The International Social Justice Commission is the Salvation Army's strategic voice to advocate for human dignity and social justice with the world's poor and oppressed.
Driven by informed conviction and creative compassion, justice challenges human inequity and reaches out from the intelligence of the heart to touch human need.
The Bible almost always links justice with 'widows, the fatherless, orphans, the poor, hungry, strangers, needy, weak and oppressed.' Something in life has gone wrong for these people. Seeking justice means that impoverished people, the unemployed, abused, addicted and the disenfranchised get a chance to make some choices that allow them to live right. Justice is making liferight for others. Justice means working for the dignity, respect and God-given rights of all people. Justice listens carefully to those whoare being overwhelmed by life's demands and seeks their counsel. Justice addresses causes of injustice. Justice restores. Justice rebuilds people's lives. Justice makes it possible for people to beginagain.
Mary's song of praise injects our faith with hope for a better day - for times when justice reigns 'on earth as it is in heaven.'
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation togeneration. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things... (Luke 1:46-53)
Rooted in History
From the beginning, The Salvation Army's mission has been marked with love for God, service among the poor, and the invitation to believe and follow Jesus Christ. The additional mandate of the International Social Justice Commission (ISJC) is challenging Salvationists to harmonize our historic mission with God's call to pursue justice in today's world.
In the 1800s, William Booth found direction for his social concern in the counsel of the prophets:
Lift up your voice like a trumpet! Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day‚ and oppress all your workers. Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall rise in the darkness‚ and break forth like the dawn. (Isaiah 58)
The prophet Micah announces what God expects from all people for all time. The one requirement has three dimensions of spiritual virtue and practice:
God has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)
Linked to its past, the expression of an acute social conscience continues as a hallmark of the organization William and Catherine Booth founded. Patterns from the past are often good predictors for the future. For The Salvation Army, the alleviation of people's pain continues to drive the vision of the International Social Justice Commission.
Believing that everyone is created in the image of God but that globaleconomic and political inequity perpetuates human injustice, the ISJCexercises leadership in determining the Army's policies and practicesin the international social arena. Lamenting the abusive and unethical behaviour imposed on vulnerable people in today's world, the Commission assists the Territories and engages with like-minded organizations and other world forums to advance the cause of global justice.
In pursuit of its stated purpose, the International Social Justice Commission has established five measurable goals:
- Raise strategic voices to advocate with the world's poor and oppressed.
- Be a recognized center of research and critical thinking on issues of global social justice.
- Collaborate with like-minded organizations to advance the global cause of social justice.
- Exercise leadership in determining social justice policies and practices of The Salvation Army
- Live the principles of justice and compassion and inspire others to do likewise.
While seeking to make a distinctive contribution in the social justice arena, the Commission realizes that in the global context significant impact seldom comes from a single voice. We believe that collective efforts can make a difference in imagining a better world. Accordingly, the International Social Justice Commission will continue to establish strong partnerships for the sake of people whose human rights are threatened or violated.
Building on The Salvation Army's participation in the United Nations since 1947, the International Social Justice Commission has embraced the eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals as a focus of its research, teaching, policy, and coalition-building work. The International Social Justice Commission staff are deployed in New York, Vienna and Geneva.
Recognizing gifted people in the arts who creatively address social justice dilemmas, the International Social Justice Commission will promote the imaginative powers of artists who image both suffering and hope for a better world.
Working with people living in poverty in both less developed and more developed countries has taught The Salvation Army that the voices of those who have suffered injustice can be among the most important contributors to a more just future for all. Acknowledging that human brokenness has no borders, the International Social Justice Commission is committed to amplify the voices of the oppressed and translate their real life insights into policies, practices and life-giving opportunities.
Initiatives and Responsibilities
Mandated by the General as a permanent body under the leadership of the Director (Colonel Geanette Seymour), the ISJC's initiatives and responsibilities will include the following:
- Advise the General of global matters of social justice and poverty;
- Consult with territories on present social justice practices and programmes;
- Develop expertise on selected global issues and key concerns;
- Represent the Army at the United Nations (New York, Vienna, Geneva);
- Maintain a commitment to current priorities e.g., human trafficking;
- Coordinate the development of ethical and moral positional statements;
- Produce justice related biblical and theological resources;
- Propose policy and positioning strategy to address critical concerns.