From 21 August to 1 September, a committed group of 23 persons gathered for the Ecumenical School on Governance, Economics, and Management for an Economy of Life (GEM School) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. We were searching for the North Star of economic justice centered in human happiness and wellbeing, a responsible stewardship of our world and a theology that speaks of God’s commitment to reordering structures for just relationships and the liberation of Creation.
We came from Asia, the Pacific, Europe, the Caribbean, South America, the Middle East, and North America. We engaged in a vast conversation that merged our commitments to creating just economic structures, affirming the role of labor, and engaging economic analysis through the eyes of the poor and marginalized.
The role of the church
We were committed to doing economic analysis through the prism of our Christian faith. Particularly, our aim was to engage our Christian ethical mandate to advocate for just and sustainable economic structures. Our strategy for change includes ecumenical and interfaith partners. Our work crosses regional and global boundaries. Our faith drew us to this moment; we searched for ways to transform our own national economic structures, as we promote environmentally sustainable development. Colleagues Ampri Samosir, Patricia Mungcal, Rev. Chi-Kang Chiang, and Rev. Vavauni Ljalgajean, who came to GEM, awed us by forming a community, and presenting a joint project focusing on network building, regional sharing, and advocacy in climate and economic justice in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Taiwan. We saw the world through the eyes and experiences of our brothers and sisters. Their leadership provided a tangible example of the way in which our churches can lead in changing our societies by transforming economic structures to promote healing and communities of justice.
Our immersion experiences in Malaysia exposed us to the plight of migrants. Their stories spoke to the inequality of their existence as they now live in a new land. This inequality is caused by policy, governmental strictures, and judicial inequity. We visited the Parastoo Theater, a “Refugee Problem Solving & Community Dialogue Theater of the Oppressed Troupe in Malaysia.” We heard women and men sharing their stories of escaping war and its trauma only to become oppressed refugees in another nation. This was a moving encounter as we learned the dual oppression experienced by refugees and women. We grieved the exploitation, exclusion, and marginalization experienced by migrant workers and political refugees.
We were excited to learn about the Zacheus Campaign, or the Zac Tax, a progressive taxation and reparations process that moves beyond self-interest to a commitment for community wellbeing. It is an ultimate redistribution of wealth caused by an inversion where the first become last and the last become first. Reparations is a commitment to repairing communities that have been devastated by economic injustice and exploitation. The Zac Tax is a global effort to transform international tax rules and procedures and equipping churches to advocate for more just societies.
It was an honor to be a part of GEM. This enriching experience will enable all of us to become even stronger advocates for economic justice, labor rights and the wellbeing of Creation. I encourage both laity and clergy to participate in this annual program.