Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Search for an Unbreakable Identity Among Marginalized Peoples

Wow, I had meant to post this blip even before Thanksgiving came around! (As you can see by the date). I hope everyone's Christmas celebration was as great as mine was, being back home with family, and seeing heavy snowflakes falling listlessly out the window. And a Happy New Years!

Well, I admit I struggle to produce anything in a timely manner when not forced to (such as term papers in college). Man alive, I would stress myself needlessly with those reports simply because I put them off to the very last moment. But let us get back to my original topic of discussion...

After finishing a temporary job with a construction company last November in the nearby Lummi Indian Reservation, I could see many similarities with the pre-formed nation of South Sudan. The people of the latter are right now at a critical juncture whereby the various tribes must somehow come together for a functional identity that they can find dignity and purpose in. As I have worked in the Lummi Nation I have witnessed in part this ongoing struggle for identity, in which many have seemed to give up hope on it.

As one top Sudanese scholar Francis M. Deng notes in the introduction to his epic 1995 work on the problem of identity in Sudan War of Visions, "what people think they are counts more than what they objectively are [in culture, ethnic heritage, etc]." I believe this establishment of an identity is crucial in the foundation of any nation for it to see prosperity and fulfilling purpose into the future. In South Sudan, the majority have fought for their right to their land and way of life, free from Arab/Islamic domination. Consequently, many have become Christians for political reasons as the strongest way to gain foreign support in their fight for freedom from their northern, predominantly Muslim, oppressors. Yet, this chosen identity, while temporarily unifying the southerners, will not lead to true development and sustainable communities within South Sudan unless it is unless the people are continuing on a path of complete dependence upon the Lord Jesus Christ. I have heard many Sudanese acknowledging it is God who has brought them the peace of the 2005 CPA ( to stop the mass killing in the south, but are wondering if His work is now done for them and they have to fight the corruption of their own government on their own.

My increasing passion and focus is in being apart of long-term community development in remote areas of Sudan. For this to arise anywhere, it must have a firm framework of working Biblical principles that are wholly relevant to the immediate culture at hand. So much of why the Gospel of Jesus has not taken deeper root in Africa is because the people were initially told to completely divorce themselves of their culture. But this essentially cuts them off from their own people, and increase barriers to seeing Jesus as He truly is--the bringer of freedom and abudant life to ALL nations! I am one who is convinced that the African church in general, and the Sudanese in particular, have many invaluable lessons to impart to their brethren in the west about true community. But they will not see development that really benefits them unless they continue in complete dependence on Jesus, not using Him as a means of identity to get worldly benefits but knowing Him as the One they want to emulate in their everyday lives. I believe the same goes for any other marginalized people group, such as many of the Native American communities. A lot of the strongholds such as alcoholism, domestic violence, and so on in these areas will remain imbedded unless the people, in prayers free of any cultural bias, take the focus off themselves and open their hearts and minds to the Creator's healing and reconciliation offered through Jesus. Jesus is at the heart of true community.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes with great wisdom in his simple, brilliantly reflected work on Life Together: "The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community." I love this--it is so deeply true and yet so profoundly simple. Truth is simple. It's just seeking to live in it as flawed humans is where it gets complicated. This is why believers in Christ are more accurately called disciples, those who follow after Him who is Truth and Righteousness. This leads to community development where we know God is the Author and Sustainer.

p.s. I don't claim to be any kind of expert on what I just wrote, but am seeking to live it everyday and trusting God to break down strongholds. I welcome any thoughts or criticisms. I plan on myself doing further study on Bonhoeffer's work, as well as just getting back to where God has called me to implement these truths. My point should be that we are ALL marginalized peoples in need of a deepening dependence and knowledge of Jesus to move forward with purpose.

ON A SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT NOTE (yet could still be applied to the topic of development)... I came across this fantastic article on a new motorcycle law that came into Nigeria New Year's Day entitled 'Nigeria bikers' vegetable helmets'--
Many in the north have been indicted for wearing calabashes (dried-out pumpkins) to pass as helmets. What I found so interesting is just how pervasive the fatalistic belief is in juju, the local term for witchcraft. I would love to hear your thoughts........

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