With liberty and justice for all

Should a community be concerned about the issues of liberty and justice? I don't live in Harrisburg, so why should I care about their crime problems? My company provides me health insurance, so why should I care about the health-care debate? Phinizy Swamp is for snakes and alligators, so why should I care about that boggy environmental issue?

The issues of liberty and justice must not be seen as just generic community concerns that have no face or name, or belong to someone else. The word "community" implies we are all neighbors. When one of our fellow citizens suffers, we all suffer. When one of our fellow citizens is joyful, we all celebrate together. Now that might sound a bit utopian and unrealistic, but this is how it works: with liberty and justice for all."

WE ALL WERE PROUD of our city as we celebrated the success of the ESi Ironman 70.3 Augusta. This was community at its best, and we felt good to be called Augustans. There are neighborhoods all over our city that reach out to those in need and champion the less fortunate. There are civic, business, religious, educational and other community leaders who strive to embrace and enhance all facets of our shared society.

"With liberty and justice for all" is a proud conclusion to our national Pledge of Allegiance. May it also be our personal commitment to stand with the fallen, to help mend the broken, to speak for the silent, to weep with survivors and to cheer for the victors. "For all" means everyone. Not just the privileged, the educated, the wealthy, the connected -- "for all," means that every one of us is determined that our community, our Augusta, is a place where liberty and justice is equally shared by every citizen.

For liberty and justice to become hallmarks of our community, we first must become an informed community -- informed about the justice issues that face our common lives. To help us learn about some of these issues, First Baptist Church of Augusta is playing host to a community forum designed not only to educate and edify but also to encourage those who attend to find ways to get involved in responding to a variety of social justice issues.

THIS COMMUNITY forum will provide the opportunity to hear about social justice issues from outstanding panel participants, such as WRDW-TV anchorwoman Meredith Anderson; First Baptist Church of Augusta pastor Dr. Greg DeLoach; Golden Harvest Food Bank Executive Director Mike Firmin; Doctors Hospital CEO Shayne George; Richmond County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Sidney Hatfield; Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church senior pastor Dr. Leslie Holmes; naturalist Dr. Patrick McMillan; WJBF-TV anchorman Brad Means; Augusta Chronicle Editorial Page Editor Mike Ryan; and WRDW-TV anchorman Richard Rogers. These panel members will address the following issues: environment; health care; law and order; media; poverty; and hunger.

"With liberty and justice for all" should not just be a phrase we recite by memory. Do you believe our community should be a place where every citizen is informed and encouraged to get involved in social issues? Should the issue of health care be the concern for all of us? Do we have a moral and ethical mandate to be disturbed about justice?

The next time we say the Pledge of Allegiance, remember that the phrase "with liberty and justice for all" is only true as every citizen is given the liberty to enjoy the benefits of a just society. May it be so for Augusta.

(The writer is associate pastor of First Baptist Church in Augusta.)

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Community Forum on Liberty and Justice

WHEN: Thursday, Oct. 15th, 7 p.m.

WHERE: First Baptist Church of Augusta, 3500 Walton Way (in the church sanctuary)

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Call (706) 733-2236 or go to www.fbcaugusta.org.

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