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Seven ways to survive world's 'perfect storm'

Renowned Dutch philosopher on staying calm, compassionate and hopeful in a time of global unrest

By Stephen Cauchi

June 15 2017Christians were facing a “perfect storm” of global unrest and needed to stay calm, compassionate and hopeful to deal with the times, renowned Dutch philosopher and World Vision senior advisor Evert-Jan Ouweneel told a Melbourne seminar recently.

In his public lecture to Eastern College (formerly Tabor College) in Mulgrave, Mr Ouweneel said that western societies were experiencing “a perfect storm… fear and uneasiness, expressed in nationalism, protectionism and xenophobia.”

Mr Ouweneel, the UK-based senior advisor of faith and secular contexts for World Vision, said that the current “perfect storm” had three main characteristics.

Firstly, “the world is reorganising itself on an unprecedented scale”, which requires a global response. “The whole world needs to work together to get the whole planet in order.

“Issues like climate change, cybercrime, terrorism, human trafficking, slavery, pandemics, or nuclear threats can only be solved if countries closely co-operate.”

Secondly, “the West does not control the world anymore.” “New economic powers are rapidly gaining an increasing part of the global welfare cake. This means less control and less wealth for the West, leading to more insecurity around work, pension and care.”

Thirdly, western societies had abandoned both Christianity and communism, narratives that “helped people cope with setbacks and misery”. As a result, fear was taking over, said Mr Ouweneel. “Statistics show that we are quite able to be happy when things go well. But we are also the first to get anxious and depressed when things go wrong.”

Mr Ouweneel noted that when Jesus and the disciples were in a boat in a storm, Jesus bemoaned the disciples’ lack of faith.

In the same way, Christians had to show faith in the current storm, he said. Mr Ouweneel outlined seven ways to do this.

  • Stay calm. “God is in control – He’s got the whole world in his hands.”
  • Stay compassionate. Our first concern should be the “well-being of those who are hit first or hit the most in the storm”.
  • Stay hopeful. Martin Luther, said Mr Ouweneel, stated that “if the world ends tomorrow, I will still plant an apple seed today”.
  • Stay visionary. The Bible’s vision is global and not national. In Genesis 12, God states that Abraham will be a blessing to all nations; in Matthew 28, Jesus tells his followers to disciple all nations; in Romans 8, Paul speaks of a glorious future for the entire creation.
  • Stay stubborn. “Let’s stick to hope in the midst of pessimism and cynicism.”
  • Stay human. “In this time of re-tribalisation, with people withdrawing in their own bastions of likeminded people, Christians can be the bridge-builders of society”.
  • Stay joyful. “If we can’t count our blessings as children who say “Abba, Father” to God, who can?”

 

Mr Ouweneel said that while fear was contagious, so too was hope and compassion. Christians had to withstand the “tremendous peer pressure” from society to be anxious and discontented. Instead, they had to be carriers of hope and compassion.

He urged all Christians to keep Romans 8:21 in mind: “the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”

“God will win!” said Mr Ouweneel. “Let us strengthen each other in the faith and remind each other of the glorious future that God has in store for the entire creation.”

Mr Ouweneel gave the lecture in early May.