Justice and Unity

On Saturday, I traveled with a delegation of civic and community leaders from San Jose to the gravesite of Cesar Chavez at La Paz, outside of Bakersfield. The trip was organized by Mayor Chuck Reed and Vice-Mayor David Cortese as a way to honor the life and legacy of a great non-violent champion of justice. As I rode with those who had worked, marched, and prayed with Chavez during the years of struggle for the Farmworkers Union, I was reminded of my own periodic involvement in a cause that was both spiritual and political.

The tension between maintaining unity and seeking justice often presents a difficult challenge. We want to affirm the oneness of human beings, of our common right to respect, fairness, and dignity. Yet when we get to the nitty-gritty issues of how that respect and fairness should play out in public policy, in economic systems, or in political strategies, we often find ourselves in disagreement.

Someone has observed that justice and unity seem to be polarities in our relationships. Where there is great unity, there is likely to be more injustice; where there is a greater desire for justice, there is less unity. In interfaith relationships, there tend to be those which are narrowly constructed around political or social agendas (such as anti-war movements) and those which are broadly gathered around more apolitical affirmations of our common humanity.

How can we widen the circle without becoming completely irrelevant to the world around us? How can we affirm the fundamental connections between people and still find ways to disagree with one another about issues that really matter? I suspect there is no final answer; we continue to wrestle with how to be inclusive while moving forward.

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