Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 25, 2000
Canadians who serve the poor
TV series highlights idealism of those who work for global justice
The Global Villagers, a five-part documentary produced by Villagers Media Productions, Toronto, with the support of CIDA and in association with Vision TV. View this in preparation for Development Week, Feb. 4-10. Presented on five Wednesdays: Jan. 3-31, Vision TV, 7:30 PM ET/PT.
Review by WAYNE HOLST
Special to the WCR
Over the past 40 years, Canadians from many faith traditions and walks of life have been making inconspicuous but significant contributions in support of the poor, worldwide, through their involvement in faith-based, non-governmental service organizations (NGOs).
Beginning the first Wednesday in January and on Wednesdays through the month, Vision TV will air a five part documentary series which focuses on this remarkable Canadian venture in support of global justice, development and peace.
Catholic viewers will particularly appreciate the fourth installment. Representatives of the Scarboro Mission Society in Toronto and a diocese in Nigeria speak of following the example of Jesus to demonstrate what it means to be involved in contemporary mission.
The days when the "Bible and the flag" advanced a triumphalist Western religious and cultural agenda have been replaced by modern multinational servants of the Gospel who seek to work with local people in many settings; listening carefully to their needs and concerns before ministering on a mutual basis.
Responding first to physical necessities with a concern for people's bodies, minds and spirits has succeeded a previous mission mandate to "save souls."
Baptizing is not the only focus of these modern missionaries. Donor/receiver relations have been replaced by "complementary and reciprocal" acts of cooperative service. Catholics now work with other Christians and various faith traditions in ways that accentuate the practical as well as the religious.
The Christian message is still being proclaimed in this multi-faith ethos. Jesus continues to be honoured as "the way." But most of the sermons preached are now offered humbly through deeds, not words, and are received through observation and appreciation, not by an obligation to conversion in the traditional sense.
The Gospel witness remains important but it is no longer presented in a threatening or exclusive way.
Justice, development and peace ministries, worldwide, are defined not by what we in the economically privileged countries do for others but by how we demonstrate our solidarity with the poor and cooperatively build networks of empowerment with them.
Over the years, more than 12,000 Canadians have worked overseas in organizations as wide ranging as CUSO and Oxfam as well as Catholic, Protestant and Muslim agencies.
They return home deeply affected by what they have experienced. Most of them no longer accept the prevailing materialistic and competitive value systems of our culture. They have seen another side of life and are committed to alternate ways of valuing it.
At the same time, these "global villagers" are more likely to recognize and demonstrate concern for situations of poverty and dysfunction here in Canada.
If there is a drawback to this series, it tends to be confined to Ontario-based agencies in this country.
In a previous era, young people were challenged to leave the security and familiarity of home to join religious orders that traversed the globe with a redemptive message. Today, young people are again challenged to give their lives to causes greater than themselves. The era of mission is not over. It has merely assumed a form reflecting contemporary needs, responsibilities and opportunities.
The Global Villagers on Vision TV is a series worth viewing in its entirety.
(Rev. Dr. Wayne Holst is an instructor in religion and culture at the University of Calgary.)