Monday, January 18, 2010

Justice Summit

Last Friday and Saturday the Center for Justice and Sustainability (CJS) at William Jewell College sponsored their first annual Justice Summit. The leaders of the conference were Ellis Jones and Brett Johnson, two of the three authors of The Better World Handbook: Small Changes that Make a Big Difference (New Society Publishers, 2007).

Dr. Andy Pratt, the Executive Director of the Center for Justice and Sustainability (as well as Dean of the Chapel and Vice President for Religious Ministries at William Jewell College) was the primary planner and facilitator of the Justice Summit, and I think he is probably pleased with the outcome. There was a good mix of Jewell students, faculty and staff members, and people of various ages from the community, some coming from quite a distance. (I talked with one participant who lives in Branson and teaches at MSU in Springfield.)

One of the main goals of the program leaders was to get people to be more active in working for justice and sustainability. To a limited degree, they succeeded with me. Though June and I have been fairly involved in justice and sustainable activities, since the close of the Summit on Saturday, we have become a members of Peace Action, “the nation’s largest grassroots peace network,” and ordered checks from with the Peace Action logo on them.

In keeping with my previous posting about injustice, June and I also joined the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization. HRC “envisions an America where LGBT people are ensured of their basic equal rights, and can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.”

We also made (small) loans through to a group of twenty-one Cambodians who needed the money to buy piglets to raise and to a man in Kabul, Afghanistan, who needed money to expand his general store in order to better support his six children. If you are interested in learning more about micro-lending, check out the Kiva website.

I have also become a follower of the CJS blog, and I encourage my readers to do the same (as long as that doesn’t interfere with your reading my blog!).

The top quote on page one of The Better World Handbook is one of the oft-cited statements made by Gandhi: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” As I have written before, we each one may not be able to do much, but we can do something.


  1. I am a big fan of Gandhi and, specifically, the Gandhi quote you reference. I was not able to attend the CJS conference due to work conflicts (though I'd signed up for it) so am glad to see that you were able to attend Leroy (and were able to meet Robert Francis).

    In a carry-over regarding progress, my concern is that measuring progress can, at times, simply allow us to focus on how far we've come rather than on how far we need to go. Too often I've heard people respond to the injustices of today with comments like, "yeah, but it isn't nearly as bad as it was before..." which comments, beliefs, and/or understandings provide little help in addressing existing injustices.

    I read in the Star today the editorial that referenced the 2010 Equality Index report and note the tremendous economic disparities that remain in our communities between whites and others, in this instance, African-Americans. Should any response to this inequality that suggests things are better now than before be acceptable to those who seek justice? I must ask, have we progressed on the issue of race, or have we simply masked it, transformed it into something more subtle?

    Consider also Haiti and the horrific national disaster that occurred this past week that has resulted in a massive mobilization of resources from all parts of the globe. Where has the globe been in responding to the horrific poverty that has plagued this nation for generations, and why hasn't the immense economic and social disaster that is poverty resulted in the same mobilization of resources, historically?

    We are very good at charity and not very good at justice. We are good at the status quo, but not very good at changing the status quo. We are very good at communicating and celebrating our successes and not very good at identifying, understanding, and owning our failures.

    On that most linear of models the assembly line, when we add wheels to the frame of a car, it is more than it was, we have "improved" it, but it is still no car --- it lacks the seats, the engine, etc.

    With respect to the brand of car called justice, we have added some wheels and some bells and whistles, changed the design of the frame so that from the outside it looks different --- maybe sleeker, sportier, but we still have no car.

  2. I, too, was at the CJS summit. As I have reflected upon the possible outcomes of the summit, at this point I echo CT's comments, although I left with the kinds of enthusiasm reflected in LS's comments.

    The Friday night keynote address was powerful to me. Mr. Mann concluded the talk with the image of humanity being on a south-bound train headed down the tracks for environmental self-destruction but reassuring itself as its methods of change amounted to walking northward (within that train) and changing the light-bulbs in the cars.

    In a conversation with some other participants after one of the Saturday morning sessions, I began to speak of long-term structural economic change. Both my partners laughed and assured me it doesn't happen--period. Change only happens with crisis. I don't want to believe this; I hope that it will not take a natural disaster of the magnitude of that experienced in Haiti or some conflagration of global extent to get the attention of the power elite around the world. I'd prefer to believe that the kinds of actions LS and JS are taking will eventually do the job. But, how does one know such are not delusions of the sort Mann's image depicted: walking north, changing light bulbs on the speeding south bound train?