A few months ago I was at a theology group where the question was raised: “How can we be with our international neighbours?” Sam talked about “presence” being the first mark of being with so for most of us being with our international neighbour is not an option.
I found myself pondering this during the last week of October, with my arms elbow deep in a drum of muddy water. I was on a building site in Nepal, and working with Action Aid, re-claiming bricks from a school block that had been destroyed in the 2016 earthquake. For a few privileged days I was with my international neighbour.
Generally, however I can only work with. Of course there is a place for this, as Sam points out in The Nazareth Manifesto, p.23. But he also claims that being with is the most faithful form of Christian witness and mission. The results of my reflections were that: firstly, I wanted to continue to work with my international neighbour. The world’s resources are abundant; but we don’t share them equally and many rich countries, like the UK, got rich by plundering the countries they colonized.
Secondly, I believe that the local people are the best people to solve their problems. A great example of this was that we were labouring for local builders who had developed expertise in building to withstand earthquakes. I had long known that Action Aid always worked with the local people to find out what was needed. I also discovered on this trip, their total commitment to being seen as servants.
I wonder if our responsibility when we support our international neighbours is to ensure that the people who meet them, face to face, understand about being with?