It's just not fair! Exploring justice
By Tim Evans - 16 November 2018
"It's not fair!"
I have two daughters, aged 6 and 9, so as you can imagine, this is something I hear a lot. Of course, some of the time, it turns out that a perceived injustice is nothing of the sort, someone is simply not getting their way. However, they are onto a deeper truth - the world isn't fair and children sense that early on in their lives. Some parents, understandably, want to shield their children from this reality as long as they can. Others think it's important that their children encounter injustice while they are young, so that they can develop strategies for responding and ethical ways of behaving while they have support to do so.
The way that we use the word "justice" reveals much of our thinking about the world. When we talk about wrong-doers facing their "just deserts", we describe a sense that an act of punishment is the fitting response to a misdemeanour. Many branches of Christian theology speak about judgement in a way that demonstrates a similar understanding of justice. The Bible is full of people crying out to God to avenge their suffering and oppression. If I lived in certain parts of the world or if something should happen to one of my daughters, I suspect I would be very tempted to think in a similar way. After all, in many ways it is a natural human reaction.
In Worth Unlimited, we identify justice as one of our 3 pillars of shalom, which gives the word a different tone, seeing it as a term that helps us to describe "everything as it should be". Therefore, injustice is a term describing the world not being as it should be, relationships not being as they should be. In many ways, we are estranged from God, each other and the world we inhabit. There is so often a sense of enmity. In Christian theology, this is the 'Fall' narrative.
Of course, this enmity and estrangement then manifests itself in many acts of injustice, from the very local - how we speak to our neighbour, how we treat the stranger - to people trafficking, all the way to a lack of responsibility towards the planet and the consequent cataclysmic climate change, from which the poorest will suffer most.
Injustice occurs because we see someone or something as less valuable than ourselves and treat them accordingly. The reason we do that is because we are not in a 'right relationship' with each other, God, and the places we should call home. One of the quotes I often use is an African proverb:
"The child who is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth."
What does this mean for our work as youth workers and community builders? We seek to tackle the root of the issue:
- Helping people reconnect with each other in meaningful, authentic, right relationships based on love, mutuality and compassion.
- Enabling people to become rooted and connected to their 'place' - the neighbourhood or community of which they are a part - so they can feel safe, proud of where they live, less isolated and more supported.
- Creating opportunities for people to build meaningful friendships and more resilient communities through acts of neighbourliness, which is why we do so much social action work with young people.
- Creating spaces where people can explore and tell stories of their lives, relating to wider values, spirituality and God.
This connectedness, friendship and neighbourliness enables young people to feel the warmth of the place they live in ways that give them hope for their lives, rather than seeking it in more destructive ways.
That's why we invite you to become part of our movement that seeks justice and to act justly. It can be by the small acts of neighbourliness you already do everyday; it can be acting as a peacemaker and reconciler in your own family or workplace. It can also be starting a Worth Unlimited project in your own community that brings people together to find those right relationships with each other. It can be supporting our work, by giving or volunteering or being an ambassador for us, so that we can see lasting change in peoples lives.
Help us to help others discover that - by being connected to each other, to our communities and to God - we can experience something of Gods shalom justice together.