The work of AJS is rooted in our belief that Christians are called to bravely pursue justice. We find this biblical calling throughout the Bible, from the Mosaic law in the Bible’s earliest books, to the courageous prophets that criticized and challenged Israel’s failure to respond to the needs of the poor, and into Jesus’ New Testament teachings and the apostolic letters. We therefore take seriously Micah’s call “to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God,” (6:8) and Isaiah’s command to “seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, [and] plead the widow's cause” (1:17).
At the same time, AJS seeks justice in a world, especially in Honduras, where its pursuit is often dangerous and requires courageous and prophetic action. As Christians, we are called to love our neighbor time and time again; this love, argues eminent philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff, demands justice. Thus, as brave Christians, we assert that “there is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” (1 John 4:18). Just as Christ laid down his life for others in love, we are called to do the same out of love for our neighbor and in pursuit of justice (1 John 3:16). This conviction guides and informs our work in Honduras, a land desperately in need of justice.
Specifically, justice is intricately connected to those who wield power. The powerful command society’s political and economic resources, and utilize it to maintain their power, resulting in the violations of rights essential to justice and in a disordered and even violent society, as is the case in Honduras. Thus, the justice AJS pursues is different from the traditional work of relief agencies or community development organizations. While relief seeks to respond to great need in the aftermath of a crisis, and community development promotes the well-being of a specific community and to cultivate the talents of the people found there, the justice AJS seeks challenges the power structures that disenfranchise the poor and perpetuate cycles of corruption and violence. Such work is essential to lasting development and true human flourishing.
This work stems from recognition, increasingly acknowledged by Christians, that justice is not a reality in many parts of our world. Trillions of dollars in foreign aid, relentless support from churches, and the lives of thousands have been dedicated to eradicating the plight the poor face, but little difference seems to have been made. As recent popular works such as When Helping Hurts and Toxic Charity have made clear, the church must reassess its approach to charity. Doing this requires attention to the effectiveness of the work organizations do, but also to the power structures that often impede a people’s rise from poverty. In Honduras, AJS is addressing these structural problems and promoting the structural justice necessary for the poor.
For North American Christians, supporting these efforts is a natural extension of our calling as a church. Honduras is quite literally a “neighbor” of the United States, giving special meaning to the great commandment of Jesus to love God and neighbor. Further, many Hondurans come from a long Christian tradition—both Catholic and Protestant—that provides fertile ground to spread God’s message of justice. Honduras’ violence, corruption, and persistent poverty impels Christian action that responds to the needs of our neighbor.
Thus, supporting the work of AJS responds to the biblical calling we find in God’s word. Just as the prophets demanded justice from the kings of Israel despite the danger they faced, AJS calls upon the leaders of Honduras to respect the rights of its people, to reform its broken systems, and to end the corruption and violence in which it participates. In spite of the danger this brings, AJS boldly seeks to serve as brave Christians in this world, knowing that such work will bring meaningful change to our “neighbors” in Honduras.
Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, When Helping Hurts, (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2009).
Gary Haugen, A Just Courage, (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2008).
Gary Haugen, Good News About Injustice, (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1999).
Robert D. Lupton, Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (And How to Reverse It), (New York: HarperCollins, 2011).
Bryant Meyers, Walking With the Poor: Principles and Practices of Transformational Development, (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1999).
Richard Stearns, The Hole in Our Gospel: What Does God Expect of Us? The Answer That Changed My Life and Might Just Change the World, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2009).
Nicholas Wolterstorff, Justice: Rights and Wrongs (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008).
Nicholas Wolterstorff, Justice in Love (Grand Rapids, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2011).
Nicholas Wolterstorff, Until Justice and Peace Embrace (Grand Rapids: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1983).
Below: AJS Co-Founder Kurt Ver Beek delivers a talk at Calvin College's January Series, a prestigious lecture series. Kurt's talk focuses on lessons learned from AJS's work pursuing justice in Honduras.