Tuesday, September 05, 2006


This article was recently published in the Australian Christian - an online magazine, and knowledge base of the Churches of Christ in Australia.

If You Want Peace, Then Start Fighting For Justice
By : Kristen Hobby
I read a bumper sticker recently that said “if you want peace, then start fighting for justice”. It seems like a paradox to fight for peace. Peace doesn’t just happen because a group of people want it (though that is a good start) it happens because people question and challenge the way things are and envision a better way of living.

The Churches of Christ Social Justice Network (SJN) in Vic/Tas exists to provide resources to churches and individuals who have an interest (or even passion!) for making the world a better place. There are five of us who volunteer to work on the SJN Executive: Gerald Rose, Ian Smith, Ana Gobeldale, Simon Clemow and myself.

So why do we do it? For Ian Smith (Thornbury Church of Christ), participation in social justice is inherent to discipleship. From his formative years he has discovered that God is interested in the whole: the whole of creation, the whole person, not just the individual parts. Thus any faith response towards creation or another person, needs to embrace the whole of the other. This often includes asking the question why? “Why has this denigration of creation occurred” or “Why does this person feel disempowered or abused?“ As Ian wrestles with these issues he finds through the Kingdom of God people are responding.

The reason Simon is passionate about Social Justice, is due in part to the challenge of the prophet Micah to the people in Micah 6:8 “…seek justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God…" which Jesus reframed and reiterated in his Matthean (22:37-39) summary of the ‘law’, which we can translate as: “…Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence." This is the most important, a first on any list. But there is a second part alongside it: "Love others as well as you love yourself." How can we truly love someone (place their needs ahead of our own) from a position of a power imbalance? Through his role as the Discipleship Development Program (DDP) National Coordinator, he hopes to expose other young adults to the social justice call of their faith tradition.

For Gerald Rose, social justice is an imperative. He says he doesn't have a choice. If he takes Jesus seriously, he is committed to working for goodness, justice , compassion and fairness in human society, which is another way of saying "working for the kingdom of God in human society". To do anything less is to betray all that Jesus stood for and died for. As Martin Luther King said, "a threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

Ana writes: “Growing up during the 50s and 60s in the USA with a clergy father meant that I attended civil rights marches before I could walk (pushed in a pram by my parents), and my church youth group was active in peace activities during the Vietnam war years. Living in South Africa under the oppressive laws of apartheid, ministering to a black community, meant that our Christian faith demanded we provide, in word and deed, a witness for justice and change. Christ calls us to follow him, to abandon our desires for personal security, to be agents of peace and justice in the world. I fall quite short of doing this well, but being part of groups like the SJN helps me stay focused on what Christ expects of me”.

And I do it because I have hope that we really can make a difference in the lives of people who don’t have access to adequate food or water or basic human rights. I do it because I believe as followers of Christ, it is who we are called to be and that human rights really are worth fighting for. A little like glimpsing the Kingdom of God and finding a way to bring it into the present.

For the past three years, we have contributed articles for the CEO’s news and the Australian Christian, presented motions for conferences and organized a number of SJN training days and events. The SJN also helps with issues of education such as the Religious and Racial Tolerance Act, or legislation pertaining to refugees and those seeking asylum. It can be a tough job: sometimes the problems seem too numerous and insurmountable, the victories few, the disappointments kind of endless, and we all do it on top of our other busy roles and responsibilities.

But how do we maintain a sense of hope when sometimes the odds aren’t quite stacked in our favour? I think there are two ways: the first is that you really need to celebrate your wins, no matter how small. Celebrating wins such as changes to unjust laws that keep women and children in detention facilities. Celebrating wins such as events like Live8 that demanded the wealthiest of nations to reduce the debts of 19 of the world’s poorest and celebrating times when large companies buy Fair Trade teas and coffees so the farmers can receive an appropriate amount for their goods. I think the other way of sustaining hope is to recognise that we can’t do this alone. We need to share the load, encourage each other and support one another.