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MISSION IN THE CONTEXT OF GLOBALIZATION

Read­ing Time: 24 minutes

This is a paper delivered on May 17, 2017, on the occa­sion of the Float­ing Insti­tute of Mis­si­ology (FIM), organ­ized by The Pon­ti­fic­al Mis­sion Soci­et­ies (PMS), Owerri Eccle­si­ast­ic­al Province, at BANPAC Umua­hia, Abia State. 

A fun­da­ment­al ques­tion for glob­al mis­sion is not only a geo­graph­ic­al mat­ter, encom­passing the whole world, but also a mat­ter of con­tent. The issue is a hol­ist­ic gos­pel for a hol­ist­ic mis­sion.”[1]

Preamble

The Chris­ti­an Church is the most glob­al reli­gious insti­tu­tion in the world.  To rethink its mis­sion in light of glob­al­iz­a­tion is an imper­at­ive for our time” (R. Schreit­er). Wheth­er they real­ize it or not, glob­al­iz­a­tion impacts mis­sion­ar­ies and the mis­sion­ary activ­it­ies of the Church. The theme giv­en to me by the organ­isers of this con­fer­ence, The Pon­ti­fic­al Mis­sion Soci­et­ies (PMS) is very intriguing. I under­stand my task is to reflect on the sig­ni­fic­ances of the key terms mis­sion and glob­al­iz­a­tion; to under­line the dif­fi­culties and chal­lenges of pro­claim­ing the Gos­pel in a glob­al­ized world; and prob­ably sug­gest ways to ameli­or­ate such dif­fi­culties and to enhance mis­sion­ary and pas­tor­al activ­it­ies in a glob­al­ized and glob­al­iz­ing world. It will be quite impossible to delve into the cur­rent dis­course and debates on the theme of glob­al­iz­a­tion. One would have to exam­ine vast soci­olo­gic­al, eco­nom­ic, cul­tur­al, and reli­gious lit­er­at­ures on the theme of glob­al­iz­a­tion over the past dec­ades since the term first came into usage. How­ever, the hand­writ­ing on the wall can­not be com­pletely avoided. There­fore, I will present a tele­graph­ic dis­course on glob­al­iz­a­tion imme­di­ately after these intro­duct­ory words.

It is the mis­sion of the Church to “pro­claim the Good News (eu-angeli­on) of sal­va­tion, a sal­va­tion that frees man, every man and woman, in every way: spir­itu­ally, mor­ally, cul­tur­ally, eco­nom­ic­ally and socially.”[2] The dis­ciples held the mis­sion of Jesus, and thus, set out from the streets of Jer­u­s­alem to pro­claim to the nations that God has vis­ited his people. Glob­al stat­ist­ics and oth­er obser­va­tions indic­ate the entire globe is exper­i­en­cing ser­i­ous and series of crises. The con­tem­por­ary Nigeri­an soci­ety is exper­i­en­cing deep and troub­ling value dec­ad­ence in its diver­si­fied forms: mor­al, social, cul­tur­al, polit­ic­al, eco­nom­ic, envir­on­ment­al, reli­gious, unequalled and ever-increas­ing cor­rup­tion. Reli­gious exper­i­ence and peace­ful liv­ing in a soci­ety char­ac­ter­ised by these abnor­mal­it­ies is prac­tic­ally impossible. Fur­ther­more, the erup­tion of Inform­a­tion and Com­mu­nic­a­tion Tech­no­logy (ICT) – the new form of the Greek “Aero­pagus” which is uni­fy­ing human­ity and turn­ing it into a “glob­al vil­lage”[3] and with its clear cul­ture of per­missiv­ism is not mak­ing things bet­ter. More so, Sec­u­lar­ism (Sec­u­lar­iz­a­tion) and Glob­al­ism (Glob­al­iz­a­tion) appear to be con­trib­ut­ing to this men­ace. Hence, the quest for intel­li­gent and wise reli­gious lead­ers and mis­sion­ar­ies. As mor­al, cul­tur­al, social and reli­gious agents, mis­sion­ar­ies have no option than to imbibe those qual­it­ies neces­sary to bring our world and her cit­izenry on the right track. These wise, intel­li­gent mis­sion­ary-lead­ers are needed to incul­cate in the masses the cul­ture of ser­vice and ded­ic­a­tion to duty. And to let them under­stand that both ICT and Glob­al­ism are oppor­tun­it­ies for improve­ment and pro­gress not for derail­ment. The top­ic of our delib­er­a­tion is Mis­sion in the con­text of glob­al­iz­a­tion. Expressed in inter­rog­at­ive forms, the top­ic ques­tions the pos­sib­il­ity of mis­sion in the glob­al world. In what ways has glob­al­iz­a­tion affected and con­di­tioned the pro­clam­a­tion and propaga­tion of the Gos­pel mes­sage? In oth­er words, what are the strengths, oppor­tun­it­ies, advant­ages and dis­ad­vant­ages, risks, threats and weak­nesses of glob­al­iz­a­tion to the Chris­ti­an mis­sion? How do we pro­claim the Gos­pel in a world where the inter­net is already a reli­gion? As I was reflect­ing on this top­ic, many oth­er ques­tions came to my mind. One among them is “Ter­ror­ism in the con­text of glob­al­iz­a­tion.” This might sound strange. But if ter­ror­ism flour­ishes in the midst of glob­al­iz­a­tion, then, why should mis­sion not flour­ish in the con­text of glob­al­iz­a­tion too? Why should the Gos­pel not spread like ter­ror­ism? If ter­ror­ists learn and take advant­age of the mod­ern tech­no­lo­gic­al gad­gets, why should mis­sion­ar­ies not do same? What is it that ter­ror­ists do that make them suc­ceed? What is their meth­od­o­logy and mod­us operandi? The key words of our reflec­tion are mis­sion and glob­al­iz­a­tion. And I will begin with globalization.

