Archives May 2021

Rerum Novarum and Human Rights of Laborers

Rerum Novarum and Human Rights of Laborers

Dr. Paul Hwang Director of ALL Forum

The Church has made ethical judgments on social issues and published them in writings, which is called Catholic Social Teaching, CST. These texts are necessarily influenced by, and are intended to answer, the major social problems of the time. The encyclical “On Capital and Labor”(Rerum Novarum) is an important social teaching of the Church that illustrates this well.

In 1891, Pope Leo XIII published the first papal document to present a comprehensive view of social issues, entitled “Rerum Novarum“. The pope strongly criticized the problems of capitalism as well as the illusions of socialism that were popular at the time. Since the 18th century, industrialization has progressed rapidly, leading to new technologies and major changes in laborer-capitalist relations. The polarization of wealth, which very few possess and many suffer from poverty, emerged as a major problem. The problem of poor working conditions faced by workers at that time was one of the serious side effects of industrialization. Although industrialization and factory labor have made great progress in productivity, they have forced workers to sacrifice themselves on the other hand. In addition to adult male workers, women and young children often worked long hours. Wages were lowered and life was impoverished. Long hours of work fatally deteriorated workers’ health and contributed to physical illness, disasters and accidents. In this situation, Rerum Novarum said the church supports workers’ legitimate demands, such as ensuring workers’ legitimate wages and the right to form labor unions.

The papal document rather concretely addresses the human rights situation of workers in this situation as follows: “…the first thing of all to secure is to save unfortunate working people from the cruelty of men of greed, who use human beings as mere instruments for money-making. It is neither just nor human so to grind men down with excessive labor as to stupefy their minds and wear out their bodies…. Finally, work which is quite suitable for a strong man cannot rightly be required from a woman or a child. And, in regard to children, great care should be taken not to place them in workshops and factories until their bodies and minds are sufficiently developed.” (no. 42)

For this reason, the Rerum Novarum was also known as the “Magna Carta of Labor”. The meaning of the Magna Carta of Labor can be given to workers in modern society in terms of protecting and promoting human dignity, which not only has a lot of influence on labor laws in Western countries, but has become the basis of labor laws in their countries.

The document acknowledges that private property rights are fundamental human rights and natural rights, and that it is impossible for human power to completely eliminate social inequality, while presenting obligations for capitalists and employers. The most important duty is to pay workers fair wages. Even if workers and employers sign contracts and decide wages through bilateral agreements, basic justice should always be reflected. Wages should not be insufficient for workers to maintain a frugal life and a minimum comfortable life.

Rerum Novarum emphasizes the importance of defining distributions. It points out that it is a proper duty for the rich to distribute goods to the poor, except for what is essential to their lives and necessary to maintain their status. It also points out that the most important duty of a national ruler is to strictly and fairly abide by the just distribution and take care of citizens of all walks of life. After this document, the Catholic Church became deeply interested in and participated in prophetic works that protect human dignity from social injustice, poverty and the gap between rich and poor, human rights violations and discrimination, violence and war.

In fact, since the document, the Catholic Church has consistently announced rules of association based on social interest since the 40th anniversary of Rerum Novarum by publishing Quadragesimo Annus by Pius XI in 1931. In 1981, Pope John Paul II updated and commemorated the 100th anniversary of Rerum Novarum in 1991 by publishing Centesimus Annus showing “how the Church should understand and speak out about labor and labor issues in the changing world”.

As such, Rerum Novarum has had a significant impact on the enactment of labor-related laws in many countries including Germany since the 20th century by proposing concrete measures to promote human rights of workers in serious condition.



Active Youth Group (Pakistan) Celebrates International Women’s Day 2021

Active Youth Group (Pakistan) Celebrates International Women’s Day 2021

Active Youth Group conducted different events in reference to celebrate International Women’s Day. The purpose of these events was to give awareness to women’s rights and to talk on different problems they face. This year in Pakistan and especially in Punjab, this day was celebrated with more zeal but one thing to underline is very important that this year much more people opposed to celebrate this day too.

One side the media of Pakistan was eagerly showing the efforts and desires of people to empower the women, on the other hand on the same media many popular journalists were opposing the Woman March. Pakistan is one of those countries in which there is the violence against women, they are killed at the name of izat (honour killing), they are deprived of education, and millions are lack of the National Identity Card (otherwise the family is obliged to share their inheritance with them). Pakistan is on the top of the list in underage marriages and highest death rate during maternity. Breast cancer and tuberculosis is very common in Pakistani women because of improper nutrition. Despite all these issues, there are many government institutions in Pakistan which are the hope and consolation for women.

