Social Transformation strengthens the Persecuted Church because a Church that is relevant to society is more resilient to persecution for the following reasons:
- A Church engaged in Social Transformation will necessarily be engaged in reaching out to the Persecuted Church, either through prayer, financial support, direct material support, or advocacy. A Church focused on Social Transformation has the necessary mindset that transforms believers into active agents of change, instead of vulnerable and passive subjects of persecution.
- Social Transformation, by promoting the Christian worldview, is the best defense against the anti-Christian worldviews imposed by the different persecution engines. What the different persecution engines do is impose their worldviews on society, through violent and non-violent means. By gradually taking over every sphere of society, these worldviews often leave no space for the free expression of the Christian faith. For this reason, the Church needs to engage in Social Transformation because it’s the only way the Christian worldview can be promoted as a response to these anti-Christian worldviews.
- Social Transformation addresses the complexity of the factors causing the vulnerability of Christians. Persecution situations are often a confusing mix of political, economic, social, ethnic and religious factors. As restrictions on religious freedom increase, the more vulnerable Christians are, particularly when persecution originates from both the government and hostile social groups. The Social Transformation mindset takes into account how the interaction of impunity, structural violence, endemic corruption, socio-economic challenges and political strife causes Christians to be specifically vulnerable, and seeks answers to this situation of vulnerability.
- Social Transformation is the answer to paralyzing theologies. The Church, particularly in Africa and Latin America, has been affected by a pietistic mission legacy that created a pacifist, socially apathic Church. The Church is not a “community”, but a congregation of “individual” (individualistic) believers. There is no worldview, no vision for society. An essential priority should be the promotion of the transformational role of the Church, a theme closely related to correcting the followers of prosperity theology which is so dominant in Africa, Asia and Latin America, but also in the West. In order to make the Church relevant to society, the Church needs to be more in touch with the main challenges its members are facing, particularly taking into account the overlooked categories of women, youth and children, with reference to security, social exclusion and family disruption.
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Dennis P. Petri is Director of Plataforma C, Platform for Christian Politics. A political scientist by training, he specializes in comparative politics with a specific interest in Latin America. He is currently working on a dissertation about religious freedom at VU University Amsterdam.