FROM January 7-11, I, along with some 250 other people from Australia, East Timor, New Zealand and Vanuatu, took part in the National Justice Festival 2004 (NJF) at Ballarat Anglican Grammar School.
The NJF is a biannual event run by the Marist Young Adult Ministry since its inception in 1984.
It is a ‘live-in’ experience for young adults principally to explore the links between our lives, our faith and issues of social justice, ecology, peace and development. (However older people certainly made a notable and welcome presence.)
The NJF 2004 theme was ‘Want Peace? Work for Justice!’ The NJF proceedings explored this theme in a diverse range of ways.
The tone of the discussion at NJF 2004 was stimulating, frank, open and respectful. Certainly, not everybody agreed with what each other said in the small group discussions, but those with opposing remarks spoke respectfully.
The NJF was also thought-provoking and for some people shocking. For example the presentations by speakers from other faiths made some people feel uncomfortable, which indicates the need for more education in this area.
I found the NJF experience to be a most challenging and searching examination of where I stand on the issue of justice.
The opinions of other people challenged me, just as I am sure that some things I said confronted some others!
I do feel that the NJF should have devoted much more time to discussing the Islamic faith and the current crisis in relations between the Islamic world and the West.
There is sadly mutual ignorance between the peoples of the Islamic world and the West. The NJF could have gone some way to redressing this information deficit.
I am glad I made the time and effort to take part fully in NJF 2004. This event gave me cause for hope. I have for some time felt much anger, particularly about the direction Australian society has taken since the election of the Howard Government in 1996 and the ill-considered response to the 9/11 attacks being taken by the US and its allies.
Now I still feel angry about these issues (perhaps even more so!) but I also now feel empowered to do something positive about it.
As a wise person said to me, there is nothing wrong with being angry, provided that you do something useful with that anger, rather than let it stew wastefully in you.
The Catholic Leader is an Australian award-winning Catholic newspaper that has been published by the Archdiocese of Brisbane since 1929. Our journalism seeks to provide a full, accurate and balanced Catholic perspective of local, national and international news while upholding the dignity of the human person.
The Catholic Leader acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the First Peoples of this country and especially acknowledge the traditional owners on whose lands we live and work throughout the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.