It’s the 231 million people who are the world’s “diaspora” — people who have voluntarily or involuntarily left their home country to build a life somewhere else (United Nations: Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2013). Some are displaced by war, some are seeking to better themselves economically . . . there’s always a reason. If would be the world’s 5th-largest country, after China, India, the USA, and Indonesia.
That’s a lot of people. And that’s why I’m at a forum that is discussing how the reality of the global diaspora influences and shapes God’s mission today. Five hundred leaders have gathered from around the globe for 3 days of consultation in Manila, at the Lausanne Global Diaspora Forum. In the old days (whenever those were), when Christians thought of “missions” they thought of something that happened “over there”. We’re long past those days. Canada has 3rd-highest percentage of current residents who were born somewhere else (behind only Australia, Switzerland, and New Zealand).
It’s appropriate that this Forum is being held in the Philippines, since Filipinos constitute one of the largest diaspora groups today. Every day 5000 Filipinos leave the country to work elsewhere, either permanently or temporarily, joining the 12 million who have already left. They are in 210 countries. Most of those who are temporary workers are in Saudi Arabia. One million of them are followers of Jesus. So . . . are those 1 million “missionaries”? Or are “missionaries” just white people from North America? 😉 That’s the kind of issue the diaspora raises for Christian mission.
Another example: 45,000 students from Saudi Arabia study in the USA every year (the 4thlargest group of international students in the States). So . . . is there an opportunity here to share the story of Jesus with them? And, is that “missions”? Or do we have to go to Saudi Arabia for it to fit the box we label “missions”? 😉
The bigger question behind the smaller questions is this: is the scattering of people in today’s world a part of God’s intention? Now, no-one is arguing that God is the agent of war or economic deprivation just to force people to move – we know that God is not the author of evil. But, just as He turned the immense evil of Christ’s crucifixion into the very thing that will save the world, is He using the unprecedented scattering of the human species today for the purposes of His redemptive work?
We are often told that we live in a global economy – that when it comes to the flow of money and services and goods, there are no more borders. It’s time to realise that, more and more, this is the reality when it comes to the Gospel. The Church is increasingly borderless . . . which means that it is time to imagine a whole new paradigm for Christian mission.
We know how it’ll all end. Nations — people from every “tongue and tribe” — will enter the Holy City at the end of time. The scattered will be gathered.