Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Portraits of Justice #25: Jennifer {Kingston, Jamaica}

Today I present you with a story from Jennifer {Kingston, Jamaica},  making this #25 in the Portraits of Justice series. 
I had the honour of meeting Jennifer in Bethlehem, Palestine, last February when we were both present to consult on the Pilgrimage of Peace and Justice with the WCC. I took her portrait in Jerusalem, as we had tea with the locals and they shared with us about their desire to teach the children about each other across religious divides. 

As Jennifer says, "I'm of a great age, I’m a grandmother." She has a special space in her heart concerning justice for children. 
"In my country justice is the recognition of people’s lives, in all kinds of life’s situations. "

"There are institutions set up to protect justice for people, through our police department. However, justice is not experienced by all to the same degree. And so, truthfully, there are sometimes there are protests and cries for people calling for justice when they feel there rights trampled upon. Within this reply, there is an indication to me that the country is sufficiently aware of what justice is, so that when people feel badly done by, they protest, and expect due process to take place."

"At the moment we have a very sad case, the death of 19 newborn babies, all of them newborn babies. They came into the world in delicate condition. But all of them died, in two different hospitals. The investigations so far have shown that they died from bacterial or viral infections, which can really manifest themselves in any hospital in any place in the world, so there is an international protocol of care to prevent or reduce the effect of such infection. "

"But it was shown that in most cases proper protocol had not been taken. And because Jamaica is Jamaica, and we are a nation where people will speak out, the parents spoke out. It caused a national campaign, it caused loss of jobs, it cost the shape of a board, in fact it caused the renaming of a board, and an investigation - a full complete and open investigation.That represents a case in very visible justice, in process, because the whole thing is being looked at."

"The country was really quite alarmed, because no one was paying attention to the fact the children were delicate at the time of birth. If a child is premature, it is the duty of the country to protect that child, to the extent that the child has an opportunity to live.The system failed those children.   I am sad, very very sad, about the death of the children. The loss and grief caused to the families. But I am happy that they have not gone in vain. "

"The consciousness of my country is sufficiently alive to recognize, to repent, and pledge to do better for the protection of our children.  "

"The conscience of my country is sufficiently alive to recognize that we have a duty to protect our children. In the cases where they have died, we have failed institutionally, or in the case of parents allowing their children to journey alone and come to harm, we recognize we need to have improvements in how we care for our children. And so to challenge us into ongoing awareness, consciousness, and action, our country has erected a monument just outside the the council offices, of our city council, in Kingston. There is, I have to say, a hauntingly beautiful sculpture of the crying child. It is the face of a child, beautifully sculpted, and when you look at the face, you can actually see tears. And then there are names plaques on there recognizing some of the names of our children. "

"You cannot but see and feel the beauty of the soul of the child, the human person that has gone, and is remembered."  

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Portraits of Justice #24: Patrick {Nairobi, Kenya}

For Portraits of Justice #24, we return to Africa and hear from Patrick {Nairobi, Kenya}. I met Patrick and his team, the Nafsi Acrobats, last summer in the Italian Alps where they were running their yearly workshop at the Agape Ecumenical Centre in Prali. They tour yearly.

As an acrobat and peacebuilder Patrick, along with Bruce, Sammy, and Kenneth, use their crazy creative work to combat tribal racism in the face of many broken relationships in Kenya. They also do amazing work with kids, creating alternatives to drug and gang culture. That they maintain their friendships and hope in the face of incredible divisions and adversity is inspiring to me. These folks create beautiful people moments everyday. 
Context: As a democratic state, Kenya's elections continue to be held in swells of conflict, impacting economy, stability, poverty, and quality of life. Corruption seems repetitive and inevitable. Every round of elections has brought about high ethnic tensions between different tribal identities, dividing society and at times bringing about great violence. The 2007 elections left 600,000 people displaced. This makes the peacebuilding work of the Nafsi Acrobats particularity critical, as Patrick and his team are all from different tribes, bringing hope for a different kind of future as they work across divides. 

"In Kenya no one can predict the work of justice. Sometimes (people) are honestly and truly working in trusted way, but justice is one of the major corrupted zone in Kenya."
"As for Christians, they always work as they know their role. It's difficult to lead the church without justice. Now a days most of the church almost everywhere have just jumped in to deep ditch where by they can't come out again, since corruption knocked their doors." 
Kenya is located on the east coast of the African continent.
It boarders Tanzania, Somalia, Uganda, Ethiopia, and South Sudan
"It is difficult to relay your cases (of injustice) in church because they don't do what is right sometimes, And that's made people loose the trust on church. Thought, not all churches."

"In Kenya, with no justice, means no peace. Maybe in the next generations, we will find the truth and justice."
Interested in following the work of Patrick and the Nafsi Acrobats? Find them on Facebook HERE!

