For the past few weeks, protests have raged around the world in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Triggered by numerous incidents of unarmed African Americans being killed by police officers, the movement seeks to expose racism and oppression, and fight for change to the unequal challenges that black Americans face every day because of the colour of their skin.
Clearly these incidents have stirred the anger of many people. And while this anger is expressed in different ways and directed towards different targets, these people are united in their belief that theirs is a cause worth fighting for.
While the circumstances of our history are very different, in Australia we have our own legacy of poor treatment of Aboriginal people.
From early days of massacres and land dispossession, to the era of the Stolen Generation, to the more recent history of government interventions and policy failures in Aboriginal communities, issues in our relationship with our First Nations people run deep in our history.
With Aboriginal people more than 15 times more likely to be arrested and imprisoned, Aboriginal deaths in custody has become the touchstone of our local ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement.
Cases like that of local woman Tanya Day have fuelled a push for answers and change, with local protesters believing this too is a cause worth fighting for.
I don’t pretend that I understand or have the answers to the complex issues behind each of these movements.
There is clearly a lot of pain and anger that comes not only from the fact that most of these deaths have gone unpunished, but also from the lived experience of everyday hardship and generational experiences of discrimination and mistreatment.
These issues require everyone in our society to understand and take ownership of our history, to consider the role that our own choices, actions and unconscious prejudices play in these issues, and to respond accordingly.
As a follower of Jesus, I believe that He sets the example for me in how to support the marginalised and disadvantaged in our society.
When He began His campaign He declared, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
Then He set about doing just that. Jesus actively sought to promote the cause of those who were discriminated against.
He associated freely with both those in power and those who were oppressed and called them both to a radical re-alignment of values and allegiances.
And finally, He willingly endured injustice, insults, torture and death at the hands of a corrupt government, because He knew He had a cause that was worth dying for.
What was that cause? To free each of us from our strongest oppression, from our own fear and self-interest, and to call each of us to a higher calling, participation in God’s Love.
Jesus offers this to everyone, regardless of history, circumstance, nation or skin colour.
This is a cause I believe is worth living and dying for.
Donovan Jasper, New Life Baptist Church