Urban Shalom - The Practice of Hope
Andre van Eymeren
The majority of the world’s population now lives in urban environments. This trend is expected to rise to 70% by 2050. Many of the cities that will house the increase in urban population are yet to be built and will be developed in Asia and Africa.
As a community of faith, the city is a cultural phenomenon that we have not been good at engaging. Christians have tended to see cities in a negative light. Believing they are only places where people live in overcrowded conditions, experience poverty and the numerous issues associated with lack of resources, relationships or voice. Faith communities have often seen cities as places of exploitation, mistrust and miscommunication, or where decisions are made by those exercising power, with very little consultation at the grassroots or margins.
However, cities do not need to be defined by their issues. The hope held out in the gospel story points to the possibility of cities where people can connect meaningfully to others, experience a sense of belonging and work together to meet basic needs and live lives defined by flourishing rather than subsistence.
This hope is reflected in much of the global conversation around the development of cities and is supported by UN Habitat’s New Urban Agenda http://habitat3.org/wp-content/uploads/NUA-English.pdf.However, there is much work to be done and the Christian community has largely been silent in this space ignoring systemic city issues such as development, social infrastructure, land use, the environment, policy frameworks, place making, poverty alleviation and so on. The Urban Shalom Society is made up of practitioners, leaders and academics passionate about working with others to create cities where people can flourish or experience God’s dream of shalom.