Globalization

In Glob­al Trans­form­a­tionsDav­id Held and his com­pan­ions explain that, in its simplist­ic sense, glob­al­iz­a­tion refers to the widen­ing, deep­en­ing and speed­ing up of glob­al inter­con­nec­tion; such a defin­i­tion begs fur­ther elab­or­a­tion. Glob­al­iz­a­tion can be loc­ated on a con­tinuum with the loc­al, nation­al and region­al. At one end of the con­tinuum lie social and eco­nom­ic rela­tions and net­works, which are organ­ized, on a loc­al and/or nation­al basis; at the oth­er end lie social and eco­nom­ic rela­tions and net­works, which crys­tal­lize on the wider scale of region­al and glob­al inter­ac­tions. Glob­al­iz­a­tion can refer to those spa­tial-tem­por­al pro­cesses of change, which under­pin a trans­form­a­tion in the organ­iz­a­tion of human affairs by link­ing togeth­er and expand­ing human activ­ity across regions and con­tin­ents. Without ref­er­ence to such expans­ive spa­tial con­nec­tions, there can be no clear or coher­ent for­mu­la­tion of this term. A sat­is­fact­ory defin­i­tion of glob­al­iz­a­tion must cap­ture each of these ele­ments: extens­ity (stretch­ing), intens­ity, velo­city and impact.[4] Swedish journ­al­ist Thomas Larsson, in his book The Race to the Top: The Real Story of Glob­al­iz­a­tion, states that glob­al­iz­a­tion is the pro­cess of world shrink­age, of dis­tances get­ting short­er, things mov­ing closer. It per­tains to the increas­ing ease with which some­body on one side of the world can inter­act, to mutu­al bene­fit, with some­body on the oth­er side of the world.[5] Paul James defines glob­al­iz­a­tion with a more dir­ect and his­tor­ic­ally con­tex­tu­al­ized emphas­is. Accord­ing to him, “Glob­al­iz­a­tion is the exten­sion of social rela­tions across world-space, defin­ing that world-space in terms of the his­tor­ic­ally vari­able ways that it has been prac­ticed and socially under­stood through chan­ging world-time.”[6] For Zyg­munt Bau­man, “glob­al­iz­a­tion is …a fad word fast turn­ing into a shib­boleth, a magic incant­a­tion, a pass-key meant to unlock the gates to all present and future mysteries.”

