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Hope in Hard Times

Guest post by Rev. Ndagijimana Fulgence, Executive Director of Flaming Chalice International

Flaming Chalice is a SIA grant partner and a job creator in Burundi and Rwanda. Rev. Fulgence is a refugee from Burundi living in Saskatoon, Canada.

There are times when so many things happen, all at once and we are tempted to throw our hands in the air and give up. The time we are in sounds like one of those desperate times. The world is faced with a global pandemic that has caused death of so many people, has negatively affected economies, and has reminded us of the kind of leadership we need.

There are protests across the globe that followed the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. I and many other people wonder what to do, how to find hope.

There is a hymn I sometimes sing at church that has a line saying, “I will give you hope when hope is hard to find.” These are the days when I look for hope or at least signs of hope in the difficult situations that surround me.

In light of anti-black racism and the racism against indigenous people and other minority groups of many colours, I have decided to choose hope, not the “things will be alright kind of hope” but the type of hope which pushes boundaries of reality. The type of hope that challenges institutions, their design and their relevance to today’s society.

My best definition of hope is found in the letter to the Hebrews (11:1), “Hope is the conviction of things not yet seen.”

As soon as I became old enough to understand colonialism and anti-black racism, I had to amend this definition. When it comes to the specific work of racial justice, hope is the work to transform things real for some people into things real for all. Hope is a form of active resistance!

The situation is not totally hopeless, though. It is also a tender moment. Disruption is the order of the day across industries. It is a time when change is possible because certainty is no longer the point of reference.

These crises have laid bare the failures of our systems, uncovered their need for improvements or for their complete overhaul. It is time to push boundaries. I believe this is an opportunity to seize. It is time to do the hard things the right way.

Pushing Boundaries that Need to be Pushed

Hopeful work pushes the boundaries of reality. I remember the first job I took, after my high school graduation 22 years ago. I worked with Oxfam, connecting children with parents from whom they were separated during the war in Rwanda and Burundi. My boss at the time, told me, “I give you resources and flexibility and you deliver results.” I was honored by that trust and I did my absolute best. When I succeeded, we celebrated. When I failed, I trusted her enough to say I messed up and asked for support. I learned, and she watched me grow. She gave me permission to push boundaries.

Flaming Chalice International has been working with Spirit in Action for over three years now. I have felt the same flexibility and invitation to deliver results and to push the boundaries towards a better practice of grantmaking.

Employees at the Flaming Chalice Cafe in Rwanda. It is run by Burundian refugees and it is a community centre as well as a restaurant.

Pushing the boundaries in partnership between organizations in the global north and in the global south is important. Those partnerships were plagued, and still are in some cases, by paternalistic approaches and imperialistic practices. Though there has been significant progress made over the years, the current environment calls even for bolder moves of trust, flexibility, and being in partnership for the long haul.

I am glad Spirit in Action is pushing the boundaries, helping African communities be the hopeful and thriving communities they are meant to be.

Hope is the belief that boundaries need to be pushed. A new and a better reality needs to be created. And the time is now.

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