THE SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION OF SOCIAL (JUSTICE) WORK:
A CHARTER OF SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITIES CORRESPONDING TO VITAL HUMAN NEEDS
Edward Kruk, Ph.D.
First Presented at First North American Conference on Spirituality (May 2006)
This paper explores core elements of a spiritual foundation for transformational social work. The concept of social justice, defined here as “seeing that no harm comes to another,” which lies at the heart of both eastern and western religious and spiritual traditions, will be examined in relation to needs essential to human growth and integrity. A theoretical framework for social (justice) work (practice and pedagogy) based on a responsibility-to-needs conception of justice—as opposed to a rights-based approach—will be articulated. A draft Charter of Social Obligations, corresponding to vital human physical, psychological/emotional, social and spiritual needs, will be discussed and applied to two case examples. Social justice as harm reduction serves the goal of spiritual transformation in cases of spiritual trauma. Here the spiritual is regarded not as an autonomous realm, but as something expressed in the relations between people. As Canda (1999) demonstrates, spirituality involves understanding the interconnectedness of all people, inspiring a sense of mutual responsibility. This presentation will provide a framework to operationalize this central principle.