Shirtfronting havoc at G20

abbot and putin

Two weeks away from the G20 meeting in Brisbane, typical press stories have started to appear. They set out a narrative that’s all about conflict: Vladimir Putin is seen as the bad boy of the meeting whom the Australian Prime Minister is keen to put in his place; and already police have already started to talk about security problems.

PM Abbott is angry about the loss of Australian lives in the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 and in a colourful Aussie turn of phrase said he will “shirtfront” the Russian President.

Meanwhile, the Deputy Commissioner of Brisbane police, Katerina Carroll has warned, “There are some groups we know who will come to (the G20) to create disorder and to basically wreak havoc.”

The tendency to report on high level political meetings as personal testosterone fuelled dramas – Tony Abbott vs Vlad Putin and the police vs activists – fulfills the demands of newsworthiness. The Courier Mail in Brisbane has gleefully claimed, “police are bracing for an ­invasion of interstate and overseas thugs.”

But this style of talk and news reporting masks the real work of this G20 gathering involving thousands of negotiators from official delegations, journalists, security staff and civil society groups.

It’s designed to make people nervous but does not help us understand what is really going on.

The G20 will be talking mainly about financial issues, not usually a topic to excite great passion, but actually of vital importance to all of us. Jobs depend on businesses making the right decisions and the wealth of nations depends on generating taxes.

So hundreds of local Christians are going to be holding worship events and public actions to amplify the voice of churches around the world to talk about God’s economic agenda. As Dave Andrews, a respected Brisbane church leader says,

“Our churches want to find a strong-but-gentle way of confronting the worst aspects of predatory capitalism, with dignity, integrity and grace.”

We will not shirtfront or act like thugs, and we will hopefully represent God with dignity and grace over the next two weeks.

Isaiah 51:4,5 says “Pay attention my people. Listen to me nations. Revelation flows from me. My decisions light up the world.”

I pray God’s light shines in the meeting rooms of the G20 and in the media reporting.

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