Conference Programme 2004:

Where the prophets of the Old Testament and the message of the New Testament are at one is in the call to justice in the expression of religious practice. The prophets Micah and Amos were not interested in the trappings of religious practice but in a way of living.

Christ, adopting Isaiah, states that he came to give news to the poor; to set prisoners free and in Matthew 2 5, he gently tells us how we will be judged. Society has changed in 2000 years but the call and witness to justice is as pertinent as ever.

• How do we respond to this call? Is it impossible for a Christian living in a society governed by laws, now about to affect 2 5 countries, to live out as witnesses for justice?

How do we express a call to service when rules are ignored, laws are not respected and statutes yield to winks and nods? The service of the Common Good is the primary commitment of politicians. Is this still the case?

• Do we re-echo Christ's admonitions of hypocrites and whited sepulchres when we hear and see law enforcement agencies acting with scant regard for a system that we are supposed to respect.

• Courage is needed to live the call. Leadership is needed to exhort such courage. Yet, we must value democracy and the balance of power between Government and the Judiciary We must be mindful also that we are not members of a prophetic Church, not an authoritarian one. It is a hard calling.

• Do the rules, regulations and laws attempt to apply a system of fairness? If they do, is there a thread or core belief woven through such laws. Is there a clash between a theology of justice and ideology?

 There is certainly a perception that the laws favour the better off or the "establishment" who are not necessarily the same. Influencers make the laws. Those without a voice do not. How do we, in the words of Micah "act justly" and yet "walk humbly" and bear witness to a call for justice? What is our reaction to a criminal code that is drawn dangerously to over-balance towards retribution and vengeance; have we surrendered the role of judge and jury to the media?


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