Creating Shalom and the Challenge of Cities

Through the collaborative vision and work of Dr. Chris Elisara–director of the World Evangelical Alliance’s Creation Care Task Force, and Dr. Ash Barker–director of the International Society for Urban Mission, the Urban Shalom Project started at Micah Global’s triannual consultation in Peru, 2015.  It gained further momentum at two important gatherings in October 2016 in Quito, Ecuador. The first was the Gospel and the Future of Cities summit followed by the UN’s Habitat III conference. For participants, both events highlighted the crucial importance of cities and the need for faith communities to directly and positively contribute to building just cities, towns, and neighborhoods that are commensurate with God’s vision and desire for shalom.

The world is urbanizing at an unprecedented rate with over 2/3 of the world’s population expected to live in cities within the next 50 years. This creates both a series of ‘wicked’ or complex challenges as well as wonderful opportunities for faith communities to engage. The door is open for us to participate in creating great urban spaces where everyone can find a place to belong and experience a sense of shalom or flourishing as the biblical picture of humanity points.

The concept of urban shalom is propelled by Micah Global’s emphasis on integral or holistic mission, and beckons communities of faith to move beyond existing modes of engagement to take seriously the challenge and opportunities that cities present.

The Urban Shalom Project, a key Micah Global initiative, aims to equip and empower the Church, Christian NGO’s and others to engage in conversations and actions around the UN’s New Urban Agenda which is setting the tone for the development of cities over the next 20 years. The document itself, ratified by most of the nations of the world and put together by city leaders, practitioners, academics, urban planners and a range of NGO’s echoes biblical aspirations for our communities and cities, creating the opportunity for significant partnerships between faith communities and the broader community.

To help churches in this task the Urban Shalom Project has run forums in Melbourne, Sydney, Thailand and Birmingham, with more planned for Detroit, Cincinnati and parts of Africa. In partnership with local people the forums aim to frame a theology of shalom, an understanding of cities and the complex systems that make them up. They also allow space for local people to talk about place making, community development, urban planning, issues of land use and a myriad of other local solutions and processes that might rise out of their context. We are keen to see these aptly named Urban Shalom Forums picked up in countries around the world. As a local or regional leader if you are interested in running an Urban Shalom Forum please see our website urbanshalomproject.org or contact Andre Van Eymeren, co-convener of the project (andrevan@tpg.com.au) for more details.

Lastly, this upcoming November 10-15 (2017) in Singapore, the WEA as part of the Urban Shalom Project is hosting a UN-Habitat Urban Thinkers Campus (UTC). Twenty six UN Thinkers Campuses were held in the lead up to Habitat III and played a key part in the formation of the New Urban Agenda. The campuses are now focused on implementation. We would like to invite you to join us in Singapore for what we believe will be a ground-breaking event. For the first three days we will meet as a Christian community to look at issues such as;

  • Theology of Cities and Urbanism (including the Church, mission, evangelism, spiritual formation, etc.)
  • The Academy and Education
  • Slums/Unplanned Communities
  • Community Development (includes homeless issues)
  • Urban Design (includes housing and ecological sustainability)
  • Land Tenure
  • Good Governance
  • Data and Technology
  • Health and Cities (includes violence and safety)
  • Youth & Leadership Development
  • Business, Productivity, and Economic Justice

In the final two days we will join with representatives of the world’s faiths to continue these conversations, the outcomes of which will include a side-by-side compendium of commitments and long-term strategic plans each individual religion, or religious organization, is willing to develop and execute to support the goals of the NUA. If you are interested in being a part of this event in Singapore please email Dr. Chris Elisara (celisara@worldea.org)

We are also developing a number of resources to help churches and others engage with urban challenges. The latest edition of The New Urban World Journal is available online at newurbanworld.org. The journal aims to provide a voice for activists, practitioners and academics to share and be resourced on solutions and thinking around urban issues. We are also producing a book from our time in Quito which will be released in October, details will be available on the website.

For more information on the project please connect with one of the conveners;

Dr. Ash Barker – ash@newbiginhouse.uk

Dr. Chris Elisara – celisara@worldea.org

Andre Van Eymeren MA – andrevan@tpg.com.au

Sign up for updates here: http://urbanshalomproject.org/save-the-date-un-habitat-urban-thinkers-campus

 

 

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