On 7th March women’s Conference was arranged, in which all the representatives of Christians of all around the Sahiwal were present, the teachers, the advocates, students, religious leaders, workers, home based domestics, professional women, illiterate ladies, house wives and all different back ground representation was there. The theme of this get-together was to make them special in society and aware of how and on which platform make their voice be heard.

To show the efforts of the Vatican for the promotion of women, the photo of Sr. Nathalie Becquart (Nathalie Becquart is a French Catholic religious sister and member of the Congregation of Xavières. She was appointed a consultor to the Synod of Bishops of the Catholic Church in 2019 and named one of its undersecretaries in 2021.) was put on the banner of this event. Rev. Fr. Zahid Augustine OP, the parish priest and the Dominican School Missionary Sisters were also present for this event.

Most beautiful of thing of this event that females performed the cultural dance and performed publicly on stage with young girls. We invited women from villages and different part of the district to join the event which was held in parish school hall.

We awarded two brave ladies with souvenirs award who are active in society for promotion of women’s right and also challenging male society to give rights to women. One lady (Shamsa Anwar) is law graduate and practicing as high court lawyer and other (Shagufta Noel) one is Young Christian Nurses association president in Pakistan. Both are inspiration for others ladies as we have very low average of education within females and rarely they have chances to come out from their own home.

As Christians and Hindu minor girls are kidnapped, raped and forcibly converted to Islam so our focus was to save our minor girls. According to a data, more than 1000 girls of Christians and Hindus are forcibly converted after converting. These ratios are going high every year as we are finding attacks on churches and worship places of other non muslim believers.

Through these events, we strengthen the voices for positive change within church and put first the stance of our 5 points agenda. We gave voice to females to ask questions and let them aware about their rights and realize them to not tolerate with violence and torture. How to report them in police station and regarding institutions. Misogyny is also taking lead here as there is trend on twitter in Pakistan after women march attack that religious leaders putting blasphemous blames to these women rights activist.

The Women’s Question: What do we want to promote?

The Women’s Question: What do we want to promote?

by Kochurani Abraham

While proposing to include ‘women’ among the Church’s priority in Asia, I think it is important to examine how the official Church sees women or understands their identity. How does the Church perceive women’s place and roles within its structures and mission and within the family? I must confess that always when I sit to write anything on women and the Church, what comes to my mind is one of the first lessons I learnt in the Logic class when I began my studies in Philosophy, that is, in order to get the right conclusion, your premise needs to be right. To be frank, I am not very sure if the Church has got its premise right on the women’s question, as its teachings on women continue within a very gendered framework. I shall explain it giving some data from the Church’s official teaching and praxis.

It is against the backdrop of the second wave of women’s movement that brought to surface women’s concerns at a global level in the 1960s that we see documents of the official Church on women emerging. In these documents, we can see mainly two trends in its positioning on women. On the one hand, the Church sees women’s entry into public life and their engagement in societal affairs as something positive and as a “sign of the times’.1) Alongside this stand the church has consistently articulated gendered perceptions of women whereby based on the biological differences, women and men are taken to be essentially different as persons.

In most of these documents, women’s “essential nature” is seen as being for others.2) Even the recent 2013 document Evangelii Gaudium, while being very progressive in many aspects, falls back on biological essentialism in its understanding of gender, as it considers sensitivity, intuition and other distinctive skills as particular to women than men.3)

When we had a reading of this text in one of our feminist theological circles, we commented as unfortunate that the Pope cannot identify qualities like intellectual agency, theological expertise, organizing abilities and leadership skills in women. When women are seen with a gendered lens, the roles they are expected to play in the Church and in the family are also gendered. Women are needed, mainly for services that fit into the profile of the ‘feminine’, and they are excluded from policy making and leadership roles in the Church.

Women’s presence is desired to fill the pews but not on the platforms of theological knowledge production. We have a clear illustration of this if we make a gender audit of Synod on Family, held in Rome in 2014. Even when the Church has repeatedly insisted that women play a key role in sustaining the integrity of the family, for the Synod there was just a token representation of 24 women. The rest were male celibate clergy and bishops with the exception of some lay men who were among the 14 couples invited from the whole world to participate in the Synod.

