By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ, & Director, CREDI. Visit rcsocialjusticett.org for our columns, media releases and more.
“None of us can think we are exempt from concerns for the poor and for social justice…Jesus tells us what the ‘protocol’ is, on which we will be judged. It is the one we read in chapter 25 of Matthew’s Gospel” (Pope Francis).
On Tuesday, February 20, the world will observe World Day of Social Justice (WDSJ). It aims to “support efforts of the international community in poverty eradication, the promotion of full employment and decent work, gender equity and access to social well-being and justice for all”.
Social justice is an essential element of our faith. If we are to have a personal relationship with God; if we are to build the civilisation of love, then it is essential that we keep to the forefront of our minds the social doctrine of our Church.
I urge all parishes, schools, Archdiocesan Departments/organisations/businesses to observe WDSJ in a significant way e.g. volunteer/support the work of some of our Catholic organisations like Living Water Community, Eternal Light Community, the Society of St Vincent de Paul, Credo Foundation for Justice; engage in community/beach clean-up etc.
And, during this holy Lenten season of prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and action, let us ask forgiveness for the times when we walked on the other side and ignored the needs of our neighbours; let us ask the God of justice and compassion to convert our hearts and minds so that we will live as authentic disciples in His vineyard; let us resolve to build our nation by addressing some of the social ills that beset us. Don’t be afraid to speak out for justice.
If you look around you cannot fail to observe the various social ills that continue to plague our society/world. Violence stalks our land. Pope Francis reminds us that: “The New Evangelization calls on every baptized person to be a peacemaker.” Join the ‘Non-violence begins with me’ movement in T&T. Reach out to families in need: the elderly, the lonely, the sick, the shut-ins. There are so many ways in which we can promote justice.
Our Church gives us the following key social justice principles which we should use as principles for reflection; criteria for judgement; and guidelines for action:
Sanctity of Life & The Dignity of the Human Person
The Common Good
Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
Family & Community
Participation in the economic, political, social and cultural life of society
Rights and Responsibilities
Environmental Stewardship – Care for God’s Creation
The role of Government & Subsidiarity
Global Solidarity & Development
The dignity of work and the Rights of Workers
Promotion of Peace and Disarmament
Universal Destination of Goods
Google The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church to learn more about each of these principles. I am available to speak to staff/students/parents in schools; to communities in parishes etc. about these principles and to give examples of action that you can take to incorporate them in your daily lives.
Who could forget the poignancy of Pope Francis’ words on July 25, 2013 in the soccer field of a Rio de Janeiro shanty town, during the 28th World Youth Day? Inter alia, he said: “I would like to make an appeal to those in possession of greater resources, to public authorities and to all people of good will who are working for social justice: never tire of working for a more just world, marked by greater solidarity!
“No-one can remain insensitive to the inequalities that persist in the world! Everybody, according to his or her particular opportunities and responsibilities, should be able to make a personal contribution to putting an end to so many social injustices. The culture of selfishness and individualism that often prevails in our society is …not what builds up and leads to a more habitable world: rather, it is the culture of solidarity that does so; the culture of solidarity means seeing others not as rivals or statistics, but brothers and sisters. And we are all brothers and sisters!” (Pope Francis).
Lent is a time to demonstrate that the corporal and spiritual works of mercy are integral parts of our very being. As Pope Francis has said, they “reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty”.
We are living in a time when powerful forces are seeking to push religion off the public stage. Let us stand up as proud Catholics—confident in our ability to build a world in which justice, peace, truth, love and freedom prevail.