Dear friends and supporters of jusTice,
We have just returned from Chennai, India. It’s our second trip to India in partnership with International Justice Mission (IJM) to engage church pastors in thinking around issues of justice from a biblical and theological perspective.
It is always a huge privilege to be invited to take part in a conversation around issues of justice and faith but it is also deeply humbling to hear first-hand the stories of how much it costs to ‘do the right thing’ in contexts where biblical concepts of equality and fairness are very far from the norm. In addition to the stories of bonded slavery there were also personal stories of how seeking to do the right thing makes life so much harder; like the father who took the risk of sacrificing his son’s entry to further education because he refused to cooperate with systemic corruption, or the professional who had blown the whistle on workplace injustice and been sidelined for promotion and eventually forced out of their job.
Seeking to do the right thing is often slow, hard work; there are very few ‘efficient’ short cuts. It is painful to see the woundedness of those who leave the comfort of the cultural highway to forge a new path through the thickets…pioneering a new way of being human…transgressing culturally-accepted norms which don’t measure up with the biblical picture of shalom; the well-being and flourishing of both human and non-human creation.
IJM’s focus is specifically on assisting marginalised individuals and communities in accessing legal justice and in Chennai much of that work revolves around issues of bonded slavery, where generations have been enslaved to ‘pay back’ a small debt. Biblical concepts like the year of jubilee are deeply relevant in such contexts and yet they are far away from the public imagination. The radical scope of the biblical vision in the contexts of many of our empire-building and unequal cultures is breath-taking. It begs the question…how can we dare to hope for change?
At the heart of the biblical vision for justice is the hope in the goodness and faithfulness of God to complete His work of reconciling and renewing all things. That reconciling work came by the way of the cross, and in contexts such as India it is particularly easy to see the sufferings which accompany the kind of faithful discipleship of which the apostle Peter speaks in 1 Peter 4:12-13.
One of the starting points of a journey of justice is the recognition of injustice in our world and lament is an appropriate response to the chronic and sometimes severe and brutal effects of injustice in our communities. As we engaged in some teaching around themes of lament one pastor shared how his wife was a composer and a number of her songs of lament were written from the perspective of the abused and disabled children they worked with. She sings these songs of lament in churches and schools and often teachers and children weep as they hear them. Changes of perspective and attitude take place which begins to change the culture of the school environment. Lament had turned hearts of stone into hearts of flesh…compassion opened the way for a tangible change.
Howard Zinn emphasises the ‘infinite succession of presents’ in which our actions determine the future…
‘To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places — and there are so many — where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.’
1. Carnival Kingdom: biblical justice for global communities book
Last year saw publication of Carnival Kingdom which we co-edited with Jonathan Ingleby & Marijke Hoek. Sales continue to be encouraging, but we know that there are many more places where we would like to see the book made available and publicised.
If you would like to buy a copy, or more, for your organisation, please contact us, as we can offer discounts on multiple copies. We are beginning to think through some further book projects for the next couple of years, including a booklet on biblical advocacy.
2. jusTice on the road
In addition to the recent India trip, we presented internal research findings at Latin Link’s international assembly in Ecuador in February, within a keynote talk on the biblical and missional imperative for justice, along with a couple of seminars to explore issues that missionaries are engaging with on the ground. This followed our engagement at mission-net, Europe’s largest youth mission congress, in Germany at the start of the year, where we coordinated the justice stream, including contributions from Micah Challenge and A Rocha. In early July (8th) we speak at the Justshare network at St. Mary-le-Bow (http://www.justshare.org.uk/), and In late August we lead a justice retreat near Madrid, Spain.
3. Redcliffe College – Justice MA programme
- Redcliffe’s new Contemporary Missiology MA retains the justice modules as a specialist stream within the programme. If you are interested in further study, more information can be accessed on Redcliffe’s website at http://www.redcliffe.org/Courses/Postgraduatecourses/ContemporaryMissiology
- The next Environment Day conference, in collaboration with the John Ray Initiative and A Rocha, is set for 7th March 2015 at Redcliffe College, on the topic of climate change. Andy will be leading a seminar on the effects of climate-induced migration, exploring the role of the church in mitigating/adapting to this increasing reality and being a conduit of hope
- We hope a post for a ‘scholar in residence’ at Redcliffe College could be available in the next couple of years – if you know of anyone interested, particularly from the Global South, then please encourage them to contact us. We are also looking for placement opportunities for undergraduate students and also research possibilities, both for students at Redcliffe College and the initiative more generally
4. Resourcing and social media
Please pray that we will be able to secure the funding needed to continue to develop the initiative. It is a faith-based ministry; if you would like more information on our financial needs, or would like to give, please let us know. You can follow us on twitter (@just_mission), subscribe to our blog at https://justiceadvocacyandmission.wordpress.com/, like our facebook pages (jusTice initiative and Carnival Kingdom), or check out our website (www.justice-initiative.com). This August, we plan to do some more thinking and planning for the initiative’s work in the coming academic year, and in particular hope to develop our social media presence further., interest and support.
Thank you for your ongoing interest and support
Andy & Carol