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Friday, 08 November 2013 14:14

Christians, Justice and Peace

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What’s it got to do with Christians?

There are many passages of scripture which deal with the oppression of the poor. For example: “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless” (Isaiah 10:1-2).

However, as Christians, we are called to go beyond avoiding oppressing the poor or acting unjustly. In today’s globalized world, Paulo Freire’s observation that “washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral” is particularly true. It is not enough simply to avoid oppressing the poor – instead we must take action to prevent it from happening.


Our faith leads us to this: “because the Eucharist is the memorial of Christ’s loving sacrifice for every human being, it commits us to a commitment to justice which is real and active” (Bishop Tartaglia, ‘A Spirituality for Justice and Peace Groups’). Scripture and the teachings of the church demand our action.
“Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17)
“More and more, the Catholic community should take part in working for justice in our world. Our prayers, our commitment, our work through this kind of justice is crucial to fulfilling the Lord’s purpose”
(Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor speaking at a Trade Justice Movement event, 2002)

In fact, our love of God should lead us to a love of humanity. We are taught to love our neighbour and given the story of the good Samaritan in answer to the question ‘Who is my neighbour?’. In ‘The Theology of Solidarity’, Rev Rob Esdaile states that our neighbour is “not only an autonomous human being with rights and fundamental equality but also the living image of God the Father, redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ and placed under the permanent action of the Holy Spirit”. In fact, in today’s ‘global village’, everyone is our neighbour; we are to treat everyone with love.

Love requires justice, not simply charity, which although necessary is “no substitute for justice withheld” (St. Augustine). Instead it requires acknowledgement of past failings, reconciliation, including listening to the voices of the oppressed, and solidarity with them.

Action is a result of faith, but should also encourage it, for example in stimulating prayer. Without movement, faith risks stagnation as words become disconnected from deeds, so “let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5:24). It can also play a part in witnessing faith to others – living out the gospel of love. Such witness is particularly useful as we are all prone to forget or become numb to these issues; in his abridged version of Pope Paul VI’s ‘Populorum Progresso’, Fr Bogan says that “consciences can fall asleep, simply by forgetting. The rich must be reminded constantly that the poor, starving at their gates, would gladly eat some crumbs”.

For much much more on the links between faith and justice please see the LiveSimply Catholic Social Teaching website.

Read 5193 times Last modified on Tuesday, 11 February 2014 12:36
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