Seek justice, protect the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. Isaiah 1:17
My wife said it was not going to be easy. I knew she was right.
She was referring to my current research. I am interviewing persons with disabilities in Uganda.
My wife and I have lived in Uganda since 2008 so we are aware of the challenges people face here. We also know that challenges are especially intense among Ugandans with disabilities.
Our shared expectations have proven correct. Interview after interview, stories of injustice pile up. Injustice in hospitals where the hearing impaired are mistreated by nurses. Injustice among families as aunts and uncles seek to take land from persons with disabilities. Injustice in the lives of women with disabilities who are raped and left to raise children on their own.
The stories are heartbreaking, but they are also the substantive content I am seeking. I am collecting stories of pain and injustice. Of course the overriding hope is that these stories can bring about positive change. Yet the fact remains that injustice is a building block of my research project.
For me, the most difficult moments are the humble requests for help. Interviewees ask me if I will start a program or donate to their own initiatives. Yet, the research process is about gathering stories and not about starting programs or funding projects directly. I have the cold comfort, officially at least, of telling myself that the ethical requirements prohibit me from helping though funds or action.
Yet here is where God comes in. In the places where we are small and our roles are limited, our God is a God who loves justice (Ps 11:7) and uses us to accomplish it.
God provide windows of opportunity for justice-based engagement that do not run afoul with the interview protocol. One blind and lame gentleman asked if I knew anyone who could help him in a matter where people were trying to take his land from him. Since I often collaborate with an organization that handles such work I was able to send an email that might bear fruit.
Uganda, like many places, presents vast windows of opportunity. Outside the boundary of my interviews, there are countless acts that can be done to show the love of Christ to Ugandans in need. Yet these massive opportunities to serve can be ominous. At our best moments there is only so much we can do. At our worse moments we simply become selfish or lazy. Roles can become a cheap defense mechanism for limiting the overwhelming call for action and engagement. An understanding of our limitations, God’s love for justice and His infinite power to use our actions provide sounder comfort in the face of such challenges.
Have you ever felt trapped or limited by your official role when it comes to matters of justice?
How has God has used your work to bring about justice in this world?
Heavenly Father, let us as Christian academics never hide behind our roles and protocols to keep from heeding Your call to seek justice. Let us also not be disheartened by the weight and scope of the challenges we study and assess. May we have peace in knowing that You are a God who loves justice. May we be encouraged by the fact that You see it fit to use us to bring about Your justice in this world.
Image courtesy of Brian Dennison