And this is despite the call for the expansion of “possible roles (for) women in decision-making in areas of the Church’s life” in Evangeli Gaudium.4) The Church is certainly committed to women’s empowerment in terms of promoting women’s education, economic agency and in preventing the different forms of violence that afflict women. However, the difficulty is with the gendered notion of ‘complementarity’ which assigns different roles for women and men in the family and in the Church while observing that “difference between man and woman is not meant to stand in opposition, or to subordinate, b u t i s f o r t h e s a k e o f c o m m u n i o n a n d generation.” 5 ) Very many women who see themselves as persons with spiritual and intellectual agency, besides their capacity to care and nurture as any other human being, have difficulty with this notion of ‘complementarity’ in the Church’s teachings. In the light of this analysis, my question is: What are we really advocating when we say we want women, family and ecological sustainability to be the Church’s top priority in Asia? How do we envision the Church and its mission in the world?



R e f e r e n c e s :
1) See Pacem in Terris 1963;.the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity of Vat. II; the 1988 Apos?tolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem; the 2004 Letter of the Vatican congregation for the doctrine of Faith on Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in Society.
2) While Mulieris Dignitatem spells out motherhood and virginity as two particular dimensions of women’s vocation, the Letter of John Paul II to Women, on the occasion of the 1995 Beijing Conference addresses women by the customary gender stereotypes of wife, mother, daughter, sister and consecrated women/sister. The 2004 Letter of the Vatican congregation for the Doctrine of Faith on Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in Societyhas become most conspicuous in this regard as it falls back to biological essentialism and points to women’s ‘essential nature’ as being for ot hers.
3) Cf. Numbers 103 and 104 of Evan g e l i G a u d i u m , A p os t ol i c E x h or t a t i on of P op e F r a n c i s , V a t i c a n , Nov e m b e r 2 0 1 3 .
4 ) E v a n g e l i G a u d i u m , n o . 1 0 4 .
5) This is brought out even in a very recent statement by Pope Francis on the occasion of the Ad Limina visit of the Puerto Rican Bishops. According to the Pope, “the complementarity of man and woman, the vertex of the divine creation, is being questioned by gender ideology, in the name of a freer and more just society.” See CNAEWTN News,“Pope Francis: Men and women are different for a reason” Vatican City, Jun 8, 2015 on www.catholicnewsagency.com accessed on 12 July 2015.




“The Church’s Social Concern”

“The Church’s Social Concern”

by Fr. Desmond De’Sousa CSsR – Former Executive Secretary of FABC-OHD

Twenty years after being thrown out from teaching, supposedly for teaching revolution when teaching Progressio Populorum, during my tenure as Executive secretary to the FABC Office of Human Development, my superiors called me
back to teach the new encyclical. I agreed, but modified the late Jesuit Bernard Lonergan’s snide remark about the Church, by commenting, “[Superiors] often arrive on the scene a little late and breathless!!” Based on these two social encyclicals, the Church envisions social transformation of society as the step-by-step process of development of “the whole person and all the people… from less human conditions to more human conditions”.

The implication of “the whole person” is that it is not just the economic dimension or ‘more- money’ aspect of the person that must be catered to; but also the social dimension or ‘participation’ aspect of the persons in society, their freedom for political involvement, as well as their cultural and spiritual growth that has to be fostered and encouraged. As the Popes have emphasized, it is not ‘having more’ things available and acquiring them, but ‘being more,’ [as better human persons], that is primary in genuine human development.

Further, the implication of “all the people” is that if any group of people is left out of the development process, no human development has occurred !! “ Collaboration in the development of the whole person and of every human being is in fact a duty of all towards all, and must be shared by the four parts of the world: East and West, North and South; or, as we say today, by the different “worlds.” If, on the contrary, people try to achieve it in only one part, precisely because the others are ignored, their own development becomes exaggerated and misdirected.” (Church’s Social Concern, Pope John Paul II, n.32)

The Church’s Social Concern (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis) provided the guidelines on how the Church should actually get involved in human development in order to make her specific contribution to the transformation of the world.

The encyclical’s framework on human development takes seriously Pope Paul Vl’s prosaic sentence in Populorum Progressio, “that the social question has become worldwide” (n.3). The core section of the encyclical on authentic human development (n.27-34) is placed between two valuable sections: survey of the contemporary world (n.11-26) and a theological or faith reflection on the contemporary world. (n.35-40).

The world offers a rather negative picture of development in 1987 as compared to 1967, as evident in the widening gap between the socalled developed North and the developing South. Wealth & Genuine Human Development in Catholic Social Teachings poverty intersect within societies themselves, whether developed or developing. Side by side with the “miseries of underdevelopment” is a form of “super-development” i.e. “an excessive availability of every kind of material goods”.

Both underdevelopment and super-development degrade the transcendent reality of the human being. The former are “deprived of hope” and tempted to violence; while the latter easily become slaves of possession and immediate gratifications, producing the “civilization of consumption or consumerism,” warns the Pope.

