“How goes the world?”
GUEST BLOGGER: Professor Craig Stewart, CEO, The Warehouse, Cape Town, South Africa
EASTERN University School of Leadership and Development
OPENING DINNER KEYNOTE ADDRESS
Kigali, Rwanda, 2014
Craig Stewart, Eastern Professor, Eastern Alumni
At the entrance to the ACT campus is a banner that you’ll see all over Rwanda at the moment. The banner declares “Kwibuka 2014 – REMEMBER UNITE RENEW.”
“Kwibuka” means “remember” and it is the annual remembrance of the genocide in Rwanda twenty years ago – a genocide we spent time discovering more about yesterday. This year’s commemoration highlights three themes:
– To remember: Honouring the memory of those who died. Offering support to those who survived.
– To unite: to show that reconciliation through shared human values is possible and asking the world to do the same.
– To renew: To build Rwanda anew, to share the Rwandan experience humbly and to learn from others. Let us create a better world together.
The act of remembrance is an important one in the human story
Many of our countries REMEMBER our independence days.
In South Africa, my country, we just remembered the Soweto uprising where high school students broke out in country wide protests against apartheid education on the 16 June 1976.
The Jewish people still remember their escape from Egypt via the celebration of the festival of Passovers.
Each year western nations remember armistice day and all those lost in war on 11 November
We remember each other through annual birthdays.
Yesterday I remembered that a very close friend of mine was killed in the Nairobi mall attack 9 months ago.
Remembering is part of celebration and its a part of healing. However for cultures that are focused on comfort and removing all pain from life, like most western cultures, the act of moving towards pain in remembrance can seem almost offensive and often uncomfortable. However, trauma and grief research is increasingly pointing to this as a critical part of healing. To truly heal we need to build the capacity to be present in our own pain and in someone else’s pain.
South African theologian, Denise Ackerman in her book After the Locusts, writes about remembering and dealing with a past filled with injustice
“A painful history can cripple human memory in two ways: you can either forget the past or be imprisoned by it. I wish neither on you. Your understanding of your past will enable you to deal with your future. Understanding the past will also help you to recognise – both in yourselves and in those who will govern you – the inclination to harm and destroy…
If, on the one hand, you believe yourselves to be immune to the evils perpetrated by previous generations you will be more vulnerable to evil. If, on the other hand, you believe yourselves to be the victims of history, you will forgo the opportunity to emerge from self exoneration into the more turbulent but rewarding waters of self-knowledge…So my prayer for you both is that you will not shirk the clamour of history, while at the same time you will not be burdened by it to the extent that you feel helpless to act.”
As we remember we are reminded that we are all victims and and we are all perpetrators. WE are all capable of this depravity. We echo what Paul said – for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
What relevance does this have for us as we start this residency, three intense weeks spent together studying, learning, laughing, crying, playing and working.
I think we need to remember why we are all here. I know enough of your stories that this is a group uniquely in touch with the broken, hurting pain filled places of this world. We have collectively seen, experienced and touched these places in the human experience. Indeed they are our experience.
We must remember what has drawn us here, what drew Eastern to set up this programme and what drives Dr Beth to champion it ceaselessly is a passion and concern for these places and people.
So as things get busy and we find ourselves discussing topics passionately let us find ways of remembering why we are here – individually and corporately – and lets call that out in each other.
Unity is a difficult thing and we live in a world that is increasingly divided and, in their fear, people are finding solace in division. The ministry of reconciliation is God’s ministry and we should not be surprised when the kingdoms of this world oppose it with everything they’ve got. Not for nothing did Jesus say that it would be by our love for each other that he’d be known.
When Alice, a victim, forgives Emmanuel, a perpetrator, it is an act that offends the kingdom of darkness, it is an act that sees satan fall like lightening from the sky, it is an act that shakes the very foundations of his kingdom.
For us at this residency this has relevance because we are an unusual people. At one level we are with our tribe here in ways that we may not be when we are elsewhere. But in other ways we are a deeply unusual group of people in the world today. We are culturally, economically, theologically and otherwise a very diverse group of people and if we are to learn fully we will need to learn to open ourselves up to others and let others open themselves up to us – even or perhaps especially in the places we are fearful or offended and in these places to fight for unity. For this is the way of His Kingdom.
If we only stay in the memory we run the risk of being trapped by it. And so we should daily renew our commitment to justice and to hope and renew our commitment to our first love and knowing Christ as saviour.
One of the readings you’ll all do in this course is from Preskill’s Learning as a way of Leadership. In particular the chapter on learning to sustain hope in the struggle for justice is a favourite of mine:
“It may be useful to begin this chapter by distinguish optimism from hope and critical hope from naive hope. Optimism is a positive outlook, a tendency to look on the bright side. It is an unearned given, a way of thinking that seems to come automatically and naturally. Hope on the hand is more sober and thoughtful, the necessary result of trying to face struggle while wallowing in despair. Cornel West refers repeatedly to authentic hope as being critically tempered, smelted in the fires of experience, realistic about the dangers it confronts and committed to its perpetuation.
Naive hope, a weak form of hope, is inattentive to how disorienting despair can be and unappreciative of how much must be done to overcome injustice. Naive hope announces that change will come, but it does not divulge how hard it will be, how great the challenges are, or the fact that hope itself is not nearly enough. Critical hope, a much stronger, even fierce form of hope, acknowledges how destructive the absence of hope can be, but it also comprehends at a profound level how complex and multifaceted is the fight for social justice. ”
So renewing our hope, renewing our commitment isn’t an act of optimism or naive hope. The struggle for justice has been handed to us by a great cloud of witnesses – of those who have gone before us in this programme and outside – and we will have to hand it over to a future generation.
There is a children’s book called “The Tales of the Kingdom” that I love. In it two orphaned children flee a city ruled by an enchanter and find themselves in a garden where the King rules. The King who, it is said, will one day return to the city to overthrow the enchanter. In the meantime they live in the garden and learn the ways of the King from the others who live there. The King’s rangers keep watch and call out to each other during the day and night:
“How goes the world?”
“The world goes not well!!”
“But the Kingdom comes”
It is this hope filled call we will need to pass on in order to be renewed. The world goes not well but that is not the end of the story.
Residency is a huge sacrifice for all of you – in finances, time, comfort and energy. But it is also a huge gift, a time set apart, a holy time which won’t easily be repeated in your life.
Find ways to remember why you are here – the fact that the world goes not well but that His kingdom is at hand.
Be courageous in uniting, in finding each other, in pushing through the language, culture and perceptions and truly listening – forming the unusual community called for in the Kingdom.
And each day be renewed in the hope that you have – that this time will build the sustenance for that hope. That optimism will die and in its place a real sustained critical hope will be birthed.
God bless you.
–Craig Stewart, June 2014, Kigali, Rwanda