In December 2017, a small contingent from ECPYouth had the opportunity to travel to Amman, Jordan, to participate in a Christian conference and share their experiences of being involved in politics as a Christian. Also it was an opportunity to get to know some Jordanian contacts a little better. As some parts of the trip were sensitive trip, we were not able to post a review of the trip earlier. We are very happy to be able to share some impressions with you now.
The team was composed of ECPYouth members from Slovakia, Poland, the Netherlands, and the UK, and represented 5 different political parties.
Here are some of the reflections from the team members. Each person was given the chance to present to the group in Jordan and was able to share their story, as well as encourage the youth and leaders in Jordan about why Christian involvement in the public square is necessary.
1. Reflection Andrea Brouwer
“One of the goals for our trip to Jordan was to inspire youth to participate actively in society and integrate faith in that. Being actively involved in the public life might be very straightforward for us, it isn’t straightforward for youth in Jordan. Politics, especially, is considered to be something distant and approachable from the lives of Christians. Therefore, I spoke to a group of about 100 young people about how “the personal” is closely connected to “the public”.
I provided the youth examples how the personal and the public are necessarily connected. Sejourner Truth lived around 200 years ago and was born into slavery in New York. After gaining her freedom, she became a well-known anti-slavery speaker. Through her advocacy, she proclaimed that black women were differently treated in society to white women. Her skin colour was something personal, however the differing treatment by society affected all black women and was therefore a problem of society. I also gave the example of the “Me-Too” hashtag that went viral on social media last year in order to denounce sexual assault and harassment. If such an assault happens in a certain area in the neighbourhood, or if it happens in a specific industry, such as the film industry, it turns into a problem of a community and/or a society. In these examples, there can only be collective action for a collective solution. I emphasized that this means we should reach out in the public life such as academia, media and politics. I shared that for us, the Bible and our faith have an amazing impact on our worldview, norms and values. So it is almost impossible to ignore when we try to formulate solutions for problems and challenges in society.
After the presentation, the Jordan youth shared some challenges which the Jordan society faced and discussed how their contributions could be useful. It was a great session and provoked loads of discussion.”
2. Reflection Coen Hermenet
“‘Why am I doing what I am doing?’ During the trip to Jordan, the ECPYouth delegation sat down for a round table event with influential Christian leaders from the country. They represented such spheres as politics, law, the military, and academia. In my talk, I started with this question, as an introduction to the issue of being involved in politics and society as a Christian. I was asked to talk about my activities in politics and society, and to share my motivation and thinking behind it.
I started with a brief introduction to SGP Youth, my personal involvement, the goals and mission of SGP Youth, and how the organization relates to ECPYouth. I explained that in my home country, it is quite common for Christians to be a member of a political party and to be (actively) involved, and that I had been following politics from a quite young age. But at a certain point, one can realize the seriousness of what is going on in politics – on the national as well as on the international level. And with that, the value and importance of a different voice, a Christian voice, in politics and society. Think of the most important kind of issues such as the protection of the lives of pre-born children, but also which role the state should have in education, freedom of religion, and other aspects of everyday life.
After this introduction, we started to discuss how the Bible gives a valuable and inspiring basis for active involvement in politics and society. I did this through a step by step, sequential discussion of ‘Biblical guidelines’ on these issues. It might surprise you, but on each of the following points, the Bible is very clear, and often in several different places:
• All authority is given by God;
• The goal of the authorities is to order society through laws, and ‘to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right’ (1 Peter 2:14);
• Following this point, God has given the authorities the so-called power of the sword;
• The Bible calls us to be subject to the authorities;
• There’s one exception: contradiction to the Word of God;
• The Bible calls us to pray for ‘all those in authority’ (1 Timothy 2:2);
• Note: At this point, the question still remains: Why would you be involved in politics as a Christian? (We are not directly encouraged in the Bible to do so). Here we started to discuss the personal calling;
• The Bible is clear about how we should live – and why (the aim of our life) (think about e.g. the Ten Commandments, Matthew 25, etc.);
• Then, involvement in society/politics can be seen as a valuable opportunity to:
o Make the Biblical calling practical, and at a higher level;
o Help seeking the good for the country and for the people.
• Then we discussed two Biblical examples: Daniel in the Babylonian empire and Joseph, serving under the king of Egypt
• We concluded with the discussion of two ‘pitfalls’:
o Be careful in the following balance: do not worry too much about worldly power, but at the same time do not disregard it;
o We don’t need to have large numbers. As soon as there are people in politics and society who fear God, something will change.”
3. Reflection Klariska ten Napel
I’ve was asked to speak about the issue of Human Trafficking and social action at a big gathering in Amman for about 100 Jordanian youth and their leaders. The organizers wished us to encourage and empower the youth in bringing their faith into practice. I did that by using Human Trafficking and my journey of learning and activism in this topic. My speech included the following points:
– Social imagination: human trafficking is a big global problem, with horrifying stories of abuse, force and exploitation. The stories we hear shape our imagination of the problem, just like the cultural context we grew up in. We need to be aware of the images, stories and pictures that are present in a specific situated cultural context when thinking and discussing a subject.
– Social responsibility: the Bible calls us, many times, towards responsibility when it comes to doing justice. As Christians we can use these Bible scriptures to frame and form our social imagination when thinking and viewing the injustice of human trafficking. There is a big social responsibility coming from the Bible.
– Social action: a social imagination framed by the Bible and the social responsibility coming from the Bible should fuel social action. In my case, it made me become socially active on the topic of Human Trafficking in the form of joining the movement ‘Dressember’, volunteering by a NGO, joining a youth organization, specializing on the topic in university and buying Fair Trade products, to make statements and empower myself to be social active.
By telling my own journey and sharing my knowledge, I enabled and empowered the youth to challenge their thinking and imagination on social topics on Biblical grounds. I provided them an example and tools to think about social responsibility in doing justice and how to become social active.