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Sydney conference hears call to “go deeper” with Jesus in search for Biblical justice

Sydney, Australia

Even as many students were sleeping last weekend, immigrant sociology majors Annette, from Sierra Leone, and Thuto, from South Africa, were making their way to the Living Justice Conference at Hillsong’s Alexandria Campus in Sydney. 

“Why do so many people in the developed world disconnect themselves from the issues of justice in the rest of the world?” asked Thuto. “At uni, we’re always given a political answer, but we wanted to hear a Christian perspective this morning.” 

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Tim Costello speaking during a panel discussion. PICTURE: Christopher Gilbert

They joined more than 250 people on Saturday for an event co-sponsored by Micah Australia and The Justice Conference and featuring global evangelist Christine Caine as keynote speaker. Caine’s husband Nick, CEO of A21 – a human trafficking abolition organisation, also joined Rev Tim Costello, executive director of Micah Australia, and Richenda Vermeulen, of nTegrity Agency, for a panel discussion after the main address.  

Matt Darvas, Micah’s campaign director, framed the conference around Matthew 22:36-40: the two commandments that Jesus joined together as the greatest –  to love God with all our hearts and minds and to love our neighbours as ourselves.

“Too often Christians separate the command but justice is about both,” he said. He experienced this first hand when he visited a refugee camp in Uganda and learned the stories of Congolese Christian leaders there.  

The Caines were invited to lead the justice conference because, said Costello, “Christine and Nick’s hearts are very much Micah’s heart as they exhibit it in the work of A21, which we support”.

“Having them here is in perfect alignment with the Gospel as it shapes our Christian ministry.”

The Caines launched A21 seven years ago with the aim of abolishing slavery “everywhere, forever”. A21 now has offices in 23 countries.

“How do we stay passionate when we encounter the horrors of human trafficking?” asked Christine Caine. “We come back to the internal work of maintaining our hearts and minds close to Jesus.”  

Human trafficking came to her attention in Athens’ airport where she saw the faces of dozens of missing children on posters. She and Nick felt compelled to respond and A21 was born.     

“Bumping up against organised crime meant we discovered why it’s termed organised,” Nick Caine said later. New entrants in the field, they built teams of people properly-trained, resourced, celebrated and treated with dignity and respect as they reach, rescue and rehabilitate victims. Every team member has a counsellor and every team member is in church. In a field where organisations come and go, “this care for the heart has given our teams longevity, with almost no departures,” Christine Caine said. 

She said to stay in justice work, which can take more than a generation, needs the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness, self-control to sustain compassion.  

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In the foyer at the event. PICTURE: Christopher Gilbert.

In the panel discussion, Vermeulen agreed that Christian faithfulness matters now more than ever.  

“We need to see it as a marathon to establish and maintain a business that does things justly. This is what faith in Jesus brings to our work.” 

Vermeulen advised justice entrepreneurs to set up for the long game, go after what feels natural, and especially be aware of consumption habits which takes away from the use of time and talents.

“Live simply and humbly,” she said. 

Christine Caine pointed to the misuse of social media as a means to compare and compete – to gain virtual “likes” and “follows” which might feel like something is accomplished for an organisation but on the ground no justice work gets done. 

“We can’t be moved by trending hashtags,” she said. ”Don’t get pulled into every debate, just stick closely to what Jesus called you to do.”

Costello, renowned for his justice work among politicians, noted: “Faith in Jesus is at the heart of sustaining our work. Fear, is the opposite of faith, not doubt. Fearful churches are known more for what they are against than what they are for. I say get over it!  Faithful Christians are neither left nor right, we go deeper.”  



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