Archive | Social Justice RSS feed for this section

Ramadan

5 Jul Ellie Roscher

This year when Ramadan started, my heart and mind wafted over to Nairobi, Kenya. I spent the past two Ramadans in the slum of Kibera, outside of Nairobi, at a girls’ secondary school there called Kibera Girls Soccer Academy. I was not expecting to be able to do so much inter-faith dialogue, but Ramadan opened that space up easily. I witnessed, asked questions and walked with Muslim students, teachers and administrators through their holy month. Here is a journal entry from my Ramadan time in Kibera:

In Kibera, though many religions are represented, Christianity and Islam are the most prominent. The girls all struggle with their tribal religions and how those beliefs fit. They have lived through great violence in the name of tribal loyalty. They carry varying degrees of skepticism toward belief in witchcraft. They do not want to give up their ancient tribal identity entirely, but they feel a pull toward Western ways of thinking and learning. It is easy to tell the two groups, Christian and Muslim, apart. The Muslim girls wrap their hair in pretty head wraps and wear long skirts, for the sake of modesty. On Fridays, the Muslim girls go to mosque. On Sundays, the Christian girls go to church. The two groups of girls respect, admire, and intermingle with each other effortlessly.

At the crescent moon, Ramadan—or the month of fasting—began. They did not eat until sundown for a month. The girls who fast genuinely liked it. Fasting in the slum is not that hard; the girls are used to being hungry. “I look forward to it,” Asha said. “It gives me more time to sit and think.” Freidah added, “When I get hungry, I pray, and God gives me strength. It is easier to see blessings during this month.”

Their parents have eased them into the fasting when they think they are old and healthy enough to handle it. They must wait a little longer into the day to eat every year, until they are fasting until sunset. It makes them feel like adults in their worshipping community and brings an element of mindfulness to their days. Asha said, “Fasting is good for the mind, body, and spirit. It is important in our community because there is so much poverty here. After fasting, when someone tells me she is hungry, I really know how that feels. If the whole world fasted, there would be no more hunger because fasting builds compassion. When I fast, I realize why people who are hungry beg for food.” It helps them see food as a blessing.

On Fridays of Ramadan, Abdul invites friends over to his house to break the Ramadan fast with his family at sunset. His wife, Zachia, cooks from noon to seven to prepare a feast. Girls from the soccer team come by to help her. The men sit on the floor and wash their hands, snacking on samosas and sipping homemade passion-fruit juice. Abdul’s friends arrive one by one, removing their shoes and joining him on the floor. Bowls of rice, beans, chicken, noodles and salad are passed and passed until everyone is full to bursting. Black tea is poured and mango shared to comfort bulging stomachs. Late into the evening, Abdul’s friends walk through the dark Kibera dirt roads toward home.

Fasting is about mindfulness. “O you who believe. Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become deeply mindful.” (Qur’an 2:183). It was a blessing for me to be able to witness this holy month of mindfulness in another culture and see the faith in action in young women. They truly believed and articulated how this heightened mindfulness brought blessings to their lives. For them, Ramadan is a time of sharpened prayer, and vibrant community strength.

Justice Through Sport

17 Jun
via flickr user Corpus Christi Soccer Academy

via flickr user Corpus Christi Soccer Academy

When I lived in Uruguay, I took a trip to see my friends in Argentina during the 2006 World Cup. It was thrilling to live in South America during the Cup, to be among people who loved the sport and were devoted to their team. We went to a local joint to watch the Argentina-Germany game. In a heart-breaking match, Germany advanced on a penalty shoot- out after being tied 1-1 during regulation time. The folks in Argentina were totally devastated. On the streets after the game, I, with my blond hair and blue eyes, got accused of being German on multiple occasions. It felt a little intimidating. These people take their soccer very seriously.

“No, no, I’m not German. I’m American. I was cheering for Argentina!”

It was the one time in Argentina that being from the United States just about saved me life.

After living among soccer enthusiasts, I was not at all surprised to see that Pope Francis had something to say about the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. After all, he came to the Vatican from Argentina.

“To win, we must overcome individualism, selfishness, all forms of racism, intolerance and manipulation of people,” he said. He said being “greedy” in football, as in life, is an obstacle.

“Let nobody turn their back on society and feel excluded!” he said. “No to segregation! No to racism!”

and

“Sport is not only a form of entertainment, but also — and above all I would say — a tool to communicate values that promote the good that is in humans and help build a more peaceful and fraternal society,” he said.  (READ THE FULL HUFFINGTON POST ARTICLE)

Historically, sports have been at the forefront of social change. The influence of the global athletic stage is not to be discounted. There have been athletes so talented, so enticing to watch, they have broken open social movements: Jackie Robinson, Mohammad Ali, Arthur Ashe, Tony Smith and John Carlos, Billy Jean King, Magic Johnson and Gareth Thomas to name a few. A victory in the sporting arena can feel like a victory for an entire marginalized people. Athletics becomes a staging for life itself. And soccer is the world’s sport. I know from being welcomed into soccer games in El Salvador, Uruguay and Kenya that soccer is a universal language. Any patch of ground can be a pitch. Any two objects can make a goal. You don’t even need a ball. I’ve met amazing soccer players all over the world who started out as kids practicing with nothing more than some paper tied up with a string. Soccer has the power of universality. Maybe that’s why Pope Francis has such a large collection of soccer jerseys. And why he is hoping that the World Cup can be a celebration of solidarity.

