The third in a series of posts by Barry Bussey, associate director of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists:
Last night the participants of the IEPC travelled to the centre of Kingston to Emancipation Park where they were treated to an all Jamaican concert. It was a gospel concert with a couple of traditional non-sacred numbers thrown in. I was pleased to hear the Kencot Seventh-day Adventist Youth Choir under the direction of Cecile Boyd lead out with an excellent delivery of “Stand/He's Able”. It was a great start to the evening.
I got to attend the Religion and Video Games seminar yesterday by Professor Wagner which was very eye opening. She presented a description of analytical tools one can use to determine the desirability of the games – helping the user to determine whether in fact it is something they ought to be taking part in. Games are designed with a purpose in mind. The creators are not neutral there is a “procedural rhetoric” within the game that is teaching the user to think in a certain way. When games are designed by military and paramilitary groups to advance their ideological bent one must recognize that they are being trained how to think in their responses to the “enemy” as the creators intended.
Every day there are some 40 seminars on a multitude of topics dealing with peace and peacemaking – for churches to become involved in the process of making the world a safer place.
Along with the seminars there have been plenary sessions at the big tent. A different emphasis at each session. We had “Peace in the Community” on Thursday, “Peace with the Earth” on Friday. Today the focus was “Peace in the Marketplace.”
Today generated a lot of discussion about the role of churches when there are clear incidents of exploitation. The example discussed was Tanzania where a gold mining company extracted some $5.25 billion dollars of gold but only gave $2.7 million dollars to the country as royalty. The panellists gave various responses as to what the churches should and should not be doing in those circumstances. The President of the All Africa Conference of Churches, Valentine Mokiwa noted his involvement of seeing for himself the sparse situation the workers of the mine were living under and saw how on the mining compound the foreign administrators were living as they would in North America – swimming pools, large houses and so forth. He has sought to prick the conscience of the company as to their moral obligation to ensure the well-being of their workers. As you can imagine the debate was passionate about what should and should not be done.
The delegates then broke off into discussion groups and discussed two questions: “How do you understand just peace in the market place in your own context?” and “What can you and the church do?”
It is very easy to leave such meetings without really coming to a conclusion on the matters raised. Perhaps just having them raised and forcing a reflection on what should be done is the point of the exercise. Nothing can be done overnight as these are huge systemic issues that take generations to resolve. Yet to do nothing is not acceptable either. The Scriptures are full of references to the requirement of justice being done to the poor in our midst. We have an obligation to address these matters. I know I for one have not really turned my mind to reaching out to the poor and the disadvantaged as I should. I am thankful for being able to attend this conference just to think more broadly about my own responsibility and the responsibility of us as Seventh-day Adventists of being a good neighbour.