In the Old Testament, we see the prophets calling for justice in the communities to which they proclaimed the word. The call for justice in our communities today is equally as relevant and crucial. Wherever there is brokenness in the lives of people, there must be a desire and will to mend the brokenness. Our lives are integrally connected with the lives of others in our communities. This means that the well-being of our communities is dependent upon how we care for one another – how we love one another.
During the last decade, there has been a significant public outcry for justice around the world. Demonstrations, protests, rallies and public gatherings have taken place to coincide with international gatherings of government leaders and international agencies. The disquiet has been about concerns for the well-being of people – about poverty, homelessness, access to healthcare, affordable housing, work opportunities, equal opportunity for education and care for the environment.
In our diocese, we have been ably assisted by the work of the Social Justice and Advocacy department in raising our awareness about justice issues. Staff and many others engaged in justice and advocacy ministry must be commended for the work they do. We all need to support and participate in this work at the parochial, area and diocesan levels of our church. We are called to share in this ministry and to invite others to join us in this work for the good and well-being of our communities.
Any deprivation of the fundamental rights of people poses a threat to the stability of our neighbourhoods and communities. There can be no denying that far too many people are the victims of injustice and discrimination in our communities. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” If our communities are to be just, it is imperative for us who claim “love of God” to join with others who are seeking to bring about changes for a just society.
We should never be tired of advocating for the rights of others, despite the frustration in doing so. There can be no letting up in this work. Many in our congregations may feel that they have no real influence in these matters. I say that they do. All of our voices can be used as powerful instruments for change. Talking to people who are responsible for making policy and enacting change can go a long way. I encourage us to engage the political directorate at every level of government in our communities, in order to bring about the change needed.
Given that Canada is regarded as an affluent society, it is scandalous that we should have the levels of homelessness, poverty, unaffordable housing, drop-outs from school and people living below the poverty line. No one chooses to be poor. Poverty is a clear sign of injustice and brokenness in our communities.
There needs to be a concerted effort by government, the private sector and all social partners to work together in alleviating the unacceptable disparity between those who have and those who do not have. We should be particularly concerned that after young people have completed an education, as they are encouraged to do, that jobs are not available to many upon graduating. The creation of job opportunities for young people by government and the private sector must be a priority in their planning.
Love of God must mean love of neighbour. It is because of the absence of love of neighbour that our societies are plagued with the scourge of people living below the poverty line in Ontario. Prudent and efficient management may make a difference in ensuring that there are adequate provisions for the needs and well-being of the most vulnerable in our communities.
It is not helpful or encouraging to learn of the wastage of resources when many of the fundamental needs of people are not being met. It is equally not encouraging when major corporate businesses are posting huge profits at the end of their financial year while putting some of their employees on the bread-line.
It is unacceptable that the gap between those who have and those who do not have is increasing, with no indication that there will be a reversal of this trend. The vulnerable among us need to be given hope for a better future. This hope can be made real by the implementation of changes that will transform the lives of the marginalized.
Our Baptismal Covenant makes it obligatory for us to do the following: persevere in resisting evil, seek and serve Christ in all persons, love neighbour as self, strive for justice and peace among all people, respect the dignity of every human being, safeguard the integrity of God’s creation, and respect, sustain and renew the life of the earth. Love of God compels us to love all of God’s creation and to join with others in working towards a just society.