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Building community, sharing hope, and standing for justice since 2004

The Difference between Social Justice and Charity

“ESTHER works for social justice,
but it is not a charitable organization.”

What does that mean? What is the difference between social justice work and charity work?

It is justice, not charity, that is wanting in the world. - Mary Wollstonecraft ShelleyThe famous Christmas carol “Good King Wenceslas” gives us a fine example of charity work. In the carol, King Wenceslas looks out of his window on a cold winter’s night and sees a poor man “gathering winter fuel.” The king and his page set out “through the rude wind’s wild lament and the bitter weather” to take food to the poor man. Along the way, the page becomes cold and tired, but he is revived by walking in the king’s footsteps in the snow, because “heat was in the very sod where the saint had printed.” That is to say that the king is a saint because he is so charitable. The song ends with the admonition, “Therefore, Christian men be sure, wealth or rank possessing, ye who now will bless the poor shall yourselves find blessing.”

Icon of King (Saint) WenceslasThis is a story of charity at its best, but the social justice worker says, “Wait a minute. This is all very well, but why should this man be so poor that he can eat only if the king happens to decide to help him? Why should some people starve while others live comfortably? A society in which some people starve while others live comfortably is oppressive. It is unjust, and we should work to make it more just.”

That is the difference between charity and social justice work. Charity helps people in need, but it does not question the justice of the social system we live in. Social justice work aims to change the system. There will always be a need for charity, but, to the social justice worker, it should not be a substitute for a just society, and we have a responsibility to make our society as just as possible.

ESTHER’s members work in a number of ways to make our society as just as possible. To learn more about how you can participate in ESTHER’s work, visit our web site at https://esther-foxvalley.org/issues

Summer of Solidarity Training Session: Voting and Voting Rights

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Date: 
Saturday, July 25, 2020 - 10:00am - 12:00pm
Location: 
Zoom Webinar

These are weekly Zoom meetings sponsored by WISDOM and EXPO covering community organizing approaches and social justice topics of concern in the state and region during the summer of 2020. This Saturday, the topic is Voting and Voting Rights.

The sad loss of the great Congressman John Lewis reminds us that the fight for every American to be able to vote has been going on for a long time!  This Saturday, you can learn how WISDOM and EXPO continue that tradition with the “Unlock the Vote” Campaign.  You will also learn what everyone in Wisconsin can do to ensure that each vote in our very important state is counted in November.

Click here to register:  https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZYpc-6rpjIqHN0AnOzifNm5ty46NCj60gS2 
As soon as you register, you'll be emailed a link you can use on Saturday morning.

Tentative schedule of future topics:

  • August 1 – Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women
  • August 8 – Crimeless Revocations
  • August 15 – Policing
  • August 22 – Environmental Justice

If you would like to participate, contact WISDOM (wisdomforjustice@gmail.com) for information about registering for the Zoom presentation.

Presentations are being recorded, and will be available at: https://www.rocwisconsin.org/summer-of-solidarity-training-series/

I Thought [Catholics] Couldn’t Join ESTHER

The November 2019 issue of The Compass, the official newspaper for the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, contains an article entitled, “I Thought We Couldn’t Join ESTHER.” It was written by Peter Weiss, program manger for the Diocesan Office of Living Justice.

As Weiss notes, the view expressed in the article’s title is incorrect:

So to summarize, Bishop Ricken did not say it was wrong for individual Catholics to belong to groups like ESTHER and JOSHUA [ESTHER’s sister organization in Green Bay]. Rather, he recognized the good work these organizations do in our communities and left the decision [about membership or support] up to the prudential judgment of the individual.

Immigration Task Force Works Towards a Better Life for Immigrants

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The ESTHER Immigration Task Force has evolved over the years into a wide-reaching group of dedicated people with ties to many groups in the community and beyond. Our agenda includes advocacy for specific policy changes; community education and consciousness-raising relating to the experience of immigrants; and walking alongside immigrants as they negotiate the twists and turns of life in our community. Click “Read more” below to see the complete update from ESTHER Immigration Task Force chair Nancy Bourassa.