Justice begins by understanding that our justice is bound up together – mine and yours, rich and poor, droughts and floods, consumer and producer, Indigenous and coloniser.
When I had been part of TEARs International program team for just a couple of years, I was visiting a project working with people who were HIV positive. This was the days when anti-retroviral treatment was not commonly available in the part of the world I was visiting. I met a person who was very unwell, suffering from full blown AIDS. She looked like a skeleton with skin on. The partner organisation I visited was working with this person and her family to provide all kinds of psycho-social support; the team was such an inspiration. When I would find my job a struggle, I would remember that organisation and the lady that looked like a skeleton, and remember there was nothing too hard!
On reflection, at that point in time I think my “justice journey” was probably more of a “charity journey”, a willingness to share and give and work hard, but out of my wealth of resources and opportunity. I have learned since then to think of my work and justice in different ways. Ways that both lead me to despair and provide glimmers of hope.
The apostle Paul, in Philippians, describes Jesus as “being in very nature God, he did not consider his equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather he made himself nothing...” Paul’s direction is to emulate that attitude. In the same way, if Jesus is the person I am following, what does my “justice journey” look like now? I think it is more like this quote by Aboriginal activist Lilla Watson: “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
This is a recurring theme for me at the moment, but the idea hit me very strongly one day I was visiting a farm in rural Mozambique. I was there to meet a group of very poor women, and a few men, who have set up a commercial farm together. After we had talked about their farm, and what they had learnt from the team atTEAR’s partner Gaza Works, we joined hands and sang. The women sang that we are all one, joined as sisters and brothers because of the blood of Jesus. Like the quote above, or Jesus’ attitude, justice begins by understanding that our justice is bound up together – mine and yours, rich and poor, droughts and floods, consumer and producer, Indigenous and coloniser.
It’s confronting to realise that justice isn’t just for other people, or people struggling with poverty and injustice. Justice applies to those of us who use more than our fair share, benefit from unequal systems unequal systems and give only out of what we have to spare.
So I guess what keeps me going in my work and also in my pursuit of this Jesus-inspired justice is not always hope; sometimes it’s more like grim determination. I am driven by a desire to have the same attitude as Christ. But I am also led gently by a very gracious and patient God who knows I am a slow, slow learner. He gives me glimpses of his kingdom, working its way quietly through the world like yeast through dough. I get discouraged when I feel like there is not much to see, but he has shown me (and more so when I have nearly given up hope) that he is working.