This is my personal testimony as a pastoral agent working for Peace and Social Justice. As I write I am remembering many people who have been with me on this journey and have given me the privilege of sharing their stories, dreams, struggles and desires. I thank those who, in particular, have experienced the painfulness of living with a broken heart because of the lack of justice and have had the courage to share their lives and stories. But not only that, also their commitment in the struggle for the truth and for a more just society. I believe that it is in their tears and their faithful commitment to the search for justice that we find the hope that “another world is possible”. Also they help us to commit ourselves to the struggle for justice and the restoration of the relationship between God, the people of the Kingdom and the Earth. Thinking of all these people and their precious gifts that I have received in my Lifetime, I remember a poem by Pedro Casaldaliga: “At the end of the road I will be asked: Have you lived? Have you loved? And I, not saying anything, will open my heart full of names.”
Perhaps it is also a good definition for those Religious who work defending human dignity and the dignity of all living beings. We are not called to serve the creators of history but to the service of those who suffer it. To do this we must know the reality of the victims, we need to listen to human history and the history of every being that is threatened or in danger of extinction.
I invite you to take a moment to get in contact with the human histories or the histories of other living beings whose dignity has been violated which has impressed you and maybe encouraged you to struggle for Justice, or at least admire the witness of those who stand with the victims of injustice.
It would have been impossible for me to work in defense of life and dignity without the support of the Word of God. There are many texts that inspire me, texts that I contemplate over and over again. For example Miqueas 6: 8.
“You have already been told what is right and what Yahweh wants of you. Only this, to do what is right, to love loyalty and to walk humbly with your God”
Jesus goes further than this text with the Beatitudes
Mathew: 5: 1-12.
Seeing the crowds, he went onto the mountain. And when he was seated his disciples came to him.
Then he began to speak. This is what he taught them:
How blessed are the poor: the kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
Blessed are the gentle: they shall have the earth as inheritance.
Blessed are those who mourn: they shall be comforted.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice: they shall have their fill.
Blessed are the merciful: they shall have mercy shown them.
Blessed are the pure in heart: they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: they shall be recognized as children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted in the cause of uprightness: the kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
Blessed are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you falsely on my account.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven; this is how they persecuted the prophets before you.
The text that most inspires me at this time is the letter to the:
But now that faith has come you are no longer under a slave looking after you; for all of you are the children of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus, since every one of you that has been baptized has been clothed in Christ. There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither slave nor freeman, there can be neither male nor female -- for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And simply by being Christ's, you are that progeny of Abraham, the heirs named in the promise.
I believe that we the religious of our time are called to be prophets, with those who are fragile, to share the struggles and work to defend life, dignity, inclusion, and respect, especially for those who are different, for true liberty and democracy. It is a big challenge and involves much more than a call to us as individuals, it is a call to the whole community, to the whole Congregation, to every disciple of Jesus today, the same Jesus who declared: “I have come so that you may have life and life in abundance”. I believe now more than ever that the promise of life and life in abundance is not only for us but for every living being.
My experience tells me that all the above must first be lived by us and among us. Are we capable of looking at these texts and others, as individuals, communities and also as a Congregation? Can we share the fruit of our reflection, our pain, our hopes and dreams while we share, for example, what strikes us in the Letter of Saint Paul to the Church of Galatia, from our personal experiences, community experiences, in the lives of the poor and also in the life of our mother earth?
To work for the Rights and Dignity of another living being means that in the first place one must have a personal conversion, taking a profound look at one’s own life, my way of living, my attitudes, my own racism, discrimination, sexism, oppression and everything that does not help that life be produced and in abundance. To be a very fruitful experience it must be a community experience so that as a community we can together assume the commitment with Justice as such.
As I write I think of the Charisma of the Congregation, that of Reconciliation which offers the Church a treasure for all those who wish to work for Peace, Justice, Reconciliation, the Dignity and the Protection of Life wherever it is threatened.
I believe the cry of the poor and of the earth are intimately connected. If we want to be more sensitive to the deep pain suffered by our brothers and sisters and the pain of our planet, mother earth, we are called to study and reflect in depth about these two realities.
“If it had not been for my companions, for the poor people with whom I had already committed myself, I surely would have given up. One does not dare to continue when alone and isolated, but is able to do so if one is so deeply inserted in the reality of others that there is no going back.” Ernesto Sábato
It prompts us to look at our own pain, our need for healing, for reconciliation. All of this is very important because we are called to accompany very vulnerable people, in very vulnerable situations. For that reason I believe it is very important that there be a process of healing along with those who suffer most, but first it is important to confront and embrace with courage our own histories as individuals, as communities, as a Congregation, with honesty, transparence and compassion.