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Portraits of Justice #23: Bayan {Beit Sahur, Palestine}

It's week #23 with Portraits of Justice, and I introduce you to Bayan from {Beit Sahour, Palestine.  I met Bayan a year ago in Bogota, Colombia, where she successfully and passionately advocated for global support from the WSCF for justice in Palestine.  Just last week stayed with her and her family in Palestine. 
 Bayan asked to have her photos taken in front of the Western Wall, the separation barrier constructed between the Palestine territories and the state of Israel. This wall is seen by many as a global symbol of oppression and injustice.  As it is one of her major obstacles in the pursuit of justice in her context, I count Bayan's portrait among the most powerful in this collection.


"How does justice look like in my country? Actually we don't have justice in my country, because we are under occupation. We are working to have our rights. Justice for us is to have our rights to move, to study, to have a good job, to have a good salary, to live like other people in other cities; all of this we do not have." 

"Another important this is safety: safety we do not have. We sometimes think about what we will do, for the same day, we do not think about tomorrow or the next year, because of the occupation. Maybe they will come and arrest us because we are saying something I know many children that are under age, they are arrested because they just threw a stone. "
"We live and breathe in three religions. I think we can live in that. In Palestine, we don't have with Muslims the same fight as the Middle East, as we have the same issues. We are working together. I feel the Muslims are my sisters and my brothers. Also I have to mention there are Jewish who support us in my country, and they do not announce the Israel state. For me this is beauty."  

"I have many hopes, personally. To have a family, to have kids. But also I am afraid. I am really afraid. If I want to get married and to have kids, I don't want for my kids to live in my situation. I don't want that. Even if I have been in a perfect school, a perfect university, I studied theology in Bethlehem University, and as a tour guide, my situation is good, my parents are the perfect persons. If I asked for something, they give it to me. I am not afraid from these things. I am afraid of my kid tomorrow will ask me 'why, why are we living here? Why do we not immigrate?'. I don't want to put myself in this situation, because it is really hard. All the time when I was a kid and I was looking at the TV saying, 'oh! I wish I could, for example, I could skydive. I wish we had in Palestine a Disney Land. I wish I can play everywhere'. All the time, “I wish I wish I wish” And I grew up without out this. We don't have the right to movement."

"I don't know if its justice, but we have government, we have rules, we work on it. Justice for us is to get our freedom, that is justice. To be equal, to get our human rights. As I said, we don't have our human rights. We live like the dogs, the dogs live better than us!"


"I think that God put me in Palestine because I have a message, and to spread it all over the world. What I did today [successfully advocating justice for Palestine with WSCF], it was just an amazing thing for myself. I texted my best friend and told her, finally, finally I have done something for my country. Finally. It was – sorry! (starts crying).

"It was my dream to talk and share with people what we are living, what we are suffering, all these things I have said. Its not about movement! It's about how we don't have an airport. We have only one way to go outside Palestine, which is through Jordan (And in Gaza, through Egypt). Also, the Israeli controls our water, they control everything! OK, let Israel control this water – but why do they not give us our right on water? I know families in Beit Sahour who suffer in this. They don't have water for 14 days and more and more. Sometimes we don't have water in our houses for one month and more! We want to have showers, we want to cook, we want to clean! We are trying now to stop drinking water from the tap, and we are buying water. Maybe then we will reduce the water we use, and we can use it to clean or bathe. When I was in Lebanon, they asked me to wash some tomatoes. I was opening the water so slowly, because I don't want to waste water. They just opened it fully and said, we have water!"

"Even though we lived with all these things, I have to say that we still keep hope alive."

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Portraits of Justice #22: Marcelo {Montevideo, Uruguay}

It's week #22 with Portraits of Justice, returning from a long hiatus of travel, photography, and research. I introduce you to my dear friend Marcelo, from {Montevideo, Uruguay}. I had the privilege of meeting Marcelo in Bogota, Colombia, again in the Alps of Italy where these photographs were taken, and a third time in Sicily this last December. Travelling the world for the work of justice, this has become a familiar face.
Marcelo shares his vision of justice for his country, battling injustice with strides towards equality with his faith and work in environmental justice. He is currently based in Buenos Aires for work. 

"Justice is strong word. Prophetic and beautiful. It appeals to the utopia of the men, women and nature, taking place in dignity and equality in a relationship with each other."

"[Justice] is something that as Christians, young people, whom seek the kingdom of God, we cannot forget even for a minute. It is the ethical north of all our actions and behaviors, or should be. Justice is the place where God is present, and is the place where we have to positioning ourselves. And it's part of our main work, to love God and our neighbors as the same one. It is in fact the starting point and the point of arrival."

