Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Active Hope

Written by: on February 13, 2015

The dreadful multiple tragedies unfolding around the globe are truly overwhelming and too depressing to think about. The mainstream Western media play a major role in feeding our anxiety by skillfully focusing on the stories that often target certain religions, ethnicities, and/or races. People are becoming not only hopeless but also desensitized to the suffering of others. Taking into consideration the painful realities of our time, the authors of Active Hope, Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone discuss how we can face the mess we’re in without going crazy. This process begins “by acknowledging that our times confront us with realities that are painful to face, difficult to take in, and confusing to live with” (p.2). This is a starting point, the authors say, “of an amazing journey to strengthen and deepens our aliveness” (p.2). To guide us in our pursuit to bring about the desired transformation, the authors introduced their theory of Active Hope. According to their definition, Active Hope is “about becoming active participants in bringing about what we hope for” (p.3). It is a practice “we do rather than have” (p.3). The authors contend that “[w]hatever situation we face, we can choose our response…the kind of responses we make, and the degree to which they count, are shaped by the way we think and feel about hope” (p.2). Apparently, the freedom to choose is a privilege that is not held by everyone in the world. And for those who live in circumstances that do not allow them to make choices, this lack of choice will influence their thinking and actions in bringing about what they hope for. I do believe that we need to hold on to hope to navigate through our present challenges.

Furthermore, the authors identify three stories being enacted in our time. The first story is “business as usual.” This story regards economic growth as essential for prosperity. The second reveals the destructive consequence of the business-as-usual mode,…the third is about the groundswell of response to danger and the multifaceted transition to a life-sustaining civilization” (p.14). When I think how the above three stories enacted in my country’s context, I notice evidence of our society being led toward what the authors’ call, the great unraveling. One recent example is the excessive force by Ethiopian government against Oromo university students’ peaceful protests of plans to extend the borders of the capital city, Addis Ababa. The government’s heavy-handed reaction to any criticism of its policies challenges the society’s capacity to choose the story they live from. What is more difficult than not having a freedom to express ones thoughts freely? If people are targeted because they hold a different opinion, they have no option but to keep their thoughts to themselves to survive. In any oppressive, tribal based, and secretive leadership, people suffer from lack of clear view of the realities they exist in. Despite the problems, we can still find a good story we can participate in to have a “sense of purpose and aliveness.” Also, the three key steps of Active Hope might be helpful depending on the situation: “First, we take clear view of reality; second, we identify what we hope for in terms of the direction we’d like things to move in or the values we’d like to see expressed; and third, we take steps to move ourselves or our situation in that direction” (p.3). There is also our Lord’s timeless wisdom “be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” This means we need to be practical and artful when dealing with people and institutions.


About the Author

Telile Fikru Badecha

8 responses to “Active Hope”

  1. John Woodward says:

    Telile, thank you for again sharing from your country’s perspective and giving a different perspective. What you point out is another of the concerns I had in reading this book. It seems that “Active Hope” is addressed to people who have freedom to make choices and effect their future and their lives. I am wondering how many people in other situations would find the message of “active hope” to resonate as well, where maybe issues of basic survival might be all consuming or they might not have freedom (as you mention) to act or speak. For this reason, those of us who are blessed to live and work in places where we have some say, hearing the voices of the “helpless and harassed” of world, should provide us with incentive to act on behalf those who can’t. I believe Active Hope is good and necessary, but for so many it is not even a distant possibility…unless someone comes along side and provides that hope for them…gives them voice! This just reminds me that I live in a very different situation from most of the world. Thanks for that very important reminder!

    • Telile Fikru Badecha says:

      John, I agree with everything you said. Thank you for highlighting the importance of coming alongside and providing hope for those who are helpless.

  2. Deve Persad says:

    Telile, thank you for bring current global life and your own country’s experience into this article. You mention: “Despite the problems, we can still find a good story we can participate in to have a “sense of purpose and aliveness.” ” This is an important distinction to make, as many do not have the choice to bring about change in their circumstances, they still have a choice with how they will allow those circumstances to affect them. We always have a choice in our attitude, demeanour and response, even when external circumstances seem to be unyielding. For us, as followers of Jesus, we cling to the hope that God is at work within the unseen circumstances that so confuse and distress our world and that one day we will recognize their purpose (Romans 8:28). How do you or those in your country keep hopeful in the circumstances you describe?

    • Telile Fikru Badecha says:

      Deve, thank you for your insight. I do believe “We always have a choice in our attitude, demeanour and response, even when external circumstances seem to be unyielding.”
      Great question. When you serve in a sensitive ministry context, you learn to trust and listen to God. Despite the challenges, God has blessed us with lots of ministry opportunities where we can make Jesus known to our people in words and deeds. So, I am keeping hopeful because our God is in control. Thanks again.

  3. Telile,

    Thanks for sharing here. Good work. You say, “What is more difficult than not having a freedom to express ones thoughts freely? If people are targeted because they hold a different opinion, they have no option but to keep their thoughts to themselves to survive.” That is so true. The sad part of this is that if we are forced to hold something in, then it will eventually come out in negative ways. We must give room for opposing viewpoints. We need these to have any society that would be healthy. People need to exercise their voices in a society. Diverse perspectives with teach us new things — if we are open to learning new things. Thanks for sharing here, Telile.

  4. Telile Fikru Badecha says:

    Bill, You are absolutely right when we suppress diverse perspectives we miss the opportunity to learn new things. Thank you.

  5. rhbaker275 says:

    You point out a very significant fact; often people do have the power of choice whether constrained by culture, social or political circumstances. At times it almost seems that Macy and Johnstone deify choice. But what about the situation when choice is severely restricted? They indicate that one still does what they can do; it might seem limited and insignificant but do not allow the this fact to constrain what one does.

    Does taking action and doing something, however small, result in change, achievement and improvement in the world we engage? It seems reasonable to think so; practice might not make perfect, but it surely makes better. Jesus teaches that the one who has little and uses it will receive more. In his book “Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling,” Andy Crouch indicates, as you often point out, that it is culture that defines and restricts what is possible and impossible. He suggests that it is not changing culture but rather, creating more culture that expands the horizon of the possible. “The only way to change culture” he states, “is to create more of it” (66). It is as we “cultivate” what we have and what is presently possible that we can find creative avenues to new possibilities (27).

  6. Julie Dodge says:

    “What is more difficult than not having the freedom to express one’s thoughts freely?”

    Great question!

    Because of you, I have paid more attention to situations in Ethiopia, from student protests to land grabbing. Because I care for you, my concern for the place you are from increases. I think this is how we connect to those broader, global scale issues. As John Donne one wrote, “if a clod of dirt is washed into the sea, England is the less…. Every man’s death diminishes me.” We are connected and should be involved in things of this world. We who have the right to speak freely should do so on behalf of those who cannot.

    Thank you for a great post.

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