All posts tagged “2012

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Repaso: 2012 Year-End Edition


The week between Christmas and New Year’s is always a good time to slow down, take a break, and look back on the past year. With that in mind, instead of a Repaso this week, I’ve compiled my ten most popular blog posts from 2012. If it’s of interest to you, great. If not, don’t worry – I’ll be back with the usual weekly roundup next Friday. Happy new year!

10. Not one square inch! (February 6)
My review of Richard Mouw’s biography of Dutch theologian and statesman Abraham Kuyper.

9. Is justice enough? (December 3)
In this post I introduce my cover story for Reject Apathy on “the tension that was never supposed to exist” between evangelism and social action.

8. Tomato Justice (May 2)
This post introduces my cover story for PRISM on the lives of tomato pickers in Immokalee, Florida – a town infamously dubbed “ground zero for modern-day slavery.”

7. Truth, gentleness, and convicted civility (May 15)
My review of Uncommon Decency, Richard Mouw’s classic book on “convicted civility” – a timely one to consider in a contentious election year.

6. Chris Wright on faith in the marketplace (January 30)
Notes from Chris Wright’s talk in Phoenix on “The Mission of God in the Public Arena.”

5. The debated merits of short-term mission trips (July 3)
A look at the perils and possibilities of short-term mission trips and service projects, drawing on some recent articles and books.

4. Restoring culture with first things first (March 13)
A review of The Next Christians, an important book by Gabe Lyons on how younger Christians are engaging culture.

3. Richard Twiss on following Jesus and being Native (February 14)
My review of One Church, Many Tribes by Richard Twiss, about the importance of Native American believers finding their place within the broader body of Christ without losing their culture

2. Guest post: Ugandan photojournalist responds to Kony 2012 (March 15)
In light of the Kony 2012 brouhaha (that we’ve all by now mostly forgotten), I asked my friend Andy Kristian, a Ugandan photojournalist and social entrepreneur, to weigh in with his thoughts on the film and the movement behind it

1. The Justice Conference, according to my Moleskine (February 28)
I took my journal with me to The Justice Conference, and I took notes. People seemed to like it. Have I mentioned the 2013 conference will be simulcast live in Phoenix?

Repaso is intended as a thought-provoking compilation of news and commentary from the past week related to the intersections of faith, development, justice and peace. As always, I welcome your thoughts on any of the links and ideas in this roundup!

[Image credit:]

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Guest post: Ugandan photojournalist Andy Kristian responds to KONY 2012

This is a guest post by my friend Andy Kristian, a very talented photographer and social entrepreneur who is from Uganda. He also happens to be a great guy. Please check out his photography site and follow him on Twitter for all things related to politics, nonprofits and other trends in East Africa. I asked him what he thought of KONY 2012, the biggest viral video of all time, with more than 100 million views. Here’s what Andy had to say:

Two days ago I was approached by a friend of mine and blogger/writer Tim Hoiland to do a guest blog. He had received several inquiries for his opinion on the viral Kony 2012 video that captured the world by storm and blew the internet for 7 straight days. Even now, it continues to dominate conversations both on and offline and is likely to do so for the foreseeable future. Invisible Children, the makers of the video also still has other activities planned in tandem with the video and it is more likely than not that they will attract some good measure of attention. But why did Tim ask me? Why not just go ahead, research and write? He explained that people had asked his opinion, “but I’d rather  have a Ugandan answer it.” I then asked him what he thought was the best direction of the post for his readers and he mentioned three things, that I will go ahead and answer.

1. Is there something praiseworthy in Invisible Children’s advocacy campaign, specifically in regard to #Kony2012?

Yes, there is, but for many Ugandans and Africans, that is subject to debate. Positively, Invisible Children has been able to rally everybody, especially the young people behind one cause. This is reminiscent of the Obama campaign, and the Save Darfur humanitarian campaign. This has shown that young people in America do care, and all that is required is leadership to direct them to great causes. Invisible Children succeeded in drawing attention to a social justice issue that raged on for decades with hardly any meaningful mention on major television, newspapers or blogs. This video has brought unprecedented massive exposure to Uganda and we could harness this opportunity to market our country and reap the benefits or just whine and whine as we slip out of the spotlight. Invisible Children have done what no one else could do, and in so doing, they have have also made some mistakes, and this brings us to the second part of what Tim wanted me to talk about.

