I am a firm believer that when you make a commitment to fight any injustice in the world, you are (maybe unbeknownst to you) making inroads into understanding and fighting against other injustices. To me, most all injustices are inextricably intertwined and work together to hold people down or at the margins. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

When we are working to end poverty and hunger in the world, it is important to remain mindful that poverty, the distribution of wealth, and hunger are chained, not only to one another, but to other, equally important injustices, like sexism, ageism, and racism.

This last weekend, June 27-29, through gracious funding from women’s ministries at the National Council of Churches- USA, I had the opportunity to attend the International Conference on Racism and Globalization at the Lutheran Center here in Chicago, Illinois. The event was organized by Agricultural Missions, Inc. (AMI) and Federation of Southern/ Cooperatives Land Assistance Fund (FSC/LAF). People from across the United States and around the world, brothers and sisters from Alabama to California, Uganda to El Salvador to Sri Lanka, gathered to share stories and network.

The goals of the conference were two fold:
To raise awareness of the interconnectedness of racism and globalization in the current context and affirm our commitment to seek to end racism within our organizations, our communities and ourselves.
To develop international networks that will assist organizations, individuals, and communities in using their power to confront and defeat any aspects of globalization that are driven by racism and negatively impacts their lives.

The weekend was full of panel dialogues on topics such as trade policy and financial institutions, human migration, food, land, water, and the environment, employment and labor, culture and spirituality, and education. We also met in small groups for in-depth discussion and cultural sharing. The culmination of the event was a declaration from the group, which I will link to when it becomes available to me.

In the mean time, here are my highlights.

Mikka’s Top 3 Learnings

1. XenoPHOBIA vs. xenoPHILIA. According to Miriam Webster’s online dictionary, xenoPHOBIA is “fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign.” In a speech given by Luis Rivera- Pagán, he expressed the terrible things that we, people, do to one another when we see each other as strangers. Instead, Rivera-Pagán argued for a heightened sense of xenoPHILIA, which comprises hospitality, love, and care for the stranger. Pagán is quoted here,

“In times of increasing economic and political globalization, xenophilia should be our duty and vocation, as a faith affirmation not only of our common humanity, but also of the ethical priority in the eyes of God of those living in the shadows and margins of our societies.”

2. Globalization has many definitions and many different manifestations in the world. Globalization is a huge term, which encompasses economic realities, but has a very real human impact. Globalization, as we currently know it, has been furthered through technological advancements and the ease of capital transfers around the world. However, do humans, human capital, have the same abilities and rights?

3. The church has a strong presence to offer. There were two main themes that I took away from the event in relation to the church.

First, there was a sentiment that the church, religion, and the Bible have all, at times, been “co-opted” to falsely explain acts of violence, racism, and other injustices.

However, more promisingly, people at the event recognized that faith-based organizations are essential partners. Faith-based organizations are on the front-lines, working and serving with people against injustice. Faith communities have the ability to organize and effectively advocate for things like debt cancellation and fairer practices at events like the World Trade Organization’s Doha Development Rounds.

I am always amazed at the good work being done by our sisters and brothers in the global community. I am constantly humbled and challenged as I learn more about the world that we are a part of. For more information, please email me or comment on this blog. I’ve written 715 words here, and I would be happy to continue the conversation, because, for me, continuing conversations are where the real learning happens.