Christian perspectives on Social Justice in a Global Community

Christian perspectives on Social Justice in a Global Community
11 May 2012
How our leadership affects those we never see…


The Christian church has a long and vivid tradition of social justice and care for the poor. The whole Bible shows us God’s desire for systemic economic justice and personal compassion. Although this moral appeal stays unaffected, the world we live in keeps changing. Economy is operating on a global playing field. We live in a world of interconnectedness and complex systems going far beyond our own circles of control.

Is social justice with its Judeo Christian roots resistant to these changes in soci- ety? Are there Christian perspectives on social justice when it impacts beyond our community? How does this world of interconnectedness challenge our traditional views on development aid? How does it affect our view on authentic and moral leadership? Our study day aims at providing some philosophical, theological and ethical building blocks for a more astute response to the needs in our world.

Topics that were discussed during the study day included:

  • Covenantal Justice and Global Leadership  (Patrick Nullens)
  • Justice and Injustice of Markets Coffee (Govert Buijs)
  • The Spirit of Enterprise and the Ethic of Thrift Lunch (Govert Buijs)
  • Catholic Theology and Justice (Johan De Tavernier)
  • Towards a New and Normative View on International Cooperation in Development Coffee (Henk Jochemsen)
  • From Grassroots to Government; Using a Journey with Street Children to Challenge and Change Society (Andrew Williams)

For further details, please find the relevant abstract/biography below: 

Covenantal Justice an Global Leadership – Patrick Nullens

Ph.D. Patrick Nullens (1964) is Rector of the Evangelical Theological Faculty in Leuven, Belgium and professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics. He is a founding member of the Institute of Leadership and Ethics. His main interests include fundamental moral theology, ethical theory, the ethics of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, theology and ecological ethics, leadership and ethics, evangelical theology, Wesleyan ethics. His most recent publication, co-authored with Ron Michener is The Matrix of Christian Ethics. Integrating Philosophy and Moral Theology in a Postmodern Context (Paternoster, 2010).

Abstract: Christian social ethics is driven by the concepts justice and love. But how do these two cardinal biblical terms relate? Biblical justice is not so much a particular type of “right order” thinking (for instance distributive justice in economics) as it is first of all a relational concept based on the divine covenant of grace. How does this particular theological understanding of justice and covenant affect our views on leadership challenges in the public realm?

Justice and Injustice of Markets – Govert Buijs

Dr. Govert Buijs is professor of political philosophy & religion at Faculty of Philosophy of the VU-University Amsterdam. He also teaches philosophy of economics at the Faculty of Economics & Business Administration.

Abstract: Christian theologians in Europe tend to discredit market economies as inherently unjust. Their counterparts in the USA tend to be of the opposite opinion.
 In this lecture, I will critically discuss both viewpoints. What are criteria for well-functioning markets, in Biblical perspective? An exploration.

The Spirit of Enterprise and the Ethic of Thrift – Peter Heslam

Dr. Peter Heslam is Director of Transforming Business, a research and development project at the University of Cambridge focused on entrepreneurial leadership and enterprise solutions to poverty. A prolific writer, speaker and researcher on these issues, he lectures in theological faculties and business schools around the world and advises the journals Faith in Business Quarterly and Markets & Morality.

Abstract: In the eyes of many observers, capitalism has been badly wounded, if not entirely discredited, by the recent economic turmoil. If this is true, can it be healed and made credible once again, and, if so, how? 
This lecture will explore the potential of contemporary business to be an agent of social, material and spiritual well-being in today’s world. 
In doing so, it will ask whether the delay of gratification that is central to thrift and indispensable to happiness has a role to play. Could the forgotten virtue of thrift offer transformative potential within an economic crisis partly precipitated by a culture of debt-based instant gratification?

