February 20 is celebrated around the globe as World Day of Social Justice. We continue to passionately work for the fair and just treatment of everyone in our community. Following last week’s release of the National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention we learnt even more about the abhorrent impact that detention has on children.
On this World Day of Social Justice, here are three things you can do to show your support for people seeking asylum;
A reflection from Andy Hamilton SJ:
Social justice has a hard edge. It often evokes images of grim faced people claiming their rights, protesting, and condemning our laziness and hypocrisy. In contrast, charity is soft edged. Its images are often of warm people seeking out the company of those less well of and caring for their needs.
The much loved Brazilian Bishop Helder Camara was familiar with this difference. He said, ‘When I help people who are poor they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor they call me a Communist’. And when he encouraged poor people themselves to ask why they were poor, they tried to deal with him.
But social justice is not based in agitation. It simply reflects the reality of our life as human beings. It insists that all human beings are precious. They have human dignity that demands to be respected because they are human, not because they contribute to society, are successful or are the right race or religion. So if we see someone who is badly treated, it is right to feel compassion and outrage.
Social justice also reflects the reality that we all depend on others to be born, fed and educated. We depend on them for the technology we use and the peace we enjoy. No one is a self-made individual. So we are responsible to one another just as others are responsible to us. To be selfish is not just a fault. It denies what we are.
This means that when we come together as a society we must construct it in such a way that the good of all people in society should be served. Each individual should not be left to look after herself. In practice this means that we should have a special care for people who are disadvantaged and vulnerable. In modern societies the State is responsible for organising the economy so that the most vulnerable are cared for and all benefit from national prosperity.
This is what social justice is about. But it is possible only if we notice the most vulnerable people in our society and turn to them in love. As Pope Francis said of homeless children, it begins with weeping for those who suffer due to no fault of their own. But when we weep for people we then ask why they suffer, and try to change our society to take away the causes of their suffering. Charity feeds justice.
At Jesuit Social Services our work with vulnerable young people begins in love and in care, but we soon ask why they are vulnerable, and if there is a better way. We begin with love and love leads to advocacy.