Justice and Peace Shall Kiss
The concepts of peace and justice are closely connected. The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously once said, “Without justice, there can be no peace.”
Sometimes the link is very obvious. If I were sitting at a banquet table feasting, while the person next to me were emaciated and starving, it’s likely there would be no peace in that situation. We have what is called a resource conflict. There are places in the world where there really isn’t enough to go around. These resource conflicts are extremely challenging, and they will get worse as the population of the world increases at the same time the earth’s environment is polluted and abused so that that will sustain less and less us.
Sometimes, the link is a bit harder to tease out. For example, a few weeks ago I wrote about mountaintop removal mining. The mining company has bought and paid for the mountain. Their reply to criticism is, in part, to assert that they own a private property right to do whatever they want with their land.
This argument fails to account for a bigger picture. The sedimentation from MRR, as well as chemicals used to treat the soil, clogs up local streams and waterways. This, in turn, affects entire ecosystems. Then, degradation of the general environment affects the economy and the people in the surrounding communities not just the wildlife. This is a simplified example of the bigger picture type of thought that is required to comprehend the link between justice and peace. Fundamentally, it says, we are all downstream.
Everything is connected.
Finding the connection and correcting root causes rather than symptoms is a primary task of peacebuilding. The Prophet Amos seems to have understood this well:
Therefore because you trample on the poor and you exact taxes of grain from him, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not dwell in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine. For I know how many are your transgressions and how great are your sins— you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and turn aside the needy in the gate. Therefore he who is prudent will keep silent in such a time, for it is an evil time. Seek good, and not evil, that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, as you have said. Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph. . . . I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
(Amos 5: 11-24)
Food for thought, this 18th day of Lent, 2012. I cannot make the entire world just. But I can strive to make my little bit of it, a bit more so.