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23 May 2014

Global neighbours

Global neighbours

We watch the news in horror, read the newspaper in disbelief and view posts on Facebook with concern and sadness.

In Nigeria, more than 200 girls have been kidnapped from their schools and remain in captivity.

More than 100,000 have been killed in the Syrian civil war. During this time 400 children have reportedly been arrested and tortured in Syrian prisons.

In Sudan, Meriam, a young Christian pregnant mother, has been sentenced to death simply for being a Christian.

Since 2008, about 2,400 people in the Middle East have been killed by drones causing devastation to civilians and their families.

Right now at least 21 million people are in slavery around the world. This is more than any other time in history.

In places like Bangladesh, India and China, hundreds of thousands of people, mainly women and children, are suffering unfair and often inhumane treatment as they make the clothes we buy at our local high street.

We often 'like' or comment on these stories on social media in an effort to express solidarity and show that we care. Some of us respond to viral campaigns such as #bringbackourgirls. But is it enough?

The parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us that being a neighbour means showing hospitality, kindness, comfort and compassion to those in need.

We live in an increasingly globally-connected world. Never before in history has it been as easy to travel anywhere that takes our fancy, to chat with someone on the other side of the world and to keep up with current affairs on each continent. This connectedness is challenging our traditional view of what it means to be a good neighbour. Our actions impact others but what does it look like to be a good neighbour in this global community?

Loving our neighbour is a powerful and recurring theme in the Bible. In Matthew and Mark we are told to love our neighbour as ourselves; in Luke to do good to those who hate us and in Leviticus to not hold a grudge against another. In John 15:12 it goes even further and we are commanded to love our neighbour as Christ loves us.

This is huge. Let's stop and think about this for a moment. Loving another person the same way that Christ loves us. I don't know about you but my mind boggles when I think about this in the context of Christ dying for all my sins. And this neighbourly love extends not just to your spouse, your family, your friends or even to people you don't like but to people you've never met.

God has been challenging my views about being a good global neighbour. My neighbourly actions haven't really extended beyond prayers and engaging with social media. I managed to convince myself that this was enough; that I was doing all I could.

The reality is that my everyday choices have a direct impact on people in slavery, poorly treated factory workers, school girls in Nigeria, civilians in war-torn Middle East and a woman like Meriam in Sudan.

I can be a good global neighbour by choosing to buy clothes made by people working in good conditions, receiving a fair wage. I can be a good neighbour by choosing to pay a little extra to get my nails done rather than going to the cheap salon that uses trafficked girls. I can be a good neighbour through my vote, through the charities I support, the petitions I sign and the letters I write to governments.

Living a life that reflects Christ's sacrificial love to our neighbours can seem an impossible task. Our everyday actions impact people across the world. How would God have you be a good neighbour in our global community?

Amelia Abplanalp is public policy officer for the Evangelical Alliance.