WE Can Be the Change We Want to See
One of the key principles of Catholic Social Teaching is justice and peace. But how can we bring this about? To answer this question we may take inspiration from the Mahatma Gandhi who said: “Be the change you want to see.”
After a recent heated debate with a friend regarding the contributions made by people towards the struggle for liberation in our country, I reflected on different ways in which the struggle for justice can be — and must be — fought by every one of us on a daily basis.
Bearing in mind that not all of us are the same in terms of charism, time, circumstances, economics, and even attitude, it follows that there are different ways in which to stand up for a more just society. There are different ways and means in which we can practically demonstrate our desire and our intent to promote social justice.
Doing Something about it
It is one thing to complain about the corruption, non-delivery of service, crime and violence, increase in food prices, and so on, and it is quite another thing to do something about it, especially to save the most vulnerable people from suffering the consequences of these things.
Social justice is an underlying principle for a peaceful and prosperous coexistence. How can we live peacefully with each other if many of us do not have food to eat, clothes to wear, decent shelter to rest our bodies, a decent job which brings us dignity, and so on? It is very difficult to live peacefully with each other in a country with such a huge gap between the rich and the poor.
While we all can agree with this, many of us are at a loss when it comes to acting on or upholding the principles of social justice in our everyday lives, especially when we have no or very little personal knowledge and experience about the poor.
So here I offer a few ways of how we can put our words into actions and advance social justice every day, which will lead us to the future that we all pray for and hope for.
Become active in spreading information that can help the poor. If you know of opportunities which normally are not accessible to people living on the fringes of society, then communicate this information via your friends and family and your social media networks so that it reaches those most in need of it.
Listen to those in need
We are always tempted to think that we have the answers to the problems faced by others. No one knows the solution to a problem better than those who are facing it. People already know the solution to their problem, they just need support in gaining access to the means to solve it.
Attend a march!
I know this is not everyone’s cup of tea, but there is strength in numbers. If you feel strongly about an issue, then show it in action. This way you demonstrate that you’re part of the solution and not part of the problem.
Time, talent, treasure
There are a multitude of groups that fight for equality and the basic human rights for all. Find the group whose message resonates most with you and find out how you can support their events and campaigns.
There are many small ways in which you can make a huge difference. In the Church you can approach organisations like Justice & Peace, St Vincent de Paul, the Kolping Society, and others which serve the poor. There are also many organisations and groups outside the church.
Call any of the above organisations and ask them what you can do.
Reach out to the ‘other’
Visit communities that are different from yours to gain a greater appreciation of diverse cultures. If this is not practical for you to do on your own, then ask one of the above organisations if you can accompany them in their work.
When you befriend someone of a different race, ethnicity, religion or age, you can explore your prejudices and gain a better understanding of the issues affecting them and then have a more appropriate idea about how you can assist.
Charity begins at home
And so does social justice! There is no point going out and urging others in the community to change their words and actions if you haven’t first looked at your own stomping ground.
Get your children, friends or family members involved, and keep them informed and educated about social justice issues and human rights.
Respectfully point out to people the prejudices they utter around dinner tables and braai parties.
By doing some of these fairly simple things on a regular basis, we will be well on our way to bringing about the change that we want to see in our society.
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