WSCF Stories of Resistance and Hope

Saturday was the first day of the World Student Christian Federation General Assembly in Berlin. This is the first in person assembly of WSCF for seven years since the last GA in Bogota in 2015.  The GA is meant to happen every four years, so we are celebrating coming back together.  The Bible theme is “Rejoice in Hope” from Romans 12:12, where Paul says to be patient through suffering and persist in prayer.  Today I will just focus on the afternoon session titled ‘Stories of Memory and Resistance’, reflecting how Christian faith in the transformation of the world through the love of God offers a profound source of hope amidst immense difficulties.  The following stories were shared by conference participants to illustrate how Christian solidarity faces severe challenges around the world.

A delegate from the Palestine Student Christian Movement (SCM) described coming to Berlin and seeing the history of division and control represented by the Berlin Wall, now fallen for 33 years.  She said it brought a lump to her throat comparing the historical removal of this barrier at the liberation of East Germany in 1989 to the ongoing reality in Palestine of a settler apartheid system and the suffering it inflicts on the Palestinian people.  The opportunity to discuss such problems in WSCF creates the hope of solidarity around the world.

A delegate from Sudan spoke about political suffering since the army took power, with most Sudanese against the 2021 military coup.  Daily protests are met by shooting.  Ethnic disputes affect Christian minorities, with protesters arrested and tortured. The Christian Coptic community find it difficult to worship and be involved as community.

In Peru, we heard how Arahuacos and Ashankinka are indigenous Amazon people who were enslaved by colonial powers to grow rubber. An armed conflict from 1980 to 2000 brought them into conflict with terrorists, drug traffickers and land thieves.  Indigenous people were denigrated as uncivilised but have maintained land for centuries, and now have no government protection against murder.  Resistance is hope.

Ukraine is the biggest story of resistance and hope today.  We heard from a Ukrainian attendee that we are all connected, and are wondering when events will hit us. In Cherniyev, a city in northern Ukraine, old churches are used as place of hiding, and come under artillery assault.  Many children have been killed, and buildings destroyed.  In Kherson, occupied for three months, farm produce is rotting. Farmers are dumping food, with no way to export, and food stolen by Russia.  The invasion is causing global hunger, economic crisis and ecological disaster.  Zaporizhzhia, the 6th biggest nuclear station in the world, has been occupied by Russia, with risk of explosion.  What we do matters, and we need to raise awareness. As Russia launches constant rockets, people cannot sleep. Who if not me?

The Myanmar SCM secretary shared a video greeting. He apologised for not being able to attend the GA due to the impact of the 2021 military coup, with many students fleeing or arrested. SCM in Myanmar cannot do programs, with no zoom access or internet, and invite WSCF to pray for them and provide advice.

As we share these stories of heartbreak, raising awareness of war and violence, the global WSCF family can reach out in prayer, sharing information around our networks.  The whole world is in pain, and is globally connected. Showing interest means a lot.

Chris Ferguson, pastor and adviser to WSCF, commented on these stories, saying what is happening in one country is happening to us all.  Abstract connections at global and regional levels show how the world disorder shapes and determines local reality. Power structures are  interconnected across the whole world, showing the need for ecumenical identity.  The word ecumenical comes from the ancient Greek oikoumene, meaning the whole inhabited earth. Oikoumene was used after the conquest by Alexander of Macedon of the eastern Mediterranean region to describe the reality of a world under imperial domination.  The whole creation is groaning as Paul wrote in Romans 8:22. Structures and systems are living under domination, falling captive and wounded.  The world God created in love faces the common global reality that we are fallen among thieves.  Our struggles are rooted in the common dynamics of necropolitics, the colonial control of life, deciding who will live and who will die.  Everything we do is guided by a sense of planet under threat.  The stories we have heard shine light on captivity under empire. In Ukraine, the Russian invasion reflects conflict between empires. Taiwan is at risk in the context of global empires. Amidst bad news, the Gospel call to repent and believe wakes us to say the God of life comes in the midst of a broken and wounded world.  Racism and gender injustice live out differently in each place.  Injustices together add to create a social, political and military system of global apartheid.  The few live at the expense of the many.  Hope motivates solidarity and calls us to name the world as it is, in constant alert.  WSCF is called through conflict to understand the whole world, joining in common humanity.  Young people are disappointed, depressed and despairing, not hopeful, and yet can find hope in the Gospel story.  The Palestine Kairos document describes how faith can provide hope in an objectively hopeless situation.

Joy Eva Bohol, leader of youth engagement with the World Council of Churches based in Geneva, described inspiring responses to justice issues around the world.  WSCF has provided leadership for the WCC.  We pause to consider and name stories of issues we confront, in the context of efforts to build community, such as extra-judicial killings in Philippines, and Sami people in the Arctic region, who face the impact of green colonialism at cost of indigenous traditions. Wind turbines are forcing out Sami people and animals, creating an exhausting fight to defend ancestral livelihoods.  The pain and hopelessness of systemic injustice puts young people at risk of exclusion, in politics, churches and community organisations.  Half the people of the world are under the age of 31, but are discouraged from engaging. There is a lack of decision-making spaces, despite positive potential.  Intergenerational mistrust has seen young people become more politically active to address structural issues, finding platforms to share with ecumenical partners. Let the Waves Roar is a WCC book of essays affirming prophetic voices to disrupt oppressive systems, with 17 authors including Jasmine Rishmawi of Palestine SCM, available free online.  Young people are seen as the hope of the future, but face eco-anxiety, with chronic fear of environmental doom.  Children are more informed than their parents think.  Climate change is occurring against intersecting issues of gender, hate, race, systemic injustice, military rule, war and conflict.  Creating hope for all generations to move toward a just and sustainable future means older people must be accountable.  Sami people find hope in the midst of struggle, bringing back culture, language and heritage, affirming agency to speak truth to power, reclaiming ancestral rights and indigenous wisdom to combat climate change.  Global solidarity is needed to expose and pressure governments and companies.  We still believe in hope.  Stories of struggle create change, rooted in justice and peace.  The blessing of God lives deep in our hearts, bringing anger at exploitation, tears for suffering.  We reach out to comfort others, rejoicing in the hope that we are led by the spirit of God to transform the world. 

Swiss Protestant Reformer Huldrych Zwingli – statue at Zwinglikirche in Berlin

#WSCFGA22 #RejoiceInHope @World Student Christian Federation @wscfgeneva

Comments are closed.