Saturday, March 8, 2008

Why the Youth Justice Network?

Vision: a Just World

Mission: To engage young people in issues of Justice

What do we mean by Justice?

We are generally talking about "distributive justice." That is, fair and just distribution of resources. That sounds cold and dry. We are also talking about sweet justice, divine justice, justice that rolls down from heaven. We are talking about a faithful religious justice that is empathetic and concerned for all of God's people, about right relationships with God, one another, and all of creation.

We are not talking about, generally, "retributive justice." Also known as the proper punishment for a wrong committed by someone. Although there may be times when this does enter the conversation, it is not our primary focus.

Who are youth?

I am Lutheran. We have a rich tradition of working for justice. Yet, I believe we can do a better job and involving more people and in particular young people in the cause of justice. By youth we mean young people, but we also mean all people whose hearts are young! We need and seek participation for all of God's children and youth to be full partners in the cause of justice.

Why a network?

A recent article in the LA times featuring the "Founder's Brunch," highlighted the "subtle network effects" that happen when people get together around the same cause, even without a formal agenda. The article focused on Silicon Valley technology entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, and how they gather for breakfast on Sunday mornings to network. While their aim is primarily to make it rich, the lessons learned are clear: network network network. This network is peculiar. We hope not to profit off anyone. We hope for a just world. Though you might find us gathered elsewhere on a Sunday morning.

Other reasons and preliminary thoughts on a Youth Justice Network:

Down in the Valley
Many youth and adults go on church mission trip or servant trip and experience transformation. People return home fired up to serve. There is often little guidance and opportunity for people once their experiences are over. This network would be a way of engaging people in the ongoing struggle for justice. This a way to continue the journey of justice.

More than charity.
Charity is good. Giving is good. Sharing our resources is good and essential. But a deeper sense of justice challenges individuals and communities to a better world. A network of justice seekers will help move people beyond charity to lasting justice. Charity is a one time act. Justice is a more complicated relationship we enter together. We care for one another. We stand up for one another.

Faith formation
For some of us, we are passionate for justice because we are passionate for Jesus. Our faith has led us into a relationship of compassion for others. For others, passion for the poor, the marginalized the least, the lost, and the last may grow out of other spiritual experiences. But there is something fundamental spiritual in the pursuit of justice. It is an essential practice in the faith formation.

Accompaniment in the Developed World
A model for mission and development in the the developing world is that of accompaniment. That means we don't descend upon a people and tell them what they need and how we will provide. It means we walk beside people and listen to their needs. We share resources to enhance their own God given capacities. Perhaps we need to accompany our neighbors in our own churches and communities to increase their capacity for compassion and justice! This is what the Youth Justice Network is all about!

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