Q&A: Fighting Injustice

Q&A: Fighting Injustice



Media & PR at Christian Aid; formerly of World Vision UK and the Evangelical Alliance; board member for charities including Greenbelt Festival, the Church & Media Network, Christians Against Poverty and the Sophia Network



Activist, leader in various movements and demonstrations for favelas and youth of Rio de Janeiro

Q: Young adults are sometimes referred to as “slacktivists” because of their generation’s reputation for posting about causes on social media but perhaps not getting personally or actively involved. Have you found this to be true? 01

CHINE: As a Millennial myself, I understand the temptation to “virtue signal”—to signpost our outrage at perceived wrongdoings by certain groups. Potentially it feeds a need associated with social media to make ourselves look good—not just physically beautiful, but morally good. However, my experience of the Millennials I know is that they are some of the most passionate campaigners for justice and equality. They are not satisfied with the wrong in the world and do not feel the need to be silent about their dissatisfaction. This increasingly vocal generation has been signing petitions, marching in protest and volunteering their time for causes. Despite the criticism of “slacktivism,” Millennials, generally speaking, are people of community, whether online or offline. Therefore, if people they know, respect and love inspire them to take action in causes that resonate with them, then they are likely to want to get involved.

WESLEY: The majority of the population does not get involved with social causes. In past years, they would talk about it; now, they post about it on social media. I don’t think this is something exclusive to the Millennial generation. In Brazil, it has to do with factors such as the long work hours of an impoverished population fighting for subsistence, as well as forms of political control and engrained authoritarianism in our society.

Q: In your experience, what does it take to move these young adults from support on social media to personal involvement? 02

WESLEY: First of all, social media can help raise awareness of what concrete and assertive law changes, such as bus fare reduction, or preventing school closure or even the unnecessary change of a law others are fighting for. After that, create a proposal for action that can be taken in your own community with your friends and on your free time—something that will not conflict with your work hours and can have a simple communication system. Creating a symbol can help bring the fight from the virtual to the real world. The ease of propagating ideas and creating connections can be used in great ways. Some examples in Brazil are the rallies of June 2013, school occupations, Fighting Harassment at Schools campaign, the Rise of Women and the World Rally Against Climate Change.

Q: One thing young adults say is “missing” from their local church is an opportunity to fight injustice and oppression. Does this ring true in your experience of Christian young adults? 03

CHINE: This definitely rings true for me. The Christian faith paints a radical picture of how God intended the world to be. Salvation is not just about life after death and it is not solely for the individual. God’s big story is about the complete restoration of the whole of creation and reconciliation with God through Christ’s incarnation, death and resurrection. So when Millennials who believe in this truth attend churches where the focus is parochial, small and individualistic, when it is dominated by judgment rather than love, when church leaders speak of who’s in or out rather than speak out against the injustice and oppression of people made in the image of God, then they walk away.

WESLEY: Nowadays, the theological content offered to youth is very restricted and usually focused on sexual behavior, with a strong appeal to a spirituality disconnected from an interpretation of social reality. We need to begin connecting Bible reading with life in society, and then understand the world and what it means to be young—what the dilemmas are that youth face. We need to engage young people on their day-to-day struggles and fights.

Q: What ways do you think churches can get more involved in these areas? In your experience, is it more effective for churches to partner with existing organizations or to begin / run their own programs? 04

CHINE: Churches should look first to the needs of the communities in which they find themselves, and then to the national and global issues they might get involved in. There are, of course, many professional Christian and non-Christian organizations that have spent years building up expertise so that they are more effective in bringing about the change they want to see. Many of these organizations are only able to be effective because of the support of churches and individual Christians. I believe that the problems we are trying to tackle are so great that they can only be tackled by working together.

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