“SPEAK OUT” on social justice advocacy

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Over 1,000 people visit site of first-ever e-Summit.

In a first-of-its-kind event, The Salvation Army’s International Social Justice Commission (ISJC) and Canada’s Ethics Centre hosted an international e-Summit on social justice advocacy—“Speak Out”—in late March.

The free online conference attracted 565 registered delegates, and another 600 viewers, from 60 different countries. Virtual attendees watched video presentations 1,700 times and downloaded 25 GB of printed materials.

The Canada and Bermuda territory underwrote the cost of designing the custom made website, which is now inactive, and provided IT specialists to man the site for the duration of the conference.

In a letter to delegates, General Shaw Clifton wrote, “Speaking into the public arena requires courage and skill. I pray that this summit will result for all of us in a fresh infilling of holy courage and a sharpening of our advocacy skills.”

Of the presentation pages, “Jesus and Justice”—the ISJC’s guide on social justice in the life of Christ—and “Why Social Holiness” by Dr. Roger Green, were each viewed over 500 times.

Live chat rooms allowed for global interaction among e-Summit participants on the topics: theory of advocacy, theology and history of advocacy, and promising practices of advocacy.

“The most egregious cases of injustice are ones that are fed and sustained by international and global issues,” said Dr. James Read, Ethics Centre director and ISJC senior policy analyst. “By connecting The Salvation Army world in this way, we are able to better steward our resources and the reach of experience and competence.

“People discovered in detail that advocacy for social justice isn’t something that is only part of The Salvation Army past,” Read said. “There is creative and effective work going on now under this umbrella.”

During the online conference, The Salvation Army in Australia announced a new venture: Salvo Courtyard Legal. Scheduled to begin in September, this Salvation Army legal practice will conduct commercial legal work at the going rate in order to fund pro-bono work for those needing legal assistance with immigration issues.

Moving forward
The chief impediments to this conference, as noted by Read, were the necessity of a reliable, affordable high-speed Internet connection and the uni-language presentation in English. Read said ideas for similar conferences in the future will be actively explored.

“We have a commitment to seeing that the networking and conversations for purposes of more active and effective social justice are sustained,” Read said. “Maybe instead of another global conference, we’ll host a facilitated local conference in a non-English environment, or have a conference that is more narrowly focused on a specific initiative. The intention is that this conference will be the beginning and not a stand alone event.”

An attune ear
“We are grateful for those who will continue to action thoughts,” Commissioner M. Christine MacMillan, ISJC director, said in the closing video of the e-Summit. “Perhaps this summit has made you want to stand in another place; your service and personhood will stand in the community where injustice is prevalent. Advocacy has to find its place. It has to hear strategic voices before it speaks out.

If this e-Summit means anything to all of us, it will listen…and attune its ear to hear the world, the voices not yet heard by The Salvation Army, the voices heard and seen perhaps by the heart of God himself. Let us enter into advocacy with a hearing that asks questions, that thinks before it does. May the breath of God be upon us, be within us. And may advocacy have hands and feet to enter into the unseen places.”

Notable materials from the e-Summit are available on the International Social Justice Commission website: salvationarmy.org/isjc.

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