Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Justice Conference

So here's a few of my thoughts on the Justice Conference:

1) When it was good, it was very VERY good. And when it wasn't...it was just "meh"
I get the impression the conference is still in development and from the looks of it, they are really finding their character. I think the biggest problem I had was that it sometimes felt like a sale. And here's the thing...if I've bought a ticket to the Justice Conference, traveled all that way to get here, and have positioned myself in a seat with attentive ears...you don't have to sale me justice. It's already a priority in my life. I expected a lot more information about issues and action points. I expected deeper. When we got it, the energy in the room visibly increased. But overall, my attention wandered quite a bit  during several speakers just because it was information I'd heard so much.

2) I loved the way the conference integrated art into the experience-with the film festival and spoken word...I would definitely keep that. I would also create service opportunities in the host city so that the day before or the day the conference begins, we could put justice into practice! The NCVS does this and it was one of the best conference experiences ever.

3) The organizers for JC should probably check the sound quality in their venues before hand. After the first couple of musicians, I stayed outside for most of the performances because the sound was so bad. And exhibitors should be more prepared with action that attendees can take...again, if they've come, they already have buy in and are looking to do something.

Eugene Cho was of course a favorite. Gary Haugen was good and I appreciated the way he broke down the amount of time staff spend on each case/project. I don't know why I was so surprised at the amazing job Shane Claiborne did but he blew me out of the water and remains a conference favorite for me. Sheryl WuDunn's stories all came from Half The Sky so I'll admit to losing focus several times during her presentation. But the absolute favorite moment of the entire conference for me was the round table with Lisa Sharon Harper, Dr John Perkins (why oh why wasn't he a main speaker!? I could've listened to him for hours!), Lynn Hybels and Stephan Bauman. That was the reason I had bought a ticket and driven from Newnan, GA to Philadelphia, PA! The topics they covered, opinions they shared, solutions they presented...it was inspiring! My only regret is it didn't last longer! Some of my favorite "gems" come from that particular presentation.

By the way, you can hear all the main speakers here: http://thejusticeconference.com/videos2013.html.

Take aways:
I think that I had four main take aways from the conference and I really appreciate them.
1) Pursuing Justice is a long process. It's messy. It's a marathon not a sprint. And it's worth it. But we need to be prepared to be in it for the long haul.
2) Justice can become an idol. And we can be more concerned with justice than the people we are trying to help. We must always bear in mind that those suffering from injustice are people with dignity and value and we must treat them with dignity and as people of value. Look into the eyes of humanity, they are not a project or "non-profit machine"
3) Don't assume you know what someone needs. What you think they need might be low on their list of priorities. I especially appreciated Eugene Cho's story of asking what a particular village needed already envisioning the new school they would help build...when all the village felt they needed was help paying the teachers their $40 per year salary.
4) We must be experts on our issue. We must be informed. We can't just like a page on Facebook and think we know what we are focusing on...we must be responsible in our story telling.

Favorite Quotes:
"Shut up. Read. Pray. Be connected to the vine. The pursuit of God fuels the pursuit of justice. Not the other way around" -Eugene Cho

"Ours is a world where a twelve year old needs a defender" -Gary Haugen

On prayer "Justice is God's work and we should be talking to him about it" -Gary Haugen

"Standing together, we are strong" Cyprien Nkiriyumwami

"The more we see of God, the less we want to throw stones at people" -Shane Claiborne

"The key to fighting poverty is affirming dignity of the poor." -Dr John Perkins

"We have never fully achieved the message of the Liberty Bell, but we must keep trying." -Dr John Perkins

"Befriend an immigrant family. Eat a little starch!" -Stephan Bauman

Next year's conference is in Los Angeles! Find out more info at http://thejusticeconference.com/

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