In the context of “having” (having possessions) and “being” (being happy), the Pope states: “There are some people — the few who posses much — who do not really succeed in ‘being’ because they are hindered by the cult of ‘having’; and there are others, the many, who have little or nothing — who do not succeed in realizing their basic human vocation because they “are deprived of essential goods” (n.28). The challenge to the Church according to her social teaching is, “to relieve the misery of the suffering not only out of her abundance, but also out of her necessities.”(n.31) Then comes a sentence from the Church Fathers, – both John Chrysostom and Ambrose – that would have gladdened the heart of Fredric Ozanam even though it will never be implemented! “Faced by cases of need [the poor], one cannot ignore them in favor of superfluous church ornaments and costly furnishings for divine worship; on the contrary it could be obligatory to sell these goods in order to provide food, drink, clothing and shelter for those who lack these things”(n.31)

Pope John Paul II then goes on to use a powerful image already used by Pope Paul VI. “On the international level, that is, the level of relations between States or, in present-day usage, between the different “worlds,” there must be complete respect for the identity of each people, with its own historical and cultural characteristics. It is likewise essential, as the Encyclical Populorum Progressio already asked, to recognize each people’s equal right “to be seated at the table of the common banquet”, instead of lying outside the door like Lazarus, while “the dogs come and lick his sores” (cf. Lk 16:21)(n.33).

Two different global analyses try to explain the growing gap between the developed North and the under-developed South, both at global and national levels. One analysis considers that the pace of progress differs and therefore widens the distance between nations and within nations. The other analysis, which appears more often, is that one group of countries develops ‘at the expense of the other’ (n.9, 32)

Whatever the analysis one uses, the end product of widespread poverty created by organized injustice, is unacceptable, according to the Pope. “One must denounce the existence of economic, f i n a n c i a l , a n d s o c i a l m e c h a n i s m w h i c h , accentuate the situation of wealth for some and poverty for the rest. These mechanisms, which are maneuvered directly or indirectly by the more developed countries, favor the interests of the people manipulating them, but in the end they suffocate or condition the economies of the less developed countries”.

The Pope identifies some of these mechanisms: “The international trade system which is mortgaged to protectionism and increasing bilateralism”; “the world monetary and financial system, today recognized as inadequate”; “technological exchanges and their proper use”; “the structure of existing Internal Organizational. Organization need Genuine Human Development in Catholic Social Teachings review in the framework of an international juridical order.” He says however, that to overcome and replace these mechanisms with new ones which will be more just and for the common good, “an effective political will is needed. Unfortunately after analyzing the situation we have to conclude that this political will has been insufficient”(n.43)


Short reflection on the course of Interreligious Dialogue

Short reflection on the course of Interreligious Dialogue

by Br. Paul Won Keun ho, FMS

I asked myself “What have I learned from the course? Or what has changed in me?” First of all, I have learned more about the Muslim and the Christian relationship in terms of the Interrelgious dialogue. In Korea, we have very small numbers of the Muslim and we seldom hear about the news about them. It seems the conflict between the Christian and the Muslim is not our problem. That’s why, in the beginning of the course, I felt some distance or some kind of indifference about the conversation. However, as the Fr. Bagus taught us well and the participants from the other country shared their experiences with the Muslim, I have gained more knowledge and realized how serious this issue in the world and in Asia. The most interesting lessons for me are the last two sessions about Louis Massignon and ‘common word between us and you’. Maybe the information was new to me. I really appreciate the efforts of Louis Massignon and the Muslim scholars. I felt they really tried to understand other religions and to make an initiative to start the conversation.

Secondly, I would like to share the impact of the course on me. At the beginning, I was quite negative on the Interreligious Dialogue. I felt it seems those dialogues were already old fashioned or theologians were not interested on this topic anymore. Maybe it was because of my little knowledge. Through the course, I have learned more knowledge and new trends on the Interreligious Dialogue, then I become more positive about it. Especially when I learned about the other side of effort in the previous session, I become aware of those group of people from the Muslim who have tried their best to make an initiative on Interreligious dialogue. I am happy with this kind of movement from both side of the Catholic and the Muslim. Fr. Bagus also presented an example of those who see negatively in this document and I also felt they have some truths which I need to think about. However, I am more curious about the positive side and the efforts on Interreligious dialogue.

