Welcome to the latest edition of #UpForJustice
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Welcome to the latest edition of #UpForJustice, the monthly update from the ISJC containing news, articles and a prayer focus from The Salvation Army's International Social Justice Commission (ISJC) based in New York City, USA.

May we start by wishing you all a happy and fruitful 2017 – a new year for all of us with many opportunities for seeking justice together. For the first two months of 2017 we will continue using the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework for prayer and reflection. There are 17 goals and we are now on SDG 16 – so only one more to go! If you are a regular reader of #UpForJustice you will know all 193 United Nations (UN) member states endorsed the SDGs at the UN General Assembly in September 2015. The SDGs will shape the development agendas in all countries until 2030. Read more about the SDGs by visiting www.salvationarmy.org/isjc/SDGs. This month, Major Christine Volet, The Salvation Army’s United Nations Representative in Geneva, Switzerland, reflects on SDG 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions.

SDG 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions

I am an avid reader and particularly enjoy detective novels. From the adventures of Gabriel Allon and his character, David Silva, I have discovered the world of terrorism, money laundering and shootings. Another favourite writer of mine, Donna Leon, uses every inquiry by Commissioner Brunetti to expose some form of social injustice.

However, in real life it is much more challenging to experience these issues. During our three years in Haiti, I listened many times to friends who had just lost relatives, shot in the streets because they had defended justice or refused corruption. One family which was close to us, was threatened with murder during the burglary of their home. Another family saw its father shot in front of them. More subtle forms of violence are exerted on women and children in Haiti. Families send their children to work in the fields rather than sending them to school. Parents place their children with other families without realising that they often become slaves. Sometimes, in their distress, they choose to marry a daughter off before adulthood or offer them up for prostitution. In every case, Haitian children’s life chances are seriously damaged.

Closer to me, as I now live in Switzerland, is tax evasion. Wealthy people hide profits and assets in offshore accounts. The recent release of the ‘Panama Papers’ revealed the extent of this. The black (or grey) markets deprive our nations of valuable money to reduce inequality and injustice. Sadly, where there are weak and unjust governments, the gap between rich and poor people widens.
Greed, corruption and poverty are linked in a vicious circle. According to the UN, ‘corruption, fraud, theft and tax evasion cost some US$1.26 trillion per year for developing countries. This amount of money could be used to help those living on less than $1.25 per day for at least six years.’[1]
A stable and fair government allows a country to develop, offers its residents safety and improves access for all to health services, education, and justice. Every act of corruption, each fraud and each extortion of money undermines the whole of humanity.

Biblical reflection

Reading the Old Testament, we see that injustice and violence have always existed. ‘There are those who turn justice into bitterness and cast righteousness into the ground’ we read in Amos 5:7. ‘There are those who oppress the innocent and take bribes and deprive the poor of justice in the courts’ (Amos 5:12).
Zechariah calls on us to act, by contrast, with wisdom and integrity: ‘This is what the Lord Almighty said: Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other… These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts’ (Zechariah 7:9-10; 8:16).
Isaiah reminds us that God expects us to defending the most vulnerable – to ‘loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke’. His challenge continues: ‘ … share your food with the hungry and … provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, … clothe them, and [do not] turn away from your own flesh and blood’ (Isaiah 58:6-7).
[1] https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/press/releases/2015/November/eliminating-corruption-is-crucial-to-sustainable-development.html

Updates from the ISJC

  • 9-10 January, Lieut-Colonels Dean and Eirwen Pallant with Major Victoria Edmonds are travelling to St Louis in USA Central Territory. The suburb of Ferguson become known around the world after riots following the shooting of Michael Brown in August 2014. The ISJC team will be facilitating a discussion using Faith-Based Facilitation with Salvation Army personnel to explore current issues and possible responses (www.salvationarmy.org/fbf).
  • 13-14 January, Lieut-Colonel Dean Pallant is participating in a two-day event at THQ in Atlanta, USA Southern Territory. The territory is developing its capacity to use Faith-Based Facilitation to explore moral and social issues in their context.

Prayer focus

Let us not be discouraged by the obvious lack of justice on Earth, but instead constantly pray for:

  • The implementation of The Salvation Army’s Accountability Movement around the world. The Army needs to be a strong institution which brings peace and justice through everything it does. This is a personal challenge to every Salvationist – is your corps full of peace and justice? What about the Salvation Army social centre in your area? Are we known to be people of peace and justice? The Accountability Movement aims to make this a reality in all parts of The Salvation Army. (See www.salvationarmy.org/accountability for more information). Please pray for Commissioner Robert Donaldson who takes up the  appointment of International Secretary for Accountability and Governance on 1 January 2017.
  • Our authorities, nationally and internationally; for all forms of institutions, governmental, private, religious and financial – that God guides them and reprimands them if necessary so that they are honest, that the law is applied and that justice is done.
  • Those who abuse, those that manipulate the weakest, those who enrich themselves through corruption, bribery and tax evasion. May God open their eyes to the consequences of their actions and create in them a spirit of repentance.
  • Those who suffer injustice and violence: the weak, the children, women, the marginalised, refugees and rejected populations – that God extends his healing and protective hand on them.
  • The countries that, because of their history, are in a culture of dependency and submission. Pray that these countries recover, are strengthened and take responsibility for their future.
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