missiology is stimulating the whole church to take the whole gospel to the whole world, particularly to the diasporas—the scattered people.
1 United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Report 2009: Overcoming barriers: Human mobility and development, http://hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/reports/269/hdr_2009_en_complete.pdf, 21.
2 This UN statistic does not include ‘tourists’, but we would include them in the diaspora missions agenda.
3 Voluntary factors include education, employment, financial advancement, family reunification, etc.
4 Involuntary factors include natural disasters, war, human trafficking, etc.
9 ‘Opening of the Eurasian Diaspora Study Center in Kyiv’, Ukrainian Evangelical Theological Seminary, http://uets.net/eng/news/319-opening-of-the-eurasian-diaspora-study-center-in-kyiv.html.
10 Terry Casiño, personal communication, 28 October 2014.
11 John Baxter, personal communication, 28 October 2014.
Sadiri Joy Tira serves as the Lausanne Senior Associate for Diasporas and the Global Diaspora Network (GDN) Chairperson. He is also Vice President for Diaspora Missions for Advancing Indigenous Missions (AIM) and Diaspora Missiology Specialist at the Jaffray Centre for Global Initiatives at Ambrose University College and Seminary (AUCS) in Canada. Joy received his theological and ministry training from Western Seminary (DMiss) and Reformed Theological Seminary (DMin).