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What does social justice look like?

20 February 2018

What does social justice look like?

Today is the United Nations' World Day of Social Justice. We sat down with The Salvation Army Australia Eastern Territory’s Social Justice Coordinator, Casey O’Brien Machado, to find out more about what ‘social justice’ is and the work The Salvation Army is doing in this space.

Q: What is your role in The Salvation Army?

A: I am a soldier of The Salvation Army, as well as Territorial Social Justice Coordinator for the Australia Eastern Territory, and a member of the International Moral and Social Issues Council.

Q: In your own words, what is 'social justice'?  

A: It’s difficult to come up with a single definition of ‘social justice’, as to do so would inevitably exclude many of its elements. However, we in The Salvation Army believe that social justice is the Kingdom of God on earth. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we ask ‘Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven’. We are asking for the earth to look like God’s Kingdom. This Kingdom is God’s ideal, good plan for the world. Those elements on earth which would not be present in His ideal plan – things like hunger, loneliness, people taking advantage of others – are not part of a world based on God’s justice. As Christians, we are called to do whatever we can to make the world look more like God's ideal plan for it. We see glimpses of it day to day - in the good things that happen, when we see love, or joy, or people caring for each other. Our role is to recognise those glimpses and to help them grow. 

Social justice is not simply a list of issues – it is a lifestyle made up of a series of choices, every day, to live a life which treats others as Jesus would.

Q: Why are you passionate about it?

A: I'm passionate about social justice because I believe that our world can be better. There are so many good things about life, and about the world as it is right now - but there are still so many things for us to work on. I believe that God has a role for me to play in working on some of these things, and I want to do whatever I can to help Him turn this world into what He wants it to be.

Q: Why does The Salvation Army care about social justice?

A: The Salvation Army cares about social justice because it exists to see God's Kingdom come on earth.

Q: What work does The Salvation Army do in the social justice area, not just in Australia, but across the world?

A: Everything that The Salvation Army does is in an effort to see Social Justice, because everything The Salvation Army does is designed to see God's Kingdom come on earth. When we assist someone who is experiencing homelessness to find accommodation - that's because we know that in the Kingdom of God, there is a place for everyone that is safe and secure. When we share food with someone who is hungry - that's because in the Kingdom of God there is enough for all. When we provide a Christmas Present for a child who otherwise wouldn't receive one - that's because the Kingdom of God is full of joy. When we build ongoing, healthy relationships with people – that’s because we believe that in God’s Kingdom relationship is important, and everyone is important. Everything The Salvation Army does, both in Australia and worldwide, is designed to see the world look more like the Kingdom of God. 

Q: What are some ways we can fight for social justice in our everyday lives?

A: We need to be informed. We need to be aware of what is going on in the world around us, and make choices in our own lives based on that knowledge. Fighting for social justice doesn't always have to be big and dramatic. Of course there are large-scale, systemic issues which need to be tackled, and we need to be sure we are playing our part in this. But in the day-to-day, social justice can simply mean smiling at someone who needs it. It can mean giving something to someone who has little. It can mean treating someone who is different to you kindly, and with dignity. As The Salvation Army’s International Social Justice Commission teaches, when we include the excluded, or advocate for the oppressed in any way, we are fighting for social justice. When we confront the powerful about their harmful decisions, or challenge harmful cultural practices, we are fighting for social justice. It can mean many different things.

Q: What is something practical we can do today to make a difference?

A: Social justice is not something we ‘do’ – it is the aim. We want to see God’s Kingdom on earth – we want to see social justice – so we live lifestyles that will see that world exist in the present. Our aim is not to do social justice – like it’s a tick-list; our aim is to live lives that bring Social Justice.

To make a difference today - get to know the person who lives next door to you. Ask them questions about their lives, rather than simply telling them about yours. Try to understand where they're coming from and why they think they way they do. Learn to love someone who is different to you.

You can find out more about The Salvation Army’s work in the social justice space, and some ‘social justice basic’s here

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