MORE Justice – by Jane Thesing
May 28, 2019
Do you have a negative view of how our government and other institutions deal with problems in our communities? Do you get tired of commiserating with friends about how unjust policies and priorities affect people negatively, but are impossibly hard to change or improve? Do you think we might just as well give up before we get started to try to change anything?
An organization called MORE Justice is remarkable for taking on unsolvable problems and working to make change. The Columbia organization is composed of more than twenty churches, synagogues and a mosque who believe that we should do something to address problems that are harming our communities and our neighbors. FLPC has been a member of MORE Justice for two years now, and we are only getting started.
MORE Justice operates on an annual cycle. The first step is having meetings in homes and churches to determine what conditions are unjustly harming our citizens and their families, as identified by MORE Justice members. Some issues that have been studied include:
Excessive suspensions from schools that prevent student learning.
Problems caused when the police deal with mentally ill persons in a punitive and harmful manner.
When a lack of safe affordable housing impacts the health and happiness of citizens.
MORE Justice volunteers/members meet and prioritize the issues proposed for study and action. For some of us at these meetings, when we listen and hear about the injustice that results from harmful and ill-conceived policies and the criminal neglect experienced by citizens in our community, we are struck by the fact that we have not personally been subject to injustice. The ensuing “survivor’s guilt” feelings can help motivate us to participate in correcting injustice.
MORE Justice members investigate the problems selected for more attention and try to find possible solutions. They conduct interviews with officials and read and do research about the nature and depth of the problems. They also study and what other communities have done to successfully solve them.
Once potential solutions are discovered and verified, More Justice employs “people power”. There is an annual meeting (called the Nehemiah Action) at which the developed solutions to identified problems are presented to officials who are responsible for managing the problem areas. The officials are confronted by a large group (over 1,200) of MORE Justice members and asked publically if they will implement the recommended changes. Problems that have remained unsolved because of the lack of voices calling for change are more likely to be solved if many people are calling for change with strong and unified voices.
More Justice applauds the solutions which are agreed to, and conducts follow-up work to assist officials in implementing recommended change. More Justice members also continually follow up on recommendations which are not implemented, and persistently do what they can to improve the chances for implementation.
Personally, I have found working with More Justice to provide positive experiences as exampled below.
More Justice has
Increased my understanding of my community.
Concerned me about the problems we have that block positive change.
Delighted me by letting me experience the joy of working with committed people of faith.
Broadened my horizons in experiencing the rich diversity of committed people of faith
Other advantages of MORE Justice include being able to participate at different levels based on time available, and the advantage of having two professional community organizers provide skills needed to organize the efforts of volunteers, and ensure that our work is carried out professionally.