Injustice is our problem: Why indifference is not an option

Have you been bullied in school or witnessed someone getting bullied?

I have.

Have you met employees who have been unfairly treated – not paid their hard-earned wages, not given adequate rest, mentally abused, physically abused?

I have.

Have you ever spoken to a foreign lady who was promised a job as a waitress in Singapore only to find herself working as a prostitute?

I have.

Have you heard from a person whose loved ones have been attacked, thrown in jail or even killed for their faith?

I have.

Have you ever ostracised someone — whether because of race, beliefs, dressing, mannerism, language, disability, gender or the colour of their skin?

I have.

I hope you see then we have a serious problem of injustice. Social injustice. All around us, there is injustice.

This has been the case since the fall of man in Eden. The first story we read of after humanity’s eviction from Eden is the murder of a sibling. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” was the defiant defence of the murderer.

Today, we are seeing unprecedented levels of modern slavery and human trafficking. The number of people displaced by conflict is larger than that during World War II. Wealth and income inequality are at an astounding level, with 1% of the world owning 99% of the world’s wealth. In Singapore, many migrant workers are systematically and individually unfairly treated, certain people groups like people with disabilities are economically marginalised, and yet other groups are socially marginalised.

The sobering news is that we are all participants of the injustice.

Today, the number of people displaced by conflict is larger than that during World War II. Wealth and income inequality are at an astounding level, with 1% of the world owning 99% of the world’s wealth.

We who lust after women and consume pornography act by the same cause which drives human traffickers exploiting women and girls for sex.

We who greed for that little bit more wealth, for that harder bargain, act by the same cause which drives exploitative employers and perpetrators of forced labour.

We who perceive people different from us with disdain act by the same cause which drives terrorists to kill people who do not share their same views.

We who say or do nothing about unfairness and injustice to people around us act by the same cause which resulted in the Holocaust: The genocide of about 11 million Jews, Poles, people with disabilities, people with same sex attraction, people with differing worldviews.

The worse news is that those of us who try to rectify the injustice are still doomed to be partakers of the injustice.

“WHAT DOES THE LORD REQUIRE OF YOU?”

Henri Nouwen wrote that in fighting injustice, we will realise that the wounds and needs underlying the injustice we fight against are the same wounds and needs – insecurity, bitterness, desire for affirmation, etc – underlying our own actions. “We too are part of the evil we protest against,” Nouwen wrote in his book, Peacework.

Throughout the time of God’s relationship with humanity, God has constantly demanded that they seek justice. The prophet Isaiah relayed God’s word: “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” (Isaiah 1:17)

The prophet Micah summed up all of God’s demand of humanity as follows: “He has told you, O man, 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)

The bad news is that none of us can meet this demand for justice. We are ourselves partakers of injustice.

There is however good news. Very good news. The good news is that since as long as humanity has been steeped in injustice, God has promised that a perfect King would one day come to bring perfect justice.

As Christians, our response to Jesus’ gracious sacrifice and salvation must be grace-fuelled justice-seeking.

This King is Jesus Christ. He was perfectly just. In all his relationships, he did right. His love for people brought inclusion and restoration.

Even so, that doesn’t solve the problem of pervasive injustice. King Jesus’ plan to bring justice to the world is this: By bearing the suffering, shame and spiritual consequences of injustice through bearing and dying on the Cross on behalf of the whole world, he released those who are found in him from God’s demand for justice. They are then free to pursue justice in the world in response to his grace. In other words, Christians are justified in Christ to be just.

This justice is to be first established through the community of King Jesus’ followers. Because they shall be transformed inside out by his grace.

The just community is then to go out into the world to establish justice and bring others into its fold.

Cosmic justice enables social justice. As Christians, our response to Jesus’ gracious sacrifice and salvation must be grace-fuelled justice-seeking.

WHERE THE CHURCH COMES IN

Look around us. All the brokenness and suffering and oppression is not meant to be. Throughout God’s word to his people, he calls for free and full inclusive participation of every person into a community which dwells with him.

As people of his covenantal community, this is our integral mission: The proclamation and demonstration of the Gospel of King Jesus, the manifestation of the Gospel by good works and good words, that all may be saved into a community of perfect justice and peace with God.

The early Church understood and practised this. When a deathly plague settled on the land in the Roman Empire, the non-Christians threw out their own sick family members to die. The Church not only cared for their own sick members but also the non-Christian people around them. The pagan Emperor Julian was affronted and ashamed by how noble the Church was.

This spirit of justice continued in the Protestant Reformers like John Calvin who established in Geneva, institutions, policies and efforts to care for the poor and sick through hospitals and the creation of employment for poor and refugees.

