Love your neighbor: Create more MEDAs

César García

Mennonite World Conference wants global churches to start more organizations to support entrepreneurs

The head of an organization that serves 1.5 million Christians worldwide wants MEDA to work with churches to start organizations similar to MEDA in various countries. “We dream of local businesspeople who experience business as a gift and a call in their everyday lives,” says César García, general secretary of Mennonite World Conference (MWC). García made the comment in a Sunday morning address at MEDA’s annual convention in Toronto.

MWC is known for assemblies every six years, where members of its worldwide community gather for worship, service, and fellowship. But MWC is a global church that is much more than its events. It brings together followers of Jesus from all around the world, in the Anabaptist tradition, he said. Having clarity about the why of what we do is essential to moving forward with a plan’s implementation, he said. So, understanding why MWC sees the combination of business plus faith as a crucial component of its calling is an important issue.

MEDA’s experience and history of good work in creating business solutions to poverty are worth emulating, García said. “MEDA’s 70 years of experience have produced inclusive, sustainable agrifood market systems, built upon gender equality and social inclusion, innovation and technology adoption, partnerships and contextual knowledge, environmental sustainability, and climate action.”

MWC expresses its gratitude to MEDA for the positive impact that it has made in many lives worldwide, he said.
But there is a more important reason that makes MWC want to see MEDA’s work replicated. That is the Golden Rule, the biblical admonition to love your neighbor as yourself, he said.

That command appears eight times in the Bible, used four times by Jesus. Jesus combined several Old Testament passages from the books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus to make a link between love and justice. In both the Jewish and Christian traditions, love and justice go hand in hand. Love of neighbor is lived out in challenging injustice by changing social structures, he said. The biblical notion that everyone is made in the image of God means no one should be without the basic needs of existence, he said.
“Every human should experience the dignity that seeing the fruits of their labors produces.”

While humanitarian relief is essential in the short term, it can humiliate the recipients. An African proverb states that the giving hand is always uppermost, while the hand that receives is always lower, he said. In the long run, job creation and employment promotion are more important than aid, he said.

In 1973, MEDA helped García’s church in Columbia start a foundation to help local entrepreneurs through small loans. That work continued for decades, providing opportunities to women and other victims of the country’s civil war. MWC continues to “dream of local businesspeople who experience business as a gift and a call in their everyday lives,” he said. “We dream of local entrepreneurs who work together to help new entrepreneurs create sustainable business solutions to poverty like MEDA experienced in Columbia.”

“That is why we want to see many MEDAs around the world. It has to do with the Golden Rule.” This summarizes the central message of the Judeo-Christian faith, he said. Versions of this idea are also found in Islam, Buddhism, and other faiths. “People of faith have the framework for the reasons why it is crucial to share their profit. They know why it is essential to create opportunities for entrepreneurs to start new businesses that will support others to replicate the same process. Love your neighbor as yourself. Let’s ask God for the courage to do so.”

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