In our series this month “Exploring BAM as Justice: Choosing Hope in the Face of Challenge” we’re taking a deep dive into the intersection of faith, business, and complex global realities. We’ll be looking at business as mission’s impact on poverty and justice issues across the globe. Our final post for the series is ‘from the archives’, revisiting this post on what it takes to bring long-term justice and transformation.
By Mats Tunehag
In the 1700’s the slave trade was widely accepted and legal. It was, in fact, a backbone of the economy of the British Empire. It was a big, organized and transnational business.
William Wilberforce and the Clapham group decided to fight this evil trade. They chose to attack the systemic issue – the legality of slave trade and slavery. To that end they organized a decades long campaign focusing on justice, aiming at a root cause. They worked politically to change unjust and ungodly laws that permitted the dehumanizing trade.
They could have chosen an easier route of awareness campaigns and a boycott of sugar from plantations in Jamaica, but they knew such initiatives in themselves would not free the slaves or bring about lasting change. The feel good factor may have been higher, but the long-term outcomes would have been meager.
Charity and Justice
Today the slave trade and slavery are illegal, but not dead. Human trafficking is modern day slavery, and it is a lucrative and evil business. Just like Wilberforce and his colleagues, we need to ask what the systemic issue is today – and we need to go beyond charitable actions to fight for justice.
We visited St. Andrew Catholic Church in Clemson, South Carolina early 2016, and their vision statement struck us:
“Charity” is the generosity that alleviates needs that are immediate. “Justice” is the process by which generosity configures our ways of providing education, delivering health care, doing business, and creating laws that lessen the need for charity. There will always be immediate needs even in the most just of worlds.
Charity is the more attractive generosity. We see immediate results for the better and we enjoy – here and now – the gratification that comes from doing good. Justice is less attractive because it usually calls for personal and communal change, and we are creatures of habit.
We often respond to needs and global issues through non-profit charity models. But the danger is that some may have more of a PR function sprinkled with feel good factors, rather than dealing with systemic issues and root causes.
Wilberforce and the Clapham group were not popular; they worked against an institution – slavery – that was broadly accepted. Today, taking a position against human trafficking is among the easiest things you can do. The world will applaud you! But how can your stand free slaves and restore human dignity? Read more