In Singapore, the early missionaries in the 1800s started with humble efforts of establishing small medical dispensaries for the poor locals, schools for all including girls many of whom were abandoned by their Chinese families, and shelters for the coolies who had been trafficked and exploited. Many local beneficiaries became Christians. They are our grandparents. They are the parents of our church leaders today.

The problem of injustice today is daunting for us. But we take heart in the fact that King Jesus is already there with the victims of injustice, and He calls His servants to join Him.

“Where I am, there my servant will be also” (John 12:26). Are we servants of King Jesus? Will we follow the King of justice who calls us to justice today?

This post first appeared on Thir.st at http://thir.st/blog/injustice-is-our-problem/

Letters of the Law: a letter to my 19-year-old self

Had the privilege to participate in this meaningful initiative by some law students. I hope my juniors at their crossroads will be at least a little aided by this reflection, a letter addressed to my 19-year-old self who just resigned himself to accepting NUS Law.

http://www.lettersofthelaw.org/read-a…/ronald-jj-wong-lawyer

“Dear Ronald,

It may be rough for you right now, I know. You are struggling with intellectual skepticism of just about everything. There’s a gnawing void in your heart and soul. You messed up your application to Oxford. You have neither the funds nor a scholarship to go to any of the U.S. colleges offered to you. Your fanciful idea of becoming an investment banker and earning heaps of money so you can retire early seems out of reach. And you might feel disappointed about having to take up the offer from NUS Law. Everything doesn’t make sense to you now.

Believe me. Those things are some of the best things that will happen to you. Because it is in the ashes of those broken ambitions and the intellectual and emotional vacuum of fallen mental frameworks and fractured relationships that you will soon find purpose, meaning and community.

You will finally encounter in a metaphysical way the one through whom everything will become clear. You will find enjoyment not just in studying the law but also in the justice that undergirds it. You will experience a holy dissatisfaction with the conception of justice, or injustice, you will witness. And you will dig in ancient places for the justice which satisfies. Through that, you will find purpose and significance in the one who out of justice and mercy redeems you from the injustice you are complicit in, who calls you to pursue justice and mercy among those who are often left at the margins. This will be better than money or status or whatever idea of the good life you think you could have with your silly fanciful ambitions.

Don’t fuss about grades. Instead, work hard to receive a proper education. Learn as much as you can to be a good lawyer. And when it is time, you will have to make a difficult decision, a leap of faith, as it were, to follow through with the convictions which will brew inside you after the restlessness you will experience from the dissonance between purpose and reality. Uncertainty is the best place in which faith will reap much harvest. So don’t fear the dark. Go with what has been revealed in the light.

Pursuing the things which are good and right is tiring and difficult. Friendships and community and being are more valuable than activism and fighting and working. That will help you to be faithful to whatever you are called to.

And you will have joy. It’s not the ecstatic kind of joy. It’s a quiet joy. It will co-exist with the sehnsucht which will always simmer in your heart. It is both the joy and the yearning which will sustain you to carry on.

Don’t fear. Have faith. It will all be alright at the end of all things.

Peace,

Ronald”

Advocating for Survivors of ISIS’s Genocide of Christians and Yzidis in Syria and Comforting the Oppressed and Trafficked in the Middle East

Advocating for Survivors of ISIS’s Genocide of Christians and Yzidis in Syria and Comforting the Oppressed and Trafficked in the Middle East

This short film tells the stories of many Syrian Christians who watched their loved ones tortured and killed at the hands of men who hated their religion and their God. The martyrs were unfazed at the hands of their tormentors. “I am blessed because I am persecuted for my Yeshua,” cried a lady who was tied to a pole in the middle of the street in Aleppo, spat on and punched day after day. A man was crucified in the city, having the glory to die in the same manner as his own saviour. These were the stories I heard tonight from Jacqueline and Yvette Isaac, a mother-daughter team of Egyptian Christians who started Roads of Success, a humanitarian NGO which provides support and care to the downtrodden and oppressed, and advocates for those whose stories have been suppressed.

Jacqueline is a lawyer who started her career in a top London firm practising international arbitration, working 18 hour days and loving the prestige and benefits of a magic circle London law firm. As she was about to continue into her second year of practice, a 35 year old newly minted female partner told her, “I’ve been observing you; you still have a soul. As for me, this is my life.” That gave Jacqueline pause. After some searching, she realised her calling. But she struggled with God. Large commercial law firm prestige or the deep unknown and unglamorous of a calling to humanitarian work? She surrendered to God in desperation. And in no time, a series of events led her to start her own estate planning law firm which gave her the flexibility to do humanitarian work at her own time. God brought a senior lawyer to her who would hand over his 30-year-old practice to her in one year. And the rest was a blur.

