21 October 2023
International Development Week: Interconnectedness is key
Inspired by International Development Week, Hayley Still reflects on the importance of being part of a global community.
International Development Week (14–20 October) provides an opportunity to explore, celebrate and support The Salvation Army’s work tackling poverty and injustice around the world. The theme for 2023 is Global Community, exploring what it means to be a community, reflecting on the idea that the Church has the potential, and the responsibility, to be an example of community at its best – loving, serving, inclusive, generous – and remembering that we are all members of a global community connected by our shared humanity.
Community is an essential feature of Christian life. The Church was not intended to be insular, self-serving and exclusive. Jesus was a living example of love, and he spent time in conversation, in community and often among people whom others had rejected. The early Church, too, exemplified how loving, generous and inclusive church can be. They modelled church as a community in which people not only prayed and praised God together, but also ate together, enjoyed fellowship and shared possessions.
It is clear, then, that the Church is called to be a community: there is a biblical foundation for this. But community is perhaps easier to relate to in a local context. What about the concept of a global community?
In Luke 10:25–37, Jesus is asked a simple question: ‘Who is my neighbour?’ Despite the intention to trip him up, Jesus uses the opportunity to share a lesson about compassion for all people, whether they are part of someone’s community or not. It is a story about a person who reached out in kindness to someone from a different culture. In the example Jesus gives, this love is shown through physical care and financial aid.
But this is just one example: it is not the limit of love. What it looks like to love your neighbour as yourself goes beyond charity. Providing care without forming relationships is not community.
The concept of global community is reflected in how we work within International Development UK. The Salvation Army’s international projects are about partnership, not pity. This is why projects do not simply involve the transfer of funds, and why we partner on projects in places where The Salvation Army has a presence – where they are part of the community. The people who will be impacted by a project are involved from beginning to end, from planning conversations and decisionmaking to reflection and feedback.
Pursuing partnership also encourages us to embrace accountability and recognise that we can learn from one another. When we listen to and share with someone whose perspective differs from our own, we are all enriched.
Projects based in other countries can perhaps feel distant, but they are a way in which our global Salvation Army is connected.
A challenge for the Church is that we can mistake diversity for division and feel disconnected from people in other parts of the world, whose cultures are dissimilar to our own. Again, the early Church in Acts 15 provides an example of finding common ground that respects differing backgrounds and cultures while maintaining harmony and allowing the fellowship to flourish.
Embracing global community enables us to engage in cultural exchange and better understand the diverse perspectives and practices of people from around the world. It provides opportunities to learn from different traditions, theological perspectives and worship styles, which can contribute to our understanding of Scripture and enhance our faith. There is also power, potentially, in the sense of solidarity gained through global Christian unity. In places where Christian persecution is a reality, imagine the power of knowing you have the support of believers around the world – not only in praying for you, but also in advocating for your freedom.
As we become increasingly aware of global events, and more able to connect to people on the other side of the planet, we can see the impact of our actions on others in the world. Together, we can make a profound difference so that we, as followers of Jesus, are an example of community at its best – living out love, service, inclusivity and generosity, locally and globally.
UK Engagement Co-ordinator, International Projects Office
'Global Community' is the theme of International Development Week 2023 (14-20 October) and ID Sunday (15).
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