While Christians have long had a relationship with social justice, Andrew Syed said he feels that the evangelical right has been slow in addressing such issues because of what he sees as “bad theology.”
“We have tended to focus on the eternal to the exclusion of present reality,” he said.
Syed is the founder of the 10/10 Project, a non-profit organization he began in Lafayette, Colo., in 2003 to address global poverty. His work will bring him to Columbia today, where he will meet with MU students interested in creating a local 10/10 chapter.
The “faith-motivated” organization sees poverty as destructive and believes Christians should respond. 10/10’s name comes from John 10:10 where Jesus says: “the enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy but I have come so that you might have life, life to the full.”
According to the group’s Web site, Syed started the 10/10 project after reading a report that said fewer than 3 percent of Christians cared or would do anything to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa. After he and his family traveled to Kenya and found that poverty and disease were crippling the region, Syed decided he wanted to bring that knowledge to Christians in America who have the capacity to help.
One method 10/10 uses to help alleviate poverty is micro-lending. The organization provides grants to community-based organizations in Kenya, who then give small loans to skilled workers to start businesses. 10/10 also organizes opportunities for families to participate in development projects overseas and hosts events designed to raise awareness about issues like global inequity in the distribution of food.
MU senior Evan Groll learned about 10/10’s work through Transparent, a magazine designed to promote understanding about the world. The magazine has become an important part of 10/10’s mission to inspire people to become more globally involved.
“I think so many people get caught up in what’s going on in Columbia or what’s going on in Missouri or wherever they’re from, they don’t take the time to look outside of that,” Groll said. “We’re really pushing for people to look outside their general scope.”
Groll will meet today with Syed and Mark Mann, 10/10’s director of campus activity and Transparent’s editor-in-chief, to discuss how to increase involvement at MU. In the past, Groll has recruited other MU students to write for Transparent and estimates that since last semester, three to five articles per issue have come out of MU. Mann said a campus chapter would have the chance to be involved with Transparent and awareness events, though their activity would be largely driven by student creativity.
Syed is a former assistant professor of global studies at Colorado Christian University. He lost his job last spring after campus administrators took issue with his assigning readings, which they felt, as the Rocky Mountain News reported, “undermined the school’s commitment to the free enterprise system.”
The assignments in question came from the books “God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It” by Jim Wallis, a leading figure of the religious left, and “One World: The Ethics of Globalization,” by Peter Singer, a professor known to hold atheist views.
Syed said he presented the materials to engage students in discussion about issues ranging from comparative politics to global ethics. He wanted students who disagreed with the authors to perform “due diligence” and determine why.
“A campus should be alive with debate and discussion,” Syed said.
Syed said he finds it ironic that his dismissal was connected to views on capitalism when his organization’s use of grants is an example of it. That said, Syed noted that while capitalism is working for 10/10 at this time, the group could change methods if they found something else that worked better.
Syed is not opposed to capitalism, but said he sees his faith as “bigger and more mysterious than anything humanity has to offer.” He said he believes capitalism cannot be an equal partner to faith. To put it on the same level as Christianity feels idolatrous, he said, adding that he feels it possible to be a person of faith whether under capitalism or socialism.
“Capitalism does lend itself to be freer than other systems so far,” Syed said, but “I still think it should be subservient to my faith.”
To see Andrew Syed's blog, go to andrewsyed.blogspot.com.