By Renita Barnes, Training in Mission (TIM) 2017 Participant
Throughout the TIM Programme, there has been a recurring theme of listening or recognizing the “unheard voices” in biblical scriptures, in societies, and even within the context the various participants are from. Majority of the time the unheard voices come from the unseen or irrelevant persons and causes in society. In New Zealand, the unheard voices we encountered were those of the homeless, we learned that many who are homeless never expected to be forced into that situation. In Fiji (Suva), it was the unheard voices of the slums that caught the attention of the group. The slums were located on the outskirts of Suva city, they are apparently obvious, yet the living conditions are ignored by many Fijians. In Kiribati, it was the voices of those who accept climate change as being a real problem who are unheard. As a country, Kiribati’s fight against climate change is unknown to most of the world; not only the world but many villages and islands in Kiribati are oblivious to the situation the country is facing.
It is interesting using the phrase “unheard voices”, because one of the first thoughts that surfaces is why are these voices not being heard…what is blocking or apprehending them from being important or relevant? The common factor that these various voices share is that their issues or problems are not seen as problems to others. Many “turn a deaf ear” (Caribbean phrase) on these voices because no one sees their problems as important. More importantly, those who can help to solve the problems of the unheard voices are not being affected, hence they disregard these people. This statement is not only about the rich, but it is a description of the everyday person who crosses a homeless person, drives past a slum with their head straight, and those who do not believe that climate change exists. Similar to what’s in the Bible, many of the marginalized or exiled did not have a voice until Jesus decided to listen to their problems and encourage others to listen as well. Jesus gave the marginalized an opportunity to be heard.
As participants of the TIM Programme, we are constantly challenged to explore how mission is possible within today’s empires. One of the key ways to doing so is by learning to listen to the unheard voices and to recognize the struggles of the marginalized. Imagine if all the problems of the marginalized were actually pushed to the forefront rather than the focus being on war, economy, and global trading. It is the responsibility of humanity to care for one another and care for all of creation. The mission against empire can be argued to be just that. To allow the marginalized or those exiled and irrelevant to society to be given a voice or to finally let their voices be heard.