Commissioners Bring Social Justice to the Fore at World Youth Convention
Released 20 July 2010
THE arrival of the Sri Lankan delegation during Commissioner Helen Clifton’s (World President of Women’s Ministries) address on Saturday morning was a miraculous moment for the World Youth Convention in Stockholm, Sweden.
Within moments of the Sri Lankans entering the Aula Magna auditorium, two days after the convention had commenced, a tremendously noisy welcome greeted them.
Just a few days earlier, all packed and waiting at The Salvation Army territorial headquarters in Colombo, the delegates were greatly disappointed when they were told their passports were lost. On top of this news the next day’s flight was completely booked out so they all had to return to their homes.
But within a couple of days they were recalled to the airport and on their way to Stockholm. Miracles still happen.
And the same is true concerning what Commissioner Clifton was speaking about – human trafficking. Many miracles are happening as The Salvation Army is becoming more involved in rescuing people from this modern-day form of slavery.
Commissioner Clifton titled her message ‘A Wake Up Call’ and that’s exactly what she gave the convention delegates as she shared frightening stories and statistics with them.
The Salvation Army has been involved in the fight against human trafficking since its beginnings 145 years ago but in recent years Commissioner Clifton has been responsible for bringing it to the top of the Army’s Social Justice agenda. At this point in time The Salvation Army has people ministering in the fight against human trafficking in many countries but the commissioner said there is still much to do.
‘We need to be wiser and better trained, but without losing the deep passion for those who have lost their innocence and succumbed to what is a sad and lonely life. The work involves prevention, prosecution, protection and prayer,’ said Commissioner Clifton.
She reminded the convention that this evil is extremely complex to combat because it is intertwined with a huge variety of industries including pornography and sex clubs.
She urged all World Youth Convention delegates to join the fight and reminded them that the General has called all Salvationists to pray, on 26 September, for the victims of the sex-slave trade.
Commissioner Clifton said part of the wake up call the world needs is for people everywhere to do all they can to care for others. She suggested the following extract from a previous version of the Articles of War for Salvation Army soldiers provides an excellent guideline in this regard:
I do here declare that I will never treat any woman, child or other person, whose life, comfort or happiness may be placed within my power, in an oppressive, cruel or cowardly manner; but that I will protect such from evil and danger so far as I can, and promote, to the utmost of my ability, their present welfare and eternal Salvation.
The social justice theme continued in the following session when Commissioner Christine MacMillan (Director, International Social Justice Commission) addressed the convention via DVD.
She said that ‘the greatest challenge the world is facing is the growing chasm between the rich and the poor. Today 1,125 billionaires hold more wealth than half of the world population and the poorest 40 per cent of the world population only accounts for five per cent of global income, while the richest 20 per cent accounts for 75 per cent of the world’s income.’
The commissioner said that The Salvation Army International Social Justice Commission (ISJC) is wrestling with many such inequalities and the team is researching issues in depth.
She forthrightly proclaimed that these are desperate times and many countries have terribly oppressive laws that punish women victims instead of the men perpetrating evil.
‘Our journey of faith needs to be disturbed by all these injustices in the world. If it isn’t then our hearts are either numb or hardened and we need God to renew our sensitivity,’ the commissioner declared.
She said the potential of 1,000 young people to reach into the world and make a positive difference is phenomenal. Having encouraged the delegates to be involved in social justice issues the commissioner reminded them that they needed to be aware it can be a tough road to travel.
‘You won’t be popular when you start to tackle social justice issues but it is a vital work because we need to influence the world by teaching everyone how to share so they can enter into loving relationships, ’ she added.
Following Commissioner MacMillan’s message Lieut-Colonel Geanette Seymour (assistant director, ISJC) took to the platform and, in summing up the ISJC message she said: ‘We have come from the east and the west to this convention but we need to go beyond the talk, there is a need to love, understand and to share.'
Report by Major Laurie Robertson
(Report 5 – containing a full overview of Saturday's events – will follow)