Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Justice and AIDS at Urbana 06

Happy new year! I'm now home from Urbana 06, and I'm still recovering from fatigue and sore feet. We were extremely busy, so I wasn't able to blog much. But it was an excellent week and tremendously invigorating. A few more highlights:

Sharon Cohn from International Justice Mission gave a powerful testimony regarding God's concern for the poor, the forgotten, the last, the least, the lost and the littlest. 27 million people today are enslaved, and Sharon shared the story of Elizabeth, a Christian girl who was forced into sexual slavery. A Westerner paid $500 to rape her of her virginity. An IJM investigator and local authorities were eventually able to rescue her from the brothel. On the wall of the room where she had been sexually assaulted daily, she had written Psalm 27: "The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear?" Sharon challenged delegates to be the enemies of injustice. We are called to courage, she said; "We are called to be a little bit braver tomorrow than we are today." She concluded by saying that she asked Elizabeth to read Psalm 27 to her once, but she wouldn't. Elizabeth said that Psalm 27 was what she read while she was in the brothel. But now she looks to Psalm 34: "I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears."

Then there was a special extended session focusing on AIDS, and one of the high points for many was a video message from Bono taped specifically for Urbana. (Unfortunately, this is one of the few segments that is not available online. Call it the "Urbono" session. :-) In it he highlighted some of the themes that he has been championing for the past few years - he said that AIDS and poverty are the issues that future generations will look back at our generation for, like slavery in the 18th-19th centuries. This is our abolition movement, our civil rights movement. He challenged delegates to join the ONE Campaign to make poverty history.

Something that struck me once again was how holistic Urbana's approach to mission was. Evangelicals are often caricatured as only being concerned about "saving souls" and neglecting the larger societal implications of the gospel. But as someone said from the platform, proclamation of the gospel and demonstration of the gospel go hand in hand. This isn't particularly new, as I'm sure this has been said since the early Urbanas when John Stott was on the program as the main expositor, but I'm grateful that Urbana and InterVarsity have continued this emphasis on global justice and are bringing sound missiology to bear on the crucial issues of our day.

So how can we get involved? First, if you've not yet read Good News About Injustice by IJM founder Gary Haugen, start there. It's an excellent introduction to what's going on in the world and how Christians can participate in God's work for justice. Another example is one that I highlighted in my book - a high school of suburban teens started a student network to fight AIDS in Africa. And join the ONE Campaign. Even though I've heard about ONE for some time, I'd never gotten around to signing on. But the day after Bono's message, I stopped by a World Vision booth, signed up and got a wristband. I'm not sure yet what other steps I might take, but one baby step is that I just figured out how to add the banner to the coding of this blog.

As Sharon Cohn said in her testimony, when power is threatened, it is students that are feared and schools and universities that are shut down. Totalitarian dictators most fear college students that start reform movements, end apartheid, bring injustice to light and change the world. I am encouraged that the thousands of students who were at Urbana 06 are being mobilized to a life and a calling far greater than mere consumerism, and that all of us can join them in God's work around the world. (P.S. Here's a blog entry by a student who was at Urbana - just one example of why I am so encouraged by and hopeful about this generation.)


Anonymous said...

Interesting. Thanks for the info.

Anonymous said...

This was a timely post. Having recently sought justice in an issue in my own life, I've realized the high calling the Lord gives to seek justice for those who can't seek it for themselves. Your suggestions were good places to start. I will be interested to hear where you go from here on this issue.

Anonymous said...

hi Al,

thx for leaving a comment on my blog. I read the first chapter of your new book and resonated with the social/economic analysis.

I will be blogging through your book in the new school term (as it affects my own church situation, being an urban church with suburban members), and would love to talk to you more indepth sometime.

Thx for your service with IVP. Love the resources you guys provide.


Anonymous said...

Al, great post. I wish I had been there. (Well, sort of. The timing stinks.)

And you've inspired me to look into the ONE campaign some more. Maybe I'll add that cool banner to my blog, too! (Kudos to you for learning the code tricks as well.)

Margaret Feinberg said...

great report!!! thank you!

Phil Hoover said...


I can remember listening to the URBANA conferences on Radio when I was a teenager, and then again when I was in College.

I have always wanted to attend one...when will the next one be?

Of course I'm in my 40s, but I'd still love to see what the Lord is doing in this powerful movement.