Ukraine, Myanmar, racial justice focus for BWA
The Baptist World Alliance (BWA) General Council approved four resolutions during their final session of the 2022 Annual Gathering.
The first two addressed the state of war, violence, and political unrest in Ukraine and Myanmar; the latter two arose in response to the Gathering’s racial justice focus
The first resolution condemned the “unprovoked and unjustified invasion of the sovereign nation of Ukraine by Russia” and called upon the “European union, G7, and other intergovernmental entities to redouble their efforts to support Ukraine.”
It also included commendation for the “humanitarian and spiritual resources of the All-Ukrainian Union of Associations of Evangelical Christian-Baptists, and the Baptist unions and other Christian groups in neighboring countries for their generous hospitality, humanitarian aid, and spiritual help for refugees, supported by the European Baptist Federation, the BWA Forum on Aid and Development (BFAD), and the generosity of the global Baptist family.”
Earlier in the week, attendees heard a report from BWA General Secretary Elijah Brown outlining the outpouring of support in response to the crisis in Ukraine. Over $4 million USD has been raised, which has enabled 1 million displaced Ukrainians to be served by the BWA Baptist family.
Global Baptist leaders have also engaged in peace advocacy through the United Nations as well as strategic meetings with Presidents, Prime Ministers, Members of Parliament, and other key leaders since the invasion.
During the General Council, Igor Bandura – a Vice President of the Ukrainian union – shared that it is “a time of struggle, but our hope is in God. As Christians, we take our part. We continue to minister to our nation. We continue to bring the message of reconciliation and hope.”
Vernette Myint Myint San, President of Asia Baptist Women’s Union, also shared about the struggles of her homeland of Myanmar. Violence has continued to escalate since the military coup in February 2021, leading to suffering she witnessed firsthand while serving along the Thai-Myanmar earlier this month.
Council members responded with a moving time of prayer for the two leaders as well as the people of Ukraine and Myanmar.
A second resolution in response to the violence in Myanmar condemned the coup, called for the “establishment of a true democracy that respects the rights of religious and ethnic minorities,” and assured prayer and support for Baptists and other people of goodwill helping in persecuted communities and among displaced persons.
Restorative racial justice
In response to racial hostilities globally and the Gathering’s thematic focus, the BWA resolutions committee penned a third resolution on restorative racial justice.
The resolution acknowledges that the global issue “demands a renewed commitment to the enduring principles of racial justice and human freedom, based on the fundamental theological conviction that all people are created in God’s image and thus deserve to be treated with respect and justice and enjoy flourishing freedom.”
The resolution recognised that there are “countless examples of racial prejudice on every continent, including the mistreatment of Indigenous peoples and their land.”
Baptist entities were encouraged to “exercise their prophetic responsibility” and to “refrain from participating in racially oppressive systems.”
The resolution concludes with a recommendation that all Baptists study The Birmingham Statement of Restorative Racial Justice, a resource created by the BWA Racial Justice Action Group and approved by the Executive Committee on July 9.
As an outworking of the Birmingham Statement, the fourth resolution “acknowledges important local, national, and global conversations about chattel slavery, its enduring generational impacts, and the possibilities of reparations to repair the damage for wealth stolen from centuries of forced labor.”
The resolution also affirmed “the biblical basis for reparations,” recognising that the “economic, political, psychological, and spiritual impacts of chattel slavery and the transatlantic slave trade did not end but continue(s) to impact many communities and nations today” – including many BWA member bodies.
Several Council members shared feedback before voting, dialoguing about the theology of reparations and its congruence with the biblical concepts of the Year of Jubilee, grace, and forgiveness.
'The year of Jubilee was violated for the entire existence of chattel slavery because we created a hereditary system – a lifetime enslavement that was passed on. I don’t think we can jump to the forgiveness step before we have first made amends for centuries of Jubilees that have been ignored,' said Brian Kaylor, BWA Resolutions Committee Chair.
The resolution vote carried, which was met by applause throughout the auditorium.
'I want to say something about this moment,' said Karl Johnson, BWA First Vice President. 'I learned from Lee Spitzer [BWA Historian] that this body has passed some 60 resolutions dealing with racism and racial justice in the past, but not one has ever been passed on the subject of reparations. Today is a historic day in the life of the Alliance.'
Wale Hudson-Roberts, Justice Enabler at the Baptist Union of Great Britain, facilitated the BWA Racial Justice Task Group, which was developed to incorporate the work of the Racial Justice Roundtables into the formation of a theological statement. The Task Group also had an input into drafting the reparations resolution.
For more reports about the 2022 BWA Annual Gathering, click here