A proposal to consider for the future
Three passages from the book of Isaiah that have been important in the Lifeline Expedition are 58:10-12, chapter 60 and Isaiah 61:1-4. Isaiah 58:12 is “Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.” Isaiah 60 includes verses about “your sons and daughters coming from afar” (4), “foreigners will rebuild your walls” (10) and “the sons of your oppressor will come bowing before you.” (14). Isaiah 61:4 is similar to 58:12 – “They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.” All these scriptures have spoken to us about the need to repair the damage created by the legacy of slavery and the need to bring back to Africa both the slave descendants and the Europeans to that repairing.
Obviously we have seen it in terms of repairing broken relationships, but increasingly, and especially in the Caribbean and in West Africa, we have also seen the need to literally repair broken walls. It is interesting that when we have been in the yokes and chains and asked how we can make amends, one of the answers has been in terms of the need for right education about slavery and we have been asked if we can repair buildings associated with slavery which are collapsing and which people want to be repaired, so that what happened to their ancestors is not forgotten. People want these former slave houses or graveyards to be places for reflection and education.
Here in the UK initiatives like Soul in the City and Merseyfest have made a great impact. How powerful it would be if significant numbers of young people from UK were to go to a West African city and make a difference as they have been doing in Liverpool and London. Perhaps that would be seen as a contribution as far as reparations is concerned?
There were three incidents in our visit to Ghana in 2006 that have struck me. Firstly at Cape Coast Castle, the director there was impressed that we were the first group he had ever come across at the castle who included participants from all three former parts of the slave triangle. During the past six years with the Lifeline Expedition, we have shown that when mixed groups of Africans, Africans of the Diaspora and whites travel on our journeys together, an initiation into the collective pain of the slavery legacy takes place and transformation and healing occur. Journeying together with all three groups is important.
The second incident was at a Reparations Conference in Accra which four of us attended on one day. What we observed was that the African Americans and the Ghanaians were having a very hard time trying to understand each other and there was a lot of anger and frustration being expressed. It occurred to me that two things were lacking which I believe are essential for true reconciliation to take place. Firstly we know the profound difference that the acknowledged presence of Christ makes for He is indeed the Prince of Peace who destroys dividing walls of hostility (see Ephesians 2:16). Secondly the presence of a third group (in the slavery context white Europeans and North Americans) also makes a difference. Our forebears created the division of Africa in the first place and we need to be present to acknowledge that and to help to bring Africa together once again.
The third incident was as we were waiting to board the plane at Accra before our homeward journey. There was a large group of Dutch young people with http://www.worldservants.nl/ on their sweatshirts. I went up to ask them what it was about and they explained that they had been building a clinic for two weeks in northern Ghana. They said World Servants was for 16-21 year olds. It was started in 1996 in the USA by Jack Larson of Youth for Christ. You can find out more at http://www.worldservants.org/ and I have copied their mission statement below.
It just seemed significant that my last encounter before leaving Ghana should be with a group like this. However I was thinking how much more powerful it would be in Ghana if, instead of a group coming from one nation, you could have a group of young people coming from the three former corners of the slave triangle. So for example, you could have a team of young people from Accra in Ghana, Bridgetown in Barbados and Liverpool in England coming together to learn and work together. The first part could be similar to aspects of Lifeline Expedition journeys with the group getting to know each other and processing reconciliation issues as they visit the main slavery sites in the country. Then they could move on to the literal repairing the broken walls with an appropriate project. It is quite common for Europeans to come and do something practical like building a clinic, but I think the impact will be much greater if the team also has Africans and descendants of enslaved Africans working as well.
I am sure this combination of historical reflection and practical outreach would be a transformational experience for the participants and an effective way train young reconcilers who will know how to wage peace.
That is as far as I’ve got at the moment. I wonder if this could be what the Lifeline Expedition might move into in future – probably with a new name – for the moment I’m calling it “Repairers International” but I’m open to suggestions!
I await your comments….
World Servants Mission
Since 1986, World Servants has facilitated short-term mission projects for over 30,000 participants and trained thousands of teams for cross-cultural ministry. World Servants is a worldwide, multi-cultural organization serving as an agent of change by developing people as servants and leaders. People are being challenged and developed through dynamic mission trips that have long-term impact both on the volunteer participants and the local communities, while assisting these communities to become self-sustaining and interdependent.
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