Justice – what is justice to you? This question is what rang through my psyche periodically through the weekend. Among 8,000 others who converged upon Los Angeles, CA for the Justice Conference we were entered into a ‘conversation’ about various ‘injustices’ in the world and how it is we each as ‘one person’ could possibly make a difference.
Women’s panel top left corner, Human Trafficking Networking Event top right, Donald Miller (author of Blue Like Jazz) keynoting main conference bottom right, and
In my opinion, what I’ve surmised from this trip is two part: 1) Before one can enter into that conversation and embrace how they can actively play a role in advocating for social justice one then needs to define what justice is for themselves, and 2) be truthful about the role you wish to take (hands on, fund raising, funding, emotional support, vocal advocate) with being an advocate and why.
This conference is good for the novice seeking to answer the above questions and it’s motivating for those who have already been advocating for some time. Over the course of the weekend we broke open the need to heal and help with injustices such as poverty, human trafficking, hunger, education (lack there of), homelessness and immigration. What struck me as missing (hence my reason for attending to see if my particular work with injustice could be a part of this ‘conversation’ as well) was the epidemic of abuse (physical, sexual, neglect and emotional).
Not to take away from the need to feed or clothe my fellow brother or sister, or give them the opportunities to be equal in all aspects of human dignity but I do believe my part in social justice is to bring an awareness of the fact that the effect of abuse is not a ‘one and done’ injustice. Abuse, no matter if afflicted onto a child, teenager or adult, robs the person of an emotional (and sometimes spiritual) safe well-being that even though it might not be ‘seen’ by others, and is often disguised, it is as unjust as all of the more ‘obvious’ issues and it affects every social class and demographic and can remain for a lifetime.
Michael Owen’s Baltimore LOVE project: baltimoreloveproject.com We are answering the question “Where is your ‘home’” and I answered – With my God.
After having some very poignant and revealing conversations with various attendees at the conference what I’ve come to realize is that with injustice of abuse comes an inadequate understanding of what to do or say when it comes to helping someone who has been abused.
We know to feed the hungry. We know to provide for the poor. We know to give shelter to the homeless. We know to be a voice for certain demographic groups that get overlooked in basic needs. We even know to provide a safe place for those who’ve been trafficked and sold. We also know to give them life skills to live a ‘normal’ life but do we tap into healing the abuse they’ve suffered and help restore their self-worth so that they believe they are worth overcoming what they’ve suffered? Better yet, are we unearthing the abuse they suffered before they were led into human trafficking because, especially with domestic trafficking, the probability is high that they were already nursing a wound of un-worth.
There was a very insightful point made during one of the main keynotes of the conference by Ken Wytmsa, founder of The Justice Conference and president of Kilns College, and (paraphrased) he said we needed to not only help those suffering an injustice and continue to look down upon them but we need to help pull them up out of their injustice and see them as equals.
From ‘Outside the Box Sermon Illustration’
Abused people don’t speak of the abuse they’ve endured because they don’t want to be looked upon as broken, weak, and different. People suffering abuse don’t speak of the abuse they are suffering because they are shamed into believing they deserve it, there is no way out of it, or as often is the case for children, don’t realize it is abuse. Even healed from these misconceptions and lies abuse survivors still find it hard to talk about what they’ve endured because of the uncomfortable, ‘That’s too hard to hear,’ or ‘I don’t want to talk about these awful things,’ reactions they receive.
Just as we are teaching and giving tools to poverished third world countries to find clean water and grow food in rough climates the best way to help a survivor of abuse is the same. To allow them to talk about what they’ve endured and acknowledge the injustice, offer the tools (therapy, support groups, etc) to heal from the injustice, and look at them as your equal and not with pity.
Abuse needs to enter into the conversation because healed people heal people.