2. What are some of the concerns?

The concerns about the Kony2012 video have largely been about the accuracy of the facts in the film, the highjacking of an African narrative and the over simplification of the conflict so to speak. Some inaccuracies could be looked at as simple omissions and therefore negligible, nevertheless, it is good to mention them so that for those that are not aware can be brought up to speed. The picture that the hit video paints may be construed as indicating a situation of war, and therefore not safe. But in actual fact, Joseph Kony has not operated within Ugandan borders for about 8 years now. Many have found such a deliberate omission disturbing and manipulative. Indeed, Kony is still at large, roaming the Central African region of Chad, Central Africa Republic and in the Congo, but his ragtag army has been reduced to approximately 300 combatants who are not a major security threat. Kony needs to be brought to justice, but unfortunately, a viral Hollywood production will not be sufficient in doing that, not in 2012 and probably not in 12 years. The timing of the video is totally off.

Scenario: Let’s assume, for example, that you have an internal family problem and you need help. And I come to learn of that problem and want to help. The logical thing for me to do is to come to you and ask about what your needs are, what your capacity is, and in what best way I could be of help. I am not even sure that this analogy is the best, but try to make it work. The majority of Ugandans and Africans feel this way with the video. It is not because we do not need help, but we need to be involved in the stories or even work that affects us. Invisible Children could have done better in doing some consultative work with stake holders, especially the victims of the LRA conflict in Northern Uganda. Many people have worked for decades to stop this war. The Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative, the Acholi Cultural Leaders, the local government all have a stake in this conflict and have worked harder than anybody to push government, the diaspora, the international agencies and leaders to instigate a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Rather than show a misleading dated video of Norbert Mao, president of Democratic Party and a champion for peace talks in Northern Uganda, Invisible Children could have sought an honest opinion from the man regarded as the finest and most respected leader from Northern Uganda.

That Invisible Children advocates for a military solution to the conflict has attracted some pretty negative feedback. The argument out there is that the LRA is full of child soldier recruits, and therefore a military campaign would be a direct attack on the children. I really don’t buy into this notion, but I am not in favor of a military resolution either. This is why. Usually, a military campaign against the LRA results in massive civilian causalities through waves of terror and vengeful new abductions. The Northern Uganda conflict calls for holistic peace-building initiatives that include bringing both sides of the conflict to justice and accountability. On one hand, the UPDF (Uganda People’s Defense Forces) and on the other, the LRA. Without addressing the root causes of the conflict, we will not have achieved anything. Uganda is a country reeling from bloodshed; from the Idi Amin days to the Obote period and to the current Museveni regime that is equally guilty of perpetrating crimes against humanity. A thorough justice system that addresses these issues would heal Uganda, and for that, a video can’t do. And that is why the ICC (International Criminal Court) partly failed. Uganda refereed the case to the ICC prematurely, without thinking about the repurcussions. Soon it became clear that the law would need to be applied to the UPDF as well. Unfortunately, the ICC did not investigate the UPDF but only indicted LRA criminals. The UPDF criminals are still free, and some of the perpetrators of war crimes are now wreaking new havoc in land grabbing and people displacements. These are real issues that must be corrected.

People of Northern Uganda proposed a traditional justice system called Mato Put to be applied to all the returnees. The Uganda parliament, through pressure from Northern Uganda leaders also adopted a new amnesty law, providing safety return to the rebels. This was a successful strategy that led to thousands of returnees. But with the ICC indictments, the senior perpetrators were not covered under the law. This was a thorny issue during the LRA and Government of Uganda (GoU) negotiations in Sudan, of which I was a technical consultant to the mediation office. Indeed, both parties thought that in the interest of peace and in the interest of justice, it was better for senior commanders of the LRA to benefit from the amnesty, since the Acholi community were ready to apply traditional justice system. But the ICC indictments can not be lifted. Kony swore that he would never be tried outside of Uganda. The peace process collapsed. Since the last major peace talks, Kony has not used the peace process to regroup as argued in the video.

3. As a Ugandan (African), what advice would you give those with good intentions but who don’t really know Uganda’s context?

