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18 June 2013

G8 and the truth about power

G8 and the truth about power

David Smyth, public policy officer at Evangelical Alliance Northern Ireland, reflects on the G8…

This time of year in rural Fermanagh the hedgerows are white, heavy with hawthorn. Everything else, countless shades of green. The light is long and soft and the rain gentle. These agricultural backwaters are more used to hosting herds of cattle than some of the world's most powerful leaders.

The next few days will see difficult conversations in accents foreign to the lilting colloquial brogue. The seemingly unsolvable dilemmas of world trade, tax transparency, terrorism and Syria will dominate the summit.

Outside, protestors will compete to raise alternative agendas on issues like Guantanamo, anti-capitalism and the IF campaign. At the heart of each issue is an injustice, a primal greed for power, wealth or pride. Despite the good intentions, real solutions seem to remain as elusive and idealistic as the generic Miss World wish for 'world peace'.

So in an unlikely place and with an impossible task, what hope can we hold for the G8? And what can the rest of us do – we who seem to play a minor part in the shadow of the world stage.

Of course we must pray and support noble commitments to peace and justice. We encourage moves by world leaders to achieve fairer trade, transparency, taxes and to end terrorism. We commend the efforts of everyone fighting for human dignity and freedom. But it can sometimes be a little too convenient to sign up to a campaign and let them do the hard work while our lives go on unaffected. We can continue to consume and blindly support systems of corrupt taxes and unfair trade.

Let's not forget the truth about power. This week, the world's most powerful people will not be gathered around a table in Enniskillen. Too often we accept the persuasive lie that power lies with a few of the world's rich and political elite. This provides a convenient way to avoid responsibility, neglect our duty and continue in the comfortable narrative of the Western mainstream.

The biblical truth about power is almost unbelievable, disturbing and yet delicious. We are the powerful. A worldwide community with an uncontainable life-changing message. We are people of every tribe and tongue who follow Jesus. We're not powerful because of who we are but because of who He is. Power is present in our weakness and our child-like faith; not in the pride of politics but in the humble hope of the gospel.

Are we, the powerful, taking on the responsibility that comes with the power of God living in us? Are we committed for the long term to justice, mercy and practical God-inspired solutions to the world's greatest needs?

Like everything else the hype of this year's G8 will come and go but important challenges will remain long after the spotlight leaves the sleepy lakeland county. What if the truly powerful really moved as one body against injustice and greed? Spirit-filled Jesus-followers with a for-the-least-of-them manifesto. The selfless everyday actions of millions changing consumption and bringing about a cultural climate change. The global Church changing the world by loving God and our neighbours. It sounds like 'world peace' again, too big to even dream or imagine and yet – isn’t that the way it's always been?

Image: Prime minister David Cameron and US president Barack Obama at Enniskillen Primary School