What is it?
Social Oppression is unfairly treating a person or group of people who are different from other people or groups of people. A few examples of social oppression include racism (treating people differently based on their ethnicity), sexism (treating people differently based on their gender), religious persecution (treating people differently because of their religion.) Another form of social oppression is the concept of a “caste system.” In the US you may hear terms like working class, lower class, middle class, upper class, blue collar. All of these terms try to categorize people based on how much money they have.
In India they have something called the caste system. Their whole society is based on whatever “caste” someone is born into. The caste tells people what profession they will be, their standard of living, what gods they will worship and what foods they can eat. You can’t change castes, you die in whatever caste you are born into. For those born to a good caste this means a good life. For those born in a low caste this means that life will be hard.
What does that mean?
When social oppression is happening, most of the time the people in the community don’t see it. It takes a big event or someone outside the community stepping in to say that something is not right. One of the things we see are groups of people being denied access to food or water because there is a shortage, and their lives are deemed less worthy. This is the core of social oppression, it is deeming a group less worthy than yourself. When people aren’t given food, water, education because of what family they are born into or what religion they are it is a very heartbreaking thing. Giving communities food and water, free for all people, is a powerful tool to break down systems of oppression. We’ve drilled wells and fed in many communities where the simple gift of food and water can break down huge walls of social oppression and can transform communities.
What does the Bible say about it?
The Bible encourages us to speak up for the downtrodden, the oppressed and those who can’t speak up for themselves (Prov 31:8)
“The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.” Psalm 9:9
“The Lord will rescue the poor when they cry to Him; He will help the oppressed who have no one to defend them.” Psalm 72:12
“The Lord gives justice to the oppressed and food to the hungry. The Lord frees the prisoner.” Psalm 146:7
“Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of the orphans. Fight for the rights of the widows.” Isaiah 1:17
How to pray?
Ask the Lord to give you eyes to see the those around you who are treated unfairly and ask the Lord what you can do about it.
Talk about what you see and share ideas on how to stop the oppression. This might mean inviting the lonely kid to have lunch at the table with you or offering to walk with the kid that always gets picked on. These are really small forms of oppression, but something powerful happens when we choose to see and love those around us, just like Jesus did.