(Photo: Christian Today)
Governments need to acknowledge Christians and the faith community as partners in overcoming religious fundamentalism, said the international director of the World Evangelical Alliance at the conclusion of his Australia tour last month.
Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe was in Australia to meet with key Christian, political and business leaders during a three-week visit.
“Governments need to acknowledge the fact that there is a clash of worldviews going on and that not all diplomatic practices necessarily fit the climate at present, or even perhaps the future climate,” he said on June 21.
“Often times governments view things with a very secular mindset but if we are dealing with a radical, fundamentalist religious worldview, then we simply cannot dialogue around that from a secular worldview.
“There has got to be a different approach.”
Tunnicliffe urged governments to recognize Christians and people of other faiths as partners in mediation and conflict resolution.
“Because our worldview is shaped by our biblical understanding and shaped by our faith, it provides the perfect platform to interact with people who also act out of their faith,” he said.
Acknowledging the concern of many Christians about secularism, Tunnicliffe said it was important to ensure that society is defined not as secular but rather as pluralistic.
“Pluralism means that all people have a place at the table. It is not a secular table, it is a pluralistic table, and therefore no one party can claim to have absolute control of the table,” he said. “Those who claim to be most tolerant, particularly secularists, are actually now becoming the most intolerant of other views. Their intolerance is shown by excluding people from the table whom they feel don’t share the secularist perspective.
“It is important that we find some common ground.”
Part of Tunnicliffe’s visit included a meeting with aboriginal church leaders in Melbourne to discuss inter-church relations and social development.
“It is absolutely essential for the church to be at the forefront of any movement of reconciliation and to work with the aboriginal community to help them deal with the social and generational issues they are facing.”
Following the meeting, he said there was still a lot of “deep pain” within the aboriginal communities.
“One of the responsibilities of the church is to continue to remind the Government of their obligations and responsibilities towards the aboriginals,” he said.
Churches in Australia are currently engaged in developing aboriginal Christian leaders. Tunnicliffe said he had been “impressed” by the quality of young aboriginal leaders he had met during his visit.
“They give me great hope for the future development of the aboriginal community,” he said. “They are not looking for hand-outs. Rather, they are willing to confront some of the very important issues facing their communities right now, including the high proportion of absent fathers.
“They are looking for ways to get into positions of power that will enable them to serve the aboriginal community.”
He stressed, however, that non-aboriginal churches needed to work harder at gaining the trust of aboriginal church leaders.
“It is absolutely critical that greater trust is built between the aboriginal church leaders and local churches in Australia,” said the WEA head. “There is a need for greater understanding and strong relationships to be established.”
Tunnicliffe’s visit included a stop at Canberra where he shared the vision of Micah Challenge, an international movement of Christians lobbying their governments to keep the promises they made to the poor when they signed up to the Millennium Development Goals.
“We will continue to remind the Government of their obligations to the MDGs and the huge challenge of poverty,” he said. “But we also want to let them know that we share their concerns. We are equally asking Christians around the world to deepen their commitment to world issues.
“We recognize that governments have the responsibility to formulate and implement policy, but we as the followers of Christ also have an obligation to serve.”
Tunnicliffe stressed that evangelicals were committed to reconciliation not only with God and between people, but also with creation.
“It’s all about creation care,” he said. “It’s not about worshipping creation, but it is about caring for the creation that God has entrusted us with.
“God said we have dominion over His creation. That means He’s given us dominion to care for it, not to waste it.”