Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) was a Christian who dedicated his life to seeking interfaith peace. Francis made several attempts to visit the troops fighting in the Holy Land, and in September 1219 he met with Sultan Malik al-Kamil in Damietta, Egypt. At the time, in thirteenth-century Europe, there was almost no actual knowledge of Islamic culture or religion, but rather only stereotypes of “the enemy.” The vast majority of voices in the Western Church—popes at their lead—had been swept up in the fervor of the anti-Islamist Crusades which began in 1095. (There were nine Crusades; Francis intervened in the fifth.) Francis’ humility and respect for the other, and thus for Islam, gained him what seems to have been an extended time, maybe as much as three weeks, with al-Kamil.
Based on the model of Francis’ two feet of love in action, the Franciscan Action Network developed the Justice Circles model. It is offered here for your convenience and can be adapted for any interfaith setting. (Also see the Civic Dinners model for Bridging the Racial Divide)
What are Justice Circles?
Justice Circles are local grassroots communities that unite to advocate for social and environmental justice. They are independent, ongoing, volunteer-led groups empowered to engage the issues in their communities that are important to them through advocacy and action. These groups explore more deeply the social justice path of the Two Feet of Love in Action, and engage important local issues, challenging policies that perpetuate injustice and advancing policies of peace, justice, and care for creation.
Who are Justice Circles for?
If you are searching for ways to address the root causes of injustice in our society with inspirational values, then joining a Justice Circle is for you. The Circle will be better because you are there.
Why get involved in a Justice Circle?
Joining a Justice Circle provides a welcoming space to come together in community with a diverse group of people who all feel called to integrate faith values into their lives in a way that moves them beyond themselves. This unique program invites people to build on their experiences of charitable works, challenging them to advocate and take actions to address the root causes of injustice in their community. There is an available handbook and materials to guide each Circle through the process.
How can we form a Justice Circle?
Forming a small group in order to start a Justice Circle is a task that calls for creativity, reaching out to friends and others who share a concern for faith-based social justice as well as getting out the word in your local community, such as at places of worship or in other networks. The ideal Justice Circle consists of a small core group, ranging from four to twelve people, but varies by each group’s unique circumstances. Resources are available.
What is the time commitment?
The Circles are ongoing and it is recommended to meet one to two times each month, for one to two hours. Our hope is that you form lasting relationships in the Circle that strengthen your justice call.
Four Phases of Justice Circles
I. Relationship Building – an invitation to Come to the Table and sit alongside one another.
- Franciscan Values Guiding FAN(PDF, 2 pages)
- Jemez Principles for Democratic Organizing(PDF, 1 page)
- Introduction to consensus decision making, A short guide to collaborative decision-making for activist groups, co-ops and communitiesby Seeds for Change, 2020 (PDF, 16 pages)
II. Living in Solidarity – the heart of this phase is the ability to listen to the marginalized, thereby discovering the Divine in every heart.
- Compassion and Kinship, TED Talk by Greg Boyle, SJ(Video, 20 minutes)
- The Telling Takes Us Home: A Reflection on the People’s Pastoral Letter video(Video, 11 minutes)
- “How Should We Think About the Poor?”, Article by Kenneth E. Untener (PDF, 4 pages)
- Blog article “When Fighting Poverty, Listen to the Impoverished” by James Abro, Nov. 7, 2019. (Online, 4 minute read)
III. Continuing Divine Union – envisioning next steps to address injustice, following the example of servant love.
- Two Feet of Love in ActionHandout (USCCB) (PDF, 1 page)
- Francis’ Letter to the Rulers of the Peopleand Leonardo Boff’s modern day version of this letter (PDF, 2 pages)
- Article: On Civility in Political Communication by Fr. Albert Merz, OFM(PDF, 3 pages)
- What is Advocacy(PDF, 3 pages)
- Advocacy Planning Cycle(PDF, 9 pages)
IV. Loving Through Action – We move as sisters and brothers into the public sphere to speak the truth to power, seek justice for the oppressed, and put right the relations that are broken among people and between people and creation.
- The Enduring Power of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Principles of Nonviolence, A Pastoral Reflection(PDF, 36 pages)
- “To Hell with Good Intentions”, article by Ivan Illich (PDF, 7 pages)