“What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to?” (Jesus asked). “It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.” (Luke 13:18-19).
In April this year, Erina Community Baptist Church (ECBC), in NSW, held a special service to explore issues of Biblical Justice and how, as God’s people, they could be involved.
“As part of this service we try to have an ‘action’ that members of our congregation can be involved in,” Ross Young, ‘Vision Keeper’ for Justice at ECBC, explains. “Our church folk are fairly well engaged with issues around tax evasion so our church Catalyst Justice group worked with Gershon Nimbalker, from Baptist World Aid, to draft a petition style letter to the Treasurer, Joe Hockey. At the Launch service we spent time as a community talking and praying about issues to do with tax evasion and the impact this can have on developing nations. At the end of the service, we asked people to sign the letter which we then delivered to our local federal member, Lucy Wicks MP.”
The letter was sent out and, for the longest time, nothing more was heard. The community continued to pray. The G20 Finance meeting came and went and still the church received no communication from Canberra. However God had big plans for the little ‘mustard seed’ that they had sent out in faith.
“Just before the G20 Leaders meeting I received an email from Victor Perton, Senior Treasury Adviser for G20 Engagement, followed by a phone call,” Ross recalls. “He told me that our letter had had quite an impact and that it had been attached to the briefing notes Mr Hockey took with him into the G20 meetings. During this phone call, we were able to talk in more detail about issues to do with tax evasion as well as raise our concerns about cuts to the Aid budget. It was a great opportunity to have a conversation with someone in Treasury about issues of justice – and it all came about thanks to that letter.
“ECBC is not a large church so it was a real blessing to see how God was able to use us in this way, to take his message of justice for the poor and oppressed into the halls of power. God has awakened our Church to his call for Justice and we have been encouraged now to continue to learn, pray and act on issues that affect the poor and oppressed,” Ross Young concludes.
If you are interested in being more vocal about ending poverty, please call 1300 789 991 to learn more about church Catalyst groups or visit www.baptistworldaid.org.au.
Email from the Treasury:
Thanks for the petition you sent earlier in the year supporting Treasurer Hockey’s commitment to dealing with global tax reform issues. Last weekend, Treasurer Hockey chaired the Cairns Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meeting in Cairns and I attach a copy of the communique.
Noting your passionate support of the Treasurer’s G20 tax agenda, you will be pleased with Paragraph 8 of the Cairns Communique which states, “We are strongly committed to a global response to cross-border tax avoidance and evasion so that the tax system supports growth-enhancing fiscal strategies and economic resilience. Today, we welcome the significant progress achieved towards the completion of our two-year G20/OECD Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) Action Plan and commit to finalising all action items in 2015. We endorse the finalised global Common Reporting Standard for automatic exchange of tax information on a reciprocal basis which will provide a step-change in our ability to tackle and deter cross-border tax evasion. We will begin exchanging information automatically between each other and with other countries by 2017 or end-2018, subject to the completion of necessary legislative procedures. We call on all financial centres to make this commitment by the time of the Global Forum meeting in Berlin, to be reported at the Brisbane Summit, and support efforts to monitor global implementation of the new global standard. We support further coordination and collaboration by our tax authorities on their compliance activities on entities and individuals involved in cross-border tax arrangements. We welcome progress so far, and encourage further steps by G20 countries to deliver the St Petersburg commitment to lead by example in meeting the Financial Action Task Force standards on beneficial ownership. We will continue to take practical steps to assist developing countries preserve and grow their revenue bases and stand ready to help those that wish to participate in automatic information exchange. We are deepening developing country engagement in tackling BEPS issues and ensuring that their concerns are addressed.”
The Treasurer appreciates your advocacy for the G20 global tax reform agenda.