Children singing a verse from their school lesson. A group of people with disabilities having their voices heard by their community. A gathering of Christians praying for social justice. A historically oppressed indigenous community speaking up for their political rights. Water gushing out of a newly installed pump. Villagers celebrating the end of fighting – and the arrival of peace.
As I think about the “sounds of Jubilee”, these are some of the sounds that come to my mind from my time as the CEO of Tearfund.
Tearfund’s Jubilee year has provided an opportunity to focus on the scriptural message of Jubilee. We chose the title for this edition of Tearfund Magazine – “the sound of Jubilee” – because we were keen to hear from the diverse voices of the people involved with Tearfund’s work about what the breaking in of the Kingdom of God – good news (Luke 4) – has meant to their lives, their communities, their churches and their nations.
It was this passage in Luke 4:16-21 that those who gathered at that first meeting to form Tearfund Australia back in 1971 took as their lead. The “sound of Jubilee” resounds in this text and as we read through scripture we find the theme of Jubilee woven throughout. It is at its core a message about the kingdom of God. Jesus proclaimed that he was both the embodiment and the fulfilment of Jubilee – which is good news for the world. Good news that resonates with distinct clarity for the poor and the oppressed – but is a message of redemption for all creation.
Over the past 50 years, Tearfund’s work has touched tens of millions of lives – working to bring the good news of the kingdom. The “sound of jubilee” over these years is perhaps most clear in the voices of people rejoicing about very tangible changes in their lives. People rejoicing that their communities can flourish and truly know fullness of life.
On the other hand, sometimes over these 50 years the “sound of Jubilee” has been heard in the prophetic lament – a call for justice and change – challenging each of us to push against the temptation to be shaped by the cultural overtones of greed, overconsumption, and consumerism that are the pressing narratives of our generation.
Often the “sound of Jubilee” has been expressed through those who have found their voice for the first time after a history of being oppressed and treated as less than human – be it because of caste, indigeneity, gender or disability.
Jesus proclaimed that he was both the embodiment and the fulfilment of Jubilee – which is good news for the world.
Somewhat counterintuitively, the “sound of jubilee” is also present in the voices we won't hear in this edition of Tearfund Magazine. Voices of people who have given their lives in the pursuit of making good news known. One of Tearfund’s strategic priorities over many years has been focusing work in “hard places” – where poverty and injustice are often at their worst – and this means being in contexts where the risks can be quite high. As we mark 50 years, we honour the many who have made significant sacrifices, and celebrate them as expressions of Jubilee too.
As we share these many stories of transformation, it is important to note that we would never want to claim all of the credit for the huge impact that has happened through the 50 years of Tearfund Australia. Rather, we humbly give thanks to God that from our inception the work of Tearfund has been about a movement of the Kingdom that is much bigger than the formal structure of an organisation. A movement made up of Australian supporters willing to advocate, pray, learn, give and live differently. A movement of local Christian partners who have a vision for change in their communities. A movement of churches who want to work for justice. A movement of communities who want to see change. Together – as a whole – this movement creates a chorus of Jubilee voices.
Yes, we have collectively achieved a lot over the past 50 years. We can celebrate massive achievements in the reduction of global poverty. In fact, just about every way we measure poverty has seen improvements since 1971 – across measures of health, education, life span and economics. Thank you for being part of these “sounds of jubilee”.
However, in the midst of our celebration, we also recognise that the job is far from done. As we look to the next 50 years we are very aware that there remains much more to do. The world continues to face many unresolved issues – climate justice, poverty in Africa, growing inequality, indigenous rights, vaccine justice, treaty … these are among several challenges that are front of mind as we look ahead.
Thus, we invite you to be part of the next 50 years as Tearfund looks to do our part to continue to add to the chorus of the sounds of Jubilee – that there may be fullness of life and good news for all.