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Stars in our eyes

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I grew up in Vancouver during the heyday of Hollywood North. My love of acting compelled me to find work as an extra on the set of a couple TV shows. During those long days of shooting, I brushed shoulders with celebrities such as Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, and Donny Osmond. I apologize for the name-dropping, but I admit I was starstruck. (Blame it on teenage hormones!)

Unfortunately, stardom in today’s society is rarely based on talent or humanitarian contribution. It’s based on living an extravagant celebrity lifestyle, which many of us regular, mundane folks find so entertaining. Stardom is about sparkle and glitter, wealth and unattainability.

It would seem that stardom and Christianity are incompatible. Thus, our “Shine Like Stars” feature surprised several readers when it was introduced a few months ago. Many believe that our Christian acts of service should be conducted in secret and that all our praise should be directed towards Jesus, not people.

We certainly don’t want to create celebrity idols in our denomination. However, throughout Scripture, the biblical writers generously highlight the faith and service of those who make an impact for God’s kingdom (such as Timothy, Phoebe and others at the end of Romans, Stephanas in 1 Corinthians, etc.). This kind of stardom is about sacrifice, creativity, and humility – and always to the glory of God.

We hope you’ll be encouraged and challenged as you read about regular people doing great things for the Lord – “stars” who point us in the direction of the Saviour. Please see page 7 for some wonderful and inspiring grassroots stories from our churches.

Canadian idol?

I’ve noticed another star in the media these days: Canada. As unlikely as it may seem, Canadian politicians have received accolades about many of the government’s new initiatives.

The first was the June 11 apology by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to victims of the former Residential School policy in Canada. “We now recognize that, in separating children from their families, we undermined the ability of many to adequately parent their own children,” said Harper, “and we sowed the seeds for generations to follow…. For this we are sorry.” This type of public remorse and recognition of evil goes a long way in dispelling the forces of darkness in our world.

The second was the federal government’s announcement (and financial support) of a new Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg. The museum’s website declares that “the world will embrace the museum as a powerful symbol of Canada’s unwavering commitment to recognizing, promoting, and celebrating human rights… [a place] where Canadians and people from other countries can engage in dialogue and commit to taking action to combat the forces of hate and oppression.” This sounds to me like the language of biblical reconciliation.

The third, and perhaps more obscure, was Canada’s role in the creation of the UN’s “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) initiative. Tim Miller Dyck of the Canadian Mennonite says:
R2P could become the biggest change to international law in this area since the prosecution of genocide and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights shortly after the end of the Second World War…. After the non-intervention in Rwanda and the NATO intervention in Kosovo (which included Canadian bombing flights) without a UN Security Council authorization, there was a strong push for some kind of international agreement on if, when and how genocide should be prevented.

It was Canada that stepped forward to address this need. In 2000, it was the Canadian government, along with a group of foundations, that announced the establishment of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty. This group was to come up with a new policy for the world to consider on how to respond to genocide and ethnic cleansing. That policy was the R2P principle, and it was passed by the Sept. 2005 summit of world leaders at the UN General Assembly and by the Security Council in April 2006.

In this, and other activities, Canada is emerging as a hero on the world scene for its peacemaking efforts.

But calling Canada a “star” in these situations may be a little hasty, especially in the case of the R2P initiative, which some see as justification for military force rather than humanitarian compassion. As in all situations, we must exercise discernment. We must balance our call to care for the “least of these” with our commitment to peace.

The first task is to ask for wisdom in the midst of a complex issue. Our feature story, “Caring for the least of these,” is a step in that direction, as Ross Muir interviews four Mennonite leaders about their views on R2P.

We’d love to hear your thoughts (and inner conficts) about this important document. As Ted Koontz so bluntly puts it, “Any pacifist Christian who has not struggled deeply with the force of the argument that love of neighbour implies a responsibility to protect – with violence if necessary – is morally obtuse.”

May God illuminate our hearts in all things so we can “shine like the brightness of the heavens and…lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever” (Daniel 12:3).

Laura Kalmar

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