Christian Ethics on Justice – Johan De Tavernier

Prof. dr. Johan De Tavernier (1957) is Chair of the Research Unit of Theological Ethics at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies and Director of the Center for Science, Technology and ethics (Science, Engineering and Technology Group, KU Leuven). He teaches theological ethics, environmental ethics and bio-ethics, for students in both the humanities and the engineering faculties. His research concerns fundamental questions in Christian ethics, especially the history of the personalist tradition, evolutionary biology and ethics. He is a member of the Board of the Flemish Institute for Technology and Society (IST), of EurSafe (European Society for Agricultural and Food Ethics, and editorial board member of Tijdschrift voor Theologie, Journal for Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, and Ethical Perspectives.

Abstract: Justice is a classical theme not only in ancient Greek and Roman societies but also in the biblical understanding of the righteousness of God. It is defined as both a virtue and a law. In After Virtue A. McIntyre sketches a deeply pessimistic view of the replacement of the traditional virtue of justice in modernity by individualist accounts of human dignity, based on rights and duties. Social contract societies have lost the traditional view of justice as a virtue offering a unifying narrative, which benefits not only individual moral agents, but also the well-being of the community. Without restoring justice as virtue (general justice), it is difficult to uphold commutative justice (giving to each according to his or her due) and distributive justice (proportional apportionment of the good of a community among its members). General justice orders the human life toward the bonum commune.

Towards a new and normative view on international cooperation in development – Henk Jochemsen

Dr. Henk Jochemsen (1952) studied Molecular Biology and did a PhD in this field (1979, Leiden). 
From 1980-1986 he and his family pioneered in student work in Paraguay with the IFES and held the chair for molecular biology at the university in Asunción.
From 1986-2008 he directed the Prof.dr. G.A. Lindeboom Institute, a Christian centre for medical ethics. From 1998 – 2009 he held the Lindeboom chair for medical ethics at the VU University medical centre in Amsterdam. From 2002 – 2006 he was part time lector (cf. professor) ethics of care at the Ede Christian University for higher professional education. Since July 1, 2008 he holds the (part time) chair for Reformational Philosophy at the Wageningen University and research centre.
From 2009 on he also is the general director of Prisma, association of Christian organisations in development cooperation. 
His research interests are: sustainable development, sustainable agriculture, global ethics, Christian presence in public life, ethics of and nanotechnology, synthetic biology and human enhancement

Abstract: The development aid of wealthy to poor countries that in the modern version started in 1949 is currently much debated. The results are not as expected and the economic crises has made wealthy countries focus more on their own economic problems. This situation raises the question what a normative view of development work could be to avoid the pitfalls of unrealistic expectations on the one hand and a reduced economistic approach on the other. 
An analysis of the practice of cooperation in development leads to the conclusion that development is the result of cooperative human action in social practices and institutions aiming at value realisation. Religion and worldview play an important role in the direction of the practice. The implications of this model for the practice of (international) cooperation in development and for policy making in this field will be discussed.

From Grassroots to Government; using a journey with street children to challenge and change society – Andrew Williams

Andrew Williams is a founder and former CEO of Retrak which enables street children in Africa to realise their potential and discover their worth.
He gained an MA in Religious Studies at Edinburgh University and an MSc in Applied Social Studies at Oxford University before qualifying as a probation officer.  He toured for 3 years with Saltmine Theatre Company and worked as a youth director in Brussels prior to moving to Uganda with his wife, Katina in 1996.  He established a widely respected social work organisation and worked with government departments to protect children’s rights.  To enable Retrak’s expansion into Kenya and Ethiopia he relocated to Nairobi in 2005 and was awarded an MBE in 2006 for services to children in Uganda.
Now based in the UK, Andrew combines work as a professional actor with consultancy, training and advocacy. His first book, Working with Street Children – An approach explored, was published by Russell House Ltd and released in October 2011.

Abstract: This paper considers what we do with insights and experiences gained through working with victims of injustice.  Bonhoeffer wrote, ‘We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, but we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself’. Andrew Williams demonstrates how experience forms a platform from which to speak on behalf of those whose voices are unheard and to act against injustices that lead to children seeking survival and solace on city streets.