"Justice in my country, or perhaps in my region, is something that is under construction. No peace without justice, no justice without righteous men and women, being the example". I could talk about processes that walk towards justice, individual and collective actions, of governors or movements. In Latin America, especially in countries of South America these processes have started with the attitude of many social and political leaders supported by movements who have taken action and created policies to greater distribution of wealth with the most vulnerable. "

"In some countries it has reduced poverty by 80%, thanks to these social policies. Uruguay, my country, wasn't the exception .Although much remains to be done, to correct and deepen, we must continue working, recognizing [justice] and advocating for greater inclusion and equity. Uruguay is a country not suffering a major internal conflicts, however access to quality education, and access to opportunities and a better quality of life, are urges to the most vulnerable population. Justice in my country, is something that is being built, but always with the controller of social movements and political actors, as an exercise of a better democracy."

Some churches have played an important role in my country. especially in advocating or witnessing in public policies aimed at greater equality, quality of life and dignity of populations that have been submerged in poverty. Many of them have played the role as an alternative to neoconservative sectors processes, that have been consistently against the rights of minorities and the right of women to decide. In Uruguay, the debate on equal marriage, sexual and reproductive rights has occurred in recent years, with the results of a change in public policies in favor of greater inclusion of sexual minorities and women. And some Christian and churches have played a constructive role against the reactionary sectors of the Uruguayan society. Being a secular country where church, religion and faith has always been underestimated this  prophetic public witness is very valuable

Tell me something beautiful that you've witnessed in your country

"Environmental justice is also part of building peace and comprehensive justice. One of the most important acts of justice in my country has been the synergy that between unions, social movements and political movements have been generated and styling to nationalize water resources and water."

"The big move to make water a common good of all and change the constitution occurred in the early years of the decade of 2000. In 2005 Uruguay became one of the first countries in the world to nationalize and make water a common good, where any individual, firm or corporation may exploit. Also, the same social and political actors were instrumental in the creation of laws that enable equal marriage and the right of women to decide. This is important because it shows how students, civil society, unions and political actors have played together for more justice. This is not new, and is a very good practice. People of Uruguay have a long history of to be together facing their rights regarding land and natural resources"

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Portraits of Justice # 21: Clare {London, England}

It's week #21 with Portraits of Justice, and I introduce you to Clare from {London, England}. I had the privilege of meeting Clare in Bogota, Colombia, and photographing her atop a bell tower in the heart of Stockholm, Sweden. Her interview response reached me through the magic of technology. 

Clare has thoughtfully reflected on how her context of justice in England is a part of a larger context, in particular England's response to the refugee crisis
Encounter this story, and hear beauty in the broken, from a beautiful voice with a beautiful vision.
“The steady flow of refugees into Europe from other areas of the world, particularly North Africa and the Middle East, has gradually became a torrent. The issue of granting asylum to these individuals suddenly became headline news throughout Europe in summer 2015. In the UK, much of the press coverage was dishearteningly negative. The most popular newspapers gave these people a blanket label of “economic migrant”. This misunderstood the complicated long-term issues which led to these people seeking help. Then a little boy drowned.”

He wasn't the first little boy, nor will he be the last, but somehow the tragic deaths of him and his family changed the tone of the UK's press coverage overnight. Public opinion spun with it, and many individuals from all walks of life began to ask questions of the government.”
Crisis meetings were held between leaders across the EU, and eventually the Prime Minister of the UK, David Cameron, announced that 20000 refugees (around 0.03% of the UK population) would be brought into the country from camps in the origin regions of migrants and settled in the UK. This would occur over a five year period. But was this justice?”
Many individuals, including myself, believe that so long as multiple thousands of people are walking thousands of miles, are risking their lives in rickety boats in the Mediterranean... wealthier countries such as the UK must cooperate to welcome people into safe places.”
The Church has often been complicit in other-ing those who have come from elsewhere. We must now turn from this attitude and welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, heal the sick, clothe the naked. And churches and other groups of Christians throughout the UK are indeed doing these things, in a variety of ways depending on their own local contexts. We see churches sending parcels of food, clothing and other resources to the 'jungle' camp at the Calais port. We see groups quite literally welcoming refugees into their church buildings and into their homes. We see neighbourhoods coming together across religious and political boundaries to petition the government to do more.”
My vision of justice in this nation is that this crisis will spur the people of the UK to continue to act in situations where others are in such desperate need. I long for a future where we no longer need food banks to enable parents to feed their children. I hope for the day where we no longer have to argue over whether Muslims in the UK should be entitled to live their life and worship God freely. I pray that the connections built by reaching out to refugees can be strengthened by serving one another more.

What does justice look like where you are? Anything like this?