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Trafficking, poverty, pandemic, war—we are being confronted with such human suffering around the world daily. Even Christians have not been spared. We ask: What about the biblical promises of prosperity and wellbeing? What is our responsibility as Christians towards the victims? How should the global church respond?

In this issue, we reflect on these questions through the following articles: ‘Working for Freedom in a World of Exploitation and Trafficking: Examining ourselves to respond to the challenge’ by Marion Carson, ‘A Holistic Approach to Poverty Alleviation in Asia: Bringing shalom like Jesus’ by Kumar Aryal, ‘Prosperity, Health, and Human Flourishing in Africa: Understanding the theological implications of suffering’ by Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu, and ‘Why Pentecostalism Has Succeeded among Animists: Contextualization Among the Tribal People in Northern Luzon, Philippines’ by Julie Ma.

‘Victims of exploitation and trafficking are to be found all over the world. Many have been exploited while escaping religious or ethnic persecution, or [. . .] fleeing war’, like the refugees from Ukraine, writes Marion Carson, who has encountered many such victims through her role as chaplain of Glasgow City Mission. She challenges Christians and the church to first examine ourselves as we tackle the causes of human trafficking—’lack of opportunity, capitalism, inequality (racial, social, religious, and gender) amongst others’— and to be ‘a prophetic voice against the values and norms of the world in which slavery is able to flourish.’ Lessons from history and Scripture are highlighted in the article to guide us as we do our part in preventing ‘the enslavement and exploitation of people.’

Poverty is another major problem the world faces today. It is an ‘economic, material, political, social, and/or mental’ and ‘also a spiritual issue,’ writes Kumar Aryal. In his article, he focuses on four interrelated dimensions of poverty—economic, social, psychological, and spiritual. Therefore, to alleviate poverty, the author proposes a holistic approach, first by examining comprehensively the root causes of poverty. Some of the root causes of poverty in Asia analysed by him are widespread corruption, huge population, recurring natural disasters, and lack of education. Then he uses the ‘holistic development framework’, which ‘proposes an intentional integration of economic, psychological, social, and spiritual development.’ Alleviation of poverty ‘requires much effort, intentionality, and resources,’ he concludes.

‘How is one expected to understand human suffering, whether it be as a result of the war in Ukraine or poverty, hunger, and squalor in some parts of Africa?’ asks Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu. As he examines the theological implications of prosperity, health, and wellbeing within an African context, he helps us to understand why in Africa, ‘Christian mission and evangelism are seen as fulfilling a divine mandate when they aim to include the alleviation of pain and suffering—whether physical or spiritual—and systemic social injustice in their message of conversion in salvation.’ Beyond Africa, he believes that the reality of suffering across the world challenges the global church to not only preach salvation in Christ, but also to be ‘the salt of the earth and the light of the world,’ bringing ‘hope and flourishing to a world in need of God’s intervention within the difficult circumstances of human life.’

Similarly, in Asia and other regions in the Global South, especially among tribal people with animistic backgrounds, many believe that the spirits have supernatural power to heal and bless. By comparing and analysing the religious worldviews of tribal people and the Pentecostal Christians in Asia, Julie Ma discovers major resemblances between the two: ‘The first is the awareness of the existence of the spirit world and its association with the world of the living’, and the second is ‘the belief in the power of spiritual beings to heal and bless; both the ancestor spirits for animistic believers and the Holy Spirit for Christian tribal believers.’ These religious commonalities have contributed to ‘the reception of the Christian message’ and ‘the rapid spread of the Christian faith in the Global South’. This case study illustrates the importance of contextualizing the gospel message, ensuring the relevancy of the gospel to the felt needs of the recipients.

I hope you find the articles in this issue thought-provoking as we reflect on the sobering conditions of human suffering around us, responding holistically to physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual needs.

Lausanne Global Analysis is also available in PortugueseSpanishFrench, and Korean. Please send any questions and comments about this issue to [email protected]. The next issue will be released in September 2022.

 

 

Loun Ling Lee serves as the editor of Lausanne Global Analysis. Her previous roles include lecturer in mission at Redcliffe College (UK), training director of AsiaCMS based in Malaysia, mission mobiliser with OMF, and pastor at Grace Singapore Chinese Church.

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