This course will end next week. There were times I felt bored and so tired to concentrate on the lecture of Fr. Bagus because of the late class hour and my insufficient English skills. However, as it is close to the end, I feel that I become more curious and also more interested in the topic and the classmates and of course our beloved teacher, Fr. Bagus. If there is a chance, I would like to see them in person. Thank you Fr. Bagus and the staff of this course. I am very thankful for giving me this opportunity of learning experience. Thank you very much.

My Views on ALL Forum’s Online Course

My Views on ALL Forum’s Online Course

by Suneel Boota, TIL

I am very glad to share my views about ALL Forum Online Course 3: Interreligious Dialogue and Catholic Teachings. In this course Fr. Bagus from Indonesia is our rescores person. In this course we discussed why the interreligious dialogue is important and why the interfaith dialogue is necessary. ALL Forum is playing its role very well during this pandemic situation by training the Asian Lay Leaders through this online course. Talking is important for life no one can live alone in this world we all are depend to one another.

Peace is the world’s most urgent need. All human beings are a human family and God wants all human beings to live happy and healthy lives. Today our world is divided in the face of different types of discrimination. I feel it is time to preach the Gospel of peace and development, without any discrimination, and it’s not possible without interreligious dialogue.

Interreligious dialogue is a challenging process by which believers of differing religious traditions encounter each other in order to break down the walls of division that stand at the center of most wars. The objective of Interreligious Dialogue is Peace.

Interfaith dialogue means the communication, dialogue and cooperation between different faiths and religious groups. Since 1964 the Catholic Church has had the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue established. This council aims to promote respect and collaboration between different faiths and religions. It also aims to promote dialogue to enhance mutual understanding, harmony and cooperation among peoples of different faiths.

In 2019 His Holiness Father Pope Francis visited United Arab Emirates (UAE), and while leaving UAE His Holiness “I am about to leave for the United Arab Emirates. I am visiting that Country (UAE) as a brother, in order to write a page of dialogue together, and to travel paths of peace together. Pray for me!” Pope Francis.

As I live in Pakistan religious pluralism can exist here and this course will help me to understand the different faiths and beliefs to promote peace in this world. We all are one in Christ and sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. Peace starts with a smile.

Inequality to Equality

Inequality to Equality

By Neilan D’souza

The turn of the 18th and 19th century introduced to the world a new shift called ‘The Industrial Revolution’. Rapid technological developments in Agriculture and Handicrafts in the 18th century meant that very few workers were required to work on farms and looms. Due to which masses of people from rural areas began to migrate to urban cities looking for employment opportunities in the factories hoping to earn a better living. This change to an industrialised economy gave rise to a vast group of people who worked for daily wages and salaries in all kinds of Industries became to be known as the ‘The Working Class’; the most important contributor of our economies.

But what was seemingly true is that the Individuals who owned these Industries were the only ones who became richer leaving behind the working class in the same situation as they started off in. The working class were underpaid, heavily exploited at the workplace, forced into physical labour in harmful and hazardous work environments and were made to work extremely hard and overtime, ensuring industrial goals were met. Today, almost 200 years later we can still witness how most of these ill practices continue to exist in the industrial sector in spite of the numerous interventions made by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and other global bodies on the Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.

We continue to witness how front line workers still struggle to access a quality life, earn a satisfactory living, find a safe work environment as well as find a stable and secure job. We simply cannot ignore this in our time right now! We need to take inspiration from the Papal Encyclical ‘Rerum Novarum’ (Of Revolutionary Change) written by Pope Leo XIII way back in 1891. Though we will celebrate the 130th Anniversary in the month of May, we need to practice some of its principles which still hold strong and important even today. As Pope Leo XIII rightly points out that the Government has a crucial role to play and so does the Law and the Employer. But without a doubt every christian as well as the church has a crucial role to play in fixing the poor condition of the working class in our society and the world at large. More over right now amid the 2nd or 3rd wave of the Corona Virus pandemic we have seen countless sights of the daily wage workers struggling to find their way back home in countries across the world especially in Asia and suffer from homelessness and hunger due to unemployment and mass layoffs in many Industries. It is very urgent for us to seek out, take action and care for the working class people by ensuring that they receive adequate food supplies, transport facilities, as well as medical aid during these unfortunate times. We also need to immediately set up systems which can support these circumstances if they ever arise again.

On the contrary we also witnessed that the Wealthy 1% grew even more rich amid the ongoing pandemic while the rest have been downtrodden and burdened with low incomes and debt. This needs to be fixed as one cannot continue to be selfish and withhold resources when employees working under the same rich employer is burdened with debt. Thus ALL Forum Invites our readers to reflect on the many struggles of the Working Class and in our own ways to support those in need with deliberate action and care.