Injustice

Running for God's purposes

Beth Hand was one of our relay runners at the 2018 Belfast marathon. Inspired to raise money for rural communities in Zimbabwe, and spurred on by Paul’s words in Romans (as well as some words from Usain Bolt!), Beth laced up her trainers and got training!


Belfast. 7th May 2018. The words of Usain Bolt ran through my head as I watched out for my team mate “train hard, turn up, run your best and the rest will take care of itself”. Bolt and I are in no way similar in fact I am his complete opposite especially in regards my athletic ability; in rounders I would be the one to put the team out, in squash I get hit with the ball and normally even the sight of football on the television puts meet sleep (perhaps a blessing to my husband so that he can peacefully watch the slaughter of his beloved Leeds FC). 


However, for the past few years one thing has taken me off the sofa and out into the highways and byways in my trusty trainers… Belfast City Marathon Relay for WDR. I think this is the one stage at which I get excited about running. The cold, wet and miserable training is an honour when you know that many are running alongside you to raise funds and awareness for partners connected WDR. Paul wrote in Romans “so we, though many, are one body in Christ” and I love that we have the opportunity to stand with our brothers and sisters though miles apart. It is a blessing to be able to run, walk or jog knowing that God uses it for His purposes.


The day itself was thrilling with runners of all shapes and sizes spread like confetti over the city of Belfast. I dropped my husband off at the starting line (as he was running the full marathon) and headed to the change over point for my leg. When I arrived there was already a sea of Methodists in their luminous WDR bibs stretching and chatting. Most of us were a little apprehensive but filled with the adrenaline rush of community and excitement. We stood together waiting for our teammates and on their arrival it was our turn. Step after step we ran along the route watching faces cheer, smile and encourage us as the miles passed by. 


As we crossed the finishing line I felt exhilarated and exhausted but mostly thirsty! I drank nearly a whole bottle of water and as I held it in my hand I was reminded of why I had signed up in the first place. Dabane Water Workshops work in Zimbabwe to find and implement creative water solutions, something we very much take for granted. It is a gift that all should have access to and so as I had trained this was in the forefront of my mind. If we are one body in Christ then I must do my part to ensure that resources are shared equally and fairly so that all may know his provision and love. 


The marathon relay was one of the best things I have done and I hope that as a family we can continue to be part of WDR and their efforts through the marathon. Please think about joining up, you will be part of a community as you run and part of God’s mission as you cross the finishing line. 


Want to follow in Beth’s footsteps and join us at the marathon? Get in touch!

Constantly Learning

Rev. Jools Hamilton co-led a team of young adults from the Methodist Church in Ireland to South Africa, to explore themes of justice and leadership. As part of their visit, the team spent some time with the Church Land Programme (WDR Partner). Here Jools shares some thoughts on their work and the uphill battle they face. 

Sometimes things have to get worse before they get better. And we need the eyes to see that.

The Church Land Program in South Africa, is a great example of pushing back some of the injustices of this world hectare by hectare. It was established in 1996 to help face some of the injustices from the years of colonial rule and apartheid.

Historically when a colonial power steps in, it usually does so with superior military might, and that superiority is used to forcefully take what has not been theirs, and hold it by force. In a South African context this has meant violent capture of resource (land) followed by brutal defense of it. 

When everything changed in 1994 land became a big agenda item for the churches. All the mainline churches found themselves as significant landowners, in a land where their members were landless. Land the Church now owned, in a privileged position, which historically had belonged to many people sitting in it’s pews. An interesting position for an organization that’s exists on the example of a Christ who washed his followers feet? 

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Since 1996 CLP has been involved in different ways to return land to black land owners, and have the land (a vital place of identity and resource in the African continent) as a sustainable and just component of life for everyone.

They are on an uphill battle, and they fight it well. 

But here’s the thing. 

There were more evictions of black and colored people in South Africa from white owned land during the 10 years after apartheid than the 10 years before apartheid ended.

Political agreement has not brought Peace. 

In a land where, as apartheid ended, white people were 13% of the population owning 80% of the land, change had to be strategized and resourced with bold action. The work of the Church Land Program, its ‘raison d’être’ of speeding up land reform, is a light of actionable hope in the midst of the giants of capitalism, colonial history, human nature and socio–geo–political obstinance corruption and incompetence.

And so they are clear – they don’t think they have ‘arrived at a solution’ and aim to implement it. They have been on a 20–year journey from fixing the problem to discovering the same solution doesn’t work everywhere, to now being in solidarity with those in the struggle. They are therefore in a constant place of learning.

