Poverty

Dalit Converts to Christianity Face Persecution and Violence (Unveiling India's Apartheid, Part 3)

As you were singing carols, placing the last presents under the tree, and worshiping at a Christmas Eve service this past year, Indian Christians halfway across the world were being victimized by the largest attack on the Christian community in India's democratic history. The complex and combustible layers of caste-based oppression and religious persecution came to a head on Dec. 24,2007, through a spate of violence in the Kandhamal District of Orissa state. During the course of [...]

Faith-Based Initiatives Are Neither Democrat nor Republican

In the wake of Sen. Obama's proposals on faith-based initiatives, I listened to political pundits characterize this as simply another shift by Obama toward the political "center." All this knee-jerk analysis totally misses the point.

I've followed the development of this idea for years. In September 2000 I was at a breakfast for religious leaders at the White House when President Clinton [...]

Seeds of Liberation (Unveiling India's Apartheid, Part 2)

As our motorcade approached the Dalit village of Nayagarh, we could see the bright and brilliant image of 500 Dalit women gathered to welcome us, their saris forming a kaleidoscope of color. Cheers and whistles erupted from the crowd of women as we approached. I felt like a presidential candidate as I passed through the crowd, shaking as many hands as I could reach, wanting to make human contact with women whose dignity is so often demeaned and whose worth too often dismissed. These women [...]

Unveiling India's Apartheid (Part 1)

In the shadow of India's economic miracle lies a people often deemed untouchable, largely impoverished, and seemingly invisible. Bubbling beneath the shimmering image of a new India is a cauldron of inequality, caste-based subordination, and religious tension that could boil over into even greater civil strife and violence. At the center of these forces lies the Dalit struggle. While Dalit rights are often denied and hopes are crushed, growing political, economic, and spiritual empowerment [...]

Hard-to-Learn Love

I won't even try to describe all of the maddening details of finding a HUD apartment for a homeless, no-income family that consists of a mother, five kids under the age of nine, and a nurturing father. It suffices to say that after three weeks of slogging through that kind of absurdity and ugliness, I began to understand why the mother, our friend Jaleena, tried to kill herself when her original building got condemned. Even with all that, we barely managed an awful apartment, and by the time [...]

Crazy for Justice

This Training for Change conference was a good experience, one that I did not expect and that challenged me deeply. One of the tools we practiced was learning to tell our personal stories to build relationships with each other. I'm not very good at that, and I have a hard time finding the desire to open up to strangers.

But the more the ideas of "relationships" and "stories" were [...]

Many Tribes, One Kingdom

I, like most, have multiple tribes of which I consider myself a part. This weekend I ate with, spoke with, worshiped with, learned from, and was amazed by a new tribe of people. There was kinship, and a sense of shared experience, struggle, fear, and hope among this new tribe.

I was glad to hear something in Brian McLaren's session on "scared to talk politics in church?" It wasn't something Brian said but rather something from someone who doesn't look like me, and [...]

Sharing Our Stories

Yesterday I was in a class where we were trying to frame up the story of ourselves--not just an idealistic fluffy tale--but one that when you told it, others would understand in their gut why you felt the way you feel and maybe even get a glimpse of the "real" you and move a little bit closer to you as a person. A gentleman shared with me his negative feeling of experiencing that vulnerability. I do believe that most people feel this way...scared to go deeper....scared to really talk about [...]

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