Proverbs 19:2 It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way. Having good intentions is great, but this must be done in wisdom, especially in this day and age where aid and charity is a huge global industry. Invisible Children have been found suspect in terms of resource allocation, devoting only 32% of all their revenue to programs that help the victims on whom these campaigns are based. The argument is that they spend a lot on the advocacy, which is their mission, but as you know also, this answer is hardly sufficient. In a guest post on Dave Algoso’s blog, David Hong, a former roadie for Invisible Children, rightly argues that they should stick to advocacy work “instead of getting involved in the murky trenches of international peacekeeping and geopolitics.” And the issue of financial misuse in nonprofits is getting common by the day. Red Cross International together with American Red Cross were not so long ago under the spotlight for the misuse of relief funds for Haiti. It would appear that some form of due diligence in the organizations we support must increasingly be done.

Treat Africans or the poor with dignity. As a photographer, I have learned that we all like to look good in photographs, in films, etc. Nobody should take that away from anybody. Not Joseph Kony, not Gadaffi, not Museveni, no one. And this must be applied in charitable works as well. Here is a list of the 7 worst international aid ideas…some of these things are often done with good intentions, but good intentions are not always a good thing. But you know, like a good intention of collecting and sending used underwear to African girls from England?

Lastly, involve Africans, Ugandans or the poor in decision making from the bottom up. This creates ownership of solutions and real partnerships. But this hardly happens. Decisions are made in air-conditioned offices in the USA or Europe for the poor people. Most development organizations have huge budgets for Africa but rarely are there board representatives from these regions, while senior leadership and other critical roles at country level are occupied by foreigners, sometimes earning 15 or more  times more than the locals. On a story telling level, our people are still overlooked in shaping narratives, whether they affect nonprofits or news. As a photographer and filmmaker, I struggle to gain contracts to tell stories in Uganda or East Africa be it UN agencies, International Christian NGOs, and other Aid agencies. Most of these organizations prefer to ship an American or European photographer to tell our stories. And in so doing, we are not only left jobless, but also without a voice.

What do you think of Andy’s take on KONY 2012? Does it challenge your views or confirm any suspicions? What questions are you left with?

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Repaso: Mayan apocalypse, LatAm’s economy, faith predictions, Alabama & immigration, Anne Lamott on writing, 16th century social media

1. Mayans weigh in on the end of the world
We’ve all heard about the supposed ancient Mayan prediction that the end of the world would come in 2012. Kevin Rushby with the Guardian has an interesting piece taking a look at the Mayans of today, and how rumors of an impending apocalypse have been greatly exaggerated. Rushby focuses largely on the Mayan religious landscape, including a look at the historical roots of their religious syncretism born out of a survival instinct:

The Mayans have had to survive for a long time as underdogs and they have done it by accommodation. When the Spanish came in 1523, plotting total cultural destruction, the indigenous people (Mayan is a catch-all term for several related languages and peoples) responded with guile. Images of Catholic saints were stuffed with old Mayan gods; parts of temples were incorporated into churches; at Nuestra Señora de la Merced in Antigua Guatemala you can see how Mayan masons carved symbols of maize and hummingbirds into the church facade.

2. The rise of Latin America’s economy
Al Jazeera English has a 25-minute feature on Latin America and how it has fared remarkably well in the midst of our current global economic woes. The show touches on mining in Peru and the rise of middle-class consumerism in Brazil. It’s encouraging to see much of the region rising out of poverty, but obviously the situation is not 100% rosy, and it will be interesting to see how these trends shape the region in non-economic terms:

3. Faith/religion trends for 2012
CNN’s Belief blog asked 15 faith leaders to offer their predictions for the coming year. Among them is Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, representing Latinos/Hispanics in the US:

America’s evangelical community will have its hands full addressing both a presidential election and offering a biblical response to “end of days” Mayan prophecies surrounding 2012. With the economy emerging as the primary issue for the November election, America’s born-again community will have an opportunity to contextualize an alternative narrative to the polarizing elements from both the right and the left by reconciling the righteousness message of Billy Graham with the justice platform of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. By offering compassionate, truth-filled solutions and focusing on the message of grace, love, reconciliation and healing, evangelicals will demonstrate that the greatest agenda stems neither from the donkey nor the elephant but rather from the lamb.

