In 2004, the United Nations began their mission in Haiti that continues today. In 2010, the same year as the devastating earthquake near Port-au-Prince, UN forces at one base ineffectively disposed of human waste, introducing cholera to Haiti. The disease has killed a reported 10,000 people, though likely many more, and it has devastated communities across Haiti and hindered economic growth. In December of 2016, six years after introducing the disease to the country, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon finally issued an apology for their role, saying, “we simply did not do enough with regard to the cholera outbreak and its spread in Haiti.” The UN also announced a $400 million initiative to treat Haitians for cholera, improve water and sanitation infrastructure, and provide “material assistance” to those directly affected by the outbreak—an initiative that will likely face challenges in gaining the financial support it needs. Is this justice, or will justice only be justice when no more Haitians get sick and die from the disease?

In August 2016, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry issued a statement in support of the advocacy of the people of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in regards to the protests around the Dakota Access Pipeline. Bishop Curry said, “as we join the people of Standing Rock, we also recognize that their stand is one that joins the fight for racial justice and reconciliation with climate justice and caring for God’s creation as a matter of stewardship.” Are racial justice, climate justice, or any other type of justice all different and discreet, or are they expressing the same thing with slight differences of context? Do these qualified types of justices have the same significance in every culture? 

Supreme Court Nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch, an Episcopalian, is sure to inspire more conversations among Episcopalians about the intersection of faith and justice in the context of our courts. Supreme Court justices interpret the law and make rulings that often change significant aspects of our country and society, which may or may not line up with our understanding of justice as inspired by our faith. How are we to interpret such differences in justice, and as Christians what are we called to do about it?

The Bible has numerous stories and teachings of justice. One that speaks to me, especially in my work with the Episcopal Public Policy Network, is from Proverbs 31:8-9: “Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” But this is far from the only angle on justice the Bible contains. When we talk about justice, what do we really mean? When we look at our faith, our church traditions, the Bible, what is at the core of conversations and stories involving justice?

Alan Yarborough is the Communications Coordinator and Office Manager for the Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations. He started in that office as a Research Assistant in a split position with the Center for Anglican Communion Studies at the Virginia Theological Seminary. Prior to this, he lived and worked in Haiti with the Young Adult Service Corps, working in two different positions. He spent two years in Cange working in economic development and communication and a one year in Cap-Haitien with the St. Barnabas Agriculture Center as a project manager for their revitalization program. He holds a BS in economics from Clemson University in South Carolina.