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Reflection on Deut. 16:18-20, by Dr Ani Ghazaryan Drissi - prayer service on the occasion of the Week of Action to Fight Inequality (21 January 2019)

Reflection on Deut. 16:18-20, by Dr Ani Ghazaryan Drissi - prayer service on the occasion of the Week of Action to Fight Inequality, held at the Ecumenical Center, Geneva, Switzerland, on 21 January 2019

23 January 2019

Dear guests, dear friends and colleagues, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning!

January is a month when Christians around the world pay particular attention to the unity of the church. Specifically, Christians dedicate an entire week during this month to pray for unity among the followers of Jesus and especially to overcome historical and present divisions that exist between church communities.

The traditional date for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (WPCU) is January 18 to 25. The eight days has been celebrated continuously since 1894 when the Pope Leo XIII encouraged an Octave of Prayer for Unity. In preparation for the WPCU, ecumenical partners in a particular region are asked to prepare a basic text on a biblical theme. Then an international group organized through the World Council of Churches (WCC) and The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU) edit this text which is jointly published by the PCPCU and the WCC, through the Commission on Faith and Order. The final material is sent to member churches and Roman Catholic dioceses, and they are invited to translate the text and contextualize it for their own use.

The theme for the 2019 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity comes to us from Christians from Indonesia. Indonesia is well known as having the largest Muslim population in the world. However, about 10% of Indonesians are Christians from various traditions. With its more than 1000 different ethnic groups and over 700 languages, Indonesians are living in solidarity and by collaboration, which means sharing in all aspects of life, work, and regarding all Indonesians as brothers and sisters.

This always fragile harmony is today exposed in new ways. Much of the economic growth that Indonesia has experienced in recent decades has been built on a system that has competition at its heart. Corruption is experienced in many forms. It infects politics and business, often with devastating consequences for the environment. In particular, corruption undermines justice and the implementation of law. Too often those who are supposed to promote justice and protect the weak do the opposite. As a consequence, the gap and the inequality between the rich and the poor have extended. Radicalization that brings into conflicts one community against another has grown and is exacerbated by the exploitation of social media that demonizes particular communities.

Christian communities in such an environment become newly aware of their unity as they join in a common concern and a common response to an unjust reality. At the same time, confronted by these injustices, we are obliged, as Christians, to examine the ways in which we are complicit. Only by heeding Jesus’s prayer “that they all may be one” can we witness to living unity in diversity. It is through our unity in Christ that we will be able to combat injustice, inequality and serve the needs of its victims.

 

Moved by these concerns, the Christians of Indonesia found that the words of Deuteronomy, “Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue ...” (see Deut. 16:18-20) spoke powerfully to their situation and needs. However, we all know that the struggle for justice and inequality is not only in Indonesia, but also everywhere in the world, in all nations, communities, churches, families and even inside us, in our hearts.

Justice, and only justice you shall pursue…

Today, we hear and talk about justice, justice which needs to be established in each aspects of the life, in order to fight against inequality and discrimination. What is this justice that we are looking for? What can we learn about the notion of justice in the Bible? I would like to focus now on this particular term “justice” with the aim of highlight precisely the meaning of this word for the establishment of which we are very often straggling.

We are far enough from the meaning given today to the term of "justice". In our world today, the word refers to indicate the “human rights”, or “social justice”. However, the Bible do not give us a specific meaning on this theme, we cannot find a precise definition of justice in the Bible. At the same time, the whole Bible is crossed by the reality of justice implemented by people and by God: human justice divine justice ... The Bible brings the revelation of justice as one of the fundamental point of the relationship between God and human beings. In reality, the Biblical Justice concerns the human reality.

In the New Testament for example, God continues to reprove the injustice in the world and between the people. And with Christ's becoming a human being with his life, death, and resurrection, fulfils the promise that God is acting to put an end to injustice. It means that with Christ, we are already entering into the kingdom of love, justice and peace. But of course not completely, because we live in the history within its challenging realities, within various conflicts that characterize the history of humanity now. Suddenly, this justice takes a very singular definition, which belongs to Jesus Christ.

And the Justice in Jesus Christ comes to reverse everything, starting with our own values scales. In reality, Jesus overthrows our most established hierarchies, by going to seek the lepers, the lame, the paralytics, and the prostitutes. In this, the justice of God is profoundly subversive, just like the Resurrection, which breaks the border of death. And it is this break that opens new times, which are part of history, but not completely. We have a taste of it, but the new times are still to come.

To practice justice and then to establish it, therefore, is to follow the will of the Father as it is presented in the teaching of Jesus Christ. And this justice for what we are called covers all human being and action, which means both the relationship with God and his neighbour. This means that to better understand the righteousness of God, and to do this righteousness, we must start from ourselves and go toward that righteousness. This is only possible in the harmony in diversity, in grow in communion as churches, and in the oneness, at the example of “Jesus Christ and his father are one”.

May this prayer, from the heart of God, be our prayer this week and forever more”. May we understand better the meaning of justice that we are looking for, we are fighting for, and may this justice be the will of God.

Thank you for your attention.

Dr Ani Ghazaryan Drissi

Faith and Order / WCC