Matt Hunter: Seeing Injustice/Seeking the Divine
Changing the world to see racism for what it really is, is a dream and a lifelong effort for Matt Hunter. Racism, tribalism, and classism are social issues that matter most deeply to him. He believes that changing our world from a “them vs. us” mentality to an “our” mentality is a consistent challenge. We all were created in the divine image of God. What you do to others, you do to God.
This belief grew from Matt’s experiences during seminary when he went to South Africa to learn from the Woodstock Methodist Church. During this time, the Burundi and Congolese were fleeing the wars and inhumanities in their respective countries, becoming refugees in South Africa. The Zulus and other tribes native to that country believed these refugees were taking the jobs that belonged to the South African nationals. Matt saw blatant racism, based not on skin color, but on culture, linguistic accent, and tribal traditions. Matt used the power of his white privilege and his male, American voice to assist the refugees in securing housing and jobs. It became even clearer to him that we are all a part of the human race.
Matt says he is still in the process of discovery when it comes to responding to racism. He has traveled extensively throughout Africa, Central America, and the U.S.A. to study and learn from other cultures, to observe how others live. This knowledge and the vision Matt has developed have led him to what he refers to as his justice ministry, one grounded in a theology of solidarity. It includes organizing food and shelter for the homeless, and working toward peace and nonviolent reconciliation. Currently Matt is working for basic justice issues as he serves as president of the United Way of Greater Duluth.
The connection between his faith and his work is clear for Matt. He states that he is a big fan of Jesus. The Prince of Peace, the author of the Beatitudes, tells and shows us how to live lovingly, peacefully, and respectfully together. Matt does what he can to further the kingdom of God, to honor all people with respect, and to alleviate poverty.
Three individuals have had a profound impact on Matt. Peter Storey, a Methodist Bishop in South Africa and the former General Secretary of South African churches, appointed Bishop Desmund Tutu as head of the Truth and Reconciliation process. These two men taught Matt to see—really see—the inhumane inequities resulting from all forms of racism. The third man—Oscar Romero—was a bishop in El Salvador who was killed for speaking out about the plight of the El Salvadoran peasants. Matt found inspiration and courage from Romero’s life, and the lives of other martyrs who inspire Matt’s justice ministry.
When asked if he had a favorite quote or verse, Matt recited a bumper sticker—“War is not the Answer”—that says it all. Positive, respectful relationship is the answer. Seeing the Divine—the God—in everyone—that is the answer.
Interviewed by Naomi Christensen
Thank you to Pamela Mittlefehldt for editing Voices for Justice each month!