What Makes a Good Social Justice Story?

Reflection by Sandie Cornish.

An Invitation

I was flattered and a bit surprised by the invitation to judge the social justice category of the 2016 Australasian Catholic Press Association Awards. It turned out to be an interesting and thought provoking exercise.

There was such a broad field of entrants from different kinds of publications and different geographical and cultural contexts. This in itself demonstrates widespread recognition of the importance of justice and truth in the Christian story. The entries also came in a variety of formats. There were feature stories in glossy monthly magazines, news articles in weekly papers, a series of articles, material designed for modest regional print publications and for electronic formats with national and international reach.

A Question

The opportunity to judge the social justice category of the ACPA Awards prompted me to reflect on the important question:

What makes a good social justice story?

After pondering the question for some time, I came up with a range of factors that I think are helpful. Here are my criteria. I asked does the story:
– address an important or neglected issue of social justice rather than charitable activities
– address or raise probing questions about causes rather than simply describing situations
– give those who experience injustice or exclusion a face and a voice
– connect the experiences of actual people with structural and/or policy level considerations
– engage with complexity and ambiguity rather than oversimplifying complex multi-factoral issues and situations
– present relevant facts, quote reputable sources and accurately cite sources of information
– demonstrate groundedness in Christian sources, especially scripture and Catholic Social Teaching
– empower the reader by providing examples of or suggestions for action responses
– engage and hold the reader’s attention, taking them on a journey into the issue or situation
– have a clear, logical structure.

And the Winner is …

It was still difficult to decide on just one winner and one highly commended award. Some entries addressed one or two of the criteria very well while others touched on a number of them.

In the end, I awarded the prize to Fatima Measham’s article The White Male Gaze that Drives Child Sex Tourism published in Eureka Street. John Sandy’s article Just Being Kept Alive is Not a Life published in Aurora was highly commended. I give my reasons here -scroll down to Category 7.

So, how would you answer the question: what makes a good social justice story?

Season of Creation 2016

World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation

In 2015 Pope Francis asked Catholics to join with the Orthodox Church to celebrate the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. It is celebrated on 1 September. Other Christian churches have joined them in it for a number of years. The day is now an annual event in the Catholic Church. As Pope Francis explains, it is a “significant occasion for prayer, reflection, conversion and the adoption of appropriate lifestyles.” Read his message for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation here.

Now Pope Francis is asking Catholics to join in the Season of Creation 2016.

A Catholic Season of Creation 2016

Pope Francis is building on the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation by inviting Catholics to join in celebrating the Season of Creation. The idea of celebrating a Season of Creation began in the Lutheran Church in Adelaide, Australia in 2000. Now it is celebrated by many different churches all over the world.

The season embraces the four Sundays of September before the Feast of St Francis of Assisi – 4 October. Norman Habel explains:

“The season of Creation offers an opportunity for churches to introduce new visual elements into their worship and to be ecumenical and connected with creation in a particular context.”

Read more about the history of the Season of Creation here.

Catholic Resources Year C

The Columban Mission Institute’s Centre for Peace, Ecology and Justice provides excellent resources for the Season of Creation for Catholic congregations and schools. They include prayer, reflection and action ideas and are linked to the readings in the Catholic lectionary. Download Catholic resources for the Season of Creation 2016 here.

More on Catholic Teaching

Find out more about Catholic teaching on integral ecology here.

Learn about Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ on the care of our common home here.

Watch Pope Francis’ Video

Pope Francis invites us to pray for the care of creation on 1 September and to take action during the Season of Creation. What action will you take between 1 September and 4 October?