If there is a sport that has world power, it’s soccer. And it’s biggest, most strategic stage to do some good is the World Cup. How interesting that Pope Francis knows that, cares, and is using the event to remind us what is truly important.

Economic Justice

15 May

At the end of April, Pope Francis tweeted, “Inequality is the root of social evil.” He then expanded on that statement a few days later in a talk with U.N. officials in Rome. In addition to calling for redistribution of wealth, he asked the U.N. to address “structural causes of poverty and hunger, attain more substantial results in protecting the environment, ensure dignified and productive labor for all, and provide appropriate protection for the family.” Conservatives immediately named these comments Marxist and socialist.

PopeTweet

In her Huffington Post article, Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlewaite argues this is not Marxist or socialist, but Christian. I agree. Pope Francis reminds us of the encounter between Jesus Christ and the rich tax collector Zacchaeus in Luke 19: 1-10. Zacchaeus had his conscience awakened by Jesus and chose to move toward the justice of economic sharing. The Pope thinks the extreme economic inequality alive in society today can change if politicians and citizens make radical changes to our free market system.

Zacchaeus is not an isolated Biblical story. Jesus’ ministry addressed wealth inequality in Mark: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” and “And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.'” Or in Luke: “If you have two coats, give one away,” he said. “Do the same with your food.”

In addition to Scripture, Pope Francis is leaning on a long tradition of Catholics calling for economic justice in the face of economic violence. The USCCB have published some beautiful, powerful statements on economic justice. Their framework includes:

  1. The economy exists for the person, not the person for the economy.
  2. All economic life should be shaped by moral principles. Economic choices and institutions must be judged by how they protect or undermine the life and dignity of the human person, support the family and serve the common good.
  3. A fundamental moral measure of any economy is how the poor and vulnerable are faring.
  4. All people have a right to life and to secure the basic necessities of life (e.g., food, clothing, shelter, education, health care, safe environment, economic security.)
  5. All people have the right to economic initiative, to productive work, to just wages and benefits, to decent working conditions as well as to organize and join unions or other associations.
  6. All people, to the extent they are able, have a corresponding duty to work, a responsibility to provide the needs of their families and an obligation to contribute to the broader society.
  7. In economic life, free markets have both clear advantages and limits; government has essential responsibilities and limitations; voluntary groups have irreplaceable roles, but cannot substitute for the proper working of the market and the just policies of the state.
  8. Society has a moral obligation, including governmental action where necessary, to assure opportunity, meet basic human needs, and pursue justice in economic life.
  9. Workers, owners, managers, stockholders and consumers are moral agents in economic life. By our choices, initiative, creativity and investment, we enhance or diminish economic opportunity, community life and social justice.
  10. The global economy has moral dimensions and human consequences. Decisions on investment, trade, aid and development should protect human life and promote human rights, especially for those most in need wherever they might live on this globe.

Pope Francis believes that the current inequality is society is not natural, but the result of a myriad of human ethical decisions that can be reversed by adjusted human ethical decisions. He is not calling citizens and politicians to Marx, but Scripture and tradition to stand up against the economy of exclusion that marginalizes people.

The Verbs of Everyday Living

11 Nov

Christianityisabout

This excerpt from Sunday By Sunday for November 17 seems especially apt following the destruction of Typhoon Haiyan:

“In the face of war, earthquakes, famines, plagues – the regular stuff of today’s headlines – Jesus recommends patient endurance. He has taught us how to live every day. Indeed every tragedy catches individuals in the midst of doing good, saving someone besides themselves, rescuing neighbors, helping the disabled, helping clear away wreckage. The courage of soldiers and marathon survivors inspires us as they learn to use prosthetic arms and legs.

Christianity is about the verbs of everyday living: love, share, forgive, include, speak the truth, listen, learn, build, rejoice, have compassion, go an extra mile, lend a hand.” – Joan Mitchell, CSJ

Read the full issue here.

Here is a list of ways to help the survivors of Haiyan - add other suggestions in the comments.

Gospel Reflection for November 3, 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

29 Oct

Jesus asks, “Today salvation has come to this house for he, too, is a son of Abraham.  The Son of Man has come to seek out and save the lost.”

