Growing in our understanding of the connection between faith and justice can be a lifelong journey, but for many people there are moments that change us; that mean we can never look at the world in quite the same way again. Four members of the Tearfund community share about a pivotal moment in their justice journey.
The young man who lay in the glass-topped coffin was the same age as my older brother. His extended family were around gambling, using the coffin as a card table to raise money for the young man’s parents. This is how the next four to five days would pass here on this small dirt street of a slum known as Baseco in Manilla while family in rural Philippines travelled to say their final goodbyes.
Through a translator we asked what had happened, and the young man’s uncle told us that he had been crushed between two trucks while selling goods in the traffic. He went on to tell us that the truck driver at fault had paid a policeman the equivalent of AU$50 and had driven off without being held to account for this tragic loss of life. He raged at the injustice, saying: “Is that all my nephew is worth? $50?”.
It was confronting, unconscionable and forever shattered my ignorance to injustice. I looked at the young man, saw my brother and began to cry.
Tim Biasetto is a campus pastor at Horizon Church, Sydney. He is involved in Justice Talks run by Tearfund’s Church and Community Engagement Team.
I believe it was at Campfire of the Heart in 2019 that a Noongar elder, who has since passed away, shared with us from his life. He told of how he had been subjected to injustices under the policies that took Aboriginal children from their families and put them into institutions, of the results of those traumas on his person, and of the transformative experience of coming into relationship with Jesus. He asked our forgiveness for the hatred he had felt as a traumatised young man. It didn’t seem right that he should be the one seeking forgiveness but that was the humility he demonstrated.
While I was aware of the facts around the Stolen Generations, there is nothing like hearing a personal account to help deepen the understanding of what that was like for the people caught up in it. More than that, his testimony was a shining example of a life walked in humility and grace with our God. I came away knowing that if our nation was to prosper we had to continue to face these issues from our past and if we were to address them we would need to listen to and follow the leadership of the many wise Aboriginal leaders we are blessed to have in this country.
Andrew Hunter is a leader at The Billabong Uniting Church in Western Australia. He is a member of the South East Perth Tearfund Action Group.
My justice journey with our Tearfund community has been a shared walk in ever deepening empathy, humility and gospel hope in what Christ’s vision for “on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10) can and will be in God’s big story. A few years ago, I was sitting in a coastal village in Timor Leste with an environmental research team, hearing from elders as they described their insights in earning a living from coral reef fisheries, and growing diverse crops in limestone soils. Their resilience in quickly adapting century-old agricultural practices with an increasingly unpredictable climate was deeply inspiring!
At the elders’ feet sat a group of local youth, visibly wrestling between future visions of themselves as village leaders or joining the youth-led waves of urban migration: a familiar reality in the Pacific and regional Australia alike. The interplay between intergenerational ties and employment realities was slightly eased that week, as elders and researchers discussed new agricultural insights and innovative employment pathways, enabling youth to dream about remaining and thriving in their community.
It led me to reflect on my beautiful family home in Victoria’s Yarra Valley, where I can seek employment in city centres and live near to kangaroos and vineyards. For me, climate change hasn’t yet required me to wrestle between lifestyles and livelihoods in the same way as my Timorese brothers and sisters. But witnessing that knowledge exchange helped me realise I could help improve youth access to the best of local and global environmental insights, assisting them to thrive and remain, too.
When I returned to Melbourne, I began a teaching degree and spent the next few years in Indigenous education research and youth-led wildlife conservation. Recently I’ve joined the Tearfund team in community engagement! I’ll be forever grateful for the way the Lord shaped that week at the beach – it changed the direction of my life!
Ben Howes is Tearfund’s South Eastern States Lead Community Organiser.
A Lot with a Little by Tim Costello was a book that shifted my thinking around biblical justice. I was encouraged by the way Tim Costello spoke so authentically about his humble upbringing, the challenges he faced in aligning what his life represented with what he did, and how he continued to look to Jesus as he sought justice for those around him. He reminded me that it is part of our Christian vocation to care for the poor and those living on the margins on an individual level, but that it can also be achieved through systemic changes.
He inspired me to think about the relevance of politics, war and economics to the Bible, and opened my mind to the intersection that exists and that should continue to be welcomed between secular and church groups when it comes to fighting for justice. This book was a gentle reminder that as Christ followers, we live not to gain success and wealth for ourselves as many may aspire towards. Rather, we are called to be faithful stewards and live purposefully for God as we engage with our broken world and stand in solidarity with those who are suffering. As it says in Luke 16:10: “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones.” May we treasure the small seeds that God has gifted us, and water them with patience, tenderness and courage in order that we may sow a vision of heaven here on earth.
Jacinta Trang is a Paediatric Physician Basic Trainee in Sydney, and a Tearfund Associate Board member.
I came to faith as a justice warrior. And I probably loved justice far more than I loved Jesus. I poured so much of my life out in the name of peace and justice, unity and compassion. But I was also seeming to grow in anger and despair and frustration and cynicism and bitterness; I was still dividing people into kind or cruel, or good or bad, or right or wrong. I was still drawing lines and labelling people based on my perception of their political, theological beliefs, economic status, whatever. There was this real self-righteousness; I was deciding I could play God’s role, the Judge.
A mentor of mine once reflected on their own journey through this stuff. He said, I realised that I could never truly be part of God’s restoration of all things if the primary way I’m operating is to tear things and people down.
Without the hope of Jesus, we can get so fixated on what’s wrong, on all of creation groaning. And then it’s also really easy to attribute those wrongs to specific people, to blame and label, and we can forget that our own restoration too needs to be part of the restoration of all things.
Only Jesus’ love has changed my hard heart. And only his love for me makes me want to love people I don’t even like, or forgive people who have hurt me, or want to listen to and understand people I deeply disagree with. Love, in those places where I would not naturally love, has opened up all kinds of new conversations and relationships and opportunities.
Ben Chong is a professional Christian leadership coach and coordinates the Surrender Leadership Program with young leaders from diverse communities.
I saw first-hand the impact of human trafficking and exploitation when I lived in Vietnam for more than seven years, and was horrified that in our day and age there were over 40 million people caught up in it. That figure has now risen to 50 million.
I also found it very confronting to see layers of single-use plastic bags filling a drain so that the downpour of rain gathered into a stream of water flowing into the adjacent homes, not away from them, with the result that the little that people had was spoiled.
But I also saw the ability of a purpose-driven business to transform lives and communities. During my time there I had connected to several in the region. They were doing a great job and I wanted to enable them to reach new markets. I now run an online boutique of giftware, fashion accessories and homewares, with most of the collection created by women who have been rescued and are being restored from exploitation throughout Asia. I source products from social enterprises that are known as freedom businesses, being specifically established to tackle the longer-term issue of rescued people being at high risk of being re-trafficked. In establishing the business, I considered the issues of waste and plastic use, making decisions such as using packaging of biodegradable satchels and boxes and using carbon neutral delivery services. Part of the range includes non-plastic alternatives to common household items, such as coconut bristled toilet cleaners and kitchen cleaners.
Heather Rayside works in Tearfund’s international programs team. Read more of her story.