EARLY in 1940 a 34-year-old man named Roy was arrested in New Mexico, U.S.A., and accused of robbery. He claimed to have been a thousand miles from the scene of the crime when it was committed, but he could not produce any witnesses to prove it. So he was found guilty and sentenced to prison. Sixteen years later Roy was released from prison. An investigation had revealed that he was innocent!
Some years ago a woman in Colombia wrote to a newspaper telling a sad story. Her husband had abandoned her and their four sons for another woman. Nevertheless, with great effort and sacrifice she had provided an education for her sons and then, with their help, built up capital so that her family could live comfortably. Then one day she was summoned to appear before a judge. Why? Her husband had instituted legal proceedings. The wife was told that half of everything she owned belonged to her husband. “I cannot believe such injustice,” she exclaimed.
Many years ago a wise man summed up much of human experience when he said: “Man has dominated man to his injury.” (Ecclesiastes 8:9) This domination has resulted in individual suffering, as these two examples show. It has also resulted in whole classes of people suffering injustices. Consider just a few examples.
Economic: According to The World Almanac & Book of Facts 1984, the average income in India was $150 (U.S.) a year—at a time when in many countries of Europe the average income was about $10,000 (U.S.) a year. Economists say that such differences have “brought into question the efficiency and justice of the existing economic order.”
Health: “Towards Justice in Health” was a recent headline in a UN health magazine. What is unjust about health? Well, as an example, not long ago a young man in Nepal died because he needed insulin. There was just no insulin available in the whole area where he lived! Is it fair that people die in some lands of diseases that are routinely cured or controlled in others? Twenty-five million people a year die from sickness caused by polluted water and poor sanitation. Yet it would not be difficult to supply them with clean water, and it would cost only one third of what the world spends on cigarettes or about one eighteenth of what it spends on armaments. Is this just?
Food: In 1980 some 50 million people died of hunger. There is, however, more than enough food for everyone—if it was distributed efficiently. The problem is, some countries use more than their share. Often, even when food is available, the poor cannot afford to buy it. A high official of the United Nations Children’s Fund said that the situation is ‘unjust, unacceptable and almost wholly avoidable.’
Prejudice: Describing a violent race riot in the United States, a news magazine said: “Strongest of the riot’s many causes was a sense of injustice.” Yes, certain racial groups are often discriminated against. So are women. So are the poor, whatever their sex or color.
Why is the world filled with injustice?