Luke 19.9-10

Jesus’ final statement in the gospel makes his mission clear: he comes to seek out and save the lost.  Jesus draws Zacchaeus, the marginalized tax collector, into the mystery of God’s unconditional love.  In response Zacchaeus pledges the almsgiving that marks a true Jew, a son of Abraham—half his possessions to people who are poor.  He promises to repay anyone he has defrauded fourfold.  Neither the law nor his greed isolate Zacchaeus any longer.

What is your experience of being an outsider?


 If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection,
please visit the Sunday By Sunday page
to order a subscription or request a free sample.
Start a small bible study. Be a leader.

How to Help the Hungry

16 Oct

GoodGroundPress:

It’s World Food Day! Both Good Ground Press editors feel passionate about helping the hungry: Sister Therese is in Des Moines for the World Food Prize, and here’s Sister Joan’s reflection after interviewing past winner David Beckmann a few years ago.

Originally posted on Keeping Faith Today:

Bread for the World calls attention to new hunger data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture released September 7. For the third year in a row a record high 14.5% of American households suffer food insecurity. What is worse, the USDA reports 25% of African-American and 26% of Hispanic households experience food insecurity compared with 10.8% of white households. That’s a lot of folks having trouble putting food on the table.

Sisters Joan and Therese with David BeckmanLast fall I interviewed David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, when he received the World Food Prize for his leadership of this Christian lobbying organization over the past for 20 years. He left a post as an economist at the World Bank to become an advocate for far less salary for the hungry. Beckmann combines three callings in one in his work. He is a Lutheran pastor, an economist who analyzes hunger needs and program effectiveness…

View original 195 more words

Gospel Reflection for October 20, 2013, 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

14 Oct

Jesus tells the parable of the unjust judge who gives in to a widow who persists in seeking her rights.

Jesus asks, “Will God not do justice to those chosen ones who call out day and night?  Will God delay justice for them?”

Luke 18.7

In Luke’s time widows have little place in society but many find a home in Christian communities.  The widow’s voice demanding her rights would perk up the ears of Luke’s original listeners.  The poor widow represents the helpless and abandoned of the world; she has no legal rights without a husband.  She lives at the mercy of those who ought to protect her.

People who are poor today often become victims of the powerful, pawns of the mighty.  The recession, the sequestration, the stall in Congress—all hurt those most in need.  Yet our heritage is one of a hope that comes through faith in the goodness of God and the goodness of those who follow Jesus’ way.

Whose persistence do you admire?


 If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection,
please visit the Sunday By Sunday page
to order a subscription or request a free sample.
Start a small bible study. Be a leader.

Gospel Reflection for October 13, 2013, 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

7 Oct

On his way to Jerusalem, Jesus encountered ten people with leprosy who asked for his healing.  He sent them on and they then recognized they had been cured.  One returned to thank Jesus.

Jesus said, “Weren’t ten cleansed?  Where are the other nine?  Did none return to give glory to God but this man who is not of our country?”

Luke 17.17-18


Luke’s miracle story raises questions people who became believers after Jesus’ death and resurrection must have asked.  Is healing more than skin deep for the nine lepers who don’t return to thank Jesus?  Does physical healing lead to faith or require faith?

Luke probes the mystery of why the same sign of God’s presence—healing from leprosy—leads a Samaritan man to believe in Jesus and nine to remain under the law of Moses.

How does attitude affect healing?  How does healing affect attitude?

 If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection,
please visit the Sunday By Sunday page
to order a subscription or request a free sample.
Start a small bible study. Be a leader.

Social Action: Bread for the World

3 Oct

Social action has two feet.

Serving our neighbors means we act in charity and for justice. Charity is about responding to people’s immediate needs – serving a meal at a shelter, stocking a food pantry. Justice identifies ways to work for systemic change with national or international organizations. For example, celebrate Bread for the World Sunday in your parish on one of the Sundays between World Food Day (October 16) and Thanksgiving.

Contact Bread for the World for its packet on the 2013 effort to stop irreversible damage to malnourished children in their first 1,000 days of life and mobilize collective action internationally to Scale Up Nutrition for Mothers and Children.

Gospel Reflection for September 22, 2013, 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

16 Sep

Jesus said, “No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other.  Neither can you serve both God and wealth.”

Luke 16.13

In the parable that forms Sunday’s gospel (Luke 16.1-13), Jesus surprisingly holds up an embezzler as a role model in ingenuity in protecting his own interests when he get fired.   Luke’s gospel does not let the self-serving manager go without criticizing him.  A series of sayings follow that pass judgment on dishonest people.  The saying insists that whoever is dishonest with a little can’t be trusted with a lot.  No one can trust a cheater.  No one can serve two masters.

What good things do you take for granted that are beyond the reach of poor people in your area or in the world?


 If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection,
please visit the Sunday By Sunday page
to order a subscription or request a free sample.
Start a small bible study. Be a leader.
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,320 other followers

%d bloggers like this: