Challenging Injustice

Yesterday in art therapy, one of the facilitators mentioned that in my work there is a strong social justice theme. Indeed, social justice is something that I am devoting my life to. Injustices are increasingly effecting me, conjuring up feelings of profound anger and sadness and moving me to take action where and whenever possible.

Today I was reading The New Friars: the emerging movement serving the world’s poor by Scott A. Bessenecker. I read the following and almost burst into tears in my doctor’s office:

Eighteen-year-old Mahamuda Akter was invited to tour the United States to speak on behalf of rhte Coalition for the Abolition of Sweatshops and Child Labor. As a sewing operator at a factory in Bangladesh, Mahamuda sews collars onto shirts fifteen hours a day for companies like Walmart. “There is constant pressure on us to work faster. They beat us. They slap our faces. They use vulgar words. They make me cry,” she says. The garment industry is notorious for perpetrating labour abuses – and giant retail chains often outsource to these kinds of factories. You may wonder how places like Walmart can tolerate such pitiful low wages and blatant employee abuse. But for multinational corporate executives, Mahamuda’s factory is one or two steps removed from them. When they send a bid out for one million T-shirts, they will snap up the contract offering to make shirts for one dollar each over another factory offering to make them for two dollars per shirt.

That’s part of the reason we can by clothes so cheaply at Walmart and CEO H. Lee Scott can receive $29 million in total compensation for one year’s worth of work. We can get cheap clothes and H. Lee Scott can get paid about $80,000 a day because Mahamuda and her coworkers are willing to work for so incredibly little. – page 34-35

Somewhere else, and I can’t find the quote as I type this, Scott says that people like Mahamuda earn $2 a day for their hard labour. $2????

I’m all for a good bargain and sadly, I have played my role in encouraging and fostering such injustices without knowing. But when did things get so bad that there is such a profit margin from the workers to the CEOs? Why do we have people barely able to scrape enough food for one meal a day when there are people I have known over the years who have their own cook for their household. Or, to make it more drastic, – how did we become so abundant in resources that we have houses for our cars, pay people to raise our children, pay people to drive us around? I remember knowing a client who paid for a chef for their own dog.

Why do so many people in the world live in slum houses in garbage cities when we in the west have become so sofisticated that we need electricians to install our smoke detectors?

There is much debate amongst Christians as to whether Christ meant we should sell all that we have to the poor literally or if this is a universal call, or just something that the “rich” (a.k.a. those who are richer than us) are called to. But regardless – today I am left with the question and the call to speak out, to act, and to change my life so that the poor are not plundered and systems of injustice are called into question!

We are called to love justice, to walk humbly with our Lord and to love kindness. This means that each of us needs to do what we can to prevent and challenge the many injustices of the world!

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