Justice and Peace -The rise of awareness

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In this issue of Southworld, we publish a dossier on Justice and Peace within the Catholic Tradition. These articles were written by Francesco Pierli, founder of the Institute of Social Ministry of Nairobi, Alberto Parise and Gilbert Pattersen, who also work at that Institute.

      The Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace was founded after Vatican II by Paul VI, in 1967, to implement an explicit mandate of the Council worded in Gaudium et Spes. The objectives were: to give visibility, impact, continuity to the commitment of Church in justice, peace and integrity of creation, and to assure a systematic and contextualized spreading of the Social Teaching of the Church. The Pontifical Commission in 1988 was upgraded by John Paul II into: Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
    The Jesuits were the first to start paying structural attention to the issues of Justice and Peace well before Vatican II. They opened an office for Social Apostolate in 1949, in the aftermath of WWII. Social issues, such as relationship between capital and work, employers and workers, were very hot issues, under the strong influence of Marxist inspired ideologies the world over. In those days masses of workers were drifting towards the communist party. The Church was labelled as: servant of capitalism. The then Superior General, Fr. Jean-Baptiste Janssens, decided to invest energy, personnel, financial resources in the development of structural attention to issues of justice and peace, with the opening of ëCentra actionis socialisí, centres of social analysis and action, where science and faith would be combined together. The perception of social problems would be analytical and scientific. Each Centre had a journal on social issues. That policy still continues nowadays. In Africa, the Jesuits opened Hakimani (a Centre for Justice and Peace, Jesuit Refugees Service to follow internal and international migrations) and the African Jesuit Aids Network, in Nairobi (Kenya), and the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection in Lusaka (Zambia). It is worth noting that since 1949 formation for justice and peace apostolate was inserted as a new chapter in the Formation Curriculum of all Jesuits. Religious and Missionary Institutes, as well as many dioceses, started setting up offices for human development and justice and peace in the 1970s and 80s. They started envisaging Social Apostolate and Ministry as constitutive of their foundational charism.
      In 1981 Archbishop Raphael S. Ndingi Mwanaía Nzeki of Nakuru (Kenya), at a meeting with missionaries, shared his experience on the difficulties of running his diocesan commission of Justice and Peace. In those days Mgr. Ndingi was the front runner in the fight for human rights under the regime of Daniel Arap Moi. The President did not have any objections to offices of Caritas and Human Development; on the contrary he was highly supportive. Yet, justice and peace issues were perceived as threatening to his own style of autocratic governance, notorious for human rights violation, assassination of political rivals, disappearance of people, torture and policy of covering up the misdeeds. That office was a clear menace to the policy of the state backed culture of impunity.
    The same occurred in Mozambique under Samora Machel and the regime of Frelimo at war with Renamo. He was highly appreciative of the presence and help provided by Caritas of the Catholic Church in all corners of Mozambique. But when Archbishop Manuel Vieira Pinto of Nampula started operating an office of justice and peace, the regime reacted violently. The regime was afraid of people keeping detailed and documented files about the violence, killings, murders and other crimes committed by both Frelimo and Renamo, as sooner or later things would be taken to books and truth unveiled.
    In South Africa, during the apartheid regime, the offices of justice and peace were assaulted, harassed almost on a regular bases by the police; all the documents either confiscated or burned to ashes. Many, like the Comboni Missionary Fr. Anton Maier, risked their life more than once. The apostolate of Justice and Peace has a methodology which calls for clear research and documentation, without which nothing can be set into motion. Crimes, assassinations, devastation of natural resources, exploitation of the environment are perpetrated under hidden coverage and various disguises. To cast light onto them is a difficult and risky enterprise. Social sins and sinful structures call for adequate means of detections and redressing. Justice and Peace commissions were set up within the objectives of casting the light of truth into evil structures and procedures generally hidden; no social conversion and transformation would be possible without such a scientific research and penetration beyond the official versions of events. The majority of the people are very vulnerable to misinformation, threats and bribes to keep their mouth shut. A culture of impunity for the crimes committed in high places is a worldwide feature. The violent hostility of regimes and governments against Church ministers of justice and peace was manifested by the assassinations of many pastoral agents involved in it, particularly in Latin America. Archbishop Oscar Romero is the torch-bearer.
      According to Lumen Gentium, the Church is both a sign and an instrument of a very closely knit union with God, and of the unity of the whole human race. The Church is seen as a mystical reality of communion within the world, and thus there is an aspect of communion of the Church herself with God, but also a correlated aspect of communion of the Church with the whole of humanity. This relationship is further explored in Gaudium et Spes shows that there is relationship of mutuality between the two. The Church both communicates and listens from the world about Godís presence in history. It is about the coming of the Kingdom of God, which is meant for all humankind and aims at transforming relationships and socio-cultural structures, promoting human dignity and social justice, a solidarity humanism. So all people are called to work for the liberating and humanising values of the Kingdom of God, whether they belong to the Church or not.
      For Christians, their mandate to such a mission in life is rooted in their baptism and confirmation. They practically fulfil their Christian calling through their witness of life, and also through their service to the community and the society at large. Such services are classified as ministry when ñ flowing from personal and the Spiritís charism ñ they are done as a public activity, on behalf of a Christian community for Godís kingdom as an overt motivation. As a result, all services that fall within this kind of boundary are equally ministry, regardless of whether they are given full time or part time, or whether they are rendered by ordained, consecrated or lay persons. Another consequence of this definition of ministry is that there can be no self-appointed ministers; rather the mandate always comes from the Christian community. Therefore, the basic difference between social services and social ministry is that while the first are manifestly a response to human needs, the latter add to this a theological meaning and a strong, dynamic relationship with Christ that remarkably influences the service given and the change that takes place within the community and individual believers.


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