The United Nations World Day of Social Justice, observed today, provides an opportunity for Christians to reflect on how they respond to the vulnerable, writes Sr Veronica Lawson RSM. Source: Mercy eNews.
Social justice is a modern expression for an ancient concept that was espoused by the prophets of Israel and, from a Christian perspective, lived in its fullest expression by Jesus of Nazareth, God-With-Us.
When the term “social justice” was coined, it referred exclusively to justice for all in the human community. The focus was on justice for those rendered poor or “small”. Over recent decades, a growing consciousness of the interconnection of all things has brought with it the realisation that there is no social justice without environmental justice. There is likewise a growing realisation that social justice and environmental justice constitute “ecological justice” or justice for our common home and all of its inhabitants, human and other-than-human.
On this 2020 World Day of Social Justice, we might recall that our tradition of justice and compassion is grounded in the Story of Emmanuel, of God-with-us (with the cosmos, with our planetary home and with all that inhabits our home). And the Story of Emmanuel is grounded in the Story of the God of Israel who freed a small band of slaves from the “politics of oppression” for a new way of being and living in his justice and mercy.
When Israel forgot its origins and established its own oppressive political and social structures, the prophets called it back to reflect on its origins as a people and to remember its story of liberation from oppression.
It is important to note that Israel came into being in a patriarchal world, as did Christianity. Over the centuries, both Judaism and Christianity reinscribed many of the cultural norms of that patriarchal world, including slavery, so that the justice and freedom sought was not what our contemporary “ecological” prophets might affirm as true justice and freedom
A meaningful participation in the 2020 United Nations World Day of Social Justice might involve a serious commitment to the stranger first and “to no more small” until such time as true justice prevails on our planet – justice that recognises the significance of everyone and everything.