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ISG Event: Concepts of Justice

Panel Discussion "Concepts of Justice" hosted by the Interfaith Study Group, of which PJTC is a part.


Joseph Prabhu, Ph.D. - Professor of Philosophy (Emeritus) at California State, Los Angeles



Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater - Executive Director, Friends In Deed

Juliana Serrano - Senior Associate for Peace & Justice, All Saints Church

Grace Song - Executive Director of the Usuli Institute

John Woodford - Academic/mainstream Journalist, former Executive Editor Michigan Today

All panelists identified racism and income inequality as the most pressing justice issues. They identified the dehumanization of the homeless, poor and hungry as assaults on not only spiritual values but also decent human values. The panelists were united in their recognition of how all forms of racism denigrate the human rights of individuals that are protected not only by belief systems but also by constitutional law and international conventions. Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are expressions of racism.

The panelists were encouraged to address the actions of justice as manifested in politics and to provide concrete examples of how systems of justice protect or fail to protect the human rights of all people, including the right to have adequate housing, adequate food, adequate health care and equal protection of the law.

Juliana Serrano, Senior Associate for Peace and Justice, All Saints Church, identified Ignatian spiritual practice as her guiding spiritual principal. Ignatian spirituality is a Catholic practice and is rooted in the Jesuit tradition.  The Ignatian tradition is a spiritual practice that focuses on discerning God’s will for better decision making. The tradition is deeply rooted in the belief that that God calls “in all things, to love and serve.” Juliana addressed the issue of cyclical accumulation of wealth, a mechanism that has an effect on the working class population and its ability to find affordable housing in the communities they serve.   Her work at All Saints Church and in the greater Pasadena community is focused on social justice and housing and collaborating with other organizations that are working within the community to solve problems related to income inequality and racism.

Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater, Executive Director, Friends In Deed, spoke about the Hebrew concept of Tzedakah which refers to the concept of righteousness, fairness and justice. Tzedakah is commonly used to signify a concept of charity, but unlike the Western understanding of charity, Tzedakah is an ethical obligation and that obligation is intended to recognize and provide for the needs of others. That ethical obligation is not a momentary gesture, but an expected guiding principle that regulates the practice of providing for those in need. Rabbi Grater also spoke about the need to speak courageously and not be afraid to engage elected officials and advocate for the needs of the homeless, the hungry and the marginalized. His work at Friends Indeed is a concrete example of how a community united by a spiritual imperative, as well as civic responsibility, can respond to and advocate for individuals who need shelter, food and social services.

Grace Song, Executive Director of the Usuli Institute, spoke about the Islamic concept of justice being revealed as a message for all of human beings. In the Islamic tradition, all people are created equal and justice requires one to see someone as you see yourself. Justice is expressed by acknowledging the condition of a shared and common humanity and the imperative to protect that shared humanity is a profound personal responsibility. The binding force of accountability and justice is foundational as is the call to act responsibly.  Achieving one’s full potential is an essential imperative, an action expected of Muslims. Being blind to the needs of others is a personal and collective denial of justice. Muslims are called to look to God to uphold justice, but also to respond to the imperative to be personally responsible for the actuation of the fullness of one’s potential to provide for the needs of others.

John Woodford maintains a secular approach to issues related to justice and the secular approach to justice focuses on how constitutional law and legislative action is intended to protect the civil rights of all individuals. The relationship between income inequality and the unregulated sums of money corporations and unnamed political action committees are legally allowed to donate to candidates who support legislation that benefit their donors' accumulation of wealth is evident. Campaign finance reform is a justice issue. Allocation of federal monies for wars predicated on lies is a justice issue. Budgetary decisions made by federal agencies can violate personal values, such as the support of militarization as a means to impose unnecessary control. Voting rights, civil rights, prison reform and equal protection under the law have proven to be racial issues and are issues relegated to the courts and legislature. Protection of entitlement programs, identified as remedies for poverty, are dependent on legislative action.
Difficult issues related to the refusal of the legislative branch of government to be unified in efforts to respond to the basic human need for adequate shelter, food, and adequate income during times of severe economic distress were discussed, but not resolved.

Justice issues related to climate control, status of women, police reform, discrimination based on race, immigration reform, the death penalty and the right to health care will be covered in future events.
The preamble to our Constitution is worth remembering because it is an introduction to the foundation of our concept of justice and its intended scope. “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Thu, June 13 2024 7 Sivan 5784