Justice - a Matter of Faith

Park Seong-Won, paper for WCC-AGAPE Global Forum on Poverty, Wealth and Ecology, 18-22 June 2012, Bogor, Indonesia

Where are we today?

The world in which we live today faces an integral crisis of multiple dimensions. The aspects of global crisis the world is currently facing are serious. The situation is deeper and more fundamental.

Is the current civilization sustainable and life-enhancing or life-destroying? There seems to be a general agreement that the current civilization is not sustainable, but life-destructive.

We may be faced with a numerous agenda to deal with at the Busan Assembly. However, I am convinced that one of the most serious challenges we have to deal with is the question of how to build a life-enhancing eco-community, because this is the most serious problem we are facing today.

I don’t think we need to be convinced that the current global economic system based on neo-liberal economic globalization does not work. Evidences are clear. When the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, now World Communion of Reformed Churches, was debating whether Reformed churches need to declare the status confessionis, regarding the neo-liberal economic globalization and global empire, some churches, particularly the Northern churches said that economic globalization is not totally bad and can be reformed. In spite of some Northern churches’ hesitation and resistance, the Reformed churches worldwide adopted the famous Accra Confession, saying that neo-liberal economic globalization and global empire are not compatible with our faith.

It didn’t took more than three years to confirm that the view in Accra was prophetic and correct, when the world had begun to face a fundamental economic crisis starting from financial turmoil in the US in 2007, which is being developed today a domino effects of global economic crisis which European countries are facing today. At the Davos Forum in 2008, even George Soros, one of the top class speculators said that the current crisis means “the end of era.”

Ecological crisis is even more serious. Years back, the World Wide Fund for Nature published a report on seriousness of climate change with the following title, “Climate Change: faster, stronger, sooner.” Today the glacier in the Polar Regions is being melted down10 or 20 years faster than it is expected.

Today, the year of 2020 is being perceived as an apocalyptic time, not by a certain religious groups but by the secular society. Personally thinking, the period from 2013 when the Busan Assembly takes place to 2020, the next Assembly, if the World Council exists, is a crucially significant period in terms of Christian prophetic witness to the integrity of creation.

What can we do?

The churches and ecumenical communities have been trying to respond to this life-destroying situation, even though not all churches were involved. The World Alliance of Reformed Churches had started the process of confeission regarding economic injustice and ecological destruction in 1997, which led the Reformed Churches to adopt the famous Accra Confession at its 24th General Assembly in Accra. Since Harare Assembly, the World Council of Churches has started a process of reflection on how to live out our faith in context of neo-liberal economic globalization. After seven years process of ecumenical analysis and reflection together with other ecumenical family, the World Council was expected to take a prophetic stance at Porto Alegre Assembly. However, the Porto Alegre Assembly failed to take a prophetic stance and lost a kairotic chance, due to hesitation or resistance of some Northern churches taking reformist view as the concept paper said. Again after seven years, we gathered here and are discussing what should be done in Busan Assembly. My question is whether we should take now a decisive action or still hesitate to take an action until the frog is killed by being accustomed to live in water slowly being heated.

Time has come

Time has now come to take a decisive action. In relation to climate change, it is already late. The climate injustice will be getting deeper and deeper reaching to the point of no return, unless we take a radical action now.

In terms of ecumenical witness, if we are still hesitant to take an action, it will become of in issue of unfaithfulness as people of God did in the time of biblical prophets. The price they paid was the Babylonian captivity when they ignored the warning of the prophets. The price we will be paying is more than that. It will be the situation of life-destruction of all living beings.

To me, the Busan Assembly should be characterized by Eco-Justice Assembly, by taking a radical action of ecumenical commitment to eco-justice. Even more than that, my personal wish and hope is that the Busan Assembly would embark a theological, spiritual, and missiological process for transforming the current Life-Destroying Human Civilization into Life-Enhancing Culture and Civilization.

As I said earlier, the period from 2013 to 2020 would be an eschatological time. Therefore, a decisive action needs to be taken.

Since Accra when the World Communion of Reformed Churches took the Accra Confession, the Council for World Mission(CWM), the World Communion of Reformed Churches(WCRC) and the World Council of Churches(WCC) have jointly initiated a movement called, “Oikotree Movement”. This is an ecumenical space where eighteen faith based social movements including a Oikos theology movement gather together to take a faith stance on all sorts of injustice in society global and local. We had a global forum in 2010 in Arnoldshein, Germany and are planning another one in December this year in South Africa.

The core vision of Oikotree movement is “Justice at the heart of faith”. God of life is God of Justice. God of Peace is God of Justice. As Jurgen Moltmann’s book “ Sein Name ist Gerechtigkeit” indicates, God’s name is Justice. In the Bible, what God expects us to do is to do justice. The basic responsibility for both king and people is doing justice (Zedek and Mishphat). God does not accept worship unless Justice is done. Therefore, justice is not a matter of ethics or morality or social action, but a matter of faith. Eco-justice is not a matter of social action of the churches, but a faith action of the church, an action of confessing faith. We hope that the Busan Assembly becomes an Assembly of authentic faith affirming, by doing justice to our society, particularly to the whole creation.