Released 9 May 2012
A day and night cry for Justice
And will not God bring about justice
for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting
I tell you, he will see that ‘they’ get
justice, and quickly.
The history of The Salvation Army in fighting
injustice receives its greatest compliments when the truth of our actions is
written about us and not by us. One story of our past that continues to be
repeated is highlighted on the label of a matchbox:
LIGHTS IN DARKEST ENGLAND
Fair wages for Fair Work!
The Salvation Army
The eyes of William Booth, founder of The Salvation Army, viewed injustice
in the workplaces of England. In particular, matches that were made using
phosphorous had an advantage that you could strike them on any dry surface. Yet
advantages that increase profit margins of employers often do not take into
consideration the workers.
As we pray for social justice both from within The Salvation Army and
throughout the world, Isaiah has something to say about our inner focus:
‘You wonder why the
Lord pays no attention when you go without eating (fasting) and act humble. But
on those same days that you give up eating, you think only of yourselves and
abuse your workers’.
‘Lord, gives us eyes to
see the fervour of our worship in connection with the ethics of our
Our story of Booth’s matches takes up the
cause of workers. The phosphorous in the match making was poisonous. If it got
to the gums or jaw of the workers it slowly ate away the jaw bones. This
disease commonly known as ‘phossy-jaw’ was also known as
‘match-makers leprosy’, which was most painful and disfiguring.
Young girls suffered from this malady and despite treatment, lost their health
‘Lord give us courage
to explore conditions of injustice including trafficked persons for cheap
labour within workplace settings.’
The demonstrations that took place against match
factory worker injustice included minimal government regulations that factories
a) Hoods to protect workers against phosphorous fumes
b) Proper hand-washing arrangements for workers before they ate their
‘Lord, are we satisfied
that ‘workers’ are justly protected from the dangers and prejudice
of their occupations? Help us to take personal note of workplace environments,
in the community and the church.’
In May 1891, William Booth opened his own match
factory as concern for the ‘workers’ did not focus on the rights of
the poor. The new factory did away with phosphorous and paid a higher wage to
its workers. The premises were comfortably light and well aired with a room for
Lord, give us the faith of
William Booth to lift our worship into the realms of a practice that actions
justice with courage and concern for others.
The Salvationist enterprise had the desired
effect, and by the beginning of the 2oth Century safety matches were the rule
and ‘phossy-jaw’ was a matter of history.
What on-going attitudes and
conditions in the workplace could become a matter of history through our
witness in demonstrating the values and power of the Kingdom of God?
M. Christine MacMillan,
Resource: ‘Social Evils the Army has Challenged’ by S. Carvosso