In the short time that she and her mother founded Roads of Success, they have travelled to places ravaged by terror, come into close contact with ISIS, and stood before the United Nations, the US Congress and the U.K. Parliament to tell the stories of those who have been torn by terror. They have a programme which care for and empower 24 girls who have suffered sexual abuse and slavery. They have sent shipping containers of humanitarian aid to various places in grave need.

One particular story sticks out. The story of how they were instrumental to advocating for the UK Parliament to pass a resolution to recognise ISIS’ acts of horror to the Christian and Yzidi minorities in Syria as genocide, which would have significant although unimaginable consequences.

This was what happened. Yvette Isaac was given the resources to go into Syria to interview the Christian and Yzidi minorities. In the meantime, separately, Jacqueline Isaac was just in London doing her work, right after having a hectic travel schedule. Where she was at a cafe in London, she saw some protests and demonstrations outside. But she was too tired and had too much work to do, so she didn’t bother about it. Just at that time, some friend from California dropped her a message saying she was in London too. Turned out that the friend was just a few doors down from where she was. She went over to meet her. Her friend urged her to go out together to take a walk. So they ended up witnessing the demonstration, discovering that it was led by an EU Parliament member. She couldn’t get close though she tried to reach out to the Parliamentarian. In vain, she went up to a man whom she thought was a security guard, and gave her a name card, hoping he would pass it to the EU Parliamentarian.

As it turned out, the “security guard” was actually a U.K. politician connected to the media. That very evening he called her and said tomorrow you will go live on the most watched show in UK. She would go on Jon Snow’s show and she was asked to share about what was going on in Syria. But she had no idea what to share.

In the meantime, Yvette Isaac had just finished shooting 8 hours of material collecting the stories of the many survivors of genocide. She was at the Syria-Lebanon border trying to get out when she realised that the border officers were confiscating and destroying all the electronic equipment they could find. She prayed and pleaded to God. She made a bargain with God. The exclusive rights to the video material belonged only to God, she decided. So she called her sponsor who had given the condition that exclusive rights to the material belonged to him. She told him, too bad, I will return you the money, this belongs solely to God. Right after she put down the phone, someone in the line recognised her Egyptian accent and said hey you should be going to this other line. So she went. At the immigration counter, the man looked at her and said, hey you’re the one on the Arab television channel. I became a Christian because of the show. Thank you for coming here. Please come back. He let her pass without even checking her belongings. Wow.

At that point, Jacqueline called Yvette and said, Mom, come to London instead of the US (where Jacqueline was based at). I’ll explain. So with all the video testimonies, Jacqueline and Yvette went on UK television live to share of the stories of the Christian and Yzidi minorities.

Unbeknownst to them, Lord David Alton in the UK House of Lords was watching the Jon Snow show. He is the politician who has been pushing in vain for the House of Lords to vote and agree on a declaration that the ISIS’ acts were genocide. There were political consequences to this. Including prioritising Syrian refugees and allowing Britain to table a resolution at the UN Security Council regarding ISIS, and possibly resolve to have them tried by the International Criminal Court. But it was not happening. When Lord Alton watched the Isaacs on the show, he knew that this was his prayer answered. He contacted them and asked them if they could come back to the UK Parliament to testify at a special hearing if it happened. They said yes of course. They returned to the US, and 48 hours later, they received the call from Lord Alton.

So they went before the UK Parliament in a closed door hearing and screened the video testimonies as well as got one of the girl survivors whom they support to testify of how ISIS murdered her father and raped a young girl so many times her body just gave way and the girl died before her eyes. With that, the House of Commons voted unanimously in favour of a declaration that ISIS’ acts were genocide.

This is not a story about ISIS. It’s not a story about genocide. It’s a story about God weaving everything together seemingly like patchwork but in reality, like a master craftsman pulling everything together in one stroke. This is a story about God’s sovereignty and glory. It is about how He works through His servants to untie suffering and brokenness from evil and instead bind them to stories of redemption and beauty. The Isaacs are continuing their ministry in working with girl survivors, empowering them to flourish. This is a story of redemption and glory. This is a story about Jesus Christ being the one who holds all things together and who is reconciling all things to Himself. And how He uses different people, big and small, from all across the world for His beautiful purposes. Praise be to God.

For more information on the Isaacs’ ministry check out www.roadsofsuccess.com.