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The time I and a team of young leaders from the Methodist Church in Ireland spent with them recently challenged all of us to, as per their example, be in a constant place of reflective learning and practice. 

Yet – how can I listen to their story and not feel my heart sink?

More people were thrown off land in the 10 years after apartheid than the precious 10 years. Cleansing ‘space’ to keep ‘self’ guarded and safe? 

Belfast has more ‘peace walls’ now than it did when the Good Friday Agreement was signed. Building walls to keep ‘us’ in and ‘them’ out, to keep ‘self’ guarded and safe?

There are better ways to keep humans grounded and safe that do not involve building walls, creating segregation and sectarian violence … it was a pleasure to witness just one of many groups concerned with a just and sustainable solution to land distribution in one part of the world that has suffered massively from issues of the land giving leadership and inspiration in this area.

Visit their website to learn more: http://www.churchland.org.za/ 

[This post originally appeared on www.joolshamilton.com]

Victim to Survivor

Earlier this year, Pat (a member of the WDR committee) was invited to see the a glimpse of the work of IJM [WDR Partner] in Cambodia. 

My time spent in Cambodia with International Justice Mission (IJM) was very busy! Our journey took 24 hours and although we were only there for only five days, it was a very encouraging time spent with such professional and caring staff in the IJM office. 

Pol Pot and the legacy of Khmer Rouge controlled Cambodia for almost four years. He tortured and killed so many, particularly anyone educated such as doctors, lawyers, teachers and engineers, in fact even if someone wore glasses they were also killed as he saw them as educated. He was ousted by the Vietnamese in January 1979, however a civil war continued for another two decades, eventually coming to an end in 1999. Most hospitals and education facilities are headed up by foreigners.

The IJM team of staff consists of lawyers, investigators, social workers, community activists and other professionals. So, what did I see in the Cambodia office and throughout Cambodia?

For over a decade the IJM office in Cambodia had been working to reduce the exploitation of children in the sex trade. There were approximately 15-30% of minors, many of them 15 and under, throughout the country and in 2013 this was reduced to 0.1%. 

We were driven down a street which is now full of shops, offices and houses that once were almost all brothels.  Sex exploitation of children has plummeted, thanks to IJM and other organisations. 

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IJM staff are now mainly focussed on labour trafficking, particularly with men exploited as slaves in the Thai fishing industry, and women being taken to China by 'bride traffickers'. They are also involved, alongside WorldVision, in the training of police officers on the issue of trafficking. There are senior police officers who have a passion to drastically reduce this crime. 

While we were there we sat in on a training session for police officers, had a private meeting with the Chief of Police in the North West of the country, and visited the court where victims give evidence and where many traffickers have been prosecuted. We also got to visit and be part of devotions in a church where the IJM staff are involved in community engagement, led by a young Methodist man. 

We spent a full day meeting the staff at IJM HQ; a non-descriptive building with no signs outside- safety and privacy of staff is paramount. We didn’t get to meet the investigators as they had travelled to Thailand to train staff in a new office. We did however get to meet most all others.  

We heard from the legal team, finance, translator, investigation department, community engagement and, an area I found extremely interesting, the aftercare team.

I was inspired by Saroeun. He previously worked in a nightclub and was asked to help IJM to investigate those exploiting people into the sex industry. He started studying law and was successful at university. Now he is head of the legal team and an extremely influential, respected and well-known lawyer throughout Cambodia.

The aftercare team is very much involved in caring for those who have gone from being victims to being survivors. They help them when they return home, assist them in any way possible, including helping them to seek employment - the reason why a large number are trafficked in the first place.

I was upset yet inspired to hear the story of ‘Sam’ (not his real name we never got to know that or take photos of him) who had been taken to Thailand to work on a fishing boat. He lives very close to Thai border, and as work is scarce he was ‘taken in’ by an unscrupulous person offering him a job in the Thai fishing industry. He was on a boat that was fishing illegally and was never brought to harbour. The men lived in cramped conditions and were fed little food. They were terrified of the Captain who had a gun, knowingthey could be shot or thrown overboard at anytime so they just kept working. They received no money even though they had been promised a salary, no contact with anyone off the ship. For 6 years, Sam did not see land.

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His story was told directly to us with the use of an interpreter. He felt he had been sold however now feels he has been given life again.He has a family and IJM are trying to assist him to secure work. The staff continue to work with those who have been victims and now survivors for a minimum of two years.

I am writing this blog on International Trafficking Awareness Day.  Although the stories of victims are difficult to hear and to understand, know that the work done by IJM is truly changing lives.