SDG 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
I am an avid reader and particularly enjoy detective novels. From the adventures of Gabriel Allon and his character, David Silva, I have discovered the world of terrorism, money laundering and shootings. Another favourite writer of mine, Donna Leon, uses every inquiry by Commissioner Brunetti to expose some form of social injustice.
However, in real life it is much more challenging to experience these issues. During our three years in Haiti, I listened many times to friends who had just lost relatives, shot in the streets because they had defended justice or refused corruption. One family which was close to us, was threatened with murder during the burglary of their home. Another family saw its father shot in front of them.
More subtle forms of violence are exerted on women and children in Haiti. Families send their children to work in the fields rather than sending them to school. Parents place their children with other families without realising that they often become slaves. Sometimes, in their distress, they choose to marry a daughter off before adulthood or offer them up for prostitution. In every case, Haitian children’s life chances are seriously damaged.
Closer to me, as I now live in Switzerland, is tax evasion. Wealthy people hide profits and assets in offshore accounts. The recent release of the ‘Panama Papers’ revealed the extent of this. The black (or grey) markets deprive our nations of valuable money to reduce inequality and injustice. Sadly, where there are weak and unjust governments, the gap between rich and poor people widens.
Greed, corruption and poverty are linked in a vicious circle. According to the UN, ‘corruption, fraud, theft and tax evasion cost some $1.26 trillion per year for developing countries. This amount of money could be used to help those living on less than $1.25 per day for at least six years.’1
A stable and fair government allows a country to develop, offers its residents safety and improves access for all to health services, education, and justice. Every act of corruption, each fraud and each extortion of money undermines the whole of humanity.
These issues affect every part of the world ‐ including The Salvation Army. General André Cox is encouraging greater accountability across our organisation: 'In a world of shifting values, we need to be people of spiritual vitality and integrity, faithful and dynamic in mission.' Visit the website of the Accountability Movement at www.salvationarmy.org/accountability for further information.
- Reading the Old Testament, we see that injustice and violence have always existed. ‘There are those who turn justice into bitterness and cast righteousness into the ground’ we read in Amos 5:7. ‘There are those who oppress the innocent and take bribes and deprive the poor of justice in the courts’ (Amos 5:12).
- Zechariah calls on us to act, by contrast, with wisdom and integrity: ‘This is what the Lord Almighty said: "Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other… These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts"’ (Zechariah 7:9‐10; 8:16).
- Isaiah reminds us that God expects us to defending the most vulnerable – to ‘loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke’. His challenge continues: ‘ … share your food with the hungry and … provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, … clothe them, and [do not] turn away from your own flesh and blood’ (Isaiah 58:6‐7).
- Our authorities, nationally and internationally; for all forms of institutions, governmental, private, religious and financial – that God guides them and reprimands them if necessary so that they are honest, that the law is applied and that justice is done.
- Those who abuse, those that manipulate the weakest, those who enrich themselves through corruption, bribery and tax evasion. May God open their eyes to the consequences of their actions and create in them a spirit of repentance.
- Those who suffer injustice and violence: the weak, children, women, the marginalised, refugees and rejected populations – that God extends his healing and protective hand on them.
- Pray for the countries that, because of their history, have a culture of dependency and submission. May these countries recover, be strengthened and take responsibility for their future.
- Keep yourself informed. Read and watch news and current affairs and be aware of how the governments in your country and in others are acting. This allows you to spot corruption and unjust practices, and be in a position to challenge these and to inform others about them. This is an important first step in having strong institutions.
- Be advocates for the oppressed and disadvantaged. Where governance (state governance or an organisation's) has failed a person, speak out and stand up for them. You can make a difference for the individual and in society.
- Read Journey of Renewal (www.salvationarmy.org/accountability) and use the Mission Accountability Framework to help promote peace, justice and accountability.