Just this last summer I was hiking along the coastal path in Brittany with a friend and out of the blue she asked me this question, "Alison where do you think you get your passion for social justice?" Back home and Anna asks me to write you this letter so it seems I have been destined to tackle this huge and complex subject. In our home I find that our conversations so often end up as being about issues of social justice.
Being brought up in a Christian family I was taught that concern and care for those less fortunate than myself was both a duty and requirement of my faith. The life of Jesus, his teachings and stories from the Bible such as the good Samaritan and the unjust steward were held up as examples and reinforced this sense.
I must have been well taught for over the time this pull towards service has really become central to the way I live my faith. Throughout my spiritual journey the simple teaching of compassion given to me in my childhood has been reinforced and strengthened. My faith is expressed in what I do and how I choose to live my life. In difficult times in my church life I feel that this is what has kept me faithful and compelled to keep going. As my faith and understanding continue to mature I have come to see that there has to be a balance between inner spirituality and outward action. When I act is when I feel more spiritually complete and closer to God. The letter of James speaks of this unity of faith and deeds summed up perfectly in 2:26 "For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead."
Social justice encompasses many factors, too many to cover here. When we look around us we can see the need for justice for the environment, for women, migrants, minorities, in economic and political systems, the list goes on and on. Working to achieve any difference in these areas can seem to be an impossible dream, the task is just too enormous and it is too easy to feel helpless weak and insignificant in the face of it. This is where I feel blessed to at least be part of a church structure and community. As many of you know I volunteer for the Anglican Church of Canada's very own and unique Primate's World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) and also through that connection I am part of the local chapter of KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives. Working with these two organisations gives me a vehicle to put my faith into action, to work with others to present a stronger voice and offers me some hope of making a difference.
As Anglicans in Canada we are indeed blessed have PWRDF which "strives to be a part of the outreach ministry of every Canadian Anglican parish and an expression for all Anglicans of their baptismal covenant to strive for justice and peace and to respect the dignity of every human being".
PWRDF sees itself as the face of the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC) in the world equipping the church to bear witness to God's intentions for humanity and the whole of creation. How good it is to know that so many are being helped, supported and encouraged by our church. The peasant farmer in Bangladesh who has access to seeds to feed his family through the seed bank project set up by a project partner, the community in rural El Salvador who lost everything in the civil war has a school whose teacher told us she had been trained with PWRDF funds. So many people give thanks for their partnership with us who we don't even know. I think of the water committee in a Tanzanian village we visited asking me to bring back to Canada their message of thankfulness for our part in enabling them to access clean water right in the village thus relieving the women of a 6 hour walk to the nearest source. It has been through some of these connections that I feel God's presence most fully.
One of the great strengths of PWRDF is the way we work in partnerships, respectfully listening and responding to their concerns. PWRDF is committed to help partners address root causes of problems getting beyond the band aid approach. PWRDF are there to accompany their partners and communities as they move from survival into sustainable development. PWRDF hears again and again that what our partners are seeking is mutual respect to share equally in managing projects. They desire to work with their communities to change unfair conditions so that they can be empowered to live independently with dignity and worth.
I am privileged to be asked to speak in parishes both in this diocese and occasionally beyond and It is part of my role to "to engage our membership in the continuous journey along which we move from awareness on global justice issues to informed action that is rooted in faith and to make this part of the outreach and social justice ministry of every parish". I am thankful to be a member of a parish that places importance on social justice and is a faithful PWRDF supporter. The Primate Archbishop Fred Hiltz is a passionate supporter of PWRDF. He calls it the good news story of the ACC and describes its transforming work at every opportunity. "Together", he writes," we are able to be a prophetic voice; working to ensure that God's bounty is shared with all the world".
My involvement with KAIROS another church organisation with a vital mission could take another letter!
PWRDF Representative, Diocese of Calgary
The Primate's World Relief and Development Fund
Working for a truly just, healthy and peaceful world