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WCC blog: Justice and consumer behaviour

6 November 2013 | by Paul Valentin

Christian Aid's international director Paul Valentin

Today’s theme is justice. We examined a story from the first book of Kings; a land grab by King Ahab and his scheming wife, Jezebel.

So what has changed in the past 3000 years?

Civilians in Cambodia or Colombia would be hard-pushed to see the difference: people show up with court orders declaring their entitlement to land, and when local people resist, they often end up in prison or worse.

The Bible had its scheming Jezebel, whereas we have anonymous investors with armies of lawyers doing the dirty work for us; at least if we insist on buying cheap food and palm-oil, for example.

It’s time to stop blaming the biblical Jezebels and to start looking at our own consumer behaviour instead!

Making the most of time left

Despite a few powerful testimonies, the plenary session failed to inspire me. Perhaps I am getting tired, unable to muster the enthusiasm I experienced earlier in the assembly.

I’ve made a list of all the people I still want to meet, because it’s difficult to have more than a chance encounter in this huge venue among thousands of participants.

I succeeded in ticking a few names off the list, including Christian Aid partner Archbishop Bernard Ntahuturi of Burundi, who I had a lively conversation with.

Sensitive issues

Later on in the afternoon, I joined the business plenary where a wide range of decisions and resolutions were discussed.

Unfortunately, national and denominational sensitivities ensure that action will not be taken on controversial issues.

During the past week, we have discussed many possibilities, but writing it all down in plain language would scare most moderators, bishops and archbishops; many of whom will have to give accountability to their worldly and political counterparts so no blame is implied.

Lessons learned

Any hope for a truly radical message to come out of Busan has now gone, but that does not mean that it was all in vain.

I guess the conversations, the testimonies and the experience of aligned thinking into new territory will continue to inspire us long after the Busan assembly closes its doors.

Outside, a few lone but loud protestors continue to carry their placards, denouncing the WCC as inspired by the devil. After more than a week of shouting, their voices sound tired.

I make an early exit; I need to sleep. Tomorrow is my last full day here.


Our staff are in Busan, South Korea attending the World Council of Churches assembly. The theme of the assembly, 'God of life, lead us to justice and peace', provides a focus for theological reflection, worship and meditation, as well as for planning programmatic activities before, during and after the assembly.  

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About the author

Christian Aid's international director Paul Valentin

Paul Valentin is Christian Aid's International Director.

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