The journey from a horrified teenager to a passionate peacemaker.
I remember where I was when I truly began to care about injustice in the world, especially when it came to race relations and the brokenness of the world. I was 16, and was in my history class at Wellington East Girls College in New Zealand. We came into our classroom after lunch and began to watch a movie called Mississippi Burning. I remember being horrified and heartbroken over what I was seeing. I remember crying and trying to wipe my eyes and my nose in such a way that would not draw attention to myself. I remember being shocked that people were killed because of the colour of their skin. I remember talking to my parents about the movie for the next week. I could not get it out of my mind.
That movie was instrumental in changing my view of the world. It moved me from a place where I felt the world was peaceful and relatively kind, to a place where I saw incredible brokenness and injustice.
That movie didn’t cause me to become an activist, it didn’t lead me to signing petitions, marching down the street in protest or even an understanding that I could do anything about what I saw. It just sat with me for a long time.
During this time I went to church every Sunday. My parents were officers (ministers) in The Salvation Army and we read the Scriptures and prayed together daily, but I didn’t really have a faith of my own. I was seeking to find God for myself and trying to not have my parents’ faith but one of my own.
At that young age I was learning to feel compassion, disgust and anger at injustice but not yet feeling like it was my job to change the world. That would all come later when my personal story began to be connected to my faith in God and I discovered his heart for a just world.
It was in those days that I began to get a clear understanding of what injustice looked like. It made me angry and sad. I was also, though, beginning to see that there was hope for the world as my understanding of God began to grow.
That day in Year 12 opened my eyes to injustice, and it would become the first of many stories that I would cry about and mourn deeply for. As my faith and my relationship with God grew, so did my passion for a just world and an understanding of the role I was to play in this world. My name, Sandra, means a defender of humankind and that is definitely who I have become. I believe that becoming a peacemaker and someone who longs to bring about justice is a transformative process. Looking back now I can see where that process began.
As my faith in God grows, I understand his heart more and more. I understand those things that we, his children, do against each other that grieve his heart. I grow bolder with my voice, and my actions against injustice become stronger.
To think it all started with a movie in a Year 12 history class and a young teenage girl with a broken heart and a desire to find God for herself.
Where will it start, or where did it start, for you?
Sandra Pawar is a Salvation Army minister offering multicultural connections and community within Western Sydney.