4. Churches and the problem with “welcoming the stranger”
The Los Angeles Times has a lengthy feature on one particular Southern Baptist Church in Alabama, which is seeking to navigate the difficult tension between anti-immigrant legislation in the state and its responsibilities as a faith community. The Get Religion blog also has an interesting analysis on the piece’s coverage of the religious angle in the story.

5. Anne Lamott on writing
Legendary writer and memoirist Anne Lamott had an essay in Sunset a couple of years ago (HT Michael Hyatt) with her best tips for writers, including how we use our time:

I’ve heard it said that every day you need half an hour of quiet time for yourself, or your Self, unless you’re incredibly busy and stressed, in which case you need an hour. I promise you, it is there. Fight tooth and nail to find time, to make it. It is our true wealth, this moment, this hour, this day.

6. 95 theses & 140 characters
The Economist has a fascinating take on Martin Luther and how earlier forms of “social media” had a lot to do with the success of the Reformation:

It is a familiar-sounding tale: after decades of simmering discontent a new form of media gives opponents of an authoritarian regime a way to express their views, register their solidarity and co-ordinate their actions. The protesters’ message spreads virally through social networks, making it impossible to suppress and highlighting the extent of public support for revolution. The combination of improved publishing technology and social networks is a catalyst for social change where previous efforts had failed. That’s what happened in the Arab spring. It’s also what happened during the Reformation, nearly 500 years ago, when Martin Luther and his allies took the new media of their day—pamphlets, ballads and woodcuts—and circulated them through social networks to promote their message of religious reform.

Repaso is intended as a thought-provoking compilation of news and commentary from the past week related to the intersections of faith, development, justice and peace. As always, I welcome your thoughts on any of the links and ideas in this roundup!

[Photo credit:]

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Looking forward, looking back

I’ve been blogging for nearly seven years now, and while there have certainly been times of feast and famine at content-wise, in 2011 I resolved to be much more consistent and intentional than I’d been before (more on that here). Now, my end-of-year calculations show that averaging a little more than four posts per week, I’ve written more this year than in the previous six years combined (222 this year, compared with 191 during the span of 2005 to 2010, an average of about 32 per year).

I’m glad I prioritized the blog this year. Cultivating the discipline of regularly reflecting on what I’m reading, seeing and learning has kept me sharp, I think — at least sharper than I’d have been otherwise. I trust it’s also been helpful, one way or another, for those of you who read it. And while my blog traffic isn’t setting any Guinness records, it’s been fun to interact with readers, to make new friends, and to try not to make too many enemies.

At the beginning of the year, I settled into a niche, of sorts — something I hadn’t really prioritized previously. I decided to use my blog to explore the intersections of faith, development, justice and peace, particularly in the Americas. Early in the year (while working, not coincidentally, as a media analyst), I incorporated and synthesized a lot of news coverage into my posts. More recently, however, I’ve focused more — though not exclusively — on semi-formal book reviews, reserving most news for Repaso, my weekly roundup post every Friday.

In 2012, the blog will certainly evolve as I do, but I plan to more or less continue doing what I’m doing for the time being. In addition to interaction with my posts by way of comments and social media buzz, I always appreciate feedback about the blog itself — what’s helpful, what’s annoying, what’s missing… that sort of thing. Please keep your feedback coming.

Just for fun, here now are the ten most popular posts of the year. Three are book reviews; three are newsy and about Guatemala; two have to do with trending topics at the time (one satirical, one serious); one is about an anti-poverty campaign; and one was simply a quote I posted on our wedding day.

10. Rob Bell has always been edgy, but the sitar?
9. Christian citizenship in postwar Guatemala
8. Mayan voter registration drive in Guatemala
7. The wedding day
6. Justice and the death of a terrorist (three perspectives)
5. The poor will not always be with us
4. My review of Tim Keller’s “Generous Justice” in PRISM Magazine
3. Massacre in El Peten, Guatemala
2. U.S. Congress discussing the Marlin Mine in Guatemala?
1. Thoughts on doing no harm

Many thanks for a memorable 2011, and I’m looking forward to what’s to come in 2012!