Glob­al­isa­tion has become the buzzword of the last two dec­ades. The sud­den increase in the exchange of know­ledge, trade and cap­it­al around the world, driv­en by tech­no­lo­gic­al innov­a­tion, from the inter­net to ship­ping con­tain­ers, thrust the term into the lime­light. Glob­al­isa­tion means increased inter­de­pend­ence between nation­al eco­nom­ies. On the one hand, glob­al­isa­tion is a gradu­al, evol­u­tion­ary pro­cess, which first became vis­ible at the end of the 19th cen­tury, when the part of world pro­duc­tion that was traded inter­na­tion­ally increased sharply, and mul­tina­tion­al com­pan­ies began to emerge. Although glob­al­iz­a­tion became vis­ible towards the end of the 19th cen­tury, but the entire pro­cess star­ted dur­ing the 17th cen­tury. While Some clas­si­fy glob­al­isa­tion as a good thing oth­ers dis­agree. Those who okay glob­al­iz­a­tion insist it “has enriched the world sci­en­tific­ally and cul­tur­ally, and benefited many people eco­nom­ic­ally as well.” On the oth­er hand, the scep­tics are of the opin­ion that it has per­petu­ated inequal­ity in the world rather than redu­cing it. In its diverse forms – cul­tur­al, polit­ic­al, eco­nom­ic, social and reli­gious, glob­al­iz­a­tion con­tin­ues to affect pos­it­ively and neg­at­ively the lives and activ­it­ies of peoples. In his post-syn­od­al apostol­ic exhorta­tion, Eccle­sia in Amer­ica, John Paul II wrote “the eth­ic­al implic­a­tions [of glob­al­iz­a­tion] can be pos­it­ive or neg­at­ive. There is an eco­nom­ic glob­al­iz­a­tion which brings some pos­it­ive con­sequences such as effi­ciency and increased pro­duc­tion and which, with the devel­op­ment of eco­nom­ic links between the dif­fer­ent coun­tries, can help to bring great­er unity among peoples and make pos­sible a bet­ter ser­vice to the human fam­ily. How­ever, if glob­al­iz­a­tion is ruled merely by the laws of the mar­ket applied to suit the power­ful, the con­sequences can­not but be neg­at­ive. These are, for example, the abso­l­u­tiz­ing of the eco­nomy, unem­ploy­ment, the reduc­tion and deteri­or­a­tion of pub­lic ser­vices, the destruc­tion of the envir­on­ment and nat­ur­al resources, the grow­ing dis­tance between rich and poor, unfair com­pet­i­tion which puts the poor nations in a situ­ation of ever increas­ing inferi­or­ity.”[7] In such con­text, what is the fate of the Gos­pel? How should the mis­sion­ary propag­ate the mes­sage? With and in its pos­it­ive and neg­at­ive eth­ic­al and/or mor­al implic­a­tions, how is the mis­sion of the church affected by the phe­nomen­on of glob­al­iz­a­tion? John Paul II describes a much more com­plex con­text than the con­di­tion of Church when Leo XIII wrote Rerum Novar­um. That does not excuse Chris­ti­ans from their respons­ib­il­ity of propagat­ing the Gos­pel in a now glob­al­ized world, or from the pur­suit of the king­dom of God how­ever com­pressed the space-time con­text. How do you for instance, announce the Gos­pel in the European cul­ture where the term “God” is com­pletely omit­ted in the European con­sti­tu­tion, all in an attempt to cre­ate a sec­u­lar soci­ety and in this case, a sec­u­lar Europe? This also is caused by globalism.

Globalization and its many cultures

As indic­ated above, glob­al­iz­a­tion in its diverse forms – cul­tur­al, polit­ic­al, eco­nom­ic, social and reli­gious impacts on the lives of the people. The vari­ous peri­ods of his­tory pos­sess its unique cul­ture and char­ac­ter­ist­ics. The 21st cen­tury is marked by a strong glob­al elec­tron­ic com­munity, net­worked by the click of a mouse or by simply touch­ing the screen. It is a com­munity that has developed and is still devel­op­ing its own par­tic­u­lar cul­ture. It is a glob­al elec­tron­ic and busi­ness ori­ented cul­ture that is tak­ing the world into a new and soph­ist­ic­ated dimen­sion. It is an inter­net soci­ety. It is an era of inter­net­o­logy[8] with its con­com­it­ant cul­tures. This new cul­ture is gradu­ally pro­du­cing new glob­al cit­izens with dif­fer­ent mind-set and lan­guage. The Gos­pel must be announced to the post­mod­ern gen­er­a­tion with the mod­ern means of social com­mu­nic­a­tion and accord­ing to the new lan­guage of the new glob­al cit­izens. In oth­er words, evan­gel­iz­a­tion must embrace these new cul­tures. Now, embra­cing these new cul­tures involves learn­ing and accept­ing the inter­net lan­guage and the inter­net slang.[9] This glob­al trend has greatly affected and mod­i­fied the tra­di­tion­al meth­od­o­logy of evan­gel­iz­a­tion. Although the new inter­net and social com­mu­nic­a­tion cul­tures seem to have bridged the gap between the urb­an and rur­al set­tings, yet, these must be taken into con­sid­er­a­tion by the Church. Due to glob­al­ism, people and their cul­tures are under­go­ing quick and fast trans­form­a­tions. And as these cul­tures are trans­formed, so also is mor­al­ity and reli­gion trans­formed. Those involved in the work of evan­gel­iz­a­tion should ensure that the reli­gious under­stand­ing and par­tic­u­larly, the Gos­pel is not com­prom­ised by these trans­form­a­tions. How­ever, the Gos­pel should be adap­ted to the pro­cesses of the cur­rent trans­form­a­tions. Next Page

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