We vehicle drivers know that headlights are to light up the dark. More importantly, Christians know that Jesus came to cast light into the dark. Further, many know that the true meaning of life is to cast light into darkness.
Likewise, drivers know that bumpers are designed to minimise impact, but bumper stickers maximise impact. We’ve all seen them ‘Remember the golden rule – who has the gold makes the rules’, ‘Religion gives Christianity a bad name’, ‘Bin Laden, the new Moses?’ ‘Blogging keeps e-bay away’ or ‘No Jesus, No peace. Know Jesus, Know Peace’ – slogans designed to stimulate thinking.
We know well the slogan ‘God hears the cries of the poor’ and the wider message for all peoples to live in dignity within God’s Kingdom – of justice, peace, love and truth. As Pope John Paul II wrote in 1999 ‘my encyclical… stressed the importance of respect for human rights. Peace flourishes when these rights are fully respected, but when they are violated what comes is war, which causes other still graver violations’ [World Peace Day message, 1 January 1999, n 1].
When the promotion of the dignity of the person is the guiding principle, and when the search for the common good is the overriding commitment, solid and lasting foundations for building peace are laid. But when human rights are ignored, and when the pursuit of individual interests unjustly prevails over the common good, the seeds of instability, rebellion and violence are inevitably sown.
Catholic social teaching proclaims that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a just society. But we see that today the value of human life is threatened by so many forces – terrorism, torture, war, cultural divisions, corruption, human abuse, domestic violence, vengeance, competition and selfishness.
Catholic teaching calls on us to:
• uphold human dignity,
• to work to avoid war and to resolve all conflicts by peaceful means.
• To believe that every person is precious, that people are more important than things and that the measure of every institution or culture is whether they diminish or enhance the life and dignity of people.
So how can we cast light into this dark scene? We can read the ‘signs of the times’, identify downtrodden peoples’ quest for freedom, participation and self determination.
We can see cultures shaking off centuries of domination and oppression. We can seek to understand their drastic remedies – their recourse. We can hear women and children crying out ‘end violation of us’.
We can read, search websites on Catholic human rights, we can ‘blog’, we can join in parish action or we can pray as a step to action. Within our communities we might set up a register to catalogue national and international violations.
Whatever, we will work to build unity, cooperation and justice within our national cultures. Jesus taught that the will of God is for action.
In Germany, the Nazis first came for the communists, and I did not speak up, because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak up, because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak up, because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I did not speak up, because I was not a Catholic. Then they came for me… and by that time, there was no one to speak up for anyone.
Martin Niemoeller, German Pastor
Des Lyons is a member of the Archdiocesan Justice and Peace Commission.