Biblical principles for the movement toward a sustainable world

In Times Like These … A Pan-African Christian Devotional for Public Policy Engagement

By Angelique Walker-Smith

“Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around,” a spiritual revised and used during the civil rights movement, continues to energize the faith movement of people working for a sustainable world without hunger, poverty, or racism.

“Ain’t gonna let nobody
Turn me ’round …
I’m gonna keep on walkin,’
Keep on talkin,’
Marchin’ into freedom land.”

This vision and movement were more carefully defined by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as “The World House” in his last book, “Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?”                        

“Today our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake… The large house in which we live demands that we transform this world-wide neighborhood into a world-wide brotherhood. Together we must learn to live as brothers or together we will be forced to perish as fools.”

This global vision is aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—internationally agreed upon goals for addressing poverty and improving the lives of people living in the margins. In this month’s Pan-African Devotional Guide, the following writers engage us in a deeper biblical reflection of values that inspire and inform a sustainable world without hunger, poverty, and racial inequities.

Rev. Dr. John Mendez reminds us of scriptures like Deuteronomy 15:4-5 that challenge the idea that there must always be those who live in poverty. He invites us to address racial inequities for a sustainable world to exist. He observes that the “SDGs closely align with the United Nations Decade in Solidarity with People of African Descent” and help us “to create a way forward to end hunger by 2030 in partnership with government, the private sector, and civil society.”

Derick Daily agrees with Mendez when he says the following in his devotional: “In order to achieve a sustainable world requires governments and institutions to act with the purpose of ending hunger and not merely tempering this with temporary solutions and incremental reforms.”

Rev. Dionne Boissiére states that we need policies that empower women to inspire and inform a sustainable world. She cites Numbers 27: 1, 6-7 as an illustration of successful advocacy by and for the daughters of Zelophehad before Moses.

In his devotional, Rev. Dr. Kevin Donaldson reminds us that this kind of advocacy must include a strategy for the elimination of economic inequities in his biblical reflection in James 2:15-6.

Dr. Iva Carruthers points to faith movements like the Poor People’s Campaign 50 years ago that put these biblical reflections into action. This campaign gathered poor people from across the United States at Tent City in Washington, D.C., to advocate for a sustainable world. She reminds us that these voices still need to be heard when we see poor encampments erected all over the world.

Angelique Walker-Smith is senior associate for Pan-African and Orthodox Church Engagement at Bread for the World.

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