Challenges and Initiatives

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The proclamation of the Word of God aims at Christian conversion, i.e. the complete and sincere adherence to Christ and his Gospel through faith. This conversion is manifested and realized through the Christian journey of the catechumenate, sacramental life and active belonging to a local Church. In this personal journey, marked by sacramental life and liturgical celebrations, the roles of the ordained ministers, liturgy and catechesis centred ministries are paramount. Evangelization offers the tools for conversion and aims at creating a new heaven and a new earth, where the Kingdom of God inhabits, that is a kind of social conversion from social sins and sinful structures whereby Godís presence and action in history is made socially visible. That is what Paul VI hints at in Evangelii Nuntiandi: ìBetween evangelization and human advancement-development and liberation there are profound links. They include links of anthropological order, because the man who is to be evangelized is not an abstract being but is subject to social and economic questions. They also include links in the theological order, since one cannot disassociate the plan of creation from the plan of redemption. The later touches the very concrete situations of injustice to be combated and of justice to be restored. Also includes links of evangelical order which is that of charity that cannot be proclaimed without promoting in justice and in peace the true, authentic advancement of manî (EN, 31)This passage implies what John Paul II repeatedly states in Centesimus Annus that the Social Doctrine is an important and specific part of the proclamation of the Gospel.This is why evangelization should be continually contextualized and inculturated, that is adapted to the different situations constantly being realized, about the rights and duties of every human being, about family life, about life in society, about international life, peace, justice and development ñ a message especially energetic today about liberation, making the Gospel resound in the complex world of production, labour, business, finance, politics, laws culture, social communication where man and women live. In this socially oriented evangelization the apostolate of the laity has to play a unique function. From this point of view we may assert that the ministry of Justice and Peace is a ministry which hinges first and foremost on the laity and religious brothers and sisters rather than on ordained ministers.

The principle of Common Good, according to the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (CSDC) is the number one pillar of the Christian Social Doctrine and Ethic. It reads: The principle of common good, to which every aspect of social life must be related, if it is to attain its fullest meaning, stems from the dignity, unity and equality of all people. The common good does not consist in the simple sum of the particular goods of each one of a social entity. Belonging to everyone and to each person it is and remains ëcommoní, because it is indivisible and because only together it is possible to attained it, increase it and safeguard it effectiveness, with regard also to the future (164). Such an education is obviously paramount in order to challenge first, and then to change, transform and convert the western individualistic culture which is gradually poisoning the world, undermining the communitarian values of the traditional cultures of other continents. We can pinpoint a few areas of action.

Environment and Alternative Energy Sources – It is a rather complex item which implies among other things concrete and planned action against exploitation of natural resources, unplanned felling and burning of trees, deforestation, pollutions of rivers, genetic manipulations of plants and animals, unlawful disposal of chemicals and atomic wastes. Crucial too is the speedy shifting to alternative energy not depending on fossils, such as petrol and charcoal; what is meant is solar and aeolian energy sources combined with a refusal of one person one car culture and living habits.

Struggle against all forms of slavery – Particularly women and children are the victims of always newly re-emerging forms of slavery linked to sexual exploitation favoured by easy movement of people from one continent to another, high juvenile unemployment, wild and massive urbanization, perverse tourism, separation of family members such as husband and wife due to massive migrations, street children, child abuse, child labour.

Unjust International trade laws – Situations of economic neo colonialism, injustices in the international trade relations and commercial exchange in particular between the Nord and the South, with the former enforcing strict protectionist regulations at home and the latter forced to be open to the invasion of the products from the North, preventing the rise of locally rooted economies and stifling the springing up of indigenous entrepreneurs for jobsí creation.

Gender issues – Promotion of equal opportunities, abolition of cultural practices such as Female Genital Mutilation which affects no less than 135 million women; forced marriage; access of girls to education; women in public administration and politics.

Migrations – Urbanization problem and the massive growth of cities are others areas of concern, especially where demographic pressure is great and where human problems are often aggravated by the feelings of anonymity by masses of people. Efforts should be concentrated in the big cities where new customs and styles of living arise together with new forms of culture and communication.

Marginalized groups and minorities – The ministry of JPIC would foster human rights for minorities, marginalized groups, groups in danger (Natives in Latin-America), religious minorities and displaced persons.

Good governance and the rule of law -Respect for democratic systems, such as regular and transparent elections. In several African countries, rejection by the losers of the election results is a common future. The opposite is true as well: those in power never lose the elections because they use the machinery and finance of the state for their electoral gains. Good governance entails, as well, clear independence and separation of the judiciary, legislative and executive bodies. Another dangerous very entrenched opinion is that the one at the helm and his/her entourage are above the law. Civic education would be a crucial initiative for the promotion of both: good governance and the role of law. There are dioceses that have set up schools of politics, which offer something not offered by the faculties of political science in public universities.

Transparency and Accountability – Accountability, especially in the field of finances, is often very fragile on account of lack of documentation of injustices, corruption, impunity, dishonest use of resources, land grabbing, corruption in the financial system and misuse of donor funding.

Conflict Management and Peace Education – Particularly in areas affected by hostility and insecurity, caused by ethnicity, religious differences and politically motivated clashes. The ministry of reconciliation should go beyond the walls of the confessional box, the more so since all cultures and human groups have a great wealth of rituals, symbols and celebration to boost reconciliation. It is a real pity that the Catholic Church has privatized the process of reconciliation, turning it into the highly private sacrament of penance. We do hope that the ministry of JP will help to renew the theology and praxis of the ministry of reconciliation in the Church.

Advocacy – Advocacy is a newly emerging ministry in the area of JP. We say Advocacy, which is remarkably different from Lobbying. Advocacy is at the service of inculcating ethical values in public life and laws, whereas Lobbying is at the service, often with devious means of corruption and threats, of the interests of private groups and multinationals. What we have mentioned above concerning the offices of Brussels (AEPJN) and of Washington (AFJN) are initiatives in the area of advocacy.

The Church Social Actor

Professor George Kinoti of Nairobi University wrote that the Church is a boat with two oars: the religious and the social. When one of them is idle, the boat starts spinning around at the risks of sinking. Yes, every Christian Church, from the universal one, to a diocese, to a parish, to a small Christian community ought to be sacrament of salvation for all: human persons and the cosmos at large. This integral salvation inevitably implies the social and the religious. In the mystery of the person of Jesus the two oars are embodied by the human and the divine.

Forty years ago, in 1971, the Synod of Bishops on Justice in the World wrote: Action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world fully appear to us as a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel, or, in other words, of the Churchís mission for the redemption of human race and its liberation from every oppressive situation. (JW, 6)

The African Synod in 1994 was also very explicit: If the proclamation of justice and peace is an integral part of the task of evangelization, it follows that the promotion of these values should also be a part of the pastoral program of each Christian community (Ecclesia in Africa, 107)

The message is clear: now is time for action.


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