By: St Michael's Catholic Church  12-08-2011
Keywords: Christian Charity, Lecture Series, Peace Group

St Michael’s, Rondebosch Justice & Peace group

The Rondebosch Justice and Peace group was formed relatively recently. Because the parish is already active in many social issues areas, we see ourselves mainly in a ‘consciousness-raising’ role, basing this very firmly in Catholic Social Teaching.

In 2009 we ran a very successful Lenten Lecture series at the church. Our plans for the rest of the year were overtaken by other, similar, activities already planned by other parish groups. This year (2010) our activities will focus in four areas:

Feb-March: Human Trafficking
April-May: Environment
June: Parish Roundtable (panel + discussion) 
July-Aug: Housing etc.
Sept-Oct: World Social Forum (to be confirmed)
Nov: Parish Roundtable (panel + discussion) 
Dec:  break!

Too often Christian charity is understood in an entirely superficial way, as though it were no more than gentleness, kindness, and affability. It certainly includes all these things, but it goes far beyond them. When charity is regarded as merely "being nice to" other people, this is generally because our outlook is narrow and takes in only our immediate neighbors, who share the same advantages and comforts as we. This conception tacitly excludes those who most need our love--those who are unfortunate, who suffer, who are poor, destitute, or who have nothing in this world and who therefore have a claim upon everyone else who has more than he himself strictly needs.

There is no charity without justice. Too often we think of charity as a kind of moral luxury, as something which we choose to practice, and which gives us merit in God's sight, and at the same time satisfying a certain interior need to "do good." Such charity is immature and even in some cases completely unreal. True charity is love, and love implies deep concern for the needs of another. It is not a matter of moral self-indulgence, but of strict obligation. I am obliged by the law of Christ and of the Spirit to be concerned with my brother's need, above all with his greatest need, the need for love. How many terrible problems in relations between classes, nations, and races in the modern world arise from the sad deficiency of love! Worst of all, this deficiency has manifested itself very clearly among those who claim to be Christians! Indeed Christianity has repeatedly been called upon to justify injustice and hate!

. . . Christian charity is meaningless without concrete and exterior acts of love. The Christian is not worthy of his name unless he gives from his possessions, his time, or at least his concern in order to help those less fortunate than himself. The sacrifice must be real, not just a gesture of lordly paternalism which inflates his own ego while patronizing "the poor." The sharing of material goods must also be a sharing of the heart, a recognition of common misery and poverty and of brotherhood in Christ. Such charity is impossible without an interior poverty of spirit which identifies us with the unfortunate, the underprivileged, the dispossessed. In some cases this can and should go to the extent of leaving all that we have in order to share the lot of the unfortunate.

Moreover, a shortsighted and perverse notion of charity leads Christians simply to perform token acts of mercy, merely symbolic acts expressing good will. This kind of charity has no real effect in helping the poor: all it does is tacitly to condone social injustice and to help to keep conditions as they are--to help to keep people poor. In our day, the problem of poverty and suffering has become everybody's concern. It is no longer possible to close our eyes to the misery that exists everywhere in the world, even in the richest nations. A Christian has to face the fact that this unutterable disgrace is by no means "the will of God," but the effect of incompetence, injustice, and the economic and social confusion of our rapidly developing world. It is not enough for us to ignore such things on the ground that we are helpless, and can do nothing constructive about the situation. It is a duty of charity and of justice for every Christian to take an active concern in trying to improve man's condition in the world. At the very least, this obligation consists in becoming aware of the situation and of forming one's own conscience in regard to the problems it offers. One is not expected to solve all the problems of the world; but one should know when one can do something to help alleviate suffering and poverty, and realize when one is implicitly cooperating in evils which prolong or intensify suffering and poverty. In other words, Christian charity is no longer real unless it is accompanied by a concern with social justice.

Thomas Merton: Life and Holiness (1964).

 Human trafficking links:

1.   South African Catholic Bishops Conference
-          Counter-trafficking in persons desk: Sister Melanie
-          Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

2.    International Organization for Migration 
-          animated video for young internet users on the dangers of human trafficking
-          what does human trafficking mean?
-          international iom-     

At this site can access:
-          Information on Human trafficking legislation
-          Document –Human trafficking SA border
-          Submission by CPLO on ‘The Prevention of combating of trafficking Bill’
-          Document –The Church’s response to Human trafficking (Church office dedicated to Human trafficking at the UN, and the Vatican-MAYBE GOOD TO CHECK VATICAN WEBSITE AND UN?

Keywords: Christian Charity, Lecture Series, Peace Group

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