What does justice have to do with overcoming poverty?
Justice is the idea that all people, everywhere in the world, have the right to a life of dignity. This means a life free from poverty, violence, discrimination or human rights violations. A world where justice exists is a world where all people are included in society and all people can claim their rights to education, shelter, and health care regardless of how poor or rich they are.
The poor in the developing world endure such extraordinary levels of injustice that it has a devastating impact on their ability to move forward. It undermines so much of what they try to achieve. A vicious cycle occurs time and time again through the generations. A lack of money to attend school leads to poor education and low-level literacy. The lack of education prevents access to the employment market forcing people into low paying manual intensive work. The lack of adequate income forces people into high density urban slums. Urban slums lack adequate water and sanitation which increases the risk of disease. Lack of income means poor access to nutritious food. Poor nutrition also leads to disease. Lack of income prevents access to health care to treat disease……and so the cycle persists.
For women and girls injustice has even more devastating consequences. Often uneducated because of their gender they are forced into menial work or early marriage and child bearing. They are more susceptible to sexual violence and sexually transmitted disease. They are exploited by those who use force to take what they want.
What is our response? We need to change the conversation. Whenever we speak of poverty we must speak of injustice. But more than that, we must speak of HOPE. To give hope we must have it and if we are to build hope in others it will require something of us. It is found in our actions.
The book of Isaiah 1:17 tells us to “Learn to do good, Seek justice, Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.”