Did you know that May 25th will be Geek Pride Day; that May 6th was World Laughter Day, and that Star Wars Day - yes you’ve guessed it - was on May 4th?
Of somewhat more value, hopefully, International Day of Families is tomorrow, 15th May. The theme for IDF this year is ‘“Families and inclusive societies” and will explore the role of families and family policies in advancing Sustainable Development Goal 16. SDG16 is all about ‘Promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, providing access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels’ https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg16. Progress has been mixed and challenges remain, but today let me select just one of the statistics the UN highlights under SDG16. It concerns something as simple as the registering of births.
“While many regions have reached universal or near universal birth registration, globally the average is just 71 per cent, on the basis of available country data reported from 2010 to 2016. Fewer than half (46 per cent) of all children under 5 years of age in sub-Saharan Africa have had their births registered.”
However, if I live a very local life in a very informal community, does the registration of my child’s birth actually have any real significance? What’s the big deal, you might ask? Well, in the words of the SDG knowledge platform, “Birth registration is a first step towards safe-guarding individual rights and providing every person with access to justice and social services.”
I’ve been aware for a long time that a key role within Raising Families in Kyrgyzstan has been to help family members, new-born and elderly, to secure or to restore their registration documents. Often these families had been afraid to register with the state, or had lost their original registration papers due to drunkenness or other chaotic lifestyles. Without these documents, they are unable to access health services, education, legal support etc, and are unable to cross borders. When their papers are restored, these services and opportunities are available to them once more.
Access is a vital ingredient of community development. And yet it is such a simple concept that it may seem trivial, and one which we can easily take for granted. Until, of course, you lose your keys, forget your password, or find that the bank closed seconds before you got there.
So for International Day of Families, let’s celebrate the vital work done by RaFa practitioners to enable access to services for the vulnerable and marginalised. In the present programme in Kyrgyzstan alone, every single local church we partner with has invested a lot of time into this work. In the small village of Soznovka alone, five passports and 19 birth certificates have been secured. So far in total, Church Action Group members in the present programme have helped to secure a total 44 birth certificates and 42 replacement passport documents.
Joseph and Mary had to go from Nazareth to Bethlehem to register for the census. Bing maps tells me that to drive it is 97 miles, and would take me 1 hour 53 minutes. By foot, it is only 85 miles, and apparently takes 27 hours 22 minutes of walking, plus considerably more I guess for a mum-to-be, ‘great with child’. In Kyrgyzstan, RaFa church activists have sometimes driven two full days to the vulnerable family member’s place of birth and back, to help them register or restore their documents, to say nothing of the inevitable extra delays and frustrations caused by post-Soviet bureaucracy.
In fact this is a more intensely biblical process than one would first imagine. They enable
Romans 5:1-2 says “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.”
And we do need to remember that formerly we who are Gentiles by birth were previously separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus we who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, he has made us one, and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility. He has reconciled us to God through the cross. Through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit, and consequently we are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people, and members of his household” (Ephesians 2:11-19).
...started leading churches at the age of 18. With a team in the 1980's, planted eight churches in UK and Belgium. Has been teaching and training churches ever since.